Put your hands up and move away from the therapy

An editorial in Molecular Psychiatry has been titled “Launching the War on Mental Illness” – which, considering the effects of war on mental health, must surely win a prize for the most inappropriate metaphor in psychiatry.

But it also contains a curious Freudian slip. Five times in the article, the project is described as the ‘War on Mental Health’, which is another thing entirely.

…how can we then proceed to successfully launch a ‘War on Mental Health’? Our vision for that is summarized in Figure 3 and Table 1.

Sadly, Figure 3 and Table 1 don’t contain a description of a world with continuous traffic jams, rude waiters and teenagers constantly playing R&B through their mobile phone speakers.
 

Link to Launching the ‘War on Mental Illness’ (thanks @1boringyoungman)

2014-01-10 Spike activity

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

Not-So-Sweet Home: The Persistence of Domestic Violence. Important piece from Nautilus.

The Lancet discusses whether, once again, psychiatry is being used for political repression in Russia.

Are we too keen to turn crime into a mental health issues? asks Spiked Online.

Nature has an excellent piece on the new generation of influential ‘deep learning‘ AI algorithms.

What’s it like to hear voices that aren’t there? Interesting review of the common features of hallucinated voices from the BPS Research Digest.

The New York Times has an amazing piece by a man losing his memory who eloquently describes the experience.

Keyboard dyspraxia: do neuropsychological syndromes need updating in light of modern life? asks the Cortex Unfolded blog.

An antipsychotic drug may banish hallucinations and delusions by prompting neurons to churn out proteins that reshape the cells report Science News.

Neuroskeptic continues the excellent coverage on fMRI with The Reliability of fMRI Revisited.

The pull for lobotomy

The Psychologist has a fascinating article by historian Mical Raz on what patients and families thought about the effects of lobotomy.

Raz looks at the letters sent between arch-lobotomist Walter Freeman and the many families he affected through his use of the procedure.

Contrary to the image of the ‘evil surgeon who didn’t care about the harm he was doing’ many patients and families gave warm and favourable feedback on the effects of the operation.

Even some very worrying details about the post-operative results are recounted in glowing terms. Freeman had every reason to suspend his disbelief.

What it does illustrate is how a damaging and useless treatment could be perceived as helpful and compassionate by Freeman and, presumably, other doctors because of how docility and, in some cases, genuine reduced distress were valued above the person’s self-integrity and autonomy.

An interesting and challenging article.
 

Link to ‘Interpreting lobotomy – the patients’ stories’.

noob 2 l33t: now with graphs

Myself and Mike Dewar have just had a paper published in the journal Psychological Science. In it we present an analysis of what affects how fast people learn, using data from over 850,000 people who played an online game called Axon (designed by our friends Preloaded. This is from the abstract:

In the present study, we analyzed data from a very large sample (N = 854,064) of players of an online game involving rapid perception, decision making, and motor responding. Use of game data allowed us to connect, for the first time, rich details of training history with measures of performance from participants engaged for a sustained amount of time in effortful practice. We showed that lawful relations exist between practice amount and subsequent performance, and between practice spacing and subsequent performance. Our methodology allowed an in situ confirmation of results long established in the experimental literature on skill acquisition. Additionally, we showed that greater initial variation in performance is linked to higher subsequent performance, a result we link to the exploration/exploitation trade-off from the computational framework of reinforcement learning.

The paper is behind a paywall for the next year, unfortunately, but you can find a pre-print, as well as all the raw data and analysis code (written in Python) in the github repo. I wrote something on my academic blog about the methods and why we wanted to make this an example of open science.

Links: The paper: Tracing the Trajectory of Skill Learning With a Very Large Sample of Online Game Players
And the data & code.

Thanks to @phooky for suggesting an alternative title for the paper, which I’ve used to title this post

2014-01-04 Spike activity

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

So Happy 2014 and all that.

Let’s get on with it.

Brain Watch has an excellent piece on 10 Surprising Links Between Hollywood and Neuroscience.

Talking of Hollywood, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, inspiration for one of the great pulp movie posters of all time, is available on YouTube.

Lots of crappy ‘Psychology of New Year’s Resolutions’ articles kicking around but Dan Ariely has some elegant suggestions based on behavioural economics. Where can’t I get a personal behavioural economics coach? It’s the 21st century right?

Quantum Theory Won’t Save The Soul says Neuroskeptic. Awesome when you’re stoned though isn’t it?

The BPS Research Digest covers a good study on the diversity of sexual arousal in bisexual men. Another reminder of how sexual behaviour doesn’t fit into those neat categories we all like.

Writing for The New Yorker, psychologist Gary Marcus brings the brakes to the AI hype.

The Atlantic has an excellent piece on the dark side of emotional intelligence.

Fascinating study about the layout of mental time lines, brain injury and future confusion, covered by New Scientist.