NeuroPod on ‘bionic ears’ and training neurons

The latest edition of the excellent Nature NeuroPod podcast has just hit the wires with discussions of cochlear implants, conscious control of individual neurons, the neuroscience of Parkinson’s disease and the function of the blood-brain barrier.

The highlight for me was the section on ‘bionic ears’ or cochlear implants – the first mass produced neural implant that can help some forms of hearing loss.

As well as tackling the neuroscience of the devices, the programme also plays what it sounds like to have one, which is quite distinct from normal hearing.

There’s lots more great pieces in this month’s edition, so definitely worth catching.

Link to NeuroPod page.
mp3 of latest podcast.

A diagnosis of ‘Strange and Inexplicable Behaviour’

The World Health Organisation’s ICD-10 manual of diseases and health problems has a diagnosis of ‘Strange and Inexplicable Behaviour’ that gives, rather appropriately, no further explanation, except that it’s classified with code R46.2

It is from Chapter XVIII of the ICD-10 which tackles ‘Symptoms, signs and abnormal clinical and laboratory findings, not elsewhere classified’.

It turns out that the whole of Section R46 is a bit of a gold mine:
R46.0  Very low level of personal hygiene
R46.1  Bizarre personal appearance
R46.2  Strange and inexplicable behaviour
R46.3  Overactivity
R46.4  Slowness and poor responsiveness.
R46.5  Suspiciousness and marked evasiveness
R46.6  Undue concern and preoccupation with stressful events
R46.7  Verbosity and circumstantial detail obscuring reason for contact
R46.8  Other symptoms and signs involving appearance and behaviour
Many thanks to my friend and colleague Jorge who pointed out this little known and under-appreciated diagnostic gem.

Link to ICD-10 chapter with section R46.

Ted Hughes On Thinking

Editor of The Psychologist and man about town, Jon Sutton, just sent me a fantastic monologue by poet Ted Hughes on the experience of thinking.

I’ve uploaded the piece to YouTube where you can hear Hughes’ remarkable analysis in his own characteristic voice.

The piece is almost nine minutes long but in this part Hughes describes what psychologists would now call metacognition.

There is the inner life of thought which is our world of final reality. The world of memory, emotion, feeling, imagination, intelligence and natural common sense, and which goes on all the time consciously or unconsciously like the heartbeat.

There is also the thinking process by which we break into that inner life and capture answers and evidence to support the answers out of it.

And that process of raid, or persuasion, or ambush, or dogged hunting, or surrender, is the kind of thinking we have to learn, and if we don’t somehow learn it, then our minds line us like the fish in the pond of a man who can’t fish.

I have tried to find the origin of the piece but have come up with nothing and Jon says he originally recorded it from Jarvis Cocker’s BBC 6music show but has no more details.

If you know any more about the piece, do add a note in the comments.

Link to Ted Hughes ‘On Thinking’ (massive thanks @jonmsutton).

2010-10-29 Spike activity

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

Two words: Zombie Neuroscience. Oscillatory Thoughts on the strange tale of how the author became one of the world’s most sought after neuroscientists for the undead.

Scientific American on how graphic warnings on cigarette packets put off occasional smokers but heavy smokers react by taking even harder drags.

When people are faced with scientific research that clashes with their personal view, they try a range of strategies to discount the findings. Excellent BPS Research Digest interview.

Esquire has a feature article on amnesic patient HM. Neuroscience served with a ‘Women We Love’ gallery – what more could you want? I can hear some of you saying a ‘Men We Love’ gallery.

Do sisters make us happier? asks The Frontal Cortex.

The Guardian has an exasperated article about the rent-a-quote psychologists and pseudo-psychologists happy to spout all kinds of nonsense about troubled footballer Wayne Rooney.

There’s a fantastic in-depth discussion about the role of cooking in human brain evolution over at Neuroanthropology.

The Boston Globe covers philosopher Peter Hacker’s block rocking challenge to neuroscientists: make sense! There’s an expanded piece where he attacks more sacred cows over at The Philosopher’s Magazine.

This week’s editor’s selection from focuses on psychology and neuroscience posts.

Seed Magazine has an excellent article asking ‘do smoking bans work?’

The misconduct case against Marc Hauser may be looking shaky, or it might not. Neuroskeptic covers the machinations.

The Science Show from ABC Radio National has a short but excellent discussion on how rational and human reasoning differ.

The official bloggers have been announced for the Society for Neuroscience conference and hardly any of them seem to have a blog. Fear not, Functional Neurogenesis has a list of both official and unofficial bloggers covering the event.

Newsweek has a good piece on how researching premature babies can help us understanding neurodevelopmental disorders like autism.

The excellent Addiction Inbox covers a new report by the UN on the world-wide use of synthetic highs and the ‘designer drugs’ trade.

Time has a photo essay by a photographer who has created a ‘photographic conversation’ with his autistic son.

The Encephalon mind and brain blogging carnival is back from the dead! You can read it over at Cephalove.

Discover Magazine has an excellent piece on consciousness, tinnitus (‘ringing in the ears’) and how it be treated by tweaking the brain’s tone map.

Ace forensic psychologist Karen Franklin who normally blogs at In the News has started a new blog called Witness aimed at introducing people to forensic and criminal psychology.

New Scientist has and interesting illusion that aims to combine a perceptual distortion with a beauty perception quirk.

The text of the latest annual ‘State of the Regiment’ address to the US military PSYOP units is up over at the PSYOP Regimental Blog.

The Lancet has a critical essay on genetics, the media and claims that new psychological disorders are suddenly ‘biological’.

What’s the chance that a man’s kids are not really his, biologically? Barking Up the Wrong Tree looks at the statistics.

The Atlantic has more images from the ‘Portraits of the Mind’ book on the history of depictions of the brain that we featured recently.

A handslide victory

If ever there was a scientific study destined for the Ig Nobel awards, this is it. The Economist reports on new research finding that searches for internet porn increased in US states that backed the winning party in an election.

The study was inspired by the ‘challenge hypothesis’ which states that competition and dominance raise testosterone levels in males with an increased interest in mating following soon after.

The hypothesis has largely been confirmed in animals, but psychologists Patrick and Charlotte Markey decided to see whether the effect could be seen in humans after elections:

To do this they first used a web service called WordTracker to identify the top ten search terms employed by people seeking pornography (“xvideos” was the politest among them). Then they asked a second service, Google Trends, to analyse how often those words were used in the week before and the week after an American election, broken down by state.

Their results, just published in Evolution and Human Behavior, were the same for all three of the elections they looked at—the 2004 and 2008 presidential contests, and the 2006 mid-terms (in which the Democrats made big gains in both houses of Congress). No matter which side won, searches for porn increased in states that had voted for the winners and decreased in those that had voted for the losers. The difference was not huge; it was a matter of one or two per cent. But it was consistent and statistically significant.

Less sophisticated people would make ‘hung like a donkey’ jokes at this point, but I’m far too refined as I’m sure regular readers are aware.

If you want to see the research without the fig leaf of the mainstream media, the full text of the scientific paper is available online as a pdf.

Link to Economist article ‘Rising to the occasion’.
Link to DOI entry and summary of paper.
pdf of full text of scientific paper.

A misdirection of mind

Scientific American has an excellent video where two neuroscientists and a street magician with remarkable pickpocketing skills explain how illusionists manipulate our attention.

It’s a hugely entertaining piece and really highlights how the idea of ‘sleight of hand’ is itself a misdirection, as the most important of the magician’s manipulations is to alter where we focus and what we expect.

The people featured in the video were all involved in the recent scientific discussions about what stage magic can teach cognitive neuroscience about the mind and brain.

You’ll also notice there is a bit of scientific sleight of hand that happens at about the 9 minute mark where the all-purpose ‘mirror neuron‘ theory is pulled out of a hat as an explanation that stretches way beyond what we actually know about the mirror system.

It doesn’t say whether mirror neurons can also saw a woman in half but I’m sure someone will suggest it in the near future.

Despite this moment of unsubstantiated speculation, the video is an excellent guide to the psychology of attention and great fun to boot.

Link to video ‘Neuroscience meets magic’.

An uneven distribution of traumatised soldiers

A brief insight into why US troops returning from the same war zones as UK troops show four times the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder – taken from a recent Military Medicine article on mental health treatment in the British armed forces.

The prevalence of PTSD among U.S. forces returning from Iraq has approached 20% of combat personnel. This is in contrast to U.K. forces, which have reported approximately 5% using the same screening tools. There are differences between the forces deployed, some of which may explain the differences in mental health outcomes: U.S. troops are younger, less experienced, deploy for longer tours, and are more likely to be reservists than U.K. forces, all of which are independent risk factors for the development of symptoms of PTSD. A further explanation is that the higher levels of reporting may reflect societal and cultural factors not necessarily associated with deployment.

‘Societal and cultural factors’, of course, could mean anything from the British ‘stiff upper lip’ approach to dealing with mental distress to the system of support and compensation for US troops which has been noted not to encourage improvement as well as it might.

However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that part of the difference may be due to the experiences of the troops, and as far as I know, there is no research that has looked at whether your average US soldier in Iraq simply deals with more potentially traumatising events – combat, injured civilians, bombings and so on.

The article is a fantastic discussion of how the UK armed forces manage mental health but unfortunately it’s locked behind a paywall, because discussions about British army psychiatry can explode if not handled by professionals.

UPDATE: The authors of the paper, the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, have kindly put the full text of the article online which you can read as a pdf.


Link to locked article in Military Medicine.
Link to PubMed entry for article.

The 1911 Coca-Cola brain poison trial

The Psychologist has a fascinating article on how the world’s favourite tooth rot, Coca-Cola, was the subject of a 1911 court case brought by the US government who believed it damaged the brain.

Although curious enough in itself, the incident also launched the career of Harry Hollingworth – later one of the founders of advertising psychology – who was paid to create laboratory tests to see whether the soft drink really caused cognitive problems.

Hollingworth was only a graduate student at the time but took the money after better known psychologists wanted to avoid getting their hands dirty with corporate cash. Apparently, Hollingworth later wrote that “he accepted the offer from the Coca-Cola Company because at his young age he ‘had as yet, no sanctity to preserve’.”

The impetus behind the lawsuit was Harvey Washington Wiley, head of the Bureau of Chemistry of the US Department of Agriculture. Wiley had long been a vocal opponent of caffeine and was especially critical of its role in the popular beverage. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Coca-Cola Company marketed the beverage as ‘the ideal brain tonic’, emphasising the stimulant properties of the drink, noting in its advertising that it ‘invigorated the fatigued body and quickened the tired brain’. Wiley had testified before Congress that caffeine was a poison and a habit-forming drug. He was not fond of coffee or tea but was less critical of those drinks because the caffeine was an indigenous ingredient. But he opposed the sale of Coca-Cola on two grounds: the caffeine was an added ingredient, and the beverage was marketed to children.

As might be expected from a caffienated, sugar-packed drink, the sophisticated double-blind studies showed that people experienced a small boost in mental ability shortly after drinking it, although the case was thrown out for technical reasons.

Although Hollingworth didn’t continue doing drug-testing research, his experience of applying psychology to the corporate world undoubtedly opened the door to his future career in advertising.

Link to ‘Coca-Cola – Brain tonic or poison?’

Lights, camera, action potential

The Loom has a wonderful photo essay taken from a new book called ‘Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century’.

The photos range from the first ever known drawing of the nervous system, made by 11th century Arab scientist Ibn al-Haytham, to the beautiful pictures of the ‘brainbow‘ fluorescent neurons.

Don’t miss the caption below each picture that describes its origin and significance. The photo on the right is genuine human skull with phrenology markings.

Link to Loom photo essay.
Link to details of the book ‘Portraits of the Mind’.

The vision thing

The ever-interesting Oliver Sacks is interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air where he discusses cases from his new book on the extremes of visual perception.

If you’re a fan of Sacks’ work, like me, this programme is an absolute treat as the conversation ranges from the science of misrecognition to his own quite recent experiences of visual distortion caused by a type of tumour, a melanoma, which developed in his eye.

Needless to say, there are plenty of interesting diversions on the way and some quite personal moments interwoven with discussion on themes from The Mind’s Eye – which is apparently out today.

The NPR website has an excerpt from the book if you want a taster and Sacks is also about to start a brief book tour hitting a few cities in the US.

Link to NPR interview with Oliver Sacks.

Wikileaks: Psychological warfare in Iraq

The Wikileaks Iraq war documents give an insight into the use of ‘psychological warfare‘ by the United States military, illustrating how the PSYOP response evolved through the conflict.

If you want to pull out the raw reports, you can search the Wikileaks Iraq war archive by using the term ‘PSYOP’ or by clicking here.

Although it’s not clear how comprehensively the logs cover the day-to-day operation of US Psychological Operations, they do give a snapshot of the sort of challenges the units faced.

Out of the leaked reports, 84 mention PSYOP, although not all are directly about the unit (for example, in one, a mention is purely because some of their leaflets were found in a car).

However, out of the reports that are directly about the units themselves, perhaps most striking is how many reports of attacks there are.

I counted at least nine reports of attacks by improvised explosive devices (eg), two by rocket propelled grenades (eg) and units were also on the receiving end of shootings while handing out toys to children, conducting a billboard assessment and carrying out ‘atmospheric sampling’.

‘Atmospheric sampling’ is a phrase that turns up a lot in the reports, and I’m not entirely clear what it means, but this essay [pdf] from the Small Wars Journal seems to suggest its a sort of military market research:

The atmospheric report is filed in a database along with reports from a multitude of other organizations and planners must pull the information if (and it’s a big if) the report is ever referenced. PSYOP units glean atmospherics for two primary reasons; first to drive an understanding of the target audience and second to assess whether or not proposed or previously disseminated product has any effect.

This is one of the seemingly ongoing activities, along with delivering leaflets (eg), preparing statements for the media (eg), making radio broadcasts to the local people (eg), and accompanying general forces on everything from raids of mosques to investigating explosions.

However, it’s clear that when the logs start, in 2004, the units were used as more as a general purpose communication service to allow the military to communicate with the local populace, often after things got heated.

For example, they might be warning people to stay out of the streets for their own safety, or attempting to calm a crowd after they were angered when a car crash killed two civilians, or broadcasting radio messages in support of voting.

As the conflict develops, the reports start to discuss more detailed PSYOP responses that have specific points of information that the military wants to get across and the strategies they apply for doing so.

For example, this report from 26th January 2009 describes the PSYOP response to an explosion from a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device in Mosul (the blank spaces are where identifying information was removed):

IO [Information Operations] Recommendations and talking points:

___.To allow these criminals to conduct such attacks ___ to hurt the innocent people of Mosul and increase the likelihood of more attacks.

___.IP [Iraqi police] and IA [Iraqi army] are valiant guardians of your ___ security. These cowardly acts are to hurt you, you must protect them. (Protect the Protector Theme)

___.Prevent attacks like these by informing officials if you have any information of knowledge of these types of activities. Your information can prevent the death of those that protect you and your family.

___.Your efforts to secure your country must continue; you have chosen the right path. (Choose Campaign)

PSYOP: Should the /___ commander approve, ___ has products supporting the above campaigns for dissemination.

KEY Leader Engagements: Recommended /___ Commander to follow up with the Police Chief
___: Monitor for Media Feedback

Recommend sending ___-approved radio message (___-VBIED [Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device] and Protect Your Security Forces) to ___ and ___

I was particularly interested by the fact that some of the later reports mention specific themes or templates for messages (in this case the ‘Protect the Protector Theme’) that have presumably been developed to be deployed widely and ensure certain ideas are reinforced consistently.

It may be that the reports just contain more comprehensive descriptions of information operations that the earlier reports lacked, but the leaked logs do give the impression that the PSYOP response matures as the conflict develops, to convey more information in more complex and targeted ways .

Link to PSYOP records on Wikileaks Iraq war archive.
Link to excellent Wikipedia page on US PSYOP.

Impaled by comparison

The picture on the left is a famous 1550 portrait of the Hungarian nobleman Gregor Baci who was impaled through the head by a lance.

It was never known whether the picture had been exaggerated. Recently, a medical team from Austria reported a remarkably similar case in The Lancet where the patient survived and recovered with no ill effects. The CT scan of this modern-day Gregor Baci is visible on the right.

Although case reports of trauma describe single events only, they can contain very useful scientific information for applied surgery. The portrait of Gregor Baci from the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria (figure A) provokes the question: is the legend that Baci survived a piercing injury with a lance only a myth, or does medical fact indicate that such severe impalement of the head and neck can be survived? We were able to provide the answer, when a similar case of impalement presented to us.

The patient, a craftsman, was injured when a metal bar fell from the ceiling of a church with an altitude of about 14 m, impaling his head in an anterior-posterior direction (figure B)…

The patient had to undergo surgical treatment twice, and had a year of episodes with headache and moderate diplopia, but now, about 5 years after the accident, the patient does not show any related clinical symptoms…


Link to DOI entry for brief Lancet case report.

The outer limits of psychiatric genetics

The Wiring the Brain blog has a fantastic piece on the how whole genome sequencing is already showing us the limits of how we understand the genetics of mental illness.

Whole genome sequencing allows the entire length of someone’s DNA to be read and, when data from enough people has been collected, it’s possible to look for reliable links between genetic information and human traits.

The advantage of this technique is that it allows genetic links to be detected without needing a specific idea about what should link with what beforehand.

It’s often been cited as the ‘new hope’ for psychiatric genetics which attempts to understand the genetics of mental illness.

However, one difficulty with looking for genetic links with mental illness is that people diagnosed with conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar are unlikely to have exactly the same thing while the specific components are not perfectly measurable (there is no cut and dry way of classifying intrusive thoughts for example).

In addition, most genetic studies to date have found that changes in single genes can explain only a tiny fraction of the risk of developing a mental illness and are often present, although less frequently, in healthy people.

Owing to the fact that the heritability of mental illness can be quite high, the current thinking is that the risk is likely transmitted through lots of genes that, although individually have a small effect, can greatly increase the risk if transmitted together.

The Wiring the Brain post does a brilliant job of exploring why picking out these genes and genetic patterns may not just be a problem with not having enough data – but with the techniques themselves.

However, we will still likely be left with a situation where the statistical evidence we can get from considering the spectrum of mutations in single genes will run into mathematical limits. At some point it will be necessary to look for other types of evidence from outside the system. One type of evidence will come from analysing the biochemical pathways of the implicated genes – it is already becoming apparent that many such genes encode proteins that interact with each other…

The point about mathematical limits is an interesting one, as it may be that there are genes or genetic patterns which are important but have such a small effect that you would need a sample size so big (millions and millions of people perhaps) that your study would simply be impossible.

As the post indicates, this may kill the idea that the genetics of mental illness can be studied without any existing theories and just by looking at which links turn up.

It’s a bit like trying to work out how riots start by counting the different types of people in crowds and seeing which types of people are more likely to be present when a fight breaks out.

Without knowing about the roles of different people, you could easily conclude that the police are the ones responsible for the riot because they are always there in big numbers, while the firebrand orator demanding death to the government is irrelevant because there’s only one of him.

The Wiring the Brain piece covers this and several other issues and is one of the most interesting articles on psychiatric genetics I have read in a while. The blog, by the way, is consistently excellent, so definitely one to keep tabs on.

Link to Wiring the Brain on ‘Searching for a needle in a needle-stack’.

Erotic asphyxia and the limits of the brain

A guy who enjoyed whacking off while trying to strangle himself has provided important evidence that an outward sign considered to indicate severe irreversible brain damage can be present without any lasting effects.

It was long thought that a body response called decerebrate rigidity – where the body becomes stiff with the toes pointing and the wrists bending forward – was a sign of irreversible damage to the midbrain.

This sign is widely used in medical assessments to infer severe brain damage and has been observed in videos of people being executed by hanging.

A new study in The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology provides striking evidence that it is possible to recover from decerebrate rigidity owing to self-taped videos of a man who would strangle himself with a pair of pyjama pants suspended from the shower while masturbating.

The practice is known as autoerotic asphyxia and is based on the idea that restricted oxygen can enhance sexual pleasure – although is not recommended, not least because the medical literature is awash with cases of people who have died while attempting it.

Indeed, the gentleman described in the study did eventually die while hanging himself and when the forensic team investigated his house they found videos where he had filmed himself undertaking the risky sexual practice.

The three videos show him hanging himself while masturbating to the point where he lost consciousness and had the equivalent of an epileptic tonic-clonic seizure as he crashed to the ground. Each time, he regains consciousness and has no noticeable lasting effects.

In one of the videos, 20 seconds of decerebrate rigidity are clearly present. This was previously thought to be a sign of severe permanent brain damage – and yet he comes round, picks himself up and seems unaffected.

The study makes the interesting point that we still know very little about the effects of oxygen starvation on the brain.

For example, the widely quoted figure about brain cells dying after three to five minutes without oxygen is based entirely on animal studies and we don’t actually know the limit for humans.

As the authors note “There is no study to document this threshold of 3 to 5 minutes of ischemia [oxygen deprivation] to cause irreversible brain damage in human beings. Nevertheless, data obtained from animal studies were applied to human beings and the source of the threshold was later forgotten and assumed to be reliable.”

Link to PubMed entry for study.

The power of loss

The Frontal Cortex blog has a fantastic piece on ‘loss aversion’ – the cognitive bias where try to we avoid losses more than we try to obtain gains – and its origin in the Allais Paradox.

The crucial thing about loss aversion is it is not about just losing things – it’s also about the perception that we might be losing something, regardless of the actual impact on our resources.

For example, people tend to be less keen to undergo surgery when it is described as having a 20% death rate than when described as having a 80% survival rate, even though both mean exactly the same thing.

The post over at the Frontal Cortex does a great job of weaving together the psychology of the effect, the story of how it was discovered, and it’s impact on our lives, in an excellent brief article.

Link to Frontal Cortex on the the Allais Paradox and loss aversion.

2010-10-22 Spike activity

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

Scientific American Mind’s Bering in Mind has two unmissable pieces on the psychology of suicide – the first taking a critical look at the idea that suicide might be adaptive in some cases, the second looking at the individual psychology of the suicidal person.

Why shaking someone’s beliefs turns them into stronger advocates. Not Exactly Rocket Science covers a new study on the endlessly fascinating effects of cognitive dissonance.

The Lancet has an excellent open essay on neuroethics and brain science.

Speakers with a foreign accent are perceived as less credible – and not just because of prejudice. The BPS Research Digest reports on some disappointing data to follow last weeks news about reduced libido in foreign countries.

New Scientist has a good series on the science of morality which has some paywalled pieces which, annoyingly, aren’t well marked.

Journalist Carl Zimmer is interviewed about his new neuroscience e-book, Brain Cuttings, and the electronic future of science writing over at Neurotribes.

The New York Times has an interactive feature on how psychology is being applied to school cafeteria design to encourage healthy eating

To the bunkers! Popular Science reports on the first fully automated robot surgery to removed a prostate. Today, a prostate, tomorrow your frontal lobes.

Seed Magazine has a short but through-provoking piece wondering whether vaccine quackery in autism is partly supported by cognitive biases that under-value ‘sins of omission’ in causal explanations.

Light swearing at the start or end of a persuasive speech can help influence an audience according to a new piece from PsyBlog. Welcome, new dawn of evidence-based swearing.

CNN reports on the 20-year-old female criminology student whose just been made police chief in a dangerous Mexican town shortly after the mayor was murdered.

Emos rejoice! Feeling sad makes us more creative, according to research covered by a great Frontal Cortex piece. OK, stop rejoicing, you’ll lose that artistic edge.

Science News covers an intriguing new study finding that we value potential purchases more highly and are more likely to buy if they’re physically present.

A study covered by Barking Up the Wrong Tree reports that you have a 6% chance of shagging someone you meet at a speed-dating event. What’s the standard deviation you ask? Doesn’t say but my guess is spanking.

Wired Danger Room takes a critical look at the US Army’s ‘breakthrough’ blood test for brain injury and notes that there’s more than a little hype in its announcement.

Contrary to the researchers’ expectations people with autism were more susceptible to magic tricks than neurotypical folks. Great write up on the Cracking the Enigma blog.

BBC News has pictures of the Mexican authorities burning 105 tons of marijuana. Think 50 Cent gig without the baseball caps.

There’s an excellent piece on how the concept of risk became central to psychiatry over the Frontier Psychiatrist.

RadioLab has an excellent short podcast on communication patterns embedded in animal calls.

[Honestly dear], receiving a massage increases trust and co-operation in a financial game. Dan Ariely’s excellent Irrationally Yours blog covers an interesting study that also works as a good excuse for executives.

The Economist argues that the Mexican drug war could be curtailed with better police in Mexico, stricter gun laws in America and legal pot in California. Best of luck with that.

Got a solution? Well, have we got a problem to sell you. Pharmalot interviews author of new book ‘Sex, Lies & Pharmaceuticals’ on the invention of female Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and the new pills that are supposed to treat it.

The British Psychological Society are looking for a freelance blogger to write about occupational and business psychology. Interested?

On the controversy that ripped anthropology asunder – the trashing of Margaret Mead. Great coverage of a new book by Savage Minds.

NPR Science has a piece on a fascinating anthropological study of Japanese teens finding that most electronic messages they send have no ‘news’ – they’re just signalling their social connectedness.

A history of psychology post-doc is blogging her tour of US asylums past and present over at Asylum Notes.

There’s a great interview with broad thinking perceptual psychologist Mark Changizi over at Neuroanthropology.

GQ has a compelling, tragic and enraging feature article on the man shortly to stand trial accused of encouraging suicidal people to kill themselves online by pretending to enter into suicide pacts. Great journalism on a dreadful case.