Post Of The Week – Sunday December 18th 2016

1) Depression And Cardiac Arrest

This article explains how depression following a heart attack is treated. There’s a bias towards giving people drugs for this, in part because they are already receiving drugs for  their heart condition and in part because in Canada, as in many other countries, access to a psychiatrist who prescribes the tablets is easier than to a psychotherapist who is able to talk about the problem. The article makes a case for greater access to talking therapy.


2) Behavioural Science Unit

MI5 has a behaviour science unit. You can read about it here. Psychological theory and methods are being used to understand why some people become radicalised and commit terrorist acts.


3) Peer Review

This video explains how the Medical Research Council deals with applications for funding.

At the point where research is published, peer review is also used. This article explains what can go wrong when researchers can pick their own reviewers.


4) Problem Gambling Costs £1.2 bn

That is the figure from a report prepared by the IPPR and reported in this article. The government makes more from gambling than it spends on dealing with the consequences. What’s interesting here is the profile of problem gambling which emerges. People aged 16-24 are less likely than other age groups to gamble but a higher proportion of those who do gamble develop a problem compared to other age groups. The question arises of what to do about this. The industry seems reluctant to police itself.


5) Cravings

When we study explanations of food preference, we look at evidence about how the brain responds to fatty food, with reward pathways and centres associated with touch being activated. This article explains what is being done to understand craving for high calorie food and other things – gambling , illegal drugs, sex – which might be best avoided. The article is good on what we don’t know as well as on what we do: “we do not know yet what the blood oxygen level dependent signal of fMRI really means.”


6) The Neuroscience Of Imagination

This TED-Ed video explains how we can imagine things we have never seen thanks to some complex adaptations within the brain.


7) The Addiction Habit

This article from Aeon asks us to think of addiction not as a disease but as a habit. In this respect, addiction is like anxiety and depression where we become stuck in habits of thinking. There is some good news at the end. Addiction, like most habits, is a learnt behaviour which we can change.


8) Preventing Depression

This video explains some of the history of the development of antidepressants and how preventing depression through “paravaccine” may represent a new way forward. You need to watch until the very end where there is a surprising twist.


9) Zeitgebers

We’re used to the idea that the suprachiasmatic nucleus responds to light signals passing from the eyes to the visual cortex. This article explains more recent research which shows how many areas of the brain respond to light.


10) Window Of Opportunity

Here’s a fascinating piece about research from Blakemore’s lab at UCL. It focuses on the ability to learn new logical thinking skills in late adolescence and early adulthood. There’s some debate about whether this represents greater brain plasticity or better strategies for learning. I’d argue that as long as people are learning, that doesn’t matter too much.


11) Bedlam

Here’s a history of the Bethlem Hospital. Rebuilt in 1676 as a model asylum, its opulent exterior belied a grim interior.


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