Category Archives: Togetherness

A radio guide to global mental health

The BBC World Service is in the midst of an excellent series on global mental health – called The Truth About Mental Health. It is currently half-way through and is remarkably well done, looking at everything from the war in Syria, to the effects of solitary confinement, to treatment in developing countries. The programme also […]

Protect your head – the world is complex

The British Medical Journal has a fascinating editorial on the behavioural complexities behind the question of whether cycling helmets prevent head injuries. You would think that testing whether helmets prevent bikers from head injury would be a fairly straightforward affair. Maybe putting a bike helmet on a crash test dummy and throwing rocks at its […]

Drugs where the sun don’t shine: a cultural history

Through the history of humanity, every culture has made use of psychoactive substances. While smoking, eating and injecting have generated most interest, taking drugs through the nether regions has a remarkably long history. Firstly, let’s get your burning question out of the way. The reason someone might want to administer drugs through the vagina or […]

Photographing hallucinations

BMJ Case Reports has a paper that describes two patients with Parkinson’s disease who experienced hallucinations that transferred onto photos they took to try and prove they were real. This is ‘Patient 1′ from the case report: Patient 1 was first evaluated at age 66, having been diagnosed with PD [Parkinson's Disease] at age 58… […]

Disaster response psychology needs to change

I’ve got an article in today’s Observer about how disaster response mental health services are often based on the erroneous assumption that everyone needs ‘treatment’ and often rely on single-session counselling sessions which may do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the article has been given a rather misleading headline (‘Minds traumatised by disaster heal themselves […]

Deeper into genetic challenges to psychiatric diagnosis

For my recent Observer article I discussed how genetic findings are providing some of the best evidence that psychiatric diagnoses do not represent discrete disorders. As part of that I spoke to Michael Owen, a psychiatrist and researcher based at Cardiff University, who has been leading lots of the rethink on the nature of psychiatric […]

Like a part of me is missing

Matter magazine has an amazing article about the world of underground surgery for healthy people who feel that their limb is not part of their body and needs to be removed. The condition is diagnosed as body integrity identity disorder or BIID but it has a whole range of interests and behaviours associated with it […]

Amid the borderlands

I’ve got an article in The Observer on how some of the best evidence against the idea that psychiatric diagnoses like ‘schizophrenia’ describe discrete ‘diseases’ comes not from the critics of psychiatry, but from medical genetics. I found this a fascinating outcome because it puts both sides of the polarised ‘psychiatry divide’ in quite an […]

The history of the birth of neuroculture

My recent Observer piece examined how neuroscience has saturated popular culture but the story of how we found ourselves living in a ‘neuroculture’ is itself quite fascinating. Everyday brain concepts have bubbled up from their scientific roots and integrated themselves into popular consciousness over several decades. Neuroscience itself is actually quite new. Although the brain, […]

A fine art

It’s not often you get to enrage both feminists and misogynists at the same time but a new study, just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, may have managed this impressive feat. It found that men’s preference for larger breasts was associated with having a greater number of oppressive beliefs about women. Feminists can […]

Your future self already exists in the cloud

The Economist has a short but fascinating piece on the work of physicist Chaoming Song who creates mathematical models to predict your future location based on your mobile phone and online activity. His accuracy rarely drops below 80%. Song Chaoming, for instance, is a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston. He is a physicist, but […]

The Perfect Woman

The heaving busts and melodrama of a Latin American soap opera, a television industry desperate for a ratings hit, and the writer makes a woman with Asperger’s syndrome the love interest for the dashing plastic surgeon in the latest telenovela. It sounds like a recipe for disaster but it turned out to be a triumph. […]

Khat out of the bag

Finding myself at a loose end yesterday I decided I’d try and track down one of London’s mafrishes – a type of cafe where people from the capital’s Ethiopian, Somali and Yemeni community chew the psychoactive plant khat. I’d heard about a Somali cafe on Lewisham Way and thought that was as good a place […]

An online sickness

The first academic review article on ‘Munchausen by Internet‘ – where people fake the identity of an ill person online – has just been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Munchausen syndrome is a common name for facticious disorder where people consciously fake illnesses for their own gain. This is distinguished from malingering […]

Hallucinations of the inner body

One of the least understood symptoms in psychosis are hallucinations called cenesthesias. These are ‘inner body’ feelings that often don’t correspond to any known or even possible bodily experiences. A team from Japan has just published a study of patients who experience cenesthesias in the mouth. Here are a selection of the hallucinations: “Feels like […]

Emotions are included

New Republic has an interesting piece on how corporations enforce ‘emotional labour’ in their workforce – checking that they are being sufficiently passionate about their work and caring to their customers. It focuses on the UK sandwich chain Pret who send a mystery shopper to each outlet weekly and “If the employee who rings up […]

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