Category Archives: Remembering

One hundred years of gratitude

Tomorrow is the 100th birthday of Alan Turing – brilliant mathematician, philosopher, proto-cognitive scientist, secret war hero and unjustly persecuted gay man. If you want some excellent coverage of his life, work and influence, Wired UK has a new collection of articles stemming from their Turing Week project. Highly recommended.   Link to Turing Week […]

The making of ‘War Neuroses’

The history of one of the most important and disturbing films in the history of psychiatry is covered by an excellent article in the latest edition of the Journal of the History of Medicine. The piece concerns the 1917 film of soldiers affected by ‘shell shock’ during World War One. It was called ‘War Neuroses’ […]

A geography of stigma

The picture below is of the main building to Princess Park Manor, a luxury housing development in North London, that used to be Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum. A recent newspaper article about the apartments notes how they have become an attraction for pop singers and reality TV stars. The Princess Park Manor website lauds the […]

The labels change, the game remains the same

Today’s New York Times has a huge feature on the illicit use of stimulant drugs like Ritalin and pharmaceutical amphetamines in colleges and schools by kids ‘seeking an academic edge’. The piece is written like an exposé but if you know a little about the history of amphetamines, it is also incredibly ironic. The ‘illicit […]

A history of human sacrifice

A video on the history of human sacrifice is available from Science magazine as part of their special issue on human conflict. Sadly, all the articles are locked behind a paywall but the video is free to view and has science writer Ann Gibbons discussing how the practice evolved through the ages and how archaeologists […]

How the British missed a trip

The first ever medical report on the effects of magic mushrooms is featured in an article in Current Biology. The excerpt is from a 1799 report entitled ‘On A Poisonous Species of Agaric’ from an issue of The London Medical and Physical Journal. The psychological effects of hallucinogenic, or ‘magic’ mushrooms were first documented in […]

BBC Future column: earworms

From a couple of weeks ago, my column from BBC Future, about everyday brain quirks (as I’ve mentioned previously). Thanks to Maria Panagiotidi for help with this one. “Earworms”, some people call them. Songs that get stuck in your head and go round and round, sometimes for days, sometimes for months. For no apparent reason […]

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. […]

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