Post Of The Week – Saturday August 6th 2016

1) Autism, Sense Of Self And Autobiographical Memory

The idea that autism is connected to a lack of Theory Of Mind has been around for about 30 years. “Theory Of Mind” refers to the ability to understand the connection between the thoughts and actions of others. Theory Of Mind depends on sense of self. You need a sense of yourself as distinct and different in order to start to make sense of other people. This article looks at the connection between sense of self and autism. Lack of autobiographical memory might explain the absence of a strong sense of self in males but not, it turns out, in females. This looks like a good example of gender bias in research.


2) Karen Ersche On Addiction

We use Karen Ersche’s work with siblings of people addicted to drugs as a way of studying genotype and phenotype. This article explores further the personalities of people who are addicted to cocaine. They are less likely to learn from negative stimuli and to extinguish learning from positive stimuli than a control group. That has implications for how we treat and support people with addiction.


3) Thrive

During the Christmas holiday of 2009, I came across a report on the BBC World Service about work being done by the New York Public Health Department to cut obesity by persuading people not to drink sugar laden drinks. The approach, based on graphic adverts and on taxation, seemed outlandish. In the best part of seven years between then and now, we have moved close to adopting these ideas. The same could be true of the Thrive programme. This article explains how the Mayor of New York is developing a programme based on prevention as well as therapy to address the burden produced by mental illness. This involves a more integrated approach from different arms of government. Some authorities here are starting to learn from this.


4) Seymour Papert

If you ever used logo in primary school maths, you owe a debt of gratitude to Seymour Papert. He died this week. Here is his obituary. What’s interesting is his connection to Piaget. He worked as an investigator for Jean Piaget. He later did much work on how computers could be used in the classroom. He is therefore a connecting figure between Piaget’s ideas about education and the way we use computers in a classroom now.


5) Changing The Paradigm

John Ioannidis is a strong critic of publication bias in Psychology. Here, he has something to say about how research is funded. The research community has been impressed by the idea that we can understand the genetic basis for conditions and then find interventions which cure them. This hasn’t worked out. The case of sickle cell anaemia is instructive. We have know for years which genetic defect causes sickle cell anaemia but finding ways of preventing and treating it has proved elusive. It is time for a different way of thinking, funding science which adopts new, more risky approaches rather than treading the same old path. This looks like an appeal to shift the paradigm.


6) Eating Disorders And Sibings

Bee Wilson’s article here explains anorexia nervosa in the context of family conflict and focuses in particular on the experience of siblings. This article looks more generally at the mistakes we make about dieting.


7) Mindfulness

This BBC iWonder resource focuses on mindfulness. There is also a related one here on CBT.


8) More About HM

This piece from the New York Times from the author of a new book about HM explains some troubling aspects of his life and legacy. Some of what we might have thought about HM turns out to be wrong and the ethics of how he was researched are questionable. This might make us think about the limitations of case studies.


9) Co-morbidity In Addiction

Co-morbidity is a problem when looking at interventions for therapy. If people have more than one ting wrong with them, they won’t get better unless both things are addressed. This is a particular issue with addiction where experiencing mental health problems alongside addiction is common. The figures at the start of this report from Turning Point illustrate  the scale of the problem.


10) Genetics Of Depression

Because the influence of any one gene on any one disorder is very small, very large samples are needed to isolate the genes associated with it. Just such a sample has been established by 23 And Me, a company which offers genetic profiling online. Their findings are reported here.  There is a useful critique of this in the comments section of this article and more specifically in this review.



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