Blogs and Sites
In 1972, Colombian psychiatrist Miguel Echeverry published a book arguing that hippies were not a youth subculture but the expression of a distinct mental illness that should be treated aggressively lest it spread through the population like a contagion. I found the book, called Psicopatologia y Existencia del Hippie (Psychopathology and Existence of the Hippy), in my local library and it turns out to be one of the most surprising psychiatry books I have ever read. At some point, I suspect the good Dr Echeverry must have been driven to breaking point by a bunch of long-haired youths strumming poorly tuned guitars outside his window, because he is clearly furious.
A new online tool called brainSCANr visually summarises the psychology and neuroscience literature to give you a network overview of which are the terms most connected to the target concept in scientific publications. You can see the example for ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’, otherwise known as PTSD , below. Click here to see it full size on the actual website.
I’ve made a radio programme with ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind about burundanga, a mysterious street drug used in South America which is widely believed to remove free will. The name ‘burundanga’ is a popular term and doesn’t refer to a single thing, but its most commonly associated with the brugmansia plants. They can incapacitate people in high enough doses owing to them being rich in a psychoactive chemical called scopolomine .
How to change attitudes months after a persuasive message is delivered. In the 1940s during WWII, the US Department of War wanted to know if their propaganda films were really working. So they carried out a series of experimental studies into how they affected soldier's attitudes. The complacent assumption was that the films should easily influence the average GI. Producers and psychologists alike expected to see a huge shift in attitudes towards the war after they were viewed.
Mind & Brain :: Features :: November 29, 2010 :: :: Email :: Print Flaws in a long-accepted test used to search for signs of self-awareness are revealing that selfhood varies culturally and exists on a continuum By Maggie Koerth-Baker
The New York Times has a revealing article about how a popular textbook for family doctors on how to treat mental illness, apparently written by two big name psychiatrists, was almost entirely written by a ghostwriting service under the direction of a large drug company. Two prominent authors of a 1999 book teaching family doctors how to treat psychiatric disorders provided acknowledgment in the preface for an “unrestricted educational grant” from a major pharmaceutical company. But the drug maker, then known as SmithKline Beecham, actually had much more involvement than the book described, newly disclosed documents show.
Edge has a fascinating video interview with philosopher Alva Noë who discusses his work on the philosophy of consciousness, arguing that we will be led astray if we think of consciousness solely as a brain process that happens within us without reference to how we act in the world. Noë is primarily arguing for a form of embodied cognition which argues that the mind and brain can only be understood as situated in the world in which we interact. The function of the mind is inherently connected to the sorts of tasks we need to do to survive on a day-to-day basis. This view has been bolstered by experimental work which has shown that we perceive the world differently depending on the task we are doing or how we intend to act.
It’s probably true to say that Pirahã is the most controversial language in the world owing to Daniel Everett arguing that the language doesn’t have recursion, as Chomsky’s ‘universal’ language theory predicts, and doesn’t have fixed words for numbers or colours. New Scientist has just put a video online that is a superbrief introduction to Everett’s theory, but best of all, we get to hear the language spoken. Everett is also interviewed in this week’s issue of the science magazine, but it’s behind a pay wall, so I’d just read it in the newsagent. However, if you want more detail over the controversy, it’s been well covered in other places. Edge had an article by Everett that put his case forward, NPR had a radio show on the debate, and The New Yorker has some wonderfully in-depth coverage of the issue. Link to brief video of Everett at work.
Philosopher Jerry Fodor has written a wonderfully entertaining review of Galen Strawson’s new book ‘Consciousness and Its Place in Nature’ for the London Review of Books . In his book, Strawson looks at the assumption that consciousness arises from the physical matter of the brain and comes to the startling but coherent conclusion that maybe everything has the capacity for consciousness. Fodor explains it like so: So, then, if everything is made of the same sort of stuff as tables and chairs (as per monism ), and if at least some of the things made of that sort of stuff are conscious (there is no doubt that we are), and if there is no way of assembling stuff that isn’t conscious that produces stuff that is (there’s no emergence), it follows that the stuff that tables, chairs and the bodies of animals (and, indeed, everything else) is made of must itself be conscious.
Synaesthesia, the neurological condition in which one sense automatically evokes another; so sounds have colour, and tastes have texture and so on can also be induced by LSD. Photograph: Yale Joel/Time & Life/Getty The Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman reported seeing equations in colour. The artist Wassily Kandinsky tried to re-create the visual equivalent of a symphony in each of his paintings.
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless. Despite rumors to the contrary, there are many ways in which the human brain isn’t all that fancy. Let’s compare it to the nervous system of a fruit fly. Both are made up of cells, of course, with neurons playing particularly important roles. Now one might expect that a neuron from a human will differ dramatically from one from a fly. Maybe the human’s will have especially ornate ways of communicating with other neurons, making use of unique “neurotransmitter” messengers.