Monthly Archives: October 2009

Little Albert, lost and found

One of the most famous and most mythologised studies in psychology concerns John Watson’s experiment to condition ‘Little Albert’ to be afraid of a white rat. ‘Little Albert’ and his mother moved away afterwards and no-one knew what happened to him, leading to one of the most enduring mysteries in psychology. Finally, it seems, his […]

Disembodied voices of joy, silence and rage

ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind has a powerful and moving programme on the experience of ‘hearing voices’ that meets with two young women with quite different experiences of auditory hallucinations. One of the young women, Kat, has largely positive voices and has come to understand and work with them, while another, Mel, has […]

Beautiful from the inside out

Technology Review has a fantastic photo essay that tracks how we’ve visualised the brain from times past and includes some of the most stunning images from the last century of neuroscience. It’s been put together by Mo Costandi, the writer you may know from the Neurophilosophy blog, with each image concisely described so you can […]

The birth of the ‘psychic energizer’

With uncanny echoes of the modern interest in ‘cognitive enhancers’, a 1958 edition of Popular Science hails a new drug that “tunes up the brain” allowing us “to perform at peak efficiency all the time”. The drug is iproniazid, marketed then as Marsilid. It was the first ever antidepressant, but the concept of an ‘antidepressant’ […]

Encephalon 77 teams up

The 77th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival has just appeared online, this time ably hosted by Sharp Brains. This edition is rather special as it’s a crossing of the streams with the medical carnival Grand Rounds. A couple of my favourites include Brain Blogger on whether religion can be understood as […]

Cheese, dreams and drugs

A common belief says that eating cheese causes vivid dreams or nightmares. However, I couldn’t find any support for the idea in the scientific literature except for one bizarre case study. Although the case report really tells us nothing about the link between cheese and dreaming, it’s lovely to read because it’s from a bygone […]

Inhabiting a robot hand

BBC News has a fascinating short video report of a robotic hand that is connected to the nerve fibres of an amputated arm and which allows the patient to actually feel touches with the robot fingers. Although it doesn’t mention it in the report, the technology is from the SmartHand research group who are attempting […]

Hallucinations in sensory deprivation after 15 minutes

Sensory deprivation lasting only 15 minutes is enough to trigger hallucinations in healthy members of the public, according to a new study published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. The researchers were interested in resurrecting the somewhat uncontrolled research done in the 50s and 60s where participants were dunked into dark, silent, body […]

How many shrinks does it take to change a diagnosis?

With debates still raging over the new version of the psychiatrists’ diagnostic manual, the DSM-V, a selection of radical new diagnoses have been submitted which may give the committee pause for thought. They have been carefully reviewed by Matthew Hutson over at Psychology Today and we include a couple so you can see how this […]

Around the brain in forty years

The latest edition of the Journal of Neuroscience has a fantastic collection of articles by leading neuroscientists who look back on the last 40 years of discoveries in brain research. The collection is to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Society for Neuroscience. As the articles make clear, the last four decades have seen a […]

Science of slumber

Science News has a brilliant special issue on the ‘science of slumber’ that tackles sleep disorders, the mental impact of sleep deprivation, how sleep differs across species and the still mysterious question of why we need to sleep. I found the article on two seemingly straightforward sleep disorders, insomnia and narcolepsy, the most interesting. They […]

Neuroanthropology, a rough guide

There’s a comprehensive and compelling introduction to neuroanthropology over at the blog of the same name that outlines why we can’t fully understand the brain or culture while thinking of them as separate entities. The Neuroanthropology blog is run by two of the main researchers in the field and this recent article was written to […]

2009-10-16 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: <img align="left" src="; width="102" height="120" Slate has a brilliant article on the links between face structure and aggression and whether we can see criminality in the face. Contains the wonderful euphemism ‘muscular unreasonableness’. Video games are good for the brain, according to an article […]

Neuroethics at SfN 2009

The world’s largest scientific conference, the Society for Neuroscience meeting, starts tomorrow in Chicago. Tens of thousands of researchers from all areas of neuroscience will meet to discuss all aspects of the brain. The conference always has a full programme of social events, as well as the usual scientific programme (I am still filled with […]

Tea intoxication

An interesting case study from a 2002 edition of The Lancet of a man who suffered paralysis from drinking too much Earl Grey tea owing to the toxic effects of huge doses of bergamot oil – taken from orange rind and used as flavour: A 44-year-old man presented in May, 2001, with muscle cramps. He […]

A brain signature for literacy

Not Exactly Rocket Science covers a fantastic study on how the structure of the brain changes as illiterate adults learn to read and write. The research was conducted on rather a novel group of participants. Most were ex-members of guerilla forces in Colombia that had recently put down their weapons to re-integrate in society. Colombia […]


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