There probably isn’t an app for that

A man with drug-induced psychosis attempted to swallow his smartphone and the case was reported in the medical journal Internal and Emergency Medicine.

A 35 year-old man with no significant past medical history presented to the emergency department (ED) after abusing phencyclidine (PCP). Responding to command auditory hallucinations, he attempted to swallow his 4 cm × 8 cm smartphone. On arrival, he was agitated but alert, handling his secretions poorly and in moderate respiratory distress. An electronic device was clearly protruding from his oropharynx [throat]…

Emergency physicians immediately attempted to remove the device with Magill forceps, but were unsuccessful. A “trauma code” was announced bringing a surgical intensivist, an anesthesiologist, and appropriate nursing staff to the bedside, while simultaneously indicating that an operating room (OR) should be prepared… The device was successfully removed under procedural sedation without the need for surgical intervention.

Moral of the story: friends don’t let friends mix selfies and PCP.

Link to locked case study.

The cutting edge of brain science technologies

National Geographic has an excellent article that gives a tour of some of the latest technologies of neuroscience that are likely to be leading the way in understanding the brain over the next decade.

You can read the full article online but you need to complete a free registration first. A typical publication ploy but, in this case, it’s well worth doing.


The article is itself fascinating but is also wonderfully illustrated with photos and videos to show exactly how the new technologies allows us to see the brain at work in many different ways.

An excellent guide to the cutting edge of lab brain science.

Link to National Geographic article ‘Secrets of the Brain’ (free reg required).
Link to plain text copy of article – no reg required.

The hallucinated demons of intensive care

I’ve got an article in The Observer about the psychological impact of being a patient in intensive care that can include trauma, fear and intense hallucinations.

This has only been recently recognised as an issue and with mental disorders being detected in over half of post-ICU patients it has sparked a serious re-think of how ICU should be organised to minimise stress.

Some of the most spectacular experiences are intense hallucinations and delusions that can lead to intrusive and surreal flashbacks that can have effects long after the person has become medically stable.

Wade interviewed patients about the hallucinations and delusions they experienced while in intensive care. One patient reported seeing puffins jumping out of the curtains firing blood from guns, another began to believe that the nurses were being paid to kill patients and zombify them. The descriptions seem faintly amusing at a distance, but both were terrifying at the time and led to distressing intrusive memories long after the patients had realised their experiences were illusory.

Many patients don’t mention these experiences while in hospital, either through fear of sounding mad, or through an inability to speak – often because of medical breathing aids, or because of fears generated by the delusions themselves. After all, who would you talk to in a zombie factory?

One of the interesting aspects is how standard ICU care is incredibly stressful and uncomfortable experience. I quote Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care medicine, who says “If you think about the sort of things used for torture you will experience most of them in intensive care”!

Anyway, more at the link below.

Link to ‘When intensive care is just too intense’ in The Observer.

2014-01-17 Spike activity

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

Wired magazine has an excellent profile of artificial intelligence bossman Geoff Hinton.

Is it time we stopped ‘sectioning‘ people? Thought-provoking piece on the excellent Psychiatry SHO blog.

The New York Times has an insightful piece on what the ‘marshmallow study’ really tells us about self-control.

Tough love for fMRI. Interesting piece on fixing the problems with fMRI research on the Neurochambers blog.

Nature discusses why ‘irrational’ choices can be rational. Are you reading moustache haters?

Caffeine’s little memory jolt garners a lot of excitement. A fascinating discussion on caffeine and memory boosts from Scicurious newly located blog.

Science News reports on how the brain weighs more when you think harder due to increase blood flow.

An artist made a life-sized skull made of compressed cocaine and it got posted to BoingBoing. Can’t wait for the Viagra sculpture.

Live Science reports on a new study finding that people can register an image in 13 milliseconds.

Cannabis and memory loss: dude, where’s my CBD? Interesting The Guardian piece argues that legalisation may have a knock on effect of making cannabis with higher levels of beneficial CBD more widely available.

What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?

Contributoria is an experiment in community funded, collaborative journalism. What that means is that you can propose an article you’d like to write, and back proposals by others that you’d like to see written. There’s an article I’d like to write: What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?. Here’s something from the proposal:

Is it true that “you can’t tell anybody anything”? From pub arguments to ideology-driven party political disputes it can sometimes seem like people have their minds all made up, that there’s no point trying to persuade anybody of anything. Popular psychology books reinforce the idea that we’re emotional, irrational creatures (Dan Ariely “Predictably irrational”, David McRaney “You Are Not So Smart”). This piece will be 2000 words on the evidence from psychological science about persuasion by rational argument.

If the proposal is backed it will give me a chance to look at the evidence on things like the , on whether political extremism is supported by an illusion of explanatory depth (and how that can be corrected), and on how we treat all those social psychology priming experiments which suggest that our opinions on things can be pushed about by irrelevant factors such as the weight of a clipboard we’re holding.

All you need to do to back proposals, currently, is sign up for the site. You can see all current proposals here. Written articles are Creative Commons licensed.

Back the proposal: What’s the evidence on using rational argument to change people’s minds?

Full disclosure: I’ll be paid by Contributoria if the proposal is backed

Update: Backed! That was quick! Much thanks readers! I’d better get reading and writing now…

Parental advisory: teenage kicks in progress

New York Magazine has an excellent piece on whether adolescence is really a time of turmoil for young people or whether it is actually the parents that find their kids’ teenage years the most challenging.

The article is a brilliant alternative take on adolescence and looks into a range of studies on how teens develop and how it affects the changing parent-teen relationship.

Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University and one of the country’s foremost authorities on puberty, thinks there’s a strong case to be made for this idea. “It doesn’t seem to me like adolescence is a difficult time for the kids,” he says. “Most adolescents seem to be going through life in a very pleasant haze.” Which isn’t to say that most adolescents don’t suffer occasionally, or that some don’t struggle terribly. They do. But they also go through other intense experiences: crushes, flirtations with risk, experiments with personal identity. It’s the parents who are left to absorb these changes and to adjust as their children pull away from them. “It’s when I talk to the parents that I notice something,” says Steinberg. “If you look at the narrative, it’s ‘My teenager who’s driving me crazy.’ ”

In the 2014 edition of his best-known textbook, Adolescence, Steinberg debunks the myth of the querulous teen with even more vigor. “The hormonal changes of puberty,” he writes, “have only a modest direct effect on adolescent behavior; rebellion during adolescence is atypical, not normal.”

A fascinating and very well-written piece.

Link to NYMag article ‘The Collateral Damage of a Teenager’

Ghost psychiatry

The Australian Journal of Parapsychology has an article about post-traumatic stress disorder in people who have been murdered.

I suspect diagnosing mental disorder in those who have passed onto another plane of existence isn’t the easiest form of mental health assessment but it seems this gentleman is determined to give it a go.

Psychological phenomena in dead people: Post- traumatic stress disorder in murdered people and its consequences to public health

Australian Journal of Parapsychology, Volume 13 Issue 1 (Jun 2013)

Wasney de Almeida Ferreira

The aims of this paper are to narrate and analyze some psychological phenomena that I have perceived in dead people, including evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in murdered people. The methodology adopted was “projection of consciousness” (i.e., a non-ordinary state of consciousness), which allowed me to observe, interact, and interview dead people directly as a social psychologist. This investigation was based on Cartesian skepticism, which allowed me a more critical analysis of my experiences during projection of consciousness. There is strong evidence that a dead person: (i) continues living, thinking, behaving after death as if he/she still has his/her body because consciousness continues in an embodied state as ‘postmortem embodied experiences’; (ii) may not realize for a considerable time that he/she is already dead since consciousness continues to be embodied after death (i.e., ‘postmortem perturbation’ – the duration of this perturbation can vary from person to person, in principle according to the type of death, and the level of conformation), and (iii) does not like to talk, remember, and/or explain things related to his/her own death because there is evidence that many events related to death are repressed in his/her unconscious (‘postmortem cognitive repression’). In addition, there is evidence that dying can be very traumatic to consciousness, especially to the murdered, and PTSD may even develop.

It is worth noting that the concept of post-mortem PTSD was largely invented by Big Parlour as a way of selling seances, when what spirits really need is someone to help them understand their experiences.

Link to abstract for article (via @WiringTheBrain)