Encephalon 40

Welcome to the 40th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival.

This edition covers some of the best of the last fortnight’s mind and brain writing from around the net, so kick back, relax and see what fires you up.

We start with an announcement of a birth. The neuroscience blogs OmniBrain and Retrospectacle are gone but not forgotten because the two authors have combined forces to jointly write for their new project Of Two Minds which launches today!

While we’re enjoying the nostalgia and looking toward to the future what better time to remind ourselves that the history of the cognitive sciences is an essential method for understanding the past, present and the road ahead.

Advances in the History of Psychology has recently had a series examining the limits of what we should include in the history of our collective discipline. A Wikipedia user recently added a huge amount of material on medieval Islamic scientists to the history of psychology entry, inspiring an article and a remarkably thoughtful discussion from historians about what counts as ‘our history’.

In a similar vein, Lehrer’s recent book, ‘Proust was a Neuroscientist’, sparked an analysis on whether he’s ‘doing history’, if we can easily say what it means to do history at all.

In an exploration of the more recent past, Channel N hosts a video lecture by Dr. Claudia Wassmann on the history of neuroimaging from the nineteenth century to the present, and its applications in psychiatric research.

Perhaps thinking more about preserving our personal history, Sharp Brains sifts fact from fiction from the recent media hype surrounding cognitive training for the ageing brain with a guest article from Josh Steinerman.

From the same source comes an article on one of the key concepts in understanding how the brain changes and adapts, namely brain plasticity. Remaining mentally flexible is also thought to be important to cognitive fitness and a final article looks at the importance of breaking our mental routines as part of a brain health programme.

While these articles tackle cognitive decline through normal ageing Brain Blogger describes a journey of recovery from brain injury and the process of dealing with the subsequent deficits in a six part series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that tackles everything from detection to techniques for managing the difficulties.

Remaining in the clinical world, The Mouse Trap tackles some new science surrounding the historical connections between schizophrenia and autism, suggesting that they are opposite disorders of the social brain. Looking this time at addiction, a further post discusses the famous ‘rat park‘ experiment on possible environmental factors in addiction.

Finally, the Mouse Trap looks at the effect of colour labels in Russian on colour perception suggesting a possible re-birth of the hypothesis that language shapes our world.

On a lighter note (excuse the pun) World of Psychology finds a webcomic that touches on the use of light therapy to treat mood disorders and uses the opportunity to discuss some of the scientific research behind this little known but effective treatment.

From sight to scent as The Neurocritic covers a study that used fMRI to investigate the effect of perfume on the brain and its links to sexual arousal. The experiment used the iconic perfume Chanel No. 5, one of the most well-known brands in the world, and in a subsequent post, The Neurocritic tackles the use and abuse of cognitive neuroscience in ‘neuromarketing‘.

Staying within the corporate realm, Ionian Enchantment takes a critical look at recent attempts to explain corporate behaviour with the principles of evolutionary psychology and concludes that when you have a hammer, everything seems like a nail, even when you might be better off with another tool altogether.

Perhaps more informative might be a study covered by Not Exactly Rocket Science where similar brain activation was found in a brain scanning study of both humans and chimps during vocal communication, suggesting our speech areas might not be quite so unique after all.

On a completely different note, Adam Kolber (who you may know from the Neuroethics and Law blog) has written a couple of guest articles on the psychology of punishing crime. The first looks at whether we should take into account the subjective experience of the punishment on the convicted. For example, should a someone who is claustrophobic be given a shorter prison sentence because it would be additionally unpleasant? The second article discusses what implication follows from the recognition that the same punishment might not be equal for all.

Finally, the mighty Cognitive Daily looks at a whether children are better than adults in their ability to recognise faces from other races. The findings give an interesting twist to the 7 Seconds lyric “And when a child is born into this world, it has no concept of the tone of skin it’s living in”.

J’assume les raisons qui nous poussent de changer tout,
J’aimerais qu’on oublie leur couleur pour qu’ils esperent.

The next edition of Encephalon will be at Pure Pedantry on March 17th.

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