Post Of The Week – Thursday 13th March, 2014

1) Smoking, Depression And Anxiety And Stress

When we study depression, we look at the idea of co-morbidity. People who suffer from depression tend to suffer from something else as well. This is interesting from the point of view of diagnosis because the doctor has to decide whether it is the depression or the other condition which is the primary cause of the patient’s symptoms. It is also relevant because doctors have to treat more than one condition at the same time.

This study looks at the effect of quitting smoking on both people with mental health problems and on normally functioning individuals. The findings are clear. The study concludes, “these findings are important as they show that quitting smoking is likely to improve your mental health if you are mentally ill or mentally well.” This is important because levels of smoking remain stubbornly high amongst people living with mental illness. The video link at the bottom of the page explains some of the reason for this. Effective treatment for these people involves treating both their mental illness and their addiction to smoking.

2) Kelly McGonigal On Will Power

We’ve looked at some of McGonigal’s work through her TED talk, specifically on the idea that how we think about our stress influences the way we respond to it. This is part of a broader question about how we can shape our environment and our well being by making conscious decisions about the people we want to be.
Here she is, talking about will power just after New Year. If you follow this link here, you can get to a series of lectures which she hosted in Stanford University. Follow the iTunesU link.

3) Researchers identify a critical link between obesity and diabetes

We’ve seen in the Eating Behaviour topic how there is a complex relationship between insulin and obesity. The classic explanation is that eating too much makes people fat which creates the conditions in the body for diabetes to develop. This is being challenged by some researchers who suggest that certain foods – refined carbohydrate, sugar and fat are the usual suspects – raise insulin levels and cause the body to lay down more energy as fat. As someone who finds this quite hard to follow, the science seems to me to me at a very early stage of development.

The focus is on one protein, RBP4, and its role in the development of insulin resistance. I find it hard to summarise the science here. The important thing is that researchers are getting closer to understanding the mechanisms which lead to obesity through diabetes.

4) Three Links About Autism

Here’s a link to an article explaining a possible genetic link and what can be done about it.

When we study autism, we look at what research into theory of mind might tell us about how to help people with autism. We look at a DVD which teaches children about communication and emotion. Another aspect of autism is its impact on the development of language. In this video, Ajit Narayanan explains his method for getting round the problems children with autism experience with grammar in order to enable them to communicate.

This might make us realise just how complex autism is.

Thirdly, this link explains some of the problems with testosterone which make men the weaker sex. Autism gets a mention here.

5) With AS Abnormality On The Horizon ….

We’ll look at some research into eating disorders as an example of the biological approach, focusing on the work of Professor Janet Treasure and her team at the Institute Of Psychiatry. Here’s a news report about some of her research.

We’ll also look at the psychodynamic approach, focusing on the work of Freud. One of the standard claims against Freud is that his work was not scientific. This has always struck me as odd because he started life as a doctor. I didn’t realise until I read this article that he was also a pioneer of neuroscience.

For me, this sets the criticism of him in a whole new light.

Finally, we look at systematic desensitisation as a version of exposure therapy. The idea is that either in your imagination or in real life, you are exposed to the thing of which you are afraid. The problem with this type of therapy is that their anxiety becomes worse because the experience of confronting it becomes so unpleasant. The way round this is to develop drugs which assist the process of wiping older memories and replacing them with newer, less traumatic memories. The details are here.

What’s interesting here is that it becomes hard to separate different approaches to therapy when a behavioural therapy relies on a drug which is based on an understanding of different chemical systems in the brain. As with the approaches to addiction on which I am working with Year 13 at the moment, we establish different approaches in Psychology only to break down the barriers between them when we start to evaluate.

6) Brain Awareness Week

It’s this week., a site promoted by the Society For Neuroscience in the US promotes a video competition. You can see a list of videos here.

I really liked this one about dopamine.

7) Graduate Mental Health

We’ve seen some links to stories about student mental health before. Here is what happens to some people after they graduate.

8) Brain Much Better At Recalling Sight And Touch, Worse At Listening

With revision coming up for everyone, this article gives you some good advice.

9) The Strange Situation – With Cats

Yes, really.

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