Category Archives: Remembering

Mind Changers back for another series

BBC Radio 4′s brilliant psychology series Mind Changers has made a comeback and has a new season looking at some of the biggest ideas in cognitive science. It has kicked off with programmes on South African psychologist Joseph Wolpe and the treatment of anxiety as well as an edition on Julian Rotter and the idea […]

How Ghostwatch haunted psychiatry

In 1992, the BBC broadcast Ghostwatch, one of the most controversial shows in television history and one that has had a curious and unexpected effect on the course of psychiatry. The programme was introduced as a live report into a haunted house but in reality, it was fiction. This is now a common plot device, […]

A bipolar expedition

In 2008, The Lancet published an amazing article on the ‘psychological effects of polar expeditions’ that contains a potted history of artic madness. Unfortunately, the paper is locked, or shall we say, frozen, behind a paywall, although this snippet on the history of mental health problems on artic expeditions makes for quite surprising reading. Accounts […]

The hidden history of lobotomy’s non-inventor

A fascinating snippet on the notorious supposed inventor of the frontal lobotomy, Egas Moniz, from an article in the Polish Journal of Neurology and Neurosurgery: Egas Moniz: a genius, unlucky looser or a Nobel Committee error? Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2012;46(1):96-103. Lass P, Sławek J, Sitek E. Portuguese neurologist António Egas Moniz is one of the […]

A fitting tribute to Alan Turing

Nature has just published a fantastic Alan Turing special issue commemorating 100 years since the birth of the artificial intelligence pioneer, code-breaker and mathematician. It’s a really wonderful edition, available to freely read online, and accompanied by a special podcast that talks to his biographer about Turing’s famous 1936 paper on computable numbers, his contribution […]

Gimme Shelter

The Rolling Stones launched their career in a social therapeutic club, designed to help troubled youth with communication skills. The club became legendary in rock ‘n roll history but its therapeutic roots have almost been forgotten. Eel Pie Island is a small patch on the River Thames famous for the underground club that earned a […]

The cowboy cure

The APA Monitor has an article on how ‘nervousness’ in 1800s America was treated by sending male intellectuals ‘out West’ for prolonged periods of cattle roping, hunting, roughriding and male bonding. This, I suspect, sounded a great deal more innocent in the 1800s. But nevertheless, this sort of intense deliberately masculine physical exercise was thought […]

Unlikely causes of dementia

An article on the history of dementia lists the somewhat odd causes for the degenerative brain condition as given by the pioneering French psychiatrist Jean Etienne Esquirol in 1838: Menstrual disorders, Sequelae [consequences] of delivery, Head injuries, Progression of age, Ataxic fever, Hemorrhoids surgery, Mania and monomania, Paralysis, Apoplexy, Syphilis, Mercury abuse, Dietary excesses, Wine […]

Diagnosing Tolstoy with non-existent madness

A new article on the founder of criminology, Cesare Lombroso, recounts the curious tale of how he met War and Peace author Leo Tolstoy to confirm his theory on how genius and madness were linked. Among other things, Lombroso was convinced that mental ‘degeneration’ was reflected in the face and so could be seen externally. […]

Brain in your medieval pants

In Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical drawings, the penis is connected directly to the brain. A 1986 article “On the sexual intercourse drawings of Leonardo da Vinci” explains why this connection, still commonly proposed today (although mostly as a metaphor it must be said), was thought to be anatomical fact by the great master. “A brief […]

The rise and fall of ‘space madness’

‘Space madness’ was a serious concern for psychiatrists involved in the early space programme. A new article in history of science journal Endeavour tracks the interest in this ‘dreaded disease that never was.’ Much to the surprise of NASA mental health professionals, those who volunteered to be astronauts were neither “suicidal deviants” nor troubled by […]

Chasing the dragon across the world

A summary of a fascinating 1997 article on how the practice of consuming heroin by ‘chasing the dragon‘ – inhaling vapours after heating the drug on tin foil – spread across the world. Heroin smoking by ‘chasing the dragon’: origins and history Addiction. 1997 Jun;92(6):673-83; Strang J, Griffiths P, Gossop M. The history of heroin […]

I am yours for 2 coppers

I’ve just found a wonderful 1973 study on the psychoanalysis of graffiti that discusses how unconscious desires might be expressed through public scrawlings. It has a completely charming table that compares graffiti from A.D. 79 Pompeii with 1960′s Los Angeles to demonstrate the similarity of themes across the centuries.     The author concludes that […]

Tea in Bellevue

The entry to the historic Bellevue Hospital in New York City, famous for its psychiatric wards which have housed a long list of artists, writers, musicians and actors. As a result of treating so many of New York’s artistic community over the years, it has turned up in many works of art as a result. […]

Nasal mummy exit

A new study just published in the Journal of Comparative Human Biology takes an enthusiastic look at exactly how the Ancient Egyptians removed the brain from cadavers before they were mummified. You’ll be pleased to know that a variety of techniques were used over the millennia but unfortunately none make for particularly good dinner time […]

Ten years of the language gene that wasn’t

It’s now ten years since mutations in the FOXP2 gene were linked to language problems, which led to lots of overblown headlines about a ‘language gene’, which it isn’t. The actual science is no less interesting, however, and Discover Magazine has a fantastic article that looks back on the last decade since the gene’s discovery […]


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