Monthly Archives: April 2010

Hypnotising lobsters etc

This is a fantastically odd letter about hypnotising animals that appeared in a 1992 edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry. Hypnotising lobsters, etc. Sir: I was very surprised that the idea of hypnotising lobsters was thought to be evidence of gullibility requiring further photographic proof (Brooks, Journal, July 1992,161,134). As a young child in […]

A marriage made in hormones

The New York Times has a fantastic article on how the way married couples relate to each other can have a major impact on health, although there are many intriguing interpersonal subtleties that go beyond simply being in a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ relationship. The piece reviews the extensive evidence on how stress impacts on the […]

The madwoman in the attic

BBC Radio 4 has an excellent programme on the depiction of the ‘madwoman in the attic’ in Victorian literature and how it reflects ideas about mental disturbance and femininity of the time. The programme discusses Mrs Rochester from Jane Eyre, Anne Catherick from The Woman in White, and Madame Bovary from the book of the […]

Visual acuity improves by autopilot

We tend to assume that visual acuity, the ability to distinguish fine detail with our eyes, is a physical limit of the body but a new study just published online by Psychological Science shows that prompting people with ideas about people who have excellent eyesight actually improves clearness of vision. The research was led by […]

The YouTube drug observatory

An innovative new study has analysed YouTube videos of people tripping on a hallucinogenic plant called salvia to understand the behavioural effects of the ‘legal high’ that is still relatively new to science. Salvia divinorum is a strongly hallucinogenic plant that has been used by indigenous Mexican shamans for many centuries but has recently become […]

Silent stopwatch

This is just a quick tip for psychologists who want a silent or beepless stopwatch, as they are very easy to make. Stopwatches are often used when psychologists do neuropsychological assessments as they involve the timing of participant responses. Beeps can sometimes be distracting, especially to people who may have brain injury or might be […]

Decisions, decisions

The New York Times has a review of a new book called ‘The Art of Choosing’, by psychologist Sheena Iyengar, that tackles the psychology of choice and decision-making. I’ve not read the book myself but the review is very positive and like all good book reviews, it is full of interesting snippets and is worth […]

Inner strength

Discover Magazine has an excellent piece by Carl Zimmer on the brains of elite athletes and how they have adapted with practice to process movement and the body differently. There are lots of fascinating aspects to the article, but this particularly caught my eye: To understand how athletes arrive at these better solutions, other neuroscientists […]

High time for psychedelic medicine?

There’s an excellent article on the history of the Multidiscplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, an organisation that has done much to bring psychedelic drug investigation back into the mainstream of medical research, in that well known bastion of science journalism, Playboy. I must admit to being a bit embarrassed when I was caught reading the […]

2010-04-16 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Should kids be bribed to do well in school? asks Time magazine. Oldest trick in the book tested out by researchers. Neurophilosophy covers a study finding that wrinkle smoothing Botox injections may diminish the experience of emotion owing to their paralysing effect on facial […]

Breezy people

The Times has an interview with neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, largely to do with the recent political tussles in UK science, but where she uses the opportunity to comment on how computer games are ‘as much of a risk to mankind as climate change’. But wait, the best is yet to come – this part is […]

Corridors of the mind

I’ve just discovered the joy of searching Flickr for photos of psychiatric ward corridors which turns up some amazing images of hospitals past and present, and photos of institutions that are slowly, and sometimes beautifully, decaying. The great numbers of abandoned hospitals are mostly due to the shutting down of the old monolithic psychiatric hospitals […]

Hacking toy EEGs

Frontier Nerds has an excellent guide to toy EEGs (the commercially available ‘mind control’ games) and detailed instructions on how to hack the MindFlex to use it as a brain-computer interface. In the last year or so, numerous ‘mind control’ games have appeared that are essentially cheap consumer EEG devices with a dull as ditch-water […]

Social warfare

A news story in today’s Nature notes that the US military are pumping more money into social science research which is considered to be an important ‘game changing’ component of 21st century warfare. The unconventional wars now being fought by the US military have also bolstered interest in the social sciences. With the military trying […]

From madhouse to mainstream

It’s not often that historians are described as kicking ass, but the latest issue of the The Lancet has a barnstorming piece by Andrew Scull that gives an uncompromising history of psychiatry from the mad house to Big Pharma. It must be said that the article is oriented more toward American psychiatry. Although similar influences […]


There is a long-standing myth that before the Enlightenment, all the experiences and behaviours we would now classify as madness were thought to be due to demonic possession. This idea has been comprehensively debunked and it is now clear that both of these concepts have run side-by-side and medieval courts often went to great lengths […]


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