Post Of The Week – Thursday 19th September

1) Is psychotherapy for depression any better than a sugar pill?

The text books for our course all refer to studies which show that therapies for depression work. The standard line is that people receiving either biological or psychological therapies do better than people without therapy. Another standard claim is that people combining psychological therapies and drug treatments do better than those using drug treatments alone.

It’s a bit more complicated than that, as this article shows.

This article explores some of the poor practice in the publication of the results of drug trials and asks what would be found if the same procedures were applied to psychological therapies. Some of this is quite complicated to follow but the recommendations at the end of the article give food for thought and seem to make sense.

2) Psychiatry And Psychology – Understanding The Difference

Sometimes, people get confused about the difference between psychiatry and psychology. Both psychiatrists and clinical psychologists treat people with mental disorders. The difference lies in the traditions from which each comes. Psychiatry is a branch of medicine. People who become psychiatrists start off with general medical training. Clinical psychology is a branch of the Psychology we study at A Level. People who become clinical psychologists start with a Psychology degree and develop from there.

This is a video of a discussion between a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a sociologist. It shows you some of the tensions between psychiatry and psychology. The sociologist provides an interesting critical voice for both. It is also a good example of how people can argue about something but still get on.

3) Lactase Persistence

The problem of how we can digest dairy products poses an awkward evolutionary problem. For humans, there appears to be a gene which switches off the production of lactase at around the age of two. Lactase is essential for babies to be able to digest their mother’s milk. In many populations throughout the world, this gene is broken, meaning that we carry on producing lactase and being able to digest dairy products into adulthood. The question is why.

This video, a lecture by Sarah Tishkoff from the University Of Pennsylvania, explores some of the current research into lactase persistence.  Its message is that we need to understand the interaction between genes and environment. Asking which is more important in the evolution of attributes such as the ability to digest dairy products is the wrong question.

For more on this area, please see

There’s a very good overview here.

4) Working Memory – Tracy Packiam Alloway

Here’s an interview with Tracy Packiam Alloway about working memory. Her work is about taking a model of how memory works and applying it to the problem of how children learn in classrooms. Testing working memory is increasingly part of the process of assessing children with special needs.

5) Gambling In Film

One of the ideas we have considered when looking at the stigma surrounding mental illness is that representations in film are often exaggerated and sensationalist. Mark Griffiths’ article here suggests that when it comes to problem or pathological gambling, cinema gets it right.

6) The Psychology Of Music

Not part of our course but I liked this.

I’ve been in choirs for most of my life. I can relate to what this says.

7) Time To Change – Katie’s Story

Part of the Time To Change campaign to change attitudes to mental health. This is both simple and beautiful.


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