Post Of The Week – Saturday 29th November 2014

1) We Don’t Do Schizophrenia But ….

There has been some debate this week about a report by the British Psychological Society about psychosis and schizophrenia. It has attracted some controversy. The issues are discussed in depth and persuasively in this post from the Mental Elf here.

http://www.thementalelf.net/treatment-and-prevention/medicines/antipsychotics/understanding-psychosis-and-schizophrenia-a-critique-by-laws-langford-and-huda/

If you scroll down, you can read a response to what’s here by Peter Kinderman. What emerges is

a) Nobody really agrees about what schizophrenia and psychosis are,

b) People still argue about biological and psychological explanations of schizophrenia.

c) Evidence has been put forward for the effectiveness of CBT as a treatment for schizophrenia. The effectiveness of CBT is now disputed.

d) Drugs are used extensively to treat schizophrenia but people disagree about what they do and how effective they are.

It would be possible to substitute the word “depression” for “schizophrenia” and have equally valid statements. We are doing Depression next in A2: no room for complacency.

2) A common brain network links development, aging, and vulnerability to disease

When we look at biological explanations of social cognition, we look at evidence that parts of the pre-frontal cortex develop late in adolescence and are fundamental to our inability to understanding ourselves and planning our interactions with others.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30180804

This news report goes further. It explains how a network of neurons – it doesn’t say exactly where in the brain – develop late but deteriorate early. If they do not develop properly, there is a risk of schizophrenia. If they deteriorate early, there is a link to dementia. This is important for us because in our lessons, we made a link between biological explanations of social cognition and issues of mental health. This research makes the same link.

3) Altruism Research

Molly Crockett researches altruism in the laboratory. She has recently done research which has showed that people will sacrifice more rewards to save someone else from pain than they will to save themselves. This has echoes in the work on moral understanding we look at, particularly Carol Gilligan’s work on an ethic of universal care.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2014/nov/22/behind-the-scenes-of-a-shocking-new-study-on-human-altruism

This research has been widely reported but to some extent misunderstood. Here, Molly Crockett sets the record straight.

4) Cigarette Packaging

We’ll be looking at addictive behaviour next term in A2. Part of that involves public health interventions to reduce addictive behaviour. This is a rapidly developing story. Australia has introduced stringent rules on cigarette packaging. The effects of these changes are being followed by researchers. If the effects are positive, other countries will follow Australia’s lead. This article explains a bit about what is going on and what might happen next.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30061952

5) Dieting And Surgery

When we study dieting as part of A2 Eating Behaviour, we look at the claim that diets do not really work. Bariatric surgery, changing the digestive system so that people want to eat less, does work. The problem is that it costs a fair bit to do. There is a question, then, of who should have this surgery.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30209234

This news story appeared this week. For people with diabetes, operating is a much cheaper option than intervening by other means to help them lose weight. It looks as if there will be a lot more of these operations.

6) Adolescent Mental Health

This continues to be in the news.

http://www.nhsggc.org.uk/content/default.asp?page=s1192_3&newsid=18722&back=home

This press release explains how an EU grant will allow public health bodies in Glasgow to develop better online support for the mental health and well-being of young people.

I use the Mental Elf website as a source of research information to help students and anyone else who reads this blog understand Psychology a bit better. This blog explains that the site has a broader vision than that. If people understand the evidence about mental health better, they will be better able to look after themselves.

http://www.thementalelf.net/populations-and-settings/service-user-involvement/digital-innovation-works-best-when-users-are-involved-at-every-stage/

To make that a reality, it is necessary to use the opinions of people who use the resource in order to shape its development.

Finally, for all the talk of reducing stigma and developing online support, the reality of living with mental illness is often grim. This news story appeared online while I was writing this post.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-30261980

7) Cambridge

I have been doing Oxbridge mock interviews this week. Here is a link to the webpage on the Psychological And Behavioural Sciences degree course at Cambridge.

http://www.study.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/courses/pbs/

The video here is particularly useful. I think it shows where Psychology is going as a discipline and how what we study at A Level, and in particular the mastery learning material within the course, leads on to the degree programme.

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