Monthly Archives: November 2011

Two crucial minutes

If you’ve got just two minutes to spare you could learn first aid to help someone having a seizure thanks to a video from Epilepsy Action. The acting is a little stiff, if you’ll excuse the pun, but it’s two minutes of your time very well spent. You’ll notice in the video that the bystanders […]

Reaction formation in New York City

My latest Beyond Boundaries column is about psychodynamic revolutionaries in New York and is in the December edition of The Psychologist. Jonathan Shedler is recounting an anecdote. ‘So when the patient says “I’m frustrated”, you say “Tell me more about that” and then you shut up!’ We’ve just bustled in from a crisp Manhattan evening […]

Endless brain gears

A visual tour of the clichéd ‘cogs in the brain’ image that seems to get attached to virtually every psychology article that isn’t published in a women’s magazine. I’d be genuinely fascinated to know when this visual analogy first arose as you’d guess it’s a result of the computational model of the mind that arose […]

On the perimeter of the synthetic cannabinoids

The synthetic weed story has just taken an interesting turn. Until now, all synthetic cannabinoids found in ‘herbal incense’ products have been taken from the scientific literature but a new previously unknown compound has just been discovered suggesting the underground labs are starting to innovate. Cannabinoids are a type of compound related to the active […]

Elvis in potato chip neuroscience

A new study just published in Cerebral Cortex on the neuroscience on how we see meaningful information in unpatterned visual scenes, seems a little fixated on Elvis. The study concludes: Future studies of the neural processing relevant to pareidolia and to meaning more generally may provide novel insights into how the organization of conceptual processing […]

The dreams and hallucinations of cloistered monks

French sleep scientists have studied a group of monks who have virtually no contact with the outside world and have taken a vow of silence. The monks are of scientific interest owing to the tradition of having two sleep periods per night interrupted by a 2-3 hour prayer and psalm reading session. The research group […]

The Crux of PTSD under threat of terrorism

I’ve got a piece over at Discover Magazine’s new group blog, The Crux, which looks at whether post-traumatic stress disorder makes sense if it’s applied to people who remain at high risk of terrorist attack. The Crux is a blog written by a crowd of science folks that aims to taker a deeper look at […]

Against the high cult of retreat

Depending on who you ask Naomi Weisstein is a perceptual neuroscientist, a rock n roll musician, a social critic, a comedian, or a fuck the patriarchy radical feminist. You stick Weisstein’s name into Google Scholar and her most cited paper is ‘Psychology Constructs the Female’ – a searing critique of how 60s psychology pictured the […]

The free will rebellion

A popular mantra of modern neuroscience tells us that free will is an illusion. An article in the New York Times makes a lucid challenge to the ‘death of free will’ idea and a prominent neuroscientist has come out to fight the same corner. Neuroscientists began making preparations for the funeral of free will shortly […]

Radio 4’s brilliant brain season now being scattered

BBC Radio 4’s Brain Season is in full swing, which, in typical BBC fashion, is both brilliantly conceived and chaotically scattered over their webpages like a drunken farmer chasing birds off his field with a seed planter. A good place to start is the brain season blog post which lists all the programmes in the […]

A theory of the bipolar economy

If you’re convinced that the current cycle of the boom and bust economy is due to the collapse of collateralised debt obligations secured on oversold mortgages that destablised the European market due to its reliance on cheap loans from an artificially inflated US market – think again! A 1935 Psychological Review article proposed a ‘manic-depressive […]

Neuro ears


The rise and fall of ‘space madness’

‘Space madness’ was a serious concern for psychiatrists involved in the early space programme. A new article in history of science journal Endeavour tracks the interest in this ‘dreaded disease that never was.’ Much to the surprise of NASA mental health professionals, those who volunteered to be astronauts were neither “suicidal deviants” nor troubled by […]

The appliance of psychological science

The BPS Research Digest is celebrating its 200th issue with a series of articles from well-known psychologists that describe how psychology has helped them out in everyday life. There’s a whole stack of people involved who have written on everything from love to scientific thinking to child rearing. Both myself and Tom have contributed pieces […]

Chasing the dragon across the world

A summary of a fascinating 1997 article on how the practice of consuming heroin by ‘chasing the dragon‘ – inhaling vapours after heating the drug on tin foil – spread across the world. Heroin smoking by ‘chasing the dragon’: origins and history Addiction. 1997 Jun;92(6):673-83; Strang J, Griffiths P, Gossop M. The history of heroin […]

I am yours for 2 coppers

I’ve just found a wonderful 1973 study on the psychoanalysis of graffiti that discusses how unconscious desires might be expressed through public scrawlings. It has a completely charming table that compares graffiti from A.D. 79 Pompeii with 1960’s Los Angeles to demonstrate the similarity of themes across the centuries.     The author concludes that […]


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