1) What Makes Me, Me?
This is the third of this year’s Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. It’s aimed at an audience younger than sixth form but deals with some of the content of our course – natural selection, lactase persistence – as well as presenting contemporary controversies about genes and environment. It is worth sticking with it until the end.
When we study free will and determinism, we look at Libet’s research which suggests that activity relating to an intention to act occurs in the brain before we are aware of it. This idea is a starting point for this article about consciousness, suggesting that the distinction between automatic and controlled processes in the brain is redundant.
We come across perfectionism in the context of explanations of anorexia nervosa. It is also something we have thought about in the context of the research projects on worry which we have developed over the past couple of years. This article suggests that there is more perfectionism around than there used to be and that its effects are pernicious.
4) Genetic Explanation Of Eating Disorders
When we studied this last term, we looked at how variants associated with anorexia have been identified but the process by which anorexia nervosa occurs as a result of these variants is still unknown. This article explains a research project which looks at how genetic vulnerability may be triggered by the way in which food is discussed by parents. This article looks at the many problems inherent in explaining symptoms from genetic variants.
5) Conversational Experience
In our Year 1 practical, we thought about the importance of reciprocity between parent and child. The interaction between parent and child which we studied seemed to work best when the parent responds to the child and when there is eye contact between them. This article reports research which finds a correlation between experience of conversation and neural development in language areas. We have to be careful here: correlation does not imply cause. Children with greater development in this area may be easier to talk to. Nevertheless, it suggests that we have focused on the right thing in framing our discussion.
6) All In The Mind – Neuromyths
This episode deals with myths about the brain and learning which are commonly held and which are not supported by psychological research. It made me think about the features of science we study as part of our course: use of empirical methods, replicability, objectivity.