Monthly Archives: October 2010

NeuroPod on ‘bionic ears’ and training neurons

The latest edition of the excellent Nature NeuroPod podcast has just hit the wires with discussions of cochlear implants, conscious control of individual neurons, the neuroscience of Parkinson’s disease and the function of the blood-brain barrier. The highlight for me was the section on ‘bionic ears’ or cochlear implants – the first mass produced neural […]

A diagnosis of ‘Strange and Inexplicable Behaviour’

The World Health Organisation’s ICD-10 manual of diseases and health problems has a diagnosis of ‘Strange and Inexplicable Behaviour’ that gives, rather appropriately, no further explanation, except that it’s classified with code R46.2 It is from Chapter XVIII of the ICD-10 which tackles ‘Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified’. It […]

Ted Hughes On Thinking

Editor of The Psychologist and man about town, Jon Sutton, just sent me a fantastic monologue by poet Ted Hughes on the experience of thinking. I’ve uploaded the piece to YouTube where you can hear Hughes’ remarkable analysis in his own characteristic voice. The piece is almost nine minutes long but in this part Hughes […]

2010-10-29 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Two words: Zombie Neuroscience. Oscillatory Thoughts on the strange tale of how the author became one of the world’s most sought after neuroscientists for the undead. Scientific American on how graphic warnings on cigarette packets put off occasional smokers but heavy smokers react by […]

A handslide victory

If ever there was a scientific study destined for the Ig Nobel awards, this is it. The Economist reports on new research finding that searches for internet porn increased in US states that backed the winning party in an election. The study was inspired by the ‘challenge hypothesis’ which states that competition and dominance raise […]

A misdirection of mind

Scientific American has an excellent video where two neuroscientists and a street magician with remarkable pickpocketing skills explain how illusionists manipulate our attention. It’s a hugely entertaining piece and really highlights how the idea of ‘sleight of hand’ is itself a misdirection, as the most important of the magician’s manipulations is to alter where we […]

An uneven distribution of traumatised soldiers

A brief insight into why US troops returning from the same war zones as UK troops show four times the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder – taken from a recent Military Medicine article on mental health treatment in the British armed forces. The prevalence of PTSD among U.S. forces returning from Iraq has approached 20% […]

The 1911 Coca-Cola brain poison trial

The Psychologist has a fascinating article on how the world’s favourite tooth rot, Coca-Cola, was the subject of a 1911 court case brought by the US government who believed it damaged the brain. Although curious enough in itself, the incident also launched the career of Harry Hollingworth – later one of the founders of advertising […]

Lights, camera, action potential

The Loom has a wonderful photo essay taken from a new book called ‘Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century’. The photos range from the first ever known drawing of the nervous system, made by 11th century Arab scientist Ibn al-Haytham, to the beautiful pictures of the ‘brainbow‘ fluorescent […]

The vision thing

The ever-interesting Oliver Sacks is interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air where he discusses cases from his new book on the extremes of visual perception. If you’re a fan of Sacks’ work, like me, this programme is an absolute treat as the conversation ranges from the science of misrecognition to his own quite recent experiences of […]

Wikileaks: Psychological warfare in Iraq

The Wikileaks Iraq war documents give an insight into the use of ‘psychological warfare‘ by the United States military, illustrating how the PSYOP response evolved through the conflict. If you want to pull out the raw reports, you can search the Wikileaks Iraq war archive by using the term ‘PSYOP’ or by clicking here. Although […]

Impaled by comparison

The picture on the left is a famous 1550 portrait of the Hungarian nobleman Gregor Baci who was impaled through the head by a lance. It was never known whether the picture had been exaggerated. Recently, a medical team from Austria reported a remarkably similar case in The Lancet where the patient survived and recovered […]

The outer limits of psychiatric genetics

The Wiring the Brain blog has a fantastic piece on the how whole genome sequencing is already showing us the limits of how we understand the genetics of mental illness. Whole genome sequencing allows the entire length of someone’s DNA to be read and, when data from enough people has been collected, it’s possible to […]

Erotic asphyxia and the limits of the brain

A guy who enjoyed whacking off while trying to strangle himself has provided important evidence that an outward sign considered to indicate severe irreversible brain damage can be present without any lasting effects. It was long thought that a body response called decerebrate rigidity – where the body becomes stiff with the toes pointing and […]

The power of loss

The Frontal Cortex blog has a fantastic piece on ‘loss aversion’ – the cognitive bias where try to we avoid losses more than we try to obtain gains – and its origin in the Allais Paradox. The crucial thing about loss aversion is it is not about just losing things – it’s also about the […]

2010-10-22 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Scientific American Mind’s Bering in Mind has two unmissable pieces on the psychology of suicide – the first taking a critical look at the idea that suicide might be adaptive in some cases, the second looking at the individual psychology of the suicidal person. […]


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