Post Of The Week – Saturday 9th July 2016

1) Epigenetics

If we are going to understand nature and nurture properly, we need to understand epigenetics. Epigenetics describes how some genes are switched on but others are not. This TED-ED video explains the process.

This article explains how research into one aspect of epigenetics might explain why we still find it hard to understand the heritability of Type 2 diabetes. Psychology Hacked has a very good overview.


2) When Memory Comes Back

This article by Demetri Kofinas tells the story of how he lost his memory through the effects of a brain tumour and what happened when that tumour was destroyed. During his illness, memories were laid down of which he was unaware. These flooded back to him when his tumour was removed. Memory is complex and many-sided.


3) The Trouble With Meta-Analysis

This article explains the trouble with meta-analysis. It is a technique originally developed in educational psychology which has now been taken up in many other areas of science. The trouble is that while other areas of science have raised their game in improving meta-analysis, Psychology has not. Studies tend to include the same type of participants and not enough care goes into filtering out sub-standard studies when conducting meta-analysis.


4) Imitation

Central to our ideas about reciprocity and interactional synchrony is the idea that new born babies can imitate. This article suggests that the evidence from Meltzoff and Moore, which is quoted on my webpage, is wrong. A recent study suggests that babies respond to an adult engaging their attention and performing an action such as sticking out the tongue but that the response is not the same as the action they see. Imitation is something which is learnt later. On this view, imitation is not the foundation for reciprocity and interactional synchrony but a product of it. Imitation of facial expression teaches us to imitate others in other ways as we get older. It is central to our experience as social animals but has to be learnt.


5) Internet Use In Adolescence

This article by Kate Mills reviews recent research into the effect of the internet on the cognitive development of adolescence. The conclusions challenge some of the moral panic surrounding internet use. This is a good example of open access publishing.


6) fMRI Errors

I’m guilty of being impressed by anything to do with brain imaging. I’m keen to tell classes that brain imaging works and is advancing all the time. This article counsels caution. It suggests that because of software errors, some of the things we think we know about the brain from fMRI are wrong. This article goes into a bit more detail about the extent of the problem. One of the problems it highlights is that studies often publish convincing images of what has been found without offering the corresponding statistical data.


7) Antidepressants: New Scientist Articles

I’ve been doing some work this week with Year 10 on “The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde”. I tried explaining that one of the differences between 1886 when Stevenson published the book and now is that we have antidepressants and that antidepressants work. I also wondered whether the number of antidepressants currently prescribed reflected Stevenson’s dystopian view of science. This article looks at the claim that antidepressants work through two contrasting stories. This article updates the figures.


8) Irving Gottesman

Irving Gottesman pioneered research into the genetic basis of schizophrenia. Gottesman and Shields’ study of separated twins and schizophrenia is a core study. He has just died. His obituary is useful for showing where the nature-nurture debate was back when Gottesman began his research in the late 1950s: nurture held sway. The obituary explains Gottesman’s influence on the way we think about nature and nurture now.


9) The Life Scientific

This programme is about the work of Faraneh Vargha-Khadem. She’s a developmental cognitive neuroscientist.

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