Post Of The Week – Saturday 13th December 2014

1) Understanding Other People’s Actions

In A2, we learn about mirror neurons. The AQA line, which we repeat in lessons, is that the mirror neuron system is fundamental to social cognition because it enables our brains to shadow the actions or expressions of others and understand what they are thinking and feeling. James Kilner from UCL explains the problem with this account in this lunchtime lecture. Actions or expressions can have more than one possible interpretation.

This lecture is great for explaining how motor and visual systems enable us to understand the intentions and goals of others. For those of you thinking of going to university, it also gives you an idea of what it is like to sit in a lecture for half an hour.

2) Brainstorm – Islington Community Theatre

We use the video of this group appearing with Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at the Imagining The Future Of Medicine as a way of introducing the Cognition And Development topic. They are extending this into a play, the preview for which you can see here.

As someone who used to be an adolescent, who works with adolescents and lives in a family with one, I find this strangely powerful. The play will be amazing.

3) Depression Interventions In LEDCs

We’ve said a few times that mental illness is predicted to represent the major global disease burden in the next 15 years or so. The question is what to do about it.

This article explains what is being done in some developing countries to develop care for the mentally ill. This isn’t a question of exporting what we see as good mental health care in the developed world to people less fortunate than ourselves. It is about understanding what a culturally appropriate response might look like and through that gaining a better understanding of what mental illness is and what any of us anywhere in the world might do about it. The stories here about the development of peer support networks are particularly powerful.

4) Keeping The Mentally Ill Out Of Jail

People with mental health problems end up being dealt with  by the criminal justice system. I posted a couple of weeks ago about a girl near here ending up in police cells despite having a mental health problem which needed hospital treatment. Here’s how they are trying to deal with this in New York.

5) Two Things About Eating Behaviour

These have both come out from Imperial College, London over the last week. Firstly, this story concerns research into a food ingredient that makes people feel fuller more quickly.

It speeds up a chemical process inside the gut which happens naturally when we eat fibre.

This second story concerns glucokinase, an enzyme which acts inside the hypothalamus which makes us want to eat glucose. The implications are clear. This is focusing on a system inside the brain which responds to a particular nutrient. It is part of the movement away from a calorie being a calorie to understanding what types of food might trigger mechanisms which would lead to obesity. We often claim that there are good evolutionary reasons why we would want to eat high calorie food. This research shows us a system that has evolved to produce this outcome.

6) Serial

Serial is a podcast series about a murder which happened in Baltimore 15 years ago. I don’t quite get how it works but lots of people are into it, as this article explains.

This article from Catherine Loveday explains what this case might tell us about memory.

This is a good run through of some of the issues we think about in the Memory topic.

7) Surgery Bar

This story has rumbled on in this part of the world for a couple of weeks. The people who fund operations on the NHS said funding would be denied for operations on obese people and smokers unless they changed their behaviour. Now they have changed their minds.

This should get us to think about the free will and determinism debate in relation to obesity and addiction to tobacco, both of which we study.


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