1) The Pursuit Of Ignorance
Stuart Firestein is a neuroscientist at Columbia University. In this TED Talk, he explains that science should be about what we don’t know more than about what we do know. Knowledge should just make us ask more questions. When we evaluate as part of our course, the idea of identifying limitations is based in part on identifying what else needs to be done. That’s been a theme both in the Biopsychology in Year 2 and the Memory in Year 1 on which we have been working over the last week. Firestein is making a case for thinking about science learning and science education in a different sort of way.
2) Understanding Circadian Rhythms
We’ve been working on these in Year 2 over the last couple of weeks. It is hard to understand how or why the body follows a rhythm of roughly 24 hours even when, as in the famous Michel Siffre studies, people are not exposed to the natural cycle of light and dark. This article explains what we know and what we don’t know based on current research. Research has moved on from putting people in caves to see what happened to using non-human animal research and gene manipulation to understand the precise mechanisms by which the sleep-wake cycle works. It turns out to be more complicated than we think. There are more mechanisms than those in the SCN for controlling sleeping and waking. The SCN can be thought of as the conductor of the orchestra, playing a co-ordinating role and acting as a backup when other systems are not activated. Quite how this works is still being researched.
3) Communication Between Hemispheres
Also this week in Year 2, we have been working on hemispheric lateralisation and split brain studies, including Sperry’s research. An evaluation point we make in relation to this is that current research can use a range of methods unavailable when Sperry first did his research in order to understand how different sides of the brain connect. This article explains one such piece of research about communication between brain halves and ageing.
4) Testosterone And Sex Differences In Human Behaviour
Cordelia Fine and Joe Herbert have both written books about gender differences. Here, they debate the influence of testosterone on our ideas about gender. This debate includes key issues and approaches: gender bias, nature-nurture, free will and determinism, biological reductionism. It shows that these issues and approaches are still alive and important.
5) Definitions And Classification Of Psychological Disorder
This is a bit of the course which sometimes seems to be isolated and disconnected to the other things we do. It is something students sometimes overlook when preparing for exams. This article by Vaughan Bell explains some of the broader questions about how we define abnormality and diagnose disorders. Please don’t read it if you are likely to be offended by a very rude word about three quarters of the way through. Joanna Moncrieff’s piece here covers similar issues.
6) Case Studies