Post Of The Week – Saturday 10th June, 2017

1) Gene Editing

This video from the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust describes the process of gene editing.

We spend a fair bit of out time thinking about genetic explanations for things. The assumption in the longer term is that, if you know what these are, you can do something about them.


2) Statistical Significance

In our course at the moment, we are in the process of building a set of studies related to adolescence and anxiety. Graphs from last year’s studies are displayed on the classroom wall regardless of whether or not the findings are significant. There’s a difference between that and the practice described in this article.  It describes a report of a drug trial where the abstract contains reference to statistically insignificant findings. Referring to insignificant findings, findings which could have occurred by chance and could also by chance have turned out the other way round, is OK in a classroom where you are trying to learn how to do research. It is not OK to make clinical decisions based on such findings.


3) Anxiety In Children

This week’s episode of All In The Mind starts with a discussion of anxiety in children. Quality of childhood is something we visit as a research activity in Year 1. What’s interesting here is the combination of approaches. Thalia Eley contributes to the discussion by explaining the genetic basis of anxiety. There are elements of both CBT and behavioural therapies in the discussion of what to do to help parents and children deal with anxiety.


4) Research Domain Criteria

This programme, promoted by the National Institute Of Mental Health in the US, seeks to link the way in which we define psychological disorders to what we understand about what causes them. It is based on the idea of defining and measuring domains of behaviour linked to their neurobiological roots. Psychological disorders are therefore amalgams of these different domains. This was Thomas Insel’s big project when he was director of NIMH. He’s moved on now and his successor in this article describes the scale of the challenge and what is currently being done about it. It’s all about data on an enormous scale.


5) Working Memory

Here’s an overview of working memory from The Conversation, linking what we know about working to other issues in Psychology. There is more to this than just describing a model.


6) When The Cerebellum Is Missing ….

This is a remarkable story of brain plasticity.


7) Brain Scans May Forecast Autism In High Risk Infants

Autism is defined as a set of behaviours. In our course, we relate it to a lack of theory of mind. These behaviours become apparent at about the age of two and diagnosis tends to occur around the age of four. This article looks at attempts to use fMRI to diagnose earlier. It’s a complex process which involves comparisons of brain activity across many individuals. It seems to work though, at least in this small scale trial, suggesting a change in how we think about what autism is.


8) Fighting Anorexia

A sobering account of one family’s ultimately futile fight against anorexia nervosa.



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