Category Archives: Remembering

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 […]

More than just bumps

Phrenology was the practice of reading someone’s personality from the bumps on their head based on the idea that the shape of the brain affected the shape of the skull. Contemporary neuroscience lectures often have a part where the professor puts up an image of a phrenology head and says “although this was a rediculous […]

Fragments of identity

The Atlantic has a sublime article on identity, memory and amnesia – written as a reflection on meeting a friend who has lost much of his memory due to an advancing brain tumour. The author is neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin who is better known for his work on the cognitive science of music, but here he […]

Rita Levi-Montalcini has left the building

Nobel-prize winning neuroscientist Rita Levi-Montalcini has passed away at the age of 103, just a few months after publishing her last scientific study. She won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of nerve growth factor along with her colleague Stanley Cohen and continued worked well past the time when most people would have retired. Her […]

Darwin’s asylum

Shrewsbury School is one of the oldest public schools in England and it makes much of being the institution that schooled Charles Darwin and introduced him to science. While the famous naturalist was certainly a pupil there he probably never set foot inside the building that the famous school now occupies because during Darwin’s time […]

A very psychological chocolate

A familiar sight amid the Christmas supermarket shelves is the box of Black Magic chocolates. It’s a classic product that’s been familiar to British shoppers since the 1930s but less well known is the fact that it was entirely designed by psychologists. The chocolates were produced by Rowntree’s who were a pioneer in using empirical […]

Relax ladies, I’m a scientist

A while ago I wrote a column in The Psychologist on why psychologists don’t do participant observation research – a type of data gathering where you immerse yourself in the activities of those you want to study. In response, psychologist James Hartley wrote in and mentioned a remarkable study from 1938 where researchers hid under […]

A devil of a headache

A man suffering from headache in the form of devils. A coloured etching by noted Victorian cartoonist George Cruikshank, 1835. An image from the Wellcome Collection catalogue. via @ChirurgeonsAppr

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 22,998 other followers