Metapsychology reviews…

davidson_book.jpgMetapsychology is one of the hidden gems of the internet, publishing in-depth reviews of books on the mind, brain and society, at a rate of about 10 a month.

The reviewers are largely professional psychologists, neuroscientists or social science researchers but rarely lapse into using the dry language of academia.

The surprisingly diverse selection of books often includes novels and photographic collections as well as scientific and scholary writing.

xxx_psp_book.jpgSo, if you ever wanted a psychologist’s take on XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits, a book of collected essays by philosopher-of-mind Donald Davidson, a picture book for children on coping with grief, or a book on the cognitive science of the self, Metapsychology has all this and more.

Link to Metapsychology Book Reviews.

2005-05-13 Spike activity

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


Differing patterns of brain activation are found for faces of different races.

A gene linked to depression may weaken a brain circuit linked to emotion and mood regulation.

One of the basic tenants of motivation theory is questioned: Instrinsic motivation – doing things for their own reward – doesn’t exist claims researcher.

An article describes a writer’s experience with ADHD medication and its effect on his life.

Opposites attract – particularly in people diagnosed with personality disorder – claims psychologist.

An article on psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck finds him a complex, troubled and contradictory character – much like everybody else.

New Scientist reports on highlights from the international autism conference in Boston.

An article exames the existence of gay imagery in alien abduction accounts.

2005-05-06 Spike activity

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


Children of women pregnant during the 9/11 attacks are more likely to develop stress disorders themselves, echoing similar findings from Finland.

A review of cases of people who have woken up from coma.

The latest issue of Nature Neuroscience has an temporary open access special on the neurobiology of obesity.

Two recent studies suggest loneliness can affect the immune system and heart.

BBC Radio 4 science programme The Material World examines hearing and genetic hearing loss. Includes “the sound of a healthy ear”. Really.

Acupuncture no better than placebo for migraines claims one study. Acupuncture has a measurable effect on brain function claims another. Good comments and discussion at PsyBlog.

New Scientist discusses what we can learn about human conflict from the animal kingdom.

Eskimos discover ‘best ever’ snow: We’ve discovered new wonder drug – claims drug company. NB: Cortex make modafinil.

Great Cognitive Daily article on an experimental test of flashbulb memory.

2005-04-29 Spike activity

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


Brain scan sees hidden thoughts says sensational BBC headline. Interesting research mostly spun as a ‘mind reading’ discovery. Also here.

Steven Johnson discusses the possible cognitive
benefits of modern media
– although this Scientific American article (PDF) has another take on the issue.

Drug advertising has a profound effect on prescribing researchers report (for doctors, a classic study showed that 61% of doctors believed promotions do not influence their own prescribing, but only 16% believed other physicians were similarly unaffected. No Free Lunch for me please).

An article from Time Magazine, discusses the links between madness, chess and Bobby Fischer.

Mystery mental illness baffles experts in Sweden, and a case of suspected mass hysteria arises in a ‘gassing’ scare in Melbourne.

Brief but competent summary of cognitive theories of empathy and understanding others’ motivations.

Pressure from conservative groups cuts funding for sex research in the USA.

Seeing alcohol related words can influence men’s attractiveness ratings of women in a similar way to actually drinking alcohol (via PsyBlog).

Ockham’s Razor on qualia

think.jpgABC Radio National’s 15-minute science programme Ockham’s Razor discusses the philosophy and neuroscience of qualia – the conscious experience of sensation.

The importance of qualia is hotly debated within cognitive science. Some argue that it is the essential thing to explain in consciousness, with others arguing that either it is a red-herring and no more worthy of scientific explanation than phlogiston, or simply that it is too complex to explain.

Nevertheless, neuroscientist Colin Hales does an admirable job of discussing the current thinking on the topic, and outlining the potential links between qualia and brain states.

Realaudio or transcript of Ockam’s Razor on qualia.

2005-04-22 Spike activity

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


Researchers derive nonlinear difference equations to predict marriage outcomes, supposedly with 90% accuracy (interview with video).

People who are happy are more likely to be healthy, as research suggests happiness seems to have a direct biological effects on the body.

Politicians’ personalities can be described with only two factors. Presumably, this drops to one at election time.

Women may avoid careers in the sciences because they perceive them as solitary pursuits rather than socially-driven careers.

Difficulties in lining up golf shots while under pressure, may show similarities to some task-specific dystonias and other movement problems.

Mentat Wiki aims to collate techniques for better thinking and problem solving.

Our knowledge of how gravity works may be an innate part of our brain, suggests brain scanning study.

A class outline describes 10 unsolved questions in neuroscience. With suggestions for further reading.

TV soaps are influencing how people present with illnesses when they visit the doctor.

Psychologists Alison Gopnik, David Geary and Helena Cronin respond to Simon Baron-Cohen’s article on sex, autism and engineering that was previously mentioned on Mind Hacks.

2005-04-15 Spike activity

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


Brain scanning study shows people with synaesthesia who experience colours from letters or numbers, show activation in the ‘colour cortex’ during the experience.

A study finds that parents are more likely to give attention to good looking children.

Researchers study interaction between psychological and physiological factors in premature ejaculation “by measuring average times to ejaculation with stopwatches”.

Paper from journal Science discovers how sound can be transmitted to the brain with such precise timing.

Love is better than dieting for losing weight, says Italian news story that is suspiciously vague on where the findings come from.

American Scientist interviews philosopher and cognitive scientist William Hirstein.


Research suggests men who take risks and like danger sports are not more attractive to women.

ABC Radio’s All in the Mind discusses the historical relationships between ‘neurology and the novel’ in classics such as Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde (transcript, realaudio).

2005-04-08 Spike activity

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


A brain imaging study suggest an area of the brain a particular area of the brain is active when deciding whether to trust someone.

An article considers the link between blood sugar, mental performance and brain function.

Attention is an important aspect of effective memory. Also contains tips for optimising tasks to reduce load on memory and attention to increase performance.

A psychologist investigating polyamory notes the unique feelings and language required by these unorthdox relationships.

Research shows that children who watch more television are more likely to become bullies.

Dementia can be slowed by sex, crosswords and a run says tired researcher.

Neuroethics and Law Blog

Adam Kolber, Professor at the University of San Diego School of Law, has started a Neuroethics and Law Blog. I’m a big fan of specialist blogs; i think they play an important part in the knowledge economy of the net. So, welcome, Adam! Anyone who thinks they may be interested in the legal and ethical issues related to the brain and cognition is invited to take a look, here:

More mind hacks

While mistyping my Google search terms, I found the similarly named, a site also concerned with tweaking the human mind. (in contrast to this site, relies solely on user contributions – sort of like a for psychology.

Although it seems to have been a little quiet of late, it has plenty of fascinating material in its archives, and is undoubtedly an underused resource.

Link to

2005-04-01 Spike activity

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


A new edition of Scientific American Mind is available in the shops and two articles are freely available online. One on deja vu and the other a critical look at the Rorschach inkblot test.

An article on Kuro5hin discusses the psychology and construction of the ‘Big Five‘ personality model.

A paralysed man is able to control household appliances through an implanted brain chip (story from Guardian and BBC).

An article from the Pittsburg Post-Gazette discusses the work of psychologist Jennifer S. Lerner on the effect of emotion on decision-making and risk-taking.

A personality analysis of Adolf Hitler, commissioned by the forerunner to the CIA during the 1940s, is published online by Cornell University.

Teasing is “an indispensable social tool, vital to all healthy relationships”.

2005-03-23 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news, with internet radio easter special:

An archive of old advertisements for hypnotism books and training guides.

Researchers argue Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was inspired by the hallucinogenic effects of ergot.

Scientists link gene to dyslexia (again).

A specialist in the psychology of trauma recounts his own experience of being in a near-fatal car crash and his view on the psychological effects of post-trauma stress.

New York Times article on people who have a compelling desire to have a limb amputated.

Recent work in the field of neuroeconomics (the neuropsychology of economic decision making) is challenging traditonal notions of rationality.

People tend to fancy others with differing facial features, but trust those with similar features.

Terri Schiavo case highlights lack of knowledge in certain areas of neurology.

25% of US adults have received mental health care over a two-year period.

Article from Psychology Today on the co-option of psychological terms into everyday language.

Easter radio special

A few things to relax with over the easter holiday… Mind and brain radio programmes from around the world, broadcast over the last week and archived for your listening pleasure:
BBC Radio 4 had a series of five 15-minute programmes on the work of Sigmund Freud.

An edition of Check Up, also on Radio 4, tackles obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD.

And one more from Radio 4… This week’s edition of Material World discusses the neurobiology of body clocks and circadian rhythms.

ABC Radio National edition of All in the Mind discusses the neuroscience of movement and dance (transcript, realaudio).

Another Radio National programme, Ockham’s Razor, takes a critical look at mental illness and society (transcript, realaudio).

Scientists who decoded movement signals from an awake human with brain-implanted electrodes are interviewed on the SETI Radio Network’s science show Are we alone ? (mp3).

Spike activity 2005-03-18

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


Researchers from the University of Zurich suggest kindness to strangers may be uniquely part of human nature.

An insightful article on mindfulness meditation discusses its benefits for mental health and the supporting research.

Hormone treatment for prostate cancer has been shown to have effects on thinking, showing a link between hormones and cognitive ability.

Genetic studies have suggested that an inclination to certain forms of religious belief may have a genetic basis.

“In discussing pathology I discovered that yawning and spontaneous ejaculation were mentioned concomitantly in terminal rabies. In discussing pharmacology I found a link between yawning and spontaneous orgasm in withdrawal from heroin addiction”. Donald MacLeod, writing in the Guardian, reports on the research that suggests sex and yawning may be linked. Doesn’t that always happen ? Oh, maybe that’s just…

New PLoS Biology articles on neuroaesthetics and the molecular biology of human brain evolution.

Many world leaders believe in the supernatural, astrology, ghosts, weapons of mass destruction etc.

An inventor has created cutlery with built-in electrodes for use on dates. These measure skin conductance, which is known to rise during stress or discomfort. The article doesn’t mention that conductance also rises when a person is aroused, which could lead to some wonderfully comic situations.

2005-03-11 Spike activity

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


More articles on the neuropsychology of religious experience (from The Times) and synaesthesia (from Wired).

Laughter, it seems, is good for the heart.

New Scientist article on a new breed of lie-detector that measures blood flow in the face. “You’re in a desert walking along in the sand when all of a sudden…

Brain implants tested as a method to help treat severe depression.

A brain imaging study show how tunes may get ‘stuck in your head’.

Extrapolation of brain volume from the skull of homo florensis suggest that they are not humans with microencephaly, as some critics claim.

A brain scanning study with autistic children shows eye contact may activate areas associated with negative emotion.

2005-03-04 Spike activity

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


Judges are likely to rate people who perform last in a competition more highly, regardless of their ability.

Boston authorities are investigating an ex-stripper to see if she has been pretending to be a psychologist.

An excellent article on the burgeoning field of ‘neurotheology‘ – V.S. Ramachandran’s experiments on religion and temporal lobe epilepsy suggests they people with the condition may react more strongly to religious concepts.

Members of Mensa are to be DNA tested to study the link between high intelligence and dementia.

Article on Harvard psychologists’ studies of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.