Post Of The Week – Saturday 20th June 2015

1) Autism And Perfect Pitch

I have been in choirs of one sort or another for most of my life. Occasionally, I have come across people with perfect pitch. If you ask them to sing a B flat, they can. Most people who sing can’t do that. They rely on relative pitch, understanding where one note is by its position relative to the previous one.

This article looks at the relationship between pitch and autism traits. Not all people with perfect pitch have autism but autistic traits within them are more common and more prominent than in musicians who use relative pitch or controls. That might tell us something both about what autism is and to what extent autistic traits are spread through the population. However, just because autism is common and linked to special abilities such as perfect pitch, this does not mean that we should not try to detect it or deal with it. This article reports a piece of research which uses visual attention as an early indicator of autism.

2) When The Ads Don’t Work

I have already shared this with Year 12 students working on attitudes to mental illness.

It takes a critical look at Time To Change, questioning its impact and suggesting that it has promoted an unhelpful view of mental illness. In particular, it questions the assumption that telling people that mental illness is an illness like any other misses the point about why people get ill. There are some interesting political dimensions to this. Political parties and pressure groups campaign on the pledge to create parity of funding and resources for mental illness compared to physical illness. Perhaps politicians need to pay attention to differences rather than similarities.

3) Depression And Views Of The Future

We tend to think that it is things which have happened to people which make them depressed. However, Beck’s cognitive triad has negative views of the future as one of its elements. The importance of negative views of the future in the experience of depression is explained here.

4) Randomised Controlled Trials Yet Again

I continue to be dismayed by the controversies surrounding randomised controlled trials. Here is a piece concerning trials in a range of areas where safety has been an issue.

A fundamental problem with rcts is that people are allocated to a condition which may not be optimal in order to test whether an element in a treatment or intervention is working. This article explains how doctors routinely do this in treating patients in order to understand what works.

The key justification is the well-being of the patient. The big question is whether this principle could be applied to the rat method in many fields, including education.

5) Where do memories live?

This is great. It explains how ideas about how memories are stored in the brain have changed over time. It references the work of Eric Kandel, it explains earlier ideas about neurons and synapses and reports the latest research involving sea-slugs.

Rather more interesting than the multistore model.

6) Preventing Relapse Of Depression

This article tells us what we currently know about psychological therapies preventing relapse in depression.

The key findings are not a great surprise. Giving people psychological therapies is better than doing nothing if you want to stop them getting worse again. It is also better than giving them tablets. Of the three therapies looked at, there is no overall winner. What’s perhaps more surprising is that the quality of the research is relatively low. Of thousands of studies published, only 25 were sound enough methodologically to be included in this meta-analysis. The authors also refer to the problem of publication bias which dogs all research in this area.

7) Parents’ Denial Of Obesity

We frequently make use of Terry Wilkin’s research about how obesity runs in families. Obesity is in part a socially learnt behaviour. This article explains part of the problem.

Parents who are struggling to maintain a healthy weight find it difficult to admit that their children are also obese. There are other factors involved as well. Some of the problem here may be down to a lack of knowledge and skills in relation to food. This research focuses on teenagers and makes for depressing reading.

8) TED – Steve Silberman On Autism

Just brilliant.

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