Category Archives: Inside the Brain

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 […]

How the magic of cinema unlocked one man’s coma-bound world

An Alfred Hitchcock film helped to prove one patient had been conscious while in a coma-like state for 16 years. The discovery shows that neuroscience may still have lots to learn from the ancient art of storytelling, says Tom Stafford. If brain injury steals your consciousness then you are in a coma: we all know […]

Twelve minutes of consciousness

The Economist has an excellent video on consciousness, what it is, why and how it evolved. The science section of The Economist has long had some of the best science reporting in the mainstream press and this video is a fantastic introduction to the science of consciousness. It’s 12 minutes long and it’s worth every […]

Intuitions about free will and the brain

Libet’s classifc experiment on the neuroscience of free will tells us more about our intuition than about our actual freedom It is perhaps the most famous experiment in neuroscience. In 1983, Benjamin Libet sparked controversy with his demonstration that our sense of free will may be an illusion, a controversy that has only increased ever […]

Critical strategies for free will experiments

Benjamin Libet’s experiment on the neuroscience of free will needs little introduction. (If you do need an introduction, it’s the topic of my latest column for BBC Future). His reports that the subjective feeling of making a choice only come after the brain signals indicating a choice has been made are famous, and have produced […]

Never mind the neuromarketing

I’ve got an article in The Observer about the state of neuromarketing – where companies pay millions of wasted dollars to apply brain science to marketing. The piece looks at the three forms of neuromarketing – advertising fluff, serious research, and applied neuroscience. The first is clearly bollocks, the second a solid but currently abstract […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Why you can live a normal life with half a brain

A few extreme cases show that people can be missing large chunks of their brains with no significant ill-effect – why? Tom Stafford explains what it tells us about the true nature of our grey matter. How much of our brain do we actually need? A number of stories have appeared in the news in […]

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 […]


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