A German study just published by Moritz and colleagues provides an interesting insight into antipsychotic drugs used in the treatment of schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses. Data was collected by asking psychiatric patients to complete a questionnaire about their experiences in taking antipsychotic medication for their mental disorder. The conclusion was that such drugs are effective because they dampen emotion rather than treating any specific symptoms. ‘Doubt, numbing and withdrawal were the main subjective antipsychotic effects’. Basically such drugs just keep patients quiet – an effect which many patients find unpleasant. One reviewer says ‘It is clear we need better ways to help people’.
Posts archived in Abnormality
This experiment tested the assumption that music plays a role in sexual selection. Three hundred young women were solicited in the street for their phone number by a young male confederate who held either a guitar case or a sports bag in his hands or had no bag at all. Results showed that holding a guitar case was associated with greater compliance to the request, thus suggesting that musical practice is associated with sexual selection. (Guéguen et al., see here).
Interesting conclusion – but is it justified?
AQA A A2 students are encouraged to include evaluation points relating to issues, debates and/or approaches. Common debates include determinism/free will and reductionism a. Popular issues include gender bias and cultural bias. The following comments from the AQA Report on the Examination provide some very useful advice for students on these debates/issues;
January 2013 report: Determinism
All explanations/theories in psychology are determinist, as they are trying to explain the reason people do things. So referring to any particular theory as ‘determinist’ is trivial. It is only in specific areas that it becomes an important issue e.g. evolutionary and genetic theories of aggression suggest that individuals do not have free will and choice Read the rest of this entry »
The excellent Brian Dunning has produced a podcast in his Skeptics series on Ganzfeld experiments, see here.
I’ll say at the outset that I am not a believer in paranormal phenomena – but the research reported below shows that we should always keep an open mind. There may be quite rational explanations for some supposedly paranormal (or anomalistic) experiences. Then, of course, they are not anomalistic after all.
Some people claim to be able to see a halo or aura around other people – a kind of glow, which is often colourful. Recent research has offered a possible explanation for this based on synthesthesia, a condition where people experience crossing between their senses. In other words the stimulation of one of their senses causes a perception in one or more different senses. The consequence is that, for example, different words have specific colours or ‘taste’ different.
The well-known neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran tested a 23-year-old young man (TK) who has both synesthesia and Asperger disorder (see here). TK also claimed to see a coloured light around people that varied with their emotions. When TK observed one of the volunteers he reported seeing a blue aura. When they stood the volunteer in front of a white screen TK was slower to identify blue letters projected onto the apparent blue aura but had no difficulty with orange letters. People without synestheia had no difficulty reporting letters of any colour. This suggests that the perception of an aura may be explained as a form of synesthesia.
A few months ago there was an item on this blog about the comments on AQA A markschemes that stated that answers using psychoanalysis as a psychological therapy for schizophrenia would be unlikely to gain high marks. We do not believe this is a justifiable position. However, regardless of whether the board is right or wrong in their position, we plan to update our textbook to include a different therapy – family intervention. We also are providing a copy of this insert free, click family intervention to download.
Some of you will be familiar with research that shows that emotional feelings can be triggered by the body, rather than the other way round. We are happy because we smile, rather than smiling because we are happy. For example, if people put a pencil between their teeth and are asked to rate a cartoon or video, they find them funnier than people who place a pencil between their lips (try it and see which is more like a smile). See here for descriptions of such studies.
An American dermatological surgeon, Eric Finzi, has applied this to the treatment of depression. He injects botox into the ‘frowning’ muscle of depressed patients (the corrugator muscle) to prevent it contracting. He suggests that people can cure themselves by just looking happy and has success stories to support this, documented in his book The Face of Emotion: How botox affects our mood and relationships.
An interesting analysis was recently published showing that the Russell group of Universities have a strong tendency to publish research with significant findings only. Actually a ‘strong tendency’ is an understatement. The analysis found, for example, that researchers from the University of Birmingham published 119 pieces of research during the study period of which only 9% had non-significant findings.
What is especially remarkable about this piece of research is that it is by a sixth form student, Chloë Thompson from The Becket Sixth Form in Nottingham. She did work experience with Clive Adams at Nottingham University, who also works with the Schizophrenia Group of the Cochrane Library (a huge free-to-access database of research on medical and health issues).
The value of this research is that it supports the current pressure on medical research institutions to publish all of their results, not just the positive ones, so that doctors have a truer picture of findings. This is a movement spearheaded by Ben Goldacre in his recent book Bad Pharma.
There are many theories about why we sleep and dream, and many of these involve memory in some way (including Freud’s theory of why we dream). A relatively recent theory has been gathering support, variously called synaptic renormalisation hypothesis or synaptic homeostasis hypothesis (aka ‘SHY’ – first proposed by Tononi and Corelli, 2003).
The basic principle is the suggestion that sleep provides a necessary opportunity for brain synapses to recover. During the day we are constantly forming new memories – when a new memory is formed essentially the synapse between the neurons involved becomes strengthened. Such strengthening can’t go on forever because of the energy required. So, according to SHY, slow wave sleep provides a slowing down of brain activity in order to allow all synapses to reduce activity. The relative differences in strengths between neurons remains, so the new memories aren’t lost.
Not everyone supports this idea. For example Frank (2013 here) argues that the underlying mechanisms have yet to be clearly defined and, until this happens, the hypothesis remains tentative.
Subscribers to the New Scientist can read about this hypothesis, and more, in a great piece on the Wonder of Slumber (2 February 2013).