World’s radio on mental health

globe_white_bg.jpgThis week’s BBC Radio 4 world radio roundup show A World in Your Ear featured highlights from recent broadcasts on mental health from around the globe.

In an excerpt from Sudan Radio counsellor Moses Mayuen Akuein discusses his work with trauma victims caught up in Darfur conflict, while Real Jamaican Radio discusses maintaining good mental health on a phone-in programme.

The show features numerous other highlights, including the incredibly moving story of Howard Dully (featured previously on Mind Hacks), who was lobotomised at the age of 12 and attempts to make sense of his experiences as an adult.

Link to A World in Your Ear webpage.
realaudio of programme.

The curious case of Morgellons disease

morgellons_article_image.jpgMorgellons is claimed to be a new form of skin disease by its sufferers but has been largely ignored by the medical community and some have claimed it is, in reality, a psychotic syndrome akin to delusional parasitosis.

Outraged by the accusation that their symptoms may be a result of mental illness, proponents are producing fibrous outgrowths from their troubling skin lesions as evidence of its reality.

Although previously just a fringe concern, in the last few weeks Morgellons has gained a huge amount of publicity, with TV reports, magazine articles, newspaper stories and posts on some of the internet’s most popular sites.

Nevertheless, Morgellons challenges more than just the ability of the medical community to make sense of physical symptoms, and is a classic example of a syndrome on the borderlands of medicine.

Continue reading “The curious case of Morgellons disease”

Reactive Colours launches

reactive_colours_logo.jpgInnovative autism community software project Reactive Colours had its official launch the other day, and is now sporting a new website and numerous ‘reactivities’ to download and play online.

The project is designed to encourage individuals with autistic spectrum differences and learning disabilities to use computers, through which they can develop mouse, keyboard, programming and screen skills and deliberately emphasise the characteristics of computing that are of potential significance to people on the autism spectrum.

The project is based on open-source principles and intended to be more than just a free download. Interested people are encouraged to contribute their own programming skills to the project.

The input of people with autism and Asperger syndrome is particularly encouraged, as they are likely to have the best insight into what sort of activities will engage those on the autism spectrum.

Mind Hacks covered Reactive Colours last year where we interviewed project leader Wendy Keay-Bright about the development of the idea.

Link to Reactive Colours website and community.
Link to Reactive Colours project description.

Disclaimer: I am an open licensing advisor to the project.

Open-access science moves forward

PLoS_logo_blue.jpgA couple of encouraging pieces of news for those following the progress of open-access science journals: The open access medical journal PLoS Clinical Trials has just launched, and recent research shows that science published in open journals is more widely cited and distributed.

PLoS Clinical Trials aims to publish studies into the effectiveness of treatments, regardless of whether they show an effect or not (to avoid the publication bias whereby trials showing ‘no effect’ are dismissed as uninteresting).

The journal also demands that trials are registered before they are submitted for publication, to avoid organisations hiding the results of trials which don’t support the effectiveness of their treatment.

Furthermore, PLoS Clinical Trials does not rely on advertising from drug companies or other vested interests, meaning they are less likely to be influenced by any outside commercial pressure.

In particular, these biases have been seen as a major problem for the effective evaluation of psychiatric drugs in particular, leading to the reform of procedures for publishing and registering drug company funded studies by some journals.

The article on the advantage of publishing on open-access journals is appropriately published in PLoS Biology, and shows that the advantage even holds over journals that make their articles freely available after a delay of 6 months.

Link to PLoS Clinical Trials.
Link to editorial ‘Open Access Increases Citation Rate’ from PLoS Biology
Link to research article from PLoS Biology.

2006-05-19 Spike activity

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


As much sci-fi brain art as you can shake a stick at (via BrainWaves)

…and one amazing picture of neuronanoart (via Neurofuture).

Professor Alan Harvey discusses neural transplantation on ABC Radio’s In Conversation.

The New York Times on the neuroscience of chronic pain.

BBC Five Live broadcasts an investigation into illicit drugs on UK psychiatric wards (called ‘Drugs on the Brain’).

1 in 20 neothlithic skulls show evidence of early neuroweapon injuries.

This week’s New Scientist has a letter on the treatment of ADHD and the ethics of conformity.

PLoS Biology has a paper on how a relatively simple computational model can produce a realistic simulation of the brain’s visual system.

Cognitive Daily’s Dave Munger writes on how the psychology of uncertainty can effect the economics of conservation.

Chocolate is cold comfort

chocolate_chunks.jpgA review of scientific studies has found that chocolate, long used as an emotional pick-me-up, more often prolongs a bad mood rather than helps it.

In an article currently in press for the Journal of Affective Disorders, psychiatrist Gordon Parker and his team gathered evidence from decades of studies into the mood-altering effects of the cocoa-based confectionary.

Sadly, for those hoping for a high-street mood lift, they conclude that any positive effects are limited to the anticipation and sensory properties of the popular foodstuff. Carbohydrate-heavy sweets are likely to prolong any feelings of low mood.

Link to abstract of study ‘Mood state effects of chocolate’.
pdf of full-text article.