Category Archives: Remembering

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 […]

Whatever happened to Hans Eysenck?

Psychologist Hans Eysenck was once one of the most cited and controversial scientists on the planet and a major force in the development of psychology but he now barely merits a mention. Whatever happened to Hans Eysenck? To start off, it’s probably worth noting that Eysenck did a lot to ensure his legacy would be […]

A quarter century of All in the Mind

A new series of BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind has just kicked off and to celebrate 25 years of broadcasting they’ve just had three great episodes looking back on the last quarter century of psychology, neuroscience and mental health. Each make for a interesting discussion of how science and attitudes have changed. As […]

Look before you tweak: a history of amphetamine

I’ve just found a fascinating article in the American Journal of Public Health on ‘America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic’ and how it compares to the current boom in meth and Ritalin use. The first amphetamine epidemic ran from 1929–1971 and was largely based on easily available over-the-counter speed in the form of ‘pep pills’, widely abused […]

Period architecture, majestic views, history of madness

Regular readers will know of my ongoing fascination with the fate of the old psychiatric asylums and how they’re often turned into luxury apartments with not a whisper of their previous life. It turns out, a 2003 article in The Psychiatrist looked at exactly this in 71 former asylum care hospitals. It’s cheekily called ‘The […]

A technoculture of psychosis

Aeon Magazine has an amazing article on the history of technology in paranoid delusions and how cultural developments are starting to mirror the accidental inventions of psychosis. It’s by the fantastic Mike Jay, who wrote The Air Loom Gang, an essential book that looks at one of the most famous cases of ‘influencing machine’ psychosis. […]

A notorious song

A song banned was banned by the BBC until 2002 because worries that it may cause a suicide epidemic. The piece is titled Gloomy Sunday and was written by the Hungarian composer Rezső Seress. The following abstract tip-toes around the point that there is no evidence it ever caused suicides but the history and hand-wringing […]

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 […]

Why you might prefer more pain

When is the best treatment for pain more pain? When you’re taking part in an experiment published by a Nobel prize winner and one of the leading lights in behavioural psychology, that is. The psychologist in question is Daniel Kahneman; the experiment described by the self-explanatory title of: When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: […]

Prescribe it again, Sam

We tend to think of Prozac as the first ‘fashionable’ psychiatric drug but it turns out popular memory is short because a tranquilizer called Miltown hit the big time thirty years before. This is from a wonderful book called The Age of Anxiety: A History of America’s Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers by Andrea Tone and […]

A stiff moment in scientific history

In 1983 psychiatrist Giles Brindley demonstrated the first drug treatment for erectile dysfunction in a rather unique way. He took the drug and demonstrated his stiff wicket to the audience mid-way through his talk. Scientific journal BJU International has a pant-wettingly hilarious account of the events of that day which made both scientific and presentation […]

A cuckoo’s nest museum

The New York Times reports that the psychiatric hospital used as the backdrop for the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has been turned into a museum of mental health. In real life the institution was Oregon State Hospital and the article is accompanied by a slide show of images from the hospital […]

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. […]

A brief history of narcoanalysis

The judge in the case of ‘Colorado shooter’ James Holmes has made the baffling decision that a ‘narcoanalytic interview’ and ‘polygraph examination’ can be used in an attempt to support an insanity plea. While polygraph ‘lie detectors’ are known to be seriously flawed, some US states still allow evidence from them to be admitted in […]

A memory of shifting sands

The New York Review of Books has a reflective piece by Oliver Sacks on the swirling mists of memory and how false recall has affected authors and artists throughout history. [Science] is startling to realize that some of our most cherished memories may never have happened—or may have happened to someone else. I suspect that […]

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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