Post Of The Week – Thursday 3rd April 2014

1) Horizon – Living With Autism

This was broadcast on Tuesday and is amazing. It features three of my Psychology heroes: Uta Frith, Simon Baron-Cohen and Richard Cowan. The last of these was one of my tutors when I was a student. The programme does a great job both of explaining what we know and also what remains to be known about this condition. Great science.

Related to this documentary are some findings published this week from a post-mortem study of children with autism. There appear to be some abnormalities in brain tissue. This report is fair and even-handed.

Here’s Thomas Insel talking sense about this research and the general picture with autism. The point about the connection between science and services is important. It’s one we have been thinking about in AS Abnormality when we try to cover explanations and therapy as close as we can to each other.


2) Brain Facts – Obesity And The Brain

This gives a good summary of some of the ideas I struggle to communicate when looking at neural mechanisms relating to hunger and satiety.

This comes from 2009. Research has moved on a little since then.


3) Working Memory Training And ADHD

When we look at the working memory model as part of the AS Memory topic, we look specifically at working memory training as an application of the model. The claim is that training children in using their working memory has positive benefits in the classroom. This article summarises research into working memory training as an intervention for children with ADHD. It looks as if working memory training enables these children to do better on working memory task but does not generalise to other cognitive activity nor to improved learning in the classroom.


4) More On ADHD

This isn’t part of our course but is still interesting. When we study any disorder, we pretty quickly run into questions of classification and diagnosis. We’ve seen that already in our work AS abnormality. We’ve also seen that there’s a strong link between classification and treatment. Condition A can be defined as the thing which drugs for Condition A cures. Depression is the thing which is cured by anti-depressants. It’s been mentioned before on this blog that classification is not explanatory but is instead defined by clusters of symptoms. People with symptom A tend to have symptoms B, C and D as well so there must be a condition which covers all of these. In this article, Bruce D. Perry takes on both ideas.

I first came across a student diagnosed with ADHD in the late 90s. It was the first time I had heard about the condition. There was something very different about him. I have come across students since then with the same diagnosis but whose symptoms were much less prominent. Not scientific, I know, but I find it easy on the basis of this experience to believe claims about over-diagnosis.


5) How We Retrieve Memories

I shared this with my Year 8 tutor group this week really to get them thinking about revision. Associations and repetition are key, as is the focus on reconstruction.


6) Oxytocin

I got wind last week that Sara in Year 13 did something on oxytocin for her AQA Bacc. This article reports some recent findings about oxytocin.

When we were looking at the role of dopamine in addiction, we challenged the idea of dopamine as a “pleasure chemical”. There’s a similar argument here about oxytocin being a “love chemical”. Neuroscience is a lot more complicated than that.


7) 7 Great Posts About The Brain

Some great stuff from Andrew Watson who posts on the Mental Elf site.

There is a great one here about trying and failing to define a pattern for depression in brain scans and another about using brain scans to show who will respond better to CBT or to antidepressants. There is also one on differences between people at genetic risk of developing depression and healthy controls in the processing of emotion which might tell us something about both biological and psychological explanations of depression.


8) Antidepressants

As doubts are expressed about the effectiveness of traditional antidepressants, interest is being expressed about some drugs which work in a different way. Here’s an article about Agomelatine.

The hope is that this can be prescribed for people for whom traditional antidepressants do not work. The evidence is decidedly slim. Here’s a story about ketamine which turned up on the BBC website today.

The problems arising from use of this drug have been aired on this blog before.


9) Milgram Again

This refers to some research done by a researcher from New Zealand into Milgram’s archive. It covers the same ground as Gina Perry in explaining how Milgram went systematically about creating extreme conditions in which people would obey. This makes me think more and more that the value of Milgram’s study is not in the extreme conditions he created in the standard condition but in the way in which he gradually stripped away these variables in a highly controlled environment in order to understand what it was which made people disobey. So Milgram’s study is really a study of how people resist the pressure to obey.


10) Careers And Psychology

This isn’t a piece of research but it does explain why Psychology graduates do well in the job market. Studying the topics we have been doing recently – Abnormality in AS, Addictive Behaviour in A2 – can be difficult because we are dealing with sensitive topic. It can also be rewarding because we get to understand more about the lives of people who are affected and therefore understand more about ourselves. It’s great that this type of study also gives people access to the job market.


One comment

  1. […] week’s post included a link to a BBC story about ketamine. Please see here. This article from the Mental Elf explains some of the […]

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