Post Of The Week – Saturday, 11th October 2014

1) How The Brain Navigates

There has been some publicity about the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology to John O’Keefe of UCL and two Norwegian researchers, May-Britt Moser and Edward Moser. Their research has focused on the systems in the brain which allow rats to navigate. Here is the news story.

This might not seem too important to us because animal navigation is not part of our A Level course: it was in the previous course but one. However, the Nature article explains why this is such an important discovery.

Much of what we know about the brain consists of knowing which parts are activated when particular actions take place. Imagine having sensors which scan your computer case or the outside of a tablet which tell you precisely where the electoral current from the battery is passing. Then imagine being able to understand the code on which the computer operating system works. This discovery represents the latter.

If you want to know more, try this link to a podcast featuring the Mosers.

2) Changing Attitudes To Mental Illness

Time To Change published some data this week which suggests an acceleration in the increase of positive attitudes to mental illness. It’s here.

Newsnight on Tuesday carried a feature on this research featuring Katherine Welby and the former footballer Stan Collymore.

You can watch it here for a few more days. It starts about 20 minutes into the programme.

I saw one of Collymore’s first appearances for Crystal Palace against Southampton in 1992. He came on as a substitute. I just looked up the game. I still listen to him occasionally on TalkSport. In this interview, he speaks powerfully and persuasively.

3) The Cognitive Psychology Of Gambling Revisited

When we study cognitive explanations of addiction, we use the work of Mark Griffiths. In this blog post, he talks about his early research, some of which is referred to on the Google page you will be using.

A couple of things are striking, Firstly, Griffiths explicitly moves criticises the narrower approaches to explaining gambling which existed when he started doing his work. In describing his approach as biopsychosocial, he is explicitly bringing together a number of different strands within Psychology. Secondly, he analyses and explains decisions he made about research methods in his original research. How we know is intimately bound up with what we know.

4) Exercise Protects The Brain Against Depression

Stress is a physical response to stress which has psychological consequences. People get depressed after they get stressed. It follows that if you can do something about the physical effects of the stress reaction, you can prevent the negative psychological consequences. This article explains why this might work, focusing on the ability of skeletal muscles to detoxicate the body of one harmful stress chemical.

On the face of it, this looks a better option than other physical methods for managing the negative effects of stress: we look at drugs as a biological method for managing stress.

5) Two On Memory Strategies

These two posts from Jeremy Dean suggest that physical exercise and an increase in curiosity can have a positive effect on our ability to remember things.

Earlier research into memory described memory systems with necessarily going on to describe the physical basis of memory in the brain. These two pieces of research suggest that the record is gradually being set straight.

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