Post Of The Week – January 30th 2014

1) Horizon – Sugar vs Fat

The Eating Behaviour topic in A2 focuses on research into how mechanisms inside our brains and our bodies control what we eat. We explain obesity by considering what happens when these mechanisms go wrong and we look at explanations of the success and failure of dieting. Central to this is how we process fat and sugar. This programme explores this problem.

2) Biological Therapies For Depression

I have spent some of today thinking about this with 13D, whose contribution was outstanding. Thinking about biological therapies brings in so many other aspects of research into depression. I read this article by Graham Davey of Sussex University as soon as I got home. The title says it all and covers some of the things we were working on during the afternoon.

This article from a few months ago by James Coyne refers to research by Turner and by Kirsch which is part of our core resources. It also refers to the research by Cuijpers et al (2013) which we have looked at before and explains NNT as a measure of therapeutic success. The arguments here are complex and interesting. In particular, Coyne challenges the Kirsch research by suggesting that it has set the bar too high in judging the significance of therapeutic interventions.

The article finishes by suggesting that arguing about the effectiveness of therapies via randomised control trials misses the point that delivery of both psychological and biological therapies is often pathetically inadequate. We need to concentrate on getting current treatments right rather than trying to invent new ones.

Finally, our work on biological therapies is a strong reminder that issues in both explanation and therapy often have their roots in the classification and diagnosis of a condition. In this article, Huw Green explains the idea of social construction in classification and diagnosis.

3) A Bit More Mental Health

Thomas Insel directs the National Institute Of Mental Health in the US. I’ve posted a link to his TED Talk before on this blog. Here he is talking up the importance of mental health as a global issue in the coming years.

I’ve been doing some work today with my Year 8 group on options for GCSE. As part of this, we watched a video about changes which are predicted for the next decades as these people enter the workforce. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths will be significant areas of expansion of opportunity. I think Psychology will be a big part of that.

You might have seen Joanna Scanlan in film and television drama and comedy. Here, she talks powerfully about her mental health.

Finally, here’s a link about mindfulness in schools.

Mindfulness combines eastern ideas about spirituality with western ideas about medicine. It seems to work.

4) Mental Health And The Criminal Justice System

People quite rightly find the idea of locking people with mental health problems in large and impersonal institutions as repugnant and unacceptable. Thirty years ago, this was still common practice. The difficulty now is that the people who would have been in these institutions sometimes find themselves inside the criminal justice system where conditions are as bad, if not worse. This NPR report from the US explains this problem in horrible detail.

This is a problem in the UK as well, as this report shows.

5) HM

The case study of HM is famous in Psychology for enabling us to understand that memory is not one thing which resides in one place inside the brain. A couple of pieces have come out about his case which are linked here.


6) Doctors And Mental Health

A couple of years ago, one of the Year 13 students, Charlie, did a piece of qualitative research into attitudes to mental health among NHS staff. She was interested in this because she was applying for a degree in nursing. The findings from her study were grim. Despite all of the publicity about reducing stigma, people working in the NHS faced indifference, intolerance and outright hostility if they admitted to having a mental health problem themselves. This article fits in well with this piece of research, explaining some of the draconian regulations and practices under which NHS doctors operate.

7) Some Evolution

Central to our account of the evolution of food preference is the idea that culture and evolution work hand in hand. The key example here is lactase persistence. The introduction of farming and the ability to digest dairy products appear to have developed together. Traditionally, theories in this area have been dismissed as speculative and unfalsifiable. This article explains the big steps forward which have been made in developing a scientific base for understanding what happened.

When we look at sexual selection, we look at how traits which we find attractive are linked to good genes. In this vein, this article explains the relationship between face shape and biological fitness.

8) Addictive Personality

The idea of an addictive personality has entered common discourse and is often applied to celebrities battling various addictions. This article tells us we need to think carefully about using this term.

9) Conquering Stage Fright

We don’t do phobias as part of our course but there is something powerfully humane and honest about this TED talk.

10) How Thinking Works: 10 Brilliant Cognitive Psychology Studies Everyone Should Know

Speaks for itself.

One comment

  1. […] of the week here.  If you’re feeling brave, the article by James Coyne on the most recent post of the week here is really […]

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