In the August 2008 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry there is a discussion of Asperger’s Syndrome with genetic influence of paternal illness, chromosomes 1 and 3, developmental history and depressive comorbidity. There is a discussion of a randomised placebo controlled trial of a muscarinic agonist in people with schizophrenia which showed an improvement in negative symptoms. Another study showed that Aripiprazole saturated D2 and D3 striatal/extrastriatal receptors over a range of doses. One study which found increased grey matter changes in people with chronic schizophrenia in the putamen but generalised areas of decrease was discussed. There are also white matter changes in people with schizophrenia revealed using diffuse tensor imaging. Finally there is an interesting discussion of differences in neuronal firing patterns in people with schizophrenia using a combination of EEG and Transcranial magnetic stimulation.
In the July 2008 edition of the NeuroPodcast, research on sleep deprivation is discussed. In this research it was found that sleep deprivation was associated with an increase in false memories and that caffeine reduced such memories by 10%. One of the researchers Susanne Diekelmann, suggested that such false memories may result from impairment in the prefrontal cortex and in particular some of its posited functions of validating memories (STT=2).
In the Science Podcast there is a discussion of the famous french cave paintings at La Grotte Chauvet. What is interesting is that while the paintings have been estimated to be 32,000 years old, past 27,000 years there is a margin of error of radioactive carbon dating of a few thousand years. The age of the paintings from radiocarbon dating and from the style of the paintings seems to clash and there is also some discussion about this. Certainly the paintings are a fulcrum around which discussion of the evolution of human culture takes place. There are at least three reasons why no painting exist before 32,000 years
(1) Humans didn’t have the cognitive abilities needed for creating paintings
(2) Humans did have the abilities, but the necessary culture didn’t exist at that time.
This carries the assumption that culture is necessary for painting (i.e that painting couldn’t proceed spontaneously and consistently without any prior cultural reference point – this in turn points to an assumption of gradual development rather than a sudden onset which would contradict the above assumption)
(3) Humans did create painting before this time but they did not survive to current times or else have not yet been discovered.
If the paintings indicate a starting point for specific cognitive abilities necessary for painting, DNA findings from excavations for this time period would be expected to provide circumstantial evidence for the necessary neurodevelopmental processes required. This in turn however is rather tenuous (STT6).
Shrinkrap radio podcast #168 is about a shamanic conference with interviews with various people involved in the conference. I think this area is important not because it offers an alternative explanation to the standard science-based explanatory paradigms but rather because there is an exploration of the healing properties of relationships. Often, insights are gained from practice and then fed back into the theory and as such, shamanism offers a source of information on how relationships might work in making people feel better although such inferences would need to be drawn from an appropriate evidence base. A cautionary note however. This is a minefield of controversy, partly because this involves the interface between freedom of individual practice/experience and society’s need for regulation of practices which involve potentially vulnerable and unwell people who want to get better.
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