Monthly Archives: February 2010

Subliminal cigarette marketing

The Tobacco Documents Library is an online database of millions of tobacco industry documents made public through court cases. Included are letters written to cigarette companies including several where the public have complained about ‘subliminal messages’ hidden in adverts. Quite frankly, they are a joy to read, and this is my favourite among many hidden […]

2010-02-26 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Slate has a little-told story of how the U.S. government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition with deadly consequences. An important study on how video games can hamper reading and writing skills in young boys by displacing other activities is covered by Not Exactly Rocket Science. […]

Clearing the fog of vision

Neuroscientist Pawan Sinha gave an inspiring talk to TED India about his work on providing treatment for visual problems and how this is over-turning many of our long-standing assumptions about how the brain develops the ability to make sense of the visual world. Sinha focuses on children and adults who have grown up with congenital […]

Area responsible for neuroscience errors located

I liked this funny and recursive brain diagram from tech journalist Quinn Norton that makes fun of our tendency to be wowed by brain scans. The diagram has a good evidence base. A 2008 study found that adding a picture of a brain scan to a scientific argument about human nature made the general public […]

The birth of a visual artist, after blindness

Psychologist Lawrence Rosenblum’s Sensory Superpowers blog covers the remarkable story of blind artist John Bramblitt who creates the most strikingly vivid images but didn‚Äôt start painting until he lost his sight. To judge colour Bramblitt feels the small differences in the thickness and texture of the paint and the piece discusses how such fine touch […]

On riding the mistake wave

I’ve just read a funny and insightful interview with neuroscientist Vincent Walsh from last November’s Current Biology that’s full of over-caffeinated anecdotes and understated wisdom. It’s really worth reading in full but, unfortunately, the whole thing is locked behind a paywall (a bargain at only $31.50), but I’ve reproduced part of the piece below: What’s […]

Touch me

The New York Times has an interesting short article on psychology studies that have looked at the emotional influence of brief touches. The evidence that such messages can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave is accumulating fast. Students who received a supportive touch on the back or arm from […]

Decorative skull reshaping

Intentional reshaping of the skull during childhood has been reported from all over the ancient world but it seemed to be most popular among the peoples who lived in the Andes before the Spanish conquistadores arrived. On the left you can see two examples I found this morning in the national museum of the Banco […]

Slaves of the Crystal Brain

A fantastic cover from a May 1950 issue of Amazing Stories where a man has some sort of futuristic power station inside his head. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything about the story so who knows what the intriguing title refers to. However, I’ve linked to a larger version of the cover if you want to […]

A study on dream smoking

If you’ve given up smoking for good, where else can you have a secret cigarette except in your dreams? A 1991 study looked at how often recently ex-smokers dreamed of smoking, and found that even after a year of abstinence the dream world was often a common refuge for an imaginary nicotine hit. Dream of […]

Mindful of Langer

The Boston Globe has an excellent profile of psychologist Ellen Langer, responsible for some of the most influential studies in psychology and a champion of ‘mindfulness’ as an approach to a happier life. Needless to say, she’s become a doyenne of the positive psychology movement, and, as the article notes, occasionally comes across as slightly […]

Love amid chaos

Swansea Love Story is a gritty, tragic and surprisingly funny documentary about heroin users in a struggling South Wales town. It follows a number of addicts as they score, skip meetings with drugs counsellors, philosophise about their predicament and go about their chaotic daily lives. The piece is, in parts, desolate, particularly as we hear […]

Quito bound

Due to the complexities of the Colombian visa system, I am off to the beautiful city of Quito, Ecuador, for a week to organise the paperwork. I’m not sure how internet access will work out, so apologies if updates are a little less frequent than usual. If anyone knows any good mind and brain things […]

Shimmering madness

There is an amazing blog, called either ru_medart or something I don’t understand in Russian, that collects artistic depictions of the mad from the history of art. It’s a wonderful collection of images, and, as you might expect, many of the pictures depict the sort of ‘raving madness’ that was the stereotype of centuries past. […]

2010-02-19 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Neuro-linguistic programming: Cargo cult psychology? An excellent piece debunking NLP from the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education appears online as a pdf. It always struck me as Scientology without the aliens. PsyBlog has an excellent round-up of 10 influencers of conformity. Fuck […]

Teenagers: hyper-mortals

A common belief about teenagers is that they implicitly assume that they are invincible or immortal and think little about their own deaths. A new study just published in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows this to be a myth, however, as they vastly over-estimate their chances of dying within the next year. By the […]


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