Monthly Archives: September 2009

The insanity epidemic, 1907

I’ve happened upon an interesting snippet from the regular Nature “100 years ago” feature concerning a 1907 debate on whether insanity was really increasing or whether it just seemed that way due to changes in diagnosis and treatment methods. It made me smile because it is almost exactly the same argument that is being had […]

Creative in love

The Scientific American Mind blog Mind Matters has a fantastic article on the links between love and creativity and how just thinking of a romantic relationship can have an immediate effect on creative thinking. The piece covers several studies which have shown that love or the concept of love promotes a ‘big picture’ thinking style […]

Side-effects from placebos can be drug specific

A fascinating study just published in the medical journal Pain examined the side-effects reported by patients taking placebos in clinical trials to test migraine drugs. It found that side-effects from placebo were almost as common as from the actual drug, but most interestingly, were specific to side-effects you would expected from the comparison medication. In […]

Ultra marathon for the mind

An extraordinary 2006 article from The New York Times profiles ultra-endurance cyclist Jure Robiƒç who apparently regularly loses his sanity during his races – literally becoming psychotic as he pushes himself to the limit. The craziness is methodical, however, and Robic and his crew know its pattern by heart. Around Day 2 of a typical […]

Classic Sacks

I’ve just found this remarkable TV interview with Oliver Sacks from 1986, only a year after the publication of his famous book A Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. It’s a fascinating discussion, not least because it’s something you don’t see much these days – an extended interview that focuses solely on a […]

No research, no problem

Time magazine has a remarkably one-sided article on America’s first ‘internet addiction’ clinic. The clinic turns out to be a few rooms in someone’s house, but the article gives away an interesting if not depressing gem about the likely status of the ‘internet addiction’ diagnosis in the DSM-V, the next version of the psychiatrists’ diagnostic […]

Encephalon 76 slides home

The 76th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience carnival has just appeared on the Neuroskeptic blog and is packed full of mind and brain goodness. A couple of my favourites include an excellent piece from Providentia about the violin prodigy Josef Hassid whose career was cut short by a brain tumour, and another is […]

Where the wild things are

The Psychologist has an excellent article on the psychology behind the classic children’s book Where The Wild Things Are. It turns out that the author, Maurice Sendak, was heavily interested in psychoanalysis and intended the book to explore the inner life of children. The article is by psychoanalyst Richard Gottlieb who examines some of the […]

Human, All Too Human

I’ve just discovered that probably one of the best series ever produced on philosophy is available on Google Video. The BBC series Human All Too Human includes three fantastic programmes on Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger – a trio of controversial thinkers who massively influenced 20th century philosophy. It’s an interesting choice […]

From Stroboscope to Dream Machine

‘From Stroboscope to Dream Machine: A History of Flicker-Induced Hallucinations’ is a wonderful article that has just appeared in medical journal European Neurology. It charts how an early finding in visual neuroscience was adopted by the Beat writer William Burroughs and became a fixture of the psychedelic sixties. Flicker induced hallucinations have been noted throughout […]

2009-09-25 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: <img align="left" src="; width="102" height="120" Is the Internet melting our brains? asks Slate of author Dennis Baron who says no, it’s just another cycle in the human history of technology distrust. Neurophilosophy discusses recent research on how patients in the coma-like persistent vegetative state […]

It always seems worse than you think

There is a clich√© in media stories where figures for a disease or condition are quoted followed by a statement that “the true figures may be higher”. Sampling errors mean that initial figures are equally as likely to be under-estimates as over-estimates but we only ever seem to be told that the condition is under-detected. […]

The English Surgeon online

Last year I posted about a wonderful film called The English Surgeon, a sublime documentary about the work of neurosurgeons Henry Marsh and Igor Kurilets in the Ukraine. It turns out you can now watch it for free online at the PBS website until 9th October. As I mentioned last time “to say the film […]

Love outside the lines

The BBC Radio 4 programme Saturday Live recently had a segment on the UK Government’s belated apology to Alan Turing for his 1952 conviction for homosexuality. The programme’s resident poet, Matt Harvey, penned this short but poignant poem to mark the occasion: here’s a toast to Alan Turing born in harsher, darker times who thought […]

Transhuman nature

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind has just had an excellent programme on ‘the singularity‘, the idea that at some point in the future computer power will outstrip the ability of the human brain and then humanity will be better off in some sort of vague and unspecified way. The idea, is of course, […]

Migraine as inspiration

I’ve just found a brief but interesting study finding that migraines are much more common in neurologists than the general public which inspired an interesting reply by Oliver Sacks. The prevalence of migraine in neurologists Neurology. 2003 Nov 11;61(9):1271-2. Evans RW, Lipton RB, Silberstein SD. To assess the prevalence of migraine among neurologists and neurologist […]


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