Monthly Archives: June 2010

Whack on, whack off

Psychologist Jesse Bering has written an absolutely remarkable article about the psychology of masturbation for his latest Scientific American ‘Bering in Mind’ column. I realise it’s now impossible to write anything about the piece without dropping innuendos like a nurse in a Carry On film but it’s worth checking out for the fact it’s both […]

Technology and the brain: the words as they were spoke

I’ve just noticed that the complete transcript of my House of Lords committee debate with Susan Greenfield on ‘What is the potential impact of technology, such as computer gaming, on the brain?’ is now online as a pdf file. The debate was for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Scientific Research in Learning and Education and, […]

Combined animal death delusions

The Journal of ECT has a case report of patient who endured the terrifying delusion that her body was rotting away and being replaced by parts of a pig. The lady concerned was admitted to hospital for surgery but later developed psychosis: Approximately 4 weeks after the surgery, she started expressing somatic delusions that her […]

A brief glance in Jacques Lacan’s mirror

I’ve just found a very funny YouTube video that attempts to explain everything you need to know about French psychoanalyst and philosopher Jacques Lacan in one minute. It’s not entirely safe for work, which is part of its charm. Clearly, it’s not intended to be taken too seriously, which I first suspected when it introduced […]

Smells like retail

Business Week has a fascinating article on the rise of ‘ambient scenting’ – a type of smell-based marketing used in High Street stores to alter the buying behaviour of shoppers. There is now a small but determined scientific literature on the effect of scents on consumer behaviour. These studies have found, for example, that a […]

The sound of seduction

If you’ve ever wondered whether romantic music will enhance your chances of getting a date with the girl you fancy, wonder no more – science has the answer (and it turns out to be yes). ‚ÄòLove is in the air‚Äô: Effects of songs with romantic lyrics on compliance with a courtship request Psychology of Music, […]

Don’t sweat the technique

Wooly Thoughts are a small online company who design and sell patterns for amazing optical illusion knitwear. Some of these are for sweaters or scarfs that display well-known optical illusions such as caf√© wall or the Necker cube illusions. However, the company has also designed knitwear specific illusions that use raised stitches that involve two […]

Computationally, my dear Watson

The New York Times has an excellent article on IBM’s ‘Watson’ project which is an artificial intelligence system designed to answer natural language queries to the point where it can beat humans at Jeopardy! quiz show questions – where contestants are given an answer and they have to come up with the question. Natural language […]

Divorce spreads through social networks

A completely fascinating study published on the Social Science Research Network looked at how likely a marriage was to survive depending on who else in the social network was getting divorced. The study used data from the famous Framington Heart Study and found that while we tend to think of marriage as a ‘couple thing’ […]

2010-06-18 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Forensic psychology blog In the News hits the nail on the head with a final round-up of the psychopath research fight that recently came to light. Props to the blog for breaking the story. Science News reports on a study that shows how our […]

Facial expression techno ballet

Earlier this week we discussed how 1800s neurologist Duchenne studied the components of facial expressions by electrocuting individual face muscles. It turns out someone has done a modern day version, but automated the process and set the dancing faces of four participants to the rhythm of abstract techno. The video to be seen to be […]

Architecture of the brain

The building for Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas is just beautiful. The centre is a neuroscience research institute that was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. It particularly focuses on Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative brain diseases. The ‘Lou Ruvo’ in the name is a tribute to the father of the […]

Are you near death experienced?

A recent study in the Journal of Substance Use and Misuse reported on ‘near death experiences’ by users of the anaesthetic drug ketamine which is also widely used illicitly for its hallucinogenic effects. ‘Near death experiences’ are most commonly associated with being seriously ill or injured, although one of my favourite studies found that about […]

Headache pill reduces the pain of social rejection

Over-the-counter headache pill paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen, reduces the pain of social rejection according to a new study just published in Psychological Science. Based on past findings of an overlap between the brain circuits involved in physical pain and those involved in feeling rejected, the researchers wondered whether painkillers would also ease emotional distress […]

The dynamics of open sexuality

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has just released a new document entitled ‘What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory’ which aims to educate therapists about people in consenting non-monogamous relationships. The document reviews research on the well-being of people in open relationships and the emotional challenges that they can face, although, I’m afraid I […]

US Army clipboard corps lose leader

Wired’s Danger Room blog has a short news item reporting that the co-founder and leader of the Human Terrain System, the US Army’s teams of battlefield social scientists, is no longer in post and has presumably been fired. The HTS has been a controversial innovation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and aims to […]


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