Thursday, December 24, 2015

And so this is 2015, and what have you thought? My psychological year in review 2015

2015: I embark on a project on family dementia caregiving and its impact on the mind (and body). An interesting paper came from Brazil early this year looking at caregiver stress and cognitive performance. Family caregivers performed worse at tasks assessing episodic memory, executive function and working memory-the latter effect even persisted after controlling for age, anxiety, depression and medication use. The authors also observed reduced brain derived neurotrophic factor in caregivers, and this correlated with working memory performance, suggesting an underlying neural mechanism. 

As part of my current research we are looking at the impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction in carers. It was therefore interesting to see a Nature Reviews Neuroscience paper on mindfulness with Posner, a major name in the cognitive psychology of attention, give his two cents in this area. There seems to be a sharp methodological distinction between cross-sectional research in this area, which often compares expert meditators to non-meditators, with intervention work, which (understandably) looks at more short-term periods of meditation (e.g. an 8-week course).  

An interesting paper on dual processes of reasoning caught my eye. It was interesting to see people breaking down cognitive processes into further steps that might help to tie up some of the differing hypotheses on how Type 1 and Type 2 thinking may interact (with a very quick-and-nifty graphical abstract). I previously discussed dual process interactions somewhat generally but particularly with regard to creative thinking, and I think Pennycook et al.'s ideas are perhaps particularly relevant to a longer-term cognitive process such as creativity.   

Books-wise I didn’t get around to many psychology titles this year. The paperback of "How We Are" by Vincent Deary was out. An apparent attempt to write somewhat of a “theory of everything” for practical psychology, Deary grapples with how the small worlds we inhabit as individuals can be shaken by change. There is a touch of "the granny could have told you that" about this book, although it would have to be a highly eloquent grandmother. "Black Sheep" by Richard Stephens is a very readable and entertaining book about how things that seem bad for us can often be advantageous (tell that to your grandmother...) 

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