Brain in Trouble

Name: Brain in Trouble
Studypoints: 6 ECTS


Coordinators: Dr. Hylke Vervaeke, Prof. dr. Taco de Vries

Lecturers: Prof. Taco de Vries, Dr. Hylke Vervaeke, Dr. Tommy Pattij, Dr. Martijn Figee, Dr. Susanne La Fleur, Dr. Reinoud de Jongh, Prof. Sabine Spijker

Goal: The goal of this course is to deepen understanding of the etiology, expression and treatment of (psychiatric) brain disorders, as well as models used in preclinical science. Students will be encouraged to critically analyze the impact of brain disorders on society.

Course Content: The focus of this course is on the etiology of mental disorders, such as addiction, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders and mood disorders, with special attention for the nature-nurture discussion. Various treatments options for these conditions, including the use of pharmacological agents, behavioral therapy and deep brain stimulation will be discussed. Students will be challenged to critically reflect on the boundaries between normality and abnormality and the implications for society.

Theme first week: addiction and impulsivity
What is addiction? Is addiction truly a brain disorder? Do genes play a role in addiction? How does society view illicit drug use and addiction? Are all drugs equally harmful? How to treat addiction? Is ADHD a real mental disorder, or a cultural construct used to bring deviant or socially undesirable behavior under medical surveillance and control? Is it a good idea to treat children who have been diagnosed ADHD, with psychostimulant medications? What is the role of pharmaceutical companies? Do sugar and food additives elicit hyperactive behavior? Are there any advantages in having ADHD?

Theme second week: obsessive compulsive disorders, eating disorders and cognitive enhancement
Can you treat OCD with Deep Brain Stimulation? Is our Western beauty ideal at the root of eating disorders? Is the individual to blame for being obese? Is it ethical to improve your mental performance by cognitive enhancers?

Theme third week: mood disorders
Is depression a real brain disorder or an inability of our culture to accept sadness as an integral part of life? Do genes play a role in the etiology of major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder? What is the efficacy of pharmacotherapy and behavioral therapy? What is the role of pharmaceutical companies? Is Electro Convulsive Therapy a valid treatment option?

Learning outcomes:
The student is able to explain the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to complex multifactorial diseases such as mental disorders.
The student is able to elaborate on various treatment options for psychiatric disorders.
The student is able to critically reflect on the boundaries between normal (healthy) and abnormal (ill) behavior and the implications for society.

Method: Lectures, workgroups, homework assignments, discussion panel, debates

Literature: Papers, presentations and reader.

Testing: Written exam (75%) and debate/assignments (25%), each at least grade 5.5.

Focus Group: Third year bachelor students

Participation: Two years of bachelor education (all directions)

Central Academic Skill: How to convey your message, discussions