Monthly Archives: July 2010

A rare glimpse of childhood schizophrenia

The LA Times has an article and video about a young girl who has one of the very rare cases of childhood schizophrenia. In this instance, it is particularly unusual because the affected child is only six years old. One of the biggest mysteries in psychiatry is why psychosis, the occurrence of delusions and hallucinations, […]

The blessed neuroscientist

Neurosurgery has an article on the 17th Century neuroanatomist Niels Stensen who not only made major contributions to our understanding of the brain but was beatified – the first step to becoming a saint – by Pope John Paul II in 1988. His work was not restricted to the brain and was a founding figure […]

Purple haze: paint huffing hallucinations differ by hue

Adolescent solvent abusers reported that different colours of paint cause different types of hallucinations, according to a remarkable study just published in Drug and Alcohol Review. The research, led by Michael Takagi from the University of Melbourne, was only a small study of 16 young people who sniffed spray paints, but the results are quite […]

The illusion of progress lights a fire

Psychologists have longed talked about ‘goal gradient’ which describes how we work harder to achieve a goal as we get closer to it. I just came across a fantastic study published in the Journal of Marketing Research which shows that we can be convinced to shift into a higher gear of work and spending, even […]

An eccentric history of headache treatments

Neuroscience journal Brain has an amazing article on the history of non-drug treatments for headaches. What sounds like a dry article on the history of neurology is actually a remarkable romp through many of the most eccentric treatments in medicine. The piece has just been published online and sadly is locked behind a paywall (keeps […]

More a danger to ourselves

The latest Wired UK has an interesting piece by behavioural economist Dan Ariely who notes that we are now more likely than ever to be the agents of our own demise – through the poor choices we make. “One of the most interesting analyses on the ways in which our decisions kill us is by […]

There’s something about Johnny Foreigner

A new study just published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology has found that we are less likely to believe something told to us in a foreign accent because the difficulty of adjusting to the voice unconsciously undermines the speaker’s credibility. The research was completed by the suspiciously foreign sounding psychologists Shiri Lev-Ari and […]

Staying cool when stealing cars

Staying calm is a car thief’s biggest challenge, according to a study published in the British Journal of Criminology that explored the psychology of looking inconspicuous when driving a stolen vehicle. Criminologists Michael Cherbonneau and Heith Copes interviewed 54 car thieves from Tennessee and Louisiana about their experience of stealing automobiles, particularly focusing on what […]

Researchers implant false symptoms

An intriguing study just published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology has found that we can be convinced we reported symptoms of mental illness that we never mentioned and, as a result, we can actually start believing we have the symptom itself. The faking and exaggerating of psychiatric and neurological symptoms is a […]

An epidemic of false memories

A gripping edition of This American Life explores the ‘recovered memory movement’ of the 1990s where patients became convinced that they had experienced horrific, sometimes supernatural, abuse as children, led on by credulous therapists who used techniques now know to cause false memories. The programme is a 2002 exploration of when experts give bad advice. […]

Too fine to sign

Very attractive job seekers may face discrimination from prospective employers of the same sex, according to a new study just published online in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Previous research has shown that attractive people are often rated more highly in areas not related to their physical appearance, such as intelligence or job performance, […]

2010-07-16 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: If you thought nothing could top the last ‘digital drugs’ news report, it has been surpassed. Experts consulted: school IT guy and school nurse – who simulates the sound of digital drugs with her voice. Thanks Mind Hacks reader alex! The New York Times […]

Death by caffeine

If you’ve ever wondered how much caffeine it would take to kill you (and I know you have) there is now a handy online calculator that lets you enter your body weight and caffeine source to find out how many energy drinks, coffees, teas or bars of chocolate would be needed to cause your teeth-chattering […]

Is behavioural economics a political placebo?

The New York Times has an opinion piece arguing that the rise of behavioural economics has led to the science being championed by politicians who want a soft option to avoid marking hard political decisions. The authors are economist George Loewenstein and behavioural scientist Peter Ubel who list a range of behavioural economics-inspired policies which […]

Just say 0 to digital drugs

The digital drugs hilarity just keeps on giving. Back in 2008 we discussed an unintentionally hilarious USA Today article on the ‘dangers of digital drugs’ which I thought would never be toppped. I was wrong. Oklahoma City’s News9 channel produced a bulletin of such sheer alternative-dimension pant-wetting hilarity you couldn’t have written anything funnier if […]

The inflexible efficiency of babies

Scientific American Mind has an excellent article on how the inflexibility of young children’s brains can make them better learners than adults. The piece riffs on the apparent paradox that humans develop into perhaps the most psychologically flexible of creatures and yet spend the longest with seemingly impaired mental functions. This is due to the […]


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