Category Archives: Integrating

Round trip ticket to the science of psychedelics

The latest edition of The Psychologist is a special open-access issue on the science and social impact of hallucinogenic drugs. There’s an article by me on culture and hallucinogens that discusses the role of hallucinogenic drugs in diverse cultures and which also covers how cultural expectations shape the hallucinogenic experience – from traditional Kitanemuk society […]

Drugs in space and sleepless in the shuttle

A fascinating study published in today’s Lancet Neurology reports on sleep deprivation in astronauts but also describes the drugs shuttle crew members use to keep themselves awake and help them fall asleep. The study looked at sleep data from 64 astronauts on 80 space shuttle missions along with 21 astronauts on 13 International Space Station […]

Out on a limb too many

Two neuropsychologists have written a fascinating review article about the desire to amputate a perfectly healthy limb known variously as apotemnophilia, xenomelia or body integrity identity disorder The article is published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment although some who have these desires would probably disagree that it is a disease or disorder […]

A forest of porous dreaming

A fascinating section of the book How Forests Think by anthropologist Eduardo Kohn where he describes how dreaming is much more porous among the Runa people of Ecuador. This is both because of how they understand dreams, but also because of the way sleep happens in their culture – it being a more social and […]

The genes are to blame game

The media love ‘your genes are to blame’ stories despite the fact that genetics is, in most cases, just one, often small, influence on a behaviour or trait. Here’s a few lowlights: Glass always half-empty? Your genes may be to blame Lazy? Your Genes May Be to Blame Have math anxiety? Your genes may be […]

Stroop: an unrecognised legacy

The man who discovered the Stroop effect and created the Stroop test, something which is now a keystone of cognitive science research, never realised the massive impact he had on psychology. A short but fascinating news item from Vanderbilt University discusses its creator, the psychologist and preacher J. Ridley Stroop. J. Ridley Stroop was born […]

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 […]

How sleep makes your mind more creative

It’s a tried and tested technique used by writers and poets, but can psychology explain why first moments after waking can be among our most imaginative? It is 6.06am and I’m typing this in my pyjamas. I awoke at 6.04am, walked from the bedroom to the study, switched on my computer and got to work […]

Neuroscience and its place in the social world

This is the first of three posts that will cover three important books about how the science of mind, brain and mental health, interfaces with society at large. First off, I want to discuss an excellent book called Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind published this year by sociologists of […]

Extending new senses through implanted magnets

In 2006, journalist Quinn Norton had a magnet implanted in her finger so she could ‘sense’ magnetic fields. An article on the ABC Radio National website shows how this simple concept has been taken to its next level by the body modification community to find new ways of integrating magnetic fields into our senses. Before […]

Listening for the voices of the dead

I’ve got an article in The Observer about our tendency to perceive meaning where there is none and how this inadvertently popped up in one of the strangest episodes in the history of psychology. The article discuss the work of psychologist Konstantīns Raudive who began to believe that he could hear the voices of the […]

The ‘unnamed feeling’ named ASMR

Here’s my BBC Future column from last week. It’s about the so-called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which didn’t have a name until 2010 and I’d never heard of until 2012. Now, I’m finding out that it is surprisingly common. The original is here. It’s a tightening at the back of the throat, or a tingling […]

The Master and His Emissary

I’ve been struggling to understand Iain McGilchrist’s argument about the two hemispheres of the brain, as presented in his book “The Master and His Emissary” [1]. It’s an argument that takes you from neuroanatomy, through behavioural science to cultural studies [2]. The book is crammed with fascinating evidential trees, but I left it without a […]

Moving through the waters of human attention

The New Yorker has an amazing article on pickpocket and illusionist Apollo Robbins that is packed with gems about attention, misdirection and sleight-of-hand. Robbins is a self-taught but dedicated aficionado of human consciousness and has learnt the many ways in which our attention can be manipulated. The article discusses how Robbins does many of his […]

Artist treats psychiatric hospital stay as art residency

Claude Heiland-Allen is an artist who specialises in mathematical, algorithmic and science-based art. When he was recently admitted to a psychiatric hospital he decided to treat his stay “as an artist-in-residence opportunity” – producing fractal images by freehand drawings. You can see some of the amazing work on his website. He explains the background to […]

BBC Column: stopped clocks and dead phones

My column for BBC Future from last week. It’s another example of how consciousness isn’t just constructed, but is a construction for which the signs of artifice are hidden. The original is here   Ever stared at a second hand and think that time stands still for a moment? It’s not just you. Sometimes, when […]

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