Author Archives: vaughanbell

Oliver Sacks has left the building

Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks has died at the age of 82. It’s hard to fully comprehend the enormous impact of Oliver Sacks on the public’s understanding of the brain, its disorders and our diversity as humans. Sacks wrote what he called ‘romantic science’. Not romantic in the sense of romantic love, but romantic in […]

Spike activity 28-08-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Vice has an excellent documentary about how skater Paul Alexander was affected by mental illness as he was turning pro. The US Navy is working on AI that can predict a pirate attacks reports Science News. Apparently it uses Arrrrgh-tificial intelligence. I’m here all […]

Don’t call it a comeback

The Reproducibility Project, the giant study to re-run experiments reported in three top psychology journals, has just published its results and its either a disaster, a triumph or both for psychology. You can’t do better than the coverage in The Atlantic, not least as it’s written by Ed Yong, the science journalist who has been […]

A Million Core Silicon Brain

For those of you who like to get your geek on (and rumour has it, they can be found reading this blog) the Computerphile channel just had a video interview with Steve Furber of the Human Brain Project who talks about the custom hardware that’s going to run their neural net simulations. Furber is better […]

Spike activity 21-08-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Be wary of studies that link mental illness with creativity or high IQ. Good piece in The Guardian. Nautilus has a piece on the lost dream journal of neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Video games are tackling mental health with mixed results. Great piece […]

Psychological science in intelligence service operations

I’ve got an article in today’s Observer about how British intelligence services are applying psychological science in their deception and infiltration operations. Unfortunately, the online version has been given a headline which is both frivolous and wrong (“Britain’s ‘Twitter troops’ have ways of making you think…”). The ‘Twitter troops’ name was given to the UK […]

Spike activity 14-07-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Trends and fashions in the science of neurotransmitters. Neuroskeptic looks at this seasons hottest brain chemicals. MIT Tech Reviews has an interesting piece on the new wave of normal hearing enhancement hearing aids. Sorry Paleo diet aficionados, carbs were probably essentially to our evolving […]

Digital tech, the BMJ, and The Baroness

The British Medical Journal just published an editorial by me, Dorothy Bishop and Andrew Przybylski about the debate over digital technology and young people that focuses on Susan Greenfield’s mostly, it has to be said, unhelpful contributions. Through appearances, interviews, and a recent book Susan Greenfield, a senior research fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford, has […]

Fifty psychological terms to just, well, be aware of

Frontiers in Psychology has just published an article on ‘Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid’. These sorts of “here’s how to talk about” articles are popular but themselves can often be misleading, and the same applies to this one. The article supposedly contains 50 “inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases”. […]

Spike activity 24-07-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Why does the concept of ‘schizophrenia’ still persist? Great post from Psychodiagnosticator. Nature reviews two new movies on notorious psychology experiments: the Stanford Prison Experiment and Milgram’s conformity experiments. Can the thought of money make people more conservative? Another social priming effect bites the […]

Spike activity 13-07-2015

A slightly belated Spike Activity to capture some of the responses to the APA report plus quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: APA makes a non-apology on Twitter and gets panned in response. “the organization’s long-standing ethics director, Stephen Behnke, had been removed from his position as a result of […]

APA facilitated CIA torture programme at highest levels

The long-awaited independent report, commissioned by the American Psychological Association, into the role of the organisation in the CIA’s torture programme has cited direct collusion at the highest levels of the APA to ensure psychologists could participate in abusive interrogation practices. Reporter James Risen, who has been chasing the story for some time, revealed the […]

CBT is becoming less effective, like everything else

‘Researchers have found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is roughly half as effective in treating depression as it used to be’ writes Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian, arguing that this is why CBT is ‘falling out of favour’. It’s worth saying that CBT seems as popular as ever, but even if it was in decline, it […]

Computation is a lens

“Face It,” says psychologist Gary Marcus in The New York Times, “Your Brain is a Computer”. The op-ed argues for understanding the brain in terms of computation which opens up to the interesting question – what does it mean for a brain to compute? Marcus makes a clear distinction between thinking that the brain is […]

Spike activity 03-07-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: It is Time to Temper Our Artificial Intelligence Hysteria says PSFK Oxford academic warns humanity runs the risk of creating super intelligent computers that eventually destroy us all in The Telegraph. Fusion reports on how artificial intelligence is evolving to recognise porn. BBC Radio […]

Pope returns to cocaine

According to a report from BBC News the Pope ‘plans to chew coca leaves’ during his visit to Bolivia. Although portrayed as a radical encounter, this is really a return to cocaine use after a long period of abstinence in the papal office. Although the leaves are a traditional, mild stimulant that have been used […]

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