BJPsych Kaleidoscope June 2019

magazine-coverThere has been much debate (/panic) about social media, not least its benefits and harms for kids (screen-time: won’t somebody think of the children!), and its utility and risks for professionals.

July’s Kaleidoscope reviews a paper that looked at scientists and Instagram. Over 1,600 participants were asked questions about scientists in general, having either been shown a ‘scientists of Instagram’ account or a control ‘humans of Broadway’. Overall, scientists were seen as being stereotypically male, highly competent, but emotionally cold. However, scientists who ‘selfied’ were judged as significantly warmer, and no less competent than those who did not. Exposure to depictions of women scientists on Instagram created a positive shift away from the belief that STEM was a ‘male field’; crucially, although generally seen as warmer than men, women online were perceived as equally competent. So, whatever you might think on the topic, tweeting and posting pictures of you doing your thing do not appear to detract from the public’s perception of your professionalism; indeed, it looks like it will make you appear a bit more human. Hashtag strike a pose.

Kaleidoscope reviews two papers on cannabis. The first compared the cannabis researchers use – in research – with that the population (including researchers) use – in getting high.

Most provided for research comes from a single licensed provider, which for scientific consistency is always exactly the same. That’s great for removing the confounder of strain variation, but…it’s not what the public buy to smoke, and DNA analysis found those samples to be quite different. It opens up the question of how transferable findings from research varieties really are. Smoking cannabis to drug-induced-psychosis to schizophrenia: we recognise the two steps involved but are often stumped by the clinical question of how likely an individual is to progress along this chain, and which factors modify this. The second Kaleidoscope cannabis paper involved analysis of a national data-base of over 7,500 individuals with a drug induced psychosis. The cumulative risk of progressing to schizophrenia was 11%, a little lower than some other work on the topic. What was really interesting was how different family histories modified each progressive step. A family history of substance misuse meant an individual was more likely to go from drug use to drug-induced-psychosis, but had no impact on progressing to schizophrenia. However, a family history of psychosis predicted that second change, from drug-induced to schizophrenia. The authors therefore propose that we should not view this whole phenomenon as a syndrome related to drug exposure, but rather that there is a specific sub-cohort of vulnerable individuals liable to be ‘tipped over’ into schizophrenia by drug use.


(All questions true or false; full answers – and source material - will be in July’s Kaleidoscope column in the BJPsych)

  1. Use of the social media site Instagram has been shown to make scientists appear warmer and approachable, but less competent, an effect amplified in women scientists.
  2. Work from a national database has shown that a family history of substance use predicts progression from drug use to drug-induced-psychosis, but has no impact on further progression to schizophrenia.
  3. Analysis of the UK biobank has challenged that ‘atypical depression’ is not really a distinct subcategory of depression, and recommends discontinuation of the term.


  1. False, they were perceived as warmer and more approachable, but no less competent, and there were no differences in perceived competency of women scientists.
  2. True.
  3. False, it supports the concept at about 6.5% of MDD, and with important prognostic differences.
Get in contact to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry