Monthly Archives: October 2011

Twenty years of fMRI

Functional magnetic resonance imaging, better known as fMRI, is 20 years old this week. October’s NeuroPod marks the celebrations by looking back at the brain scanning technology, it’s successes, and its troublesome teenage years. The imaging technique was first announced in a 1991 study published in Science that announced how a standard MRI scanner could […]

Invasion of the disembody snatchers

The latest edition of The Psychologist has a fantastic article on the psychology of horror, taking in everything from the popularity of cultural themes like zombies and vampires to research into the enjoyment of slasher films. It’s a really comprehensive look at the both the psychological concept, the feeling of horror, and where its origins […]

Nasal mummy exit

A new study just published in the Journal of Comparative Human Biology takes an enthusiastic look at exactly how the Ancient Egyptians removed the brain from cadavers before they were mummified. You’ll be pleased to know that a variety of techniques were used over the millennia but unfortunately none make for particularly good dinner time […]

Bad celebrity tie-ins

No celebrity disaster is too tragic to remind us of an interesting fact about cognitive science. Some lowlights from the genre. Lindsay Lohan is likely to be jailed for violating her probation says The Christian Science Monitor – clearly an example illustrating recent findings from research on how behavior is influenced by like-minded cohorts rather […]

Ten years of the language gene that wasn’t

It’s now ten years since mutations in the FOXP2 gene were linked to language problems, which led to lots of overblown headlines about a ‘language gene’, which it isn’t. The actual science is no less interesting, however, and Discover Magazine has a fantastic article that looks back on the last decade since the gene’s discovery […]

Make study more effective, the easy way

Decades old research into how memory works should have revolutionised University teaching. It didn’t. If you’re a student, what I’m about to tell you will let you change how you study so that it is more effective, more enjoyable and easier. If you work at a University, you – like me – should hang your […]

Steven Pinker: a life in brawls

There’s an excellent interview with Steven Pinker on the BBC Radio 4 programme The Life Scientific that takes a look back at his work and his involvement with a long list of enjoyable controversies. For those over-saturated with discussion about his new book on the decline of violence, The Life Scientific interview is actually a […]

The secret life of the inner voice

Don’t miss the latest RadioLab short, a programme about a guy whose world has been unevenly slowed down. Psychological fascinating but also a beautiful piece of storytelling. When Andy first met Kohn, he saw a college freshman in a wheelchair who moved slow and talked slow. But it only took one conversation for Andy to […]

The hot hand smacks back

The idea of the ‘hot hand’, where a player who makes several successful shots has a higher chance of making some more, is popular with sports fans and team coaches, but has long been considered a classic example of a cognitive fallacy – an illusion of a ‘streak’ caused by our misinterpretation of naturally varying […]

The personality of sperm donors

The biggest ever study on the personality of sperm donors has just been published. Each was asked to fill out the Temperament and Character Inventory personality scale, also known as the TCI, and the results were compared to a similar group of men who hadn’t whacked off into a plastic tube for the benefit of […]

The psychiatry of vegetarianism

A fascinating but unfortunately locked review article on the psychology of vegetarianism has this paragraph on how avoiding the pleasures of cooked flesh has been seen as a mental illness in times past. How vegetarians are seen has shifted radically over time. During the Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church declared vegetarians to be heretics, and […]

A review of Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature

I’ve written an in-depth review of Steven Pinker’s new book on the decline of violence for the latest Wilson Quarterly I thought getting a free copy and working on a review would be great fun but was rather taken aback when the 848 page book landed on my doorstep. I shouldn’t have been because there […]

Glitches in The Technology of Orgasm

We’ve covered The Technology of Orgasm before, a hugely influential book arguing that 19th century doctors were using Victorian vibrators to cure ‘female hysteria’ through the induction of [serious look] ‘hysterical paroxysms’, but it seems that the main argument may not be as breathtaking as it first appears. Cory Silverberg discusses how historians of sex […]

A case of simulated fragmentation

The New York Times has an excerpt of a book that claims to expose one of the most famous psychiatric cases in popular culture as a fraud. Based on an analysis of previously locked archives the book suggests that the patient at the centre of the ‘Sybil’ case of ‘multiple personality disorder’ was, in fact, […]

Games of Invention

I’ve been collecting card decks. First I got the Oblique Strategies, Brian Eno’s deck of worthwhile dilemmas. When I’m stuck with something I’m working on I sit completely still for a few moments, holding the problem in mind. Then I take a breath, draw a card and apply what’s written to my problem. Trying this […]

The cutting edge of the easy high

Perhaps the most complete scientific review of what we know about synthetic cannabis or ‘spice’ products has just appeared in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. These ‘legal highs’ are typically sold as nudge-nudge wink-wink ‘incense’ but contain synthetic cannabinoids which have a similar effect to smoking dope but are legal in many countries. We covered the […]

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