Monthly Archives: February 2009

Podcast Review: Betts on Jungian Psychology #7

This is the 7th in the series of Jungian Psychology by John Betts who cautions us not to overinterpret dreams and also suggests that the material should not be used. What I found quite interesting is that as in practising dream analysis, the analyst necessarily learns a lot about sleep in the process. Thus Betts gives the listener a useful overview of REM sleep and introduces a number of related terms.  Betts contrasts Freud’s view of a latent and manifest dream content (as well as his use of signs rather than symbols) with that of Jung who maintained that dream material was experienced accurately and not transformed. Betts takes us through a number of advantages to using dream analysis. What was particularly interesting was the idea that dream material could be used to guide the therapeutic sessions in that the analysand’s dream material would contain useful information about the transference and countertransference occuring within the session. Also Betts describes how the dream material is used in the process of individuation. This is another in the instructive series by John Betts on Jungian Psychology.

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

‘Its Good to Blog’ – Nature

Neurocritic found this editorial in Nature in his post on ‘The Voodoo of Peer Review’. To quote from the editorial

‘More researchers should engage with the blogosphere, including authors of papers in press’

This is a tremendous piece of support for science blogging. I’ve been looking at some of these issues, when considering the complexities of the ‘Voodoo Correlations in Social Neurosciences’ article which is reviewed here. In the editorial there is an interesting discussion of the embargo that is placed on articles before their publication. This is relevant to the above article as much of the discussion on the blogosphere took place after the article was accepted for publication but before it was formally published. However the editorial further explores the types of public discussion that should and shouldn’t take place before publication. They also go on to say

‘Indeed, researchers would do well to blog more than they do……Moreover there are societal debates that have much to gain from the uncensored voices of researchers’

I agree with this. Journals for psychiatrists for example typically contain papers that span medical, psychological and social domains and a wide variety of research methodologies. Interpretation of the constant influx of such papers is technically demanding. Furthermore  papers in scientific journals can be considered as minimalist works of art where each sentence, each paragraph has been chiselled down to the final masterpiece – a paper which conveys the essential details necessary for others (knowledgeable and invariably working in the field) to reproduce and for readers to gain an understanding of the study. This minimalist work though conceals a whole human experiential world beneath it – the conceptualisation of the study, the immense work put into searching through the literature to see if it is relevant, the design, the creation of the infrastructure, the struggle for funding, the ethics application, the recruitment of subjects, the trials and tribulations of the study, the analysis of the data when it is all done, the sleepless nights spent thinking about the results, discussion with colleagues, endless ideas and implications – a whole world of ideas and perspiration which is barely hinted at by the restrained, disciplined format of the scientific publication. This concealed world might be just what is needed to connect with the reader, knowing the thoughts and aspirations of the researcher, how they came to propose the study in the first place, the difficulties they faced, the reservations they had about their final conclusions. As Damasio has suggested, people use emotions to help them interpret and act on information and in this regards readers of scientific journals are no different. The internet provides the medium necessary to help engage the reader in this ‘other world’ – podcasts containing interviews with researchers, videos of research methodology/findings and of course the informal coverage or debates seen in the blogosphere. Perhaps the events surrounding the Voodoo paper broke several conventions but rightly or wrongly for that specific case showed that people are receptive to a rational-emotional debate about ‘statistical correlations’. Perhaps a new contract is being brokered between science and those with an interest in science.

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

Featured Blog: The Primatology Blog

The featured blog is the ‘The Primatology Blog‘. This is a blog by a group of volunteers who write about primate related news and features and have an interest in the conservation and preservation of non-human primates. While the study of primates is interesting in itself it is also useful in learning about ourselves through our nearest relatives. For instance, primate species may show complex social behaviours that resemble those in humans and they can also tell us more about our own origins. The team come up with endlessly interesting articles. There is a short article here on Kanzi, the Bonobo with a clip of him successfully playing a game of Pacman. Kanzi is remarkable for demonstrating the use of a language symbol board which he did by apparently observing his adopted mother who herself was not able to use the system. Kanzi has also mastered the rudiments of stone tool making.

In this article, there is a discussion of the gait of the gibbon which was examined in a study and a clip. The Gibbon’s long arms are specifically geared towards swinging through the trees although as they showthat the Gibbon is still able to walk. We see an interesting comparison of neonates, infants and great apes. The infants differed from the other two groups in recalling objects dependent on their spatial location rather than just on their features and this is related to a divergence of our species some 15 million years ago. Here is a discussion of Gibbon song which is apparently quite complex. The Gibbons are capable of using it to ward off predators and other gibbons are apparently able to understand these calls. They also comment on this incredible story of chimps using wooden spears that they have fashioned themselves to hunt with. There is some evidence for the diversion of bonobos and chimpanzees 0.9 million years ago mentioned briefly in this post before a discussion of three subspecies of chimpanzee that have been proposed. There are a number of other interesting articles along the way:-

  • Here are some photos of a young Orang-Utan getting along with a tiger cub!
  • The authors identify a very useful database of digitised images of many primates here.
  • A study supporting the evolution of intelligence in humans for the purposes of social interaction is discussed here.
  • Here for instance they report on the discovery of 3 new species of Lemurs in Madagascar, the size of a mouse!
  • Here we can see a young macaque imitating facial movements (with remarkably quick visual development as the macaque was only three days old!).
  • A baby macaque hugging a pigeon!
  • A link to an article on similarities between chimpanzees and humans.
  • A report on a study on chimpanzee rationality.
  • A link to an article on Bonobos using handtools.
  • In another post, the decision of the National Human Genome Research Institute to sequence the genome of the Gibbon is discussed.
  • The discovery of a fossilised Miocene ape and the implications of this. Differences between humans and chimpanzees in the way genes are spliced.
  • Genetic diversification of the gorillas in the Ice Age.
  • A study in which Gorillas begin to use branches to throw at humans is examined in terms of mirror neurons.
  • A remarkable picture of an Orang Utan using a spear to hunt for fish.
  • Evidence that primate brains evolved twice is discussed in this article.
  • Anjana the chimpanzee bonding with two white tigers.
  • An article discussing evidence that Bonobos hunting other primates including Wolf’s Mona monkeys.
  • There is a three part series on gorillas in the Congo which also touches on the disturbing loss of gorillas due to hunting.
  • A database of non-human primate SNP’s.

Here is an unbelievable video of a chimpanzee Ayumu performing a memory task and the chimps have even beat college students on a memory task!

There is also a mention of a book ‘Baboon Metaphysics’ which provides an opportunity for a great quote from Darwin

‘He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke’

This is endlessly fascinating blog about our nearest evolutionary relatives which also provides a glimpse into ourselves.

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

Book Review: Brain Architecture

The featured book is ‘Brain Architecture’ by Larry Swanson who is a Professor of Biological Sciences. As the title suggests, Swanson sets out to explain the underlying architecture of the brain. While a number of areas are covered, the predominant medium for explaining the architecture in the book is through neuroanatomy with some embryology and comparative anatomy featured as well.

Swanson begins by looking at sponges and jellyfish before moving onto vertebrates. He examines the increasing complexity of the sensory and effector mechanisms in sponges and the simple nervous system of the jellyfish as well as the more complex nervous system of the bilaterally symmetrical flatworm.

The book is densely filled with information and along the way Swanson adds a historical dimension to the complex topics being discussed pointing out important historical figures and pausing along the way to discuss historical events such as the formulation of the Bell-Magendie Law, the work of Flourens on the cerebral hemispheres and Cajal’s model of the basic nervous system.

Swanson outlines some very useful principles of organisation in the chapter on the motor system and subsequent chapters. He describes central pattern generator networks which generate sets of commands which are actuated through neuroendocrine, autonomic and somatomotor effectors. He also discusses the cerebellum and looks at the role of the hypothalams in relation to motivation, drives and to the central pattern generator. He also discusses some of the difficulties inherent in the categorisation of the cerebral nuclei and suggests some solutions. There is also a useful overview of the neuroanatomy of the sensory system.

Swanson’s work will repay close study for those with a special interest in neuranatomy and how principles can be derived to make sense of this difficult subject. Lastly here is a great quote from the book

‘He who loves practice without theory is like a seafarer who boards a ship without wheel or compass and knows not whither he travels’ – Leonardo Da Vinci

References

Swanson L.W. Brain Architecture. Understanding the Basic Plan. Oxford University Press. 2003.

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

A History of Human Brain Mapping

The reviewed article is ‘A Brief History of Human Brain Mapping’ by Marcus Raichle. Raichle sets out to provide a brief overview of the field of human brain mapping in this review article.

Raichle emphasises that the build up to functional brain imaging has been achieved over the last century rather than the past few decades. He also notes that evidence for the relationship between blood flow and brain function was noted as far back as the nineteenth century. This relationship was forgotten and rediscovered several times subsequently. Raichle then discusses the re-emergence of evidence that increases in blood flow to an area were not related to an increase in oxygen consumption and how this finding challenged convention. He covers the advent of the CT scan in the Atkinson Morley and then the development of the PET scan.

The discussion of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is particularly interesting as it covers the early research in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance.  Raichle discusses how this was used to examine the chemistry, blood flow and metabolism and then looks at functional MRI and the effects that blood oxygenation had on contrast (Blood Oxygenation Level Dependent Contrast or BOLD). Raichle goes onto to give a fascinating account of how stereotaxy has played a prominent role in brain mapping using different approaches and how there has been a more recent development of probabilistic brain mapping. The apparent success of averaging across subjects and producing recognisable images in the process is discussed. In light of recent papers in neuroimaging, Raichle’s discussion of how statistical analysis of the complex image data developed is particularly interesting and he notes the contemporary use of a wide range of approaches. Raichle then identifies the importance of the cognitive psychologists and their use of information theory in advancing the methodology used in fMRI studies where phenomenon could be distinguished in time in contrast with PET scans where activity is averaged over a longer period of time.

Raichle comments on the complexity of the research that is now taking place incorporating as it does cellular information, genetics, modelling, neurophysiology and clinical pathology, cautioning the reader thus

‘..it is tempting to retreat into the narrow confines of one’s own area of expertise; a pathway, however that will ultimately limit the potential of one’s work’

Finally Raichle tells us that evoked responses account for only about 1% of the brain’s use of energy and that aerobic glycolysis should be focused on in more detail in interpreting imaging findings. Raichles relative short review article contains lots of useful information and he references a number of further articles for the reader to pursue. Placing current events in a historical context can be useful in anticipating future trends as well as reflecting on contemporary practice.

References

Raichle M. A Brief History of Human Brain Mapping. Trends in Neurosciences. Vol 32. No 2. p118-126.

Medial Prefrontal Cortex Plays A Critical And Selective Role in ‘Feeling of Knowing’ Meta-Memory Judgements

The featured paper is ‘Medial Prefrontal Cortex Plays A Critical And Selective Role in ‘Feeling of Knowing’ Meta-Memory Judgements’ by Modirrousta and Fellows.

The authors begin by briefly discussing the general role of the frontal cortex and then focus on the medial prefrontal cortex citing evidence that supports its role in performance monitoring and also in the ‘default mode of brain function’. The authors tentatively link performance monitoring with the concept of self-monitoring of learning and memory and discuss the operationalisation of meta-memory. They also introduce the term judgement-of-learning (JOL) which describes the monitoring that occurs during acquisition and retention of memories. The authors discuss two other types of meta-memory – retrospective confidence judgements (RCJ) – how confident is a person that they have remembered something correctly and feeling of knowing (FOK) – how confident is a person that they will recognise the correct response. The authors then go onto discuss how much remains to be discovered in this area. For instance they look at evidence suggesting how cues can interact with these constructs in different ways. They also look at how neuropsychological studies have helped make inroads into understanding these concepts and cite clinical evidence suggestive of frontal lobe involvement from findings in Korsakoff’s syndrome. They then cite other evidence suggesting the relevance of the frontal lobes to the constructs described earlier.

The aim in this study was to examine the relationship between the medial prefrontal cortex and the three constructs mentioned above. The authors aimed to do this using a case series where people in the study had identified lesions in the Dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC). Other areas were also involved and the authors argue that these were not random (presumably relating to cerebrovascular lesions which occur in the territories of particular blood vessels and which therefore determine the distribution).

Firstly this was a small study with only 5 participants. All had been recruited from a research database, they had all experienced strokes involving either the anterior cerebral artery of the peri-callosal artery territory and the average age of the group was 59 years. There were 19 age and education matched controls and no significant difference between the average of the groups on the American version of the National Adult Reading Test.

Subjects were presented with a face-name episodic memory task (24 faces presented in blocks of 6) with free recall and recognition being tested. They rated each of JOL, RCJ and FOK. There was a 1 minute delay distraction test with face-name pairs during which RCJ was assessed. There was a second component to the experiment in which the delay period was increased and only 3 of the people with mPFC lesions participated in this stage of the experiment. Data was analysed using the primary measure of the Goodman-Kruskal gamma index  which looks at the variation between two variables and secondary analyses of between group comparisons using t-Tests and ANOVA.

In Experiment 1 with one level of difficulty, both groups performed better on recognition than on recall with the latter not differing significantly between the groups. Subjects with mPFC damage performed significantly worse than controls on recognition although performing better than chance. JOL – as measured by difference between predicted and actual recall accuracy were similar in both groups. However on measures of RCJ and FOK the mPFC group performed significantly worse than the controls. Interestingly the control group scored higher for meta-memory on tasks where they responded correctly while this pattern was not seen in the people with mPFC lesions. When performance on memory was controlled for, there was no difference between the groups. In the task however both groups produced low scores on the FOK even when they gave correct scores. In the second stage of the experiment there was no difference between the groups on meta-memory measures on the more difficult tasks. When the easier memory test was performed again, the mPFC group still performed significantly worse on the FOK task.

The authors conclude that as they didn’t find significant group differences on the JOL task, and there is previous evidence for frontal lobe involvement in JOL, that it involves a non-mPFC area of the frontal lobes. As JOL was intact when FOK was impaired the authors suggest this shows that the two are independent. mPFC damage was associated impairment in RCJ and FOK judgements although they point out that the latter remained in the easier memory task while disappearing on the more difficult one. They suggest that either right or left mPFC damage or dorsal mPFC damage can interfere with FOK. The authors argue that there is a case for cues playing a role in meta-memory from the current experimental results.

There are some difficulties I have with the results however. There is a small sample size. While the inter-group comparisons have produced significant findings there are only 5 patients, who are effectively being treated as a homogenous group. Within this group though there are four areas where there is an overlap of lesion areas, the mPFC being present in all 5. Perhaps it could be argued that as the groups are being compared, and that as only this area is affected it will account for the between group differences. Nevertheless due to the small sample size, how do we know that bilateral versus unilateral lesions don’t play a big difference? This wasn’t tested in this study norin my opinion could it be meaningfully. Furthermore, the American version of the NART was used although this will be testing premorbid IQ. What would be more interesting to see is whether this group had other differences in their psychometric profile. For instance we know that there are various types of mild cognitive impairment including vascular MCI – did the group fall into this category. We also know that diabetes, blood pressure and medication can affect memory and yet there was no information in this regards. There are some clear conclusions from this study that are easily testable and it will be interesting to see the results of larger replication studies and to see how this relates to the construct of Mild Cognitive Impairment.

Steps to Treatment = 6 (Larger study to replicate findings, use findings to create valid model, use model to inform treatment approaches, trial informed treatments, meta-analysis of treatment trials, if successful incorporate into policy)

References

Modirrousta M and Fellows L.K. Medial Prefrontal Cortex Plays A Critical And Selective Role in ‘Feeling of Knowing’ Meta-Memory Judgements’. Neuropsychologia. 46. 2008. 2958-2965.

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

How Do You Feel – Now? The Anterior Insula and Human Awareness

The featured article is ‘How Do You Feel – Now? The Anterior Insula and Human Awareness’ by A.D.Craig. This is a provocative perspective article in the January edition of Nature Neuroscience Reviews. I call it provocative because Craig gets straight to the point and tells us that the Insular Cortex might just be the seat of consciousness. Craig has been building on the work of William James, James Lange and Antonio Damasio with a fine attention to anatomical detail in developing an influential model of interoception and its relation to the Insular Cortex (I have reviewed 2 of Craig’s previous papers here and here).

Craig identifies a number of studies looking at the relation of the Anterior Insular Cortex to various interoceptive stimuli including heartbeat, gastric distension and pain. He identifies the differential pattern of activation in imaging studies from the anterior through to the posterior Insular Cortex. Craig also identifies a possible role for the Insular Cortex in awareness of body movements (as opposed to a sense of agency for movements), self recognition, speech and various emotions. He also focuses on an ‘emotional salience network’ in which the Insular Cortex features. Craig focuses on evidence for the involvement of the Right Anterior Insular Cortex in risk prediction and visual and auditory awareness of the present. There are a number of images from different studies all supporting a role for the insular cortex. He also identifies evidence of involvement of the AIC in time perception, attention and perceptual decision making. Craig also identifies studies implicating the AIC in performance maintenance where it is suggested that the AIC might be involved in the switch from central executive functioning to self-reflective networks. Craig then goes onto look at a theory of the involvement of the ACC in self-awareness and in the process suggests that the AIC should also be included in this regards given the close connections it has with the ACC.

However due caution is needed in interpreting these images as a knowledge of the studies from which they were taken is necessary as well as a closer inspection of the statistical techniques that were used to produce the images.

Intriguingly, Craig goes on to refer to the Anterior Insular Cortex as part of the Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex and the Anterior Cingulate Cortex as part of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex. He also identifies an evolutionary theory, in which the ACC and AIC developed independently and then integrated their functioning ot manage autonomic activity. He uses this to explain the close relationship of the AIC and ACC in neuroimaging studies. Craig also looks at other evolutionary and associated evidence suggesting that von Economo neurons are present in maximally in aged humans, less in infants, gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees and absent in macaques. He then correlates this with self-awareness using the mirror test. Craig also covers the asymmetry of forebrain functions, explaining why this might occur and how this asymmetry might be preserved at the higher level of the Insular Cortex.

Craig then goes onto look at the clinical data commenting on the difficulties of interpreting in this area because of the usual involvement of multiple areas of involvement rather than the Insular Cortex per se. Of interest is one study in which there is a subjective loss of awareness in Frontotemporal Dementia which was attributed by Seeley to the loss of von Economo Neurons.

Craig then develops his theory. He suggests that the AIC contains a representation of the self at each moment in time and acts as a comparator between these points in time. He also suggests intriguingly that this may be interpreted phenomenologically as the ‘Cartesian Theatre’ and that the role of the AIC in predictions may explain the effect that emotions such as anxiety might have on predictions (and I presume this would apply to subsequent thoughts or thought processes e.g. catastrophisation). Craig goes onto suggest as in some of his previous works (and also building on Damasio’s exposition in ‘Descartes Error’ reviewed here) that the Insular Cortex is building a representation of homeostatic function in the body and brain, ensuring the ‘energy efficent’ health of both. Craig then suggest that there is progressively more sophisticated processing from the Posterior through to the Anterior Insular Cortex with the latter being the phylogenetically most recent area. He then goes further identifying a meta-representation of a ‘global emotional moment’ near the junction of the frontal operculum and the AIC where a subjective awareness of self is generated and is able to compare feelings of the past, present and future. He uses this model to explain dilation of time when there is a period of ‘high emotional salience’. Craig then finishes by looking at future directions for research including the need for further neuroanatomical data as well as a number of other questions.

Craig has synthesised the findings from a number of neuroimaging studies. There has been debate recently about neuroimaging study methodology and in the need to examine findings critically. Also fMRI studies are sometimes of small magnitude and require replication. However what is intriguing about Craig’s approach is that even if there is a lot of noise, he has adopted a top-down approach looking at the bigger picture  so that even if other studies refute some of the imaging study findings he is able to draw on other studies where the findings might be validated. It will be interesting to see how Craig’s theory of global awareness develops.

Steps To Treatment = 5 (Model with evidence base, further confirmation need, if valid informs treatment approach, informed treatment trialled, incorporation into guidelines if suscessful)

References

A.(Bud).Craig. Perspectives. How do you feel – now? The anterior insula and human awareness. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. Vol 10. Jan 2009. 59-70.

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.