Post Of The Week -Sunday 13th March 2016

1) A History Of The Brain

This series of radio talks explores how the study of the brain has evolved over time.


2) The Mental Elf On Varenicline ….

We’ll be looking at biological interventions to prevent smoking after the holidays. It is also on the new A Lebel course. Success has been claimed for varenicline as a drug treatment to help people give up smoking.

Nicotine patches, Varenicline and combination NRT: as good/bad as each other?

This article compares varenicline with two nicotine based treatments: nicotine patches and nicotine pataches plus lozenges. The outcome for varenicline is disappointing.  This may be because the trial excluded people also experiencing psychological problems. It may also be because the study was not blinded: participants knew to which condition they had been allocated. Developing a drug which combats nicotine addiction is seen as attractive because, unlike e-cigarettes and NRT, it does not involve administering a drug which harms people. This, however, looks an unlikely goal at the moment.


3) … And The Mental Elf On CBT

There is a section of this webcast dealing with the CoBalT study. You need to wind about 11 minutes in. Some of the things said here relate to things we have been thinking about in lessons. Firstly, the study relies on self report data via a written questionnaire and telephone records. Only a small proportion of participants had their medical records checked. Secondly, we tend to see longer term studies as preferable. The problem with this is that participants may seek further therapy in the period between the completion of the therapy which is the subject of the study and the point at which long term follow up is taken. This further therapy may confound conclusions drawn about the efficacy of the original study. Thirdly, a standard criticism of the appropriateness of CBT is that it is not suitable for people whose thinking is rigid and who are resistant to change nor for people experiencing stressful events which are difficult to resolve. This is used to justify CBT: it is OK provided you don’t use it with ……. The point is made in the video that it is just these people who need CBT, meaning that it is disappointing that when it does not work for these people. How the effectiveness of CBT depends on the seriousness of the condition and how in particular CBT combines with particular antidepressants emerge as questions from this study.

Final point: the video explains how the cost-effectiveness of CBT has been established. This relates to the requirement in the new A Level to consider the implications of psychological research for the economy.


3) Epidemiology

Here is George Davey-Smith talking about epidemiology and epigenetics.  Some interesting points on correlation and cause.


4) Diagnosis And Autism

The point of understanding biomarkers for autism is to spot people at risk earlier and to help them more. Sami Tamimi explores some of the problems with classification and diagnosis here. Diagnosis offers a description and not an explanation.



5) Eating Meat

Big Brain theory suggests that it was the cooking of meat which enabled us to develop smaller guts and bigger brains.

This article suggests that the dates do not fit. Changes in the shape of the face and size of the brain may have happened much later. Using tools may offer a better explanation of how food preferences evolved.


6) Antidepressants And Children

We have been thinking in lessons about the implications of the Sharma et al (2016) study about the side effects of antidepressants as they affect children and adolescents.

This article looks at what the World Health Organisation want to do about it.


7) Working Memory

An important claim about working memory is that we can train people to use working memory better. To be worthwhile, this training needs to have effects which are long term and which generalise across tasks.

Here is the abstract from a randomised, controlled trial from Australia which casts doubt on whether this can be done. As with CASE, it is interesting to see the RCT methodology being applied to educational contexts.


8) Addictive Personality

Here is Mark Griffiths explaining why it does not make sense to speak of an addictive personality.


9) Addiction In The Brain

I’m grateful to Ian in 13C for finding this article.

It is very helpful in opening up the complexity of addiction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: