Category Archives: Togetherness

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 […]

Culture of the digital playground

Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman has spent several years researching hacker culture, hanging out with coders, geeks and cypherpunks to understand the beliefs and boundaries of the community they inhabit. If you want a flavour of what Coleman has been working on her interview in Wired is a good place to start but the best place to […]

In the middle of a conflict

One of the things I quickly discovered while working for Médecins Sans Frontières in Colombia, was that while there is lots of research on people who have experienced armed conflict in the past, there was very little information on the mental health of people living in active conflict zones. With MSF colleagues, we’ve just published […]

Back to the old school

New York Magazine has a fantastic article on the psychological impact of high school and how it affects you through your adult life. It’s a fascinating subject because so much of developmental psychology has focused on childhood and yet our adolescent school years are probably the most formative for our view of the social world. […]

Intoxicating tendencies

The latest edition of BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed is a special on ‘intoxication’ looking at the uses, abuses and social function of drugs through the ages. It’s a fascinating programme in itself but it is peppered with vivid excerpts from how drugs, altered states and drug users have been described historically and are discussed […]

A depressing financial justification

One of the most controversial changes to the recently finalised DSM-5 diagnostic manual was the removal of the ‘bereavement exclusion’ from the diagnosis of depression – meaning that someone could be diagnosed as depressed even if they’ve just lost a loved on The Washington Post has been investigating the financial ties of those on the […]

A smoother flow

BBC Radio 1Xtra has just broadcast a fantastic programme about the rapper Scorzayzee who disappeared from the UK scene after, as it turned out, experiencing psychosis and being diagnosed with schizophrenia. It’s a brilliant piece that not only tells the story of Scorzayzee but also cheekily tackles mental health in men – something which is […]

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 […]

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