Post Of The week – Saturday 7th January, 2017

1) How Do Connectomes Contribute to Human Cognition?

The answer to this question is explained in this brief article from Scientific American. It sums up neatly how we understand structure and plasticity within the brain.

 

2) Eating Disorders In Males

We quote the figure of 9:1 for the ratio of female to male diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. This article explains how the problem of male eating disorders is emerging despite being relatively poorly studied. This looks like an example of alpha bias: seeing anorexia nervosa as a female disease exaggerates the differences between males and females and leads us to under-estimate the difficulties males face.

 

3) And While We’re On Alpha Bias …

Here’s a very good article about male and female brains which debunks some of the myths which surround this question. It raises an interesting point at the end about how that then leads to a reassessment of autism as a manifestation of extreme male brain.

 

4) Face Recognition

This article from Mo Costandi looks at how the part of the brain responsible for face recognition may continue to grow into adulthood. It’s interesting for us because it shows how fMRI is evolving to include methods for measuring precisely the volumes of brain structures. It also tells an interesting story about plasticity, mirroring Eleanor Maguire’s research into taxi drivers.

 

5) Big Brain, Small Teeth

Big brain theory is an explanation of how we developed big brains and a preference for meat. Cooked meat in particular enabled us to have smaller guts and spend less energy on digestion, leaving us with more energy to power larger brains. A consequence of this change is that we would not need such big teeth. A standard criticism of this type of evolutionary account is that it is non-falsifiable: it is not possible to go back in time to gather evidence to test the hypothesis. However, evidence emerges eventually, such as here. There’s no evidence that an increase in the size of the brain coincided with a decrease in the size of teeth.

 

6) Co-morbidty

I finished preparing the Addiction topic last week. I found myself again looking at the issue of co-morbidity, in particular its impact on reducing addiction. This article looks ay guidelines on dual diagnosis: people are diagnosed with substance dependence and a serious mental health disorder. The article makes some telling points. There is little guidance for doctors treating people with anxiety or depression who are also addicted to tobacco, alcohol or cannabis. Little is known about the impact of these drugs on the action of drugs used to treat anxiety and depression. The treatment of addiction and other mental health disorders is different. With other mental health disorders, the approach is direct and paternalistic. With addiction, people get treated when they accept they need to be addicted: the approach of Prochaska’s stages lives on.

 

7) Screentime Again

Following on from what I wrote last week, here’s a letter from an impressive list of people about screen time.

 

8) Circadian Therapeutics

The research into circadian rhythms we look at as part of Biopsychology feels disconnected  from the other things we do. This link explains how a new company plans to exploit research into circadian rhythms to understand how they connect to other health issues.

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