Post Of The Week – Thursday 24th April 2014

1) Professor John Aggleton On Memory

This podcast features John Aggleton of Cardiff University. His research is in how memory works inside the brain. He talks about HM, about the complexity of the systems for laying down a memory and the connection to dementia. This talk reminds us of the connection between being able to explain something and being able to treat a related pathology. John Aggleton has something interesting at the end to say about what really motivates him as a scientist.


2) In Search Of Ourselves

The BBC is running a series of short programmes about the history of Psychology. I just listened to the one about Freud. I did my Psychology degree in the early nineties when Freud’s theories were seen as unscientific and therefore neglected. I didn’t learn much about him. I’m acutely aware that when I summarise the psychodynamic explanation of abnormality in 200 words or so, I am almost trivialising a complex tradition with many different strands of thought. This programme is excellent at giving an idea of what those strands might be.


3) Genes, Depression And Schizophrenia – Naked Genetics

Another podcast. This one is from the Naked Scientists series and does what it says in the title.

The Depression one is interesting and shows why we know relatively little about genetic markers for Depression.


4) Record Number On Happy Pills

This was the headline accompanying this story in the Daily Telegraph.

It reports a steady rise in the number of prescriptions written for anti-depressants. The article repeats the claim that ordinary human misery is being turned into a disease for which there is a cure in the form of tablets. A couple of things need to be said. Firstly, the term “happy pills” is not scientific. When writing about ketamine in a previous post, I pointed out the difference between an antidepressant which addresses a defined process within the brain and a narcotic like ketamine which produces an artificial high which serves to mask the symptoms of Depression. We might decide that the science underlying claims about antidepressants does not amount to much but there is some work to do in getting to this conclusion. Secondly, this blog post from a couple of years ago points out that the tendency to medicalise the ups and downs of human experience does not just apply to antidepressants. More prescriptions are being written for other things as well, as we come to believe more and more that there is something wrong with us which needs a cure.

So we cannot understand how attitudes to mental illness and its treatment have changed without understanding broader changes in society.


5) Neuroscience In The Classroom Again

I’ve noted before on this blog how the application of theories of Piaget and Vygotsky to the classroom is becoming less fashionable as people in education become more interested in what neuroscience can offer in helping people to learn. This is controversial because the neuroscience research may not be strong enough yet to apply to real world settings. This article makes a powerful case for this idea, illustrating the problems with the evidence and critiquing the claims made in the media about how the brain works.

Philip Ball takes this argument one stage further, looking at how the claims of neuroscience might break down.


6) Virtual Reality And Drug Treatment For PTSD

You might remember this.

It’s a piece of video I show about virtual reality therapy for army veterans experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I use it to explain the principles of systematic desensitisation. One of the research centres featured here is Emory University in Georgia. They have just published this piece of research.

It suggests that VR works well in combination with D-cycloserine, a drug which has been used alongside other therapies in the past. This is a really nice example of how combining different types of therapy can work well. It reminds us that we cannot think about each type of therapy in isolation.


7) A Self-Fulfilling Fallacy?

This article from the BPS Digest focuses on how gamblers think about their gambling. When we look at the cognitive approach to gambling, we look at the irrational beliefs and verbalisations which gamblers have which lead them into or keep them gambling. One idea is that gamblers believe in winning streaks. This makes sense when applied to games of skill: tennis players or golfers experience runs of good form. It makes little sense in gambling which really is a matter of chance.

This article explains the somewhat counter-intuitive consequence of these beliefs.


8) Probability And All Of That

Year 13 are about to revisit inferential statistics, having first come across them last summer. We get to grips with the idea of significance and p=0.05. These two articles explain some of the problems with how we currently define “significance”. In doing so, they challenge the conventions about how to assess research which have been in place for the last 60 or 70 years.


9) A Bit On Study Skills

This is a really good explanation of how to go about writing a longer answer in AS.

Here are some scientifically valid ideas about how to revise. Use them.


10) Psychology And Creativity

Follow the link to the performance by Islington Youth Theatre and Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. You need to follow the instructions to wind through the video.

Just amazing.




  1. […] in A Level on interpreting the significance of p values. If you look at last week’s Post Of The Week, you can see under point 8 some of the problems with […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: