Phone Fears And Dolphin Directions: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

Our weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

In 2001, Air Transat Flight 236 lost engine power and made an emergency landing in the Azores. All passengers survived, but for 30 terrifying minutes, many thought they were going to die. Writing for Wired, Erika Hayasaki has the fascinating story of one of those passengers, Margaret McKinnon, a psychologist who then went on to study why some survivors developed PTSD and others did not — and who is now looking at the mental health of frontline workers during the pandemic.  

Although we often think of mental health disorders as falling neatly into discrete categories — “depression”, say — the reality is that they can present quite differently in different people. So could treatments like brain stimulation be personalised to individuals? Kim Tingley takes a look at The New York Times.   

Many of us experience a feeling of dread when the phone rings — or when we have to make a call. At The Conversation, Ilham Sebah explains why we experience phone anxiety, and what we can do to get over it. (And, as we reported last year, you may actually get more out of phone calls than you expect).

Undark has a nice podcast this week about the hope — and hype — surrounding the use of psychedelics as antidepressants. It’s a great place to start for a balanced overview of where the field is at.

We reported earlier this week on the similarities between dolphin and human personalities — but do dolphins also have “handedness” like humans? Past work had suggested that the aquatic mammals showed behavioural asymmetries in their movements, preferring to spin rightward. But a new study casts doubt on those findings, writes researcher Kelly Jaakkola at Scientific American.

“Mini-brains” — brain organoids grown from stem cells in the lab — are used to study the development of the human brain, though they are far more primitive than real brains. But researchers have reported a surprising finding: after around 9 months, even these basic organoids show changes in gene expression similar to that in human babies after birth. The results suggest that mini-brains may be useful for studying disorders that emerge after birth, rather than just prenatally, reports Kelly Servick at Science.

A lot of human neuroscience is about finding a signal in all of the background noise — identifying which regions are more active during a certain task, say, while ignoring the other activity that is going on in the brain. But what if there is useful information in all of that noise? At Wired, Elizabeth Landau reports on studies that have linked patterns of white noise within EEG data to aspects of behaviour and cognition.

Compiled by Matthew Warren (@MattBWarren), Editor of BPS Research Digest