Monthly Archives: September 2013

The effect of diminished belief in free will

Studies have shown that people who believe things happen randomly and not through our own choice often behave much worse than those who believe the opposite. Are you reading this because you chose to? Or are you doing so as a result of forces beyond your control? After thousands of years of philosophy, theology, argument […]

Jazz no longer corrupting young people

A study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at the link between music preferences at age 12 and adolescent delinquency – finding that an early liking for ‘rebellious’ music predicted small scale anti-social behaviour like shoplifting, petty theft and vandalism. Rebellious music turns out to be defined as variations of rock, hip-hop and electronica. But […]

Madness and hallucination in The Shining

Roger Ebert’s 2006 review of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining turns out to be a brilliant exploration of hallucination, madness and unreliable witnessing in a film he describes as “not about ghosts but about madness and the energies it sets loose”. Kubrick is telling a story with ghosts (the two girls, the former caretaker and a […]

18 minutes of trauma

I’ve just found one of the best discussions on the importance and limits of the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder on a programme from the Why Factor on BBC World Service. It’s a brief programme, only 18 minutes long, but packs in a remarkably incisive look at PTSD that tackles its causes, its cultural limits […]

A war of biases

Here’s an interesting take on terrorism as a fundamentally audience-focused activity that relies on causing fear to achieve political ends and whether citizen-led community monitoring schemes actually serve to amplify the effects rather than make us feel safer. It’s from an article just published in Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology by political scientist Alex […]

It is mind control but not as we know it

The Headlines The Independent: First ever human brain-to-brain interface successfully tested BBC News: Are we close to making human ‘mind control’ a reality? Visual News: Mind Control is Now a Reality: UW Researcher Controls Friend Via an Internet Connection The story Using the internet, one researcher remotely controls the finger of another, using it to […]

The rise of the circuit-based human

I’ve got a piece in The Observer about how we’re moving towards viewing the brain as a series of modifiable brain circuits each responsible for distinct aspects of experience and behaviour. The ‘brain circuit’ aspect is not new but the fact that neuroscience and medicine, on the billion-dollar global level, are reorienting themselves to focus […]

This complex and tragic event supports my own view

As shots rang out across the courtyard, I ducked behind my desk, my adrenaline pumping. Enraged by the inexplicable violence of this complex and multi-faceted attack, I promised the public I would use this opportunity to push my own pet theory of mass shootings. Only a few days have passed since this terrible tragedy and […]

A comic repeat with video games and violence

An article in the Guardian Headquarters blog discusses the not very clear evidence for the link between computer games and violence and makes a comparison to the panic over ‘horror comics’ in the 1950s. The Fifties campaign against comics was driven by a psychiatrist called Fredric Wertham and his book The Seduction of the Innocent. […]

A coming revolution walks a fine line

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent in-depth article on the most likely candidate for a revolution in mental health research: the National Institute of Mental Health’s RDoC or Research Domain Criteria project. The article is probably the best description of the project this side of the scientific literature and considering that the RDoC […]

Drug addiction: The complex truth

We’re told studies have proven that drugs like heroin and cocaine instantly hook a user. But it isn’t that simple – little-known experiments over 30 years ago tell a very different tale. Drugs are scary. The words “heroin” and “cocaine” make people flinch. It’s not just the associations with crime and harmful health effects, but […]

A furious infection but a fake fear of water

RadioLab has an excellent short episode on one of the most morbidly fascinating of brain infections – rabies. Rabies is a virus that can very quickly infect the brain. When it does, it causes typical symptoms of encephalitis (brain inflammation) – headache, sore neck, fever, delirium and breathing problems – and it is almost always […]

Why the other queue always seem to move faster than yours

Whether it is supermarkets or traffic, there are two possible explanations for why you feel the world is against you, explains Tom Stafford. Sometimes I feel like the whole world is against me. The other lanes of traffic always move faster than mine. The same goes for the supermarket queues. While I’m at it, why […]

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