Monthly Archives: November 2009

Media cat and mouse game with brain simulations

Henry Markram, leader of the Blue Brain neural tissue simulation project, has sent an angry email to IBM following their widely-reported but misleading announcement that they’d created a simulation as complex as a cat brain. This has come some months after similar headlines declared that an equivalent of a ‘mouse brain’ had been simulated by […]

Spinning yarns

Originally published earlier this year in Prospect magazine, Tom has put a copy of his fantastic article online where he discusses our capacity for improvisation and how it links with a post-brain damage condition call confabulation where patients seem unable to stop themselves inventing unlikely stories. Confabulation occurs most typically after frontal lobe damage and […]

Cold asylum

New Scientist has a gallery of striking photos taken from Christopher Payne’s book that details his photographic tour of abandoned asylums in the US. In both the UK and the US, and, I suspect, in many other countries, there are numerous unused decaying mental asylums that have become obsolete as ‘care in the community’ has […]

Feliz Día Nacional del Psicólogo en Colombia

Colombia has an official Day of the Psychologist and you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a self-declared promotional event by the psychology association here, but it isn’t, the day is established by law. Article 92 of Law 1090 establishes 20th November as the official celebration. Psychology departments around the country usually celebrate the […]

2009-11-20 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: <img align="left" src="; width="102" height="120" Neuroanthropology has an excellent piece on the late L√©vi-Strauss and the development of the scientific study of cultural cognition and anthropology. The Book of the Week in the Times Higher Education Supplement is ‘What Intelligence Tests Miss’. Wired UK […]

Time-space fusion

Neurophilosophy has an excellent piece on ‘time-space’ synaesthesia where affected individuals experience units of time – such as hours, days, or months – as occupying specific locations in space relative to their own body. The image on the right is taken from a BBC News article on time-space synaesthesia and was drawn by one lady […]

Selecting for kuru resistant cannibals

New Scientist reports on a new study on how a gene that gives protection against the deadly brain disease kuru became more common in people exposed to the condition through their cannibalistic tradition of eating the bodies of dead relatives. Kuru is a prion disease, meaning the damage is caused by a poorly arranged or […]

Lady luck helps gamblers (lose not quite so badly)

A study on male gamblers just published in the Journal of Gambling Studies found that having a girl on your arm does bring ‘luck’ of sorts, as slot machine gamblers had fewer losses when accompanied by a female. I am tempted to label this the ‘James Bond Effect’ but in gambling, good fortune is relative, […]

Do blind people hallucinate on LSD?

I’ve just found a remarkable 1963 study [pdf] from the Archives of Opthalmology in which 24 blind participants took LSD to see if they could experience visual hallucinations. It turns out, they can, although this seems largely to be the case in blind people who had several years of sight to begin with, but who […]

As I walk through the uncanny valley

Seed Magazine has an interesting piece on the ‘uncanny valley‘ effect, where humanoid figures become increasingly more attractive until they’re ‘a bit too lifelike’ and start seeming uncomfortably eerie. It’s a fantastic piece because it discusses the development of the concept of ‘uncanniness’ – from the initial explanations by Freud to some tentative experimental studies […]

Chemo mainline to the brain

The New York Times has a fascinating article on how surgeons are attempting to treat aggressive and fatal brain tumours by injecting chemotherapy drugs directly into the brain. One of the challenges for drug makers is that there are many substances that would otherwise have an effect in the brain, but it’s very hard to […]

The Argentinian love affair with psychoanalysis

The Wall Street Journal has a revealing article on why Argentina has the largest concentration of psychologists anywhere in the world and why it has a long-standing cultural fascination with psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a set of psychological theories and form of psychotherapy based strongly on the ideas of Freud. Buenos Aires is one of the […]

Dog eat dog

Writer Malcolm Gladwell recently published a collection of his essays in his new book What the Dog Saw. It was recently reviewed in The New York Times by cognitive scientist Stephen Pinker who complements Gladwell as “a writer of many gifts” but notes that “he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or […]

Like the colours of the prism

Havelock Ellis is better known as a pioneering sexologist but I’ve just found this account of a young man with striking synaesthesia from a 1904 edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry Ellis is apparently recounting a case from a Dr. Ulrich of the ‘Asylum for Epileptics at Zurich’, which I suspect is because he […]

You are kind, strong willed, but can be self-critical

I’ve just found a classic study online where psychologist Bertram Forer gave a personality test to his students and then asked each person to rate how the accuracy of their ‘individual personality profile’. In reality, all the ‘individual profiles’ were identical but students tended to rate the descriptions as highly accurate. In fact, on a […]

The illusion of a universe in our own back yard

Science News covers a revealing new study on the Hadza people of Tanzania that has the potential shake up some of the rusty thinking in evolutionary psychology. A common line of argument in this field is to suggest that sexual preferences for certain body types exist because we’ve evolved these desires to maximise our chances […]


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