Author Archives: vaughanbell

A visual history of madness

The Paris Review has an extended and richly illustrated piece by historian Andrew Scull who tracks how madness has been visually depicted through the ages. Scull is probably the most thorough and readable historian of madness since the death of the late, great Roy Porter, and this article is no exception. Modern psychiatry seems determined […]

Spike activity 17-04-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: The latest instalment of ‘the seductive allure of neuroscience’ has been released (aka the force awakens) – a solid study suggest spurious neuroscience adds weight to explanations. Great coverage from the BPS Research Digest. Aeon asks an interesting question: throughout evolutionary history, we never […]

Long corridors of the mind

I’ve just read Barbara Taylor‘s brilliant book The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in Our Times which blends her own experiences as a patient in one of the last remaining asylums with an incisive look at the changing face of mental health care since the Victorian era. Taylor is a renowned historian but the […]

She’s giving me hallucinations

Last year I did a talk in London on auditory hallucinations, The Beach Boys and the psychology and neuroscience of hallucinated voices, and I’ve just discovered the audio is available online. It was part of the Pint of Science festival where they got scientists to talk about their area of research in the pub, which […]

Spike activity 10-04-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: A new series of BBC Radio 4’s mind and brain magazine programme All in the Mind has just kicked off. The New York Times has an excellent piece on America’s mental illness fuelled, jail and treatment revolving door: For Mentally Ill Inmates, a Cycle […]

A fluctuating wellness

The New York Review of Books has an excellent new piece by Oliver Sacks where he describes the psychological effects of cancer treatment in terms of its effects on the ‘homeostasis of well being’. The article weaves together the role of the autonomic nervous system, the progression of migraine and the repressions and releases of […]

A brain of wonders

The U-T San Diego, which I originally thought was a university but turns out it’s a newspaper, has an excellent online multimedia project called ‘The Wonders of Your Brain’ which is an extensive and excellent look at some of the key issues in modern neuroscience. It tackles everything from the development of the brain from […]

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. […]

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