Post Of The Week – Sunday March 8th 2015

1) How Science Works – Peer Review

This video from the Royal Society explains both the history and the practice of peer review. There are problems to do with peer review and the process of validating new knowledge: publication bias and the file drawer phenomenon. This video explains how it should work.

2) The Damage e-Cigarettes Do

This article explains some findings about the impact of e-cigarettes on the immune system.

It is important here to get a grip on the difference between e-cigarettes and Nicotine Replacement Therapy: the patches, gums and sprays which contain nicotine and which people use to help them quit. People seem to see e-cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking whereas it has been known for a while that what makes cigarettes harmful isn’t just the tars and other chemicals in tobacco but nicotine itself.

3) Autism Is Down To Genes

This BBC report gives a fair and balanced treatment to a research study which has confirmed what people have thought for a while. Autism has a strong genetic basis potentially involving a very large number of genes. There is no cure but better ways are being devised to help people develop skills they lack and to understand their condition better.

4) The Mental Elf On Therapies For Depression

Two good pieces this week from the Mental Elf.

This piece from Pim Cuijpers sums up what we know and what we don’t know. Therapy works but it does not work for everyone. More research is being done on new treatments but there is no evidence that these treatments are any more effective than the older ones. Biases in publication make it hard to draw valid conclusions.

This second article is about CBM, Cognitive Bias Modification. Essentially, it is a shortened version of CBT which has no behavioural element but focuses instead on the way the brain processes information. People with depression focus on negative aspects of their environment, developing a negative view of it. This article explains that the evidence is weak for any positive therapeutic effect. The problem is that the evidence so far collected is not methodologically robust. We may be making a Type 2 error if we reject CBM without further investigation.

5) Mental Health At Work – Emergency Services

Three years ago, one of my students did a piece about attitudes to mental illness within the NHS. The main conclusion of this research was that while the NHS tries to promote positive attitudes to mental illness within the community at large, people who work in the NHS get pretty poor treatment if they develop a mental illness themselves.

This video from Time To Change aims to challenge that.


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