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“Children aren’t coloring books.  You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.”  ―    Khaled Hosseini

O.K, so this week I was really stuck about what to blog about, I found myself thinking through all the lectures we had currently had and something that kept popping up was ethical considerations with respect to youngsters, more so, babies.  We have all heard of or researched studies such as the still face investigation.  (Rosenblum, 2002) carried out an investigation to determine whether certain characteristics of mothers, during interactions with their Seven-month old child had any effect on their children with regards to still face exposure, linked to post-natal depression.  It is widely recognised that the first year of an infant’s life plays a crucial role in their emotional development widely associated with primary caregivers (Sameroff and Fiese, 2000).  However, if this is the case, something that really got me thinking was this… What about T.V youngsters, we have all seen young children in T.V programmes, popular soap operas are always casting new babies, but something that really concerned me is this, How do they make a baby cry on T.V for a certain scene?, and isn’t this unethical?, what are the long term implications for the infant?.

For this blog, I have tried researching about baby T.V stars but have not had much joy.  I personally believe that if Psychologists have been able to confirm a number of issues linked to the early development of infants with regards to relationships with adult caregivers, then there has surely got to be some ethical issues with regards to babies on T.V who appear to cry on cue for a scene.  Furthermore, what about older children and the effects this may have on them, what about when a child is required to show extreme fear or be situated in the middle of an argument between other cast members,  this is something that has really intrigued me, so what do you think, is there ethical issues here, and does more research need to be done.

Miller, A. L., McDonough, S. C., Rosenblum, K. L. and Sameroff, A. J. (2002), Emotion Regulation in Context: Situational Effects on Infant and Caregiver Behavior. Infancy, 3: 403–433. doi: 10.1207/S15327078IN0304_01


“A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”  Alexander Pope 1688-1744

Medical Student Syndrome or (MSS) is the term to describe a condition in which medical students and students of other disciplines, such as psychology are known to incorrectly diagnose themselves as having an illness, based on symptoms presented in what it is they are studying, leading to health complaints which are a product of knowledge rather than the actual illness. Ferguson (1996) indicates that MSS is a result of medical knowledge, furthermore is due to the interpretation of physiological signs and symptoms. Moreover as medical knowledge grows in students it is indicated that so will the tendency to interpret vague bodily symptoms as something more serious (Ferguson 1996).

There has been little research carried out into MSS, however, a study carried out by Woods, et al. (1966) examined the various manifestations of the disorder and found that 79% of the 33 medical students they sampled had at some point experienced MSS complaints.  In recent studies, such as (Woods et al 1966) the MSS condition has been classified as a form of hypochondria’s. However hypochondria is thought to be a form of Anxiety disorder (Howes and Salkovskis, 2005).  So does studying medicine or other such disciplines make you more prone to Anxiety?

This is something that interests me as a psychology student, and I feel it would be worth investigating whether this condition can in fact be generalised to medical students, by this I mean is it not a little presumptuous to just carry out research on medical students with regards to MSS, and if students from other disciplines such as Law and Business were to be investigated would they also present increased symptoms of Anxiety or MSS despite not studying medicine themselves?.

With the internet so readily available, and such a wide source of knowledge at our fingertips, can MSS still be generalised to just affecting Medical students?

I would hypothesise that as information has become more readily available with the use of the internet, the amount of people looking up symptoms from inaccurate sources has risen, leading to a rise in such disorders such as Hypochondria, MSS and Anxiety, which would indicate that MSS although may be thought to affect medical students, is now affecting many more people as well.

Ferguson, E. (1996) Hypochondriacal concerns: the role of raw and calibrated medical knowledge. Psychology, Health and medicine, 1,315-318

Howes and Salkovskis, 2005http://0-www.sciencedirect.com.unicat.bangor.ac.uk/science/article/pii/S0140673605790590

Woods, S.M., Natterson, J., &Silverman,J.(1966). Medical students’ disease: Hypochondriasis in medical education.  Journal of Medical Education, 41, 785-790.

“Animals are such agreeable friends-they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms”

 (George Elliot, 1890-1880)

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) has attracted a lot of interest over the past 20 years and is becoming increasingly popular in the field of psychology.  Animal Assisted Therapy takes place in many forms and has been researched in many settings.  AAT is a therapeutic intervention used for aiding persons with both physical and emotional problems.  So how successful is this form of treatment? And what are the benefits of such an alternative form of therapy?

                Klontz et al (2007) carried out research to investigate the effect of equine therapy (Horse related animal therapy) on participants experiencing psychological difficulties.  The investigation was concerned with influencing participant’s behaviour enabling them to change destructive patterns of behaviour and live more fully.  The investigation found that participants demonstrated significant reductions in psychological distress from pre-test to post test and more impressively during follow up.

                Further interesting research into the effect of animal therapy and medical conditions is highlighted in Bass, M.M. et al (2009) who investigated the effects of therapeutic horseback riding on social functioning in children with Autism.  The investigation used 34 participants all of who had received a diagnoses of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  The 34 participants all engaged in 12 weeks of therapeutic horseback riding.  The Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) was used pre-test and post-test to assess social functioning and the results from this investigation suggested that AAT may be an effective form of treatment for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and showed increasingly favourable results for directed attention as well as increased social motivation and sensory sensitivity, as well as decreases in distractibility.

                However not only is AAT proving successful for Psychological difficulties and Mental Health Disorders, Sobo, J.E. et al (2006) has highlighted the positive influence AAT can have in decreasing pain perception.  This investigation looked at Canine Visitation Therapy (CVT) and used 25 children all aged between 5-18 years who had all undergone surgery and were suffering acute post-operative pain, the study was a onetime intervention and measured the perceived pain of the individuals using pre-post surveys and post intervention interviews.  The results indicated that AAT may be a helpful alternative for alleviating the symptoms of pain in youngsters.

Although the above studies definitely support the use of AAT, it is not entirely known what it is about animals that help people both physically and mentally deal with the situations they are in.  Whether it is the feeling of security an individual may get from the presence of an animal or the distraction to the pain the individual is in.  Either way it is worth noticing that AAT may be able to offer an alternative form of therapy for a number of disorders. This in turn may reduce the need for medication for certain ailments as well as helping individuals overcome certain psychological issues they may otherwise not be able to deal with.







 “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.
I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,
And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,
By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.
What then am I? Am I more senseless grown
Than Trees, or Flint? O force of constant Woe!
‘Tis not in Harmony to calm my Griefs.
Anselmo sleeps, and is at Peace; last Night
The silent Tomb receiv’d the good Old King;
He and his Sorrows now are safely lodg’d
Within its cold, but hospitable Bosom.
Why am not I at Peace?”

 William Congreve Them Mourning Bride, 1967

During recent years music and the effects it has on the brain has been an interest of many health care professionals.  My last blog looked at the effects of music on the brain moreover the effect music can have on intelligence.  This week’s blog will look at music and pain treatments, and highlight the benefits music can have on our responses to pain.

Music therapy is becoming a subject of increased interest within the health care profession and as a result is increasingly being offered in hospitals as an extra way of reducing pain for a number of different ailments, from childbirth to post-operative pain.  Good et al (2001) investigated the effects of music on post-operative pain using a repeated measures design on abdominal surgery patients.  Results from this study indicated that music had a significant impact on post-operative pain.  Good (2001) concluded that nurses could safely recommend the use of music for pain for a period of days following surgery.

Further research supporting the use of pain relief with music therapy is highlighted in Oelkers-Ax R (2008) study.  This study highlighted a possibility for the effect of music providing relief from childhood migraine.  Oelkers-Ax R (2008) carried out an investigation which offered either music therapy, Butterbur root extract (which is used in the prevention and treatment of migraine) or a placebo treatment to school children who suffered from migraine.  Results from the study indicated that music therapy offered a significant relief compared to the placebo and may offer promising future approaches towards the treatment of migraine.

It is not completely understood how music can positively affect a person’s feelings of pain; however there are several theories, such as the patient feeling more in control, or the patient being distracted.  Further theories suggest that listening to music releases endorphins which counteract the feelings of pain or that music in fact slows a person’s heart rate and breathing causing them to relax.

Good, M. Stanton-Hicks, M. Grass, J. A., Anderson, G. C., Lai, H.-L. , Roykulcharoen, V. and Adler, P. A. (2001), Relaxation and music to reduce postsurgical pain. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 33: 208–215. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2001.01655.x

Oelkers-Ax R, Leins A, Parzer P, Hillecke T, Bolay HV, Fischer J, Bender S, Hermanns U, Resch F. Butterbur root extract and music therapy in the prevention of childhood migraine: an explorative study. Eur J Pain. 2008 Apr;12(3):301-13. PubMed


Ah, music.  A magic beyond all we do here! “ J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1997


Music is a fundamental asset of every culture.  Music can affect a person’s mood and emotions, but how much of an effect does music have on the brain?.

A study carried out by Rauscher, Shaw and Ky (1993) demonstrated how listening to the music of Mozart for a ten minute period demonstrated a significant improvement on the IQ scores of 36 college undergraduate students,  highlighting specific improvements in their spatial-temporal intelligence.  Referred to as the Mozart effect, these claims have attracted both a wide range of support and criticism against the theory that music can have a significant impact on intelligence.

However, despite criticisms further research into the effects of music on intelligence have produces extremely interesting findings which support the claims that music can increase intellectual ability.  Hotz (2002) stated that the influence music has on the individual brain is measurable. Research carried out demonstrated how brains of skilled and trained musicians display measurable differences in both size and structure, moreover in trained musicians who adapted their skill at an early stage of childhood it was evident that corpus callosum (the neural bridge, that links the brains hemispheres) is up to 15% larger, in addition to these measurable findings, the auditory cortex has also been found to contain 130 per cent more grey matter than in the brains of non-musicians.

The Corpus Callosum is the part of the brain that divides the cerebrum into left and right hemispheres, therefore connecting the left and right side of your brain and allowing both of these hemispheres to communicate with each other, the Corpus Callosum transfers sensory, cognitive and motor information between the hemispheres.  The findings from Hotz (2002) could imply that musical training from an early age could possibly lead to greater motor, cognitive and sensory information transfer.

Further evidence to support these findings can be observed when examining music therapy for children with Autism.  Children with autistic spectrum disorders are known to demonstrate impairments in communication and social relationships also demonstrating difficulties in understanding both body language and spoken language.  Edgerton (1994) demonstrated the effectiveness of music therapy on autism; the investigation demonstrated an increase in the communicative behaviours of children with autism.

It is still a very controversial matter as to whether a playing an instrument or listening to Mozart makes you smarter, however, with so much evidence supporting brain growth, music therapy and improved spatial awareness, is there more to music than meets the ears?.


The effect of improvisational music therapy on the communicative behaviours of autistic children.

Edgerton, Cindy Lu.  Journal of Music Therapy, Vol 31(1), 1994, 31-62.

MUSIC CHANGES LINKS IN BRAIN Exposure to melody is found to have effect on neural structure. Hotz (2002).http://www.eupsychia.com/perspectives/articles/musicbrain.html

Listening to music enhances spatial-temporal reasoning: towards a neurophysiological basis, Rauscher, Shaw and Ky (1993).http://www.uwosh.edu/psychology/rauscher/NeuroLet95.pdf)

Anxiety is a term used to describe a mixture of feelings of worry, unease, or nervousness, the disorder can present itself with extremely frightening symptoms, some mental and some physical.

Anxiety order stems from a wide scope of factors, including genetics, personality, life experiences and brain chemistry, moreover it is evident that the Amygdala (a small area in the brain) plays a major roll in acting as a control centre for Anxiety conditions.

A major implication of medicating disorders such as Anxiety is the evidence that medication does not attempt to treat the cause, instead medication works by masking the underling issues and providing temporary relief from such disorders.  The real issue with Anxiety stems from thought processes.  As Anxiety is a behavioural disorder it is worth questioning what is the best way to deal with the disorder and the terrifying symptoms it presents.

Yoga, meditation, relaxation?

Javnbakht, M, (2009) carried out an investigation to evaluate the influence of yoga with regards to relieving symptoms of both anxiety and depression in women, the results from the study indicated that the practice of yoga had a significant impact on relieving such symptoms.  Previous studies carried out by Gupta (2006) also demonstrated the effectiveness of yoga when dealing with anxiety disorders, so is yoga more effective than medication? And if so why are doctors so quick to hand out anti-depressant drugs to treat such disorders?

Are we turning into a nation of pill poppers, when there is increasingly more evidence available to suggest alternative therapies for many of our ailments? Or is medication the better option?


N. Gupta, S. Khera, R.P. Vempati, R. Sharma and R.L Bijlani, Effect of yoga based lifestyle intervention on state and trait anxiety, indian J Physiol Pharmacol, 50 1 (2006 Jan-Mar), pp.41-47.

The placebo effect refers to a marvel in which some people may experience benefits from the administration of a fake medical treatment.  The expectations of the person receiving the placebo treatment have often led to a vast effect in the outcome of the person’s medical condition highlighting miraculous placebo effects.  Although it is not evident that placebo’s can eliminate illness, research has shown that placebo treatment can certainly reduce a person’s suffering and also have a vast improvement on symptoms.

A 2002 study carried out on the effectiveness of placebo treatments for people diagnosed with depression found that 38% of the participants receiving placebo treatments responded to the treatment, with 52% receiving actual depression medication showing a response to treatment.  This research was done with the use of quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) to determine whether the treatments given had any impact on the brain functions, and although the results from the QEEG indicated no change prior to or during treatment, the QEEG did show that respondents receiving the placebo treatment showed a significant increase in prefrontal cordance which started early on in treatment, whereas the medication responders showed decreased cordance, moreover non responders for both the medication and the placebo demonstrated no significant change.


Given this evidence and evidence presented in other similar studies, it is worth questioning as to whether the brain has any control over bodily processes to promote healing.   Although it is not evident that that placebos can “cure” an illness it is certainly worth enquiring as to whether the power of belief has any impact on the functions of the brain, and whether this itself can aid a person’s recovery.


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