Monthly Archives: September 2010

Hypnosis in the lab: the suggestion of altered states

I’ve got an article in The Guardian online about how hypnosis is being increasingly used in the neuroscience lab to simulate unusual mental states and alter the normal flow of automatic psychological processes. After years of neglect, it turns out hypnosis is a useful experimental tool that allows temporary changes to both the conscious and […]

I’ve got a cAMP that goes up to 11

Eric Kandel, push that Nobel Prize to the back of the cabinet. Your work has inspired a song by Canadian death metal band Neuraxis. The track is called Imagery from the 2002 album ‘Truth Beyond…’ Sadly, I can’t find any audio of the piece online, but if you want a taster of what the band […]

Doyle’s father, Sherlock’s first portrait artist, seized

A brief piece on Charles Altamont Doyle, father of the famous Sherlock Holmes author, from an article on artists and epilepsy just published in Practical Neurology. Probably more famous as the father of Arthur Conan, Charles Altamont Doyle (1832–1893) was said to have epilepsy for the last 10–15 years of his life. The cause on […]

The murder club

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that my latest Beyond Boundaries column for The Psychologist was published last month and I managed to miss it. It’s about how murder is one of our most social acts. Think of it as like your local community cake sale, but for killing. Murder is not antisocial. If you […]

Taking the sponge

A curious case of a two year old infant who had a sponge-eating obsession. The report is taken from a small case series of compulsive sponge-eating in children, published in medical journal Acta Pædiatrica. Remarkably, the child was successfully and quickly treated just by correcting low iron levels in the blood. A general practitioner referred […]

Neurosurgery simulated

Ohio State University have created a fantastic interactive web application where you play the part of a neurosurgeon operating on a patient who needs a deep brain stimulation device installed to treat their Parkinson’s disease. When I first loaded it up and saw the cartoon-like style I thought it would just be a bit of […]

Psychotherapist to the dangerously disturbed

The Independent has a revealing article on the working life of Dr Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist at Broadmoor Hospital, one of the few very high security hospital dedicated to the most dangerous psychiatric patients in the UK. As a consultant forensic psychotherapist – a rare breed in medicine – she spends her […]

Racism: the board game

In 1970 Psychology Today published a board game where players were divided into white and black, and had to make economic progress while competing with each other. Based on Monopoly, the idea was to demonstrate how the odds were stacked against black people in society by having different rules for each race in the game. […]

Cultures of friendship

Neuroanthropology has an all-too-brief interview on how different cultures around the world have fundamentally different ideas about what it means to be a friend. The interviewee is anthropologist Dan Hruschka who has just written a book summarising his research on the anthropology of friendship. It’s a wonderfully simple idea but really challenges some of our […]

Online therapy: a download off your mind

What’s it like doing psychotherapy in Second Life? New Scientist has a level-headed article that describes how personal therapeutic interactions are altered by the online world and how this may be a benefit for people with certain types of problems. In my limited experience of Second Life, I was struck by how many people were […]

2010-09-24 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The Guardian has a great piece on the attempts to create a brain-wave-based criminal-catching lie detector and why the technology hasn’t yet matched the hype. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the excellent NeuroShrink blog recently. The latest post explores the link between Viagra and a […]

What do mad scientists study?

io9 has a fantastic piece that analyses the favoured subjects of investigation for mad scientists – tracking trends in 200 years of fictional evil research. The researchers from io9’s underground science bunker scanned films and literature for depictions of the slightly unbalanced investigator to look at how research topics varied as fashions changed. So what […]

Nude psychotherapy and the quest for inner peace

The first session of nude psychotherapy was held in 1967, at a nudist resort in California. It was the brainchild of radical therapist and ordained minister Paul Bindrim who made headlines around the world with events intended to enhance emotional connectedness and dismantle body-image hangups. Despite the massive interest at the time, ‘nude psychotherapy’ would […]

Watch the skies

The BBC World Service has an excellent documentary that visits the SETI Institute, a project that is scanning for skies for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The occasion is the 50th anniversary of the Drake equation, a mathematical formula that attempts to estimate the number of alien civilisations that exist in the universe. On one hand, […]

Towards an operating system for brain hacking

Electronic devices that interface directly with the brain are now being produced by labs around the world but each new device tends to work in a completely different way. An article in Technology Review argues that we need an agreed neural operating system so brain-machine interfaces can more easily work together. Although current devices tend […]

Rare footage of physical treatments in psychiatry, 1957

I’ve just found a remarkable documentary on YouTube from a 1957 BBC series called ‘The Hurt Mind’. The programme attempts to de-stigmatise mental health for the public but also documents some of the most controversial treatments in the history of psychiatry. The programme was an edition of a then pioneering five-part BBC series on mental […]


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