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Dr.Arvin Oke, Ph.D.

Dr. Arvin Oke is a Professor of Psychology at MidAmerica Nazarene University and fellow at the Morris K. Udhall Center of Excellence in Parkinson's research at the University of Kentucky.

ANTIDEPRESSANTS: EFFICACIOUS OR NOT?

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

It’s been 60 years since the original serendipity.  A drug with potential to alleviate tuberculosis was found to improve depressive moods symptoms instead.  In short time, whatever gains were seen in elevating mood was countered by a sustained hypertension that soon became life threatening.  But the race was on to find a psychotropic drug selective for depression.  Tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been and are currently used to treat a large chunk of the population in the US.  More than 1 in 10 Americans take one or more antidepressant medications.

In 2010, 3 books were written uniformly challenging the usage of this #1 medication.  Clinical psychologists Irving Kirsch’s book:  The Emperor’s New DrugsExploding the Antidepressant Myth; journalist Robert Whitaker’s book: Anatomy of an Epidemic—Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness; and psychiatrist Daniel Carlat’s book:  Unhinged: The Trouble With Psychiatry—A Doctor’s Revelations About a Profession in Crisis, all from different perspectives seriously challenging the efficaciousness of these drugs.  A major premise in these books recognizes it is time to lay to rest the old and now discredited theory of chemical imbalances that began this pursuit in the first place.  Kirsch argues that at least 100 studies have over the last few years have failed to support the idea that when the critical neurotransmitters ( norepinephrine and serotonin) have been artificially depleted in normal people, depression becomes the expected consequence.  Furthermore, when the expected imbalance is corrected with medication, advantageous therapeutic effects are not seen for at least 3 to 4 weeks following if seen at all.

Is the advent of antidepressant medications over or should a more incipient variable be considered? A treatise written by Anita Slomski and covered by Brain in the News, May 2012 (www. dana.org) suggests the latter.  She points out that a large per-cent of studies on this issue are sponsored by pharmaceuticals and contain scientific methodological errors.  1.  Subject pools are generally small and consequently a few positive or negative results skew the conclusions.  2.  Subjects selected for trial participation generally have mild to moderate depressive ratings and are rarely the garden variety patients who often have accompanying symptoms of drug or alcohol abuse, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders.  3.  Patients in these trials often show the methodological confound called the “Hawthorn Effect”.  That is, those on a placebo also want to “please” the investigators and report they are getting better.

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Oh, My Fateful Brain

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

Our brain is wired to find meaning in stimuli even when the stimulus lacks clarity of form.  Most notably, we find ourselves constructing images or meaningful features out of clouds and rock formations.  This tendency is called "pareidolia".  Defined; it acknowledges a misperception of a vague stimulus as having distinctiveness.  Such is the case of the well recognized man-in-the-moon image.

Not surprisingly, individuals suffering from hallucinatory tendencies in the schizophrenic syndrome often aggravate pareidolia.  In so doing, they believe the images to be personal revelations just for them.  Unfortunately, many of these images are recognized as threatening or evil, which seems to be true even for the normal brain.

The fusiform cortex sitting underneath the brain in the posterior region is responsible for facial recognition.  Researchers from Dartmouth College have found the brain to be lateralized with respect to objects resembling faces vs. actual faces themselves.  That is, the left fusiform gyrus was more active during fMRI imaging of look-alikes than was the right.

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Social Exclusion

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

blog -social_exclusion_pic

You've experienced it! We all have to one degree or another; social exclusion. It might be casual. You are with friends or acquaintances. A conversation is ongoing while you all sit around a large table in a restaurant. You have been quiet, but decide now to contribute your point of view to the conversation. When you have finished, there is quiet. Some heads have turned your direction, others are looking down at their plate of food. The conversation has come to a halt. Have you said something stupid, or what? You don't know. For whatever reasons, your words are now being totally ignored and the others re-engage conversation to where it was before you entered.

This might be a simple: "just get over it" situation. But it's not! You are feeling the pain of social exclusion. And it's real. The brain will confirm it. Multiple studies have utilized brain imaging to assess its activity while in a similar, yet seemingly less intense situation. While you lay prone and motionless in an MRI machine, you watch as 3 animated characters play catch with a ball. One of them is identified as you. The other 2 have been identified to you as persons at other computer sites. They, like you, have buttons to push which will determine exactly who your little animated character will throw the ball to when you have it in your possession. Everything is going very smoothly. The ball is being passed around. Then, quite unexpectedly, you notice neither one of them is throwing the ball to you—20, 30, 40 throws and none of them are coming to you. Do you feel it? You bet you do.

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Erase Those Fears

Posted by on in Behavioral Sciences

erase those_fears_smallFor decades, neuroscience has been in full agreement on this issue.  Once a memory has weathered the vulnerable early stage of neural processing, it becomes almost immutable.  With ease of effort, we can now filter through a massive collection of personalized memories along with the necessary facts for our life's maintenance; social security numbers, passwords, addresses, and the car we drive.  We delight in the brains capacity for retaining and retrieving this precious commodity we call memory.

But, it can also be a curse.  Consider the bank cashier.  Quietly, two disguised men walk into your bank brandishing guns.  They order everyone to the floor, bind your hands behind your back and demand you give them the combination to the safe.  Not knowing it, you try in vain to convince them of the fact.  A crack to the back of your head with the butt of a gun tells you they are not convinced.  You feel the warmth of your life's body fluid flowing down past your ear and pooling onto the floor.  You hear another attacker say: "Go ahead and blow his head off if he doesn't tell you".  You're convinced they will do just that, right there as you lay on the cold marble floor of the bank.  But they don't.  For some reason they run out empty-handed.  You are safe.  But your ordeal has just begun: violent nightmares, terrors at the mere hint of another persons aggressive behavior.  You are no longer at east when behind the tellers window.  You know you will soon have to quit your job.  If only you could just forget this single frightful day.

Amazingly, brain researchers now believe this is possible.  Each old memory, they are now finding out, when retrieved goes through the same vulnerable stage as it did originally.  This is a re-consolidation phase of the memory retrieval.  Some drugs, such as propranolol, when given following a memory retrieval seem to interfere with the re-consolidation processing and blunt the remembering.  Some forms of behavioral therapy seem to be effective also in memory erasing.

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About This Blog

OhBehave is the outreach blog of the MNU Behavioral Sciences Department. In matters related to Psychology, Sociology, and Criminal Justice you will find information and updates geared to keep students and professionals abreast of the latest research, professional developments, and important trends in each field. As we seek a life of purpose, the material presented in this blog is meant to enhance and deepen our understanding of people and our world so that we may intentionally reflect the grace and peace of our creator.