Post Of The Week – Saturday 8th July 2017

1)  A Leading Happiness Researcher Says ….

We’ve seen some very fine work done on research projects in the last few weeks. They have been prompted by a puzzling finding from last year: high levels of anxiety are associated with high aspiration. One group this year has found a correlation between future focus and stress. Another has found differences in anxiety between hard and easy subjects: not a surprise in itself unless you consider that “hard” was operationalised in terms of grade requirements for entry rather than anything intrinsic to the subjects concerned. We’ve established a curvilinear relationship between locus of control and worry score: people who believe that they have a great deal of control worry as much as people who feel out of control. We’ve done the same for the relationship between time spent on Facebook and levels of worry. High levels of anxiety are associated both with spending little time as well as a great deal of time on Facebook. Not using social media prevents people from establishing supportive relationships.

This article from Emma Sepalla at Stanford University bears out some of these ideas. She suggests that society asks adolescents to focus on the future at the expense of capturing and enjoying the present. We learn early in life that stress is inevitable rather than learning how to relax and do nothing for a bit. We learn to toughen up and take control without learning to be compassionate towards ourselves and towards others. We don’t learn how to fail.

There are important implications in what Sepalla writes here and in what students are finding this year. We need to learn to think differently.


2) How Drugs Affect The Brain

This TED Ed video contains some essential neuroscience.


3) The Brain’s Wiring

Axons are connect brain cells and enable neurons to communicate. This item from the BBC shows the latest attempt to represent the brain’s wiring.


4) Addiction

This article from the New York Times looks at how society has created the conditions where people become addicted to opioid drugs and to food which makes them fat. When we look at stress as a risk factor in the development of addiction, we consider the way stress changes the way the body works. This article refers to research in non-human animals which shows something similar. Monkeys placed in a stressful environment experience a decrease in D2 dopamine receptors and are more likely to consume cocaine.


5) Dieting

In our course, we define dieting as a conscious attempt to lose weight, usually by restricting how much is eaten. This article explains the way in which women’s magazines have presented dieting and body image over the last seventy years. It is keen to show us how little has changed.


6) Treating OCD With Self-Help And Computer Based Interventions

This article looks at research into low level interventions for treating OCD. There is interest in doing this for depression but the results for OCD from this study are weak. Part of the problem is that treatment is delivered by non-specialists. The overwhelming impression, however, is that OCD is a very tough nut to crack.


7) The Bioethics Of Genetic Sequencing

This article looks at the involvement of Google in gene sequencing projects. It raises issues of confidentiality and conflict of interest.


8) Types Of Long Term Memory

What we know about something to some extent depends on when we learnt it. We know what chairs and spoons are because we have used them. This means that semantic and episodic memory are connected. This is demonstrated by this study. It shows that an individual with impaired episodic memory is less likely to refer to extrinsic features of an object such as how it is used and where it is to be found than controls. Also on types of long term memory, this article reports on how different types of memory create different patterns of connection across the brain. For a while now, we have thought of different types of memory being associated with different parts of the brain. We now need to think in terms of different systems.

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