See You at the Potter Party in Staunton for the ‘Cursed Child’ Script Release!

QCPPButterbeer, magic cats and birthday cake for Harry— what better way to celebrate the midnight publication of the book of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?  Free events all day, all ages welcome!

I’m on deck for a series of “Magic and the Mind” talks on Harry Potter and psychology. If you are in Central Virginia, please join us beginning at 12 PM in downtown Staunton!

Watch this space (Updated 7/20/2016!!)  for details, or check out the Facebook page.



Matthew Lewis Q & A at Awesome Con

Matthew header

When I won a Saturday pass to Awesome Con 2016, courtesy of The Group Who Shall Not Be Named, tops on my list was to see the Q & A panel with Matthew Lewis, the actor who portrayed Neville Longbottom, one of my favorite Harry Potter characters.

NevilleI didn’t take notes, but here are some interesting points he shared in response to fan questions:

  • If he could choose a patronus, it would be a panda.
  • The first scene he filmed was Madame Hooch’s flying lesson.  The last was his courtyard showdown scene with Voldemort.  He could not remember the speech he gave, though.
  • He had to buy the books like everyone else to learn what would happen to his character.  JKR offered to tell him when they were filming Order of the Phonenix, but he decided he did not want to know.
  • He hates the way he delivered the “You and what army?” line in Deathly Hallows II and cringes every time he sees it.
  • If he were to play an adult character in Harry Potter, he would want to be Remus Lupin.  Lupin and Sirius Black were his favorite characters. If he could have been cast as a different child character, he would have wanted to be Draco Malfoy.
  • He is still good friends with his peers from the cast.  Emma Watson sent him a birthday video from the Beauty and the Beast set.
  • Finally, he gave a touching tribute to Alan Rickman, saying he was a wonderful person who had taught him a lot. He was actually visiting the set of Fantastic Beasts when he learned of his passing, and said it was quite surreal to be in the Harry Potter-type environment when he was grieving his loss.


J.K. Rowling and the Phantoms in the Brain

BrainsAs best I can recall, brains only came up once in the Harry Potter series. There was a “Brain Room” in the Department of Mysteries in Order of the Phoenix, that contained a tank with green liquid and a number of “pearly white” brains floating in it. When a mentally-addled Ron foolishly Accio-ed one out, it flew through the air, attacked him with tentacles that “looked like ribbons of moving images” and left scars on Ron’s arms that even Madame Pomfrey was hard-pressed to remove. But the message is clear: in the wizarding world the study of the brain, and, by extension, the mind, is relegated to the Unspeakables, and considered an area of scholarship too dangerous to be shared with the general public, putting it in the same realm as other mysterious forces of the universe such as love, space, death and time. Thoughts, according to Madam Pomfrey, “leave deeper scarring that almost anything else.”

career_of_evilIn the Cormoran Strike series, Rowling moves the study of the human mind into the scientific realm, by making its female protagonist, Robin Ellacott, an ex-psychology student, intent on a career in forensic psychology before a sexual assault interrupted her university studies. As a professor of psychology and neuroscience, I have already documented through Harry Potter that Rowling seems familiar with the diagnostic criteria of multiple Muggle psychiatric conditions.  She also seems to have provided a realistic account of Robin’s mental breakdown after her assault and the way she overcame it.

VSRamachandran_zps47ada994As we know, Rowling does not write anything without doing a “ridiculous amount” of research, so it is hardly likely that she would write an entire series of novels about an amputee without educating herself about the medical facts regarding such an injury. After reading the first three books of the series, I am now convinced she consulted one of my favorite neuroscience writers, Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, author of Phantoms in the Brain (1998), A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness (2004) and The Tell-Tale Brain (2011). Ramachandran’s books present fascinating case studies about people with seemingly bizarre neurological conditions. So far, three of the conditions he describes have turned up in the Comoran Strike series. [Read more…]

A Hogwarts Psychology Professor Counts Down to Mockingjay: Part Three of Hunger Games and PTSD

My video series wraps up with a look into the neuroscience of hijacking, and how feasible the process could be in the future. Learn about how memories are being created and re-written in laboratory mice, and how this technology can be used for good, or for evil.

A Hogwarts Psychology Professor Counts Down to Mockingjay! Part Two of Hunger Games and PTSD

The second in my video series talks about the various attempts to cure Peeta of his hijacking, and what that tells us of modern therapies for PTSD.  Will Prim, the Doogie Howser of District 13, turn out as much of a psychological prodigy as she is in medicine?  View and see!