Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Legal Ethical Issues, Research Methods.

Description: Are you taking a Psychology course this term and will have to write a paper or even just ask a question? Are you working on a piece of research in Psychology? Are you writing an article or a blog about aspects of Psychology (me too!!)? Well if you are doing any of these things then the article below is for you. In writing about any scientific enterprise, and Psychology is no exception, one needs to be careful of the words and phrases one choses to use as they relate to concepts, methodologies and analytic procedures if you are trying to be clear and sensible. So have a read through the article linked below for some (50!) invaluable suggestions. Oh, when you get down to it, pleonasm is the use of more words than are necessary to convey meaning.

Source: Fifty psychological and psychiatric terns to avoid: a list of inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases, Lilienfeld, S. O., Sauvigné, K. C., Lynn, S. J., Cautin, R. L., Latzman, R. D., & Waldman, I. D. (2015). Fifty psychological and psychiatric terms to avoid: a list of inaccurate, misleading, misused, ambiguous, and logically confused words and phrases. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1100.

Date: August 3, 2019

Photo Credit: M. Price,

Article Link:

You are now armed to write more clearly when you write about Psychological theories concepts and research and, if you want, you are even prepared to pick a few nits (be picky) with the language your Psychology professor may be using in their lectures, though perhaps better to save such observations for after class discussions of for your own written work.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. In what ways is the term ‘comorbidity’ potentially ambiguous?
  2. Do you agree that the Freudian term ‘denial’ has been misappropriated in recent years, particularly by writings on, or discussion about, addiction?
  3. Are there other claims or observations made in the linked article that you would take issue with (and defend current usage)?

References (Read Further):

There is an extensive reference list at the end of the article linked above where you can get find articles relating to each of the 50-psychology concept/word usage concerns.

Google “misuse of psychological terms” for a huge array of page links in this area.

Posted by & filed under Consciousness, Health Psychology, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience.

Description: What does ‘being mindful’ mean? Mindfulness medication essentially involves clearing one’s mind of distractions and focusing closely and only of the here and now. How might doing that be of academic assistance to middle school students? Think about how you would answer that question from a psychological research perspective. If it helps what might it be about mindfulness that helps academic performance? Once you have a theory or a hypothesis or two in mind read through the article linked below that discusses 2 studies that look at these questions.

Source: Mindfulness for Middle School Students, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: August 26, 2019

Photo Credit:

Article Link:

So, what do you think? Is it mainly about focusing more closely on the teacher and on the lesson being taught that accounts for the benefits of mindfulness? Or might there be other factors at play. For example, anxiety is not a simple emotion. It also involves rumination or going over and over and around and around the negative consequences potentially associated with the event or situation driving the feelings of anxiety. In addition, what does the observation that mindfulness changed student’s brainwave activity suggest (is it surprising or is it more of an ‘of course’ sort of finding)?

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What impact does mindfulness have on academic performance?
  2. Why does mindfulness have a positive impact on academic performance?
  3. What research should be done next to expand our understanding of the possible relationships between mindfulness and academic performance?

References (Read Further):

Clemens C. C. Bauer, Camila Caballero, Ethan Scherer, Martin R. West, Michael D. Mrazek, Dawa T. Phillips, Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, John D. E. Gabrieli. Mindfulness training reduces stress and amygdala reactivity to fearful faces in middle-school children. Behavioral Neuroscience, 2019; DOI: 10.1037/bne0000337

Caballero, C., Scherer, E., West, M. R., Mrazek, M. D., Gabrieli, C. F., & Gabrieli, J. D. (2019). Greater Mindfulness is Associated With Better Academic Achievement in Middle School. Mind, Brain, and Education.

Beauchemin, J., Hutchins, T. L., & Patterson, F. (2008). Mindfulness meditation may lessen anxiety, promote social skills, and improve academic performance among adolescents with learning disabilities. Complementary Health Practice Review, 13(1), 34-45.

Franco, C., Mañas, I., Cangas, A. J., & Gallego, J. (2010, September). The applications of mindfulness with students of secondary school: Results on the academic performance, self-concept and anxiety. In World Summit on Knowledge Society (pp. 83-97). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Franco, C., Mañas, I., Cangas, A. J., & Gallego, J. (2011). Exploring the effects of a mindfulness program for students of secondary school. International Journal of Knowledge Society Research (IJKSR), 2(1), 14-28.

Posted by & filed under Cultural Variation, Development of the Self, Gender-Role Development Sex Differences, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Research Methods, Social Psychology, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, The Self.

Description: What does it mean to say that some human trait or behavior is partially genetically linked? Does saying that change or influence how we think about the trait? Looked at another way what would the socio-cultural (and perhaps political) implications be of a trait or behavioral tendency being partially genetically linked? Would your answers to these questions vary if the trait in question was color blindness? How about intelligence? How about sexual orientation (defined in a simplistic and limited way as ‘ever having engaged in sex with someone of the same sex)? The problem is that our thinking about these sorts of questions often boils down to thinking in terms of simple, single gene, inheritance situations, like red-green color blindness and our thinking about the other implied side of these questions – that if a trait is not ‘caused’ genetically (due to nature) then it is caused by the environment and/or by choice of some sort, potentially. In the socio-cultural politics of gender identity and sexual orientation one wonders if there is anything at all to be gained by asking nature/nurture questions. The authors of the research paper described in the article linked below and the journal that published the research article itself pondered these questions and then decided to go ahead and publish the research. From a Psychology perspective I do not have a strong view of this but from larger social perspective I believe there are a number of things to be pondered in relation to this research. Gather your own thoughts on these matters together and then read the article linked below and see where it takes you in your thinking.

Source: There is no ‘gay gene.’ There is no ‘straight gene.’ Sexuality is just complex, study confirms. Nsikan Akpan, PBS News Hour, Science.

Date: August 29, 2019

Photo Credit: PBS News Hour

Article Link:

So, we cannot predict sexual orientation (as simplistically defined in the research discussed) for people’s genetic profiles which account for 8 to 25% of the prediction variability and no one gene accounts for more that 1% of the variability of prediction. Also, there were issues with the dataset used in the study, as large as it was, which included that it was mainly white, limited in sexual orientations identified and in how the question of sexual orientation was operationalized based on the data they had in hand. The last word on this, for now, belongs to the author of the research paper itself:  “Our findings provide insights into the biological underpinnings of same-sex sexual behavior but also underscore the importance of resisting simplistic conclusions, because the behavioral phenotypes are complex, because our genetic insights are rudimentary, and because there is a long history of misusing genetic results for social purposes.”

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What did the research discussed in the article linked above have to say about the relationship between genes (nature) and environment (nurture) on sexual orientation?
  2. What should the next research steps in this area involve?
  3. What are the socio-cultural (political) implications of this sort of research and of this study in particular?

References (Read Further):
Ganna, A. et al, (2019) Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior, Science, 365 (6456).

Jannini, E. A., Blanchard, R., Camperio-Ciani, A., & Bancroft, J. (2010). Male homosexuality: Nature or culture?. The journal of sexual medicine, 7(10), 3245-3253.

Sherry, J. L. (2004). Media effects theory and the nature/nurture debate: A historical overview and directions for future research. Media Psychology, 6(1), 83-109.

Bailey, J. M., Vasey, P. L., Diamond, L. M., Breedlove, S. M., Vilain, E., & Epprecht, M. (2016). Sexual orientation, controversy, and science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 17(2), 45-101.,5&scillfp=4981462354644497394&oi=lle


Posted by & filed under General Psychology, Human Development, Intelligence, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Stress Coping - Health.

Description: You have certainly heard about people described as anti-vaxers, people wo do not want their children vaccinated against diseases link the measles, mumps and rhubella because they believe there is scientific evidence that immunizations cause autism (despite the fact that the evidence is conclusive that there is no such effect and that the dangers of exposure to diseases that have been close to controlled by vaccination high). Well put that aside for now and consider something g you may not be as aware of – fluoridation. Fluoride is present naturally in some water supplies and it was discovered than when it was present, children who drank the water had far fewer cavities than did children who drank un-fluoridated water. After much research which confirmed the dental health advantages of fluoride and showed no consistent detrimental effects many municipalities added fluoride to their drinking water. And what was the public’s reaction to this? Well, the vast majority enjoyed fewer child cavities and otherwise did not give it a second thought. For some, however, like anti-vaxers, this was a dangerous threat that needed to be stopped. So, recently, years later, a study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Asosiciation (that means BIG deal research) which reported that prenatal exposure to fluoride may (or may not, depending on how you measure it) lead to lower preschool IQ scores. What should we do? Well if you are one who has always worried about fluoride then you may not need to read the article to decide that it suggests that “claims that thousands of studies show fluoridation is safe are not true. In fact, public health has been negligent about examining the health of people living in fluoridated communities.” One study! Well you can stop reading now or you can decide that, in the words of Seth Meyers “Its time for a closer look.”  If, like me, you put at least as much (actually a little more) faith in the scientific perspectives of late night talk show hosts as you do in those of anti-vaxers and anti-fluoridationists then have a read through the article linked below which provide a VERY useful critical review.

Source: Fluoride won’t make you dumber, but the ‘debate’ about its safety might, Andre Picard, The Globe and Mail.

Date: August 23, 2019

Photo Credit: Alastair Pike, The Globe and Mail

 Article Link:

Ok, so what do you think about fluoridation now? Something that is, hopefully, part of any introductory psychology course section on research methodology is the notion that studie4s need to be well designed, that causal statements need to be made carefully and sparingly and that the findings of single studies are rarely, if ever, definitive enough to support suggestions regarding public (health) policy. If and when you see studies like this one written about in the news media or waved about by special interest groups, I hope you read them as carefully and as critically as the author of the above linked article did. Oh, and, IQ tests of 4-year-olds do not typically produce stable results.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Based on the research article discussed in the linked article does fluoride effect intelligence?
  2. What are some of the issues relating to the discussed research that could (should) limit the interpretive weight we place on it?
  3. If someone was reading the research article discussed above and was not aware of any of the other research on fluoridation what advice would you give them?

References (Read Further):

Bellinger, D. C. (2019). Is Fluoride Potentially Neurotoxic?. JAMA pediatrics.

Green, R., Lanphear, B., Hornung, R., Flora, D., Martinez-Mier, E. A., Neufeld, R., … & Till, C. (2019). Association between maternal fluoride exposure during pregnancy and IQ scores in offspring in Canada. JAMA pediatrics.

Christakis, D. A. (2019). Decision to Publish Study on Maternal Fluoride Exposure During Pregnancy. JAMA pediatrics.

Sanders, A. E., Grider, W. B., Maas, W. R., Curiel, J. A., & Slade, G. D. (2019). Association Between Water Fluoridation and Income-Related Dental Caries of US Children and Adolescents. JAMA pediatrics, 173(3), 288-290.

Green, R., Lanphear, B., Hornung, R., Flora, D., Martinez-Mier, E. A., Neufeld, R., … & Till, C. (2019). Association between maternal fluoride exposure during pregnancy and IQ scores in offspring in Canada. JAMA pediatrics.

Xiang, Q., Liang, Y., Chen, L., Wang, C., Chen, B., Chen, X., … & Shanghai, P. R. (2003). Effect of fluoride in drinking water on children’s intelligence. Fluoride, 36(2), 84-94.

Zhao, L. B., Liang, G. H., Zhang, D. N., & Wu, X. R. (1996). Effect of a high fluoride water supply on children’s intelligence. Fluoride, 29(4), 190-192.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Cultural Variation, mental illness, Motivation-Emotion.

Description: It is frankly quite alarming how many times the opportunity to have this sort of conversation arises these days. Someone goes on a shooting rampage and we and the media try and figure out why. As a psychologist, I am most concerned that it is too easy for people to say some version of “that person must have been crazy.” Too easy because it diverts out thoughts and attention from the realities of such situations. In a sort of “just world” biased way we say that mass murderers must be crazy, and this means that there is nothing in the sane, rational, world that we can do about such events. Or it turns the lens toward Psychology and Psychiatry suggesting that we need to get our act together to better predict which crazy people are most likely to take up arms. Well, one way to push back on a Just World bias is to suggest that there is no Just World there is Just Us. Have a look through the article linked below for a reasoned, evidence-based overview of the nature of Mass Murders, mental illness and what sets them off (and what doesn’t).

Source: Why Mass Murderers May Not Be Very Different From You or Me, Richard A. Friedman, The New York Times.

Date: August 8, 2019

Photo Credit: Illustration by Nicholas Konrad: Photographs by The Image Bank/Getty Images and Rob Curran, via Unsplash

Article Link:

It is important that we look at the data and that we carefully consider what others are offering as explanations of, or as ways of ducking dealing with the conditions that give rise to, the heartbreaking number of mass shootings across the world in recent years. The often ignored fact is that mass murders are no more crazy that the rest of us and that evidence-based statement should bring us back to a focus on the factors that actually ARE causally at play.  As the author of the article puts it “The scary truth is that ordinary human hatred and aggression are far more dangerous than any psychiatric illness. Just think of the many people driven to mass murder because they were fired by employers or dumped by girlfriends. In all likelihood, they were not mentally ill but simply full of rage — and well-armed.” Psychology has a LOT to say that can be helpful – about what is NOT involved and about how our self-serving and self-defensive biases sometime keep us from looking seriously at what it at play – in relation to mass shootings. (the comments linked at the bottom of the article are fascinating too).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Does it make sense (scientifically) to say that mass murders, in general, are mentally ill?
  2. Is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual problematically limited in relation to mass murderers and what drives them?
  3. Where might psychology (research, theory and practice) be of assistance in efforts to reduce or eliminate mass shootings and mass murders?

References (Read Further):

Silver, J., Simons, A., & Craun, S. (2018). A study of the pre-attack behaviors of active shooters in the United States between 2000 and 2013. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Swanson, J. W., McGinty, E. E., Fazel, S., & Mays, V. M. (2015). Mental illness and reduction of gun violence and suicide: bringing epidemiologic research to policy. Annals of epidemiology, 25(5), 366-376.

McGinty, E. E., Webster, D. W., Jarlenski, M., & Barry, C. L. (2014). News media framing of serious mental illness and gun violence in the United States, 1997-2012. American Journal of Public Health, 104(3), 406-413.

Metzl, J. M., & MacLeish, K. T. (2015). Mental illness, mass shootings, and the politics of American firearms. American journal of public health, 105(2), 240-249.

Steadman, H. J., Monahan, J., Pinals, D. A., Vesselinov, R., & Robbins, P. C. (2015). Gun violence and victimization of strangers by persons with a mental illness: data from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study. Psychiatric services, 66(11), 1238-1241.

Gallant, J. (2005). Belief in a just world as it relates to causal attributions for gun-related incidents and attitudes toward gun control. Fordham University.

Posted by & filed under Adult Development and Aging, Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Memory.

Description: What was the name of your best friend in grade 1? What did you have for lunch the day before yesterday? We most often find that the older memory is still there but the more recent one is not, or is, at least, harder to recover. I have no doubt that you could come up with a subjective theory for why that works. You spent a LOT of time with your best friend, used their name a LOT and so that memory is stringer than the one related to whatever you had for lunch recently. However, what sort of theory/hypothesis would you come up with if you were asked to speculate as to how that memory effects plays out in your brain? What happens at the neuron level to make old memories sometime so much stronger than new memories? Oh, and while you are at it, think about how you would design an experiment with mice to test your hypothesis (so you can monitor their neuronal functioning closely and take advantage of the fact the 30 days is a LONG time in mouse years. Once you have your hypothesis and methods sorted out have a look through the article linked below that describes the work of one lab looking at these questions.

Source: How memories form and fade: Strong memories are encoded by teams of neurons working together in synchrony, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: August 23, 2019

Photo Credit:

Article Link:

So, no surprises? Well of course not, we can look back to one of the earliest theories of memory, the engram theory, that suggested that memories are made up of neural circuits in the brain, except that when Carl Lashley went looking for them in the brains of rats he had taught to run a maze (had  them develop a memory circuit for the maze) he could not find them – the removal of no brain areas resulted in the rats forgetting the maze. What the research discussed in the article linked above suggests is that learning the maze when motivated by the resulting food reward lead to the rats consolidating their memory by mapping it over a large number of neurons making it harder to remove or for time to extinguish.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Are the effects discussed in the article simply due to rote memorization?
  2. How do the researchers explain how the consolidation of robust long-term memories might be understood and does that make sense to you as a description of how neurons work?
  3. What, if any, are the implications of this line of research for the effects of aging on memory?

References (Read Further):

Walter G. Gonzalez, Hanwen Zhang, Anna Harutyunyan, Carlos Lois. Persistence of neuronal representations through time and damage in the hippocampus. Science, 2019: Vol. 365, Issue 6455, pp. 821-825 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav9199

Josselyn, S. A., Köhler, S., & Frankland, P. W. (2015). Finding the engram. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(9), 521.

Hübener, M., & Bonhoeffer, T. (2010). Searching for engrams. Neuron, 67(3), 363-371.

Mumby, D. G., Gaskin, S., Glenn, M. J., Schramek, T. E., & Lehmann, H. (2002). Hippocampal damage and exploratory preferences in rats: memory for objects, places, and contexts. Learning & memory, 9(2), 49-57.

Bartsch, L. M., Loaiza, V. M., & Oberauer, K. (2019). Does limited working memory capacity underlie age differences in associative long-term memory?. Psychology and aging, 34(2), 268.



Posted by & filed under Attitude Formation Change, Consciousness, Language-Thought, Learning, Memory, Motivation-Emotion, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Perception, Social Psychology.

Description: The internet provides us with access to vast arrays of information and research. Given this shouldn’t our beliefs be much more research based than they used to be? Weeelll, what about anti-vaxers? What about climate change deniers? Think about what the access to information provided by search engines like Google might do for us or to us especially when we are searching for information about things that we are afraid of? You have likely heard about confirmation bias, the notion that we are more likely to “see” or “hear” things on-line that confirm our existing beliefs and to not “see” or “hear” things on-line that challenge our current beliefs. Think about why that might be AND then think about how we might present information to people in ways that will move their beliefs in ways that better fit accepted scientific findings?

Source: Facts Aren’t Enough: The Psychology of False Beliefs, Shankar Vedantam, Tara Boyle, Maggie Penman, Camila Vargas Restrepo, Laura Kwerel, Hidden Brain, NPR.

Date: May 9, 2019

Photo Credit: Rene Klahr, NPR.

Article Link:

So, we generally act on our beliefs rather than acting on the basis of the weight of scientific research finding in related areas. While being interesting and somewhat alarming, when we consider things like vaccination and climate change, it becomes more important that we not only understand the impact of false beliefs and fake news but that we figure out how to overcome its impact of public health and the very survival of the planet. Important things to think about AND then act upon!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might searching on-line for information about something we are afraid of lead to or support false beliefs?
  2. Why might fake news and false beliefs matter in relation to population health?
  3. Is there an “ethics” of false beliefs and fake news and if so who is responsible for understanding what it involves and for generating policies for moving it forward?

References (Read Further):

Weatherall, J. O., & O’Connor, C. (2018). Do as I say, not as I do, or, conformity in scientific networks. arXiv preprint arXiv:1803.09905.

O’Connor, C., & Weatherall, J. O. (2019). The misinformation age: how false beliefs spread. Yale University Press.

Sharot, T. (2017). The influential mind: What the brain reveals about our power to change others. Henry Holt and Company.

Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., … & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(3), 554-559.

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D., & Aral, S. (2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380), 1146-1151.

Bolsen, T., & Shapiro, M. A. (2018). The US news media, polarization on climate change, and pathways to effective communication. Environmental Communication, 12(2), 149-163.



Posted by & filed under Anxiety OC PTSD, Child Development, Emerging Adulthood, Motivation-Emotion, Personality, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, Student Success, The Self.

Description: You have very likely heard about grit? Grit is perseverance and a tendency to push on through adversity rather than simply giving up. Grit is often presented as something we should all get more of, but other than being told to get more we are not told how to go about doing that. The impression is that grit is something like a general trait that some people have more or less of than others. To be fair, Angela Duckworth, who initiated our recent research interest in grit does suggest that we can add to our grit profile but a broader understanding of grit and what it is related to (and different from) would be very helpful. So, is grist a general trait? What else is grit associated with and what of grit and these related things can we work on? Think about your own hypotheses in relation to these questions and then read the article liked below to find out what a recent Canadian study has to say on these related matters.

Source: Do People Who Have Grit Have It All The Time? Christopher Bergland, The Athlete’s Way, Psychology Today.

Date: May 8, 2019

Photo Credit: Christopher Bergland.

Article Link:

The distinction between traits and states can be an important one for many reasons but quite important is the impact of our understandings of and beliefs about traits and states. Generally, we see states as transient and more open to influence than are traits which are seen as more constitutive of who we are and less open to change. This sort of dichotomous thinking is, on its own, sometime problematic. In terms of grit the research discussed in the linked article represents a first step towards unpacking how grit plays out in our lives and that could potentially be very helpful for both our understanding of the nature of grit and for developing action plans to change what we can for the better in the various areas related to grit. So, grit is more specific than general, and it is related to issues of maladaptive perfectionism. As well the idea that a growth mindset is significantly more adaptive than focusing on finding and pursuing as passion is potentially quite helpful as well. The bits of this study start to show us the potential advantages of broadening our understanding of concepts like grit and how they do or could play out in our lives. An important new line of research for sure. Oh, and here is a useful term: wabi-sabi, which is a Japanese term for accepting transience and imperfection (think about how that might relate to ikigai).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is grit a state or trait or is this not the right sort of question to ask?
  2. What is maladaptive perfectionism and what sorts of things does it impact?
  3. How might we understand the interplay of grit, maladaptive perfectionism and growth mindset?

References (Read Further):

Cormier, D. L., Dunn, J. G., & Dunn, J. C. (2019). Examining the domain specificity of grit. Personality and Individual Differences, 139, 349-354.

Eskreis-Winkler, L., Duckworth, A. L., Shulman, E. P., & Beal, S. (2014). The grit effect: Predicting retention in the military, the workplace, school and marriage. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 36.

Larkin, P., O’Connor, D., & Williams, A. M. (2016). Does grit influence sport-specific engagement and perceptual-cognitive expertise in elite youth soccer?. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 28(2), 129-138.

Soenens, B., Vansteenkiste, M., Luyten, P., Duriez, B., & Goossens, L. (2005). Maladaptive perfectionistic self-representations: The mediational link between psychological control and adjustment. Personality and Individual Differences, 38(2), 487-498.

Stoeber, J., & Otto, K. (2006). Positive conceptions of perfectionism: Approaches, evidence, challenges. Personality and social psychology review, 10(4), 295-319.

Dweck, C. (2015). Carol Dweck revisits the growth mindset. Education Week, 35(5), 20-24.

Treviranus, Jutta (2010) The value of imperfection: The Wabi-Sabi Principle in aesthetics and learning. In: 7th Annual Open Education Conference, 2010, Barcelona, Spain.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Neuropsychology, Depression, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Identifying Key Elements of Change, mental illness, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Perhaps you have heard about the use of ECT (electroconvulsive shock therapy) to treat “treatment resistant depression. It involved(s) the induction of a grand mal seizure (random firing of all neurons in the brain) through the application of electrical stimulation of the brain. Why does it work (when it does)? It seems to “rest” the neural systems in the brain. Taking the notion of a neural reset further is the experimental treatment for anxiety and depression described by Heather Armstrong, a woman who went through the treatment, in the excerpt from a radio interview linked below. A few details of the treatment are covered in the interview (more in the references section below) but most striking is Heather’s vivid description of what it was like to awaken from the treatment and in particular after her fifth treatment. One of the huge benefits of case studies (despite the limits to their generalizability) are the rich insights they can provide into the subjective experience of disorders such as depression and of the subjective impact of treatments that seem to work.

Source: This woman went to the brink of death – and back – to treat her depression, The Current, CBC Radio.

Date: May 7, 2019

Photo Credit: Angela Monson; Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster.

Article Link:

The induction of a comatose state using an anesthetic called propofol is thought to act on symptoms of anxiety and depression by resetting or reawakening the brain’s inhibitory systems. Heather’s description of it as “something marvelous” is quite striking. Of course more research is needed but the early returns on this experimental treatment seem quite promising.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do ECT and propofol do when used as a treatment for “drug treatment resistant” depression?
  2. Is the phrase “neural reset” simply a literary shorthand or is it a useful description for the treatment described in the interview/story linked above?
  3. What sorts of research are needed going forward if we are to both understand and properly regulate this form of treatment for anxiety and depression?

References (Read Further):

Eranti, S. V., Mogg, A. J., Pluck, G. C., Landau, S., & McLoughlin, D. M. (2009). Methohexitone, propofol and etomidate in electroconvulsive therapy for depression: a naturalistic comparison study. Journal of affective disorders, 113(1-2), 165-171.

Mickey, B. J., White, A. T., Arp, A. M., Leonardi, K., Torres, M. M., Larson, A. L., … & Sakata, D. J. (2018). Propofol for treatment-resistant depression: a pilot study. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 21(12), 1079-1089.

Tadler, S. C., & Mickey, B. J. (2018). Emerging evidence for antidepressant actions of anesthetic agents. Current Opinion in Anesthesiology, 31(4), 439-445.

Ogawa, K., Uema, T., Motohashi, N., Nishikawa, M., Takano, H., Hiroki, M., … & Takeda, M. (2003). Neural Mechanism of Propofol Anesthesia in Severe DepressionA Positron Emission Tomographic Study. Anesthesiology: The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, 98(5), 1101-1111.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Depression, mental illness, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Schizophrenia.

Description: What causes schizophrenia? If you said something like “a chemical imbalance in the brain” you are not alone and that fits with what else you likely know which is that there are a wide array of drugs available that are used as parts of efforts to address that “imbalance.” However, you know those drugs are NOT a cure, don’t you? SO back to the original question: What causes schizophrenia? Is there a genetic basis for the disorder and what would that mean as genes are fixed but schizophrenia emerges in adolescence or later? So, what do we need in order to answer the question? Well maybe, epigenetics, which is the study of the changes in brains and elsewhere that are caused by modifications of gene expression as opposed to the structure of the basic genetic code. How does that work and how might it help us to begin to understand the causes of schizophrenia (and/or bipolar disorder)? Well have a read through the article link below to get at least a glimpse of the possibilities.

Source: Hotspot in the genome may drive psychosis in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: May 3, 2019

Photo Credit: Maksim Koval/iStock

Article Link:

So, most of the antipsychotic drugs in use today work in one way or another by reducing the storm of dopamine that is related to the symptoms of schizophrenia. But that is only half of the story. The other part involves a scrambling of the neural synapses responsible for the “rapid-fire neural impulses responsible for healthy function.” This second process may emerge epigenetically earlier (that the dopamine flood). If so, then if it become possible to find markers of these shifts then earlier identification of the epigenetic pathways that may be heading towards schizophrenia and THAT may lead to earlier, more effective interventions on our way to actually figuring out the causes of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Exciting stuff!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What do we mean when we say that schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are the results of chemical imbalances in the brain?
  2. What does the epigenetic study and analysis discussed in the linked article suggest about the possible causes of schizophrenia?
  3. Where does this line of research take us in relation to causes and/or cures for schizophrenia?

References (Read Further):

Pai, S., Li, P., Killinger, B., Marshall, L., Jia, P., Liao, J., … & Labrie, V. (2018). Differential DNA modification of an enhancer at the IGF2 locus affects dopamine synthesis in patients with major psychosis. bioRxiv, 296756.

Roth, T. L., Lubin, F. D., Sodhi, M., & Kleinman, J. E. (2009). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-General Subjects, 1790(9), 869-877.

Shorter, K. R., & Miller, B. H. (2015). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology, 118(1-2), 1-7. Shorter, K. R., & Miller, B. H. (2015). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology, 118(1-2), 1-7.

Akbarian, S. (2014). Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 16(3), 405.

Connor, C. M., & Akbarian, S. (2008). DNA methylation changes in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Epigenetics, 3(2), 55-58.