Here is fearfully and wonderfully complex for yer

We have just stumbled across a paper that is very intriguing if you are not up with this tricky little evolutionary twist. Tim Bruckner and colleagues at University of California Irvine and Berkeley, have reported that the odds of a male fetus dying - called the 'fetal death sex ratio' - were increased above the expected odds during September 2001. … [Read more...]

Up close and personal with movement – a review from the experts

Here is a review that, if you are interested in how the brain controls muscles, and you are prepared to put in some hard yards, you should read. Simon Gandevia works down the corridor from me, so do Janet Taylor and Jane Butler. Nicholas Peterson doesn't but I once had a cup of tea from the same pot. So, I am, everyday, in the presence of … [Read more...]

Searching for Rene Descartes or just ‘knowing’ he is there

Thanks to Daniel Hawes at twenty2five.blogspot, we were alerted to a recent paper in Psychological Science that investigated how easily people correct their beliefs[1]. Now, you have to know that the angle you are about to hear is speculative, although not outrageous.  The researchers argued that people make two kinds of mistakes on a phrase memory … [Read more...]

Don’t Drink in the Dark

Kakadu Yellow Waters Sunset by Mike Jones

Mosquitoes, or mozzies as we would call them here in Australia, come out at night. I know this in part because I have witnessed the massacre of my good friend Donaldo Becoccini on a fateful evening in Yellow Waters Kakadu -truly one of the planet's special places (we found this photo on the web - it is by Mike Jones and he has some excellent … [Read more...]

Faulty input makes you feel funny, but doesn’t hurt

There is a really attractive theory that has been used to explain why some people have chronic ongoing pain even though there is nothing wrong in the body part that hurts.  The theory suggests that the pain occurs because motor commands don't match proprioceptive feedback from the body.  The name often given to this theory is the sensory-motor … [Read more...]

Mirror mirror in my brain, are you the answer to every-thaing

Jeisea alerted us to what I think is a superb blog post by Greg Hickok Center for Cognitive Neuroscience University of California, Irvine on mirror neurons, inspired by a study out of UCL in London and published in the excellent journal Current Biology. The paper shows that mirror neurons undergo sensorimotor learning. This doesn't seem very … [Read more...]

Now the expert talks about SMOUNDS

The five senses are usually studied in isolation and there is no doubt that this ‘divide and conquer’ method has given us very valuable insight into the way the brain processes sensory information. However, in our daily life, we combine inputs from all sensory channels to make sure we know what’s happening around us. If there is a fire in your … [Read more...]

Chronic back pain – when research comes out of the blue

Something potentially amazing just happened. I’m not being flippant, a randomised controlled trial (RCT: still the only research method that can genuinely tell whether a treatment works) from China has just produced results in chronic back pain that can only be described as amazing. The temptation is to say “unbelievable”. This trial published in … [Read more...]

There are side effects, and there are real side effects

Cumulative Incidence of Adverse Symptom Events over Time as Reported by Patients versus Clinicians at Successive Office Visits

The NEJM just posted this entry that clearly shows that when clinicians report side effects of the drugs that their patient is taking, their reports don't agree with what patients report. Interestingly, clinicians are doing the reporting of these side effects as part of their participation in clinical trials, and the clinical trials are almost … [Read more...]

More on the complex interaction between us and our environment….

pain1_brain_2008

There is a very clever Belgian psychologist called Stefaan Van Damme.  He has done some excellent work on attentional mechanisms involved in pain.  More importantly, however, is that he is a jolly nice fellow.  Anyway, he came to Oxford and did a great little experiment (actually, we did a couple but the other one is not ready for the real world … [Read more...]