Post Of The Week – Saturday June 4th, 2016

1) Could A Neuroscientist Understand A Microprocessor?

This article has as its starting point the analysis of the microprocessor which drove Mac computers 30 years ago.

It leads to consideration of what we can and cannot infer about the brain. We tend to find the cognitive approach impressive because it uses computer models to describe the functions of the brain. This piece shows us what the limitations of that approach might be.


2) Effectiveness Of Therapies For Different Groups Of People With Depression

These two articles come from Mental Elf this week.

Music therapy for depression in older adults: How can I be sure of you?


Treatment for depression in traumatic brain injury: Cochrane find no evidence for non-pharmacological interventions

One concerns the use of music therapy for older people with depression, the other looks at depression in people with brain trauma. What makes these interesting is not their findings, which are modest, but the idea that we need to break down questions of effectiveness and appropriateness in order to understand the impact of therapy for particular groups. This is all part of the process of personalising medicine.

Here is a third article which focuses on people with depression who experienced trauma and abuse as children. The study found that these people were unlikely to benefit from antidepressants.


3) Qualitative Data On The Effectiveness Of Antidepressants

I have been thinking a bit this week about analysis of qualitative data, in part because of the Research Methods requirements of the new A Level specification. Here’s an example of a piece of qualitative research, using content and thematic analysis.

The article is useful for showing how content analysis leads into thematic analysis. Following on from 2) above, the article illustrates the range of responses to antidepressants which reflects the range of circumstances which led to people taking them. One size does not fit all.


4) Habenula

We have referred to the habenula when looking at biological explanations of depression. The theory is that the habenula, which processes the response to aversive stimuli, is hyperactive in people with depression.

This piece of research finds abnormal responses in the habenulas of people with depression but not in a way you would expect.


5) Emotional Blindness, ASD And Interoception

We’ll be looking next year in A Level at the question of what autism is. We tend to define it in terms of an absence of Theory of Mind, following the findings of Baron-Cohen et al (1985). The problem is that not everyone with a diagnosis of autism in Baron-Cohen’s study failed the unexpected transfer task. Autism may be more than just a lack of Theory of Mind.

This study looks at a further aspect of ASD: interception. Interoception is the he ability to perceive internal sensations such as hunger, pain, disgust or fear. This, rather than a diagnosis of ASD, was related to difficulties with experiencing and expressing emotion. That becomes important in thinking about how to help people deal with the problem of emotional blindness.

On a similar theme, this article looks at the association between autism and epilepsy.


6) Depression In Japan

Depression in Japan was all but unknown in Japan until the late 1990s. This programme tells the story of how it was imported.

It tells us much about cultural bias and ethnocentrism in psychological research. It also tells us much about the power of culture to determine our attitudes and experience. We need, says the programme’s presenter, to go easier on ourselves.


7) National Obesity Forum In Disarray

We’ve been focusing for some time in the Eating Behaviour topic on the idea that a calorie is not just a calorie. The difficulty in this area is to figure out which foods are particularly active in making people gain weight. That is what is behind this news story about the National Obesity Forum.


8) Tobacco Companies In Disarray

This article talks about plain packaging going global.

This article explains what tobacco companies might be doing about it.


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