Monthly Archives: November 2010

A poetry of muddlings and loss

Art critic Tom Lubbock developed a brain tumour which estranged him from language in subtle and unpredictable ways. The Guardian has a stunning article where the writer describes how his relationship with language was altered as the tumour encroached upon his brain. It is one of the most powerfully nuanced accounts of language impairments I […]

The confusing wisdom of crowds

Bad Science covers an interesting new replication of Asch’s famous conformity experiments – a classic study where participants stated that a line was longer or shorter than it really was simply because others in the room also gave the clearly erroneous answer. In the original study (there’s some great video here), the other people in […]

Grief myths

Myths about grief are so widespread they frequently appear even as guidance for mental health professionals. A new study looked at textbooks given to trainee nurses and found that all had a least one unsupported claim about the grieving process and few had advice drawn from actual research. Handily, the research paper, authored by nurse […]

A shrink among the shady in 1920s New York

Neurophilosophy has a wonderful profile the pioneering forensic psychiatrist and criminologist Carleton Simon who was working the street in prohibition-era New York in the 1920s and 30s. Apparently, a minor celebrity in his day owing to a constant stream of headline-grabbing busts and scientific discoveries, he has since faded into obscurity but this excellent new […]

2010-11-05 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The science of makeup. An excellent piece on the psychology of how cosmetics enhance allure over at Observations of a Nerd. The New York Magazine has an excellent piece on how the psychology of narcissism affects politics. Widens from its initial focus on current […]

Life in an elevator

Scientific American has a wonderful short article on the anthropology of elevators, tackling the psychology of travelling floor to floor and how they were eventually integrated into a resistant society. The piece is full of gems about one of our most mundane of activities and I particularly liked this on a failed attempt at waylaying […]

BBC All in the Mind new series: war and ethics

A new series of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind has just kicked off with the first programme looking at mental illness in war zones, the ethics of forcing psychiatric patients to take treatment in the community and whether antidepressants change our moral decision-making. The discussion on military mental health is particularly good and […]

Drug classification is out of order

Mark Easton’s BBC News blog tackles a recent study that has ranked the dangers of numerous recreational drugs – citing alcohol as the most hazardous to health ahead of even heroin and cocaine. The study, just published in The Lancet, is interesting not just because it is yet another that shows the disconnect between official […]

A consciousness raising exercise

I’ve just discovered the fantastic Conscious Entities blog that is full of wonderfully insightful discussions about the science and philosophy of consciousness. As well as covering established theories it also tackles new ideas and controversies as they appear, with the fantastic coverage of philosopher Peter Hacker’s criticisms of just about everything in neuroscience and the […]

Urban thrall

RadioLab has just released a fantastic edition on how we become behaviourally enmeshed in cities and how they operate almost like independent organisms. As always, the programme is like being wrapped in a shimmering fabric of sound and this edition looks at our relationship with the urban sprawl, from the link between the size of […]

What price sobriety (in vouchers)?

BBC Radio 4 recently ran a fascinating one-off programme called Sugaring the Pill on schemes that pay people to lose weight, get vaccinated or stay off drugs. Payment turns out to be particularly effective at keeping addicts clean and this caught my eye because it seems to go against some of the core scientific beliefs […]

Khat among the pigeons

All in the Mind kicks off a new three-part series on ‘Cultural Chemistry’ with a programme about the effects and politics of the stimulant khat which has an important place in several East African cultures. The plant is used widely in Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen and when chewed it causes a mild buzz owing to […]

It only exists if I can see colours on a brain scan

Bad Science has an excellent piece on the recent hot air from a researcher who claimed that brain activity differences between people with high and low sex drive proved that ‘hypoactive sexual desire disorder’ was ‘a genuine physiological disorder and not made up.’ This strikes me as an unusual world view. All mental states have […]


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