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Science Weekly podcast: the problem with drugs for mental illness This week on Science Weekly Alok Jha meets Dr Joanna Moncrieff from University College London to discuss her book The Bitterest Pills: The Troubling Story of Anti-psychotic Drugs. Joanna believes her extensive survey of research into psychiatric treatments points to a flaw in the dominant clinical paradigm that mental illness can be treated like any other illness – with drugs.Alok is also joined by Observer Tech Monthly commissioning editor Nicola Davis and Observer science editor Robin McKie to discuss this week's science news, including a frustrating day at the lab for scientists hunting dark matter; a look at the complex, controversial legacy of Fritz Haber's discovery of a way to synthesise ammonia early in the 20th century; the problem posed by unpublished clinical trial data; and new evidence of the link between bats and the 2002 outbreak of the Sars virus.Don't miss the latest edition of Observer Tech Monthly on Sunday 10 November, chock-full of awesome science and technology features and news. Subscribe for free via iTunes to ensure every episode gets delivered. (Here is the non-iTunes URL feed).Follow the podcast on our Science Weekly Twitter feed and receive updates on all breaking science news stories from Guardian Science.Email scienceweeklypodcast@gmail.com.Guardian Science is now on Facebook. You can also join our Science Weekly Facebook group.We're always here when you need us. Listen back through our archive.Alok JhaNicola DavisRobin McKieJason Phipps
Statement in Response to the Report of the Task Force of the Institute of Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundation
Being Considerate Of Your Future Self In a previous post, The Problem With Reincarnation, I wrote: "The sense of self I feel and have always felt has seemed constant throughout my life, which is why I feel as if I even have a core self. But a moment's reflection reveals that what's really remained constant is the feeling of the sense of self itself, not the content of that sense. Am I even remotely the sameread more
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The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark by Josh Cohen – review Josh Cohen's study of our need to expose our own private lives and those of others is both perceptive and engagingThe borders of privacy have been ardently disputed in recent years. On the one hand, a public culture of openness and transparency seems a necessary good: we do not want states and politicians keeping secrets from the electorate and snooping on their citizens' every activity. Nor do we want corporate giants silencing a responsible press and preventing exposure, say, of toxic waste clandestinely dumped or of what goes into a burger.On the other hand, most who can still remember an era before intimate telephone conversations were broadcast on streets and trains feel more than a little squeamish about just how many of our private parts need public exhibition before the polity as a whole is irredeemably mired.For those whose consciousness took shape before mobiles and social networking were the norm, Paul McMullan's exclamation at the Leveson inquiry that "privacy is for paedos" had the shocking resonance of a wake-up call. George Orwell's dystopian, all-seeing Big Brother, who eradicated the possibility of any private life or unspoken thoughts, had once and for all morphed into his gameshow double. In our epoch of tabloid culture, many want nothing more than to parade for our voyeuristic delight what was once sheltered behind (self-)patrolled boundaries. Or to drag others' secrets into global public display and regale everyone in the process. The National Trust's branding of the Big Brother house as the "stately home of the digital era" is just one more sign of such times.Psychoanalyst and literary academic Josh Cohen provides a subtle and stimulating reflection on this second aspect of privacy. The unholy "alliance between voyeurism and exhibitionism" that marks our epoch's recalibration of the private is his lead subject. Our need to know, to probe secrets, he argues, is much more than an extension of the child's Alice in Wonderland curiosity. It is a punishing quest, fuelled by "envy and vindictive rage", against any who are perceived to have more than us. That more is not just financial: it's an amorphous "more" that includes pleasure, beauty and happiness, that added extra that is always there in the eye of the beholder.What envy isn't for Cohen in any simple way is the old revolutionary motor towards greater equality. He diagnoses our passion for exposure as a wish that nothing should remain unknown to us. He also recognises that the emphasis on needing to know everything about the other mirrors the suspicion that there is always something we don't know. This is the motor of our fury.One of the reasons "why we remain in the dark", according to Cohen, is that the private self is in no simple way a readily accessible accumulation of mental furnishings and known narratives. For the psychoanalyst as for lovers of literature, the self is a complicated entity always greater than the sum of its listable parts. Within the self, there is an unknown other who is inevitably lost in the translation (whether in confession or even consulting room). This inner stranger, who is also uncannily familiar, is a repository of irreducible excesses – the acts we indulge in against our own self-interest and conscious will, the bits that are too scary to acknowledge. Our epoch's frenzied attack on privacy may well be an attack on that all-too-human complexity which totalitarian states also sought to abolish.The Private Life bears an affinity with The Examined Life, psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz's bestselling tales from the consulting room. In probing the vagaries and vulnerabilities of the human, Cohen, too, gives us fascinating glimpses of cases. He weaves autobiographical fragments into his narrative, perhaps to emphasise that the analyst is not the all-seeing authority that popular culture paraded in the middle of the last century. Close to Darian Leader and Slavoj Žižek in his understanding of the uses of psychoanalysis, Cohen also engages in some astute reading of literature and popular culture. He is particularly good on the enigmatic Man Booker winner Lydia Davis.Lisa Appignanesi's Paris Requiem (Arcadia) and Losing the Dead (Virago) are out nowSocietyPsychologyPrivacyPrivacy & the mediaLeveson inquiryReality TVLisa Appignanesitheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Mindful individuals less affected by immediate rewards A new study shows that people who are aware of their own thoughts and emotions are less affected by positive feedback from others.
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Jealousy: it's in your genes | Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman The green-eyed monster of jealousy may be hardwired into our DNA, but there is a lot we can do to keep it in under controlHow would you feel if you suspected your partner had enjoyed a one-night stand while away on holiday without you? What if, instead of having sex on the trip, you believed she or he had fallen in love with someone? In either case, if your partner will probably never see the other person again, would that make the situation any easier to cope with?Faced with either scenario, most of us would feel intensely jealous: it's a very basic, normal reaction. But does the universality of jealousy indicate that it might be genetically programmed?The first study to investigate the genetic influence on jealousy was recently published. Researchers put the questions at the top of this article to more than 3,000 pairs of Swedish twins. Fraternal twins share about 50% of their genes; identical twins share exactly the same genetic make-up. By comparing the answers given by each group of twins, the researchers were able to show that around one third of the differences in levels of jealousy across the population are likely to be genetic in origin.In both scenarios – fears about a partner sleeping with or falling in love with a stranger – women reported more jealousy than men. But the researchers also found a gender difference between relative reactions to the idea of sexual or emotional betrayal. Men were far more troubled by the thought that a partner had been sexually unfaithful than by potential emotional infidelity. Women tended to respond to each scenario with equal levels of jealousy.Why is this? The answer, according to some scientists, may lie in evolutionary pressures. For both men and women, reproduction is key. But men, unlike women, cannot be certain that they are the biological parent of their child, and so they are naturally more perturbed at the thought of sexual infidelity than they are about emotional infidelity – because it jeopardises the successful transmission of their genes. Women, though relatively less perturbed by the idea that their partner may have been sleeping around, are nevertheless dependent on their mate for their survival and that of their offspring.That's the theory. Given that we can't zip back in a time machine to human prehistory, it's an explanation that seems impossible to prove or disprove.Though genes appear to play a part in jealousy, the Swedish results also show that the kinds of things that happen to us in our lives – the way we're brought up, the people we're around, the events we experience – are far more important. Only one third of the variation in jealousy seemed to have a genetic origin, so the rest must have been down to environmental differences.But whether genetic or environmental, hardwired or learned, there's no doubting the ubiquity of jealousy. It's an emotion that almost everyone feels at some point, and a major cause of relationship problems. Although much of this jealousy is illusory, we all know that the eye (if nothing else) can wander. In Britain, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found that 82% of men and 76% of women reported more than one lifetime partner, with more than a third of men and almost a fifth of women clocking up 10 or more. Some 31% of men and 21% of women said they had started a new relationship in the previous year, with 15% of men and 9% of women seeing more than one person at the same time.Occasionally, then, we have grounds to be worried: jealousy alerts us to a looming problem in our relationship. If your partner has been unfaithful in the past, naturally you'll worry that they might stray again in future. Much of the time, though, jealousy is pointlessly corrosive, making both partners miserable for no good reason. In these cases, how can we get the better of our jealousy? How can the "green-eyed monster" be tamed?Consider the evidence for your jealousy. What about the evidence that might contradict our fears? What would we tell someone if they came to us with the same worries? Have a chat with a trusted friend to get an independent perspective on how likely it is that your partner is deceiving you.Talk to your partner. When two people hold differing views of what's acceptable in the relationship – how much time to spend together, how frequently to keep in touch, whether it's okay to stay in contact with ex-partners and so on – misunderstanding and jealousy are always a risk. If you haven't agreed the ground rules for your relationship, make it a priority.Weigh up the pros and cons. People often believe that their jealousy – for all the pain it brings – actually helps them. So it's a good idea to draw up a list of the pros and cons, both of being jealous and of trusting your partner. On balance, which one seems the best option?Get to the bottom of your fears. What is it, do you think, that lies at the root of your jealousy? Do you dread being alone? Do you fear humiliation? When you've identified the fears fuelling your jealousy, think constructively about how you'd handle the situation.Set yourself some ground rules. We can find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle: jealous behaviour feeds jealous thoughts, which in turn trigger more jealous behaviour. And so on. To break this cycle, it helps to set ourselves some ground rules. When you find yourself worrying about your partner's faithfulness, save those thoughts for a daily "worry period". Set aside 15 minutes each day, and postpone all your worrying until then.Concentrate on the good stuff. Jealousy skews our perspective. To counter it, we need to make a deliberate effort to view things more positively. That means focusing on the good parts of our relationship: the things about our partner and our life together that we like, the things that keep us coming back for more. Focus on the positive by doing more positive things together. And remember to have your own interests and activities that boost your self-esteem.Daniel Freeman is a professor of clinical psychology and a Medical Research Council Senior Clinical Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. Jason Freeman is a psychology writer. On Twitter they are @ProfDFreeman and @JasonFreeman100. They are the authors of How to Keep Calm and Carry On: Inspiring Ways to Worry Less and Live a Happier LifePsychologyGeneticsReproductionBiologyHuman biologyRelationshipsDaniel FreemanJason Freemantheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
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Breakthrough in identifying effect of epilepsy treatment Fifty years after valproate was first discovered, research published reports how the drug works to block seizure progression.
Can putting your child before yourself make you a happier person? While popular media often depicts highly-involved parents negatively as "helicopter parents" or "tiger moms, how does placing one's children at the center of family life really affect parental well-being? New research finds that parents who prioritize their children's well-being over their own are not only happier, but also derive more meaning in life from their child-rearing responsibilities.
New way to monitor induced comas After suffering a traumatic brain injury, patients are often placed in a coma to give the brain time to heal and allow dangerous swelling to dissipate. These comas, which are induced with anesthesia drugs, can last for days. During that time, nurses must closely monitor patients to make sure their brains are at the right level of sedation -- a process that scientists now describe as "totally inefficient." An automated system could offer better control of patients' brain states.
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Funeral Selfies: Grief or Gross? The Tumblr site Selfies at Funerals is raising more than eyebrows. Many claim that this is yet another example of a generation of narcissists. Technology shifts and adolescent development suggest other conclusions.read more