Monthly Archives: June 2009

Weird Al’s brain explodes

Comedian “Weird Al” Yankovic has made a 3D movie about the brain that stars himself and will premier at the Orange County Fare in California. I didn’t think I’d ever find myself writing that sentence, but life is strange like that. According to the spiffy website, the 10 minute movie is intended to be both […]

I’ve hidden the drugs inside this political football

The BBC World Service broadcast an interesting programme on the effect of Portugal’s 2001 policy to decriminalise all illicit drugs, from cannabis to heroin. Far from what you might expect from your local politician, the effect was rather positive. As also recounted in a recent article for Time magazine, drug use has actually dropped. Recreational […]

2009-06-12 Spike activity

A slightly belated selection of quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: If you’re a mental health professional from a low or middle income country you can apply for a grant to attend the Global Mental Health Summit happening this September in Greece. Applications need to be in by June 20th. […]

Language as a looking glass

Edge has a fantastic essay on how the language we speak can affect how we experience and think about the world. The piece is by psychologist Lera Boroditsky whose work has shown that the not only are there differences across people with different mother tongues, but that asking people to use different words can affect […]

Beautiful otherness

New Scientist has a gallery of artwork by savant artists, people who show exceptional artistic talents despite having impaired mental abilities in other areas. Savantism is typically associated with autism to the point where many people assume that having a stand-out exceptional ability is present in everyone with the diagnosis. This is not the case […]

Television tunnel vision

This week’s Nature has a feature article on how visual motion media impacts on young children. It’s an interesting article because it focuses largely on television. This is notable for two reasons: the first is that numerous research studies have found that, as a generalisation, watching television negatively impacts on children’s concentration, increases the risk […]

Brain Storm Rag

From 1907, the front cover from sheet music for a ragtime tune called Brain Storm Rag, from way before it was cool to label everything as being related to neuroscience in some way. If you’re musically inclined you can also download the full publication as a PDF, musical notation included, to play at your leisure. […]

A night at the opera

The International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has a brief case report of a man who began hallucinating whole operas that would start every evening shortly after sunset. A 74-year-old retired mathematician had to undergo emergency surgery due to an ischemic perforation of the colon. Three days after the operation, he began to suffer from near […]

Why sigh?

An interesting study from Psychophysiology attempting to understand why we sigh by studying in what contexts these wistful expressions are most likely to occur. It seems, we are most likely to sigh when relieved. Why do you sigh? Sigh rate during induced stress and relief. Psychophysiology. 2009 May 21. [Epub ahead of print] Vlemincx E, […]

The time flies paradox

Time flies when you’re having fun, but why? It’s curious if you think about it. Someone whose visual perception was affected by enjoyment would seem rather unusual but the fact that our ability to judge time changes dramatically when we enjoy ourselves seems perfectly unremarkable. A recent article in the scientific journal Philosophical Transaction of […]

Plant psychology

Science News has an intriguing article on what we might call ‘plant psychology’ as some biologists are increasingly thinking of our green leafy friends in terms of their memory, communication and behaviour. On a related note, an edition of ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind from the end of last year focussed on the […]

Encephalon 72 launches new range

The 72nd edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has seemingly been taken over by Apple and transformed into the iCephalon carnival, which is much the same but costs more and has a hipster fan club. A couple of my favourites includes a damning review of the new US psychiatric drama ‘Mental’ from […]

Are you sleeping comfortably? Then we’ll begin

The Boston Globe has an excellent article on the moment when a a group of huddled doctors turned a side-show curiosity into the medical revolution of surgical anaesthesia. 16th October 1846, Boston, Massachusetts, was when the first operation under anaesthesia was conducted in with a brave patient and liberal doses of ether. The piece is […]

Obscuring the horror of war

A sardonic paragraph from Lt Col Dave Grossman’s excellent book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. It discusses the psychology of ending another’s life, the history of how the military have dealt with the natural reluctance to kill and the personal impact of doing so. From p36: Even […]

The possible causes of ‘space headache’

A new study has surveyed 17 astronauts to see what sort of headaches they experienced while on space missions. Headaches were much more frequent than on earth and didn’t fit a known type, suggesting that zero or micro gravity may be a specific trigger for a pounding head. Below is the part of the article […]

2009-06-05 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Carriers of 5-HTTLPR gene version have higher rates of addiction but teen counselling nullifies the risk, reports Wired Science. Science News reports on a study finding that people who feel pressure to look attractive are more fearful of being rejected. Neurotech booster Zack Lynch […]


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