Author Archives: vaughanbell

A Rush of Blood to the Brain

An article from Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry that discusses the concept of ‘moral disability’ and brain trauma in Victorian times includes a fascinating section on what was presumably thought to be the science of ‘knocking some sense into the brain’. The piece is by medical historian Brandy Shillace who researches Victorian scientific ideas and how […]

Hallucinating astronauts

I’ve got a piece in The Observer about the stresses, strains and mind-bending effects of space flight. NASA considers behavioural and psychiatric conditions to be one of the most significant risks to the integrity of astronaut functioning and there is a surprisingly long history of these difficulties adversely affecting missions. Perhaps more seriously, hallucinations have […]

Spike activity 05-10-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Dropping science: neuroscientists throw down epic / excruciating rap battle on Twitter. Bring the line noise. The New Yorker has an interesting piece on the neuroscientific legacy of the Vietnam War. In neuroscience terms, it was America’s World War One. The latest edition of […]

A review of Susan Greenfield’s “Mind Change”

I was asked to write a review of Susan Greenfield’s new book “Mind Change” for the October edition of Literary Review magazine which has just been published. You can read the review in the print edition and I did have the full text posted here but the good folks at the magazine have also put […]

Buggin’ Out

Sociology journal Transition has a fascinating article giving a history of the surprisingly frequent appearance of schizophrenia in rap music. In psychiatric circles, schizophrenia is considered a serious mental illness that causes delusions, hallucinations, and social withdrawal. But in rap, schizophrenia means something else: a mode of defiance, a boast, or a threat. The term […]

Spike activity 26-09-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Why most scientists don’t take Susan Greenfield seriously. A serious rebuttal for some poor scientific claims over at BishopBlog. The Guardian has a good profile of food and flavour scientist Charles Spence who specialises in sensory integration. Couvade syndrome: some men develop signs of […]

An earlier death

Journalism site The Toast has what I believe is the only first-person account of Cotard’s delusion – the belief that you’re dead – which can occur in psychosis. The article is by writer Esmé Weijun Wang who describes her own episode of psychosis and how she came to believe, and later unbelieve, that she was […]

Spike activity 12-09-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: New Scientist reports that sleeping brains can process and respond to words. Forward directly to boss. “Cyranoids” – Stanley Milgram’s Creepiest Experiment. Neuroskeptic covers the science behind a little known Milgram experiment and a curiously common TV trope. The Neurocritic reports on a case […]

Mental health debates without the stress

If you work in mental health, you could do much worse than reading the editorial in today’s Lancet Psychiatry about unpleasant debates and how to avoid them. Unfortunately, debates in mental health tend to get nasty quite quickly – but I’ve seen no part of the debate spectrum which has a monopoly on bigotry or […]

Agents, social encounters and hallucinated voices

I’ve written a piece for the new PLOS Neuro Community about how the social aspects of hallucinated voices tend to be ignored and how we might go about making it more central in psychology and neuroscience. It came about because the PLOS Neuro Community have asked authors of popular papers to write a more gentle […]

Psychoactive plants in season at Kew Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, or London’s Kew Gardens if you’re not from the 1800s, has a fantastic season of events on the science of psychoactive plants that starts on 20th September. It covers everything from coffee to opium to magic mushrooms and discuss the pharmacology, public policy and ethnobotany of intoxicating plants. There […]

Freaky brain tongue graffiti

You wait all year for neuroscience themed graffiti and then two come along in a week. This was found on Carrera 31 in Medellín yesterday morning. It turns out that over the years I’ve managed to collect a fair amount of brain-themed graffiti for Mind Hacks, which you can browse at your pleasure here. And […]

Taste illusions

I’ve just found a 2008 review article on the multisensory perception of flavour that is full of fascinating examples of taste illusions and demonstrates the surprisingly complexity of the gustatory system. The following is one of my favourites. The article first makes the interesting observation that the majority of odour names refer to objects and […]

Brain digger in Medellín

A digger scooping the brain of a blue man, found earlier this week in Medellín, on Calle 67, just by the metro station Hospital. The text translates as ‘changing forests for cement’ but has been scratched on after the original artwork, presumably by someone who isn’t familiar with the industrial brain digger industry and its […]

A torrent of accidental poems

Neurology journal Neurocase has an interesting study of a women who started compulsively writing poetry after having brief epileptic amnesia treated with the anti-seizure drug lamotrigine. A 76-year-old woman reported having a poor memory and short periods of disorientation and was eventually diagnosed with transient epileptic amnesia – brief recurrent seizures that lead to short […]

Round trip ticket to the science of psychedelics

The latest edition of The Psychologist is a special open-access issue on the science and social impact of hallucinogenic drugs. There’s an article by me on culture and hallucinogens that discusses the role of hallucinogenic drugs in diverse cultures and which also covers how cultural expectations shape the hallucinogenic experience – from traditional Kitanemuk society […]

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