Category Archives: Inside the Brain

Cushing’s abandoned brains

I’ve just found a great short documentary about the abandoned brain collection of pioneering neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing. The video describes how Cushing’s archives, which genuinely involved hundreds of brains in jars, as well as rare slides and photos of the early days of brain surgery, were rediscovered in the basement of Yale University and restored […]

Beautiful online neuroscience learning

The Fundamentals of Neuroscience is a free online course from Harvard and it looks wonderful – thanks to them employing animators, digital artists and scientists to lift the course above the usual read and repeat learning. The course is already underway but you can register and start learning until mid-December and you can watch any […]

A Rush of Blood to the Brain

An article from Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry that discusses the concept of ‘moral disability’ and brain trauma in Victorian times includes a fascinating section on what was presumably thought to be the science of ‘knocking some sense into the brain’. The piece is by medical historian Brandy Shillace who researches Victorian scientific ideas and how […]

Agents, social encounters and hallucinated voices

I’ve written a piece for the new PLOS Neuro Community about how the social aspects of hallucinated voices tend to be ignored and how we might go about making it more central in psychology and neuroscience. It came about because the PLOS Neuro Community have asked authors of popular papers to write a more gentle […]

A torrent of accidental poems

Neurology journal Neurocase has an interesting study of a women who started compulsively writing poetry after having brief epileptic amnesia treated with the anti-seizure drug lamotrigine. A 76-year-old woman reported having a poor memory and short periods of disorientation and was eventually diagnosed with transient epileptic amnesia – brief recurrent seizures that lead to short […]

How to speak the language of thought

We are now beginning to crack the brain’s code, which allows us to answer such bizarre questions as “what is the speed of thought?” When he was asked, as a joke, to explain how the mind works in five words, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker didn’t hesitate. “Brain cells fire in patterns”, he replied. It’s a […]

Brain scanning the deceased

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how, a little surprisingly, the dead are becoming an increasing focus for brain scanning studies. I first discussed this curious corner of neuroscience back in 2007 but a recent Neuroskeptic post reminded me of the area and I decided to check in on how it’s progressing. It […]

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 […]

A reality rabbit-hole from the dream world

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how the science of lucid dreaming is being pushed forward by the development of ‘in-dream’ experiments. A lucid dream is where you become aware you are dreaming and where you can potentially change elements of the dream as it happens. The piece discusses how eye movements allow […]

Research Digest post #2

My time in the BPS Research Digest hotseat continues. Today’s post is about a lovely study by Stuart Ritchie and colleagues which uses a unique dataset to look at the effect of alcohol on cognitive function across the lifespan. Here’s the intro: The cognitive cost or benefit of booze depends on your genes, suggests a […]

Detecting inner consciousness

Mosaic has an excellent in-depth article on researchers who are trying to detect signs of consciousness in patients who have fallen into coma-like states. The piece meshes the work of neuroscientists Adrian Owen, Nicholas Schiff and Steven Laureys who are independently looking at how to detect signs of consciousness in unresponsive brain-injured patients. It’s an […]

Coma alarm dreams

Intensive Care Medicine has published a wonderfully written and vivid account from a teenager who spent time brain injured and hallucinating in an intensive care unit. The writer describes how he was admitted to intensive care at the age of 15 after suffering a head injury and had intense and bizarre hallucinations which are, as […]

Bomb disposal for the brain

New Statesman has an excellent profile of the wise, funny and acerbic neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. Marsh was the subject of the fantastic 2007 documentary The English Surgeon but he’s now one year away from retirement and has clearly decided that diplomatic responses are no longer a tactical necessity. The piece also gives a vivid insight […]

A balanced look at brain scanning

Bioethics think tank The Hastings Center have published an excellent open-access report on ‘Interpreting Neuroimages: The Technology and its Limits’ that takes a critical but balanced look at the use of brain scans for understanding the mind. They’ve commissioned leading cognitive neuroscientists to write chapters including Geoffrey Aguirre, Martha Farah and Helen Mayberg, as well […]

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