Monthly Archives: August 2010

Visions of a psychedelic future

This post is part of a Nature Blog Focus on hallucinogenic drugs in medicine and mental health, inspired by a recent Nature Reviews Neuroscience paper ‘The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders’ by Franz Vollenweider and Michael Kometer. This article will be available, open-access, until September 23. For more information […]

I, Jacques Derrida, Used To Be A 97lb Weakling!

Anthropologist Pascal Boyer has written a wonderfully contrarian essay for Cognition and Culture criticising the “crashingly banal assumptions” behind supposedly radical theories of human nature. While Boyer is clearly making mischief, his main criticism of the post-modernist idea that human nature is entirely socially constructed is spot on. While there are clear social influences in […]

Language as a thought magnet

Today’s New York Times has a wonderful feature article on how language shapes our perception of the world. The infamous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis claimed that our understanding was limited by language and has long been used as an example of a ‘dead theory’ but new evidence is suggesting that certain aspects of a language can indeed […]

2010-08-27 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times covers the latest in the saga of whether there is a virus associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. A lovely example of metaphorical priming over at the BPS Research Digest: feeling clean makes us harsher moral judges. National Geographic discusses the […]

Solitude conjures imaginary companions

I’ve just read a fantastic study on how loneliness, or even a brief reminder of it, leads us to see human-like qualities in objects around us, believe more strongly in the reality of God and supernatural beings, and even perceive pets to be more human-like. The research, led by psychologist Nicholas Epley, is wonderfully conceived […] revamp

We’ve refreshed the engine of moving it to WordPress. This should only improve your viewing pleasure, giving us less server downtime and easier commenting. It also means that we can easily see the viewer stats for the site – around 5,000 a day, which is great. It also lets me see that there have […]

Delusions of pregnancy, in a man

A 1999 case report describes a 29-year-old man who developed the delusional belief that he was pregnant. Mr. R., a 29-year-old married man from a semi-urban background with 8 years’ education, was brought by his wife to the outpatient department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India, with a 2-month history […]

You are in a maze of twisty little proteins, all alike

Time magazine has a brief but somewhat intricate article describing the relationship between the synapse and the APC protein. It has a spectacularly complex and labyrinthine metaphor that doesn’t really help me understand what’s being discussed but is, nonetheless, a joy to read. Findings by neuroscientists in various Tufts graduate programs—published in the August 18 […]

Infamous last words

The September issue of The Psychologist is completely open-access and has a fantastic article on the last words of executed prisoners. The piece is by media analyst Janelle Ward who has been studying the final statements of prisoners executed by the US state of Texas, who list death row departees and their final words on […]

Distractingly attractive

Driver distractions are a major cause of road accidents. A new study has found that just a simple conversation with someone else in the car can be enough to increase driver errors and that the risk is greater if we fancy the passenger. The research was conducted in a driving simulator by Cale Whitea and […]

An archive of buried brains, restored

The New York Times reports how a carefully assembled archive of human brains with tumours, collected by the pioneering neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, was left to gather dust and decay at Yale university. Recently restored, it gives a glimpse of the early days of neurosurgery before brain scans or the consistent use of anaesthetic. These chunks […]

The psychology of advertising in the Mad Men era

Film-maker Adam Curtis has just posted a fascinating look into how the Madison Avenue advertising agencies of the 1960s first understood and applied psychology to marketing. As well as his account of these early forays into the consumerist mind he also posts some wonderful archive footage of the ad agencies’ training and discussions and some […]

An epidemic of ghosts

Mozambique is being ravaged by an epidemic of spirit possession. These ‘outbreaks’ have traditionally been dismissed as superstition by commentators from afar, but it is becoming increasingly recognised that different cultures have different ways of expressing mental distress and social anguish – to the point where a team of medical scientists have just published the […]

When justice fails

I’ve just read a jaw-dropping Slate interview with the co-founder of the Innocence Project, an organisation that has uncovered hundreds of wrongful convictions on the basis of DNA analysis techniques which weren’t available when the case was prosecuted. The interview is repeatedly astounding and has some terrifying insights into personal conviction, group think and the […]

In the eye of the swarm

The Economist has a great article on how computer models of how bees, ants and birds operated in swarms, are being deployed as ‘artificial intelligence’ systems to solve previously unassailable problems. To be honest, the premise of the piece is a little too grand to be plausible: the introductory paragraph announces “The search for artificial […]

2010-08-20 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: New Scientist has a good feature article on how ‘crossing the senses‘ can help blind people ‘see’ with sounds and the like. There’s good update on the biology and effects of the recently ex-‘legal high’ mephedrone over at DrugMonkey. NPR has been running a […]


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