mccud001: October 2011 Archives

In Chapter 8 of Lilienfeld's book of Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, there are categories of special cases of language learning described from sign language to bilingualism. In reading about these less common ways of learning a language, I thought I'd look further into one of the perhaps greatest "miracles" in language learning; the case of the deaf and blind Helen Keller.

Around the time that young Helen turned 2 years old, she was stricken severely with a disease that left her both blind and deaf. At the age of 7 is when assistant Anne Sullivan came into aid and began teaching Helen everyday objects by complex combinations of taps to Helen's palm. After some time of teaching a huge breakthrough came about when Sullivan kept pouring water over Helen's hand and she eventually made out the sound of the word water with her voice. This was an exceptional feat considering her lack of vocal language her entire life. She also learned spoken language through the feelings of vibrations of those engaging in conversation. Here's an interesting interview with Anne Sullivan demonstrating this method of sensory teaching.

Following her education with Sullivan, she continued in her success in life and became very skilled at using Braille and sign language as well, giving her even more ways to communicate with others around her. She ended up earning a bachelor's degree and writing many novels as well.

Even after reading multiple articles in support of this "miracle", there are quite a few skeptics of the legitimacy of this case. Some claim that the amount of knowledge Helen gained before her deaf and blindness could be a huge factor in the way she relearned the world around her. Without measuring this at the time, it's uncertain to know if the way in which her particular brain adapted to this would be the same in any other case.

Even so, it has been scientifically proven that with the permanent damage of some of our senses, our other senses become stronger and more attentive in order to make up for this loss. This is where there is a thin line drawn, are the conditions that our brains adapt to to make up for one lost sense still possible when another is taken out as well, especially at such a young age were no legitimate verbal language has been built yet? Through the case of Helen Keller we can see there are extraordinary possibilities.

Stem Cells:

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Among one of the most controversial issues in the science world today is that of stem cell research. A stem cell is "a cell, often originating in embryos, having the capacity to differentiate into a more specialized cell" (Lilienfeld 92). In other words, these cells have the ability to transform themselves into nearly any type of cell in the body, from skin to lung tissue etc.

Furthermore, there are two type of stem cell research used widely today; adult stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research. The clear difference between these two is that embryonic research requires the manipulation of cells in developing embryos to create different types of cells, while adult stem cells are already developed in each individual's body that can be recreated into other types of cells. The main debate between the two is that embryonic stem cell research is essentially destroying embryos or potential lives to further research, an element that is considered extremely unethical. People not in support of embryonic stem cell research also claim that there have been few if none cases of cures or improvements in patients who use the embryos cells, and instead that embryonic cells can multiply at such an excessive rate that they have tendencies to turn into cancerous tumors. Meanwhile, adult cells do not divide as quickly so they don't cause tumors and the success rate of it is tremendously higher in patients than embryonic. This causes those in opposition to embryonic to also become upset with the fact that a large number of scientists spend their research and experiments on embryonic stem cells which have little or no success while they could instead be using their time and resources to further the success in adult stem cells. Those in favor of embryonic cells say that success is on its way and that in most cases, embryonic cells are being used from eggs in females that would otherwise go unused. In terms of psychology, the issue of stem cells can be applied to the use of using these cells to be recreated into different brain cells that may have been lost or severely damaged from various diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's or even accidents such as a car crash. I found this topic extremely intriguing especially after watching the second video attached below because Dr. Oz claims in this video that cures for diseases such as Parkinson's may be possible within the next ten years, and in being in close relationships in my life with people diagnosed with Parkinson's this cure could be monumental and life-changing. Will this extraordinary feat be made in this decade? We'll have to wait and see.
*Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. Scott Lilienfeld, etc.

As today's scientists make efforts to solve the seemingly unanswerable questions to issues like curing terminal illnesses or learning about different functions of our brains and bodies, about 7-8% of this published researched is performed on animals (Lilienfeld 69). In performing this type of research, the ethical treatment of these tested animals has brought forth a highly controversial issue all over the world. While some claim animal research has given us useful insight into the human mind and functions, opposers like the world-reknown PETA organization state on their wedsite that ".. animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans."

It is estimated that mice and rats account for 90% of the animals that are used in laboratory testing according to the S.O.S group at the University of Georgia's website. Among other animals to be experimented on are primates, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, and various others. Some of the purposes of these animals are to test human medications to determine harmful side effects, or to inject them with harmful diseases or even cancer in order to try to find cures to these terminal illnesses.

cat experiment 2.jpg

With both sides taken into account, my view on this issue is with the PETA organization in that since animals do not have the ability to stick up for themselves and give consent to their bodies being used in experiments, this type of research should not be allowed. There are so many different types of new testing and scans that scientists have developed that can be used safely on humans like CTs, MRIs, PETs, fMRIs, MEGs, etc. that there should be even less of a reason to have to resort to inhumane practices on defenseless animals. My stake in the defense against this type of testing is also strong due to my ownership of an animal myself. Though my dog has never been tested on, I could never allow myself to think it's understandable or ethical to allow an animal of any kind to be harmed or killed for the purpose of proving or disproving someone's research.

*Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, Scott Lilienfeld, etc.

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by mccud001 in October 2011.

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