Post Of The Week – Thursday 26th June, 2014

1) A Few Things About Depression

When we look at CBT both in relation to depression but also in other areas, we look at the idea that CBT works better for some people than for others. It is therefore difficult to make a claim about the effectiveness of CBT: so much depends on the suitability of the service user, the quality of the therapist and the interaction between the two. This article from the BPS looks at research which sets out to predict who will benefit from therapy and who won’t.

It’s an important question because with resources being finite in the NHS, getting treatment to individuals who are more likely to benefit from it becomes very important.

The latest from the Naked Neuroscientists includes a decent discussion without necessarily breaking new ground. It explains clearly how research is rapidly making it easier to target specific chemicals and processes. With this in mind, this story is a bit of a surprise.

Basically, people are objecting to a study which combines the use of ketamine and ECT. People know that ECT works but don’t know how. Ketamine, which I have mentioned in blog posts before, acts as a stimulant. The researchers think that it might be helpful in reducing the confusion that sometimes accompanies the use of ECT. It’s a surprise that this study exists because there is an element of hit and hope about it. Nobody really knows how ECT works and Ketamine may mask symptoms of depression and confusion rather than actually treat them. There is something both risky and unscientific about this.

Finally on this section, here is a link to an article from the Black Dog Institute in Australia. They are interested in techniques which treat depression by stimulating the brain. There are research programmes which they are funding which look at this.

It feels, on the basis of all of these sources, that the paradigm for thinking about treatment for depression is changing.


2) Autism And Systematising

Here’s a clip from Radio 4 from earlier in the week. I’ve just finished thinking about autism for next year’s course and Simon Baron-Cohen’s ideas about systematising and the male brain are at the front of my mind. In this clip, this idea is related to the fortieth anniversary of the invention of Rubik Cube.

While we are on autism, here is an article from the Autism Research Centre on a development in the understanding of brain differences between normally functioning and autistic participants. It involves some complicated research methods and the study of first-degree relatives of people with autism. It feels like a step forward.


3) Varenicline And Bupropion As Interventions In Smoking Cessation

For the Addictive Behaviour topic, we looked at evidence about the effectiveness of these two drugs in relation to stopping smoking. On the blog, I referred you to this article which suggests that these two drugs work well together.

Here’s a more detailed explanation of this from Bill Yates with some commentary on other studies. In particular, he deals with the issue of the efficacy and safety of these drugs in people suffering from depression.


4) Anti-Stigma Campaigns

We are drawing to a close and beginning to write up the studies of attitudes to mental health which have been running in Year 12 for three weeks. I’ve seen some great data today. What I find so intriguing about this data is how it relates to the campaign materials which Time To Change are producing.

This article gave me pause for thought. It points out that the people who appear in the anti-stigma ads are people who, despite being genuinely ill, are still to some extent functioning adequately and conforming to social norms. There are plenty of people who don’t but they remain invisible. That’s why I think Bedlam, the Channel 4 programme broadcast last year, represented uncomfortable but compelling viewing. You can still see clips from some of the programmes.


5) WEIRD Psychology

WEIRD here stands for “White, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic”. The problem is that it is from this demographic group that most Psychology participants are drawn, particularly in child development studies. This article explains what one group of researchers in California did about it and what they found.

This has some echoes in the Evans-Lacko et al (2013) findings we have been looking at. Socio-Economic Status matters but is studied by psychologists too rarely.


6) Action Against Obesity

For the past five years, I have been teaching A2 classes about the effects of obesity. For each of those years, I have been using some campaign material from New York City Public Health Department. They have been trying to persuade people for quite a long time now to consume less sugar. When I started doing this, it all seemed remote and a bit eccentric. In those five years, the idea that drastic measures are needed to reduce sugar consumption has become more mainstream. This article today contains links to related stories and reminds us that the problem is now very close to home.


7) Memory

People understandably get fed up with the way we study memory. We start with the multistore model which is both old and limited. The other stuff we look at after this is a bit better but even Elizabeth Loftus’ research is 40 years old now. Here are a couple of items which raise the bar. Firstly, scientists are starting to understand more about how memories are encoded inside our brains. Interestingly, it seems to follow what the models have been predicting for a while.

Secondly, this beautifully made documentary featuring some commentary from Mo Costandi shows us what memory is really for.


One comment

  1. […] ECT And Ketamine I blogged last week about the controversy surrounding a trial which tests whether ketamine can reduce the negative […]

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