Monthly Archives: August 2013

Peter Huttenlocher has left the building

The New York Times has an obituary for child neurologist Peter Huttenlocher, who surprised everyone by finding that the human brain loses connections as part of growing into adulthood. Huttenlocher counted synapses – the connections between neurons – and as a paediatric neurologist was particularly interested in how the number of synapses changed as we […]

Are classical music competitions judged on looks?

Looking at the evidence behind a recent news story The headlines The Los Angeles Times: People trust eyes – not ears – when judging musicians Classic FM: Classical singers judged by actions not voice Nature: Musicians’ appearances matter more than their sound The story If you wanted to pick out the musician who won a […]

A detangler for the net

I’ve just finished reading the new book Untangling the Web by social psychologist Aleks Krotoski. It turns out to be one of the best discussions I’ve yet read on how the fabric of society is meshing with the internet. Regular readers know I’ve been a massive fan of the Digital Human, the BBC Radio 4 […]

Super-recogniser officers policing Europe’s biggest party

The Guardian are reporting that the London Metropolitan Police have deployed ‘super recogniser’ officers to Notting Hill Carnival to pick out known criminals from the crowd. This is curious because this is a verified ability that has only recently been reported in the scientific literature. It has been long known that some people have severe […]

Period architecture, majestic views, history of madness

Regular readers will know of my ongoing fascination with the fate of the old psychiatric asylums and how they’re often turned into luxury apartments with not a whisper of their previous life. It turns out, a 2003 article in The Psychiatrist looked at exactly this in 71 former asylum care hospitals. It’s cheekily called ‘The […]

A technoculture of psychosis

Aeon Magazine has an amazing article on the history of technology in paranoid delusions and how cultural developments are starting to mirror the accidental inventions of psychosis. It’s by the fantastic Mike Jay, who wrote The Air Loom Gang, an essential book that looks at one of the most famous cases of ‘influencing machine’ psychosis. […]

The deafening silence

All silences are not equal, some seem quieter than others. Why? It’s all to do with the way our brains adapt to the world around us, as Tom Stafford explains A “deafening silence” is a striking absence of noise, so profound that it seems to have its own quality. Objectively it is impossible for one […]

Don’t panic but psychology isn’t always a science

Every so often, the ‘is psychology a science?’ debate sparks up again, at which point, I start to weep. It’s one of the most misplaced, misfiring scientific discussions you can have and probably not for the reasons you think. To understand why it keeps coming around you need to understand something about the politics of […]

Car crash attraction

A curious case report from a 1960 edition of American Journal of Psychiatry describing a man who gets turned on by being injured by ‘an automobile operated by a woman’. The patient, a man in his late twenties, reported a periodic desire to be injured by a woman operating an automobile. This wish, present since […]

What makes the ouija board move

The mystery isn’t a connection to the spirit world, but why we can make movements and yet not realise that we’re making them. Ouija board cups and dowsing wands – just two examples of mystical items that seem to move of their own accord, when they are really being moved by the people holding them. […]

#DearMentalHealthProfessionals

Just a quick post to say that the #DearMentalHealthProfessionals hashtag on Twitter is one of the most interesting and helpful things I’ve read online in a long time. It contains heartfelt feedback, gratitude, anger, and useful insights and makes for essential reading. If you don’t use Twitter you can read it live here and some […]

How Lariam can trigger psychosis

The New York Times has an article on how the anti-malaria drug mefloquine, better known as Lariam, can send you spiralling into madness. Coincidentally, the link between mefloquine and madness was the subject of a recent review article in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law which reads like a cross […]

A half hour of hallucinations

I’m on the latest PLOS Mind the Brain podcast discussing the science of hallucinations with the inimitable Ruchir Shah. We cover everything from the experience of ‘hearing voices’ and its relation to mental illness to how chemists are pioneering new variations of psychoactive substances to get around drugs laws. In this podcast, we discuss one […]

A concise, solid grounding in neuroscience

I often get asked ‘how can I avoid common misunderstandings in neuroscience’ which I always think is a bit of an odd question because the answer is ‘learn a lot about neuroscience’. This is easier than it sounds, of course, but if you want a solid introduction, a book by Mo Costandi called 50 Human […]

The curious relationship between truth and madness

I’ve got an article in The Observer on the misunderstood relationship between truth and madness. The definition of a ‘delusion’ has just been changed so it no longer has to be considered a ‘false belief’. It turns out that this issue turns up regularly in world events, owing to the sad tendency for whistle-blowers to […]

Shuffle Festival

A festival of music, film and neuroscience is about to kick off in an abandoned psychiatric hospital in East London. Called Shuffle Festival, it runs from the 8th – 18th August. It is happening in the old St Clement’s Hospital on Mile End Road and is being curated by Oscar winning film director Danny Boyle. […]

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