Monthly Archives: May 2012

BBC Future column: Hypnic Jerks

Here’s my column at BBC Future from last week. You can see the original here. The full listof my columns is here and  there is now a RSS feed, should you need it As we give up our bodies to sleep, sudden twitches escape our brains, causing our arms and legs to jerk. Some people […]

A bridge over troubled waters for fMRI?

Yesterday’s ‘troubles with fMRI’ article has caused lots of debate so I thought I’d post the original answers given to me by neuroimagers Russ Poldrack and Tal Yarkoni from which I quoted. Poldrack and Yarkoni have been at the forefront of finding, fixing and fine-tuning fMRI and its difficulties. I asked them about current challenges […]

The trouble with fMRI

I’ve written a piece for The Observer about ‘the trouble with brain scans’ that discusses how past fMRI studies may have been based on problematic assumptions. For years the media has misrepresented brain scan studies (“Brain centre for liking cheese discovered!”) but we are now at an interesting point where neuroscientists are starting to seriously […]

Neuro images

So how did I not know about the amazing neuroimages blog? It has plenty of beautiful pieces like this taken from neuroimaging to historical neuroscience to, er, edible brain sandwiches.

What is the DSM supposed to do?

I’ve written an article for the Discover Magazine’s blog The Crux on what the DSM diagnostic manual is supposed to do. This is quite an interesting question when you think about it. In other words, it asks – how do we define mental illness – both in theory and in practice? The article tackles how […]

Sigman and the skewed screen of death

The media is buzzing this morning with the shocking news that children spend ‘more than six hours in front of screens’. The news is shocking, however, because it’s wrong. The sound bite stems from an upcoming talk on ‘Alcohol and electronic media: units of consumption’ by evidence-ambivalent psychologist Aric Sigman who is doing a guest […]

Legal highs making the drug war obsolete

If you want any evidence that drugs have won the drug war, you just need to read the scientific studies on legal highs. If you’re not keeping track of the ‘legal high’ scene it’s important to remember that the first examples, synthetic cannabinoids sold as ‘Spice’ and ‘K2′ incense, were only detected in 2009. Shortly […]

Uploaded to the Life network

A fantastic short film about what you might see when your mind is uploaded to an online storage cloud in 2052. It’s subtitled “the Singularity, ruined by lawyers”. The piece is by futurist Tom Scott who obviously sees the consciousness uploading business far more pessimistically than me. Personally, I’m going to get uploaded to a […]

BBC Future column: why your brain loves to tune out

My column for BBC Future from last week. The original is here. Thanks to Martin Thirkettle for telling me about the demo that leads the column. Our brains are programmed to cancel out all manner of constants in our everyday lives. If you don’t believe it, try a simple, but startling experiment. The constant whir of […]

A history of human sacrifice

A video on the history of human sacrifice is available from Science magazine as part of their special issue on human conflict. Sadly, all the articles are locked behind a paywall but the video is free to view and has science writer Ann Gibbons discussing how the practice evolved through the ages and how archaeologists […]

Psychology and the one-hit wonder

Don’t miss an important article in this week’s Nature about how psychologists are facing up to problems with unreplicated studies in the wake of several high profiles controversies. Positive results in psychology can behave like rumours: easy to release but hard to dispel. They dominate most journals, which strive to present new, exciting research. Meanwhile, […]

She’s lost control

An article in Slate claims to have detectected a ‘logic hole’ in how much sympathy we feel for people with mental illness as both psychopathy and autism are ‘biological disorders’ that people ‘can’t help’ but we feel quite differently about people affected by them. The ‘logic hole’, however, doesn’t exist because it is based on […]

A look inside digital humanity

BBC Radio 4 has just started an excellent series called The Digital Human that looks at how we use technology and how it affects our relationship to the social world. It’s written and presented by psychologist Aleks Krotoski and the first two episodes are already online. The first discusses the tendency to capture and display […]

Sex survey a let down in bed

A ‘saucy sex survey’ has been doing the rounds in the media that claims to be one of the largest studies on the sex lives of UK citizens. Unfortunately, it seems to be a bit of a let down in bed. The study has been carried out by an unholy alliance between one of the […]

How the British missed a trip

The first ever medical report on the effects of magic mushrooms is featured in an article in Current Biology. The excerpt is from a 1799 report entitled ‘On A Poisonous Species of Agaric’ from an issue of The London Medical and Physical Journal. The psychological effects of hallucinogenic, or ‘magic’ mushrooms were first documented in […]

As addictive as cupcakes

If I read the phrase “as addictive as cocaine” one more time I’m going to hit the bottle. Anything that is either overused, pleasurable or has become vaguely associated with the dopamine system is compared to cocaine. In fact, here is a list of things claimed to be as addictive as the illegal nose powder […]

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