Monthly Archives: September 2010

The baroque art rifle

Anthropologist Wade Davis’s wonderfully vivid description of the effects of Amazonian hallucinogenic plants from page 216 of his fantastic book, One River: In the case of yagé, some twenty one admixtures have been identified to date. Two of these are of particular interest. Psychotria viridis is a shrub in the coffee family. Chagopranga is Diplopterys […]

Dopamine crystal method

A beautiful image of dopamine crystals viewed with polarized light. From the description: “A polarized light micrograph of dopamine crystals. Dopamine is a naturally occurring precursor of norepinephrine that affects various brain processes, many of which control movements, emotional responses and the experiences of pain and pleasure. Dopamine receptors are especially clustered in the midbrain. […]

An emotional timeline of 9/11

The graph below records levels of sadness, anxiety and anger, in words taken from US pager messages, sent as the day of September 11th 2001 unfolded. The analysis is reported in a study just published in Psychological Science. Click for a larger version of the graph.     Link to PubMed entry for study. Link […]

Mind gene myths

The Guardian has an excellent article on why news stories touting a gene for a particular psychological trait, like intelligence, optimism or dyslexia, are usually misguided. The piece is a fantastic potted guide to how science goes about untangling the effects of genes and the environment and how this applies to the increasingly popular attempt […]

2010-09-10 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Neuroscience hip-hop. The Beautiful Brain discovers a new track from Prince Ea where he waxes lyrical about the cortex. The neurobiological microphonist discusses the track here. The New York Times says to forget what you know about good study habits and discusses where the […]

Beyond the call of duty

Oscillatory Thoughts has a brilliant post about the self-experimentation carried out by pioneering neurologist Henry Head in the early 1900s. This involved severing nerves to see which were responsible for areas of sensation and creating a thorough map of how sensory abilities differed across the body – and no spot was left untested. The post […]

Beyond paddling: children and technology

One of the most sensible articles yet published on children, technology and the brain has just appeared in the scientific journal Neuron. It’s titled “Children, Wired: For Better and for Worse” and has been made open-access so you can read it in full online. You’ll notice a few things that are different from your usual […]

Air gun psychology

An amusing YouTube video demonstrates Ivan Pavlov’s principal of classical conditioning with an air gun, a novelty alarm and a reluctant college roommate. Pavlov discovered that we learn to associate an established response to a new event simply by repeatedly pairing the new event to a situation that already caused the response. Famously he could […]

Guided by voices

RadioLab has a fantastic mini-edition about the link between our internal thought stream and the development of auditory hallucinations – the experience of ‘hearing voices’. The programme discusses the theory that the experience of hearing hallucinated ‘voices in your head’ occurs when we lose the ability to recognise our internal thoughts as our own. Although […]

Why are overheard phone conversations so distracting?

Psychological Science has a brilliantly conceived study that explains why overhearing someone talk on a mobile phone is so much more annoying than simply overhearing two people in conversation. It turns out that a one-sided conversation (brilliantly named a ‘half-a-logue’) draws in more of our mental resources because the information is less predictable – like […]

A stranger in half your body

An amazing study has just been published online in Consciousness and Cognition about a patient with epilepsy who felt the left half of his body was being “invaded by a stranger” when he had a seizure. As a result, he felt he existed in one side of his body only. The research is from the […]

Chomsky’s Universal Glamour

Satirical website Newsbiscuit has a funny piece about linguist Noam Chomsky being a new judge on X-Factor. Professor of linguistics and political campaigner Noam Chomsky has been confirmed as the new judge on TV talent show The X Factor. ‘Cheryl Cole was still recovering from malaria and we needed someone who could fill the intellectual […]

NeuroPod on James, genes and jammin’

The latest Nature Neuroscience podcast has just appeared online. The latest edition is a particularly good one and tackles the 100th anniversary of William James’ death, a barely known gene that has been linked to severe brain malformations, monkey anxiety and psychedelic psychiatry. The author of William James‘ biography, Linda Simon, is interviewed about the […]

Peculiar disturbances of vision

I have found what is reportedly the first description of a hallucinogenic ‘magic mushroom’ trip in the Western medical literature. It is from a 1926 paper on different types of mushroom poisoning that was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and was written by William. W. Ford. He lists various types of […]

You are the last piece in the puzzle

The Economist has an excellent article that discusses the increasingly diverse ways in which information from your social network – drawn from services like Facebook, or from telephone calls or payment patterns – are being used to obtain personal information about you. This is not information which you have explicitly stated or included, but which […]

The labyrinth of Inception

When you have a hammer, everything can look like a nail and people have been banging the shit out of Inception. The sci-fi movie of the year has attracted numerous ‘neuroscience of Inception’ reviews despite the fact that the film has little to say about the brain and is clearly more inspired by the psychological […]


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