Category Archives: Inside the Brain

A multitude of phantoms

A fascinating paper in the neuroscience journal Brain looks at artistic depictions of phantom limbs – the feeling of the physical presence of a limb after it has been damaged or removed – and gives a wonderful insight how the brain perceives non-functioning or non-existent body parts. In fact, most people who have a limb […]

The mysterious nodding syndrome – a crack of light

Two years ago we discussed a puzzling, sometimes fatal, ‘nodding syndrome‘ that has been affecting children in Uganda and South Sudan. We now know a little more, with epilepsy being confirmed as part of the disorder, although the cause still remains a mystery. The condition affects children between 5 and 15 years old, who have […]

Year Four of the Blue Brain documentary

Film-maker Noah Hutton has just released the ‘Year Four’ film of the decade-long series of films about Henry Markram’s massive Blue Brain neuroscience project. It’s been an interesting year for Markram’s project with additional billion euro funding won to extend and expand on earlier efforts and the USA’s BRAIN Initiative having also made it’s well-funded […]

Are men better wired to read maps or is it a tired cliché?

By Tom Stafford The headlines The Guardian: Male and female brains wired differently, scans reveal The Atlantic: Male and female brains really are built differently The Independent: The hardwired difference between male and female brains could explain why men are ‘better at map reading The Story An analysis of 949 brain scans shows significant sex […]

My punitive superego is lighting up my brain

This sentence actually appeared in the British Journal of Psychiatry: Carhart-Harris et al’s finding of activation of Cg25 region of the cingulate gyrus in profound depression is consistent with the idea of an interpersonally isolated and punitive superego desperately trying to prevent overwhelming Pankseppian modalities impulses of panic and rage from reaching consciousness. Find that […]

A buried artefact

Sometimes there is an accidental beauty in the most macabre of events. Having a bullet lodged in your brain can produce beautiful CT scans due to the scanner’s difficulty with imaging metal objects. The scan is from an 8-year-old girl who was hit by a bullet that was fired into the air in celebration. She […]

Seeing synaesthetic stars during sex

A study in Frontiers in Psychology asked people who have emotional synaesthesia – they see colours when they have certain emotions – about what they experience during sex. There is a particularly lovely table that illustrates these experiences through the different stages of the sexual response cycle: Appentance phase “This phase has an orange character” […]

A radiant light and an aura of activity

Nature Medicine has a fascinating article about attempts to research the neuroscience of migraine and its aura – the perceptual changes that precede the onset of the splitting headache. It turns out to be trickier than it seems. The idea is to trigger a migraine in people who seem to have clear conditions that start […]

Drugs for the circuit-based human

In a recent article for The Observer I noted that almost all the major drug companies had closed down their neuroscience divisions as evidence for a move away from a ‘chemical-based’ to a ‘circuit-based’ approach to treatments. So to my surprise, a new Nature News article has just appeared discussing the re-launch of pharmaceutical giant […]

It is mind control but not as we know it

The Headlines The Independent: First ever human brain-to-brain interface successfully tested BBC News: Are we close to making human ‘mind control’ a reality? Visual News: Mind Control is Now a Reality: UW Researcher Controls Friend Via an Internet Connection The story Using the internet, one researcher remotely controls the finger of another, using it to […]

The rise of the circuit-based human

I’ve got a piece in The Observer about how we’re moving towards viewing the brain as a series of modifiable brain circuits each responsible for distinct aspects of experience and behaviour. The ‘brain circuit’ aspect is not new but the fact that neuroscience and medicine, on the billion-dollar global level, are reorienting themselves to focus […]

Drug addiction: The complex truth

We’re told studies have proven that drugs like heroin and cocaine instantly hook a user. But it isn’t that simple – little-known experiments over 30 years ago tell a very different tale. Drugs are scary. The words “heroin” and “cocaine” make people flinch. It’s not just the associations with crime and harmful health effects, but […]

A furious infection but a fake fear of water

RadioLab has an excellent short episode on one of the most morbidly fascinating of brain infections – rabies. Rabies is a virus that can very quickly infect the brain. When it does, it causes typical symptoms of encephalitis (brain inflammation) – headache, sore neck, fever, delirium and breathing problems – and it is almost always […]

Peter Huttenlocher has left the building

The New York Times has an obituary for child neurologist Peter Huttenlocher, who surprised everyone by finding that the human brain loses connections as part of growing into adulthood. Huttenlocher counted synapses – the connections between neurons – and as a paediatric neurologist was particularly interested in how the number of synapses changed as we […]

Super-recogniser officers policing Europe’s biggest party

The Guardian are reporting that the London Metropolitan Police have deployed ‘super recogniser’ officers to Notting Hill Carnival to pick out known criminals from the crowd. This is curious because this is a verified ability that has only recently been reported in the scientific literature. It has been long known that some people have severe […]

How Lariam can trigger psychosis

The New York Times has an article on how the anti-malaria drug mefloquine, better known as Lariam, can send you spiralling into madness. Coincidentally, the link between mefloquine and madness was the subject of a recent review article in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law which reads like a cross […]

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