Category Archives: Remembering

Half a century of neuroscience

The Lancet has a good retrospective looking back on the last 50 years of neuroscience, which in some ways, was when the field was born. Of course, the brain and nervous system has been the subject of study for hundreds, if not thousands, of years but the concept of a dedicated ‘neuroscience’ is relatively new. […]

A misdiagnosis of trauma in Ancient Babylon

Despite the news reports, researchers probably haven’t discovered a mention of ‘PTSD’ from 1300BC Mesopotamia. The claim is likely due to a rather rough interpretation of Ancient Babylonian texts but it also reflects a curious interest in trying to find modern psychiatric diagnoses in the past, which tells us more about our own clinical insecurities […]

A new year with an old friend

I’ve just found a curious article in the scientific journal Clinical Anatomy which reprints a Victorian story called ‘Celebrating new year in Bart’s dissecting room’ where the corpses come to life. It finishes with some interesting observations about the psychological impact of dissecting a dead body as a rite of passage for medical students. The […]

The celebrity analysis that killed celebrity analysis

Most ‘psy’ professionals are banned by their codes of conduct from conducting ‘celebrity analysis’ and commenting on the mental state of specific individuals in the media. This is a sensible guideline but I didn’t realise it was triggered by a specific event. Publicly commenting on a celebrity’s psychological state is bad form. If you’ve worked […]

Madness, murder and mental healing

London’s innovative biomedical centre, the Wellcome Collection, have created a fascinating interactive story on how ‘mesmerism’ and hypnosis played an important role in the history of mind and madness. It’s written by the fantastic Mike Jay, who has penned many excellent books on the high-strangeness of the early science of the mind in the 1800s, […]

Cushing’s abandoned brains

I’ve just found a great short documentary about the abandoned brain collection of pioneering neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing. The video describes how Cushing’s archives, which genuinely involved hundreds of brains in jars, as well as rare slides and photos of the early days of brain surgery, were rediscovered in the basement of Yale University and restored […]

An earlier illusory death

For such an obscure corner of the medical literature, Cotard’s delusion is remarkably well known as the delusion that you’re dead. This was supposedly first described by Jules Cotard in 1880 but I seem to have found a description from 1576. It’s worth noting that although Cotard’s delusion has come to represent ‘the delusion that […]

Hallucinogenic bullets

An article in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology discusses the history of ‘modern toxic antipersonnel projectiles’ and it has a short history of ammunition designed to introduce incapacitating hallucinogenic substances into the body. As you might expect for such an unpleasant idea (chemical weapon hand guns!) they were wielded by some fairly […]

A Rush of Blood to the Brain

An article from Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry that discusses the concept of ‘moral disability’ and brain trauma in Victorian times includes a fascinating section on what was presumably thought to be the science of ‘knocking some sense into the brain’. The piece is by medical historian Brandy Shillace who researches Victorian scientific ideas and how […]

Why our faith in cramming is mistaken

You may think you know your own mind, but when it comes to memory, research suggests that you don’t. If we’re trying to learn something, many of us study in ways that prevent the memories sticking. Fortunately, the same research also reveals how we can supercharge our learning. We’ve all had to face a tough […]

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of the machine

I’ve got an article in The Observer about how our inventions have profoundly shaped how we view ourselves because we’ve traditionally looked to technology for metaphors of human nature. We tend to think that we understand ourselves and then create technologies to take advantage of that new knowledge but it usually happens the other way […]

The concept of stress, sponsored by Big Tobacco

NPR has an excellent piece on how the scientific concept of stress was massively promoted by tobacco companies who wanted an angle to market ‘relaxing’ cigarettes and a way for them to argue that it was stress, not cigarettes, that was to blame for heart disease and cancer. They did this by funding, guiding and […]

Memories of ‘hands on’ sex therapy

There’s an amusing passage in Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree where he recounts his own experience of a curious attempt at surrogate partner therapy – a type of sex therapy where a ‘stand in’ partner engages with sexual activity with the client to help overcome sexual difficulties. In Solomon’s case, he was a […]

Nostalgia: Why it is good for you

The past is not just a foreign country, but also one we are all exiled from. Like all exiles, we sometimes long to return. That longing is called nostalgia. Whether it is triggered by a photograph, a first kiss or a treasured possession, nostalgia evokes a particular sense of time or place. We all know […]

Important peculiarities of memory

A slide from what looks like a fascinating talk by memory researcher Robert Bjork is doing the rounds on Twitter. The talk has just happened at the Association for Psychological Science 2014 conference and it describes some ‘Important peculiarities of memory’. You can click the link above if you want to see if the image, […]

Unsure memories of murder

The BBC News site has a special multimedia feature on a case of false confession to murder that has been been troubling Iceland from the 1970s and has recently erupted again. The Beeb have clearly gone a bit ‘Scandinavian detective drama’ on the whole thing but it is a gripping story, not least because it […]

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