Post Of The Week – Sunday 12th April 2015

1) Fats

We spend some time as part of the A2 Eating Behaviour topic considering whether a calorie is really just a calorie. The argument is whether we should focus on how much we eat or on the type of food we eat. It is interesting that when I started teaching this topic in its current form five years ago, this idea was emerging in the research we were looking at. Now it appears in a BBC diet guide.

2) Classification And Diagnosis – The Debate Goes On

The ideas from Thomas Insel and NIMH about understanding mental disorders as brain disorders certainly have some appeal and suggest, through the development of Research Domain Criteria, a promising way forward for understanding mental health. This involves abandoning the traditional diagnostic criteria based on behaviour and instead basing research on underlying biological processes. The terms of the debate are explained here.

Allen Francis offers a critique here.

There are essentially two objections. The first is whether the ambition of Insel’s approach matches what we can currently do in researching the brain. The second is whether in focusing on brain disorders rather than mental disorders, we lose important dimensions in what we understand about mental health and mental illness.

In connection with this debate, this article looks at the complexity of diagnosing depression.

It starts with the problem we deal with as part of our course that people can have a diagnosis of depression but have completely different symptoms. It then explains what clinicians do about this and what possible solutions to the problem of diagnosis might be.

3) Two Things On Autism

This is a link to an abstract of an academic article. It’s complicated.

What’s good is that there is a video which explains the study. It is looking at the difference between people with autism whose language development is normal and those whose language development is abnormal. This challenges the idea of autism as one single disorder and also takes us closer to understanding what autism looks like inside the brain. Here’s a news story on the same research.

The second thing on autism concerns employment. There have been stories for a while of companies creating environments in which people with autism can operate so that their talents can be developed. It is striking that one of these companies is Microsoft.

4) Head In Hands

This made me stop and think. I like to use images in lessons to get points across. I have used one of someone with his head in his hands to get across the idea of failing to function adequately. Such images are common in news stories about mental health. Time To Change is challenging this practice. This is discussed on All In The Mind here.

Here is the relevant page from Time To Change.

5) How Pre-School Can Make You Smarter And Healthier

In the current version of the AS exam, we have lost sight of where the concerns about early years provision originate. In the mid-1960s in the US, the Headstart Programme sought to address inequalities in education and income by providing extensive support for children in the first four or five years of life. This included pre-school education and parenting and medical support. The effects of this have been debated ever since. Here is one contribution to that debate.

6) Ketamine Works

We’ve noted the strange story of ketamine, a controlled narcotic which is used as a tranquilliser for non-human animals but which seems to have some anti-depressant effects. Research into its use is controversial. Its use in clinical trials seems to indicate both how little we know about how depression works inside the brain and how desperate we are to find a solution.

This evidence from the Mental Elf suggests that ketamine actually works, based on a meta-analysis of several studies. The question now is to confirm this finding using properly controlled and randomised trials and to work out whether the anti-depressant effects of ketamine are short or long term.

7) Stephen O’Rahilly At Harvard

Stephen O’Rahilly is a leading researcher into the genetics of obesity based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Here he explains some of the current issues in his field. He explains what we know and what we don’t know about genes, insulin resistance and obesity.

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