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Amnesia and its life altering effects

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Do you ever wonder how your life would change if you could not remember your childhood, or if you can't form new memories? Well if you had amnesia, those possibilities might become a reality. There are different types of amnesia. The two most common types are retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia. Retrograde amnesia is where you lose part of your memories of your past. The amount of memories you lose is different in each circumstance. Retrograde amnesia is often caused by an injury or by the onset of a disease. Anterograde amnesia is the loss of the ability to create new memories. Damage to the hippocampus is a common cause of both retrograde amnesia and anterograde amnesia. Alcohol intoxication can cause anterograde amnesia, usually known as a blackout. Rapid rises in blood alcohol concentration over a short period of time can block the brain's ability to transfer short-term memories during intoxication. Studies have showed that drinking slowly decreases the chance of experiencing amnesia. During college, many students make the mistake of drinking more than their bodies can take, which often results into a blackout. According to fifty four percent of binge drinking college students black out and forget what they did or where they were at some point in the year. Another example of amnesia is the movie "50 First Dates" ( In the movie, Adam Sandler falls in love with a girl with anterograde amnesia. The girl he falls in love with believes it is the same exact day every day she wakes up. All her memories are forgotten when she falls asleep. So eventually, Adam Sandler makes a tape of all their experiences together and eventually makes her fall in love with him every day even though she feels like she just met him today. Korsakoff's syndrome can also cause anterograde amnesia. Korsakoff's syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by the lack of thiamine in the brain which causes you to have apathy, delusions that form invented memories, and anterograde amnesia. I feel that amnesia is a dreadful disability that can ruin the life of a person. Forgetting your past can not only hurt yourself, but also your family. The trauma amnesia can bring towards your family can be devastating. Imagine developing retrograde amnesia and forgetting the names of your kids. There are some questions I still have about amnesia. I wonder if different forms of amnesia are easier to recover from. I also want to know if having both retrograde and anterograde amnesia would be possible. Living without a present and a without a past would be horrifying. Living would be pointless if you had both retrograde and anterograde amnesia. Overall, I feel that amnesia is a devastating disorder that can drastically alters a person's life.

Split Brain Surgery!?

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Split brain surgery is a technique severing the corpus callosum splitting the right and left hemispheres in half (Split). This is usually a last resort for people with epileptic seizures and has no bad effect on the person. People who go through this surgery suffer the effects of the brain not being able to analyze an object with both sides of the hemispheres which is quite interesting in studies. The left side of the brain is associated with speech-control and the right hemisphere is the understanding hemisphere of the brain. When these two are in unison they work together and help analyze, interpret, and express perception of the outside world. A way to show how this works is through experimentation which is the main source in figuring out why the brain acts the way it does when split (without the corpus callosum converging them together). For example, when a person with split-brain surgery is presented with an object on the left visual field the person will not be able to vocally (left side of the brain) understand what has happened, but can recall it through feeling/analyzing (right-side of the brain) the object. This is vice-versa when presented on the right visual field, the person will be able to speak of what they saw but will not be able to physically recall what the object was.
This surgery is quite fascinating as it is actually a cure for epilepsy seizures with minimal after-effects to the brain. I think this actually helped psychologists greatly through understanding the cognitive functions of the brain and is only a start into understanding the complexity of it.
To really think about it the brain itself really has two personalities which are brought together by the corpus callosum, but can be split through this surgery. The brain is quite an amazing complex organ in which can be defined by nothing due to the many functions it serves. This amazing surgery has saved lives of many people and can do much more, but it's up to the studies to really find out what's going on after this surgery.

Dissociation Theory

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Dissociation theory is a theory of hypnosis. Hilgard defined dissociation as a division of consciousness, in which attention, effort, and planning are carried out without awareness. Dissociation is important because hypnosis is used around the work. Some people even choose to have a profession of hypnotizing other people. I have witnessed hypnotism many times throughout my life. During the end of my senior year of high school, our school hired a hypnotist for our senior night party. During his act he called up around fifteen kids and put all of them into a sleep. He then made them do whatever he wanted. I was shocked to see hypnotism work, since I thought it was all fake. Watching my friends and classmates being hypnotized opened up a lot of questions to me. I wanted to know how a man can put a group of people to sleep just by saying a word. I also wanted to know if the people being hypnotized had any memory of what happened when they were asleep. Till this day, I still wonder how hypnotism really works and why only some people are able to become hypnotized.

Subliminal Messaging and the Subconscious

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Middle school was the first time I was exposed to subliminal messaging; it was a concept that blew the underdeveloped minds of my class and me. The fact our minds could process information and create new ideas without our conscious mind is a scary thing. Could this eliminate the concept of free will altogether? A study was done to test just this.

In this study, subjects were subliminally flashed a letter. Their conscious mind had no idea that the letter had even been stimulated in their subconscious mind. Next, a set of different letters were set in front of the subject and they were asked to choose a letter at random. In this case, the letter that was flashed was almost exclusively chosen from the random set, proving the subconscious holds weight in executing simple tasks. What the experimenters found next was the interesting part. They repeated the experiment but made it more mentally taxing for the subjects. The increased level of concentration hindered the minds ability to receive subliminal messages. For example, the subjects were distracted while a colored letter was flashed subliminally on a screen in front of them. The fMRI scans revealed no neurological activity in the brain during the subliminal stimulus which led the scientists to conclude, "the brain does not pick up on subliminal stimuli if it is too busily occupied with other things... some degree of attention is needed for even the subconscious to pick up on subliminal images" (Science Daily).

This finding made me curious about subliminal messaging in the commercial media. Is brand recognition too much for the subconscious to process? Especially when our whole attention isn't focused on the commercial? It would be a scary thing if corporations could take away our free will in terms of purchasing their product. If they found a way to simplify the message enough to target our subconscious, our conscious ability to choose could be eliminated altogether. I don't know about you, but this idea scares me a lot.

Works Cited:
University College London (2007, March 9). Subliminal Advertising Leaves Its Mark On The Brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 9, 2011

Lucid Dreaming

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Lucid dreaming is the experience of becoming aware that one is dreaming. Most people have these types of dreams at least once in their lifetime, but 1/5 of Americans report having lucid dreams monthly, and many of them are able to control their dreams. According to the text, researchers are not sure if lucid dreamers are asleep when they're aware of the fact that they are dreaming or if dreams have lucid qualities upon awakening. Here's what I think, lucid dreaming can happen, I know because it happens to me quite a lot. There are times though when upon awakening i realize the lucid qualities of my dream. I don't know if it's because I can't remember if I knew I was dreaming or if it's because in some of my "lucid dreams" I can control my dreams, and in some of them I can't. In my dreams where I know I'm dreaming and I can control them, it is very clear to me while I'm sleeping that I'm dreaming, and that's why I can control my dreams. Some things that I have noticed about my lucid dreams and my normal dreams is that I tend to lucid dream if I am sleep deprived, and my dreams are always more vivid and slightly less bizarre when I can control them. Perhaps there is a correlation between sleep deprivation and the ability to lucid dream?

I would like more research to be done about lucid dreaming. I would like to know if there are personality traits that contribuite to the ability to lucid dream, or environmental factors.

Trouble Sleeping?

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By: Lizzy Forbes

We teenagers tend to associate the fact that we are exhausted for much of the week due to the plethora amount of homework and studying we have to endure. We are busy right? This heavy work load might play into our sleepiness, but sometimes it may be out of our control. I know that I suffer from sleep deprivation. It became apparent to me after the survey we completed in Discussion last week. One major (the most common) sleep disorder that leads to sleep deprivation is known as insomnia.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that involves difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night with trouble falling back asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Insomnia can be a short term disorder or a long term/ chronic disorder. There are many known causes that lead to this sleep disorder. Depression, stress, pain /illness, and drinking too much caffeine can lead to insomnia. People can treat insomnia with sleeping pills. They help the majority of the population in the 9-15% of people that suffer from insomnia.

I read an article (see below) recently about another way to deal with insomnia. Researchers call this the "cooling effect" in a sense. Some researchers took a sample of 24 people to achieve, "frontal cerebral thermal transfer," which is known as the cooling, half of them were tested. 13 of the people wore plastic caps with water at different temperatures that circulated through them. The other 13 people didn't wear the caps. They were monitored as they slept. Researchers compared the time needed to fall asleep between the people with and without the caps and also between the changes in temperature in the caps. The result of the study showed that the people that wore the caps that had the highest "cooling intensity" temperature fell asleep within 13 minutes which was significantly faster than all other people. This proves that the slow-down in metabolism in the frontal cortex leads to better sleeping and inversely, insomnia is connected to an increased metabolism in the frontal cortex.

( Insomnia article

Four Loko: Depressant and Stimulant

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The drink Four Loko has been a very controversial item available because of the opposing effects it has on the body when consumed. Each can, being 16 oz. and 12% alcohol, also contains a large amount of caffeine in the form of taurine and guarana. The exact amount of caffeine is unknown, but the company that produces Four Loko was quoted saying the drink is equivalent to having "three beers, a can of Red Bull, and a large espresso." The drink has been banned in several areas, requiring that the caffeine be removed before it is allowed to be available again in stores.
The alcohol acts as a depressant on the nervous system, slowing reaction time and basic thought processes, while the caffeine does the opposite, acting as a stimulant. The result of mixing both has been deadly, especially on college campuses. When consumed in large amounts, the sensations of depression and stimulation clash which then overwhelms the nervous system and circulatory system. It has often been described as 'the awake drunk' because of the sense of alertness felt, despite impairment.
One article posted by the Association for Psychological Science discussed Four Loko and its cause of a phenomenon called situational specificity of tolerance. It concerns where an individual consumes alcohol - if it is somewhere they are both familiar and comfortable with, the effects of alcohol are felt less. On the other hand, if it is an unknown place, the effects appear to be stronger. The same occurs with taste. For example, we pair the flavor of beer with its alcohol content. However, when Four Loko is consumed (which has a variety of fruity flavors) the alcohol content isn't associated with the taste of fruit, usually leading to a larger intake of alcohol.
Because of Four Loko's safety issues, it is recommended not to be taken. The conflict between depressant and stimulant is too hard on the body.

The Activation-Synthesis Theory

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The activation-synthesis theory proposes that dreams reflect brain activation in sleep, rather than a repressed unconscious wish. Alan Hobson and Robert McCarley developed this theory, which is completely different from Sigmund Freud's claims. The REM stage of sleep (when dreams occur) is activated by surges of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine while serotonin and norepinephrine are shut down. When the latter are shut down, reflective thought, reasoning, action and memory decrease. The acetylcholine activates nerve cells in the pons which send incomplete signals to the thalamus. The thalamus sends sensory information to the language and visual parts of the forebrain. The amygdala also gets involved; adding in fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and elation to the story the forebrain puts together from the sensory information. The activation-synthesis theory says that this, not our experiences and deep thoughts, is what makes up what we know as a dream.
Why, then, do we experience nightmares after we see a scary movie, or have dreams about that special someone who we've been crushing on? That's something I'd like to know as well. How could it be that the dreams we have are just the result of a neurotransmitter running around our brain when we dream of things relevant to our lives? I feel like the activation-synthesis theory is not completely correct in saying that dreams are just a result of our brain activation, but I also do not agree completely with Freud. I think that dreams are probably a mixture of our experiences/worries and brain activity, and I'd like to see a study investigate further into that.

Assignment 2 - Sleep and awake consiousness

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I was at first slightly skeptical of the video. It seemed to go against a rule I learned early on in my psychology book. Be wary of long words that try to sound scientific but come off as too wordy. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is one of these words that comes off as trying to attack my intelligence. After a little bit of research I realized that TMS is actually a real thing so this may not have been a valid reaction, but it was my initial reaction.
I found the video really interesting. It basically says that when I'm awake and conscious my brain is making connections, but when I am asleep these connections are shut down. This is interesting because it basically says that what I see and react too is actually specific cells doing specific pieces to give me a view of the world. It's not just one act; it just goes so quickly that it goes unnoticed. Kind of made me think that the more I know about these kinds of things I could consciously know what part of my brain is firing to give me the view I have. This is what consciousness is and this is why I am the way I am.
I don't know if the information in the video is factual or not, but it is something worth considering. If it is all true then I am going to have trouble sleeping without thinking about all these things. It seems like things like personality disorders and depression could be interesting to study with these studies.

Writing 2 Narcolepsy

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Almost everyone, it seems, has seen the youtube videos about the narcoleptic goats. They run around, and then midstride collapse as if they died, only to wake up just before or after they get a mouth full of dirt from the ground. It's so sad to watch, as you feel so helpless standing by and watching.
One of the scariest realizations is that this also happens to humans. During anytime of the day, people that suffer from narcolepsy may fall asleep instantly. The illness in and of itself is not deadly, however, the things that come with involuntarily falling asleep can be. For example, if somebody were to have an attack while driving or operating machinery the risk of death increases dramatically.
But what causes people to suddenly fall into a deep snooze? As it seems with many things, scientist still aren't sure what the cause of narcolepsy is, however scientist have taken steps to finding genes linked to the illness. Some also believe that the disease is caused by a deficiency in a protein called hypocretin. This protein is critical in the dream process, as it helps regulate the REM cycle. There is also evidence to believe that it is passed down genetically.
The symptoms of narcolepsy usually start to show between the ages of 15 and 25, and can include daytime drowsiness, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. During the day some people experience excessive sleepiness. And after waking up from a sleep attack, people may hallucinate or even experience a loss of speech and movement and motor control for a short period of time.
Narcolepsy is a rare sleep disorder that if left untreated can lead to potentially dangerous and fatal situations. There is currently no cure for the disease but there are steps that people can take to reduce the frequency of the attacks. At first glance a goat that trips over nothing and falls only to awake startled may be funny to some people, but the reality is that it's a harsh condition for anyone goat or human, and this is why we must continue researching this sleep disorder.

"What Is Narcolepsy, Symptoms & Causes - WebMD." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health. WebMD. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. .

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