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Circadian Rhythm Disorders

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Circadian rhythms and alternating work schedules

As discussed in chapter 5 of Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding (Lilienfeld) a circadian rhythm is a variety of human physiological processes that occur on roughly a 24-hour cycle. Also known as our "biological clock," this phenomenon includes regulation of sleep, hormones, body temperature, etc. Individuals who work alternating work schedules or predominately night shifts are known to have health issues because of the interference of circadian rhythms.

One factor in particular are light/dark cues that tell our subconscious when it is "bedtime" or "time to wake up." This process is partly regulated by the hormone melatonin; levels of melatonin are greater after dark and bring about a sense of sleepiness. This regulatory process is altered for people who work night shifts and therefore need to sleep during the daytime. This article discusses sleep disorders associated with circadian rhythms and shift work.

As I am sure many people have experienced, jet lag is a real issue, not just a myth to explain tiredness after a vacation. Individuals who travel a lot for work need to re-train their bodies to ignore certain bodily cues that tell them when to sleep, etc. As discussed in the article, there are various therapies used to treat these types of disorders. Most are based on training the body to get tired at a particular point by using bright lights during the work shift and pitch black environments during times of sleep.

I have concluded that there must also be a circadian rhythm associated Friday and Saturday nights that cues college students to not get sleepy and instead have the desire to party...

Sleep: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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When we took the Sleep Survey in class, I found that many of my answers to the questions were "true". I had 8 total trues, while only 3 meant that you were sleep deprived. This confused me because I felt like I got a lot of sleep at night. I would stay up late, until about one or two in the morning, but I could sleep until two in the afternoon if I wanted to. I would also take hour long naps throughout the day. How could I be sleep deprived if I was sleeping so much?
After doing some research, I found that oversleeping is actually a health disorder called hypersomnia. Hypersomnia causes people to suffer from extreme sleepiness throughout the day, which is not usually relieved by napping. It also causes them to sleep for unusually long periods of time at night. Many people with hypersomnia experience symptoms of anxiety, low energy, and memory problems as a result of their almost constant need for sleep. It can also lead to more serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity, headaches, back pain, depression, heart disease, and even death.
However, not everyone that oversleeps has these problems. The recommended amount of sleep for the average person is 7-8 hours a night. Experts recommend keeping the same bedtimes and wake times every day. They also recommend avoiding caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Exercising regularly and making your bedroom a comfortable environment that's conducive to sleep will help you get the amount of sleep you need.

Why We Dream?

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I think that the section about dreaming was very interesting and wanted to know more about why we dream. I found an article titled In the Literary Mind, in the Psychology Today, about dreams, why we dream, and theories of dreaming.

Dreaming is defined as a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind. But why do we have these different thoughts rolling around in our mind as we sleep. From the article there were 5 different theories of why we dream. (I renamed and used my wording of the theories to save space)

Theory 1: Fight or flight
During our dreams we are actually "rehearing" fight and flight situations, without moving of course. We dream to practice self defense behaviors.
Theory 2: Memory
This theory is about dreaming about the important things that happen in our awake lives. Matt Wilson, a man that studied this theory says "sleep is the process through which we separate the memories worth encoding in long term memory from those worth losing."
Theory 3: Hard Drive
As we dream it allows us to loosen or make new pathways so we can keep important connections, create new connections, or get rid of old connections in the brain.
Theory 4: Psychotherapy
Dreams are a way to think about emotional stuff, without double guessing ourselves or being defensive about it. It's a safe place to deal with emotions.
Theory 5: Nothing To It
Dreams are simply nothing. It is just our conscious that wants to think that there is certain meaning behind what we dream about.

Reading and analyzing these different theories, there was not really one theory that stood out to me and answered the question of why we dream. I think depending on the situation and what the dream was about, a different theory could be used. I am usually am never the one to be "in the middle" of a decision or unable to pick sides, but dealing with why we dream, I have to go against that. With what I read in our book and with this article and others I researched, I would have to say that all of these theories at some time and point could be true. Some do seem a little strange but as your read the article, they are all supported by labs and people with credibility. As much as I believe these theories are truly reasons why we dream, are there more? I find it hard, that these five simple theories of why we have thoughts, images, and sensations going around our minds while we sleep are the only reasons. Are there other reasons? If so, are they more reliable then theses sources? Should more theories be added to this list?

Depth Perception

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Depth perception is the ability to perceive the location of objects in relation to each other. There are both monocular depth cues, which use on eye, and binocular depth cues, which use both eyes. We use things such as relative size, interposition, height in plane, and binocular disparity to detect the depth of an object.

Without these cues we might not be able to detect whether something is 25 or 5 feet away from us. This would cause serious problems for anyone. It would not be easy to perform everyday tasks. You would knock over a glass of water instead of being able to pick it up. You also would not be able to drive because you would not be able to tell where pedestrians or other cars are. People who have problems with their depth perception usually do not have this dramatic of problems though. People usually just have problems with little details not drastic differences in depth.

I have had an experience with my depth perception being off when I began using contacts. Even though my vision was better I would run into things or misjudge things because my depth perception was off. I eventually got used to my contacts and was able to have my sense of depth perception back as well, but it was a challenge while I was making the transition.

I still wonder what issues people have when dealing with depth perception because with my research I found some people do not even notice he or she has a problem until he or she has to take a depth perception test and fails. Maybe these people can only pick up certain cues, so they don't have as many issues as someone who was not able to pick up any of the cues.

ESP and Its Play on Human Behavior

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I thought it was very interesting while reading about extrasensory perception, or ESP, from chapter four in the textbook. I thought the most interesting aspect was when they addressed why ESP might be such a prevalent topic today, even though there has yet to be any real hard evidence that would suggest that it exists. They discussed how humans often remember something such as a coincidence coming true, but rarely remember the, usually far more times, that it does not. The example that they gave was the one time that you were thinking about a long ago friend, and you then ran into them or saw them shortly after. Many people see this as coincidence, but oftentimes fail to remember all the times that they have thought about long ago friends in the past and have not seen them soon after. This is a similar concept that can help explain why the suggestion of ESP still remains today. To show the prevalence of the idea of ESP even today, surveys indicate that 41 percent of American adults still believe in some form of ESP. I also liked how many psychic predictions can be "predicted" because the methods many psychics use are very similar, and play off of typical human behaviors. They explain that psychics will exploit people's enjoyment of being flattered and complimented. An example would be predicting an "amazing romance" in the foreseeable future. People like to hear what they want to hear, so by saying that things in their life will go well in the future, they are more likely to believe it. It was interesting to see how the text was able to "generalize" psychics generalizations.

My computer froze as I was trying to submit the blog, so that is why it is 8 min late. I have a Word Doc that has it postmarked at 11:52 if you would like to see it

Deja Vu

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Deja vu is a weird, unnatural occurrence that happens when a person feels that something is happening and has a feeling of this event already occurring. I have had many feelings of deja vu, and every time I play out the events in my head and predict what people are saying. It has happened so much to me, that I have now resorted to doing/saying things that will alter what I thought would happen.

I feel this is an important concept because it is a strange occurrence that not everyone shares and I find it very fascinating that you feel that you have been somewhere before, but in reality you have not. Finding this theory to be true, or finding the key behind it, could help the human race out because we might be able to unlock a part of communication or a bond between humans that can help us predict each others' reaction. I, for one, would like to know just to keep my sanity (it happens to me multiple times per week, and I often feel I live the same week over and over).

This humorous Monty Python skit is a comedic satire on what people, like myself, experience when they enter the state of deja vu.

All in all, deja vu intrigues me because it seems so unnatural that I can have a sense of familiarity with a certain setting that I have not been in before. I often wonder if it is a connection between the people around me that I share a similar feeling with. I also wonder if two people have the feeling of deja vu simultaneously, if the have the same thoughts? Food for thought...

The Proper Way to Fall Asleep

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Over the summer, my mom had the brilliant idea to read a book on the "Proper Way to Fall Asleep." Not sure if that's the actual title, but that's how she referred to it. After she found something she deemed interesting in aforementioned book, about every two pages for her, she would of course come and find me to tell me all about it. If she couldn't find me, say if I was avoiding these constant sleep updates, she would write the interesting tid bits down and tape the sheet of paper to my door. So. after two and a half months of this behavior, I have quite a lot of seemingly useless techniques for falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping properly, and all that jazz. And you, my new friend, are about to be enlightened with the best of them. I thought it was appropriate considering the majority of us are sleep deprived according to our in class experiments.

So, this one seems silly to say but you all know its true... your room being messy can keep you awake. My mom loved this one with an unacceptable enthusiasm. "Clean your room! You'll sleep better!" (Don't get me wrong, I love my mother very much!) Mainly, its just a huge distraction, and of course this distraction is literally surrounding you. It's a pretty obvious problem, but a lot of people ignore it anyways. On that note, avoid other distractions, such as the eternal procrastination enabling device AKA your lovely laptop. It's great, it's so handy, and it's SO distracting... Get rid of pointless lights, obnoxious sounds, all that stuff. Pretty common sense there.

Next, you need to be comfortable. Usually this means finding a delightful place to pillow your head, and wearing possibly ridiculous looking clothing. But who cares, not as if you'll be interacting much with people as you sleep. In my mother's holy book of sleep, it mentioned that temperature is a huge factor here. That each and every one of us can personally attest to. We've all done the whole "blanket on, blanket off, stick one leg out of the blanket" thing to attain the proper personal sleeping temperature. To piggy-back off this, if you're in an unfamiliar place, or your surroundings make you uncomfortable, you're going to have more troubles falling asleep and potentially staying asleep. So avoid all that if at all possible.

Finally, if you're having continual problems getting to sleep, a good way is to train your body to sleep. The easiest way is to just get in a schedule. GO to sleep at near the same time every night, and wake up around the same time as well. even on weekdays. And yeah, that sucks. If the problem persists, see a doctor who might be able to help if your problem is more serious, like a sleeping disorder or something like that.

correlation and causation

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Correlation and causation
Correlation and causation and be easily mistaken for each other. Many things are correlated and many people would mistakenly assume that one causes the other. Some would say that studying causes good grades and although these two are correlated it would be incorrect to say that studying causes the grades. Some would think eating junk food causes obesity. This would also be an example of a correlation and not causation. It is very important not to jump to conclusions and assume that everything that seems to have a logical connection and is correlated is causation. It used to be believed that ulcers were caused by stress and spicy food. These two are correlated but spicy food does not cause ulcers even though they are correlated. Spicy food is entirely safe. The assumption is incorrect and shows that assumptions should be avoided.

Teen Sleep Loss May Impact Brain Growth

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According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to brain damage. Researchers used teenage mice, and either allowed them to sleep for 8-10 hours, or kept them awake for the 8-10 hours, and then studied the effects. In this study, the control was the group of mice that were allowed to sleep, and the experimental group was the group of mice that were kept awake. They found that short term sleep deprivation can prevent balanced growth and depletion of synapses--which can have long term effects.

"These results using acute manipulations of just eight to 10 hours show that the time spent asleep or awake affects how many synapses are being formed or removed in the adolescent brain," Cirelli says.

While this experiment provides stark evidence that sleep loss can negatively impact our brains, there is still research to be done. This study only looked at short term sleep deprivation. The researchers' next study will be on chronic sleep deprivation, and the implications of that will be much more important because of the number of college students that are experiencing frequent sleep deprivation.

"It could be that the changes are benign, temporary and reversible," she says, "or there could be lasting consequences for brain maturation and functioning."

Firing and wetness


I watched the whole BBC report and find every part fascinating, but one of the questions that intrigues me most is how exactly a person's inner world comes to be. Can we prove that the firing of neurons alone can create a person's consciousness?

Marcus de Sautoy seeks the answers from Professor Koch. Through advances in brain surgery, Koch has looked deep inside a living brain and has seen what happens when a conscious patient sees different images. Today, experimenters have the technology to detect the unthinkably small electric signals from individual nerve cells. The signals can be amplified, visualized, even heard over audio speakers. Experimenters have found that the brain has specialized neurons that give specific responses only to very specific, familiar images/individuals. This is not to say that only a single neuron fires for each familiar image. Many neurons respond, but the question of how many is another that remains unanswered yet.

In one of the experiments that give us this evidence, certain neurons in a person's brain responded to Halle Berry. These neurons gave the same strong response not only to all different photos of the actress but also to the text, "Halle Berry." Since the text bears no visual resemblance to any of the images, this proves that the neurons represent the concept of Halle Berry. Scientists thus call them "concept neurons." Recognizing concepts in this way is a capability of human brains alone. Neither animals nor modern computers could relate the photos of a certain woman to the text of her name.
This recognition of concepts is key to human consciousness, which, we have seen, comes into being through the firing of individual neurons. Koch makes clear that the many neurons together are what make consciousness. Like the wetness of water emerging from the vast collection of water molecules, consciousness emerges out of a collection of neurons. A single neuron isn't itself conscious, just as a single water molecule isn't itself wet.
This 2008 article from Science Daily provides more information about the experiments done that give evidence that single neurons are involved in consciousness.

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