Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Five Ways Your Mind Plays Tricks on You

i-deffa33a7c1dd6c228fcb7e1aeece8c5-brain.pngThe October issue of Popular Science has several excellent articles about the mind. My favorite is a collection of five explanations of unusual or creepy sensations that are caused by neurological glitches.

Reporter Veronique Greenwood included short summaries of academic research about each of the mental malfunctions. I was pleased to see that she included the names and affiliatons of the researchers, but disappointed that she only identified one of the journals in which the research that she described appears.

After reading dense blurbs like these, I often want to know more.

It always irritates me when huge publications like PopSci go to great lengths to create a fantastic story, and then slap it up on the web without adding any extra information. They could have at least linked to the webpages of each researcher and some of their abstracts. That would have taken a half hour and greatly enriched the article.

For your enjoyment, here are profiles of those five researchers:
Note that you can find long lists of their scholarly publications on each of these pages.

Susumu Tonegawa – Deja Vu, Nature Reviews Neuroscience 5, 361-372
Eric Altschuler – Out of Body Experience, Perception 36(4) 632 – 634
Jamie Ward – Mirror-touch Synesthesia, Brain, 128, 1571-1583
Olaf Blanke — You’re Being Watched
Amir Amedi — Seeing sounds, Neuron, Vol 48, 859-872

Don’t forget to vote for Shelley!
Or she will play tricks on your brain.



  1. #1 Anon
    October 19, 2007

    I was going to chastise you for the title of this entry, but your last line redeems you, and I will assume that the title came from the popsci title. Anyway, it is a pet peeve of mine when people who should know better use “mind” when they ought to use “brain”. Your last sentence (Or she will play tricks on your brain.) is correct, and a breath of fresh air in a smog of misused terminology.

    I find that “mind” is an incoherent term, leftover baggage from a cartesian worldview; there is almost always a better word to use, whether we are speaking of remembering, perceiving, thinking… but “mind” is not at all synonymous with “brain”. And in this case, it is what the brain is doing that underlies these experiences.

    Even the people who say “the mind is what the brain does” should protest about the phrase “ways your mind plays tricks on you”. The tricks, in this case, *are* your “mind”; your mind is not doing these things, your mind *is* these things.

    But thanks–these are very cool phenomena, and worth the added info. And yes, I voted for you. Before you even asked.

  2. #2 Tom B
    October 19, 2007

    To their credit, Scientific manages to include references– a good thing.

    Nice piece, Shelley!

    There was one I heard about involving getting a friend to stroke a rubber hand and your brain interpreting it after 30 seconds as being YOUR hand. You wouldn’t have a link to that one, by any chance/

  3. #3 Carl Buell
    October 19, 2007

    Thanks for the links Shelley…er…Aaron! As someone who every day experiences moments of not being exactly where my body is, I appreciate it.

  4. #4 kai
    October 20, 2007

    There’s a spurious “http//” in the Brain link that should be fixed.

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