Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Depression, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Research Methods in ADA, Research Methods in AP, Research Methods in CP, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: If your physician told you that he or she thought you might be depressed and indicated that they could either provide you with antidepressant drugs or refer you for cognitive behaviour therapy which would you pick? Before answering have a look at this article and consider the research it discusses.

Source: Talking Therapy as Effective as Antidepressants, Study Finds: Health News from NHS Choices

Date: December 10, 2015

CBT and Drugs

Photo Credit: and

Links: Article Link —

There are a variety of medical opinions out there about the optimal course of treatment for a patient showing clear DSM symptoms of depression. Some physicians believe that antidepressants are the optimal choice while others believe that patients ought to start on antidepressants and then take up some form of talking therapy once the antidepressants start to show positive effect. Other physicians argue that a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy is to be preferred. The answer to which approach is preferred really needs to be decided on the basis of data and not on the basis of a single study. The study reviewed in this article was a meta-analytic study. This means that the authors of this research gathered together the results of a number of studies (in this case 11 studies) and pooled their results to provide a much clearer indication of how CBT or cognitive behaviour therapy impacts the symptoms of depression as compared to the current array of antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The bottom line was that based on data from over 1500 patients neither of these treatment showed a clear advantage over the other or in other words both drugs or cognitive behaviour therapy are equally effective in treating the symptoms of moderate to severe clinical depression. The article and the media report about it briefly discuss the implications of this finding for the medical treatment of individuals struggling with symptoms of depression. Read through the review article and perhaps have a look at the research article itself which is available through the link under additional reading below and then think about what your own decision might be if you are offered a choice between these two forms of treatment.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How did CBT fare has a treatment for depression compared to antidepressant drugs?
  2. Given that these two treatments produce similar results what sorts of additional factors ought to be considered when deciding which treatment route to follow?
  3. What additional research is needed if we wish to make general medical policy and treatment statements about the treatment of individuals presenting with symptoms of moderate to severe depression?

References (Read Further):

Halle R Amick, Gerald Gartlehner, Bradley N Gaynes, Catherine Forneris, Gary N Asher, Laura C Morgan, Emmanuel Coker-Schwimmer, Erin Boland, Linda J Lux, Susan Gaylord, Carla Bann, Christiane Barbara Pierl, Kathleen N Lohr. (2015) Comparative benefits and harms of second generation antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapies in initial treatment of major depressive disorder: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 351, h6019

Weitz, E. S., Hollon, S. D., Twisk, J., van Straten, A., Huibers, M. J., David, D., … & Faramarzi, M. (2015). Baseline depression severity as moderator of depression outcomes between cognitive behavioral therapy vs pharmacotherapy: an individual patient data meta-analysis. JAMA psychiatry, 72(11), 1102-1109.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Eating Disorders, Health Psychology, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, Psychological Disorders, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Imagine that you were involved in the development of a website that was intended to reach out to young women struggling with eating disorders that part of your site involves having young women with anorexia talk about the sorts of things they struggled with what they were engaged with the disorder. Would you view this sort of material as a helpful addition to the sort of website? Would it even occurred to you that one possible effect of that kind of material on such a website might turn out to be precisely the opposite of what you would hope? The article linked below talks about a research study that looked directly at this particular question.

Source: Kids Now Find More Anti-Anorexia Videos on YouTube Than ‘Pro-Ana’ Ones, Healthday, Alan Mozes

Date: December 16, 2015


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Article Link:

The idea that young women struggling with anorexia may actually be using material posted on websites that was intended to be of assistance in helping them to come to terms of their disorder but in fact were being used as tips for how to be a more effective anorexic is quite alarming. Add to that a number of websites that exist and that are referred to as “Pro – Ana” in nature, meaning that they support what might be reviewed as an anorexic lifestyle, and you can see the challenge faced by individuals and organizations wanting to design websites that will provide positive support and engagement opportunities for young women struggling with eating disorders. The researchers discussed in this article looked at was a more recent proliferation of YouTube based videos aimed at discussing the anxiety and other symptoms associated with anorexia in ways that do not positively support the disorder or otherwise enable individuals struggling with the disorder. Think a little bit about the difficulties associated with making this distinction and with developing appropriate materials and then read the article and perhaps the more detailed research article linked below to see where things are currently at in this area.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways in which videos and other web-based messages intended to engage with young women struggling with eating disorders fail or even have effects that are opposite to those originally intended?
  2. What sorts of factors are involved in ensuring that a video or other web presentation related to eating disorders and its various symptoms and issues have a positive rather than and enabling or negative impact on individuals struggling with eating disorders?
  3. What other sorts of disorders or personal challenges might be open to similar kinds of issues as those discussed in this article in relation to anorexia and other eating disorders?

References (Read Further):

Oksanen, A., Garcia, D., & Räsänen, P. (2016). Proanorexia Communities on Social Media. Pediatrics, peds-2015.

Oksanen, A., Garcia, D., Sirola, A., Näsi, M., Kaakinen, M., Keipi, T., & Räsänen, P. (2015). Pro-Anorexia and Anti-Pro-Anorexia Videos on YouTube: Sentiment Analysis of User Responses. Journal of medical Internet research, 17(11), e256.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Assessment: Clinical Decision Making, Classification Diagnosis, Clinical Assessment, Disorders of Childhood, Research Methods.

Description: Think about this logically. If the incidence of a diagnostic category within the DSM in the general population shows a big jump what sorts of explanations might we begin to look for to account for it? Well, in the United States, and in Canada as well, the rate of ADHD within the child population has jumped upwards dramatically since the turn-of-the-century. Why might that be?

Source: ADHD diagnoses soar 43% in United States, Yahoo parenting, Kerry Sheridan.

Date: December 9, 2015


Photo Credit:

Links: Article Link —

Epidemiologists are researchers who study the incidence or rates of particular illnesses or disorders in the general population and the factors which influence those rates. Epidemiologists are particularly interested when the incidence of a particular disorder shows a rapid increase or decrease. They are interested because such changes in incidents or rate suggest that something else that is potentially causally relevant to the disorder or disease has also changed. So, for example, the huge jump in birth defects and other issues that arose in the area surrounding Chernobyl after the nuclear meltdown there in 1986 unfortunately told us a great deal about the effects of exposure to radiation on developing fetuses and embryos. So, it may well be that there are new environmental or social factors at work which are causally linked to the observed dramatic increases in diagnoses of ADHD within North America. However, it may also mean that there’s been a shift in how ADHD is defined or in both public and professional awareness of the disorder and its range of manifestations. The article discussed in the media post to which this blog refers looks most closely at the increasing incidence itself but offers us an opportunity to speculate about some of the things that may be behind it and to also think about what kind of research we might need to do to sort out precisely what is going on.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the possible environmental or psychosocial explanations for why the rate of ADHD might have increased since the year 2000?
  2. What are some of the alternative explanations for why the rate of diagnosis of ADHD may have increased even if the actual underlying prevalence of the disorder may not have shifted?
  3. What sorts of studies might we need to do to sort out the contributions that you outlined in response to the first and second questions above in our thinking and in our policy and intervention planning related to ADHD?

References (Read Further):

Collins, K. P., & Cleary, S. D. (2015). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Parent-Reported Diagnosis of ADHD: National Survey of Children’s Health (2003, 2007, and 2011) (No. b058db857503494eb1ca293fa48caa2d). Mathematica Policy Research.


Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Health Psychology, Neuroscience, Physical Illness, Psychological Health, Stress Biopsychosocial Factors Illness.

Description: Someone at some point it may have suggested to you that at least part of remaining healthy involves maintaining an upbeat positive attitude. While that may sound all bit like the old statement that an apple a day might keep the doctor away interesting research is starting to show us some of the ways in which emotions and their related brain activities may be contributing factors to disease.

Source: Why Sadness Might Lead to Physical Disease, Psych Central, Traci Pedersen

Brain and illness

Photo Credit: shutterstock

 Links: Article Link –

Author’s University Media Post:

As the opening statement above suggests, the idea that our emotions or general mood states may have an impact on our physical well-being may not just be something that our grandparents or great-grandparents believed, but may in fact have some basis in neurological reality. It’s not enough however to simply suggest that one’s attitude has a role to play in one’s health. Of course, a positive attitude may make it more likely you’ll get out and engage in physical activity or perhaps make more positive health related decisions but the article discussed in this blog post involves one line of research that looks directly at the role that the brain based expressions of emotions like sadness may have to play in our general physical well-being. It is worth paying attention to this and related lines of research as they will likely have a powerful role to play in our future lifestyle and general well-being planning.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are the neurological mechanisms discussed in this article by which sadness may have a role to play in physical health and well-being?
  2. Do the results described in this study make sense to you in terms of your thoughts or beliefs about the relationship between emotions like sadness and general physical well-being? If so why and if not why not?
  3. What sort of things might the results of this study suggest in terms both of individual decisions with regards to personal wellness and in terms of medical advice or adjustments the general practitioners might routinely offer to their patients?

References (Read Further):

Prossin, A. R., Koch, A. E., Campbell, P. L., Barichello, T., Zalcman, S. S., & Zubieta, J. K. (2015). Acute experimental changes in mood state regulate immune function in relation to central opioid neurotransmission: a model of human CNS-peripheral inflammatory interaction. Molecular psychiatry.

Posted by & filed under General Psychology.

Description: While there are many winter events to celebrate, Christmas is one of the big ones. Given the amount of energy and effort put into Christmas and all that it entails for some people from surprising there has not been a lot of research done on the psychology of Christmas. This little piece gives us a light overview.

Source: Christmas and Psychological Well-being

Date: December 24, 2015


Photo Credit: Trent University, Nottingham

Links: Article Link —

So, what do you like about the Christmas holiday? Certainly it is nice after fall term final exams are done to have a little bit of downtime even without some sort of Winter Festival. The research described in this brief article examined what it was that people enjoyed most about Christmas experience in terms of their life satisfaction. Perhaps not surprisingly the high scores in this pretty study were for things like spending time with family, enjoying food and drink, religious activities, traditional activities, spending money and other people, (which was actually rated higher than) receiving gifts from other people, and helping others. The study also found that levels of reported happiness were higher when more weight was placed upon family and religious experiences then on spending money or receiving gifts. So perhaps like most times of the year, how this time of year goes for you depends on what you decide to make of it.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the factors that want to talk about if one were asked to speak briefly about what a psychology of Christmas might look like?
  2. What advice might you give to people or families that might increase their sense of well-being over this winter festival?
  3. What about your own Christmas psychology? Training in particular you’re going to do to improve or optimize your own well-being during the time off you have between now and when classes start again sometime in January?

References (Read Further):

Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. M. (2002). What makes for a merry Christmas?. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3(4), 313-329.

Petrelli, Daniela, and Ann Light. “Family rituals and the potential for interaction design: a study of Christmas.” ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 21, no. 3 (2014): 16.

Birg, L., & Goeddeke, A. (2014). Christmas Economics-A Sleigh Ride. Available at SSRN 2526055.

Suicides at Christmas: Is there a relationship?

Posted by & filed under Health Psychology, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Social Influence, Social Perception.

A number of years ago, a researcher by John Gottman made the claim that he could predict, based on a single observational session of a couple interacting with one another while talking about an issue that mattered to them, 94% accuracy within that couple but still be together in one year. He did this not based so much on what the members of that couple said to one another but more on the basis of how they said things and how they physically position themselves relative to one another while interacting as well as a tone of voice that they used. So what you think, can you tell simply by watching a couple interact with their likelihood of staying together or not?

Source: Words Can Deceive, but Tone of Voice Cannot, Science Daily

Date: November 23, 2015


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Links: Article Link

You may have had the experience of watching a couple interact can listing into their conversation (no of course you shouldn’t of been doing that but you did) and saying yourself either “others a happy couple” or alternatively something like “that I can be together for a long”. Social psychological research question is, of course, on what grounds are you making your determination about the viability of the relationship of which you of the deserved perhaps a whole minute or two of interaction. The authors of this research article suggest that the tone of voice being used by the participants in the conversation is more predictive of the viability of their relationship than the specific things are actually saying to one another in that conversation. This leads to an existing research question. Does our ability to predict the viability of relationships based on the tone of voice being used by the participants in that relationship tell us anything at all that might be useful in any effort that we might make to work with that couple to increase the likelihood that they will remain together as a couple in the medium to long term. Does it make sense to you to say to a friend something like “you know you are to speak in a kinder tone of voice to your partner that I noticed you speaking in last night”.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does the research article focus upon as key predictors of the long-term viability of the relationships that they observed as part of their research?
  2. Is simply observing the tones of voice with which people address one another sufficient as an explanation for why their relationships are viable or not? Alternatively, what sort of hypothetical relationship might you offer to explain the relationship between tone of voice and relationship viability?
  3. Are there things presented within this research that would be of assistance to clinicians working with couples who come in for counselling because they perceive that their relationships are not functioning particularly well?

References (Read Further):

Md Nasir, Wei Xia, Bo Xiao, Brian Baucom, Shrikanth S. Narayanan and Panayiotis Georgiou. Still Together?: The Role of Acoustic Features in Predicting Marital Outcome. Proceedings of Interspeech, 2015

Research FAQs

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, Disorders of Childhood, Disorders of Childhood, Legal Ethical Issues, mental illness.

Description: When you think of disorders such as Autism or Asperger’s syndrome which of the following words comes was quickly to mind? Would be inferior? Or perhaps disordered? Or how about simply different? This radio interview with Steve Silverman author of the book noted below might cause you to rethink your initial reaction to the above question.

Source: Rethinking Autism through the Prism of Neurodiversity, The Current, CBC Radio December 8, 2015.

Date: December 8, 2015


Photo Credit:

Links: Article Link

Podcast of Radio Piece Link:

So how did you respond to the above question? While we might wonder about the prospect of a “cure” for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia does it make sense to speak the same way about disorders along the Autism/Asperger’s spectrum of disorders? Steve Silverman, the author of a book entitled Nero Tribes: the legacy of autism in the future of Neurodiversity, suggests that we need to challenge your thinking in relation to this spectrum of disorders. The concept of Neurodiversity suggest that we need to consider whether some ways of being that are currently described within diagnostic manuals like the DSM might better be understood simply as alternative human ways of thinking and being. Listen to the interview and see what sort of thoughts come to mind for you in relation to this interesting question. Silverman’s history of psychology and psychiatry’s approach to autism and related disorders as detailed in absolutely fascinating and most certainly worth a read if you have any interest in this area at all.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does Steve Silverman suggest needs to change in relation to how we think about disorders along the autism spectrum of disorder?
  2. What other areas of human experience or human ways of being might be approached more effectively through thinking in terms of Neurodiversity?
  3. What sort of social conventions and practices might we consider revising if we are to take this approach to thinking about autism spectrum disorders seriously?

References (Read Further):

Silberman, S. (2015). NeuroTribes: The legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently. Allen & Unwin.

Silverman, C. (2015). NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman (review). Anthropological Quarterly, 88(4), 1111-1121.

Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Health Psychology, Stress, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: Despite the general position of politicians and police officers that we will not be intimidated by acts of terror it is perfectly understandable that the occurrence of such events can create feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Politics aside, how might we think about these sorts of issues from a psychological perspective?

Source: How to Cope with Anxiety During Terror Threats, Katie Rogers, New York Times

Date: November 19, 2015

Terror THreats

Photo Credit: Hilary Swift, The New York Times

Links: Article Link —

It largely goes without saying that the intended purpose behind acts of terrorism is to create and fan feelings of anxiety and fear in large populations. Politicians and other officials take the understandable stand that we will not give in to the psychological intent of such actions. However, it is understandable that some feelings of anxiety and uncertainty may arise when such events occur in the world. What might we do to cope effectively with such situations and feelings? The article linked above provides a brief overview of some of the areas where psychology has some useful things to say about how we might think about and approach the sorts of events as they happen at various places in the world.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Given that the vast majority of us have no direct control over events in the world that come to be described as acts of terrorism what sorts of things can we do in order to cope when such events occur in to help us deal with anxiety that we may feel at those times?
  2. Additional things might be necessary or helpful for parents and others who interact with children in the course of their daily lives to think about in this sort of situation?
  3. Why might it be particularly important for people in Paris too, as they have done, return to Parisian cafés?

References (Read Further):

Gabay, G. (2015). Extending Psychophysics Methods to Evaluating Potential Social Anxiety Factors in Face of Terrorism. J Psychol Psychother, 4(167), 2161-0487.

Baker, C. (2015). Shades of intolerance: the influence of terrorism on discriminatory attitudes and behaviors in the United Kingdom and Canada (Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University-Graduate School-Newark).

Kahn, M. E. (2015). Urban adaptation to low-probability shocks: contrasting terrorism and natural disaster risk. Benefit Cost Analyses for Security Policies: Does Increased Safety Have to Reduce Efficiency?, 157.

Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Child Development, Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, Disorders of Childhood, Human Development, Neuroscience.

Description: Is attention deficit disorder a true brain disorder or a functional disorder based on such things as lack of motivation and insufficient training and attention management? This article addresses part of this question.

Source: A peek at Brain Connections May Reveal Attention Deficits, Shots: Health News from APR, Jon Hamilton

Date: November 30, 2015

ADHD and Brain

Photo Credit: IStock,

Links: Article Link —

Audio Link

While it is been generally thought that attention deficit disorder or ADHD is likely a brain-based Challenger disability, the evidence supporting this view has been somewhat slow to arrive. The research article upon which this media report is based argues that they have taken a step in the direction of sorting this issue out. Using functional MRI imaging techniques they monitored the brains of 25 typical people while they did an incredibly boring task. He then examined the brain scan data on just over 100 children and adolescents looking for characteristic differences between these two populations. The researchers looked specifically at the connections between regions of the brain and found they were able to fairly consistently discern the difference between the ADHD and non-ADHD brain scans. For many of the participants the researchers were able to predict who had ADHD but also how severe the problem was within those individuals who carried an ADHD diagnosis. While the technique requires further study before being viewed as a potential diagnostic tool the results are certainly suggestive.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are your general beliefs about the nature of ADHD and its underlying causes?
  2. What did the researchers in the article discussed here believe they have discovered about the nature of the brains of ADHD children?
  3. If the results of this study are supported through replication and extension, what might some of the implications be for the identification and treatment of ADHD?

References (Read Further):

Rosenberg, M. D.*, Finn, E. S.*, Scheinost, D., Papademetris, X., Shen, X., Constable, R. T., Chun, M. M. (In press). A neuromarker of sustained attention from whole-brain functional connectivity. Nature Neuroscience.

Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Persuasion, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: So think about it, what role might psychology have to play in saving the world from climate change?

Source: How Psychology Can Save the World from Climate Change, Tania Lombrozo, Cosmos and Culture (13.7)

Date: November 30, 2015

Climate Change

Photo Credit: Laurent Cipriani/AP

Links: Article Link —

The core issues and climate change sure of course about the environment and about the changes human behaviour has wrought upon the environment and the implication of those changes for global warming. So what does that have to do is psychology? While, what it has to do with his human behaviour. And one of the biggest issues involved with human behaviour is the difficulty particularly on a global scale in getting it to change. And it must change if the issues underlying global warming are to be addressed. This article, looks at what psychology might provide in the way of assistance in terms of effectively getting the necessary messages out there with regards to global warming, and especially, with regards to necessary individual, and state level change. The insights provided by the review article upon which the article reference here is based are not particularly surprising, but they do point out that the psychological factors involved in changing the global climate picture a probably just about as important as the behavioural and industrial changes that must be implemented if things are going to improve.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of problems in behaviour change related to global warming that psychology brings to light?
  2. What sorts of things that psychology suggest we might do about the issues raised in response to question one above?
  3. Can you think of any ways in which psychology and psychologists might effectively contribute to our, hopefully global, efforts to address this important issue?

References (Read Further):

van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2015). Improving Public Engagement With Climate Change Five “Best Practice” Insights From Psychological Science. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(6), 758-763.