Post Of The Week – Sunday 21st August 2016

1) The Safety Of Interventions For Smoking

When I started teaching the addictive behaviour option in 2012, drug treatments for addiction seemed dangerously experimental. This article shows how far we have come. It reports on a large scale, multi-centre RCT looking at the risks associated with bupropion, varenicline and NRT as interventions for smoking. There are some limitations but the results are encouraging, showing that all three interventions are both safe and effective. The other thing that has changed in those four years has been the growth of e-cigarettes. This article suggests that e-cigarettes reduce for smokers exposure to toxicants even though levels of nicotine stay the same. That therefore makes the case for using them as part of a smoking reduction programme.


2) VR Support For Young People With Autism

Autism makes tasks like learning to drive difficult because of the distractions which need to be filtered. Giving people the skills they need to deal with social situations takes a huge amount of time. This article explains how virtual reality is being used as part of the solution. As with other areas, putting something on to a computer screen does not automatically make it work. VR, however, has a role to play.


3) Neurodiversity And Mental Health

This article takes as its starting point the social model of disability. This model suggests that being able to see or hear less than other people or being divergent in some other way only becomes a problem when placed in a social context. The same might be said about psychological disorders: autism, ADHD, dyslexia. The arguments are complex here but the implications are clear. Whichever definition of abnormality we use, we define normality against abnormality. The abnormal fail to function adequately, deviate from ideal mental health, behave in ways which deviate from social norms or score high or low on measures of psychological functioning. These definitions are about separating the few from the many, identifying who is different. The neurodiversity model looks at how we’re all different from each other. That might in the long term be a more helpful and fruitful line of enquiry.


4) Self-Control And Food Choice

We’re going soon to be looking at cognitive explanations for the success or failure of dieting. This article refers to a study looking at self-restraint, looking at how food preference relates to self-control. The data here are interesting but open to more than one interpretation.


5) Gene Editing

I’ve been working today on Sadaf Farooqi’s research into the genetics of obesity. One of the things she talks about in a BBC programme I have been using is gene therapy. This TED talk  explains the process of gene editing. Fascinating but frightening.


6) Does It Matter If Google Is Rewiring Our Minds?

This article looks at recent research about the extent to which people rely on internet searches rather than their own memories. The worry is that people who rely on the internet never internalise their knowledge so cannot think creatively with it. There’s an intriguing reference to Plato’s Phaedrus at the end. As someone who does both Classics and Psychology, I like that.


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