Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


Science and Pseudoscience in Mental Health

By Tim Hannan

A new book explores the range and popularity of unproven therapies for psychological disorders.

Memory Surgery

By Tim Hannan

Recent discoveries about memory modification open the way to erasing traumatic memories.

Many people have memories they would rather not possess. For some, it may be of a particularly embarrassing moment in adolescence; for others, it involves a vivid and terrifying re-experiencing of a traumatic event.

All of This Has Happened Before

By Tim Hannan

A new case report shows that déjà vu can be persistent, debilitating and psychogenic.

While for the majority of us, the occasional impression that a novel scene or event is nevertheless somehow familiar is an odd, transient sensation, for rare individuals the déjà vu experience is both persistent and debilitating.

The Walking Dead

By Tim Hannan

People with the Cotard delusion are convinced that they are dead.

From the recent popularity of zombies in literature, television and movies, it would seem that many people are fascinated by the notion of the “undead”. As entertaining as the notion of “dead but not dead” bodies may be, believing that you are actually dead can be rather unsettling for sufferers of one delusional disorder.

An Honest Face

By Tim Hannan

The brain decides whether an unfamiliar face is trustworthy, even before it is consciously perceived.

It is said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but a recent study suggests we might not even get a first chance. It seems that the human brain is biased to making snap judgements on the trustworthiness of someone’s face, even before it is consciously perceived.

Diagnosis, Dissent and the DSM

By Tim Hannan

The publication of the DSM-5 prompts debates over the science of diagnosing and treating mental illness.

Last year’s publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) elicited much discussion among mental health professionals, chiefly over whether the changes introduced accorded with the best available scientific research. The debate over evidence in turn opened the door for somewhat less reasoned pronouncements centred on opposition to science-based practice in medicine in general, and to whether diagnoses should be made at all.

The Crimes of Sleepwalkers

By Tim Hannan

Sleep experts and lawyers are wrestling over the criminal responsibility of sleepers.

The Demise of Dyslexia

By Tim Hannan

Leading scholars argue for the abandonment of a flawed concept.

Since it was first recognised that some children experience significant difficulty learning to read, much academic ink has been spilled in the battle over the concept of dyslexia, with its nature, cause, neuropathology, diagnosis and treatment all furiously debated. Now, a new book by two leading scholars argues that current approaches to dyslexia are largely incoherent, and that the battle should simply be abandoned.

Rebooting the Brain

By Tim Hannan

A study of recovery from anaesthesia finds that returning to consciousness is not a simple path.

One of the enduring mysteries of the human brain is how it transitions between the conscious and unconscious states. It is not well-understood how the brain, when recovering from a major disruption to its activity, is able to navigate its way back to consciousness.

Crying Wolf

By Tim Hannan

A new review offers a modern perspective on clinical lycanthropy and other delusions of animal metamorphoses.

The belief that one has been turned into a wolf was quite common in previous centuries, though now such metamorphoses appear largely restricted to popular fiction – from Harry Potter’s godfather to the Stark boys in Game of Thrones. Yet a recent review in the History of Psychiatry demonstrates that cases of the delusion known as clinical lycanthropy are still reported in the medical literature.