Post Of The Week – Sunday April 17th 2016

1) Some Commentary On Addiction

We’re about to finish Addictive Behaviour in A2. I’ve been reworking some of the webpages to bring them up to date. Here are three links which illustrate some of the things I have been thinking about.

Drugs used to treat nicotine addiction could also be used to treat sugar addiction

This article explains how Varenicline could be used to treat excessive sugar consumption. The claim is that chronic and excessive sugar consumption leads to the same kind of neuroadaptation as other addictive substances and behaviours. Varenicline seems to work in reversing some of this neuroadaptation. This gets interesting because Varenicline is supposed to be doing something specific: mimicking nicotine molecules. If it works as a treatment for other addictive behaviours, it may be doing a bit more than that.

There’s a startling statistic in this article. A third of all tobacco now smoked in England is by someone with a mental health condition. This is a largely neglected problem. The article suggests that something needs to be done.

Heavy cannabis use associated with reduced dopamine release in brain

This article looks at the effect of cannabis on dopamine systems in the brain. In the US, cannabis is being gradually decriminalised. This article reports reduced dopamine activity in people who use cannabis. Nobody knows yet whether cannabis causes this or is a consequence of it.


2) Beards And Sexual Selection

In the A2 Relationships course, we distinguish between intra and inter sexual selection.

This article suggests that beards may be a factor in the former but not the latter.


3) Neuroscience Hype

Psychology has become more mainstream, we talk about the brain more and brain scanning techniques are evolving rapidly. This means that claims about the brain are made in marketing and in other media.

This article explains why you should not believe everything you hear.


4) Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

In the A2 Depression topic this year, we have got interested in whether alternatives to ECT which stimulate the brain actually work.

This abstract reports a study on tDCS. It seems to work just as well as magnetic stimulation and drugs. That is promising.


5) Brain Signatures

It might seem obvious that everyone’s brain works differently. Until now, psychologists have had a job figuring out how to describe this. This article explains how it is possible to establish a brain signature for each individual. This is important for figuring out what to do if something goes wrong.

The Brain’s Unique Signature Could Help Paralyzed Patients


6) Educating Against Stigma

Last year, one of the Year 13 research groups looked at the relationship between attitudes to mental illness and level of education about it. The idea which emerged is that, while PSHEE programmes focus on many different health behaviours, they do not do much about mental health. This article looks at the effectiveness of a programme in Canada to educate post 16 students about mental illness and stigma. It used an RCT design. Its results are positive for people who think we need to educate students to be psychologically literate.

Mental health literacy: can it be taught to teenagers?


7) Placebo

Here’s a nice piece on placebo.

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