Post Of The Week – Sunday 24th July 2016

1) Turning Protest Into Powerful Change

In the social change sub-topic, we look at how consistency, commitment and flexibility in the face of new evidence work to enable a minority to influence a majority. We look also at the role of majority social influence through normative and informational influence and at the role of authority figures.

This video is interesting. It examines the issue of social change from a more cognitive perspective. There are three ingredients for change:

expanding the frame of the possible

picking a defining fight

securing an early win

We could argue that the minority needs to be consistent in order to expand the frame of the possible. Picking a defining fight and securing an early win enables the minority to show commitment and creates the uncertainty in which informational influence can function. The video therefore provides a broader view of how social change comes about.


2) Experiments On Children In The 1970s

The 1970s may seem like a long time ago to people in school now but to me, they are like the day before yesterday. This BBC article explains how children in a secure hospital were used for experiments using sodium amytal. This had been used in World War 2 as a short cut in psychoanalysis. By giving people a drug which had similar effects to alcohol, it would be possible for them to access memories of traumatic experiences which ordinary therapy would take months to find. It is now alleged that this drug was used on children without any consent, ethical supervision or peer reviewed publication as part of a programme to identify cases of abuse. This reminds us why consent, ethical supervision and peer review are so important.


3) Imaging The Brain: fMRI

This article explains some issues with fMRI. We often see news articles which refer to the lighting up of areas of the brain, often with an accompanying image. These “lighting up” images are produced by complex software. The way in which this software works has flaws. This casts doubt on some of the things we think we know about the brain. How serious this problem is is a matter for debate. fMRI remains a “blurry magnifying glass to look at the most complex object in the universe.”

In connection with this idea of a blurry magnifying glass, in this TED talk, Ed Boyden explains how little we know about the molecular activity of the brain and how a technique based on expansion might help us understand it much better.


4) Family And Parent Focused Treatment For Anorexia Nervosa

Family Systems Theory sees anorexia nervosa as a product of the way in which families operate. It makes sense therefore to think that if you want to help someone to get better if that person has anorexia nervosa, you need to involve all of the family. This article looks at attempts to measure the effectiveness of family based and parent focused therapy. Family based therapy involves family members in all phases of a treatment programme. Parent focused therapy involves counselling sessions with a parent in which specific issues about the child’s health are raised and addressed. Parent focused therapy seems to work a bit better in the short term but there is no difference between the two in the longer term. The overwhelming impression is that better treatments need to be found for anorexia and that almost forty years after family systems theory came into being, very little is known about how to integrate families into the treatment of anorexia nervosa.


5) Peer Review For Funding

We look at peer review on our course as a process after research has been conducted. Its purpose is to decide whether research will be published.

This video explains how peer review is part of the process of deciding whether medical research is funded in the first place.


6) Areas Of The Brain

This article and this BBC report describe new research which maps the cortex of the human brain in more complex ways than has been done before. There is nothing new about mapping the brain but better research techniques deliver more detail. The idea that there is a “part of the brain which does ….” is challenged by the complexity of the map. “Granular” is a key word here.


7) Polygenic Scores Which Predict Educational Achievement

This article explains more about Robert Plomin’s project to understand the genetic basis of educational achievement.  There is a video explanation here.


8) Understanding OCD In Children

This package is designed for people working with young people in health or education settings who have OCD. It is open access and offers a strong summary of what is currently known about causes and treatments of OCD. You do not have to sign in to use it.

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