Monthly Archives: September 2009

Seeing the mind amidst the numbers

I’ve just a read a fantastic New York Times article from last year on the ongoing $1,000,000 Netflix challenge to create an algorithm that will predict what unseen films customers will liked based on their past preferences. As well as an interesting insight into how companies are trying to guess our shopping preferences it is […]

Going under

I’ve just found a curious historical article discussing the early debates over whether anaesthesia could trigger sexual dreams in patients. As this was Britain in the 1800s, much of the fuss was centred on whether the Victorian lady was actually capable of such things: In January, 1849, a discussion of ‚ÄúChloroform in Midwifery‚Äù occurred during […]

Lifetime blindness prevents schizophrenia?

Rather mysteriously, no one can find anyone who has been blind from birth and has later been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I found this interesting snippet from a short article from Behavioral and Brain Sciences: Five independent searches, varying considerably in scope, methods, and population, failed to identify even one well-defined co-occurrence of total blindness and […]

Restructuring the metaphysics of a jazz thing

I love this abstract of a scientific paper on ‘Neurological Problems of Jazz Legends’. It’s full of medical jargon but if you read it out loud it sounds like a beat poem. Try it with the same rhythm as Ginsberg’s poem Howl. Neurological problems of jazz legends J Child Neurol. 2009 Aug;24(8):1037-42. Pearl PL. A […]

Rebel without a couch

I’ve just discovered that the classic James Dean movie Rebel Without a Cause was inspired by a true life account of a psychiatrist’s analysis of a young ‘psychopath’. According to this 1944 article from Time magazine, the book, called Rebel Without A Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath, was written by psychiatrist Mitchell Lindner […]

Connected by threads

The Boston Globe covers several recent studies that have been able to work out sensitive personal details from information made public on social networking sites, possibly including your sexual orientation. As we discussed earlier this week, huge amounts of information can be gleaned about your life through social network analysis simply from the patterns in […]

Oliver Sacks on the varieties of hallucinatory experience

Oliver Sacks has done a wonderful TED talk on hallucinations that has just been released online. He particularly focuses on the hallucinations of Charles Bonnet syndrome where damage or decay of the retina can cause strikingly complex hallucinations of people and animals that seems to be a natural part of the visual scene. Interestingly, the […]

Scientists find area responsible for emotion in dead fish

Neuroskeptic covers a hilarious new study that involved brain scanning a dead salmon and finding activation in the brain as it ‘looked’ at photos of human faces. The authors are not genuinely arguing that dead fish have brain activity but have run the experiment to show that some common statistical methods used in fMRI research […]

2009-09-18 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: <img align="left" src="; width="102" height="120" Neurophilosophy has an excellent piece on how eye movements can reveal the unconscious detection of changes in a ‘change blindness’ demo that the conscious mind is unaware of. Illusion Sciences has an an excellent visual illusion that changes direction […]

A history of the brain frame

Neurosurgical Focus has an excellent article on the development of stereotactic neurosurgery where an external frame is usually screwed into the skull and fixes the head in place to allow surgeons to precisely locate brain areas in a standard 3D space. In modern stereotactic surgery, the system is usually used with an electronic tracking system […]

Carl Jung’s mythical Red Book to be published

The New York Times has a huge article on the forthcoming publication of the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s ‘Red Book’, the notebook he kept during the six years of his ‘creative illness’ in which he was clearly psychotic but found inspiration for some of his most influential ideas. Jung is one of the most interesting […]

Mass hysteria, crazes and panics

The Fortean Times has an article and some fantastic excerpts from a new encyclopaedia on mass hysteria, social panics and fast moving fads called Outbreak: The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behaviour. The book tackles some of the most curious and surprising outbreaks from medieval times to the present day, covering everything from medieval dancing plagues […]

Do deaf people hear hallucinated voices?

I always assumed the question of whether people deaf from birth could hear hallucinated voices was similar to the question of whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound if no-one is there, but it turns out that there have been several studies on auditory hallucinations in deaf people. In fact, I’ve just […]

Unweaving the tangled web

The New York Times has a brilliant article on how human traits and behaviours, including everything from happiness to obesity, can spread through social networks. It discusses the findings of the Framington Heart Study. Originally designed to be a study of heart disease in a small American town, it recorded each participant’s family and friends […]

Fifty years of Madness and Civilisation

ABC Radio National’s Philosopher’s Zone has a fantastic programme discussing Michel Foucault’s influential book ‘Madness and Civilisation’ on the 50th anniversary of its publication. The book is nominally a history of madness since the enlightenment. Foucault argues that the age saw a cultural shift where madness was distinguished from reason and the civilised mind and […]

Encephalon 75 shimmers in

The 75th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience carnival has just appeared online, as if by magic, at Ionian Enchantement. A couple of my favourites include an excellent piece from Cognitive Daily on mood and memory and great coverage by Neuronarrative of research showing fake video evidence can be persuasive, even to the people […]


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