Author Archives: vaughanbell

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 […]

pwned by a self-learning AI

Backchannel has a fascinating profile of DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis which although an interesting read in itself, has a link to a brief, barely mentioned study which may herald a quiet revolution in artificial intelligence. The paper (available online as a pdf) is entitled “Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning” and describes an AI system […]

A love beyond illusions

Articles on people’s experience of the altered states of madness often fall into similar types: tragedy, revelation or redemption. Very few do what a wonderful article in Pacific Standard manage: give an account of how a young couple learn to live with psychosis. It’s an interesting piece because it’s not an account of how someone […]

Spike activity 09-01-2015

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Game theorists crack poker according to a fascinating report from Nature. First nuclear war, now poker. Whatever next! Harvard Business Review has a genuinely interesting piece on the psychology of office politics. Child mental health services have been secretly cut by £50m according to […]

The scan says we add fries and call it a special

Marketing magazine has an interview with the marketing director of KFC who explains why he thinks neuroscience holds the key to selling deep-fried junk food. “Marketing as a whole is undergoing transformation,” he says. “We now know through neuroscience how people’s brains work and what affects their decision-making. So what we’re trying to do is […]

Excellent NPR Invisibilia finally hits the wires

A sublime new radio show on mind, brain and behaviour has launched today. It’s called Invisibilia and is both profound and brilliant. It’s produced by ex-Radiolab alumni Lulu Miller and radio journalist Alix Spiegel – responsible for some of the best mind and brain material on the radio in the last decade. The first episode […]

Bringing us closer to the blueprints of the brain

I’ve got a piece in today’s Observer about the amazing science of doing functional brain imaging and behavioural studies with babies while they are still in the womb to see the earliest stages of neurocognitive development. Brain development during pregnancy is key for future health, which is why it gets checked so thoroughly during prenatal […]

A new year with an old friend

I’ve just found a curious article in the scientific journal Clinical Anatomy which reprints a Victorian story called ‘Celebrating new year in Bart’s dissecting room’ where the corpses come to life. It finishes with some interesting observations about the psychological impact of dissecting a dead body as a rite of passage for medical students. The […]

Spike activity 19-12-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: MIT Tech Review has an interesting piece about ‘troll hunters’ – a new wave of internet abuse vigilantes. ABC All in the Mind has a good edition asking whether mirror neurons have been oversold. Spoiler alert: yes, they have. The New York Magazine’s Science […]

Economics against sexual violence

PBS has an article on ‘How economic theory can help stop sexual assault’ which despite its unappealing title is actually a genuinely thought-provoking piece on how game theory and social norms marketing could help prosecute and prevent sexual violence. Both approaches look at how people’s behaviour is shaped by their perception of other people’s beliefs […]

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