This week encapsulated two important mental phenomena, attention and mental disorders. The lecture focused on mental disorders. Mental disorders are product of two factors, biology (i.e. genes) and environment. There are many different classes of mental disorders, e.g. psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders and mood disorders. These main classes can be split into subtypes. For example, there are several subtypes of anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder. Each of these have their own defining and distinct symptoms, but they also share many common symptoms.
There seems to be biological factors influencing many of the mental disorders. For example, anxiety disorders have been correlated with increased activity in the amygdala and affective disorders seem to be linked to the serotonin system. Treatments have been developed to target the serotonin system with some success. These drugs can alleviate some of the symptoms but they do not “cure” the disorder. Therefore, drugs are not the only solution, and they are often used alongside with psychotherapy. Several hypotheses have been proposed that many mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety, are the result of cognitive models people use to process reality. Alongside this claim it is often stated that the purpose of psychotherapy is to shape unadaptive cognitive models and mold them into more helpful and positive.
This week’s quiz was concerned with the cognitive function of attention.Motor outputs are generated by the stimuli from the environment. Stimuli, working as a sensory input allows us to react to the changing world. Attention plays a crucial part in this process. Since the amount of sensory input is huge, attention is used as a tool to focus our mental capacity. Focusing can happen toward different sensory inputs: auditory, visual or taste, for example. In some cases something could just grab our attention by standing out from the environment. This may be caused for example by bright colors or unexpected sensory input that does not fit in the context. Attention usage is linked to the networks of the brain that design maps to prioritize the usage of the attention followed. This prioritization goes through selective enhance in the sensory cortex.