Post Of The Week – Saturday 15th October 2016

1) World Mental Health Day

In the Year 2 course this week, we found ourselves talking about stigma in the context of World Mental Health Day. We were thinking about the relationship between stigma and free will. People think that mental illness is the consequence of choice in some sense and therefore blame people with mental illness. This video reminds us what we should do.


2) Orchid Children

Ainsworth sees attachment types as a consequence of the sensitivity of the caregiver. We look at this in the AS course. Other researchers have disputed this view, seeing the attachment of the child as a product in part of the child’s temperament. This article deals in detail with the idea of temperament. It suggests that some children have a temperament which makes them more vulnerable to bad parenting and able to benefit more from good parenting than children with other kinds of temperament. The key trait is negative emotionality which looks in children a bit like neuroticism in adults. Where it comes from and how it might be caused by bad parenting is something researchers still need to understand. It shows though that we have moved on from the simple relationship between sensitivity and behaviour proposed by Ainsworth.


3) Methodological Terrorism

The picture of science we have of researchers edging towards the truth through the process of theory construction, hypothesis testing and peer-reviewed publication is challenged in this article. How Psychology should deals with its replication crisis, the result of statistical practices which people had doubts about when I was studying for a masters degree more than twenty years ago and which now are seen as seriously flawed, is not clear. The article explains what is going wrong with the process and suggests what might be done differently.


4) Genetic Basis Of Anorexia

We are still at an early stage in understanding the genetic basis of anorexia nervosa. Twin studies show that there is one but which genes are involved remains a mystery. This article reports on research with mice which provides some clues. There’s a gene identified in two families with cases of anorexia nervosa which is associated not only with abnormal eating behaviours but also with a range of other behaviours in mice which look a bit like the sort of things people with anorexia nervosa do. This might in some way be connected to the neurotransmitter glutamate.


5) Fussy Eating Toddlers

This article suggests that fussy eating has a genetic basis. It does this not through any kind of DNA analysis but through studying twins. You need to click on the link to the actual research paper to see how this works. In the twins, correlations involving each twin for food neophobia, assumed to be a genetic trait, and food fussiness are similar. The article makes the point that even though there is a genetic basis for fussiness, there is also an environmental component. That component gives parents an opportunity to shape eating behaviour.


6) Early Intervention

There’s a political argument about early intervention for children living in disadvantaged environments. Behind this argument is the claim that early negative experiences are irreversible. It matters because the government has to decide what to do with finite resources. This article looks at arguments about the way in which neuroscience has been used to support these arguments. That is relevant to the questions we have been looking at in Year 2 this week about free will and determinism, focusing on the work of Rutter and Crittenden.


7) Imaging The Brain

The goal of imaging the brain is to see neurons firing across the brain in real time. The imaging techniques we have at the moment can’t do this. fMRI detects changes in activity but does not show us connections. EEG shows us activity but not at the level of individual neurons. This article explains how a technique is being developed to move towards this goal. It’s only in zebra fish at the moment but it is a start.


8) Brain Plasticity

Here is Mo Costandi summing up very nicely the issue of brain plasticity which we were trying to nail down in Year 2 last week.

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