Daily Archives: April 9, 2012

News Round-Up: April 2012 2nd Edition

In a recent study, researchers looked at people between the ages of 60 and 94 to see the effects of a cognitive program which developed their inductive reasoning skills. Inductive reasoning is the ability to make useful generalisations on the basis of observations. The researchers found that the program effectively improved the inductive reasoning skills of the subjects compared to a control group. The researchers also found that a measure of one personality trait – openness – had changed at the end of the intervention. This was a small change but still significant and challenges the hypothesis that personality remains unchanged in later life. However the changes were small and it would be interesting to see the results of replication studies in this area.

Researchers investigating early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease have found a new association with the SORL 1 gene which codes for a protein involved in the production of Beta-Amyloid peptide which is thought to play a cental role in the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease according to the Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis.

Actor Richard Dreyfuss recently talked about living with Bipolar Disorder in an interview here.

There’s an interesting paper on the Clock Drawing test. This is a very useful clinical test used in the assessment of cognition. In this moderately sized study, the researchers looked at people with right-sided brain injury. Compared to controls, this group tended to draw elliptical clocks and clocks that were smaller. One particularly interesting finding was that the further away from the centre of the paper the brain injured subjects drew the clock, the smaller the clock was. This fits with a hypothesis that injury to the right side of the brain impacts on the ability to graphically reconstruct images from memory.

A new Open-Access Journal e-Life is being started up and already generating a lot of interest following the success of PLOS One.

Archaeologists excavating a cave in South Africa have identified the remains of controlled fires dating back to 1 million years ago. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The likely candidate for producing these fires is Homo Erectus thought to be one of our early ancestors. Fire production enables the cooking of food and there has been one theory of how this might relate to hominid brain development (although this is controversial). Controlled fire production facilitated a number of other behaviours however and was certainly a landmark event. If you look at the behaviours of Chimpanzees and Bonobos as well as many of the other Greater Apes there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that they are intelligent creatures manifesting considerable flexibility in their behavioural and (possibly phenomenological) repertoire. The question that now remains is just how far back along the 6 million year divergence from our Greater Ape cousins did controlled fire production extend?

 

Appendix

2008-2011 News Round-Up

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.

Neuroscientists Debating Connectomics

Neuroscientists Professor Sebastian Sung and Professor Anthony Movshon debate the usefulness of understanding connections in the brain – the field of Connectomics. Debates are a useful way of getting an overview of a field very quickly. The arguments here though are quite complex relating to events at both the cellular level with neuroplasticity and at the gross anatomical level. Those with an interest in Neuroanatomy will no doubt enjoy the subtle debate. However for those new to the field the facilitators Carl Zimmer and Robert Krulwich do a very good job of ensuring the debate is always understandable.

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.

Surveillance of Children in the Human Speechome Project. Is There A Parallel with the Role of Social Media in Society?

Surveillance, Querral, Wikimedia Commons, GNU FD License

The Human Speechome Project is a research project to understand the development of human speech. One of the lead researchers Professor Deb Roy installed monitoring equipment in his house to capture every sound and image that his newborn son was exposed to in the first few years of  his life. Although I’m intrigued by the scientific insights this might provide this is more than counterbalanced by my unease at reading this as for me it raises many boundary issues – for instance the difference between scientist and parental roles. This also reminds me of a film ‘The Truman Show‘ featuring Jim Carrey. There are big differences though. For instance Carrey’s character is misled by those around him and this takes place well into adulthood but the film raises interesting questions about the role of the media and surveillance in modern society preempting the rise of social media. There is a trailer below as well as a review of the film which is well worth listening to.

Returning to the study, the researchers installed fish-eye cameras and microphones throughout the house recording even ambient sounds. They recorded for up to 10 hours a day and by the end of the study had over 140,000 hours of material which took up 200,000 Terabytes of data. This data is now being analysed. They are also planning to recruit other children to gain insights into later stages of development. Although there are potentially useful scientific insights to be gained from this research, it also raises questions about intrusion into privacy at an age where it is necessary for the parent to act on the child’s behalf and it will be interesting to see the media response as the study develops.

This parallels the less intensive but increasing use of social media in all segments of society where children’s use of Facebook and other media encourage them to live part of their lives for an audience and to have less private lives. The implications are unclear and perhaps the Human Speechome Project offers a useful starting point for debate whilst the larger scientific aims of the study are being pursued.

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.