Post Of The Week – Saturday 25th October, 2014

1) Mindfulness

I’ve written posts about mindfulness and its relationship to therapy on this blog before. The difference this time is that I had a go at it during one of the training sessions I had to attend this week. It wasn’t the right time or place for me but I got a sense of how it might work. This article refers to Ruby Wax’s work on mindfulness based CBT and also explains some of the buzz which surrounds mindfulness.


2) Autism – Where The Truth Is

This article comes from Kevin Mitchell from Trinity College, Dublin. He looks at the history of attempts to explain autism and explains where we have got to now. This is great because it touches on points which often come up in relation to other pathologies: the redundancy of psychoanalytical explanations, the pivotal importance of twin studies, moving inside the genome, umbrella terms, using genetic information to shape diagnosis. Authoritative and cogent.


3) Free Speech – Young People And Mental Health

I saw the first part of this discussion. It was interesting and persuasive. It is available for another three weeks or so.


4) Applying Neuroscience To Education

In A2, we have been looking at applications of Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s theories to education. I’ve posed the question of whether we might be better off basing applications on up to date neuroscience than on theories which are now more than fifty years old. The problem with applying neuroscience is that attempts have often been based on poor evidence: take a bow VAK, left brain-right brain, Braingym.

In this context, Dorothy Bishop from Oxford University is well worth watching. She is good on what works and what may not as well as on questioning how adding “neuroscience” to something may add less value than we might think to an application.


5) CBT, Attitudes And The Brain

Dorothy Bishop explains in the above link that studies of behaviour increasingly look inside the brain to understand how neural changes might reflect changes in behaviour.

This study is a case in point. It describes how a course of CBT delivered to people experiencing an acute depressive phase reduced negative attitudes as measured by an attitude scale. It also describes how researchers were able to link improvement of symptoms to one area of the brain, left parahippocampal region, while persistence of symptoms was linked to areas of the brain associated with memory and attention. It gets harder and harder to separate “biological” from “psychological”.


6) Online Mental Health Services

In studying CBT as a psychological therapy for depression, we identify the adaptation of the CBT method to an online environment as a strength. This raises the question of how effective online information is in helping people get better. A study which looks at this is summarised and evaluated here.

People’s experience of online services is usually positive. What is less clear is the extent to which they are then willing or able to access services face to face and how much they actually get better. This is an example of an area where the speed of development of services is greater than the speed of research designed to assess them.


7) Free Will And Determinism

This is an idea which people find hard to get hold of but which has an impact in several areas of Psychology. An account of a behaviour using free will emphasises the choice of an individual in carrying out that behaviour whereas a deterministic account seeks to explain that behaviour through factors in the environment or in the biology of the person carrying it out. This becomes problematic because we tend to believe that we make choices and have free will in relation to our action whereas Psychology seeks to explain the factors which make us make choices.

This gets interesting because neuroscience increasingly suggests that the activity in our brains which leads to a decision starts before we are consciously aware of it. This article explores the implications of this and makes the point that the existence of free will revolves around our judgement about what counts or does not count as free will.


8) Child Development From Naked Neuroscience

Some really good stuff from Naked Neuroscience.

I have listened to the one on words damaging the brain. Emotional abuse is associated with a smaller pre-frontal cortex and higher activity in this area in difficult social situations. The pre-frontal cortex is an area we think about a lot when looking at biological explanations of social cognition. I have also listened to the section on whether a little stress can help. The researcher, Mathias Schmidt from the Max Planck Institute in Munich, explains where research has got to in mice in understanding why some individuals respond positively to a little bit of stress but others do not. This is a nice example of how research into non-human animals informs our understanding of humans. This is also a nice statement of how much we know about biomarkers for depression and how we might move towards a personalised treatment based on personal history and genetic profile.


9) A Couple On Psychiatry

When we look at classification and diagnosis of depression, we look at an image of a GP talking to a patient and work out what the GP might ask to work out whether the patient is depressed. This assumes that a diagnosis can quickly be given and a course of treatment can be implemented.

This blogpost suggests two problems with this process. Understanding a patient’s perspective takes time and measuring whether that time has been spent effectively is problematic.

In this post Simon Wesseley, president of the Royal College Of Psychiatrists, suggests that we have too little, not too much psychiatry.


10) Brain Training

We’re half way through doing Working Memory in AS. An important claim made by the companies that develop them is that brain training programmes can improve your working memory.

This claim has recently been addressed by a group of academics who suggest that people would be better off going out and doing the things they like rather than playing brain training games. In our lesson on Tuesday, 12C were talking about working memory in a sporting context. Playing sport requires people to process instructions quickly, both verbally and visually. So what do you do to produce better players? Get them to train more at their chosen sport or find other ways to develop their working memory?

One comment

  1. […] couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to an article by Kevin Mitchell from Trinity College, Dublin on the genetics of autism. […]

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