Monthly Archives: October 2010

Sensory blending

The BBC’s science series Horizon just broadcast a fantastic edition on perception, illusions and how the senses combine with each other to the point of allowing us to integrate artificial new senses. If you’ve got a healthy interest in psychology, the first half of the programme discusses several important but well-known effects like the rubber […]

The Narrative Escape

Please excuse me if I interrupt Vaughan’s normal programming to blow my own trumpet: My ebook “The Narrative Escape” was published yesterday by 40k books. ‘The Narrative Escape’ is a long essay about morality, psychology and stories and is availble in Kindle format. From the ebook blurb: We instinctively tell stories about our experiences, and […]

Mexican waves across the currents of life

The New York Times has an excellent collection of essays by writers from four Mexican cities, each affected by the ongoing drug war. The pieces give a fleeting but thoughtful impression of how life in each town has been changed by the upsurge in violence. I was particularly struck by the piece on Sinaloa, the […]

Searching for the off switch

The complex interplay between suicidal people in online chat rooms is discussed in an excellent edition of BBC Radio 4’s The Report which you can listen to online or download as a podcast. Despite the programme being a carefully researched and nuanced exploration of the issues, let me just note that it is sold on […]

The origin of the ‘nervous breakdown’

I often get asked what ‘nervous breakdown’ means, as if it was a technical term defined by psychology. In fact, it’s really just an everyday term used to describe when someone can’t carry on because of psychological problems, although it turns out to have quite technological origin, as this brief article from the American Journal […]

Video of the ‘Lazarus sign’

I’ve just found a video that has footage of the ‘Lazarus sign‘ – a complex reflex movement that can occur in brain dead patients where the arms are raised to the chest and often fall crossed onto the body. We’ve covered this reflex before, noting that despite its complexity it is generated by the spine, […]

A previously unseen species of hallucinated moth

I’ve discovered H.G. Wells’ amazing short story The Moth about a scientific feud between two leading entymologists that ends with one’s premature death and the other being driven insane by an hallucinated moth. It’s a deftly written piece because it captures the method of scientific grudge matches – devastating and savage critiques in scholarly journals […]

Arrow in the head

The image is a 3D CT scan of someone who was shot in the head with an arrow which penetrated their brainstem. It’s taken from a recent case study that notes that these injuries have virtually disappeared from the West although are more common in other parts of the world, including from some tribal areas […]

Fifteen brain encounters

I’ve just finished Carl Zimmer’s new e-book Brain Cuttings that collects fifteen of his previous long-form mind and brain articles and, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was kindly sent an advanced copy of the book which is only available as a pdf for your Kindle or other electronic reader. As I […]

A history of the phantom penis

After amputation, many people feel ‘phantom limb‘ sensations that seem to come from the missing body part. Although typically associated with missing arms or legs, these phantom sensations can arise from almost anywhere and a new study in the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences looks at how the ‘phantom penis’ has enjoyed a […]

2010-10-15 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Anti-depressant reboxetine has been found to be ineffective and potentially harmful. How come nobody knew, you ask. Well, because Pfizer hid 74% of the trial data. Link to scientific study here and Neuroskeptic’s take here. The Telegraph has an excellent article on free will […]

Coastal bound

Apologies if posts are a little irregular over the next few days as I shall be in the beautiful Colombian coastal cities of Santa Marta and Barranquilla to attend the Congreso Colombiano de Psiquiatría. Both cities are known for their stunning coastline, but Barranquilla has probably become more famous for being the home town of […]

Pavlov steaks a claim

Yale University archives have a piece of steak signed by the famous Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. The story of how this meaty museum piece was created is told in a short article for Yale Magazine. Pavlov was apparently visiting the renowned brain surgeon Harvey Cushing when a new piece of surgical equipment caught his eye. […]

The social resonance of baby babble

The New York Times investigates how the goohs and gaahs of baby babble transform through the first year of life, becoming ever more language-like until they mutate into the first recognisable words. But more than just tracking how the sounds change over time, the piece is a fascinating look at how they become enmeshed in […]

Susto: a soul wrenching fright

Neuroanthropologist Daniel Lende alerted me to this short video of an Ecuadorian healer or curandera treating a condition called ‘susto‘. ‘Susto’ literally means ‘fright’ in Spanish but the patient is not simply assumed to be suffering from shock or anxiety as the fright is thought to have caused the soul to leave the body which, […]

I’m only racist when I’m drunk

In the light of several celebrities who have excused racist comments by saying they were drunk, tired or under stress, Time magazine has an excellent article examining how we can indeed become more prejudiced when run-down. Contrary to what some might think, this is not a get-out card for racism but may be key to […]


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