The topic of this week was mental illnesses and we only had a lecture. The topic was very interesting because depression and anxiety disorders are very common and affect many people we all know. It is also a very important topic, because these diseases are very expensive for society because of diminished ability to work, we were surprised by the huge amount of costs these create. It was somewhat surprising to hear that depression is linked to increased stress activity. We would have thought that anxiety would be linked to increased stress and depression to be the opposite. It was also fascinating that the glucocorticoid receptors and the actual amount of receptors controls the functioning of the HPA axis and thus the stress response, and that the amount of receptors is affected by early childhood experiences (as well as genes, etc.).
While reading the book, we were surprised to learn how much schizophrenia genes affect the response and vulnerability to the environment which then can cause schizophrenia, in addition to the disease being purely genetic. We also realized how important it is to understand the normal functioning of the brain and chemicals related to that in order to understand mental illness fully as well as how to treat them properly. On the other hand, learning about mental diseases and their cause and effect in the brain helps us to understand how many things really work in a healthy brain and how changes in “small” things can have dramatic causes.
It is also interesting to think about how the affinity of drugs affects the change in behavior and there was a nice figure about this in the book. When reading about the effects of neurotransmitters and receptors in previous chapters you could easily think that the effects apply to all of those receptors, but the effect depends of course on the affinity of the drugs for example.
It would be interesting to know the reason for these diseases being much more common in women than in men. Is there a clear biological reason or are there also societal factors that affect this. The method for measuring these statistics probably also affect the results, if for example women are more likely to seek medical help for their anxiety or depression and they are only logged there. Another question we asked during the lecture was whether maternal and paternal care in early childhood differ with respect to the glucocorticoid receptor development because the lecture specified maternal care. It would make sense that in humans any physical touch from either the mother or the father would have the same effect, but is there some maternal bond or chemicals that do something special. In animals this could be different because of the nature and “roles” of the mother and father.
We also continued the exercise this week and tried the test again with the new script containing the latency calculations. The keyboard latency values were quite confusing, because they were very small or even negative, or alternatively very large so that the adjusted reaction times were only a few milliseconds. We started to think that maybe the script and the computer detects only the sound of the release of the key press and not the start, so that it would think that the key press started only after the press was detected by the computer if the latency values were negative or very small. The values were also very different between the two of us which is very strange. All in all the values were very strange and caused much confusion.