Post Of The Week – Saturday March 14th 2015

1) What makes identical twins different?

This video from Kings College London explains epigenetics. Identical twins may be born with the same DNA but end up being different, sometimes in important ways. That must be down to the way the environments they each experience lead to some genes being switched on but others staying switched off.  This video explains something of the theory behind that and the work being done to understand why in some twin pairs one twin has autism and one does not.

2) Standardised Cigarette Packaging

Standardised packaging for cigarettes are now a legal requirement. MPs voted on this measure this week.

The same regulations will apply as those in Australia. This is explicitly an evidence based approach. A review carried out by Sir Cyril Chantler concluded

“Having reviewed the evidence it is in my view highly likely that standardised packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking and implausible that it would increase the consumption of tobacco. I am persuaded that branded packaging plays an important role in encouraging young people to smoke and in consolidating the habit irrespective of the intentions of the industry.”

3) Genes Propose, Environments Dispose

This phrase crops up in a Naked Scientists podcast which we used for the Depression topic. Ian Goodyear from Cambridge uses it. It came up again in our work on biological explanations of addiction this week, in part inspired by a programme presented by Michael Moseley about murderers. The details of the science are here.

4) Peer Review And Publication Bias

In the A2 course, we note the importance of peer review as a means of ensuring that valid research gets published. This article explains what happens when the peer review process is circumvented, in part because of the pressure on academics to achieve citations.

It describes attempts to bring these practices to light.

5) Young People And Mental Health

As the AS students have seen this week when watching Thomas Insel’s TED talk, suicide rates remain horribly high, with young people being disproportionately at risk. This study suggests that giving school students questionnaires to assess their state of mind and then following up with monitoring and interventions for those at risk is a good idea if it involves students talking and thinking about their mental health. It has a demonstrable effect on suicidal thoughts and actions., expressed as an NNT.

Meanwhile, funding of mental health services for young people continues to be a political issue. Here is the latest.

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