Monthly Archives: August 2012

A pain to describe

RadioLab has an excellent mini-episode on the difficulties of communicating the subjective feeling of pain. As you might expect, it is both wonderfully put together and unexpectedly beautiful in places, but for such a uncomfortable subject, it is also very funny. Particularly wonderful is a segment on the originator of the Schmidt index that rates […]

A traditional IRA welcome to the sociologist

An amazing description of how sociologists who wanted to do field studies in Belfast during the height of The Troubles were put through some seemingly routine but terrifying vetting by the IRA to check they were up to the job. The piece is from an article by Lorraine Dowler, who starts by recounting a tale […]

A dark and complex past

In a story that could be the plot for a film, one of the world’s pioneering anthropologists has been found to have been a member of both the Nazi SS and the French resistance during the Second World War. Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff retains legendary status in anthropology and particularly in Colombia, where he first lived with […]

The neurology of Psalm 137

I’ve just found a short but interesting study on Psalm 137 and how it likely has one of the first descriptions of brain damage after stroke. The Psalm is still widely sung but it has some particular lines which made the researchers take notice. Here they are in modern English from the New International Version […]

A guided tour of bad neuroscience

Oxford neuropsychologist Dorothy Bishop has given a fantastic video lecture about how neuroscience can be misinterpreted and how it can be misleading. If you check out nothing else, do read the summary on the Neurobonkers blog, which highlights Bishop’s four main criticisms of how neuroscience is misused. But if you have the time, sit back […]

Consciousness after decapitation

How long is a severed head conscious for? The question has troubled students of the human body for centuries and generated countless, possibly mythical stories. History of medicine blog The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice has finally looked through the records to find out which of the accounts are based in blood-curdling fact. A common tale involves someone […]

Animals conscious say leading neuroscientists

A group of leading neuroscientists has used a conference at Cambridge University to make an official declaration recognising consciousness in animals. The declaration was made at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference and signed by some of the leading lights in consciousness research, including Christof Koch and David Edelman. You can read the full text as […]

Hacking the brain for fun and profit

A study presented at the recent Usenix conference demonstrated how it is possible to get private information from the brains of people who use commercial brain-computer interfaces – like NeuroSky and Emotiv. These headsets are designed for gamers and are cheaper, less accurate versions of EEG devices – used by scientists to read the electrical […]

A country on the couch

The New York Times discusses Argentina’s love affair with psychoanalysis. A country that has more psychologists – the majority Freudian – than any other nation on Earth. Argentina is genuinely unique with regard to psychology. Even in Latin America, where Freudian ideas remain relatively strong, Argentina remains a stronghold of the undiluted classic schools of […]

East London brain cyborg

Graffiti of a brain-driven one-eyed cyborg found peering round a lamp post, just off Sclater Street in London’s East End, yesterday.

Communicating at the speed of thought

Your humble hosts, Tom and Vaughan, have written an article for Trends in Cognitive Sciences about how social media is changing mind and brain research. The piece is both a brief introduction to blogs and Twitter, as well as an overview of how scientific debate happens online and how it is affecting the traditional approach […]

BBC Future column: What a silver medal teaches us about regret

Here’s my column from last week for BBC Future. The original is here The London 2012 Olympic Games are almost over now, and those Olympians with medals are able to relax and rest on the laurels of victory. Or so you might think. Spare a thought for the likes of Yohan Blake, McKayla Maroney, or […]

A very modern trauma

Posttraumatic stress disorder is one of the defining disorders of modern psychiatry. Although first officially accepted as a diagnosis in the early 1980s, many believe that it has always been with us, but two new studies suggest that this unlikely to be the case – it may be a genuinely modern reaction to trauma. The […]

The science and politics of mind-altering drugs

The Guardian Science Podcast has an interview with neuroscientist David Nutt on the science and politics of mind-altering substances and it’s possibly one of the most sensible discussions of drugs and drug harms you are likely to hear in a long time. Prof Nutt is quite well known in the UK – largely due to […]

Sexism affects robots

The Journal of Applied Social Psychology has just pubished a study that is both bizarre and profound. It reports on two experiments that show gender stereotyping extends to robots. (S)he’s Got the Look: Gender Stereotyping of Robots F. Eyssel and F. Hegel Journal of Applied Social Psychology Previous research on gender effects in robots has […]

BBC Future column: Wear red, win gold?

My latest column for BBC Future, a cautionary tale of scientific research, with an Olympic theme. Original here. Studies show that wearing a particular colour increases the chances of winning a gold medal. Why this is the case serves as a timely reminder that we should always be wary of neat explanations for complex phenomena. […]


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