Monthly Archives: April 2010

Blog Review: Beaker – A Medical Research Blog

The blog reviewed here is ‘Beaker – A Medical Research Blog‘ which I came across from one of Boraz’s Twitter posts.

Appearance and Design

The blog features a grey background with a diagonal white lined design. The central pane containing the text has a white background. The title pane features a photograph of two scientists focusing on a task next to the title of the blog. The articles are of a good length, informative, titled with author details, comment enabled , tagged and posted in specific categories. The articles are generously illustrated with high quality and relevant photographs including micrographs. There is one caveat however. In many of the articles, the reader must click on the ‘read the rest of the entry’ link at the bottom of the summary for each post in order to read the full post. The blog can be navigated using functions in the right hand panel – according to tags, categories and recent posts. There is also a search box. There are external links as well as a link to donate to the Sanford Burnham Institute.

Content

As would be expected from a large institution, there are frequent events (e.g visits by influential figures to the institute) and reports on research studies that are being undertaken. In this post for instance, the author succinctly describes an approach to designing new molecules that is being pursued at the institute by one researcher.  This post explains the role of messenger RNA and refers to a symposia on mRNA being held at the Institute.  As the blog is relatively young there are 15 posts at the time of writing.

Conclusions

This is a young blog which demonstrates how an institution can effectively represent itself through the use of social media. Indeed with a large number of employees and students, an Institution has a marked advantage if it is able to efficiently leverage its resources through the medium of social media. For the reader, the posts are well written and offer insights into the interesting research that is being undertaken at the Institute. This blog would particularly appeal to those interested in working or studying at the institute, readers with an interest in research or those interested in representing their institute through social media.

Call for Authors: If you are interested in writing an article or series of articles for this blog please write to the e-mail address below. Copyright can be retained. Index: An index of the site can be found here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. 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.

Review: Learning From Experience

The paper reviewed here is ‘Learning from Experience’ by Jerry Tew, Colin Gell and Simon Foster and freely available here. This is a 66-page document which outlines material useful for course instructors in higher education mental health courses to enable the involvement of service users and carers in service development. The intended audience is somewhat wider however and this is explained more fully in ‘The Purpose of the Guide’. The authors then discuss how students typically learn about mental health subject matter in courses such as medicine and psychology. Forming a partnership with service users and carers is then contextualised in ‘Setting the scene’ where it is identified as one of the ten essential shared capabilities by the National Institute for Mental Health in England. They go on to write that

Service users and carers have a unique contribution to make to training in core professional skills, such as listening, communication, empathy, advocacy and offering counselling or advice

They further write about the experience of involving service users in the teaching thus

Also it requires a humility that allows teaching staff to give up any vestiges of a superior ‘expert’ status based on ‘knowing best……..Teaching staff may learn new knowledge, skills and ideas from the service users and carers with whom they are working, and benefit from ongoing and constructive challenges to their value base

Potential benefits for service users are also discussed including the contribution that this can make to recovery.  The authors include a useful section ‘Pointers to good practice’. In the third section, the authors present the multiple ways in which service user contribution has been realised. These approaches range from inclusion in training through to e-modules, drama and experience sharing. There is also a discussion of how service users can contribute to course planning with examples as well as for student selection, student assessment and course participation. The authors then discuss some of the practical aspects of implementing these suggestions identifying possible barriers as well as presenting a template. They look at issues such as capacity, infrastructure and employment or contracting. The authors then include a section on evaluation with some useful feedback forms included. The document finished with the conclusions and appendix.

This is a useful document for organisers/trainers of mental health courses. Some of the suggestions here would be suitable for application in service development also.

Call for Authors: If you are interested in writing an article or series of articles for this blog please write to the e-mail address below. Copyright can be retained. Index: An index of the site can be found here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. 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.

Review: Differentiating Cognitive Profiles of Illnesses in Later Life

The paper reviewed here is ‘Differentiating the Cognitive Profile of Schizophrenia from that of Alzheimer Disease and Depression in Later Life’ by Mulsant and colleagues and freely available here. In the abstract the authors conclude that

Patients with LLS (Late Life Schizophrenia) have a different cognitive profile than patients with AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) or DEP (Depression in later life). Particularly, memory impairment in LLS seems to be more pronounced in learning than recall

Method


  • All cases referred to a memory service for consultation were analysed. I wasn’t absolutely clear if this was done retrospectively or prospectively but from the wording it seemed to be retrospective.
  • People referred to the service underwent psychiatric and neurological assessments and DSM-IV criteria were used for the diagnoses
  • All people referred to the service underwent the following neuropsychological test battery as routine and these test scores were included in the analysis
  1. Animal Fluency
  2. Boston Naming Test
  3. Clock Drawing Test – Freedman Scale
  4. California Verbal Learning Test II – Short Form (CVLT)
  5. Dementia Rating Scale-2 (DRS)
  6. FAS Letter Fluency (FAS)
  7. Luria Alternating Diagrams
  8. Mini-Mental Status Examination
  9. Trail Making Test A and B
  10. Wisconsin Card Sorting Test – 64
  • It didn’t look as though a single specific hypothesis was being tested. Instead the demographics and cognitive test results from the different groups – DEP, AD, LLS and control group were being compared.
  • In the first phase of the statistical analysis, ANOVA was used.
  • When differences between groups were identified using the ANOVA, a Bonferroni correction was made for multiple comparisons
  • Cohen’s D was used for differences between the LLS and other groups

Results

  • LLS (n=25)
  • AD (n=15)
  • DEP (n=15)
  • NC (n=12)
  • I thought Figure 1 was a very useful summary of the data and quite intuitive. The Late onset Schizophrenia group are acting as the reference group. In this diagram, group differences at p<0.001 are highlighted with ***. From looking at differences of this significance I noted the following
  • The LLS group were significantly better on a number of memory tasks than the AD group
  • The control and DEP groups were significantly better than the LLS group on the FAS, DRM memory, WCST categories, CVLT short and long delay free recall
  • I wondered if the latter findings were tapping predominantly into frontal lobe function and the AD group findings into medial temporal lobe function

Discussion

  • In the discussion, the authors comment on the hierarchy of memory impairment across groups
  • The researchers note that the groups have small sample sizes which would reduce the power of the study
  • They note the memory impairment of the LLS group compared to the DES and control groups on a number of memory tasks

I thought this was a neat study, showing how service data can be effectively utilised to examine group differences in cognition. This research approach should be reproducible across other services although the components of the test battery will vary. Even so, examination of group differences including vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia using different test batteries would be valuable.

Call for Authors: If you are interested in writing an article or series of articles for this blog please write to the e-mail address below. Copyright can be retained. Index: An index of the site can be found here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. 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.