Category Archives: News

Lobotomy on Retro Report: First, Do No Harm

The New York Times‘s Retro Report has produced a new video on the history of lobotomy, First, Do No Harm. As Retro Report describes,

For centuries scientists have studied the brain and still our understanding, particularly when it comes to the treatment for those suffering with severe, often untreatable mental illness, remains elusive. As scientists around the world are beginning ambitious programs to study the human brain in unprecedented ways, Retro Report explores the evolution of the surgical and biological treatments over the decades. From the brutal, but once considered mainstream treatment of lobotomy to biological cocktails, to the beginnings of what many hope will be a more elegant understanding of the brain through technology.

More details here.

New Book & Touring Exhibit on Ramón y Cajal: The Beautiful Brain


The Beautiful Brain, a new book and touring exhibit documenting the work of Spanish neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal just launched. As the New York Times describes,

Decades before these technologies existed, a man hunched over a microscope in Spain at the turn of the 20th century was making prescient hypotheses about how the brain works. At the time, William James was still developing psychology as a science and Sir Charles Scott Sherrington was defining our integrated nervous system.

Meet Santiago Ramón y Cajal, an artist, photographer, doctor, bodybuilder, scientist, chess player and publisher. He was also the father of modern neuroscience.

More details on the book, The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal
(By Larry Swanson, Eric Newman, Alfonso Araque, and Janet Dubinsky) can be found here, while the exhibit is scheduled to appear at the following locations:

The Beautiful Brain Tour Schedule
January 28 – May 21, 2017 | Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota
Minneapolis MN
September 5 – December 3, 2017 | Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery,
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
January 9 – March 31, 2018 | Grey Art Gallery, New York University
New York City, New York, USA
May 2, 2018 – January 1, 2019 | MIT museum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
January 27 – April 7, 2019 | Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

Keynote psychologist reframes Indigenous youth suicide as response to Canadian colonization

Darien Thira, on left

CBC reports on an event held earlier in the month in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The Community Medicine Gathering was hosted by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to bring educators, health workers, and adolescents together in response to a wave of youth suicides in First Nations communities. The keynote address was given by Darien Thira, whose psychological practice focuses on mental health and development consultancy for Indigenous populations in Canada.

Dr. Thira’s talk, which challenged how such suicides have been conceptualized in Canadian disciplinary psychology and public perception, was received enthusiastically by attendees and Chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council, Ron Michel. Thira’s assertions included that in this context, suicide is not a mental health issue, but rather a “natural but terrible response to colonization.” Further, that the appropriate response by our social systems to such situations is not to impose external expertise, which is the kind of logic that led to the establishment of ‘care’ programs like the residential schools. Instead, he advocates for systemic support and respect for the resources already present in communities.

Read the full article here. 

New at the Wellcome Library: Tavistock Institute of Human Relations Archive Now Open to Researchers!

The papers of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) have now been catalogued – 130 boxes of them! – and are now open to researchers at the Wellcome Library. As the TIHR Archive Project reports,

These papers – the registered document series (SA/TIH/B/1) – provide a framework for the research and outputs of the Institute from 1945 to 2005, containing key reports and findings from seminal social studies from the post-war period to the early 21st century.

The reports trace the dynamic and cutting-edge work undertaken by the Tavistock Institute’s team of social scientists, anthropologists and psychoanalysts, in their efforts to apply new thinking emerging in the social sciences to the most prevalent contemporary needs and concerns of society. The topics addressed in the reports are hugely diverse, covering many aspects of the organisation of human social and cultural relations, institutions, social conflicts, and organisational structures and group dynamics.

More details about the archive can be found here, while the collection can be explored here.

Controversy Brewing over Suzanne Corkin and Patient H.M.

Henry Molaison (know as H.M. in much of the published literature)

As we recently reported on AHP a new book on the infamous case study of H.M. has subjected this work to increasing scrutiny, especially with respect to the actions of psychologist Suzanne Corkin, chief H.M. researcher who also served as gatekeeper of other researchers’ access to H.M. Corkin died in May of this year, while H.M. (now known to be Henry Molaison) died in 2008.

Backlash against Luke Dittrich and his book, Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets, has been growing since a lengthy piece adapted from the book appeared in the New York Times Magazine last week. (Further pieces on Dittrich’s book can be found on Psychology Today and the NYTMag’s Science of Us, among many other sources.) Particularly controversial have been three points: (1) reports that Corkin destroyed the records related to H.M.; (2) claims that Corkin suppressed reports of an additional lesion in H.M.’s brain; and (3) questions regarding the appropriateness of appointing a a non-relative as H.M.’s conservator.

Dr. James DiCarlo, head of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, has written a letter to the New York Times disputing these claims. Additionally, reports are circulating that a group of roughly 200 neuroscientists have written to the Times claiming that Dittrich’s work “contains important errors, misinterpretations of scientific disputes, and unfair characterizations of an MIT neuroscientist who did groundbreaking research on human memory” (from here; also see here and here for more). The letter signed by this group can be read in full here.

In response to DiCarlo’s claims Dittrich has written a post for Medium outlining his position and evidence regarding each claim. Included in Dittrich’s post is a 7-minute audio clip from an  interview he conducted with Corkin wherein she can be heard asserting that records concerning H.M. were destroyed. The audio can be heard here.