Author Archives: vaughanbell

Drugs in space and sleepless in the shuttle

A fascinating study published in today’s Lancet Neurology reports on sleep deprivation in astronauts but also describes the drugs shuttle crew members use to keep themselves awake and help them fall asleep. The study looked at sleep data from 64 astronauts on 80 space shuttle missions along with 21 astronauts on 13 International Space Station […]

Hallucinating in the deep waters of consciousness

On Saturday I curated a series of short films about other inner worlds, altered states and the extremes of mental health at London’s Shuffle Festival. I discovered one of the films literally a couple of days before the event, and it completely blew me away. Narcose is a French documentary about a dive by world […]

Shuffle Your Mind: Short Film Screenings

If you’re around in London Saturday 2nd August I’m curating a showing of short films about psychosis, hallucinations and mental health as part of the fantastic Shuffle Festival. The films include everything from a first-person view of voice hearing, to out-of-step behaviour in the urban sprawl, to a free-diver’s deep sea hallucinations. There will be […]

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of the machine

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how our inventions have profoundly shaped how we view ourselves because we’ve traditionally looked to technology for metaphors of human nature. We tend to think that we understand ourselves and then create technologies to take advantage of that new knowledge but it usually happens the other way […]

Awaiting a theory of neural weather

In a recent New York Times editorial, psychologist Gary Marcus noted that neuroscience is still awaiting a ‘bridging’ theory that elegantly connects neuroscience with psychology. This reflects a common belief in cognitive science that there is a ‘missing law’ to be discovered that will tell us how mind and brain are linked – but it […]

Out on a limb too many

Two neuropsychologists have written a fascinating review article about the desire to amputate a perfectly healthy limb known variously as apotemnophilia, xenomelia or body integrity identity disorder The article is published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment although some who have these desires would probably disagree that it is a disease or disorder […]

Towards a scientifically unified therapy

Today’s edition of Nature has an excellent article on the need to apply cognitive science to understanding how psychological therapies work. Psychological therapies are often called ‘talking treatments’ but this is often a misleading name. Talking is essential, but it’s not where most of the change happens. Like seeing a personal trainer in the gym, […]

The concept of stress, sponsored by Big Tobacco

NPR has an excellent piece on how the scientific concept of stress was massively promoted by tobacco companies who wanted an angle to market ‘relaxing’ cigarettes and a way for them to argue that it was stress, not cigarettes, that was to blame for heart disease and cancer. They did this by funding, guiding and […]

Spike activity 11-07-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Your Brain Is On the Brink of Chaos. Nautilus has an interesting piece on chaos the and the brain. Neuroskeptic has a good Q&A with Zach Mainen, one of the originators of the NeuroFuture open letter demanding reform of the Human Brain Project. There’s […]

A thought lab in the sun

Neuroscientist Karl Friston, being an absolute champ, in an interview in The Lancet Psychiatry “I get up very late, I go and smoke my pipe in the conservatory, hopefully in the sunshine with a nice cup of coffee, and have thoughts until I can raise the energy to have a bath. I don’t normally get […]

Memories of ‘hands on’ sex therapy

There’s an amusing passage in Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree where he recounts his own experience of a curious attempt at surrogate partner therapy – a type of sex therapy where a ‘stand in’ partner engages with sexual activity with the client to help overcome sexual difficulties. In Solomon’s case, he was a […]

A cultural view of agony

New Statesman has a fascinating article on the ‘cultural history of pain’ that tracks how our ideas about pain and suffering have radically changed through the years. One of the most interesting, and worrying, themes is how there have been lots of cultural beliefs about whether certain groups are more or less sensitive to pain. […]

Spike activity 27-06-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: Slate has a piece on developmental psychology’s WEIRD problem. Most kids in child psychology studies are from very restricted social groups – rich, educated families. Facebook manipulated stories in users’ newsfeeds to conduct experiments on emotional contagion. Don’t remember signing the consent form for […]

A spook’s guide to the psychology of deception

Last February, a file from the Edward Snowden leaks was released from a 2012 GCHQ presentation called ‘The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations’. It describes the ‘Online Covert Action Accreditation’ course which draws heavily on the psychology of influence and persuasion. This post will look at how they’re piecing together the science […]

The normality trap

I remember taking a bus to London Bridge when, after a few stops, a woman got on who seemed to move with a subtle but twitchy disregard for her surroundings. She found herself a seat among the Saturday shoppers and divided her time between looking out the window and responding to invisible companions, occasionally shouting […]

Spike activity 20-06-2014

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news: OK Go’s new music video is like standing naked under a waterfall of optical illusions while wearing hipster spectacles. The mighty Neurocritic looks at advances in physical brain tweaking and the possible rebirth of paradise engineering. The Dana Foundation has an excellent piece on […]

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