Category Archives: Inside the Brain

Heroin, addiction and free will

The death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has sparked some strong and seemingly contradictory responses. What these reactions show is that many people find it hard to think of addiction as being anything except either a choice or a loss of free will. The fact that addiction could involve an active choice to take drugs but […]

The cutting edge of brain science technologies

National Geographic has an excellent article that gives a tour of some of the latest technologies of neuroscience that are likely to be leading the way in understanding the brain over the next decade. You can read the full article online but you need to complete a free registration first. A typical publication ploy but, […]

The pull for lobotomy

The Psychologist has a fascinating article by historian Mical Raz on what patients and families thought about the effects of lobotomy. Raz looks at the letters sent between arch-lobotomist Walter Freeman and the many families he affected through his use of the procedure. Contrary to the image of the ‘evil surgeon who didn’t care about […]

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 […]

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