Psychology of Parenting: Basic Framework

psychpost | 10/05/2012 05:00:00 AM | 2 Comments
I am currently taking a course of The Psychology of Parenting and I will be writing several posts about some of the key topics. This field of psychology aims to understand the process of parenting by utilizing the many different aspects of psychology.

What exactly is parenting? Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood (Davies).

Can I has parents? Source

Since parenting is such a broad process which encompasses all aspects of development a framework of parenting is useful. The process of parenting can be divided into three basic categories which are further divided into multiple subcategories.

Parenting Activities: The core elements of parenting which include: survival needs of the child, setting boundaries, monitoring behavior, and fulfilling the child's potential. Taking care of the child's social and emotional needs also fall under this category.

Functional Areas: This refers to the aspects of the child's functioning which to focus on and include: physical functioning, intellectual functioning, social functioning, and maintaining mental health.

Prerequisites: What parents need in order to do their job. In order for parenting to be effective it is helpful if they have: some knowledge and understanding of the parenting process, ability to assess risk factors, motivation for parenting, resources (financial, social) opportunity and time for parenting.

In my next post on parenting I will be writing about risk factors and resilience factors, which are general aspects in the life of a child which affect the possible outcome for the child.  

What Is Neuropsychology?

psychpost | 9/05/2012 05:00:00 AM | 3 Comments

MRI Scanner, Widely used in Neuroscience research. source
Neuropsychology is a field of research which investigates how the structure and functions of the brain relate to psychological processes and behaviors. Neuropsychology is built upon the biological knowledge of the nervous system and uses this knowledge to better understand psychological processes.

Neuropsychology has many methods for investigating the importance of different brain regions in relation to specific psychological functions. These methods include:

·Standardized Neuropsychological Tests
·Brain Scans (Imaging): fMRI, MRI, PET, CAT
·Electrophysiological Measurements: EEG, ERP, MEG
·Lesion Studies: Actual Brain Lesions, TMS (Virtual Lesions)

Notable ground-breaking examples relating brain structures to psychological functions come from lesion studies. The most well known examples come from Broca and Wernicke's research which led to indentifying brain regions necessary for producing and understanding speech. The best known example is a patient known as H.M, a part of his brain known as the Hippocampus was removed and was later indentified to be an area required for forming new explicit memories.

The term Neuropsychology is an umbrella term which refers to many different branches of specific research. The branches include (but are not limited to) :

·Behavioral Neuroscience, which focuses on how biological processes underlie behavior.
·Cognitive Neuroscience, which focuses on how the brain controls and modulates cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and learning. 
·Social Neuroscience, which focuses on the role the brain plays in social processes and social behaviors.
In this post I will be outlining two different theories on how drug addiction develops. Before we begin I first need to define positive and negative reinforcement.

Positive Reinforcement: The addition of a stimulus or event that will increase the frequency of a certain behavior or response.
Negative Reinforcement: The removal of a stimulus or event that will increase the frequency of a certain behavior or response.

Why does drug use continue even after these results? source
In these following theories of drug addiction, the behavior that is increased will be the frequency of drug use.

The Paradox of Drug Addiction

psychpost | 8/06/2012 02:00:00 PM | 6 Comments
We know the risks associated with drug use, but why do we continue to take them? Source

There are many drugs which are capable of damaging our bodies, our relationships with others, and can cause legal and financial issues.We are aware of the possible consequences, yet we have a large number of people who are addicted to drugs.

This raises the question: How can a person develop and maintain a pattern of drug use that is clearly destructive to the individual's life?

This paradox is seen with many different behaviors other than drug use (ie. overeating). In my next post I will be presenting two theories on how we believe drug addiction develops. One theory will focus on alleviating withdrawal symptoms and the other will focus on the rewarding effects of dopamine in the mesolimbic pathway (nucleus accumbens).
We often hear about withdrawal symptoms in regards to various drugs but we may not understand how these develop. Normally our body and brain are able to regulate all conditions within our body (ie temperature, excitability, energy, movement, mood, pain, etc) and keep them in a normal set point, which I will refer to as the baseline. 
Some common withdrawal symptoms of sedatives, stimulants, and opiates. Open for full size.
Drugs are able to alter these conditions in our body by altering the activity of the cells that control  these conditions. For example, one way Opiates relieve pain is by reducing the firing rate of neurons in the spinal column that are responsible for sending pain signals into the brain.

When one of these conditions are altered by a drug, the neurons must compensate and will make attempt to reverse the change. These changes in the neurons persist even after the drug is no longer in the body and no longer producing effects. These changes result in an effect opposite to the altered condition.

Visual representation of the compensatory change in baseline activity with drug use. Open for full size.
This information above may be difficult to understand so I have an example: An individual uses a psychomotor stimulant such as cocaine and experiences the effects of increased motor activity and increased alertness. There will be a change in the neurons that will function to bring these conditions back to a normal rate (decreasing them). When the drug is no longer in the body, these changes will persist and the individual may experience a high level of tiredness, which is opposite to the effects of the drug. 

Bath Salts (Designer Drug) and Zombies?

psychpost | 7/28/2012 12:37:00 PM | 13 Comments
"Bath Salts" Packaged to look like healthcare products.
Bath Salts are the name of a family of designer drugs containing amphetamine-like compounds. They are packaged to resemble bath and healthcare products. Bath Salts are often sold in online shops and head shops.

History: Like other designer drugs, Bath Salts are slightly modified versions (analogues) of already known drugs. Bath salts typically contain modified versions of Cathinone, which is the active ingredient found in Khat and has effects similar to cocaine and amphetamine.

Substituted Cathinone, Similar structure to Amphetamine.
Effects: The effects are similar to cocaine and amphetamines, refer to my previous post for details Cocaine and Amphetamines, Psychomotor Stimulants. The behavioral effects and physiological effects are similar. Bath Salts also have similar health risks and potential for addiction.

Zombie-ism: Recently in the news there have been several reports about Bath Salt consumption leading to fits of zombie-like behavior. Violent outbursts involving cannibal behavior (eating another's face) have been attributed to Bath Salt use.

Crack Cocaine, Smokable form of cocaine.
Origin: Cocaine is found in the plant Erythroxylon coca, native to South America. The cocaine can extracted from the coca leaves or the leaves can be chewed.

Routes of Administration:
Intravenously: An IV injection of cocaine will produce the quickest "rush" of cocaine's effects because the drug is immediately present in the blood. Not a preferred route of administration.
Freebasing (smoking): Smoking crack cocaine produces effects just a little bit slower than IV injection. A preferred route of administration.
Intranasally (snorting): The peak effects are not typically reached until 30-60mins. Effects are weaker than IV and smoking, but snorting cocaine can lead to more prolonged mild effects. Along with smoking, this is a preferred route of administration.
Orally: Powdered cocaine is water soluble and is readily dissolved into drinks. This method will produce the slowest "rush" of cocaine's effects because the drug must first travel through the stomach and liver before finally into the brain.

Mechanisms of Cocaine Action
Cocaine is able to block the reuptake (reabsorbtion) of the neurotransmitters: Dopamine, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine The reuptake is prevented by Cocaine binding to each of the neurotransmitter's transport protein and inhibiting them. This leads to an increase of the neurotransmitter concentration at these synapses.

Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction

psychpost | 7/07/2012 01:53:00 PM | 3 Comments
Are abuse and addiction the same thing?  Photo source. 

The terms Drug Abuse and Drug Addiction may seem to be two different ways to talk about the same thing but they are actually quite different.

Drug Abuse - the use of a drug "in a matter that deviates from the approved medical or social patterns in a given culture" (Jaffe).

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  (DSM-IV) Drug Abuse is defined as:
1. Recurring substance use that interferes with major role obligations.
2. Recurrent use in situations where dangerous.
3. Recurrent legal problems related to use.
4. Continued use despite social or interpersonal problems caused by use.

An important point to note with drug abuse is that the same use of drugs will be considered abuse in one situation but not another. For example: Having 3 alcoholic drinks at a part on Friday or Saturday night is generally not considered Drug Abuse, whereas having 3 alcoholic drinks right before work or class is considered to be Drug Abuse. But using heroin in any situation is typically considered to be Drug Abuse.

The term Drug Addiction is very hard to define because there are so many theories trying to explain how it happens. Presently, Drug Addiction is characterized by:
1. Compulsive use: Overwhelming involvement with use of drug.
2. Compulsive Drug Seeking: The Securing of its supply.
3. High Tendency to Relapse after Withdrawal (Jaffe).

As we see from these two different definitions, Drug Abuse is primarily characterized by the situation in which drugs are used and Drug Addiction is characterized by the frequency of occurrences.