New series of BBC All in the Mind

raj_persaud.jpgLast Tuesday saw a new series of the BBC version of All in the Mind hit the airwaves.

It’s broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and hosted by psychiatrist Raj Persaud, and is quite separate from the ABC Radio National version – also called All in the Mind – just to add to the confusion.

The BBC version has a different format to the Radio National All in the Mind, as it typically covers several topics in one week, sacrificing depth for breadth and variety.

All of the editions of the BBC programme are archived on the website as realaudio streams, and the first programme covers the psychology of negotation, happiness and a relatively new method of brain scanning called magnetoencephalography or MEG.

Link to BBC Radio 4 ‘All in the Mind’ website with realaudio archive.

Psychiatry’s dark debate, 1942

The latest issue of the History of Psychiatry journal contains an article by psychologist Jay Joseph, discussing a disturbing debate in a 1942 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, over whether the ‘feebleminded’ should be killed.

The debate was held between neurologist Robert Foster Kennedy, one-time president of the American Neurological Association, and psychiatrist Leo Kanner, famous for his work on autism.

In an article entitled ‘The problem of social control of the congenital defective: education, sterilization and euthanasia’, Kennedy made the argument that ‘defective’ or ‘feebleminded’ children, reaching the age of five, should be examined by a medical review board and if found to have ‘no future or hope of one’, should be killed, suposedly for the good of society.

Kanner argued strongly against this position in a reply entitled ‘Exoneration of the feebleminded’, although Joseph notes that he did believe sterilisation was appropriate for those ‘intellectually or emotionally unfit to rear children’.

Perhaps most shocking was an unsigned editorial in the same issue, siding with Kennedy’s ideas in the debate.

Joseph is a stark critic of genetic research into mental illness, and so perhaps it is not surprising that he finishes the article warning that such research could support similar views today.

Whatever you think of Joseph’s take on the issue, however, it is surprising to learn that respected clinicians in America were supporting eugenics during the the time of World War Two.

Link to summary of the paper ‘The 1942 ‚Äòeuthanasia‚Äô debate in the American Journal of Psychiatry’.

2005-07-29 Spike activity

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


New York Times on going through all the stages of a relationship through the medium of text messaging.

An elegant study shows that the brain ‘shuts down’ certain areas when we blink.

A writer’s perception of the psychology of the London Underground in the wake of the bombings.

A guy with synaesthesia produces images of music and maps out colours of letters on a keyboard. Thanks Simon!

Old skool neuroscience tech up for sale on ebay (via BoingBoing).

Tyneside to lead stroke research in UK.

Review of Mind Hacks from the MaineE Linux Users Group. Thanks Brian!

Article on developments in understanding chronic fatigue syndrome.

A slew of great articles from PsyBlog this week:
* No performance enhancement from caffeine?
* Psychological differences between men and women. Take note BBC!
* Link to a Guardian piece on the psychology of stage magic.

Researchers think that hand gestures are linked to better recall of language skills during speaking.

Propranolol, a drug usually used to treat high blood pressure, may block out traumatic memories.

UPDATE: Programme on NPR radio discusses the neuroscience of meditation as discussed previously on Mind Hacks. Thanks David!

Drug use in 2025

foresight.jpg The U.K.’s Office of Science and Technology Foresight programme has published a free report “Drugs Futures 2025?” that seeks answers to how we can best manage the use of psychoactive substances in the future for the betterment of society. The report points to three areas that will be affected by our rapidly growing understanding of how substances act in the brain: treatment for mental health, drug addiction and the use of cognitive enhancers like modafinil and ritalin. The report draws on 15 state-of-the-science reviews, from experimental psychology, to genomics, to social policy that are also free to download.

iPods increase likelihood of musical hallucinations?

headphones.jpgPsychiatrist Victor Aziz has suggested that some iPod users are experiencing musical hallucinations owing to the constant repetition of favourite songs.

Dr Aziz was recently featured in a New York Times article discussing musical hallucinations. This story was touted as ‘brain becomes an iPod’ because musical hallucinations can take the form of complete songs or melodies.

In an interesting twist, however, Aziz suggests the use of personal music players may lead to musical hallucinations in some people.

This is not as far fetched as it sounds. A recent brain scanning study used a technique where songs were silenced for short intervals when played, and showed that the auditory cortex remained active when people continued ‘hearing’ the silenced tune.

The constant repetition of the same music may produce a similar effect, perhaps leading to the hallucinations.

In July’s issue of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry Aziz and colleague Nick Warner reviewed 30 cases of musical hallucinations in older people and found the hallucinations could be very specific and distinct:

The hymn ‘Abide with me’ was clearly the most frequent music heard. In 2/3 of cases religious music predominated, with Christmas music also common. In most cases the music took the form of solo voice (male or female) with instrumental backing. Two people could identify the singer (George Formby and Luciano Pavarotti).

Link to story ‘IPod hallucinations face acid test’.
Link to story ‘iPods could make you hallucinate’ from the London Evening Standard.
Link to New York times article ‘Neuron Network Goes Awry, and Brain Becomes an IPod’.

NewSci special on deception

ns_20050730.jpgFor the third week in a row, New Scientist is full of mind and brain articles. This week, a special on the science of lying and deception.

The issue covers the psychology of lying, but also deception in the wider sense.

Mediums and fortune tellers are put under the spotlight. Even if some mediums are genuine, there must be many who aren’t, and yet still seem successful to their clients. One article analyses ‘cold reading’ and considers the techniques that could be used to give the impression of supernatural insight.

Another article looks at the psychology of stage magic, and the interview puts Derren Brown, television mind-manipulator (and Bristol University psychology graduate), in the hot seat.

Also for the third week in a row, none of the article are online, so it’s hard cash or the library for this one.

Link to New Scientist contents.

Scientist posts own brain-tumour surgery pics

tumour_surgery.jpgScientist David La Puma recently had brain surgery to remove a meningioma. He describes the experience on his blog, and has uploaded pictures of the operation as a Flickr photo set.

As you might expect from a dedicated and inquisitive scientist, the photo set is fully commented, and in the more ‘anatomical’ of the pictures (this one is great), all the parts of the brain are labelled.

Wishing you a speedy recovery David. Many thanks for a fascinating project.

Photo set 1 and photo set 2 of brain tumour removal surgery.
Link to David La Puma’s blog.