Sport psychology

supplement_sport.jpgThe Lancet medical journal has published a special sports supplement that for one month is available to view free as an e-magazine.

The 76 page publication includes features on aggression in sport (p.35); depression in sport (p.41), including comment on double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes’ admission earlier this year that she deliberately cut her arms with scissors during a frustrating period in her career when she was unable to train because of injury; and risk taking in sport (p.38) – with discussion of the idea that extreme sports enthusiasts may use danger to kick-start their lower-than-average dopamine levels.

The risk inherent in climbing such mountains carries its own reward, deep and abiding, because it provides as profound a sense of self-knowledge as anything else on earth. A mountain is perilous, true; but it is also redemptive“. David Breashears, mountaineer and creator of IMAX film Everest, speaking about mountain climbing. From the article by Matt Pain and Matthew A Pain on risk taking.

Link to the supplement.
Link to high wire walker Philippe Petit talking to Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs.
Link to editor Pia Pini talking about her favourite highlights from the supplement.

Research and remote peoples

NYT_anthropology.jpgThe New York Times reports on the interaction between isolated communities and the researchers which visit them. Remote peoples are often involved in psychology, anthropology and medical science research, although the NYT article focuses on how the researchers are regarded by their participants.

Another member of the tiny and reclusive Ariaal tribe, Leketon Lenarendile, scanned a handful of pictures laid before him by a researcher whose unstated goal was to gauge whether his body image had been influenced by outside media. “The girls like the ones like this,” he said, repeating the exercise later and pointing to a rather slender man much like himself. “I don’t know why they were asking me that,” he said.

Link to article ‘Remote and Poked, Anthropology’s Dream Tribe’.

Shadows, agency and action


“We know that we are agents and that we are successfully causing the world to change. But as actors we move through the world like shadows glimpsed only occasionally from the corner of an eye.”

From a recently published paper by neuropsychologist Chris Frith on the links between the neuroscience of action and delusions of control.

Link to abstract of Frith paper.

2005-12-16 Spike activity

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


British and American smiles may be different, claims book author (thanks David!).

Cognitive Daily on the neglected area of self-discipline and its importance in acheivement.

Author Jay Ingram on the evidence that subliminal ads influence behaviour.

URB597, an antidepressant drug in development, increases brain levels of chemicals found in cannabis.

The Huge Entity discusess ‘Sex, emotion and the female amygdala‘.

Face to Face: The Science of Reading Faces: Transcript and video of an interview with psychologist Paul Ekman.

NASA works with Kim Peek, inspiration for movie Rain Main to better understand Peek’s remarkable talents.

Monitoring real-time activation of pain centres in a brain-scanner can help control pain.

The State has an account of a woman who developed ‘foreign accent syndrome‘ after a stroke.

Is George Bush a secret neuroscientist?

BushBrain.jpgAlthough the president of the USA is frequently villified for being a bit dim, I recently found a paper on “Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex: A role in reward-based decision making” authored by George Bush and colleagues.

The paper claims that George Bush, the first author, is a researcher from Harvard Medical School, rather than the Oval Office.

You never see them both in the same place together, so it’s possible that they are the same person, although I suspect it’s actually George W’s dad putting his retirement to good use.

Maybe he’s curious about what drives his son’s own decision making style?

Racism, mental illness and the limits of diagnosis

hate_knuckles.jpgThe Washington Post reports that a group led by psychologist Edward Dunbar are pushing to get extreme prejudice, such as intense racism or homophobia, diagnosable as a mental illness.

It may seem a little ridiculous to medicalise what are essentially extreme opinions, but the move is interesting for what it says about psychiatric diagnosis in general. In particular, it cuts to the very idea of what defines a mental disorder.

For example, the diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia are based around two ideas:

The first is that there are behaviours and experiences present that are atypical or culturally anomalous (e.g. ‘hearing voices’ or delusions), the second is that the disorder involves some form of disability – in the case of schizophrenia, the criteria specify social or occupational dysfunction.

It could be argued that extreme racism could involve both. Extreme racism is indeed uncommon, and in today’s multicultural society, might involve a significant social deficit if contact with other races or cultures is consistently avoided or becomes distressing.

In fact, considering that about 11% of healthy adults score above the average of delusional inpatients on measures of delusional thinking, it could be argued that extreme racism (at least in some countries) might be more atypical than the sort of beliefs that are typically diagnosed as signs of mental disorder.

In other words, it’s quite hard to refute the idea that extreme racism isn’t a mental disorder within the general philosophy of the current diagnostic system.

This highlights the social relativity of the diagnostic system, which you might either use to argue for the inclusion of a new diagnosis of ‘racist disorder’, or, perhaps, more realistically, to draw attention to the fact that the current system does not adequately define mental pathology in all cases.

Link to article ‘Psychiatry Ponders Whether Extreme Bias Can Be an Illness’.

Do americans have a propensity for hypomania?

firework_dark_background.jpgThe New York Times has a short piece on Peter Whybrow’s and John Gartner’s theory that Americans have a greater genetic propensity for hypomania, the elevated mood state sometimes found in bipolar disorder.

This, they suggest, explains aspects of American culture such as focus on energetic enthusiasm and respect for new ideas.

Interestingly, recent genetic evidence is now pointing to the fact that genes likely to be present in people diagnosed with schizophrenia overlap with those found in people diagnosed with bipolar disorder, suggesting that these may not be distinct disorders, but exist on a continuum.

If Whybrow and Gartner are right, therefore, might Americans be more likely to show traits of psychosis and schizotypy as well?

This may not necessarily be a bad thing, as high levels of these traits have been linked to greater mathematical ability and creativity.

Link to article ‘The Hypomanic American’.