Post Of The Week – Thursday 7th August 2014

1) PPAR Gamma Receptors And Obesity

Our knowledge of neural mechanisms which control eating is increasing rapidly. The model which appears in the text books we use at A Level has a very simple account. We have a dual process system inside our brains. When there aren’t enough nutrients in our system, the LH kicks in to make us eat. When there is enough, the VMH acts as a brake on eating. This is too simple. What researchers are now establishing is that our eating depends on many neural mechanisms, each of which respond to nutrients in our bodies in a different way. One such is the PPAR Gamma receptor. Blocking this made the mice eat less. You can read the details here:


2) Advertising Alcohol

One of the public health interventions which we look at in the addictive behaviour topic is reducing or banning advertising.  Finding evidence that these interventions work is difficult.

This evidence from the US suggests a link. Advertised brands are more likely to be consumed than non-advertised brands. The psychologists here argue that this is powerful evidence for the power of advertising to influence behaviour. The industry advocates argue that advertising influences which brand you buy but doesn’t make you want to drink alcohol in the first place.


3) Stigma And Male Mental Health

I have posted before about work being done in Australia using rugby league in order to reduce stigma and address issues related to male mental health. Here is another superb example.


4) Maori Psychology

I’ve been getting in a bit of bother this week about Ainsworth’s strange situation and whether it can be applied in different cultural settings. There’s a whole world of cross cultural debate out there which I don’t know too much about.

This link here explains how Maori and western ideas can be combined to develop research which is sensitive to the needs of the Maori community. More of this with the new specification in mind. The opposite of the strange situation stuff really.


5) How Does My Brain Work?

TED are doing some nice playlists at the moment. Here’s one about the brain with some familiar and unfamiliar faces.


6) Near Misses

Gamblers have problems with near misses. They think of them as near wins. Gambling devices such as slot machines are designed to generate what appear to be near misses to keep people gambling.

This study looks at brain structures and near misses. Regular gamblers respond differently to irregular gamblers to near misses. This suggests that we may be getting somewhere in understanding at the level of brain structure and functioning the distorted thinking which is characteristic of gambling.


7) Reports Of Psychology’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

When people start the Psychology course, they are told that it is a science course. This isn’t obvious to them because the lessons take place in a classroom, not a lab, and because the trappings they associate with science learning aren’t obviously present. There’s also the issue of whether Psychology is an easy option. At the heart of this is the idea that thinking about yourself and your own thoughts comes more naturally than, say, the origins of the French Revolution.

This article takes as its starting point a spoof article in the Onion announcing the death of Psychology. It covers some important ideas about science and encourages us at the end to keep trying to get it right.


8) A Couple On Addiction

Our addiction topic asks us to break down the problem of addiction into manageable chunks. We are asked to think of it as a biological problem, then a cognitive problem, then a learning problem. We look at risk factors, then at prevention. For each sub-section, we break it down further. We simplify in order to explain. Addiction is a problem of the dopamine system.

This article invites us to look at addiction in a more complex and holistic way. Addiction is about the adaptation of the brain to its environment. It is about the plasticity of the brain harming us rather than helping us.

The other assumption that we make is that addictive behaviour will exist in isolation from other pathologies in the person who displays it. It doesn’t.

This article looks particularly at the co-morbidity of smoking with other mental disorders. People with this combination of issues cost the health service a huge amount of money but little is known about the best way to help these people.

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