Drug boosts self confidence, by Helen Thomson.

New research has shown that reducing peoples’ noradrenaline levels boosts their metacognitive insight. Propranolol, a noradrenaline antagonist, increases peoples’ estimation of the accuracy of their decisions, without affecting the actual of accuracy of decision making.

There are potential applications in the treatment of OCD and schizophrenia.

New Scientist No. 3129, 10th June 2017, p.12.

Making Things Up, by Helen Thomson.

“Our reality is merely a controlled hallucination reined in by our senses.”

If this is so, what happens if we loosen the reins?

You may have seen the basketball/gorilla video which shows us that we can only concentrate on a small portion of our visual field at once, and that our brains fill in the gaps. This article explains that in fact, most of our perception consists of our brains filling in the gaps.

The article proposes that most of our perception is in fact a form of externally guided hallucination. It also contains instructions for how to experience hallucinations at home – safely and legally!

“Far from being flights of fancy, hallucinations reveal the true nature of our reality.”

New Scientist no.3098, 5th November 2016, p.28-32.

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.”

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.