Rate my shrink

A new website has been launched that allows patients to rate their psychiatrists. Think of it as an ‘Am I Hot or Not’ for mental health, but without the stomach churning pictures.

The comments are priceless, and range from adulation:

Awesome, lovely person. I could tell she really cared about me, and she didnt act weird, no matter what problem I had.

to insult:

She is a BITCH, plain and simple.

Like any sort of online review system, I would take the comments with a large pinch of salt, although it makes for an interesting window onto how psychiatrists are sometimes perceived by the patients they work with.

Link to RateMyShrink.com

New Scientist on the changing fortunes of AI

This week’s New Scientist has a lead article on the ‘artificial intelligence winter’ of the 1990s and the recent renaissance in AI research.

newscientist_210505.jpgIn recent years, AI techniques have largely been applied to modelling specific psychological processes, rather than creating seemingly intelligent software that can interact with humans, as tested by the Turing test.

Computer vision has been a particularly successful area, and has focused on understanding and interpreting visual informaton, for example, to recognise and identify faces.

More recently, companies like Cyc have been attempting to resurrect ‘classical AI’, and create systems which allow for natural language interaction.

Link to full article from NewScientist.com

2005-04-22 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:


Researchers derive nonlinear difference equations to predict marriage outcomes, supposedly with 90% accuracy (interview with video).

People who are happy are more likely to be healthy, as research suggests happiness seems to have a direct biological effects on the body.

Politicians’ personalities can be described with only two factors. Presumably, this drops to one at election time.

Women may avoid careers in the sciences because they perceive them as solitary pursuits rather than socially-driven careers.

Difficulties in lining up golf shots while under pressure, may show similarities to some task-specific dystonias and other movement problems.

Mentat Wiki aims to collate techniques for better thinking and problem solving.

Our knowledge of how gravity works may be an innate part of our brain, suggests brain scanning study.

A class outline describes 10 unsolved questions in neuroscience. With suggestions for further reading.

TV soaps are influencing how people present with illnesses when they visit the doctor.

Psychologists Alison Gopnik, David Geary and Helena Cronin respond to Simon Baron-Cohen’s article on sex, autism and engineering that was previously mentioned on Mind Hacks.

Simulating change blindness

Open access science journal PLoS Biology describes a computer model of brain function that incorporates biological accuracy while giving important insights into consciousness.

Researchers Stanislas Dehaene and Jean-Pierre Changeux modelled the neurons that connect the thalamus and the cortex to simulate how they responded when stimulated, when compared to a ‘resting’ state.

The researchers found that spontaneous activity occurred when the model was in the ‘resting’ state, blocking the processing of external perceptual information.

They suggest this may be an explanation for innattentional or change blindness, the phenomenon where we fail to notice obvious changes because we have our attention focused elsewhere.

Most computer models of ‘high-level’ psychological processes tend to be abstracted, so the model bears only a general resemblance to the underlying biology.

Dehaene and Changeux’s model is interesting, because it attempts to simulate the biology of brain cells, while producing effects relevant to conscious experience.

Link to jargon-free summary.
Link to full text of paper.
Example 1 and example 2 of change blindness in action.

Free events: State of Mind at LSE

lse_image.jpgLondon’s LSE is running an exhibition and a series of free debates, where both artists and scientists will tackle some of the hot-topics in contemporary psychology.

The exhibition runs from 28th April to 29th May 2005 and involves a number of artists, including Rod Dickinson who has re-enacted a number of historical events, including Milgram’s conformity experiments.

The first debate in the series is on April 28th, where neuropsychologist Chris Frith and artist Abigail Reynolds will discuss Mapping the mind: a new phrenology.

Artist in residence Ruth Maclennan is organising the series and the rest of the events look equally compelling, so make sure you get there early.

Link to State of Mind website.

Mescaline and the Member of Parliament

mayhew.jpgA comedy fansite has published the transcript of an unbroadcast television experiment that took place in 1955. Psychiatrist Humphry Osmond gave Labour MP Christopher Mayhew the hallucinogenic drug mescaline and the results were filmed.

…but now I’m conscious also of remembering that the waves are going to come back, which, er, were originally physical and… mental, but are waves of consciousness, and now I’m conscious of that time disappearing, so I’m watching the camera, I’m watching Tubby [the camera man]… Tubby is disappearing in time… (PAUSE) Now I’m back with you, and I see I’ve said something rather strange to you, probably.

Link to transcript of Panorama’s mescaline experiment (Thanks Arp!)