Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Neuropsy

Knowing When to Fold ‘Em

By Tim Hannan

The discovery that some brain injuries may eliminate the gambler’s fallacy could lead to pharmaceutical treatments for problem gambling.

At first glance, the various forms of gambling appear to be games that require a participant to make decisions based on a reasoned calculation of the probabilities of various outcomes. Yet psychological research has revealed that gamblers typically commit cognitive errors that promote a greater expectation of winning, such as the well-known gambler’s fallacy of expecting that if one of two equally likely outcomes has occurred several times in a row (e.g. a tossed coin landing on heads repeatedly), the other outcome (tails) then becomes more likely.

The Man that Hath No Music in Himself

By Tim Hannan

A study of people who don’t respond to music finds differences in the brain’s reward system.

Enjoyed by humans since prehistoric times, music has been variously described as the food of love, a shorthand for emotion, and the universal language of humankind. For some, those seemingly rare individuals who do not express an enthusiasm for music are viewed with deep suspicion, like those who don’t eat chocolate, who are unmoved by Shakespearean drama, or who fail to express delight over an Ashes victory.

To Sleep, Perchance to Clean the Brain

By Tim Hannan

The restorative function of a night’s sleep may result from elimination of the day’s neurotoxins.

While those who mark World Sleep Day are probably disinclined to do so with all-night parties, neuroscientists may have celebrated it this year more enthusiastically with the news that one of biology’s great mysteries may have been solved.

Curiouser and Curiouser

By Tim Hannan

A new case of Alice in Wonderland syndrome draws attention to how little is known about perceived distortions of body size.

Exercising the Brain

By Tim Hannan

Can physical activity in later life slow the rate of cerebral atrophy?

In 65 BCE, the Roman orator Marcus Cicero opined: “It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigour”. These days, the benefits of physical activity for general health, mood and cognitive functioning are well recognised – even if a consequence of the Ashes tour is that the attention many of us pay to physical activity at this time of year is more vicarious than actual.

Consciousness Revealed

By Tim Hannan

Can consciousness be detected by neuroimaging?

The detection of conscious awareness in individuals who have suffered an extremely severe brain injury has implications for the provision of care, the prediction of the likelihood of recovery, and for decision-making regarding the prolongation of life.

Face Off

By Tim Hannan

Do motoring enthusiasts recognise cars in the same way people recognise faces?

A recent investigation by a team of cognitive neuroscientists from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, has challenged long-held assumptions about the visual perceptual systems involved in face and object recognition.

The Streep Effect

By Tim Hannan

Is Foreign Accent Syndrome the result of brain trauma or stress, or not even a foreign accent?

Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS) is a rare condition in which a person’s speech is characterised by the sudden emergence of a pronunciation perceived by others to be a foreign accent. Generally, the symptoms emerge after a brain injury, but in some cases no neurological event has occurred and the accent is assumed to be a psychological response to a distressing situation or event.

Scent of a Woman

By Tim Hannan

Does the lack of a sense of smell affect personal and sexual relationships?

The olfactory sense serves various functions. It influences food choice and appreciation, and assists in the detection of environmental dangers.

Tim Hannan is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Charles Sturt University, and the President of the Australian Psychological Society.

The Head Coach

By Tim Hannan

New guidelines aim to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment from concussion in sport.

Concussion is a common occurrence in contact sports, with both the AFL and NRL calculating that about six players from every elite club suffer a concussion each season. Estimates for lower competitions have produced similar or slightly lower frequencies.

Tim Hannan is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Charles Sturt University, and the President of the Australian Psychological Society.