Monthly Archives: January 2010

The rise and fall of antidepressants

Newsweek has an excellent article that charts the rise and fall of antidepressants from their status as a wonder drug that made people ‘better than well’ to the recent evidence that suggests for many people, they’re not much better than placebo. The piece particularly follows the work of psychologist Irving Kirsch who was the first […]

World changing images

BBC Radio 4 has just concluded a wonderful series on medical imaging that overs everything from the microscope, to ultrasound, to the brain scanner. The series is five 15 minute programmes that tackles the technology and its controversies. The brain scanning programme is particularly good and shows both ends of the spectrum of enthusiasm for […]

Can you actually be frightened to death?

Science isn’t sure whether fear can kill but several courts have been convinced and have convicted people for murder on the basis that they caused death through fright. An article just published in the American Journal of Cardiology summarises the eight murder trials. The cases are not, as I first suspected, where someone had deliberately […]

2010-01-29 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: io9 has a great brief summary of a citation analysis that describe how neuroscience became a major scientific discipline in just one decade. Interestingly, it didn’t happen in the Decade of the Brain. The ability to resist temptation is contagious, according a new study […]

Better Thinking Through Chemistry

This chapter was due for inclusion in The Rough Guide Book of Brain Training, but was cut – probably because the advice it gives is so unsexy! The idea of cognitive enhancers is an appealing one, and its attraction is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to take a pill to make them smarter? It’s the sort […]

We go with the flow

The Psychologist has a completely fascinating article on how we perceive things to be more appealing, easier to handle and more efficient based on how simple they are to understand – even when this is based on irrelevant or superficial properties – like its name or the font it is described in. The core idea […]

John Cleese on neuroanatomy

British comedian John Cleese tackles the brain and gives a tour of the organ’s major anatomical landmarks in this short video from 2008. It’s a tour de force of descriptive neuroanatomy and even the most experienced neuroscientist is likely to encounter much that is new and interesting. It also finished on a short but important […]

Information channelling

The Frontal Cortex has a fantastic piece discussing a new study finding that people choose TV news based on which channels are more likely to agree with their pre-existing opinions and how we have a tendency to filter for information that confirms, rather than challenges, what we believe. Lehrer discusses various ways in which we […]

The missing psychiatric file of Adolf Hitler

I’ve just found this fascinating 2007 snippet from the European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience on Adolf Hitler’s mysteriously missing psychiatric file from the time he was admitted to hospital following First World War injuries. The article mentions that he was reportedly diagnosed with hysterical or non-organic blindness, something that nowadays would be diagnosed […]

The evolution of death and dying

The New Yorker has a wonderful article on the psychology of death and dying which is carefully woven into the curious life story of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the originator of the ‘stage’ model of grief. If you only read one popular article on grief, you’d do a lot worse than reading this carefully researched and […]

Forgetting fear

The Times has an excellent article summarising recent research on the possibility of treating traumatic memories by tempering their impact either just after the event or when remembering the experience at a later point. The ability to update our memories with new information highlights the flexibility of our brain. Every act of remembering gives us […]

Brain scan diagnoses misunderstanding of diagnosis

There have been a lot of media stories in the past week about a study from the US military supposedly showing that a new form of brain scan can diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in army veterans. Although interesting, the study doesn’t show any such thing and this is an example of a common misconception […]

The soporific boogaloo

The Guardian has a short piece and gallery on what couple’s sleeping positions say about their relationship. The article is based on a humorous book called The Secret Language Of Sleep and it’s not quite clear that the writer has picked up on the fact its not meant to be taken too seriously. The idea […]

2010-01-22 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Drug Monkey covers a fascinating study finding that mental health workers judge patients differently depending on whether they’re described as being a ‘substance abuser’ or as having ‘a substance use disorder’. We covered a similar study on personality disorder previously. To the bunkers! The […]

To Bedlam and Part Way Back

BBC Radio 4 has a fantastic documentary on one of then 20th century’s great poets, Anne Sexton, who struggled with mental illness throughout her adult life and eventually committed suicide at the age of 46. Uniquely, tapes of Sexton’s psychotherapy sessions with psychiatrist Martin Orne were found after her death giving an alternative insight into […]

Two drugs show best treatment possibility for MS

In massive news for neurology, The New England Journal of Medicine has published three important studies reporting that two new drugs for multiple sclerosis are more effective than existing treatments and can be taken in pill form. Multiple sclerosis is a bitch. It’s a neurological disorder where the immune system starts attacking myelin – the […]


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