Monthly Archives: December 2010

Air on a G thing

Seed Magazine has an absolutely wonderful article on the neuroscience of musical improvisation that looks at how skilled musicians from the jazz greats to the classical masters take us on unplanned melodic journeys. It’s a brilliantly written piece, a compelling fusion of music and science journalism, that skilfully captures the emerging scientific interest in musical […]

Psychologist to the dead

In Havana, even spirits of the dead can have troubled minds. Although the concept of ‘troubled spirits’ is quite common throughout the world, the Cuban group Sociedad de Estudios Psicológicos Amor y Caridad Universal goes one step further and provides psychologists to treat the conflicted emotions of both the apparition and its possessed human host. […]

The brain isn’t going to take it lying down

The brain may manage anger differently depending on whether we’re lying down or sitting up, according to a study published in Psychological Science that may also have worrying implications for how we are trying to understand brain function. Anger experiments that have measured electrical signals from the brain (using EEG) or that have altered neural […]

Fear of one’s own glance

The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry has an intriguing article on a Japanese psychiatric diagnosis that doesn’t seem to have a Western equivalent: ‘fear of one’s own glance’ or jiko-shisen-kyofu. On the basis of the Japanese diagnostic system, phobia of one’s own glance is characterized by a fear of one’s own glance, which […]

A visit to San Lázaro

History of Psychology has just published a brief article I wrote about my trip to Hospital San Lázaro in Quito, Ecuador, one of the oldest psychiatric hospitals in Latin America and still a working mental health facility. … In the strong morning light, the whitewashed walls of the Hospital Psiquiátrico San Lázaro come alive with […]

Going up in smoke

Some amazing graffiti art which has recently appeared in the Colombian city of Medellín near the Hospital metro station. Medellín has the most amazing street art of any city I’ve ever been too, much of it genuinely beautiful, and often quite socially conscious, in contrast to the gangsta style that pervades many urban landscapes.   […]

2010-12-10 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The New York Times has an article on the sociology of the hipster. Sell outs. Voodoo correlations – two years later. The Neurocritic looks back at the famous paper on problems with fMRI analysis and what, if anything, has changed in neuroscience as a […]

The loneliness of the suicide bomber

The Boston Globe has an excellent article on whether suicide bombers are largely motivated by religious fanaticism or whether some might have symptoms of low mood and hopelessness that encourage them to end their lives. The traditional thinking is that suicide bombing is enabled by concepts of martyrdom and retaliation and has little to do […]

Feeling cliquey clean

Edge has a fascinating discussion on the social psychology of cleanliness and how our behaviour toward others is influenced by the environment in sometimes quite metaphorical ways. The interview is with psychologist Simone Schnall and it does tend to be a little meandering although this turns out to be a huge bonus. Schnall covers a […]

Unsuccessful treatment of writer’s block: a replication

We recently covered an ironic 1974 study entitled ‘The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of A Case of Writers Block’ and I’m pleased the say the study has been extended and replicated by a team working along similar lines. The new study took over 30 years to arrive, but duly appeared in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis […]

I can smell burnt toast

Pioneering neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield was the subject of one of Canadian television’s ‘Heritage Minutes’ in a melodramatic classic that celebrates his stimulating brain research. It really does just last one minute and looks like a cross between Hammer Horror and Gone With The Wind with the dramatic stares and hammy acting to match. Penfield is […]

Brain scan of baby during birth reports on the first MRI scan of a baby being born, apparently completed by Berlin’s Charité Hospital. The image shows a clear saggital section of the baby’s brain as it is being delivered.   The article reports: A team comprised of obstetricians, radiologists and engineers have built an “open” MRI scanner that allows a […]

Monkey testicles and lost manhood

A sceptical report on the value of transplanting monkey testicles into humans in an attempt to “restore the sexual powers of a lot of old men” from a 1921 edition of the California State Journal of Medicine.     Link to article in PubMed.

Interview with Wade Davis: Part II – culture clashes

This is Part II of our interview with ethnobotanist and explorer Wade Davis where we discuss technology, culture and the slippery concept of human nature. Davis kindly spoke to myself and science journalist Ana María Jaramillo while visiting Medellín’s excellent science museum Parque Explorer and in Part I we discussed altered states of consciousness and […]

Rough sleeper

The guy fighting the nurses, in the photo on the right, is asleep. Although usually considered a restful state, sleep, for a minority of people with specific disorders, is a trigger for violence. Neurology journal Brain has just published a review paper (sadly locked) that discusses how violence can be triggered in the somnolent, noting […]

Wading through the killing fields of the mind

BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent has a gripping report on a meeting with a Cambodian psychologist who works in a country still trying to come to terms with the collective brutality initiated by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. The text of the report is online and makes for powerful reading but […]


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