Category Archives: Inside the Brain

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 […]

Science behind the billion dollar brain hype

If you want to hear me talk about what the US and Europe’s billion dollar brain projects are trying to achieve, I’m on the latest BBC All in the Mind discussing the science behind the quite considerable hype. I discuss these latest brain initiatives alongside presenter Claudia Hammond and distinguished neuroscientist Donald Stein – who […]

Amid the borderlands

I’ve got an article in The Observer on how some of the best evidence against the idea that psychiatric diagnoses like ‘schizophrenia’ describe discrete ‘diseases’ comes not from the critics of psychiatry, but from medical genetics. I found this a fascinating outcome because it puts both sides of the polarised ‘psychiatry divide’ in quite an […]

The postmortem portraits of Phineas Gage

A new artform has emerged – the post-mortem neuroportrait. Its finest subject, Phineas Gage. Gage was a worker extending the tracks of the great railways until he suffered the most spectacular injury. As he was setting a gunpowder charge in a rock with a large tamping iron, the powder was lit by an accidental spark. […]

Happiness rebuilt

I’ve written a piece for SpotOn NYC on the contrast between the effects of brain injury depicted in Oliver Sacks-type books and the typical effects in patients on neurology wards. These books are not inaccurate but neither do they represent the common outcomes of brain injury. Sometimes the reality is quite different from what people […]

What will the billion dollar brain projects do?

Two neuroscience projects have been earmarked for billion dollar funding by Europe and the US government but little has been said about what the projects will achieve. Here’s what we know. The European Commision has just awarded half a billion euros to the Human Brain Project – a development of Henry Markram’s Blue Brain project […]

Point me to a brain area

I’ve just found an incredibly use brain anatomy atlas that when you point at any part of an MRI scan it tells you which part of the brain you’re looking at in all three planes. It seems to be part of a very useful website called HeadNeckBrainSpine that is full of handy neuroanatomy tools, tutorials […]

Death of a booty chemical

I’ve got a piece in The Observer about why dopamine isn’t a ‘pleasure chemical’ but how this idea is likely to stay because it’s too useful for the media. It provides a simplified explanation for a whole range of behaviours and sexes-up science stories, regardless of whether it makes sense or not. If there were […]

Owner of Broca’s area identified

A patient who could only say the word ‘tan’ after suffering brain damage became one of the most important cases in the history of neuroscience. But the identity of the famously monosyllabic man has only just been revealed. Broca’s area was one of the first brain areas identified with a specific function after 19th Century […]

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