Monthly Archives: May 2009

British twins in emotional sex shocker

If you’re all aflutter over the recent news reports that ’emotionally intelligent women have more orgasms’ you may be interested to know that these sexual adventures have been exaggerated in the re-telling. I really recommend Petra Boyton’s analysis of the study which picks up on what was actually done and where its drawbacks were. As […]

The study of a lifetime

It is not often that articles on psychology studies are described as beautiful, but a piece in The Atlantic on the Harvard Study of Adult Development is quite sublime. The project has followed two groups of men for almost seventy years, tracking physical and emotional health, opinions and attitudes, successes and failures, all in the […]

Delayed gratification and the science of self-control

The New Yorker has a fantastic article on the psychology of delayed gratification and how tempting kids with marshmallows allowed us to understand the life-time impact of self-control. The piece focuses on the work of psychologist Walter Mischel who invented a test for children where they’d be presented with a marshmallow but told they could […]

The alien hand syndrome – caught on video

I’ve just found a video of someone with alien hand syndrome – a condition which usually occurs after brain injury or stroke where the affected person loses conscious control over the hand and where it seems to move with a will of its own. In this case, the video was uploaded by YouTube user frankenerin, […]

Encephalon 70 the mysterious

The 70th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just appeared and is ably hosted on Sharp Brains. A couple of my favourites include a post on Neurotopia on the elegant logic of dopamine, and a fantastic visual illusion from Dr Deb where a picture of a tree hides some wonderfully concealed […]

Binge and tonic

There‚Äôs more to alcohol than getting pissed but you‚Äôd never know it from the papers. In a period of public hand wringing over ‚Äòbinge drinking culture‚Äô, our understanding of the ‚Äòculture bit‚Äô usually merits no more than an admission that people do it in groups and this is often implicit in the work of psychologists. […]

Deeper into the neuroscience of hypnosis

A new article from Trends in Cognitive Sciences explores how cognitive neuroscientists are becoming increasingly interested in understanding hypnosis and are using it to simulate unusual states of consciousness in the lab. Hypnosis was typically treated with suspicion by mainstream cognitive science, although an important turning point came when a 2000 study demonstrated that people […]

The story of our lives

We live our lives in fragments, but make sense of them as stories. Scattered islands of experience are drawn together in personal travelogues that attempt explain how our erratic journeys brought us to the present moment. This is perhaps our most natural and chaotic form of self-understanding but also one of the most vexing for […]

The morning after the knife before

In the long history of outrageous drinking stories, this has got to be one of the best. The Emergency Medical Journal has a case study of a man who woke up in hospital after being admitted for alcohol poisoning. He couldn’t remember what happened the night before but when his hangover didn’t clear a precautionary […]

The Broken

I seem to have accidentally written dialogue about the Capgras delusion for the 2008 psychological horror film The Broken. The therapist in this clip says “Have you ever heard about the Capgras syndrome? It’s a rare disorder in which a person holds a belief that an acquaintance, usually a close family member or spouse has […]

Back channelling to the future

The staff at Link√∂ping University joke that the cognitive science students have kogvet-sjukan, Swedish for ‘cognitive science disorder’, because they have an incurable enthusiasm for anything related to understanding the mind. After two fantastic days at a conference there, I can see why. I’ve been to a fair few conferences in my time, but few […]

2009-05-08 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The excellent Holford Watch blog has a right-on-target debunking of a Daily Mail article that uncritically reprinted dodgy ‘hole in brain’ SPECT scans to ‘show’ we’re “wrecking” our brains with caffeine, alcohol, bad living etc. Harvard Magazine discuss how their neuroscientists are working to […]

Exploding head syndrome

I’ve just found an article with two interesting cases of ‘exploding head syndrome’ – a medical condition where affected people spontaneously hear an exceptionally loud explosion-like noise. The condition is relatively harmless, causing people only to be startled, and it doesn’t seem linked to seizure activity or epilepsy. Owing to the fact it’s both benign […]

Paranoia espresso

A case study just out in CNS Spectrums describes an apparent case of ‘caffeine-induced psychosis’. The summary is below although the full paper is available online as a pdf. If you’re a regular coffee drinker, I don’t think you should worry though. It’s impossible to say whether caffeine was the definite cause in this case, […]

Sweden bound for Scandinavian cognitive science

Apologies if updates are a little sporadic over the next couple of days as I’ve been kindly invited to speak at KVIT 2009 in Sweden, which is the only cognitive science conference I know of that has an accompanying music video. It looks like it should be a fantastic few days and it’s my first […]

100 years of attitude

I’ve just noticed an excellent article in the Times about Rita Levi-Montalcini, the Nobel prizewinning neurologist who’s still working at 100. Levi-Montalcini won the Nobel in 1986 for her discovery of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps control when and where brain cells grow. Fiercely independent, she’s escaped fascist regimes, anti-semitism and the […]


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