Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Psychiatrist’s Insights into Creative Design for Presentations: Blog Review

Psychiatrist Dr George Dawson’s ‘Real Psychiatry Technical‘ blog focuses on education and relates to the more detailed ‘Real Psychiatry‘ blog. The first post in March 2012 explains the origins of the blog. What is immediately striking about the blog is the layout. Many of the posts are minimalist creations with just enough text to explain the central diagrams which are visually appealing. Dr Dawson explains that he has been creating original diagrams for presentations and this blog is a journal of his findings.

I found many of the posts not only interesting but very useful as there are tips on producing diagrams using various software tools.

  • For instance this post looks at the incredibly useful Cmap tools.
  • The PubMed tool to create diagrams of chemical compounds is also useful and discussed in this post.
  • Dr Dawson’s Power Point slide on the Neurobiology of Addiction shows both his artistic flair and the potential for Power Point as a creative tool.

The Real Psychiatry Technical blog is well worth a look and offers creative tips which will particularly appeal to lecturers.

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here 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.

Has Neuroscience Been Undergoing a Limited Political Revolution Rather Than A Scientific Revolution? An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 10

When Thomas Kuhn published his landmark work on the philosophy of science ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ he perhaps didn’t realise the impact that this work would have. This work introduced the world to the term ‘paradigm change’ and shifted the focus on scientific revolutions away from the core scientific phenomenon to the characteristics of the scientific community. In Chapter 9, Kuhn looks at the differences between scientific and political revolutions. The key difference between these two types of revolutions is the central role of the anomaly in precipitating a scientific revolution. Let us consider Neuroscience as an example of an eclectic science. Has Neuroscience been undergoing a political rather than a scientific revolution?

In a political rather than a scientific revolution we would expect changes in the social organisation of Neuroscience and at the same time an absence of a central anomaly which drives debate. Is this what we see in practice? Many scientific disciplines have been amalgamating under the umbrella of ‘Neuro’. Indeed bloggers such as the Neurocritic and the Neuroskeptic have been very successful in addressing difficulties (and strengths) in Neuroscience studies particularly where simple ‘neuro’ assumptions are used. Here I refer to a ‘neuro’ assumption as one which fits with a political movement rather than the scientific data.

For instance the tenet of a political Neuroscience movement would be that ‘we can predict how people will behave by using the body of Neuroscience knowledge’. This is a statement of belief. The generation of a hypothesis and testing this against experimental data is an altogether different proposition however. The large number of variables make predictions extremely difficult in all but the simplest circumstances.  Instead, the interesting Neuroscience research is more limited in predictive utility but leads to a shifting perspective. The amalgamation of scientific disciplines under the umbrella of Neuroscience is to be welcomed however as it unites scientists in different research communities in pursuit of common interests often with clinical applications which ultimately will relieve suffering.

We see powerful Neuroscience institutes developing around the world and undertaking important research. Neuroscience Journals add to the burgeoning knowledge base and Neuroscience conference and social media networks bring Neuroscientists closer together. Neuroscientists feature increasingly in popular culture through popular books, documentaries and in Newspapers. The success of the Neuroscience movement is incontrovertible.

However the political Neuroscience movement with the mantra of ‘Neuroknowledge’ and ‘Neuropredictions’ is limited as any political scientific movement is by the absence of an accompanying beliefs and values system. Beliefs and values are distinct from scientific knowledge as they are choices rather than truths. Nevertheless they are essential features in any community. Until the problem of combining scientific and humanistic approaches is solved then the Political Neuroscience movement will  remain limited in its scope despite its present success. The Positive Psychology movement is one model which offers insights into this process.

The remaining issue is what is the central anomaly in Neuroscience. This is the crux of the issue. We have a powerful Neuroscience movement which is well funded and has many scientific branches affiliated. This though is the exact cause of the problem – what is the central paradigm and where is the central anomaly. There are many paradigms but they occur in only one affiliated field. Indeed many fields would not consider themselves affiliated to Neuroscience but working quite distinctly. Is the Central Paradigm a behavioural model or a cellular model or a neurotransmitter model or a neuroanatomical model or a neurocomputational model.

All of these approaches are currently found under the Neuroscience umbrella and scientists from many disciplines are competing with each other in the Neuroscience arena. However the terms of the debate need to be set and the arena more tightly defined.

Appendix 1 – Review of Chapter 9 of ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ on this Site

Chapter 9 is titled ‘The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions’ in which Kuhn  further discusses the nature of Scientific Revolutions. An important feature of this chapter is that Kuhn draws parallels between scientific and political revolutions. To support this analogy he explains how within political organisations and scientific communities groups arise with significantly different values from the mainstream. The scientific communities and political parties are housed within the institutions and the new movements are not able to successfully challenge within these institutions but must instead separate with the support of their proponents. However Kuhn is careful to distinguish between scientific and political revolutions. With scientific revolutions there are fundamental features of nature at play which determine the course of events. For instance the scientific paradigm is challenged by an anomaly which becomes a central feature of the new paradigm. The anomaly is a feature of nature and the paradigm which successfully explains the analogy replaces the old paradigm rather than resulting from a cumulative change in the old paradigm. Essentially there is a transformation of paradigms rather than a cumulative change. The logical positivists challenge this assertion by arguing for instance that Newtonian mechanics is a special case of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Kuhn takes time to address this and argues that the restriction that is placed on the Theory of Relativity impinges on the utility of this theory under these constraints. Furthermore the paradigm changes also extend to the rules governing the behaviour of scientists in the scientific community. The proponents of the different paradigms are unable to hold joint discussions since they operate within different frameworks with divergent views which cannot be resolved.

The anomaly therefore is the determining factor in the competition between paradigms as ultimately it is this  anomaly which highlights the problems in the old paradigm and is explained in the succeeding paradigm and this in turn is a feature of nature. I think this perhaps is the most significant differentiator between political and scientific movements assuming of course that the properties of group behaviour are not deterministic but instead are contingent on the interplay between the properties of memes and the properties of the group. Even here however Darwinists would argue that memes demonstrate selective fitness and are therefore subject to general principles which with some work can be identified.

Kuhn has produced a very deep work. A chapter such as this can be read repeatedly and still offer new insights. The analogies themselves give the reader the opportunity to use their knowledge of parallel systems to further understand the central arguments. Feyerabend’s ‘Against Method’ (see Appendix below for review) in comparison draws on some of Kuhn’s work but reduces the central argument to a simple premise which is significantly easier to challenge. The inter-relatedness of Kuhn’s chapters provides, I think a stark contrast which hints at the ‘Gestalt’ that Kuhn discusses in the previous chapter.

 

Related Resources on the TAWOP Site

A Review of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 1

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 2

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 3

An Interpretation of Scientific Revolutions – Part 4

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here 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.

The Human Story Behind A Diagnosis of Dementia

Dementia: From the Heart

Norman McNamara aged 54 tells us about his experience of Lewy Body Dementia. This powerful video should be watched by health professionals working with people with Dementia. By researchers contributing to the search for more effective treatments. And maybe by everyone.

Neuroscientists Turn Research Paper Into Music Video: Is This A New Impact Factor For Scientists?

Synaptaesthesia

The Smith Lab is a Neuroscience lab at Stanford University named after Professor Stephen J Smith. The lab have developed a technique known as Array Tomography. This involves preserving tissue samples, creating ultrathin slices which are then imaged and integrated into a computer generated 3-dimensional representation of the original tissue. The researchers have turned one of the papers into a music video on YouTube. The video is shown above and illustrates the incredible complexity of the mouse cortex but in a way that is aesthetically appealing.

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words but how much true is this of  a video? When the message is communicated so effectively then complementing it with the right music has the potential to create a scientific icon – scientific knowledge embedded in the multimedia fabric of culture. Unwrap one layer of material and there is a jewel of timeless knowledge contained within. Imagine the scientist toiling away in the laboratory for decades. The findings are important but subtle and difficult to communicate to anyone but the specialised community through the medium of the more esoteric academic publications.

What if that scientist had collated analyses from lots of data over that time? The essence of their results could be distilled into a few selected diagrams or videos of their experiments. Time lapse photography or images from specialised equipment would enable them to capture the fascination of the public and to share with them their joy in the research. Now imagine if the university campuses full of students forming their own bands and writing their own music fostered an environment where that talent and energy could be directed towards communicating the research the students themselves engage in.

Now take it a step further. What if there was a ready made funding stream for this research? Part of research grants are given to disseminate the results of research. What if professional musicians and film makers could be recruited to produce these videos for dissemination? Suddenly around the world there would be a combination of amateur and professional artists connecting people with scientific knowledge and generating a multimedia repository of scientific knowledge in parallel with the academic repository. Popular culture would increasingly feature the most iconic elements of this new scientific movement.

Scientists, laboratories, universities and funding bodies would have a new metric for assessing the impact of scientific research. The multimedia impact factor. How many YouTube views did the research paper get? At the time of writing the video above had 1472 views. Now as well as researchers and journalists citing the paper, the paper will be cited or shared by people who do not even speak the language the paper was written in. There may even be a new generation of popular scientists who find more success with these multimedia formats, communicating their own work directly to the public after it has passed through peer review. Such scientists may even help to steer science in the direction most needed by society offering a rapidly responsive societal anchor for the the scientific community.

The videos will generate interest in the other works of these scientists. After watching the video above, I looked at the other videos at the Smithlab. I looked at the Array Tomography technique that had been developed. I read about how the lab had been started by Professor Smith. This led me on to an array tomograph of an amyloid plaque from the brain of a person who had Alzheimer’s Disease.

Array Tomograph of Amyloid Plaque in a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

The significant work of the Laboratory had become more accessible to me from that first video. The video had succeeded in a way no CV on the homepage ever could have. Is this a sign of things to come? With the flexibility of YouTube perhaps a movement will begin that will forever transform science and society – an increasing coordination between science and the humanities ushering in the era of the co-creator.

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here 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.

 

New Brain Clearing System Found – News Round-Up: August 2012 3rd Edition

Video of this Post

There is a new approach to diagnosing Epilepsy which can identify evidence of seizure activity after the seizure has happened. This approach has been developed by a team at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. Amongst the innovations is the use of 76 electrodes compared to the routine 32 allowing the researchers to use more data points in their analysis. There is also a press release by the University of Minnesota here and a link to the original advance publication here. The researchers included 28 people with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and found that compared to simple partial seizures, both complex-partial seizures and seizures with secondary generalisation involved more subsequent slow wave activity in the Frontal Lobe. The researchers could use these changes to identify the laterality of the seizure.

Professor He Bin explains the new approach to investigating Epilepsy

Researchers found evidence that older fathers may be passing on more mutations in DNA to their offspring and that this is more likely to be associated with Autism and Schizophrenia. Another write-up focuses on how the mutations are more likely to come from the fathers than the mothers. The researchers looked at people from Iceland which has a well characterised population with a geneological database. The researchers followed trios of mohter, father and baby. They looked at sequences of DNA in the babies that were not present in the parents. This implied that there had been a de novo mutation.

The researchers found more of these mutations in the offspring of older fathers and this difference was statistically significant. Furthermore some of these mutations were associated with Schizophrenia and Autism from previous studies. Many cases of Schizophrenia develop when a person is in their twenties or thirties so the information about prevalence was not available. However the study does provide several lines of evidence to support the hypothesis that older age at fatherhood can lead to disease associated de novo mutations. However many genes associated with Autism and Schizophrenia have small effect sizes suggesting a multifactorial aetiology. The study has started a useful debate.

A private genetics company 23&me is looking for new genes associated with Parkinson’s Disease and using social media to recruit new subjects for the study.

This study suggests that more hours of sleep at night and increased slow wave sleep are associated with improved performance in working memory tasks in people with Parkinson’s Disease. However this is a small study with 54 subjects although these findings are supported by other studies showing an association between disrupted sleep and impaired cognitive performance.

An interesting synthetic nanoparticle has been found to influence cerebral blood flow and scavenge free-radicals which are commonly thought to damage cells.

In a widely reported study researchers have identified an important part of the brain’s clearing system in a Murine model. The researchers found that near to the venous drainage, the Glial cells were facilitating the removal of material from the brain when they used radiolabelled tracers. This has potential implications for diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease (see the discussion below) but further studies will be needed to investigate these questions after these initial and encouraging results.

The Newly Discovered Glymphatic System

There is a list of the 20 most watched TED episodes here. This includes a look at ‘why are we happy‘, ‘brain magic‘ and  ‘why we do what we do‘. The ‘why are we happy’ video below is extremely entertaining as well as instructive.

Evolutionary Psychiatry

Could Neanderthals speak? This PLOS One study which includes an analysis of the upper limb and of a Neanderthal specimen suggests right-handedness and is consistent with the asymmetrical handedness associated with language. This follows a previous study looking at asymmetrical markings on teeth which may have resulted from preparing materials.

There is a brief and effective write-up of 3 studies that tell us about recent brain evolution in relation to genetics, epigenetics and wiring. This includes the DUF1220 protein, differences in gene expression in the frontal lobe between humans and Chimpanzees and gene methylation differences between humans and Chimpanzees.

Appendix

News Round-Up 2008-2011

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here 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.

How We Detect the Position of Our Spine and How This Might Indirectly Relate to Our Emotions

Discussion of Position Receptors in the Spine

The biological basis of emotions is a complex area of research study with the potential for many clinical applications. Neuroscientist A D (Bud) Craig has developed an elaborate model of awareness and emotional regulation that updates a nineteenth century model of emotions. Craig hypothesises that the Insular Cortex integrates information from the body and enables us to build an interoceptive map – a map of the sensations coming from our body. In order to better evaluate this model it is necessary to fill out more of the details. There is a potential for a clearer understanding of the peripheral nervous system compared to the central nervous system it is both simpler and more accessible for study. Therefore it follows that if Craig’s basic premise about the Insular Cortex is correct our understanding of emotions will stand on a firm foundation by attending to the details of the interoceptive information arriving at the Insular Cortex. The video above looks at some of the research on proprioceptive information coming from the spinal region.

The video is one of a series and an examination of the literature relating to other areas as well as links to a model of the Insular Cortex can be found here.

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here 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 of Psychopharmacology Institute Website

Video of this Post

There is a new website called the Psychopharmacology Institute which is geared towards healthcare professionals. The About page tells us that the objective of the site is to educate healthcare professionals about psychopharmacology using multimedia. Dr Flavio Guzmán has written the About page and features in the videos. He has a Twitter page here and tweets about psychopharmacology issues. At the time of writing the majority of the content is in the form of videos which are well presented and which feature on the Psychopharmacology Institute YouTube Channel. The videos are instructive and an example is given below. This website will appeal to Psychiatrists and I anticipate that it will become very popular as more content becomes available.

Video on Typical v Atypical Antipsychotics Part 1 Intended for Healthcare Professionals Only

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here 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.