Kaleidoscope April 2017
Read the Kaleidoscope Column in the BJPsych
April’s Kaleidoscope column in the
British Journal of Psychiatry explores all the vices. Can
you think of a physical sensation that might be either painful or
pleasurable depending on your state of mind or body? My example,
which I suspect is more innocent than yours, is the difference
between holding a very cold drink in your hand on a hot summer’s
day, and holding that same drink on an icy winter morning.
Alliesthesia is the name for such a phenomenon – the same
stimulus producing different responses - and Kaleidoscope
investigates a paper on the topic with the provocative title that
“the brain wants what the body needs”.
Moving swiftly on to cigarettes and coffee; both are
‘nootropics’ – that is they enhance cognitive functioning.
Alfréd Rényi said that ‘a mathematician is a device for turning
coffee into theorems’, and a new paper explores just how much
coffee can perk up your cognition, but perhaps even more
interesting is another reported study looking at the energy drink
Red Bull. The authors did a clever experiment evaluating this,
including diet Red Bull. The outcome was the diet version
did very little: it’s sugar that gives you wings…
Finally, our eyes were drawn to a research paper from
China entitled “sexy women can tempt men down the road of
immorality”. I will let you make up your own mind if you
concur with the inference of who is to blame for any bad boy
behaviour. More importantly, perhaps, was another study looking at
gender stereotypes held by children. At the age of 5, there was no
difference between children in how they viewed other boys and
girls, but by age 6 both boys and girls were more likely to ascribe
the characteristic of ‘nice’ to pictures of other girls, and
‘brilliant’ (but less nice) to pictures of boys. By age 7, both
genders (correctly) identified that girls tended to get the higher
average grades in school, but when given the choice girls
predominantly chose to play a game described as being for children
who “try really, really hard”, whilst boys went for the one “for
brilliant children”. The authors finish with “a sobering
conclusion: many children assimilate the idea that brilliance is a
male quality at a young age”. There is much work for us all to do;
perhaps we can start at home.
Kaleidoscope Column in the BJPsych and follow @TheBJPsych
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April's Kaleidoscope Monthly Quiz (True/False)
Q1: A trial of personalised risk letters to
smokers increased attendance at smoking cessation clinics, but only
appears to work for women.
A1: False. Against typical findings with such
work, it was more effective with men.
Q2: “60-80% receptor occupancy” is the mantra
for antipsychotics in schizophrenia; however neuroimaging data in
older adults suggests they only need about 25-40% post-synaptic
mesolimbic dopaminergic antagonism to be effective.
A2: True, and side effects occurred between
50-60%. Increased blood-brain-barrier permeability appears a
Q3: A neuroimaging/neuromodulation trial has
shown that the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, a key region for
social cognition, is responsible for humans linking beautiful
objects or people with the property of being ‘good’.