Neurontic

Archives for March, 2006

Sex, Love, and SSRIs

Would you rather be miserable and smitten, or serene and passionless? If you’re suffering from depression and your doctor has prescribed SSRIs (or serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors) these are your options, according to anthropologist Helen Fisher. Fisher, who has been called the “doyenne of desire,” believes that Prozac and other SSRIs are robbing us of…

The anatomy of conformity

In the wake of World War II, stunned by the German peoples adoption of Hitler’s horrific vision of Aryan purity, psychologists set out to discover the mechanisms of social control. One of the most famous studies to emerge during this period was conducted by Gestalt Therapist Solomon Asch. In the early 1950s, Asch designed a…

You are getting very sleepy

As a born skeptic, I was always convinced that hypnosis was quack science. Then I reached the end of my tether. I’d promised myself I would quit smoking before I turned 30. In the months approaching my birthday, I still found myself sucking down a pack a day. I tried self-control. I tried tapering. I…

Don’t be afraid of your genes

I’ve been talking a lot about genes lately (because I’m obsessed) and what I’m finding is that many people are alarmed by genetics. I believe there are two primary reasons for this–one quite valid. A Vast Social Engineering Project? This fear of genetics arises, in part, from the belief that we may soon find ourselves…

Stranger than science fiction

You know those guys in high school who never learned to talk to girls? The ones who didn’t bother with acne medication, sported glasses that appeared to have been passed down from a long-dead uncle, and knew an alarming amount of Star Trek trivia? Well, apparently, they’ve all grown up and become neuroscientists. It’s the…

Decoding Consciousness

“It is better to tackle ten fundamental [scientific] problems and succeed in only one, than to tackle ten trivial ones and solve them all,” Francis Crick once told his devoted pupil V.S. Ramachandran, director of San Diego State’s Center for Brain and Cognition. Ramachandran, apparently, took this advice to heart. The man who contends that…

Manipulating your mind

In Mind Wide Open, Steven Johnson writes about advances in neurofeedback technology. “Your Attention Please” describes Johnson’s attempts to peddle a virtual bicycle using the power of his brain. He’s at a training session organized by a firm called The Attention Builders. As the name suggests, the company is in the business of building attention.…

Psychedelic Pharmacology

Clarence Darrow famously said: “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” It’s likely that Dr. John Halpern experienced a similar kind of schadenfreude on hearing of Timothy Leary’s death in 1996. For those of you too young to remember him as anything other than Uma Thurman’s godfather,…