It’s time to end the academic culture that says working yourself to sickness means you’re just working hard enough. It’s time to end the culture that says taking time for yourself and your own health comes at the expense of doing good work. It’s time to end the culture that says sleep deprivation, anxiety attacks, and binge drinking are just part of the game. It’s time to end the culture that says if you’re not getting along with your mentor, then it’s all your fault. It’s time to end the culture that says advisors and faculty don’t have to take responsibility for the health of their students. It’s time to end the culture that says seeking help means you’re weak, or a bad researcher.
I’m not afraid to admit that this is an issue that touched my life during my Ph.D. Thankfully I had amazing friends and family outside my program to help me through tough times. But I know that not everyone has a support system like mine. I also watched in sadness when, after a fellow Ph.D. student committed suicide, our program, university, and health services did nothing to acknowledge that it happened, or that the culture of academia could have contributed to it, and (as far as any of us have been able to tell), has done little if anything to stop it from happening again.
Some graduate programs are putting better student support systems in place, and for every bad advisor we can find an exception that cares and helps their students to the utmost of their ability. But academia, overall, still possesses a culture of acceptance and ignorance when it comes to mental health issues, especially in graduate programs.
It’s time to end that culture.
A new study correlating brain activity with how people make decisions suggests that when individuals engage in risky behavior, such as drunk driving or unsafe sex, it’s probably not because their brains’ desire systems are too active, but because their self-control systems are not active enough.
This might have implications for how health experts treat mental illness and addiction or how the legal system assesses a criminal’s likelihood of committing another crime.
Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, UCLA and elsewhere analyzed data from 108 subjects who sat in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner — a machine that allows researchers to pinpoint brain activity in vivid, three-dimensional images — while playing a video game that simulates risk-taking.
The researchers used specialized software to look for patterns of activity across the whole brain that preceded a person’s making a risky choice or a safe choice in one set of subjects. Then they asked the software to predict what other subjects would choose during the game based solely on their brain activity. The software accurately predicted people’s choices 71 percent of the time.
“These patterns are reliable enough that not only can we predict what will happen in an additional test on the same person, but on people we haven’t seen before,” said Russell Poldrack, director of UT Austin’s Imaging Research Center and professor of psychology and neuroscience.
When the researchers trained their software on much smaller regions of the brain, they found that just analyzing the regions typically involved in executive functions such as control, working memory and attention was enough to predict a person’s future choices. Therefore, the researchers concluded, when we make risky choices, it is primarily because of the failure of our control systems to stop us.
“We all have these desires, but whether we act on them is a function of control,” said Sarah Helfinstein, a postdoctoral researcher at UT Austin and lead author of the study that appears online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Helfinstein said that additional research could focus on how external factors, such as peer pressure, lack of sleep or hunger, weaken the activity of our brains’ control systems when we contemplate risky decisions.
“If we can figure out the factors in the world that influence the brain, we can draw conclusions about what actions are best at helping people resist risks,” said Helfinstein.
To simulate features of real-world risk-taking, the researchers used a video game called the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART) that past research has shown correlates well with self-reported risk-taking such as drug and alcohol use, smoking, gambling, driving without a seatbelt, stealing and engaging in unprotected sex.
While playing the BART, the subject sees a balloon on the screen and is asked to make either a risky choice (inflate the balloon a little and earn a few cents) or a safe choice (stop the round and “cash out,” keeping whatever money was earned up to that point). Sometimes inflating the balloon causes it to burst and the player loses all the cash earned from that round. After each successful balloon inflation, the game continues with the chance of earning another standard-sized reward or losing an increasingly large amount. Many health-relevant risky decisions share this same structure, such as when deciding how many alcoholic beverages to drink before driving home or how much one can experiment with drugs or cigarettes before developing an addiction.
The data for this study came from the Consortium for Neuropsychiatric Phenomics at UCLA, which recruited adults from the Los Angeles area for researchers to examine differences in response inhibition and working memory between healthy adults and patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Only data collected from healthy participants were included in the present analyses.
Internal Validity - Whether the study has tested what it set out to test. If the observed effect was due to experimental manipulation rather than other factors. Controlling extraneous variables and ensuring that you are testing what you intended to.
External Validity - Research findings can be generalised by other settings, other groups of people, or over a period of time.
Mundane Realism - How the study mirrors the real world. The task environment is realistic to experiences that would occur in the real world.
Generalisability - Point of realism where psychological research can be used to understand behaviour in real life.
Extraneous Variables - If they are not controlled then results from a study are meaningless. The independent variable didn’t cause a change in the dependent variable, but changes in the dependent variable were caused by something else.
Music fulfils three psychological functions:
- Improve reports on certain tasks (also decreasing boredom and making us focus more).
- Stimulate intellectual curiosity (analysing what we are hearing).
- Having the power to manipulate our desired mood (listening to something to put you in a certain state/emotion).
We often associate our personality based on what we listen to, and seem to judge others by their taste (assuming a person is clever as they are listening to classical, or aggressive for rock music). Music is now less closely related to our personality or mood, as it is too hard to categorise genres with moods at said time. This is because:
- People listen to wider genres of music more than ever, as music has become more accessible (youtube, spotify, soundcloud).
- Our music choices are more connected to our social identities - if you think as yourself as intellectual you will like classical music.
- The main function of music is for emotional purposes, and we are yet to understand the connection within associating certain songs with certain emotions.
Another TV show, this one is very powerful, and James Rhodes is very talented. A few of the pieces are featured on his soundcloud - an insanely cool dude (he has a freakin’ Rachmaninov tattoo c’mon).
James Rhodes is passionate about taking his music out of the confines of the concert hall and into places it rarely reaches.
Convinced that music can change lives for the better, classical pianist James takes a Steinway grand piano inside one of Britain’s largest psychiatric hospitals.
In 2006, James himself was sectioned, and this film follows him as he returns to a psychiatric unit for the first time.
With exclusive and unprecedented access, James meets four patients, each with their own tale to tell, and shares his own life story.
At the heart of this inspirational, moving and sometimes funny film, James performs individual pieces specially chosen for patients Jason, Kelly, Krissy and Nicky; pieces he hopes will resonate with them.
And although this film is primarily about performing to those least likely to experience classical piano, it’s also about James making good with his own life.
Cognitive Impairment: delirium, dementia, tumours, hypotension, etc.
The 10 point Clock Test varies slightly between doctors. Usually, a patient is asked to draw in a circle divided into eight, a clock face displaying the time of 11:10.
One point is given to each of the numbers (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12) if they are in a very close area to the section of the circle they would usually be in. Another point is given for the short hand being drawn to 11 and the longer hand at 2 (the difference of the length of hands being immediately obvious).
By scoring 10 is is unlikely that the patient is suffering from cognitive impairment. In medically stable patients, the scores are likely to stay the same. Patients scoring 5 and under indicates impairment.
When tested in hospitals, the correlation shows the lower the clock score, the higher the impairment. Patients with major depression, alcohol dependence and adjustment reaction all scored higher than 5 points, while patients with dementia and delirium scored 10 points.
The McGuinness Unit in Manchester is one of the largest teenage mental health inpatient units in the country – and a place of last resort for many adolescents with eating disorders or psychosis, who self-harm or are suicidal.
This has just been aired on BBC Three, currently 2/3 episodes shown. It’s a documentary of mental illness focused on teenagers and hopefully can wake up the general public to reconsider the stigma attached to this particular topic and age group.
It is sad to watch, and a lot of trigger warnings (so do mind yourselves) but the staff there are so supportive and in a way, gives you hope for everyone.
It’s insightful and somewhat interesting, check it out. Let’s see if this brings out more awareness.
Jobs most attractive to psychopaths
- Police officer
- Clergy person
- Civil servant
"Most of the roles do offer power and many require an ability to make objective, clinical decisions divorced from feelings. Psychopaths would be drawn to these roles and thrive there.”