Monthly Archives: June 2009

Troublemaker’s Fringe, tomorrow, after the day job

If you’re in London Town Wednesday evening, don’t forget to come along to the Troublemaker’s Fringe, where we’ll be tackling the problems of science journalism and discussing how misleading, dangerous and inaccurate stories keep making the headlines. Hilariously, we’ve already been slagged off by Steve Connor of The Independent who deals out some scorching criticism, […]

A neurobiology of the disordered mind

Newsweek has a short but smart essay by neuroscientist Eric Kandel who riffs on some of the latest developments that have pushed forward our understanding of the neurobiology of mental disorder. Kandel gives a description of one of the big biological discoveries from recent years, namely copy number variations, and explores what they might tell […]

DSM-V bun fight in full swing

The arguments over the forthcoming revision of the psychiatrists’ diagnostic manual, the DSM-V, have just been heated up again by an unusually acerbic response from the American Psychiatric Association attacking their main critic. The article that condemns the new diagnostic manual committee by ex-DSM chairman Allen Francis’ has just been officially published, alongside an interview […]

Honey, I’m shrinking the kids

I’ve just discovered a New York Times article from earlier this year about psychologists who are studying their own kids in the service of top flight scientific research. Studying one’s own kids has a long and proud tradition in psychology. Perhaps the first person to do so formally was Charles Darwin, who in 1877 published […]

The effect of the rats on the rat race

Not Exactly Rocket Science covers an intriguing study on how people try less hard in a competition as the number of competitors increases. The researchers started off with a simple observation that US students tended to get better marks when they took their exams in smaller exam rooms. This could have been for many reasons […]

The straight dopamine theory could be up in smoke

There is now growing evidence that cannabis use causes a small but reliable increase in the chance of developing psychosis. Traditionally, this was explained by the drug increasing dopamine levels in the brain but a new study shortly to be published in NeuroImage suggests that the active ingredient in cannabis doesn’t effect this important neurotransmitter. […]

In our wildest dreams

In the latest of his excellent columns for Scientific American psychologist Jesse Berring reviews the current theories that try and explain why we’ve evolved to have dreams. One of the most interesting is the ‘Threat Simulation Theory’ which argues dreams are a form of night-time survival training, based on research that found that dreams often […]

It’s just a booty call

I’ve recently discovered the NCBI ROFL blog which collects funny and unusual studies from the PubMed medical research database. The latest post is an academic study on the booty call as an ‘adaptive mating strategy': The “Booty Call”: A Compromise Between Men’s and Women’s Ideal Mating Strategies. J Sex Res. 2009 Feb 27:1-11. [Epub ahead […]

I know where you are secretly attending!

A remarkable study has just been published in the cognitive science journal Vision Research which may be the first genuine demonstration of brain scan ‘mind reading’. The study focuses on visual attention and particularly what is called ‘covert visual attention’ – the ability to mentally focus on something without moving your eyes. For example, take […]

2009-06-26 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The Wall Street Journal vaguely thinks about the benefits of daydreaming and a wandering mind for creativity. There’s more video of Philip Zimbardo discussing the psychology of time over at Fora.tv The Independent reveals that some people use drugs to enhance the mind because […]

Ex psychiatric bible chief slams new secret committee

The forthcoming revision of the psychiatrists’ diagnostic manual, the DSM-V, is controversially being written behind closed doors and has already sparked criticisms for its lack of openness to outside scrutiny. So far, critics have managed to raise little more than smoke signals but the tinderbox may well have just been ignited by an article of […]

neuro images

neuro images is a regularly updated website of beautiful neuroscience images run by Neurophilosophy blogger Mo Costandi. It’s a Tumblr blog, so is a pretty no frills affair, but it’s the perfect platform just to let the pictures shine. There are already some stunning images on there, from ancient illustrations to cutting edge scans, so […]

Race bias and the menstrual cycle

I’ve just found this surprising study in Psychological Science that found a link between the point in the menstrual cycle of 77 white women and various measures of race bias. Race Bias Tracks Conception Risk Across the Menstrual Cycle. Psychol Sci. 2009 May 4. [Epub ahead of print] Navarrete CD, Fessler DM, Fleischman DS, Geyer […]

Pressed for time perception

Edge has an interesting article by neuroscientist David Eagleman on the perception of time that describes how we can experience temporal illusions just like we experience visual illusions. I have to say, the piece is a little wordy, so it needs a bit of concentration, but it is well worth the effort. This section has […]

A Troublemaker’s fringe

Next week the World Conference of Science Journalists will be coming to London. A few of us felt they might not adequately address some of the key problems in their profession, which has deteriorated to the point where they present a serious danger to public health, fail to keep geeks well nourished, and actively undermine […]

Advance of the seven veils

I’ve discovered there is a small scientific literature on the cognitive science of belly dancing. Yes, I know I should be doing something else with my time, but it’s too late now and it’s too good not to share. A group of movement researchers studied which fundamental action abilities were the best predictors of belly […]

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