Monthly Archives: October 2009

The shadows of the moon

In the celebrations of the fifty-year forty-year anniversary of the moon landing, we’ve probably all seen this iconic photo of Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the lunar surface: Looking at it again yesterday, I realised that there was something that disturbed me about it. The footprint looks wrong somehow. Our world-knowledge tells us that footprints press […]

Colombia bound

There’s a chance Mind Hacks posts might be a bit sporadic over the next week as I’m returning to beautiful Colombia to work with the fantastic psychologists and psychiatrists in Hospital Universitario San Vicente de Pa√∫l in Medell√≠n. I’m at the airport in London, but due to my bargain basement plane tickets I won’t arrive […]

A shadow of your former self

Consciousness and the ‘myth of the self’ are tackled in an interesting discussion with philosopher Thomas Metzinger on this week’s edition of ABC Radio National All in the Mind. Metzinger is one of a relatively new breed of philosopher who actually gets his hands dirty with the business of experimental cognitive science and has co-authored […]

2009-10-09 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: <img align="left" src="; width="102" height="120" Cutting-edge technology has renewed the search for a better lie detector. Some show promise, but they have yet to be tested in court. Excellent piece from law publication ABA Journal. Newsweek has some remarkable brain images with the low-down […]

NeuroPod on learning in coma-like states

The latest Nature NeuroPod podcast has just been released and covers the use of the hot new genetics technique genome-wide association studies in neuroscience, sections on colour-blindness and stroke, and a recent study on learning in patients in coma-like states. The discussion of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) is interesting in light of some headline studies […]

Feeling the body in a new light

There are a couple of excellent posts on Neurophilosophy covering recent studies that demonstrate the powerful effect of vision on the perception of physical sensations in our body. The first covers an interesting study that found that looking directly at your hand reduces laser-induced pain compared to a condition where you are only looking at […]

Pavlov, Office Style

This clip, from the US version of comedy show The Office, shows Jim training co-worker Dwight to expect a sweet everytime he reboots his computer. From Vodpod. Psychologists everywhere will recognise this an an application of classical conditioning. The ‘scientist’ Jim has heard of is, of course, Ivan Pavlov. Thanks to Russ Fazio for showing […]

Stairway to loving

There’s a curious case published in the medical journal Epilepsy and Behavior of a young man who had his epilepsy triggered by the sight of stairs. This would cause seizures that would trigger “repetitive hugging and affectionate kissing of one of the people around him”. Our patient is currently 24 years old. He is a […]

Strange journeys of the mind

New Scientist has a fantastic issue on ‘strange journeys of the mind’ that has three great articles on the twilight zone of sleep, simulating psychopathology with hypnosis and laboratory-induced out-of-body experiences. The piece on the hypnotic simulation of brain disturbances is fantastic, not least because it features two researchers I work with, Peter Halligan and […]

Spike at the end of the tunnel

Electrical readings from seven patients who died in hospital suggest that the brain undergoes a surge of activity at the moment of death, according to a study just published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine. Palliative care is a medical approach that aims to make dying patients as comfortable as possible. As part of this, […]

Strung out on lasers

In what sounds like a plot from an animated sci-fi film, I’ve just found a remarkable study where Japanese researchers put a Yoga Master in a brain scanner and fired lasers at him because he claimed not to be able to feel pain while meditating. It turns out that he showed significantly less brain activity […]

Blink outside the box

RadioLab has a brilliant short podcast on the psychological role of blinks, based on a study that found that when watching a film our blinks are remarkably synchronised. The programme dispels the myth that blinking serves only to keep our eyes wet as apparently studies have shown that we don’t blink any more or less […]

Night terrors and night terrorists

Earlier this year we covered a study on REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD) where normal sleep paralysis breaks down and sleepers act out their dreams. The Journal of Forensic Science has just published a study on the dark side of the disorder, where affected sleepers experience nightmares and can unknowingly damage themselves or their partners […]

One nagging thing…

The BPS Research Digest has a fantastic feature where they’ve invited some of the world’s leading psychologists to discuss one nagging thing they still don’t understand about themselves. Some take the challenge as a query about themselves as human beings, others about them personally, and the answers are a wonderful mix of the scientific and […]

Rubbish in the margin

One of the most influential and controversial papers in psychiatry was from a 1976 study published in The Lancet that found that people with schizophrenia had larger fluid filled ventricles in the brain. Yesterday, I looked up the original paper in London’s Institute of Psychiatry library and was amazed to see that the controversy seems […]

Lightning-induced robotic speech

I just found a curious case study of a man who developed ‘robotic speech’ after being hit by lightning. Rather than the “I am a Dalek!” style mechanical sound it seems to be more like the very. deliberate. and. exact. speech synthesis style, somewhat like Data from Star Trek the Next Generation Lightning-induced robotic speech […]


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