Post Of The Week – Saturday 21st November, 2015

1) Serotonin – The Happy Brain Chemical?

There’s a problem with understanding the role of serotonin. SSRI antidepressants work by increasing the amount of serotonin available in the brain. They work, at least for some people, but only after a few weeks of medication. This begs the question of what serotonin does. One answer in relation to the brain and learning, plus a whole load of further questions is available here.

Very fine writing.


2) Free Will And Determinism

We’re starting Relationships in A2, a topic where the free will-determinism debate looms large. One aspect of this debate concerns neuroplasticity. Experience shapes our brains so if we choose the right experiences, we can have whatever brain we want.

This article explains why this is absurd. I can’t have the biceps or pectorals I might want nor can I choose to be taller or shorter. There’s no reason to think that the brain is any different.


3) And Nature-Nurture

Here’s Robert Plomin saying some important things about nature and nurture.

It’s a similar argument really to the one about brain plasticity. Our abilities and competences are not infinitely malleable. Having spent some time on the golf range this morning, I know this.


4) Learn To Live

There was no Year 12 lesson on Thursday because it was Learn To Live at the Pavilions. Every provider of post-16 education in Plymouth is invited to send its 16 and 17 year old learners to hear an uncompromising message  about road safety. There’s good evidence that this approach works in reducing death and serious injury in young people on the roads. By coincidence, Thursday was also International Men’s Day. In the UK in 2013, there were 6233 suicides in people aged 15 or over. 78% of these were male. Suicide kills more males than road accidents.


5) Rates Of Autism

When we were doing Cog Dev in A2, the issue of the actual number of people with autism was mentioned. I quoted 1 in 68 but some of the recent sources we could access put the rate lower. This article suggests that the rate is currently higher and suggests what we should do about it.


6) Antidepressants vs Placebos

A standard claim is that antidepressants work. The question is by how much.

This article explains how the grand early claims for the effectiveness of antidepressants have been gradually reduced. Publication bias, expectation effects and a better understanding of the effect of placebo have all served to reduce the gap between antidepressants and placebo. This article suggests that we need to start thinking differently about spontaneous recovery.


7) Computerised CBT

Evidence about computerised CBT stands alongside evidence about antidepressants as core evidence for understanding treatments for depression.

This article finds limited evidence for one type of CCBT but suggests that this may due to effectiveness of implementation rather than fundamental flaws in the programmes.


8) Type 1 And Type 2 Errors

No excuse for getting these wrong after this.



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