Monthly Archives: April 2010

2010-04-30 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: You could not ask for a better combination. Coverage of the mirror movement mutation in a piece from Not Exactly Rocket Science and an article on Neurophilosophy. The Independent covers the frankly mind-bending news that David Cronenberg is to make a film on the […]

Against the grain

I’ve just discovered the powerful story of the German psychiatrist Alice Ricciardi-von Platen. She refused to take part in the growing eugenics movement in the 1930s Germany that targeted people with mental illness for sterilisation and euthanasia, resisted the Nazi party and wrote a book documenting Nazi medical abuses of psychiatric patients after being asked […]

The endangered languages of New York City

The New York Times covers a fantastic project that is attempting to track down some of the world’s most endangered languages – by scouring the streets of the Big Apple. The Endangered Language Alliance is a project that aims to connect speakers of rare tongues but also to use the opportunity to study the languages […]

Cell intelligence and surviving the dead of winter

New Scientist has an interesting article on whether single cells can be considered intelligent. The piece is by biologist Brian Ford who implicitly raises the question of how we define intelligence and whether it is just the ability to autonomously solve problems. If so, then individual cells such as neurons might be considered ‘intelligent’ even […]

Breathing a sigh of relief to reboot respiration

A delightful study on the function of sighing has just been published in the journal Physiology and Behavior which suggests that our wistful deep breaths reboot our respiration and work as an unconscious stress management strategy. Researchers, led by psychologist Elke Vlemincx, asked participants to wear devices that kept track of their breathing and monitored […]

The politics of social engineering

My latest ‘Beyond Boundaries’ column for The Psychologist discusses politics, social engineering and the use of mimes as a traffic calming measure. For those following the UK election, there are also elections here in Colombia, albeit to choose the president. In the running is the mathematician, philosopher and ex-Mayor of Bogot√° Antanas Mockus who, whether […]

Are crime dramas warping the legal system?

The Economist has an interesting article on the ‘CSI effect’ which suggests that television crime dramas are altering jurors’ expectations of the relevance and power of scientific evidence and hence affecting how court judgements are made. The article is largely based on a forthcoming paper to be published in Forensic Science International that argues the […]

US Army PTSD treatment: heaven and hell

BBC News and The New York Times have just each published articles on the US Army’s treatment of psychologically traumatised soldiers so different that you’d think they were talking about entirely distinct programmes. Two articles have just appeared on the BBC website giving a very positive view of the US military’s treatment of Army veterans […]

Can I get an amen?

This is an fMRI study on how Christian faith healers influence the brains of believers and non-believers. It is an absolutely remarkable experiment when you think about it but I still don’t know quite what to make of it. The power of charisma–perceived charisma inhibits the frontal executive network of believers in intercessory prayer. Soc […]

Questioning ‘one in four’

The Guardian has an excellent article questioning the widely cited statistic that ‘1 in 4’ people will have a mental illness at some point in their lives. The issue of how many people have or will have a mental illness raises two complex issues: how we define an illness and how we count them. Defining […]

Charlie Rose Brain Series online and complete

The Charlie Rose discussion show has an ongoing series on the brain and all of the episodes are available online where some of world’s leading neuroscientists extensively tackle the big questions of the field. I’m just watching the programmes at the moment and while they can seem a little stiff at times, it lovely to […]

Cultures of foreplay

I’ve just read a fantastic article in the Journal of Sex Research on culture and how we decide what is a sexual disorder or ‘paraphilia’. It has a fascinating section where it talks about cultural variation in common or acceptable sexual practices and it touches on how foreplay differs between societies. Kissing during foreplay, it […]

2010-04-23 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times discusses how a belladonna hallucination could have been the start of alcoholics anonymous. Dream rehearsal helps remembering, according to a study covered by Not Exactly Rocket Science. The Times covers breezy people who go around saying yaka-wow. Some yaka-wow socks […]

The busy night

Two things I love are sleeping and data collection. Now, thanks to a new iPhone app, I can do both at once. Sleep Cycle uses the accelerometer in the iPhone to record vibrations in your mattress caused by you moving in the night. In this way it acts as an actigraph, keeping a record of […]

One thousand matter-of-fact dentists

For some reason, I find this study that analysed children’s drawings of dentists hilarious. You can almost sense the existential despair of someone who spent months of their life analysing kids’ unconscious representations of dentists to discover they just think of them as the guy with the furniture and a patient. Children’s drawings about dentistry. […]

I know what you’re thinking Doctor…

I just found a completely charming study from 1977 that tested whether psychiatric patients with mind-reading delusions were really telepathic. Telepathy in mental illness: deluge or delusion? J Nerv Ment Dis. 1977 Sep;165(3):184-200. Greyson B. The belief that one can read others’ minds has long been considered a symptom of psychosis, despite reports in the […]


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