2009-03-13 Spike activity

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

The Psychologist has a free bonus edition that collects some of its most popular articles.

A newly released report from the UN argues we should legalise illicit drugs to tackle organised crime.

The New York Times reports ‘Religious Thoughts and Feelings Not Limited to One Part of Brain’. No shit Sherlock.

The battle for Broca’s Area is expertly covered by Talking Brains.

Neurophilosophy has an excellent piece on the neuroscience of motivated forgetting, related to Freud’s theory of repression.

How could MDMA (ecstasy) help anxiety disorders? A neurobiological rationale. A highly speculative but interesting article from The Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The LA Times has a luke-warm article on our sense of time.

Prescribing hormone patches for women with ‘female sexual dysfunction‘ is put under the spotlight by Dr Petra.

The New York Times has an excellent piece on happiness research, or more accurately “a specific type of emotional and behavioral prediction”.

Early intellectual gap found for kids of <a href="http://sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/41529/title/Early_intellectual_gap_found_for_kids_of_older_fathers
“>older fathers aged 50 and over at conception, reports Science News.

Science Daily on a study finding that immigrants earn more money if they change their name from an obviously foreign one.

Mental illness doesn’t predict violence, finds biggest study to published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

New Scientist has a Q&A on a ‘mass hysteria‘ outbreak in Nicaragua.

A priest jailed for child sexual abuse on the basis of ‘recovered memories‘ is having his case reviewed, reports The Nation.

Neurocase reports a case of a man who can speak without Broca’s area after tumor surgery.

A fantastic article on endangered languages with audio samples is available from Seed Magazine.

Seed Magazine also has a fantastic article on art and synaesthesia.

The official journal of the The International Neuropsychiatric Association is open-acess. Kudos to them!

New Scientist has an interview with psychiatrist Simon Wessely on mind-body interactions in illness.

Is Fraud Contagious? asks Newsweek with a look at a recent Dan Ariely study.

SciAm Mind Matters blog has an article on a neat study finding that actions, <a href="Metaphors of cleanliness
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=embodied-metaphor-moral”>metaphors and moral judgements can influence each other.

I thoroughly recommend Neurophilosophy for the most sensible coverage on the ‘reading perceived position from hippocampal activation study’ – badly described in the media as ‘mind reading’.

SciAm’s Jesse Bering column has an excellent piece on terror management and mortality salience.

CIA Awkwardly Debriefs Obama On Creation Of Crack Cocaine. Conspiracy comedy from The Onion.

When I get that feeling, I have sexual sneezing

Photo by Flickr user Mussels. Click for sourceA few months ago, a surgeon and a psychiatrist wrote an article for the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on cases of sneezing triggered by sexual thoughts and orgasm. The subsequent media coverage meant that the authors were contacted by members of the public who experienced similarly unusual sneezing triggers.

The researchers have written a fascinating follow-up letter to the same journal of summarise the reaction they got from their article, and the new cases they’ve discovered.

We surmised that sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm may be under-reported. Subsequent media coverage has lead to many more members of the public stating that they also have this condition. Reports have been on the JRSM website, on internet-based media fora or by unsolicited contact with the lead author. In total the number of people we found reporting sneezing induced by sexual ideation through these disparate methods is 146 (which includes seven doctors), with a further seven reporting sneezing induced by orgasm.

These triggers of sneezing appear to be mutually exclusive; people report either sneezing upon sexual ideation or sneezing upon orgasm. Of those reporting sneezing upon sexual ideation 112 (77%) were men, as were all seven of those reporting sneezing with orgasm, but the gender disproportion may represent sexual bias in the reporting rather than the prevalence of these conditions. Nevertheless, these figures do show that these conditions are not infrequent, and imply that perhaps thousands of people in the UK are affected; many stated that they had never discussed this phenomenon and were relieved to hear that they were not alone.

We also wish to report that two people contacted us to state that several members of their family sneeze on a full stomach; this now doubles the number of families in the medical literature reported to have this as a trigger of sneezing. Interestingly, two of the people who reported sneezing on sexual ideation also admitted to a family history. One lady reported that her brother had the same phenomenon. A man reported that both his brothers and his father also had this. This implies, as we suggested in our original article, that all the unusual triggers of sneezing – light, full stomach, sexual ideation or orgasm – may be inherited in an autosomal dominant manner.

That last sentence is interesting, because a confirmed autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance means that it is likely to be due to changes in a single gene.

This doesn’t mean a single gene has evolved to trigger or prevent sneezing when people have sexual thoughts – this would likely be a ‘side-effect’ some other useful function.

Interestingly, sneezing in response to sunlight is known to be inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern.

Consequently, it has been given the name Autosomal dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome, or the ACHOO syndrome.

Link to PubMed entry for original article.
Link to follow-up letter.

Projected at high speed for an unknown reason

I like this sentence in the summary from a recent paper on an unusual penetrating head injury:

We present a unique instance of a severe, high-energy, penetrating orbitocranial injury caused by a solid metallic rod that corresponded to the spray valve lever handle of a kitchen sink pre-rinse spray tap, which was fractured and projected at high speed for an unknown reason.

Link to PubMed entry for article.

Seven tactile illusions

New Scientist has got a nice feature online where they explain seven touch illusions you can try yourself, with the explanations for how they’re tricking your brain.

My favourite is probably the most simple, the ‘Aristotle illusion’:

One of the oldest tactile illusions is the Aristotle illusion. It is easy to perform. Cross your fingers, then touch a small spherical object such as a dried pea, and it feels like you are touching two peas. This also works if you touch your nose.

This is an example of what is called “perceptual disjunction”. It arises because your brain has failed to take into account that you have crossed your fingers. Because the pea (or nose) touches the outside of both fingers at the same time – something that rarely happens – your brain interprets it as two separate objects.

It’s a fantastic little collection and it follows on from NewSci’s recent collection of five auditory you can check out online.

Link to NewSci seven tactile illusions.

Far from the madding crowd

Photo by Flickr user aeminphilly. Click for sourceThe Economist has an excellent piece on crowd psychology and why group behaviour is essential in calming down street confrontations before they turn violent.

Crowds are often associated with senseless aggression, and perhaps the most widely quoted, and most colourful example, is from Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 book The Crowd.

He wrote that crowds showed several special characteristics such as “impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgment and of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of the sentiments, and others besides – which are almost always observed in beings belonging to inferior forms of evolution – in women, savages, and children, for instance”.

You can imagine how he went down at parties.

Nevertheless, this association between crowds and violence has remained a research focus for many years. Concepts such as deindividuation – a reduction in the feeling of personal identity and responsibility – are invoked to explain why ‘bad things’ supposedly happen when people congregate in groups. This also typically includes explaining why ‘bad things’ are allowed to happen without people intervening – the so-called bystander effect

The Economist article is interesting because it looks at research which seems to turn these assumptions on their head.

It discusses the work of psychologist Mark Levine, who studies crowd behaviour and has found that crowds actually act to reduce violence in many situations.

He has been analysing CCTV footage of incidents that control room operators thought might turn violent, not all of which did.

His first observation was that bystanders frequently intervene in incipient fights. The number of escalating gestures did not rise significantly as the size of the group increased, contrary to what the bystander effect would predict. Instead, it was the number of de-escalating gestures that grew. A bigger crowd, in other words, was more likely to suppress a fight.

Some incidents did end in violence, of course. To try to work out why, Dr Levine and his colleagues constructed probability trees to help them calculate the likelihood that a violent incident such as a punch being thrown would occur with each successive intervention by a bystander. Using these trees, they were generally able to identify a flashpoint at which the crowd determined which way the fight would go.

Judging the fight to begin with the aggressor’s first pointing gesture towards his target, the researchers found that the first intervention usually involved a bystander trying to calm the protagonist down. Next, another would advise the target not to respond. If a third intervention reinforced crowd solidarity, sending the same peaceful message, then a violent outcome became unlikely. But if it did not—if the third bystander vocally took sides, say—then violence was much more likely.

It’s a really eye-opening piece that’s well worth reading in full as it overturns both some common popular assumptions and some well-worn psychological clich√©s.

Link to Economist on ‘The kindness of crowds’.

Delusions of pregnancy

Photo by Flickr user Martine. Click for sourceThere is a small but fascinating medical literature on delusional pregnancy that reports cases of people who, in the context of psychotic mental illness, come to believe they are expecting a child. Interestingly, the cases are not solely women of child bearing age – delusional pregnancy has also been reported in men and the elderly.

In fact, almost as many cases of delusional pregnancy have been reported in men as in women. Unfortunately, no studies have been done on how common this delusion is or what it is associated with, so it’s not clear whether men are equally as likely to have a delusions of pregnancy, or whether it’s just because these cases seem more unusual and is more likely to be published.

Below is one of the cases from a classic 1994 article on delusion of pregnancy from The British Journal of Psychiatry:

B was a 39-year-old, single, female schizophrenic patient with treatment-resistant psychotic symptoms including delusions of pregnancy of 20 years’ duration and amenorrhoea for the previous 18 years. On examination she was convinced that she had a triplet pregnancy – two boys and a girl – of four months gestational age. She reported that they moved about inside her abdomen and also talked to her.

When she was 19, her dancing partner kissed her and she believed that he had been repeatedly impregnating her by means of the same kiss. Regarding her previous pregnancies she believed that their father did not want her to deliver them and hence he ‘withdrew’ them. She did not have any physical symptoms of pregnancy other than amenorrhoea and attributed this to the ‘supernatural nature’ of the pregnancy.

In a curious twist, a recent article reported on a patient who had the delusional denial of pregnancy – where she was clearly heavily pregnant but had the delusion that she was not.

It’s important to note that these cases are not the same as ‘phantom pregnancies’, something medically named pseudocyesis, where a women can show the signs of expecting a child (swollen breasts, enlarged abdomen etc) without actually being pregnant.

This is not a delusion, as the patient can be well aware that they are not actually pregnant or will accept the possibility that they are not when the results of medical tests come though.

Indeed, ‘phantom pregnancy’ can be due to clear disturbance to the hormones – one case was due to a brain tumour that disrupted the endocrine system – but other cases seem to be related to the strong desire to be pregnant.

However, even this has its male equivalent. Couvade syndrome is where men experience some of the physical effects of pregnancy (morning sickness, aches, weight gain) in response to their partner’s pregnancy.


Link to classic 1994 paper on delusion of pregnancy.

Perfectionism and the impossibility of a perfect world

Photo by Flickr user Adam Foster. Click for sourceThe Boston Herald has an interesting article on perfectionism – a pathological pursuit of usually unobtainable high standards that is strongly linked to anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Perfectionism is variously described as a personality trait or a type of dysfunctional assumption where people feel their self-worth is dependent on 100% or perfect success.

It can be quite hard to shift, owing to the fact that some people find it hard to see why doing something perfectly isn’t a useful goal to aim for. However, when a desire for perfection is over-applied it tends to lead to harsh self-criticism and is self-defeating – ironically, people often perform worse as a result.

Psychologists Roz Shafran and Warren Mansell published an influential article on the role of perfectionism in mental illness in 2001, that really opened many people’s eyes to the importance of understanding perfectionist tendencies in psychopathology.

The Boston Globe article is a little more of a gentle introduction, but does a great job of succinctly describing the personal impact of perfectionism, some of the research in the area, and current approaches to treating the problem:

“Perfectionism is a phobia of mistake-making,” said Jeff Szymanski, executive director of the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation, which is based in Boston. “It is the feeling that ‘If I make a mistake, it will be catastrophic.’ “

Striving for perfection is fine, said Smith College psychology professor Randy Frost, a leading researcher on perfectionism. The issue is how you interpret your own inevitable mistakes and failings. Do they make you feel bad about yourself in a global sense? Does a missed shot in tennis make you slam your racket to the ground? Do you think anything less than 100 percent might as well be zero?

Link to ‘When perfectionism becomes a problem’.
Link to review article on perfectionism and psychopathology.
Link to PubMed entry for same.

A.C. Grayling on regulating armed robots

Philosopher A.C. Grayling has a just-released opinion piece on the New Scientist site arguing that we should regulate armed military robots before they are responsible for, presumably, what would otherwise be classified as war crimes.

As we reported in 2007, a military robot has already malfunctioned and ended up killing nine people with gunfire.

Grayling notes that military robots are already deployed on ‘active duty’ and that we need to regulate the consequences of an increasingly mechanised military that relies on artificial intelligence technology to engage its firepower.

Robot sentries patrol the borders of South Korea and Israel. Remote-controlled aircraft mount missile attacks on enemy positions. Other military robots are already in service, and not just for defusing bombs or detecting landmines: a coming generation of autonomous combat robots capable of deep penetration into enemy territory raises questions about whether they will be able to discriminate between soldiers and innocent civilians…

In the next decades, completely autonomous robots might be involved in many military, policing, transport and even caring roles. What if they malfunction? What if a programming glitch makes them kill, electrocute, demolish, drown and explode, or fail at the crucial moment? Whose insurance will pay for damage to furniture, other traffic or the baby, when things go wrong? The software company, the manufacturer, the owner?

Most thinking about the implications of robotics tends to take sci-fi forms: robots enslave humankind, or beautifully sculpted humanoid machines have sex with their owners and then post-coitally tidy the room and make coffee. But the real concern lies in the areas to which the money already flows: the military and the police.

Link to NewSci piece by A.C. Grayling (via David Dobbs).

Delusions of a second jaw

Image from Wikipedia. Click for sourceThere’s a brief but interesting case study in the General Hospital Psychiatry journal of a patient who is described as having ‘extremely grotesque somatic delusions’.

The case was a 54-year-old man. He had no past history or family history of psychiatric disorders. His social and occupational histories were quite normal. In August of 2005, he felt that “something has stuck between under front teeth.” From September, he felt that “there is another lower jaw with teeth between the real upper jaw and real lower jaw, and there is another tongue between the false lower jaw and the real lower jaw”; “the teeth on the false lower jaw are growing steadily”; “I try to cut the false teeth off with the real teeth, but the false teeth do not stop growing”; “the false teeth melt into holes in the false lower jaw, but later grow again from those holes”; “something like spaghetti is coming into and going out from the holes” and “the false lower jaw rolls up and is coming into the throat.” Because of these annoying sensations, he had mild depressive symptoms such as depressed mood, decrease in appetite, restlessness and fatigue. Despite these symptoms, he was able to continue working.

The patient was treated with the antipsychotic drug risperidone and reportedly recovered well.

As part of his assessment he was also given a SPECT brain scan, that found reduced blood flow in the temporal and parietal lobes.

Although still not well studied, various other single case studies have found that delusions concerning body size, shape or transformation correlate with changes in parietal lobe function.

Owing to the role of the parietal lobe in maintaining our ‘body image’, it is thought that problems in this area could lead to unusual experiences of body distortion which could, in part, spark delusional beliefs.

Link to case study.
Link to PubMed entry for same.

A brief history of aspirin

Wired has a brief article on the history of aspirin, which contains the surprising fact that the same pharmacist who first synthesised the popular headache pill also first synthesised heroin.

1899: Felix Hoffmann, a young pharmacist working for the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, patents a new pain reliever. The trademark name is aspirin.

Hoffmann, who was said to be seeking an effective pain reliever for his father’s rheumatism, successfully synthesized acetylsalicylic acid in August 1897. It would later be marketed as aspirin ‚Äî “a” for “acetyl” and “spirin” for Spirea, the genus name of the source plant for salicylic acid, the pain-relieving agent.

That August, incidentally, was an especially fertile period for Hoffmann: The month also saw him synthesize heroin, which he accomplished accidentally while attempting to acetylate morphine to produce codeine. Obviously, that discovery didn’t pan out like aspirin.

It turns out that aspirin was a huge money-spinner for pharmaceutical company Bayer owing to persuasive marketing and powerful patent lawyers.

Link to Wired on the birth of aspirin.

The best of psychology and neuroscience on Twitter

Many thanks for sending or posting all your suggestions for psychology and neuroscience Twitter feeds to follow. After watching the streams for a few days, here are my suggestions for some of the best:

Probably the single best mind and brain Twitter feed I’ve yet found. By the author of the excellent Neurophilosophy blog. Diverse, regularly updated, fascinating.

One of the neuroscience editors for Nature, who used to write for the underperforming ‘Action Potential’ blog. However, he’s really hit his stride since moving on to better things and he posts a load of interesting material to his feed, including live updates from a recent conference. Has a slight neurobiological tendency.

The Association for Psychological Science’s Twitter feed focuses on new discoveries and association members in the news. The ‘members in the news’ posts usually lead to good articles but you’ll need to follow the link to find out what they’re about as it often doesn’t say.

Wonderful radio show that keeps going from strength to strength and now posts to Twitter. Previews of upcoming programmes and commentary from the programme’s switched on host Natasha Mitchell.

A Spanish cognitive scientist who blogs in Spanish but Tweets in English. A high signal to noise ratio and with only 15 followers at the moment, one of Twitter’s best kept secrets.

A Dutch psychiatrist who you may know from the blog of the same name. Links to interesting mind, brain and mental health snippets with the occasional bonus tweet in Dutch about, well… I’ve no idea.

A psychotherapist who often posts useful and interesting links to mind and brain news, as well as the occasional productivity and successful living tip.

Like being rained on with psychology and neuroscience content. A high volume, stream of consciousness feed, but luckily a stream with plenty of gold nuggets in it.

I have no idea who or what mentalhealthuk are, but they refeed pretty much every mention of mental health in the media to their Twitter account. High volume, but very complete.

I’m sure there are others that I’ve not discovered or who have been quiet since I’ve been watching, so I’ll post here when I find further gems.

Please note that the Mind Hacks feed @mindhacksblog just alerts you to new blog posts, but, after some weeks of trying to work out what the hell I’d do with it, I have started posting to Twitter myself.

You can find me at @vaughanbell, where I’ve essentially been posting mind and brain stuff I find interesting or curious. Not a great surprise I know, but hopefully it’ll be of interest.

Brain stimulation – the next interrogation aid?

Photo by Flickr user Magh. Click for sourceAn article just published online for the Behavioural Science and Law journal discusses whether magnetic brain stimulation could be used in lie detection and interrogation.

It is based on the premise that as cognitive neuroscience works out the brain circuits for lying, a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) could be used during an interview to disrupt the function of these pathways.

The article specifically pitches this idea as a possible ‘lie detection’ method, as so far, research conducted by the authors suggest that disrupting parietal cortex function, on average, slows the response time for lies and but doesn’t affect response time for truthful responses – albeit in a very controlled laboratory experiment.

In other words, the idea is that TMS could be used to help distinguish truthful responses from untruthful ones.

My first thought on reading this was that someone is bound to be thinking of this technique as a way of inhibiting the relevant circuits to prevent lying, or at least increase the likelihood of truthful responses.

It’s probably true to say that deception research is in its very early days and its not even clear whether such things as distinct ‘deception circuits’ even exist.

However, from what we know from now-public secret military research in this area, it’s clear that many of these sorts of techniques are simply tested empirically.

Essentially, whether there is a good theoretical basis or not, national security agencies are much more likely simply to try the techniques and see what the outcome is.

The Behavioural Science and Law article sticks firmly to the possible civilian uses for this technology, discussing the legal and ethical issues within a domestic law framework, but you can bet that the spooks are already thinking ahead on this one.

Link to ‘Non-invasive brain stimulation in the detection of deception’.
Link to PubMed entry for same.

Psychological characteristics of vicious dog owners

An article on the psychological characteristic of vicious dog owners has just appeared online in the compelling academic publication, The Journal of Forensic Sciences, finding that those who who own dangerous dogs are more likely to endorse antisocial and psychopathic character traits and more likely to report criminal behaviour.

The study was led by psychologist Laurie Ragatz who collected data from 869 college students who completed an anonymous online questionnaire assessing type of dog owned, criminal behaviors, attitudes towards animal abuse, psychopathy, and personality.

It’s only a correlational study but the introduction has a nice summary of the research findings as well as a previous study on the same topic:

Each year, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, of which 386,000 are seriously injured and over 200 die. Several dog breeds have been labeled “vicious” or of “high-risk” for aggression. To date, only one empirical study has examined the characteristics of persons who choose to own their high-risk dogs. Barnes et al. reports that owners of Akitas, Chow-Chows, Dobermans, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Wolf-mixes endorsed approximately 10 times more criminal convictions than owners of nonvicious dogs. Further, vicious dog owners reported more crimes involving aggression, children, alcohol, and domestic violence than owners of nonvicious dogs.

The current research sought to replicate and extend these findings with a college sample. The present study compared nondog owners and owners of vicious, large, and small dogs on engagement in criminal behavior, general personality traits (i.e., impulsive sensation seeking, neuroticism-anxiety, aggression-hostility, activity, and sociability), psychopathy, and attitude towards animal maltreatment.

…As hypothesized, a significant difference in criminal behavior was found based on dog ownership type. Owners of vicious dogs were significantly more likely to admit to violent criminal behavior, compared to large dog owners, small dog owners, and controls. The vicious dog owner sample also engaged in more types (i.e., violent, property, drug, and status) of criminal behavior compared to all other participant groups.

Personality traits were examined and vicious dog owners were significantly higher than controls on impulsive sensation seeking. Examining psychopathic traits, owners of high-risk dogs endorsed significantly more characteristics of primary psychopathy (e.g., carelessness, selfishness, and manipulative tendencies) than small dog owners.

Comparing owners of vicious dogs to other groups, no significant differences were found regarding secondary psychopathy (e.g., impulsiveness or self-defeating behaviors) or attitudes towards animal maltreatment.

Among the college sample, the vicious dogs were predominantly male and weighed 68 pounds. The owners had more self-reported overall criminal behaviors as well as violent criminal behavior. They endorsed significantly more sensation seeking and primary psychopathic traits.

Link to article.
Link to DOI entry for same.

“My story is about not giving up hope”

We’ve reported before on brain imaging research that shows brain activity in those in a ‘persistent vegetative state’. What I didn’t know until today was that one subject in this research, Kate, has since woken up. This YouTube video tells Kate’s story:

Kate suffered from what was probably brain stem encephalitis at the age of 23. She was the first patient to be scanned by <a href="http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/people/adrian.owen/
“>Adrian Owen as part of his research into the mental lives of those in persistent vegetative states. Findings from this research support what Kate herself is able to say in the video: we need to be very careful before making life and death decisions on behalf of people who appear unresponsive.

2009-03-06 Spike activity

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

The Economist discusses whether the famous Dunbar number, the maximum limit of human relationships, holds on Facebook.

A person who experienced the identity loss memory disorder dissociative fugue is interviewed in The New York Times.

BBC News reports that Malaysia is attempting to curb its suicide rate by planning to arrest those who attempt suicide.

Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel asks what is an illusion, exactly?

Neuronarrative reports on a new study finding people tend to view leaders more favourably once they’ve died!

Drug giant and makers of Seroquel (quetiapine) lied about their data showing that the antipsychotic drug isn’t as effective as its competitors, reports the Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry blog.

The New York Times reports on research showing that interrupting an experience, whether dreary or pleasant, can make it significantly more intense.

The US Army’s group of ‘weaponised anthropologists’, the Human Terrain System, get slammed by a Marine Corps major in a military publication. Wired has the story.

The Onion, on news that a Lovecraftian school board member wants madness added to the curriculum. C’thulhu fhtagn!

Science News reports on a new study that links the genetics of Autism and bellyaches.

A long and confusing article on why minds are not like computers is published in The New Atlantis. Would greatly benefit from the insights from philosophy of mind.

Nature has an excellent article on the sociology of science and why we need a third way after the extremes of hard scientific realism and social constructionism. By the always interesting Harry Collins.

Gender effects in <a href="http://sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/41304/title/Playing_for_real_in_a_virtual__world
“>children’s play are seen in virtual worlds, reports Science News.

Furious Seasons reports on a recent study looking at the (large) placebo effect in studies of antidepressant treatment for adolescent depression.

Is patriotism a subconscious way for humans to avoid disease? asks the always engaging Carl Zimmer in Discover Magazine.

The Guardian reports on research suggesting that some people who suffer stroke develop PTSD after their experience.

Texting is associated with superior reading skills in children, reports the BPS Research Digest.

The New York Times has an interesting article looking at the psychology of rewarding students for study or good performance in light of mixed evidence of how effective the practice is.

ABC Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor has programme on how errors of grammar, punctuation and inaccurate scientific terminology can complicate important social issues.

Dr Shock covers some interesting research on the pros and cons on using PowerPoint presentations in teaching for learning by students.

Also from Dr Shock an awesome video showing how some stunning 3D illusion street art was created.

The New York Times reports that skin cells from people with Parkinson’s disease have been converted in a test tube to dopamine neurons.

Encephalon 65 faces the facts

The 65th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience carnival has just appeared online, this time hosted at Podcat Black and illustrated with some emerging unbidden from the world.

A couple of favourites include a fantastic post on the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus which outlines some Ancient Egyptian brain surgery and a series of posts introducing the principles of evolutionary neuroscience through the Cthulhu mythos.

There’s many more engaging articles and the pareidolia face images are great fun as always.

Link to Encephalon 65 on Podcat Black.