Monthly Archives: June 2012

Feed your head

LiveScience has a spectacularly bad article that covers the toxicology results of Rudy Eugene, the ‘Miami cannibal’ who was immediately labelled as being high on ‘bath salts‘ and was predictably, not high on bath salts. But don’t let the Parp! Parp! Clown Taxi notion of drugs causing cannibalism put you off from suggesting that drugs […]

Ghost image in my mind

Offbeat indie singer Charlotte Gainsbourg released a 2009 song about being fMRI brain scanned that even incoporated sounds from an actual scanner. The track is called IRM, presumably because Gainsbourg is a French speaker and ‘magnetic resonance imaging’ in French is imagerie par résonance magnétique – which, by the way, is also the sound of […]

An animated neuroscience of headache pills

TED have a fantastic animation that explains how pain works and how it is relieved by two common analgesics – aspirin and ibuprofen. Of course, pain relievers work in many different ways – the opioids, for example, are vastly different – but the four-minute video is a wonderful guide to the neuroscience of two common […]

BBC Future column: why are we so curious?

My column for BBC Future from last week. The original is here.   Evolution made us the ultimate learning machines, and the ultimate learning machines need to be oiled by curiosity. I hate to disappoint you, but whatever your ambitions, whatever your long-term goals, I’m pretty sure that reading this column isn’t going to further […]

One hundred years of gratitude

Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of Alan Turing – brilliant mathematician, philosopher, proto-cognitive scientist, secret war hero and unjustly persecuted gay man. If you want some excellent coverage of his life, work and influence, Wired UK has a new collection of articles stemming from their Turing Week project. Highly recommended.   Link to Turing Week […]

A procession of dementia

The June issue of the neuroscience journal Brain has an amazing cover showing “increasingly bizarre and menacing caricatures by an artist with frontotemporal lobar degeneration during the course of his illness”. The caption reads: From left, the first picture drawn many years before his illness; the middle pair in the first 2 years of dementia; […]

The making of ‘War Neuroses’

The history of one of the most important and disturbing films in the history of psychiatry is covered by an excellent article in the latest edition of the Journal of the History of Medicine. The piece concerns the 1917 film of soldiers affected by ‘shell shock’ during World War One. It was called ‘War Neuroses’ […]

BBC Column: What makes us laugh?

This is my BBC Future column from a couple of weeks ago. You can find the original here   A simple question with a surprisingly complex answer – understanding laughter means understanding fundamental issues of human nature. Why do we laugh? Well it’s funny you should ask, but this question was suggested by reader Andrew […]

Berlin plan #3: Instant social knowledge through unconscious perception

So I think I’ve figured out the third and final intervention I want to run for the cognitive science safari I’ll be leading in Berlin on the 11th of July. Regular readers will recall that I first wanted to try a field test of the change blindness phenomenon, and to follow that up with an […]

A Bigger Apple

The Open University’s blog has a fascinating piece on why New York City has seen an astonishing drop in crime, against the predictions of most social theories. Twenty years ago most criminologists and sociologists would have doubted that a metropolis could reduce this kind of crime by so much. Although the scale of New York […]

Dramatically titled neuroscience story

Question about your life. Introduction to a thematically related tragedy. Promise of hope. Over-simplified premise. Mention of a brain part and an inadequately explained technology in the same sentence. Dramatic claim of a breakthrough. Researcher and affiliation. Description of motivation related to a minor personal detail. Overly-technical account of experiment. Contrived analogy. Rhetorical question? Allusion […]

A geography of stigma

The picture below is of the main building to Princess Park Manor, a luxury housing development in North London, that used to be Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. A recent newspaper article about the apartments notes how they have become an attraction for pop singers and reality TV stars. The Princess Park Manor website lauds the […]

Gene environment interaction of your neighbourhood

The amount genes and the environment contribute to our behaviour varies across the country and a new study has mapped exactly where the differences lie. As well as an interesting finding in itself, the study also highlights an important but often misunderstood point about heritability. The map on the right is from the study, and […]

Behavioural profiling in casinos

Online culture magazine limn has an amazing article on the use of high-tech behavioural profiling in casinos that lets the house target its gaming to where it cashes in most. Due to the fact that most games are now networked and most punters have been persuaded to play by a swipe card that can be […]

Berlin plan #2: Contagious attention

As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be leading a ‘cognitive science safari’ in Berlin on 11th of July. We’ll be generating some experiences based on classic psychology experiments, experiments which tell us important things about how cities organise our perceptions. Previously I described how I’ll be trying to revive a classic change blindness experiment. For my next […]

The labels change, the game remains the same

Today’s New York Times has a huge feature on the illicit use of stimulant drugs like Ritalin and pharmaceutical amphetamines in colleges and schools by kids ‘seeking an academic edge’. The piece is written like an exposé but if you know a little about the history of amphetamines, it is also incredibly ironic. The ‘illicit […]


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