Monthly Archives: July 2009

More real than real

An interesting aside from a 1983 study that describes how some elderly psychiatric patients experienced photos and TV images as real people with whom they could interact: A new sub-type of perceptual disorder was identified in 7 patients who treated T.V. images and newspaper photographs (e.g. a nude calendar girl) as if they were real […]

Of manuals and madness, the fight rolls on

ABC Radio National’s Background Briefing has a good programme on the issues and debates about the new version of the DSM that is currently being prepared and causing much flailing of handbags in the process. The radio show is not particularly focused but touches on some contentious diagnoses and the problems with defining mental illness. […]

Vision shift glasses alter time perception

There’s an intriguing study about to be published in Psychological Science finding that people wearing prism glasses that shift everything to the right overestimate the passage of time, while people wearing left-shift glasses underestimate it. The researchers, led by psychologist Francesca Frassinetti, asked participants to watch a square appear on-screen for varying time periods, and […]

Human echolocation and blind mountain biking

Psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum has written an excellent short article about a remarkable group of blind mountain bikers who apparently use echolocation to avoid obstacles by making loud click sounds as they ride. Rosenblum has studied human echolocation in the lab and has shown that we all have some ability to get an idea of the […]

Written off more than they can chew

Good God there’s a lot of scientific research on chewing gum. And I mean a lot. Here’s just a few of the latest bulletins from the front line of chewing gum cognitive science. Chewing gum does not induce context-dependent memory when flavor is held constant [link] Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and […]

Hypnosis and criminal mind control in 1890s France

The 19th century French neurologist Georges Gilles de la Tourette is best known for Tourette’s Syndrome, but a fascinating article in European Neurology traces his interest in the criminal uses of hypnosis. It is full of surprising facts, like that he was shot in the head by a delusional patient who believed that she had […]

AI predicts poker bets to three decimals places

Poker is considered one of the most skillful of betting games, but a new study published in the Journal of Gambling Studies reports on an artificial neural network that predicts gambler’s bets to three decimals places. The system was built by researcher Victor Chan who created a relatively simply backpropogation neural network to predict future […]

2009-07-17 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: NPR has a good piece on the vagaries of analysing functional brain scans. Philosopher Pete Mandik features Mind Hacks as a ‘Top 10 mind and brain blog’ for Shakira yet to call. The Independent covers the debate on clozapine – the best antipsychotic […]

Aimless excursions

NPR has an interesting short article on wandering in dementia. Conditions likes Alzheimer’s disease can cause patients to embark on seemingly aimless walks and sometime epic journeys, but nobody is quite sure why it happens. We are fascinated by the pilgrim, the lost soul, the sovereign wayfarer. In others. In ourselves. The literature of wandering […]

Chocolate cravings and the menstrual cycle

I’ve just found a remarkable study on how female chocolate cravings vary throughout the hormone cycle and drop off after menopause. While the cravings are not solely explained by hormone changes, some of the effect does seem to be linked. Perimenstrual Chocolate Craving: What Happens after Menopause? Appetite. 2009 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print] […]

I’ll be outback: Aussies want intelligent killer robots

The Australian military is seeking a human race Judas to design intelligent and fully autonomous robots that will be able to “neutralise threats” for a prize pot of $1.6 million. From BBC News: The government wants to develop an “intelligent and fully autonomous system” capable of carrying out dangerous surveillance missions. Senior officials in Canberra […]

Is that you, Phineas?

The BPS Research Digest has the surprising news that a photo of Phineas Gage has been discovered. He became one of the most famous case studies in neuroscience when he had a large iron rod blown through his frontal lobes in in 1848. He survived but his frontal lobe damage meant “Gage was no longer […]

Brain shaker

What modern home could not benefit from some brain-shaped porcelain salt and pepper shakers, I hear you ask. Apparently they even have magnets so the two hemisphere snap together into a whole brain. Obviously, you’ll need to do an impromptu callosotomy to use them but at least you’ll have the fun of doing some split-brain […]

Street drugs and dopamine theory overdoses

Furious Seasons has alerted me to an interesting article in the Boston Globe about street dealing of the antipsychotic drug quetiapine – interesting because it reveals some of our prejudices about the neuroscience of recreational drug use. One of the mantras of neuroscience is that drugs of abuse boost the dopamine system. This led to […]

Is brain death, death?

The New Atlantis magazine has an in-depth article discussing the difficulty in defining death and why arguments about the brain have become central to understanding the final curtain. The article is a little bit wordy in places but does a great job of exploring the philosophy of death definitions and why these have direct practical […]

Encephalon 73 flickers into life

The 73rd edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival is here with a specially video enriched version, this time ably hosted on Channel N. A couple of my favourites include Neurocritic tackling the myth of the depression gene and Providentia on the visionary psychosis surfer Emmanuel Swedenborg. There’s many more excellent articles and […]


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