Category Archives: Inside the Brain

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 […]

A half hour of hallucinations

I’m on the latest PLOS Mind the Brain podcast discussing the science of hallucinations with the inimitable Ruchir Shah. We cover everything from the experience of ‘hearing voices’ and its relation to mental illness to how chemists are pioneering new variations of psychoactive substances to get around drugs laws. In this podcast, we discuss one […]

A concise, solid grounding in neuroscience

I often get asked ‘how can I avoid common misunderstandings in neuroscience’ which I always think is a bit of an odd question because the answer is ‘learn a lot about neuroscience’. This is easier than it sounds, of course, but if you want a solid introduction, a book by Mo Costandi called 50 Human […]

Love is a cognitive enhancer

Aeon magazine has an excellent article about how a study on the adoption of Romanian orphans has helped us understand the importance of early-life affection for brain development. It tracks the story of the Bucharest Early Intervention Project (BEIP), a US-based study that was inspired by seeing the appalling living conditions of orphans from the […]

What makes an extravert?

Why do some people prefer adventure and the company of others, while others favour being alone? It’s all to do with how the brain processes rewards. Will you spend Saturday night in a crowded bar, or curled up with a good book? Is your ideal holiday adventure sports with a large group of mates and, […]

Candidate neurotech for the billion dollar brain projects

Nature has an article that discusses candidate neuro-mapping technologies that may form the basis of the billion dollar brain projects that are just kicking off on either side of the Atlantic. Both Europe’s and Obama’s brain projects have set themselves the (possibly over-) ambitious goal of mapping the working brain on the neuron-by-neuron level. This […]

Like a kid in a brain candy store

Slate has got a great article that takes on the newly fashionable field of ‘neuromarketing’ and calls it out as an empty promise. The piece is written by neuroscientist Matt Wall who notes the upsurge in consumer EEG ‘brain wave’ technology has fuelled a boom in neuromarketing companies who claim that measuring the brain is […]

Great cure but we lost the patient

The Journal of Neuroscience has a surprising case report of a patient who was treated with an implanted brain stimulator to treat severe movement side-effects from an extended period of taking antipsychotic drugs for behavioural problems. This is the background to the case: A 27-year-old woman with developmental delay and severe behavioural disturbance was treated […]

What is it like being nerve gassed?

I’ve just found an interesting article in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice that discusses the medical management of chemical weapons injuries. It has a particularly attention-grabbing section that describes the effects of being nerve gassed. I’ve pasted it below, but as it was dense with medical jargon, I’ve added explanations in square brackets. The nerve […]

An unrecognised revolution in street drug design

I’ve got an article in The Observer about the ongoing but little recognised revolution in street drug design being pushed forward by the ‘legal high’ market. Since 2008 we’ve seen the first genuine wave of ‘designer drugs’ that are being produced by science-savvy professional labs that are deliberately producing substances to avoid drug laws. New […]

Crystal history

Spiegel Online has an excellent article that traces the history of methamphetamine from its early days as synthetic soldier fuel in Nazi Germany to its recent history as street crank. There is one curious bit though: Pervitin remained easy to obtain even after the war, on the black market or as a prescription drug from […]

Does brain stimulation make you better at maths?

The Headlines Brain stimulation promises “long-lasting” maths boost Mild electric shocks to brain may help students solve maths problems Electrical brain boost can make you better at maths What they actually did Researchers led by Roi Cohen Kadosh at the University of Oxford trained people on two kinds of maths skills, rote learning simple arithmetic […]

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