Monthly Archives: July 2009

Laughter the best medicine or a bitter pill to swallow

Science News has a fascinating article on people with gelotophobia, a fear of being laughed at. It seems the phobia might be driven by a problem in perceiving the social meaning of laughter, so even light-hearted chuckles are perceived as scornful snickers. The piece covers the surprising amount of research on the phobia, tracing the […]

2009-07-31 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Polyamory or having relationships with multiple, mutually consenting partners, is discussed in a feature article in Newsweek. Copenhagen Business School are running an online survey asking for your opinion on the use of neuroscience in business and marketing. Experimental philosophy and our moral intuitions […]

On the dead beat

Anyone who thinks science can’t be beautiful or profound should spend an hour in the audio headspace of the latest RadioLab as it tackles life, death and mortality. It contemplates how death has moved from the heart to the brain, the attempt to weigh souls, delusions of non-existence, digital immortality, neuroimaging for flickers of life, […]

Where are our shrinking brain theories?

New Scientist has as article arguing that the expansion in hominid brain size that occurred about two million years ago was due to the ice age which allowed an energy burning, heat generating brain to develop with sufficient environmental cooling. Actually, it’s worth a read as it’s not as odd as it sounds, but it […]

Out of sync

It’s an age old story. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. The trauma of the breakup affects his mind so badly he starts to believe he’s in a boy band. The whole band get admitted to an asylum and start hallucinating a long list of cheap clich√©s about mental illness. Yes, it’s the video for […]

Rorschach and awe

The New York Times covers the recent flap over the internet publication of the ink blots used in the Rorschach test. While the images are out of copyright and can be legally uploaded, some American psychologists are furious that the validity of the test may be compromised. The test has been controversial since it was […]

Brain box

Sometimes, it’s just harder to do it without the innuendo. HelmetsRUs have a multi-sport helmet that has a brain painted on the outside. While we usually tell people to wear helmets to keep the rocks out of their brain, this is the first time you might have to avoid keeping your brain out of the […]

The vision thing

ABC Radio National’s Night Air has a wonderfully atmospheric programme on hallucinations, or maybe visual art, or the sensitivity of blindness, or maybe about how the mind constructs reality. It’s deliciously unfocussed and the programme glides hazily between neuroscience, art, poetry and visual consciousness. There’s the occasional moment where the vibe slips off its axis, […]

Autism ‘treated’ with LSD

I’ve just found an intriguing article on how LSD was used as an experimental treatment for children with autism during the 1960s. When I first heard about these studies I did a double take, but there were a surprising number conducted at the time. Flashback to the 1960s: LSD in the treatment of autism. Dev […]

Sensing destruction

The New York Times has an interesting article on the role of ‘hunches’ in how soldiers detect roadside bombs. The article is a little bit cobbled together, alternating anecdote with some indirectly related studies that seem to be included on the basis of speculation, but it does mention one ‘in progress’ study which seems particularly […]

Back to the madness

A new series of the excellent BBC Radio 4 Mind Changers series has just started with a fantastic edition on the Rosenhan experiment – a study that sent seismic waves of controversy through 1970s psychiatry. Titled ‘On being sane in insane places’ when published in a 1972 edition of Science, the experiment reported on how […]

A war of algorithms

The New Atlantis magazine has a fantastic article on the increasing use of robots and artificial intelligence systems in warfare and how they bring the fog of war to the murky area of military ethics and international law. This comes as the The New York Times has just run a report on a recent closed […]

The Chomsky Show

Australian comedy show The Chasers War on Everything has a fantastic sketch about a Jerry Springer-style philosophical talk show hosted by Noam Chomsky. The script is entirely new but the ideas seems to have been taken from a funny text that has been making the rounds for some years on the net, based on the […]

2009-07-24 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Neurological injuries from the accident-waiting-to-happen activity ‘car surfing‘ are covered by The Neurocritic. Technology Review discusses an innovative new neurosurgery technique using ultrasound from outside the skull. The University of Western Ontario has a list of ‘Top Ten Things Sex and Neuroimaging Have in […]

Headphone fruit

Music video director duo Terri Timely have created a beautifully shot and kaleidoscopic short film about synaesthesia. It’s a visually striking piece that attempts to represent the effect of crossed senses conceptually, rather the the common approach of interpreting sounds as abstract visual impressions (probably best done in the video for Coldcut’s Music 4 No […]

The wisdom of crowds

New Scientist has an excellent piece on how new research on the psychology of crowds is challenging the idea that people become an ‘unruly mob’ in large numbers. In fact, recent research shows that people tend to cooperate and quickly achieve an altruistic and bonded group identity when in large numbers. This partly relies on […]


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