Author Archives: vaughanbell

How is the brain relevant in mental disorder?

The Psychologist has a fascinating article on how neuroscience fits in to our understanding of mental illness and what practical benefit brain science has – in lieu of the fact that it currently doesn’t really help us a great deal in the clinic. It is full of useful ways of thinking about how neuroscience fits […]

Trauma is more complex than we think

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how the official definition of trauma keeps changing and how the concept is discussed as if it were entirely intuitive and clear-cut, when it’s actually much more complex. I’ve become fascinated by how the concept of ‘trauma’ is used in public debate about mental health and the […]

Spike activity 06-03-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The strange world of felt presences. Great piece in The Guardian. Nature reports that the Human Brain Project has voted for a change of leadership. But read carefully, it’s not clear how much will change in practice. Surely the worst ‘neuroscience of’ article ever […]

Fluctuating existence

The Neurologist has a fascinating case report of a women with Parkinson’s disease who experienced a fluctuating belief that she didn’t exist. Cotard’s delusion is usually described as the ‘belief that you’re dead’ although Jules Cotard, for whom the delusion is named, defined it as a délire des négations – the delusion of negation, or […]

Actually, still no good explanation of ‘that dress’

The last time I almost went blind staring at “that dress” was thanks to Liz Hurley and on this occasion I find myself equally unsatisfied. I’ll spare you the introduction about the amazing blue/black or white/gold dress. But what’s left me rather disappointed are the numerous ‘science of the dress’ articles that have appeared everywhere […]

Spike activity 28-02-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Nautilus magazine has a good piece on behavioural economics and rethinking ‘nudges’. Although the rethink is really just another form of standard ‘nudge’. The biggest hedge fund in the world, the $165 billion Bridgewater, starts an AI team to help give it the edge […]

Spike activity 20-02-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Interesting social mapping using subway journey data from Beijing reproted in New Scientist. BPS Research Digest has compiled a comprehensive list of mind, brain and behaviour podcasts. That study finding a surge of p values just below 0.05 in psychology, probably not a sign […]

Oliver Sacks: “now I am face to face with dying”

In a moving and defiant article for the The New York Times, neurologist Oliver Sacks has announced he has terminal cancer. Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its […]

Half a century of neuroscience

The Lancet has a good retrospective looking back on the last 50 years of neuroscience, which in some ways, was when the field was born. Of course, the brain and nervous system has been the subject of study for hundreds, if not thousands, of years but the concept of a dedicated ‘neuroscience’ is relatively new. […]

Spike activity 13-02-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: US Governor proposes that welfare recipients should be drug screened and have negative results as a condition for a payment. A fascinating Washington Post piece looks at past data on similar schemes. BPS Research Digest launches the PsychCrunch podcast. First episode: evidence-based dating. The […]

A refocus of military influence

The British media has been covering the creation of 77th Brigade, or ‘Chindits’ in the UK Army which they’ve wrongly described as PsyOps ‘Twitter troops’. The renaming is new but the plan for a significant restructuring and expansion of the UK military’s influence operations is not. The change in focus has been prompted by a […]

Spike activity 30-01-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: PLOS Neuroscience has an excellent interview on the strengths and limitations of fMRI. There’s an excellent profile of clinical psychologist Andrea Letamendi and her interest in comics and mental health in The Atlantic. The Wall Street Journal has an excellent piece on hikikomori – […]

In the 21st Century, project management for parents

I’ve just read an excellent book on the surprising anomaly of modern parenting called All Joy and No Fun. It’s by the writer Jennifer Senior who we’ve featured a few times on Mind Hacks for her insightful pieces on the social mind. In All Joy and No Fun she looks at how the modern model […]

Hard Problem defeats legendary playwright

I’ve written a review of legendary playwright Tom Stoppard’s new play The Hard Problem at the National Theatre, where he tackles neuroscience and consciousness – or at least thinks he does. The review is in The Psychologist and covers the themes running through Stoppard’s new work and how they combine with the subtly misfiring conceptualisation […]

A misdiagnosis of trauma in Ancient Babylon

Despite the news reports, researchers probably haven’t discovered a mention of ‘PTSD’ from 1300BC Mesopotamia. The claim is likely due to a rather rough interpretation of Ancient Babylonian texts but it also reflects a curious interest in trying to find modern psychiatric diagnoses in the past, which tells us more about our own clinical insecurities […]

From the machine

A new film, Ex Machina, is released in the UK tomorrow and it is quite possibly one of the best sci-fi films of recent times and probably the best film about consciousness and artificial intelligence ever made. The movie revolves around startup geek turned tech corp billionaire Nathan who has created the artificially conscious android […]

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