Connectome, by Sebastian Seung.

Read. This. Book.connectomecover
This one is in my top three psychology books for A level students to read this year. It is exciting because it sketches out some future directions that cognitive neuroscience is going to take in the coming years and decades.
When Galileo pointed his telescope at the night sky, he saw for the first time the machinery of planetary motion. This laid the foundations for our modern understanding of astronomy. The same is happening today in brain science. The ongoing improvement in brain scanning is driving new understanding of how the brain actually works. This book is a guide to the road ahead.
Not only that, but the first few chapters are a brilliant primer on the basics of neuroscience and biopsychology, and will be great revision for this part of the exam.
A really interesting read, and very accessible.
“A connectome is the totality of connections between the neurons in a nervous system.”
“In the nineteenth century, the American psychologist William James wrote eloquently of the stream of consciousness, the continuous flow of thoughts through the mind. But James failed to note that every stream has a bed. Without this groove in the earth, the water would not know in which direction to flow. Since the connectome defines the pathways along which neural activity can flow, we might regard it as the streambed of consciousness.
The metaphor is a powerful one. Over a long period of time, in the same way that the water of the stream slowly shapes the bed, neural activity changes the connectome. The two notions of the self – as both the fast-moving, ever-changing stream and the more stable but slowly transforming streambed –  are thus inextricably linked. This book is about the self as the streambed, the self in the connectome – the self that has been neglected for too long.”

Extremism’s False Trail, by Kamaldeep Bhui.

What are the warning signs that young people are becoming radicalised? Kamaldeep Bhui at Queen Mary University, London, applies a public health approach to this question, and attempts to find risk and resilience factors.

Radicalisation seems to be unrelated to poverty, political engagement, frequency of religious worship, or experience of discrimination or adversity. However there was a correlation between being born outside the UK, general ill health, and the experience of depression.

Bhui recommends that vulnerable young people are exposed to healthy sources of self-esteem, authentic religious teaching, and social support. These factors are known to protect young people from joining gangs; it is likely that they will also inoculate young people against the temptation to become radicalised.

New Scientist No. 3016, 11th April 2015, p24 – 25.

Psychology, Mental Health and Distress by Cromby et al

pmhadWhisper it quietly, but the medical model of mental health is about to fall. For decades, the medical profession has been in charge of mentally distressed people. They have pigeonholed “patients” with “diagnoses”, stuffed them with drugs, and imprisoned them in secure institutions. For all of this expenditure of money, time, and suffering, outcomes for mentally distressed people are far worse in the first world than the third world. This represents the most astonishing failure on behalf of psychiatry. But the emperor has no clothes, and we may be on the threshold of a paradigm shift in this discipline. This book, published 2013, is the first mainstream textbook to propose an alternative approach. It is a massive and demanding read, but start with Chapter 5 “Diagnosis and Formulation”, and take it from there if you have the stamina. There are great chapters on eating disorders and schizophrenia. The chapters on the history of mental distress are also fascinating. Diagnosis is dead. You heard it here first.