Author Archives: vaughanbell

Spike activity 13-11-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The Weak Science Behind the Wrongly Named Moral Molecule. The Atlantic has some home truths about oxytocin. Neurophilosophy reports on some half a billion year old brains found preserved in fool’s gold. An Illuminated, 5,000-Pound Neuron Sculpture Is Coming to Boston. Boston magazine has […]

The real history of the ‘safe space’

There’s much debate in the media about a culture of demanding ‘safe spaces’ at university campuses in the US, a culture which has been accused of restricting free speech by defining contrary opinions as harmful. The history of safe spaces is an interesting one and a recent article in Fusion cited the concept as originating […]

Extremes of self-experimentation with brain electrodes

MIT Technology Review has jaw dropping article about brain-computer interface research Phil Kennedy. In the face of diminishing funding and increasing regulation he “paid a surgeon in Central America $25,000 to implant electrodes into his brain in order to establish a connection between his motor cortex and a computer”. Both ethically dubious and interesting, it […]

A medieval attitude to suicide

I had always thought that suicide was made illegal in medieval times due to religious disapproval until suicidal people were finally freed from the risk of prosecution by the 1961 Suicide Act. It turns out the history is a little more nuanced, as noted in this 1904 article from the Columbia Law Review entitled “Is […]

Spike activity 06-11-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: If you only read one thing this week, make it the excellent critical piece on the concept of an ‘autism spectrum’ in The Atlantic. Nature reports that the controversial big bucks Human Brain Project has secured another three years’ funding. Giant all-knowing neurotron brain […]

What do children know of their own mortality?

We are born immortal, as far as we know at the time, and slowly we learn that we are going to die. For most children, death is not fully understood until after the first decade of life – a remarkable amount of time to comprehend the most basic truth of our existence. There are poetic […]

Jeb Bush has misthought

According to the Washington Examiner, republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has said that doing a psychology major will mean “you’re going to be working a Chick-fil-A” and has encouraged students to choose college degrees with better employment prospects. If you’re not American, Chik-fil-A turns out be a fast food restaurant, presumably of dubious quality. Bush […]

Spike activity 23-10-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: MP tricked into condemning a fake drug called ‘Cake’ on Brass Eye has been put in charge of scrutinising drugs policy in the UK Parliament, reports The Independent. What starts as satire is so often reborn as policy. Narratively takes a look at the […]

A social vanishing

A fantastic eight-part podcast series called Missing has just concluded and it’s a brilliant look at the psychology and forensic science of missing people. It’s been put together by the novelist Tim Weaver who is renowned for his crime thrillers that feature missing persons investigator David Raker. He uses the series to investigate the phenomenon […]

From school shootings to everyday counter-terrorism

Mother Jones has a fascinating article on how America is attempting to stop school shootings by using community detection and behavioural intervention programmes for people identified as potential killers – before a crime has ever been committed. It is a gripping read in itself but it is also interesting because it describes an approach that […]

The echoes of the Prozac revolution

The Lancet Psychiatry has a fantastic article giving a much needed cultural retrospective on the wave of antidepressants like Prozac – which first made us worry we would no longer be our true selves through ‘cosmetic pharmacology,’ to the dawning realisation that they are unreliably useful but side-effect-ridden tools that can help manage difficult moods. […]

Spike activity 09-10-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: How much can you really learn while you’re asleep? Interesting piece that looks at what the research genuinely tells us in The Guardian. Comedian John Oliver takes on mental health in America with a segment which is both funny and sharp. Neuroecology has an […]

Spike activity 02-10-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The madness of Charlie Brown. The Lancet has a wonderful article on Lucy, Charlie Brown’s local psychiatrist. The Atlantic has an excellent piece on new research showing neurons have different genomes. Mexico’s 13-year-old psychologist is amazing, reports USA Today. Sí, es. PLOS Neuro has […]

The Quiet Room

This month’s British Journal of Psychiatry has a brief but fascinating article about a 1979 Marvel comic featuring and written by rock legend Alice Cooper which depicts his real-life admission to a psychiatric ward. The comic was timed to coincide with the release of his concept album From The Inside which describes his experiences as […]

Spike activity 25-09-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Science has a fascinating piece on how cultures developed words for numbers – many languages don’t have words for numbers above five. The majority illusion. The social illusion covered by Tech Review where something can seem socially common despite being rare in the overall […]

A museum of many minds

I spent a very long time in the old Bethlem museum, owing to the fact that there’s little else to do when you live at one of the world’s oldest psychiatric hospitals. The Bethlem Royal Hospital, or Bedlam as it’s been known in centuries past, has moved many times over its lifetime, but it’s now […]


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