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Psychological Researchers Search Methods

Updated on December 22, 2020
Shoaib Rahaman profile image

Shoaib Rahman is a specialist in social science and humanity.

Image By Shoaib Rahaman
Image By Shoaib Rahaman | Source

There are a lot of mystery novels where someone gets lost in the beginning. Then, in the middle of the story, his body was found. As can be seen, the murder case. The police’s tone shifted. Our detectives, however, predicted this from the beginning. What his sixth sense was saying, that the body was found, was proved by a handful of ways.

Evidence in such a handful of mystery novels in psychiatric research is very rare. On the contrary, it seems that you have to shoot an arrow blindfolded where the target is fleeing. You don’t know what I’m looking for, You don’t even know if there are any problems at all.

Actually, there are a lot of puzzles in psychiatry. First, we understand almost nothing about how the brain works. Here are some suggestions on how to look or get an appointment for antique items. For example, what happens in the head when an object falls into insight, how to remember, how to find the way, some such process. The second problem that arises from this is: defining mental illness. When you don’t understand what normal brain activity is, it’s not at all easy to tell who’s abnormal. And the last problem is measurement. We do not have any instruments to measure the difference between mental health or brain activity.

This last problem, the problem of measuring brain activity, is why all research has come to a halt. It is essential to be able to measure if you want to deal with a question.

Description of the disease to patients:

When there are so many obstacles, how do researchers proceed? There are some ways to overcome this difficulty. The most common method is to ask questions directly. Either in a face-to-face interview or with a list of questions — a person’s answer determines what he is thinking or feeling. Opinions are often sought from his relatives, teachers, colleagues, or friends. Based on these answers, a rating of the person’s mental state is given, hence it is also called a rating scale.

Here is a list of such questions. The questions are usually created based on previous experience and then examined. Although this method is not objective, on the whole, a picture of the psychological state of the person is found and if any psychiatric symptoms appear later, the disease can be identified quickly.

Researchers determined the pattern of thinking from her answers in face-to-face interviews or with a list of questions.

In a different way, study participants do some tests on paper or on a computer. Tests try to measure certain mental abilities in numbers. For example, memory, reaction time, ability to move from one task to another (cognitive flexibility), some of these abilities. Many people get a bunch of scores by giving such computerized tests. The lowest and highest scores are said to be the normal power limits. When a patient comes to the hospital, the patient’s abilities to diagnose the disease are compared to this line. Only then can it be understood how much has gone wrong in any power.

Pictures of the inside of the brain:

Brain scanning technology has come out recently. It provides three-dimensional images of the brain, including its various connections. Researchers have some options. The most popular scanning method is magnetic resonance imaging or MRI. It does not have to cut the brain and there are no side effects. With the help of magnetic fields and radio waves, the nuts inside the brain are photographed. With age comes from brain development or changes in the brain after disease or treatment, all captured in pre- and post-MRI images.

Blood circulation can be used to determine how active a place in the brain is.

MRI has one cousin: Functional magnetic resonance imaging, abbreviated fMRI. Here blood circulation is used to determine how active a part of the brain is (See Image[1]). For example, some studies have shown in fMRI that there is a special pattern of blood circulation at rest, i.e. when not shaking the head. Moving away from that pattern can be thought of as a sign of mental illness. Not only this, with the help of fMRI it is possible to know what the disease is. Combined with the above-computerized tests and this fMRI, it is also possible to understand where certain parts of the brain are moving. This is called task-based fMRI. Through this, we have been able to identify some circuits in the brain. For example, I have come to understand that the brain is alert when it comes to concentration.

There are more scanning methods but they are not as familiar as MRI. E.g., diffusion tensor imaging or DTI. In this method, a picture of the brain is obtained from the diffusion of water in the nerve cells. Water goes much faster along the length of the nerve cells, compared to along the width. The difference in the rate of this diffusion gives a rough idea of ​​how long the neuron is, where it ends, and so on. Then there is positron emission tomography or PET. Radioactive molecules are injected into the part of the body that is being studied for control. Once they reach the brain, their radioactive scanner can detect where the molecules have reached the brain. In a sense, these molecules provide a map of the path of blood flow or energy absorption.

The tendency to fall ill:

There is no question about the tendency of a person to suffer from mental illness. Some people stay healthy and some people’s mental health deteriorates, why is this? And how do a group of those who suffer from mental illness cope with the illness and recover? There is a section in psychiatric research to think about these questions: Psychiatric Genetics. It looks at the combination of DNA with Rokmoff and mental problems. For example, hereditary DNA plays a role in autism or schizophrenia. On the other hand, genetic variation does not seem to play a role in diseases like depression.

Psychiatric genetics researchers are trying to understand why some people are prone to mental illness.

But it is possible to get the disease even if the DNA does not show the tendency of the disease. A closer look reveals that the unfavorable environment in childhood is probably responsible for this. Adversity comes in many forms, the most familiar of which is stress. Suffering from stress increases the chances of later developing depression or anxiety. But the question remains. Growing up in a hostile environment is not necessarily a mental disorder. That is the case with some people. What is the reason for this?

To answer, you have to go back to genetics. Having certain genetic patterns increases the likelihood of psychological problems in a hostile environment. These are different from the above pattern because they do not give birth to abnormalities, they are found only in adverse environments like stress or poverty. Genetic patterns can also be identified that do not increase the risk of mental illness in hostile environments and often even protect against it. Those who do the research rely on questioning and genetic psychiatry.

Having certain genetic patterns increases the likelihood of psychological problems in a hostile environment.

Another emerging research topic is epigenetics. All humans have the same DNA, but their expression is different. Some chemical processes affect the expression of DNA, which can turn on or off the information contained in DNA (genes do not change the genetic sequence). Changing which genes are on and which are off can change our behavior or mental health and cause mental problems. Epigenetics is the study of this. See Image[2]

It is now fairly proven that the surrounding environment can influence these chemical processes. So the two main tasks of epigenetics researchers are: how the environment affects these chemical processes and what kind of changes in those processes cause mental illness.


I have talked about so many methods, but none of them is infallible. They can all give a rough picture of brain activity. Understanding what is really happening requires access to brain tissue, which is difficult to collect in order to survive. There are alternatives, such as post-mortem dissection or research on animal brains. The alternatives again have their own problems. Post-mortem tissues are difficult to obtain, they may not be suitable for research, and the changes in the brain associated with the disease are not understood. Although the animal brain focuses on neural processes, it is not very effective in psychiatry. The complexity of the human mind cannot be captured in animal-brain-based models, so human disease does not come from simulations of those models. Nevertheless, what we learn from these methods can be useful in the end. Hopefully, the picture of the whole brain will be clear only if all the methods are combined.

For decades, both physicians and researchers have been plagued by mental illness. But by combining the above methods we have been able to speed up some of the problems. This is not the end of the list. There have been many more ways to peek into brain activity. Not only this, with the help of fire you can do welding. So looking to the future of psychiatry is not without optimism.

References and other notes:

1. You can see this research paper on how the normal brain is at sleep in American Science Journal.

2. Image [1]: In fMRI, the activity of the brain is understood through the circulation of blood.

3. Image [2]: The addition of the methyl group is a chemical process that changes the function of DNA. This is how chemical processes are studied in epigenetics.

© 2020 Shoaib Rahman


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