2005-07-15 Spike activity

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


The Guardian has an article on the ethics and technology of ‘smart drugs‘.

National Geographic on findings that dopamine boosting drugs for Parkinson’s disease can lead to compulsive gambling, sex and drinking.

Why are auditory hallucinations (‘hearing voices’) usually male ? Sheffield researchers think they have the answer.

Thinking about an allergen free environment can reduce allergy symptoms by a third, report researchers studying self-hypnosis.

During ovulation, women prefer the scent of ‘alpha males‘ compared to other times in the menstrual cycle.

Smithsonian hosts exhibition inspired by synaesthesia (via BoingBoing).

People with the genetic condition William’s syndrome often seem fearless and ‘overfriendly’. Researchers suggest differences in amygdala function may explain it.

Forwarding entertaining emails is a form of informal gift economy.

British government ignores psychiatrists, service users to develop new mental health laws.

Petra Boyton’s guide on how to take part in sex research.

2005-07-08 Spike activity

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


Children who snore are more likely to have attention and hyperactivity problems.

Man links his Parkinson’s Disease with a sudden emergence of musical talent.

The Salt Lake Tribune discusses the crossover between cases of ‘possession’ and psychosis, and the role of psychiatry in treating the condition.

The effects of hypnosis on the brain are being teased apart with brain scanning studies.

“Guess I should have studied instead of watching Wrath of Khan” – Watching TV linked to poor academic performance in children.

The first melatonin based anti-depressant is released, suggesting a further link between the sleep cycle and depression.

Lab study suggests bisexual men do not show equal attraction to men and women. Is this a good analogy for sexual attraction in a complex social setting though?

Psychiatric Times has an article on “Are Genius and Madness Related? Contemporary Answers to an Ancient Question“.

Sleepwalking girl wakes up after climbing 130ft up a crane.

PsyBlog has a timely piece on the psychology of terrorist bombings.

Brain Connection columnists

brain-2.jpgBrain Connection is a quality website discussing developments in neuroscience and psychology, and one of its highlights is the monthly column section.

The columnist, currently Robert Sylwester, tackles a different topic each month, and aims to relate current findings in neuroscience to everyday life.

Although Sylwester’s column has a slight slant towards the educational applications of recent research, the topics are diverse enough to interest the most eclectic of readers.

Brain Connection as a whole is a hugely useful site, as it not only explains many principles of cognitive science in an accessible manner, but has lots of free-to-use resources online for anyone wanting to add graphics, animations or useful links to their own presentations.

Link to BrainConnection.com
Link to BrainConnection columists.

2005-07-01 Spike activity

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


Cornell researchers propose a move to a more ‘organic’ model of the mind.

Psychologists, writing in Current Directions in Psychological Science, give three reasons not to believe in an autism epidemic.

PsyBlog has a satirical take on Tom Cruise’s comments on psychology and psychiatry.

A team has developed a way of using fMRI to do pre-surgery assessment of people with life-threatening epilepsy, instead of having to implant electrodes into the brain.

Hypnosis can help overcome our automatic responses and seems to alter the function of the regulation and control areas in the brain.

BrainBlog points to some fantastic online resources for understanding and analysing fMRI data.

Piece from the Guardian on the neuropsychology of belief.

WTF ? : Erotic telepathy.

2005-06-24 Spike activity

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


Insightful, sardonic and often sharply witty blog, detailing the trials and tribulations of a mental health nurse (via PsyBlog)

Website from the Boundary Institute has online ‘Psi’ tests to look for extransensory abilities.

Raj Persaud takes us inside the mind of an adulterer, discussing the psychology of infidelity.

Violent video games activate similar brain areas to real violence.

The smell of male pheromones makes men more likely to opt for male lifestyle magazines than other titles.

Women are more afraid of dentists than men, research shows. Must be all those men’s lifestyle magazines in the waiting room.

Narcissicists seem better able to handle trauma than others.

Sex psychologist Petra Boynton critical of attempts to brain scan orgasm, but clarifies her comments after feedback.

Metafilter on what you think about when you’re not thinking about much.

2005-06-17 Spike activity

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


RedNova reviews Plotkin’s book Evolutionary Thought in Psychology.

There’s been a recent flurry of reinterest in the effect of the cat parasite toxoplasma gondii on human personality – see also PDF of related SciAm article.

Cornell lawyers discuss the legality of using brain scans in suspect interrogation (via BoingBoing).

Kid’s asthma may be linked to mothers’ depression.

Buddhist monks can control perceptual rivalry suggesting they have exceptional control over certain mind and brain processes.

Deep brain stimulation (a brain ‘pacemaker’) is being trialled to help untreatable depression (via PsyBlog).

Discussions and deliberations continue about the classification of mental disorders.

Radio programme The Connection discusses the ethics of creating consciousness – including Marvin Minsky discussing IBM’s new Blue Brain Project.

Electronic voice phenomena: A history


The Fortean Times has published an online article about EVP, or electronic voice phenomena, the experience of hearing ‘voices’ in the background of sound recordings.

The author of the piece has experienced EVP and believes the sounds to be spirits of the dead trying to communicate through the static.

Whether you believe this explanation (or think that EVP is more likely due to apophenia) the article remains a fascinating description of the history of the phenomena, most associated with parapsychologist Konstantin Raudive.

Link to article ‘Distant voices’.
Link to wikipedia entry on EVP.

Behavioural and Brain Functions journal

Open access journals are good. Not only do they mean that the copyright on publicly funded-research doesn’t end in the hands of private companies, and that scientists don’t have to pay to read their own research, but it also means that everyone can read scientific research as it is communicated directly by scientists to their peers. There aren’t that many open access journals in psychology, so it great to hear about Behavioral and Brain Functions is a new, open access journal from biomedcentral, edited by Terje Sagvolden. Well done guys

2005-06-10 Spike activity

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


A widely reported story suggests that Ashkenazi Jews may be genetically more likely to be highly intelligent. Full text of research paper here.

Psychometrics, the science of measuring the mind, has a long tradition in Maori culture.

Cool demonstration of the rapid afterimage effect. Doesn’t seem to work in Firefox though.

In the USA, about one in four adults have the symptoms of at least one mental illness every year, and nearly half suffer disorders during their lifetimes, says new government report.

Cognitive Daily has a fascinating article on how children learn to walk.

A short article discusses sites on the internet that seem to promote eating disorders.

BBC Radio 4 has a news story and a radio programme (archived as a realaudio stream) on controversial psychiatrist and alien abductee researcher John Mack.

Also on BBC Radio 4:

1) Leading Edge discusses IBM’s project to simulate the brain, mentioned previously on Mind Hacks.

2) Material World discusses the science of film and emotion.

Mental Health Update

The recently created Mental Health Update is a blog that collects mental health posts from across the internet.

Although it bills itself as providing the “Latest info on bipolar disorder, mad cow disease and other mental conditions”, which strikes me as a bit of an odd combination for a strapline, it is frequently updated and links to a suprisingly diverse number of stories and news sources.

Link to Mental Health Update.

2005-06-03 Spike activity

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


Review article from PLoS Medicine suggests schizophrenia is less prevalent than previously thought.

It seems to be artificial intelligence week:

1) The Yemen Times runs an article giving an introduction to AI.

2) An article on kuro5hin takes a critical look at the recent completion of a verbal analogy exam by an AI system.

3) AI seduces Stanford students reports Wired, although Stanford students seduce AI would be cooler.

An interview with the current director of the Kinsey Institute on sexual behaviour and sex research.

Paper on CogPrints on ‘A Psychedelic Neurochemistry of Time‘.

Researchers discover a map for smell in the brain.

The early stages of “early, intense romantic love may have more to do with motivation, reward and ‘drive’ aspects of human behavior than with the emotions or sex drive.”

Wired discusses the controversial use of cognitive neuroscience to design effective advertising – (Thanks Michal!).

Better educated women sleep more soundly, although the reverse is true for men. Coincidence ? I think not.

Spraying the hormone oxytocin into the nose makes people more trusting.

Article on Cognitive Daily examines research that suggests emotions don’t appear to affect trust when the person in question is a close friend, but play a strong role when the person is only an acquaintance.

Fantastic analysis of recent research showing cannabis may increase the risk of psychosis particularly in people with certain genes.

the emperor’s new paradigm

And to follow up on recent posts (here, and here) on evolutionary psychology there is a new review in the latest edition of Trends in Cognitive Sciences:

Evolutionary psychology: the emperor’s new paradigm
David J. Buller
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Volume 9, Issue 6 , June 2005, Pages 277-283
For some evolutionary psychology is merely a field of inquiry, but for others it is a robust paradigm involving specific theories about the nature and evolution of the human mind. Proponents of this paradigm claim to have made several important discoveries regarding the evolved architecture of the mind. Highly publicized discoveries include a cheater-detection module, a psychological sex difference in jealousy, and motivational mechanisms underlying parental love and its lapses, which purportedly result in child maltreatment. In this article, I argue that the empirical evidence for these ‘discoveries’ is inconclusive, at best. I suggest that, as the reigning paradigm in evolutionary psychology has produced questionable results, the evolutionary study of human psychology is still in need of a guiding paradigm.

Sagittal section t-shirt

threadless_zoom.jpgVote-to-print t-shirt shop Threadless must have some neuroscience fans amongst their users, as they’ve just printed another brain-based t-shirt.

This time it’s an abstract interpretation of a sagittal section through the head and brain, with the corpus callosum a riot of decorative trim.

Know of any other mind- or brain-based t-shirts ? Let us know.

Link to Think Slow t-shirt.

2005-05-27 Spike activity

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


Ex-automotive engineer is attempting to understand the brain in terms of thermodynamics and energy transfer.

Trying to describe the taste of wine in flowery language may ruin memory for its taste.

Scientists discover brain areas for understanding sarcasm. Full text of scientific paper is at this PDF.

Anorexia ‘caused by brain not society‘ claims report. Presumably society has no effect on the brain and we are all brains in vats.

It’s always good to see the annual ‘downloading the brain nearly here‘ story come round again. Presumably foot downloading will be tested first.

“The unpalatable truth is that falling in love is, in some ways, indistinguishable from a severe pathology“. Drug companies to market anti-love medication any day now.

Mothers’ ability for reading babies’ emotions more important than economic status for successful development.

Politicians take note: Charisma by numbers!

Review of the biography of the inventor of lobotomy from the British Medical Journal.

2005-05-20 Spike activity

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


Brain injury can have unconcious but significant effects on artistic style and expression.

Babies who have difficult births and a family history of mental illness are more likely to develop autism researchers find.

The ex-editor of the BMJ, writing in PLoS Medicine, slams drug company influence on medical journals and scientific findings.

Research finds that Yoga can enhance body satisfaction and reduce the likelihood of eating disorders, perhaps countering fears of the ‘yogarexia‘ effect.

Mysterious ‘piano man‘ is found in Kent, with few clues to his identity. A potential case of dissociative fugue?

Jennifer Fink writes a beautiful piece, mixing fact and fiction, on fugue and epilepsy.

People continue to believe false news reports, even after they are aware they’ve been proved untrue.

Research on children’s security blankets find that they can compensate for insecure attachment to parents in some situations.

Subliminal messages can invoke emotion without awareness.

Sports teams playing in red have a slight advantage in winning.