Center Assistant Professor Dr. Laura Cabrera recently traveled to Riga, Latvia to attend and present at the ERA-NET NEURON (Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research) Cofund Mid-Term Symposium. Dr. Cabrera presented the poster “Contemporary Psychiatric Neurosurgery: Updates on a Cross-National Comparison of Trends in Media Coverage and Public Attitudes.” Her co-authors are Merlin Bittlinger, Hayami Lou, Sabine Müller, and Judy Illes. Their research is part of an ongoing NEURON-funded project, “Media Coverage of Psychiatric Neurosurgery: Cross-national Investigations of Public Reactions and Attitudes.”
Poster Abstract: Understanding the exposure of patients and the public to contemporary trends in psychiatric neurosurgery is essential to understanding their views and receptivity to them. Toward this goal, we conducted an in-depth content analysis of media articles and reader comments on all types of psychiatric neurosurgery between 1960-2015. We used Factiva and media websites to compile full-length articles published in major newspapers and magazines from ERAnet consortium partners: Canada, the US, Germany, and Spain.
The final dataset comprised of 517 articles and 477 comments (Canada/USA: 201 articles, 183 comments; Germany: 156 articles, 115 comments; Spain: 160 articles, 179 comments). We coded inductively for themes and phenomena of interest. We found that coverage of psychiatric neurosurgery has increased and changed over time, although frequent references to historical milestones are retained. Deep brain stimulation and depression are the main focus. Risk is the disadvantage most commonly mentioned in articles from Canada/USA and Germany, and in reader comments across all countries. German articles almost uniquely, although still minimally, report on ethical issues such as identity and control. Over time, reporting becomes more positive. German media coverage is the most cautious, yet German reader comments are more favorable than those from Canada/USA.
While modern press reports about psychiatric neurosurgery reflect growing optimism, the public is divided. Ongoing studies will further inform the influence of media reporting trends on the values, perceptions, and hopes that people hold toward psychiatric neurosurgery, and the significant ways in which these views may shape policy-making for mental health care.