Post Of The Week – Saturday 2nd May 2015

1) Depression As A Cellular Response

In thinking about classification and diagnosis of depression, we contrast the idea of depression as an illness which needs to be cured with the idea of depression as a natural response to setback and trauma which has survived for sound evolutionary reasons.

This article explores this idea through new research looking at mitochondrial DNA. The ideas are complex here. The take home quote from Jonathan Flint from Oxford University is “Depression might in some sense be considered a metabolic reaction to perceived stress.” This is a long way from the amine hypothesis in understanding the fundamental causes of depression. The word “perceived” shows that we need to understand both how someone is thinking as well as changes in cells and brain structures. Where that stress might come from is explained here.

2) CBT vs IPT

We note when looking at psychological therapies for depression that IPT and CBT seem to work equally well. The trick, it seems, is to get people on to the right therapy for them.

It is not quite the same for eating disorders. CBT seems to work a bit better than IPT.

3) Reducing Self-Harm

This link explains research from Australia into self-poisoning: in other words, taking an overdose. Anidepressant medication prescriptions are increasing. In the article, it is stated that 9% of the population are taking antidepressants. However, the number of people hospitalised for poisoning themselves remains stable. This could be seen as good news. There are more drugs available but a lower proportion is used by people to hurt themselves. On the other hand, it suggests that the routes to depression and suicide are different. Something which addresses the former does not address the latter.

4) Two Phases Of Childhood Obesity

This has already made it into our lessons and is on the webpage.

We have known for a while that eating behaviour is socially learnt to some extent, with parents and peers as role models. What this research suggests is that who acts as a role model depends on age. It does this by tracking obesity across the population. Obesity in young children has only risen in those with obese parents whereas obesity has risen across the full range of 16 year olds.

5) The NHS Scheme To Reduce Stigma About Suicide

This article looks at how a scheme from Detroit addresses the specific problem of attempted suicides.

6) Music And Memory

As someone who spends most of his week doing Psychology but a small part of it doing music, I am interested in this article.

It uses as its starting point a professional orchestra who perform symphonies from memory and along the way looks at strategies and pitfalls of memory.

7) Three On Addiction

We are about to revise this next week in A2 Psychology.

This article describes a process which might explain why cocaine is so addictive. It refers to the reward centre of the brain; no mention of dopamine.

This second article relates to the distorted thinking of gamblers.

It explains how gamblers see patterns where none exists. It is therefore further evidence for the distorted thinking which characterises problem gambling.

Finally, this article offers support for the value of motivational interviewing as a psychological intervention for reducing addictive behaviour. It seems to work particularly well when delivered by a doctor. Shorter sessions and fewer follow-ups were also found to be more effective than longer sessions with more follow-up sessions.

8) Ancient DNA

We have been thinking in A2 this week about the connection about how we know and what we know. Advances in our understanding of the relationship between evolution and culture using the example of lactase persistence have come about as a result of complex DNA analysis.

This article explains how research has moved from analysing modern DNA to looking at fragments of ancient DNA. It mentions lactase persistence and a whole load of other findings which challenge ideas about who we are and where we come from.

9) Ethics

We have been thinking about ethics in AS this week. That has focused on ethical issues in the context of conducting studies. There is more to it than that though. Psychology as a science has an obligation to work for good in society as a whole. This article suggests that some psychologists have got this badly wrong.

Here are some related letters.

10) With The Election Coming Up ….

I know several of the AS classes have been interested and involved in the election. Here is Michael Marmot’s non-partisan take on the issues.

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