Monthly Archives: March 2013

Gotham psychologist

Andrea Letamendi is a clinical psychologist who specialises in the treatment and research of traumatic stress disorders but also has a passionate interest in how psychological issues are depicted in comics. She puts her thoughts online in her blog Under the Mask which also discuss social issues in fandom and geek culture. Recently, she was […]

Hallucinating sheet music

Oliver Sacks has just published an article on ‘Hallucinations of musical notation’ in the neurology journal Brain that recounts eight cases of illusory sheet music escaping into the world. The article makes the interesting point that the hallucinated musical notation is almost always nonsensical – either unreadable or not describing any listenable music – as […]

The postmortem portraits of Phineas Gage

A new artform has emerged – the post-mortem neuroportrait. Its finest subject, Phineas Gage. Gage was a worker extending the tracks of the great railways until he suffered the most spectacular injury. As he was setting a gunpowder charge in a rock with a large tamping iron, the powder was lit by an accidental spark. […]

A new horizon of sex and gender

If you only listen to one radio programme this week, make it the latest edition of BBC Radio 4’s Analysis on the under-explored science of gender. The usual line goes that ‘sex is biological while gender is social’ – meaning that while genetics determines our sex, how masculine or feminine we are is determined by […]

When your actions contradict your beliefs

Last week’s BBC Future column. The original is here. Classic research, digested! If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards. And if you find yourself acting out of line with your beliefs, change them. This sounds like motivational advice from one of the more cynical self-help books, or perhaps a Groucho Marx line (“Those […]

A brief history of narcoanalysis

The judge in the case of ‘Colorado shooter’ James Holmes has made the baffling decision that a ‘narcoanalytic interview’ and ‘polygraph examination’ can be used in an attempt to support an insanity plea. While polygraph ‘lie detectors’ are known to be seriously flawed, some US states still allow evidence from them to be admitted in […]

Happiness rebuilt

I’ve written a piece for SpotOn NYC on the contrast between the effects of brain injury depicted in Oliver Sacks-type books and the typical effects in patients on neurology wards. These books are not inaccurate but neither do they represent the common outcomes of brain injury. Sometimes the reality is quite different from what people […]

The history of the birth of neuroculture

My recent Observer piece examined how neuroscience has saturated popular culture but the story of how we found ourselves living in a ‘neuroculture’ is itself quite fascinating. Everyday brain concepts have bubbled up from their scientific roots and integrated themselves into popular consciousness over several decades. Neuroscience itself is actually quite new. Although the brain, […]

2013-03-08 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Brain freeze from a slurpee was blamed for a five car pile up in Texas according to Jalopnik. Salon takes a nuanced look at hook-up culture. It’s a culture? I thought it was a hobby. Housewives, tranquilliser use and the nuclear family in Cold […]

The uncertain dance of the spoken word

Stanford Magazine has a wonderful article by a writer who relies on lip-reading and experiences speech through this subtle movement-based language. Rachel Kolb skilfully describes how this works, and more importantly, feels. The part where she describes how she experiences accents is just amazing: Accents are a visible tang on people’s lips. Witnessing someone with […]

The essence of intelligence is feedback

Here’s last week’s BBC Future column. The original is here, where it was called “Why our brains love feedback”. I  was inspired to write it by a meeting with artist Tim Lewis, which happened as part of a project I’m involved with : Furnace Park, which is seeing a piece of reclaimed land in an […]

The rise of everyday neuroscience

I’ve got a feature article in The Observer about how our culture has become saturated with ‘neuroscience talk’ and how this has led to unhelpful simplifications of the brain to make the same old arguments. This is often framed as a problem with ‘the media’ but this is just the most obvious aspect of the […]

2013-03-01 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Providentia overs the curious history of Japan’s suicide volcano. Skepticism about ‘social priming’ is driven by a long-history of doubt about subliminal priming of behaviour. Good piece on Daniel Simons’ Blog. The New York Times has an amazing video about technology to enhance the […]

A neurobiological graphic novel

The Guardian has a video about the collaboration between neuroscientist Hana Ros and artist Matteo Farinella as they’ve been working on the neurocomic project to create a brain science graphic novel. The finished project isn’t quite out yet but the artwork is looking amazing. The film about the collaboration covers how they worked together and […]

A fine art

It’s not often you get to enrage both feminists and misogynists at the same time but a new study, just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, may have managed this impressive feat. It found that men’s preference for larger breasts was associated with having a greater number of oppressive beliefs about women. Feminists can […]


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