Saturday, November 13, 2010

Psychology gets Crazy

That is just too much for one day.
I can deal with the fact that Parkinson's seems to be caused by an excessive production of reactive oxygen species in the mitochondria of a certain class of substantia nigra neurons. That's good science after all (and a really nifty experimental setup by the way).

The next great headline of the day: "Insanity is Contagious!". No worries dear friends, if you are past the age of a toddler it's too late for you anyway.
Schizophrenia seems to be connected with viral infections occurring in utero, or in early childhood. Such infections can lead to the activation of a 60 Million year old Retrovirus that lies sleeping in our genome. And the misguided immune reaction to that might be responsible for the pathologies of schizophrenia, MS, and bipolar disorder.
If you have ever asked yourself, why science has not figured out a cure for those yet, now you know. Because the story of schizophrenia seems more contrived than a Dan Brown novel.
But it's probably true.

From the softer side of Psychology comes this one about novel ways to treat posttraumatic stress disorder.
Imagine you have just witnessed a traumatizing scene. You are in shock. What do you do not to be haunted by those pictures for the rest of your life?
You play Tetris.
Administered in the first six hours after trauma, a visual task, like Tetris, interferes with memory consolidation and seems to lessen the frequency and intensity of involuntary flashbacks.
How to deal with the following Tetris addiction is left unexplained.

Moving further toward the fringe, it's this last article which tops today's crazy list.
Apparently we can see the future. It wouldn't disturb my piece of mind, if that claim were made by some old crone with a crystal ball. It only gets outright disturbing when a respected psychologist is about to publish such findings in a peer reviewed journal.
The battery of tests performed in order to come to that astonishing conclusion includes setups like this:

1. The experimenters compile a big list of words.

2. From that list a random sample is chosen, the small list.

3. The experimenters show the big list to the subjects who try to memorize them.

4. The subjects are asked to recall words from the big list. Those words are noted.

5. The subjects are asked to write down the words on the small list from 2.

Result: The subject is significantly more likely to remember words from the small list. Even though he first encounters the small list for the first time after the recall task.

You are more likely to remember the words you will write in the future. Even though you don't know what words they will be.
If those findings turn out to be real (shoutout to science: replicate them!), that would be something I totally can't explain. And it has been some time since I encountered that situation.
I am still counting on an interesting experimental error.

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