Monthly Archives: July 2014

Are women and men forever destined to think differently?

By Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield The headlines The Australian: Male and female brains still unequal The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis: Gender disparities in cognition will not diminish The Economist: A variation in the cognitive abilities of the two sexes may be more about social development than gender stereotypes The story Everybody has […]

Shuffle Your Mind: Short Film Screenings

If you’re around in London Saturday 2nd August I’m curating a showing of short films about psychosis, hallucinations and mental health as part of the fantastic Shuffle Festival. The films include everything from a first-person view of voice hearing, to out-of-step behaviour in the urban sprawl, to a free-diver’s deep sea hallucinations. There will be […]

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of the machine

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how our inventions have profoundly shaped how we view ourselves because we’ve traditionally looked to technology for metaphors of human nature. We tend to think that we understand ourselves and then create technologies to take advantage of that new knowledge but it usually happens the other way […]

Awaiting a theory of neural weather

In a recent New York Times editorial, psychologist Gary Marcus noted that neuroscience is still awaiting a ‘bridging’ theory that elegantly connects neuroscience with psychology. This reflects a common belief in cognitive science that there is a ‘missing law’ to be discovered that will tell us how mind and brain are linked – but it […]

Out on a limb too many

Two neuropsychologists have written a fascinating review article about the desire to amputate a perfectly healthy limb known variously as apotemnophilia, xenomelia or body integrity identity disorder The article is published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment although some who have these desires would probably disagree that it is a disease or disorder […]

Towards a scientifically unified therapy

Today’s edition of Nature has an excellent article on the need to apply cognitive science to understanding how psychological therapies work. Psychological therapies are often called ‘talking treatments’ but this is often a misleading name. Talking is essential, but it’s not where most of the change happens. Like seeing a personal trainer in the gym, […]

Why do we bite our nails?

It can ruin the appearance of your hands, could be unhygienic and can hurt if you take it too far. So why do people do it? Biter Tom Stafford investigates What do ex-British prime minster Gordon Brown, Jackie Onassis, Britney Spears and I all have in common? We all are (or were) nail biters. It’s […]

The concept of stress, sponsored by Big Tobacco

NPR has an excellent piece on how the scientific concept of stress was massively promoted by tobacco companies who wanted an angle to market ‘relaxing’ cigarettes and a way for them to argue that it was stress, not cigarettes, that was to blame for heart disease and cancer. They did this by funding, guiding and […]

Spike activity 11-07-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Your Brain Is On the Brink of Chaos. Nautilus has an interesting piece on chaos the and the brain. Neuroskeptic has a good Q&A with Zach Mainen, one of the originators of the NeuroFuture open letter demanding reform of the Human Brain Project. There’s […]

A thought lab in the sun

Neuroscientist Karl Friston, being an absolute champ, in an interview in The Lancet Psychiatry “I get up very late, I go and smoke my pipe in the conservatory, hopefully in the sunshine with a nice cup of coffee, and have thoughts until I can raise the energy to have a bath. I don’t normally get […]

Motherhood, apple pie and replication

Who could possibly be against replication of research results? Jason Mitchell of Harvard University is, under some conditions, for reasons described in his essay On the emptiness of failed replications. I wrote something for the Centre for Open Science which tries to draw out the sensible points in Mitchell’s essay – something I thought worth […]

Memories of ‘hands on’ sex therapy

There’s an amusing passage in Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree where he recounts his own experience of a curious attempt at surrogate partner therapy – a type of sex therapy where a ‘stand in’ partner engages with sexual activity with the client to help overcome sexual difficulties. In Solomon’s case, he was a […]

A cultural view of agony

New Statesman has a fascinating article on the ‘cultural history of pain’ that tracks how our ideas about pain and suffering have radically changed through the years. One of the most interesting, and worrying, themes is how there have been lots of cultural beliefs about whether certain groups are more or less sensitive to pain. […]

Do we really hate thinking so much we’d electrocute ourselves rather than do it?

By Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield The headlines The Guardian: Shocking but true: students prefer jolt of pain than being made to sit and think Nature: We dislike being alone with our thoughts Washington Post: Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts   The story Quiet contemplation is so awful […]

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