Isolation and hallucinations: The mental health challenges faced by astronauts

The sight of the entire Earth, visible to the naked eye, has had a profound effect on those who have seen it. Astronaut William McCool described it as “beyond imagination”, and many have written how space flight permanently altered how they saw their place in the universe. For mission control, the wonder of space must seem like something of a distraction as they focus on the psychological health of their astronauts working in a high-pressure, high-risk environment, 420km (260 miles) above the Earth’s surface. These day-to-day stresses can be equally as life-changing and Nasa consider behavioural and psychiatric conditions to be one of the most significant risks to the integrity of the mission – not least as there is now significant evidence that space travel has mind-altering effects.

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How scanning the brains of the dead improves the lives of the living

For thousands of years, direct studies of the human brain required the dead. The main method of study was dissection, which needed, rather inconveniently for the owner, physical access to their brain. Despite occasional unfortunate cases where the living brain was exposed on the battlefield or the surgeon's table, corpses and preserved brains were the source of most of our knowledge. When brain scanning technologies were invented in the 20th century they allowed the structure and function of the brain to be shown in living humans for the first time. This was as important for neuroscientists as the invention of the telescope and the cadaver slowly faded into the background of brain research. But recently, scrutiny of the post-mortem brain has seen something of a revival, a resurrection you might say, as modern researchers have become increasingly interested in applying their new scanning technologies to the brains of the deceased.

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The concept of delusions gets a big -- but unnoticed -- overhaul

It's not clear who forcibly sedated her in 1972. It's not certain that she was admitted to a psychiatric ward in the following year. What's definite though is that many people thought she was mad as she ranted about conspiracies in the White House during eccentric phone calls to the press. Questions about Martha Beall Mitchell's sanity were encouraged by the Nixon administration, who consistently briefed against her and probably had her medicated against her will. But ultimately her claims were proven correct when the Watergate scandal broke.

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Why the 'War on Drugs' has been made redundant

For every 'designer drug' the authorities ban, clandestine labs are churning out a new version. No wonder the law can't keep up.

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The human brain is not as simple as we think

Neuroscience has entered the public consciousness, and changed the way we talk about ourselves. But much of what passes as knowledge is inaccurate

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Hypnosis enjoys a revival

Long derided as a tool of quacks and comedians, the science of suggestibility is enjoying a revival as a clinical tool, says Vaughan Bell

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A brief guide to neuroscience

It is the boom area in science. Vaughan Bell explains why

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