Monthly Archives: November 2010

A new level of chutzpah in psychiatric ghostwriting

The New York Times has a revealing article about how a popular textbook for family doctors on how to treat mental illness, apparently written by two big name psychiatrists, was almost entirely written by a ghostwriting service under the direction of a large drug company. Two prominent authors of a 1999 book teaching family doctors […]

Do robots dream of electric reaping?

If, like me, you’re worried about the coming robot war, The New York Times has an article that might make you hyperventilate. It’s about how the military is increasingly arming robots and creating artificial intelligence weapons systems. The piece explores the rapidly advancing technology of warrior robots and also covers the ethical debate over the […]

A history of friends in high places

I recently indulged in the outrageous luxury of placing an international order for the book High Society: Mind-Altering Drugs in History and Culture by Mike Jay and I’m very glad I did. If you want to get a feel for the sort of thing it tackles, the author has a fantastic video where he discusses […]

Photographing the brain, 1894

Legendary Polish neurologist Edward Flatau created one of the first photographic brain atlases way back in 1894. This photo shows how he carefully took 20-minute exposure photos of freshly sliced brains. The photo is from a recent article published in European Neurology that discusses how Flatau created the atlas and the review it got from […]

On the touchstone of consciousness

A wonderful poem simply titled ‘Thought’ by the English writer D. H. Lawrence. Thought, I love thought. But not the juggling and twisting of already existent ideas. I despise that self-important game. Thought is the welling up of unknown life into consciousness, Thought is the testing of statements on the touchstone of consciousness, Thought is […]

2010-11-26 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times has an excellent piece by wide-thinking neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky: This Is Your Brain on Metaphors. Want more metaphors? This week’s ‘In Our Time’ had a history. The web’s best optical illusion videos from io9. The Guardian has an excellent piece […]

An infection of mental fog

The Guardian has an excellent article on how tropical diseases are a major and largely unrecognised risk to the mental agility of young children as parasites directly or indirectly affect the brain. Frustratingly, the diseases are widespread and, in many cases, easily treatable, if only the resources were available. Unfortunately, the same problems that make […]

Magic at the dawn of psychology

Some of the world’s best illusionists are now collaborating with cognitive scientists to better understand the mind and brain but this turns out to be old news. A brilliant article in The Psychologist charts the remarkably long history of magicians and psychologists working together to understand the human mind. The piece is by psychologist and […]

The boundaries of mental illness

Seed Magazine has an excellent piece on ‘redefining mental illness’ that discusses the limits of labelling mental disorders and whether we can understand disability purely in terms of the mind. The piece captures the highlights from a recent online blog discussion on the topic and is inspired in part by the ongoing update to the […]

A misperceptive critic

It’s not often that hallucinations indulge in media criticism, but this case of Charles Bonnet syndrome recently published in the journal Optometry is a delightful exception. Everyone, it seems, is a critic, including perceptual distortions generated by, in this case, macular degeneration. A 79-year-old man presented to the clinic with intermittent hallucinations of 6 months’ […]

Mental air

A poem by the great Irish writer William Butler Yeats on the difficulties of getting the balloon of the mind into its narrow shed. No, I’m not really sure what it’s about either, but I wonder if that’s the point. The Balloon Of The Mind by William Butler Yeats Hands, do what you’re bid: Bring […]

The cutting edge of a splitting headache

ABC Radio National’s Life Matters has a programme that’s full of fascinating snippets about the cutting edge of headache science. It’s hardly the sort of material you’ll be charming your next date with, but there are so many ‘I never knew that’ moments that it’s definitely worth catching if you have an interest in the […]

Walk this sway

NPR has a fascinating segment about how humans can’t walk in a straight line unless we have an external guide. We just end up walking in circles. It turns out, no one is really sure why this happens but experiments on walkers, drivers and swimmers have all found the tendency to circle back on ourselves […]

Soviet psychiatry, the poster series

English Russia has a gallery of unsettling psychiatric hospital posters from Soviet Russia. Sadly, my Russian is not quite as good as it should be but they seem to be a mix of flowchart style information telling staff how to deal with clinical situations and information about different sorts of disorders. Needless to say, the […]

Brain, The Inside Story – AMNH, New York

The American Museum of Natural History in New York has a new exhibit called “Brain: The Inside Story“.‘s New York correspondent, Ben Ehrlich, sends this report: I remember being a kid. I remember being a kid and going on field trips. I remember being a seventh-grade kid in New York City and going on […]

I stopped talking when I was six years old

I’ve just revisited the indifferent indie classic Child Psychology by British band Black Box Recorder that has perhaps the only description of ‘selective mutism’ in pop music. Selective mutism is a curious psychological disorder where children refuse to speak, or refuse to speak in certain situations (like school), despite having no speech problems. The first […]


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