Post Of The Week – Saturday 4th July 2015

1) Improving response inhibition systems in frontotemporal dementia with citalopram

This is interesting in lots of ways. We frequently refer to the role of the pre-frontal cortex in the inhibition of risky or socially unacceptable behaviour. Our main focus is how this develops in adolescence. There is another side to this. When people develop dementia in later life, their behaviour becomes disinhibited if the frontal areas of the brain are affected. This study investigates this and also what happens when an SSRI is used to boost serotonin in that part of the brain.

What’s great here is that the authors have made a video abstract. That tells us something about how scientists go about making their findings known to the public. The research hinges on the idea of using a drug which was designed for one problem to address another. This can happen because the drug has a good safety record. This represents an early experimental finding which could lead to a clinical trial later. The researchers stress the application of this research to improving the lives of people with dementia. This tells us much about how science works.

2)  Psychoanalysis And Brain Research

When we look at the psychodynamic approach in AS, I tell people that the approach focuses on the mind and not the brain. I express this through the idea that you cannot open up someone’s brain and see the id, nor can you see the processes that Freud describes.

This article is interesting in that it challenges this idea. It explains how neuroscience and psychoanalysis are coming together to explain people’s experience. One point stands out. Freud started as a medical researcher and a physician. He abandoned the study of the brain because brain science in the early 1900 had no prospect of explaining the things in which he was interested. That was then, this is now. Psychoanalysis has disappeared from the new AS course and the psychodynamic approach appears briefly in A2. The demise has perhaps been exaggerated.

3) Alex Haslam On Social Identity

In the new AS, we will look at Zimbardo’s prison study which focuses on the way in which participants conformed to a social role. In addition to internalisation and compliance as types of conformity, we also will look at identification. Here, Alex Haslam looks at social identity and in particular its relationship to health.

4) Can you teach people to have empathy?

This article has a bit of everything: Simon Baron-Cohen and mindfulness feature but there are also connections to Eli Finkel’s marriage hack.

Makes me wonder whether all Psychology is Social Psychology.

5) Online Game Controls Snacking

There is increasing interest in using online environments to address issues of mental health.

This addresses the problem of snacking using the principles of brain training. You get used to avoiding unhealthy snacks in an online environment, a behaviour which then transfers to real life. It sounds simple. It will be interesting to see if early success is replicated.

6) What really happened to Phineas Gage

Part of the problem of understanding well known studies of Psychology is that text books tend to distort what actually happened. This is because text books tend to rely on other text books. The principle of Chinese whispers applies.

This article explains how the case of Phineas Gage has been reported poorly in text books.

7) Behavioural Activation

We mention this as a feature of CBT when used to treat Depression. Therapist and client work together to identify pleasurable activities for the client and to remove obstacles to them being carried out. This article explains a study into what happens if behavioural activation is done with an app rather than in person.

The study found that behavioural activation can be delivered effectively using an app, although not as effectively as when delivered face to face. Not great, then, but a basis for some interesting further research.

8) Inside Out

This is a new film from Pixar for children. It has used some figures from Psychology as consultants in order to get its depiction of mental health and well being right.

I was talking with people in 12C about mental health education in schools. We started to think that there wasn’t really any and that what there was tended to avoid talking about illness. That might change.

9) Autism In The Family

Diagnosis rates for autism and related conditions are rising quickly. These disorders have a strong genetic basis. That means that there will be children who are diagnosed whose parents have some of the symptoms but no diagnosis, This article explains what happens.

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