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memory- problems.jpgAccording to this Article The commonly held belief that, with age, our memory and cognitive function begin to decrease substantially may be untrue. Many of us have the notion that, once humans go "over the hill" and reach the ripe old ages around their Sixties, they will show a sharp decrease is the ability to remember facts and daily routines of their life. This is known as the start of being "senile", but this research suggests that the start of this process occurs much earlier than most of us think.

The Study of about 350 people between ages 20 and 90 shows that cognitive function starts to decline as early as mid-twenties. The gradual decrease is just so faint that it is hardly noticeable until it affects us enough to disrupt daily activities when we are older.
I found this very interesting as sometimes, even now, I find myself taking longer to learn new things than I ever used to.

No benefits of amnesia

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I'm sure all of us would agree that one would prefer to keep our mental health perfectly intact. However, with mental illnesses often comes the presence of a rare gift. For example though autistic people can often not perform simple tasks such as daily functioning or social comprehension, many have extraordinary talents such as the ability to memorize a dictionary, play a classical piece on the piano after hearing it once, or solve nearly impossible math problems. Manic depressive people sometimes have great talents for comedy. Mental illness can inspire musical, visual, or theatrical creativity. Van Gogh suffered from epilepsy and hallucinations, but he is one of the most renowned painters in history. Antonin Artaud was a schizophrenic, but he is one of the greatest theatre masterminds of history. Of course, mental health is always preferred, but if that's not a option, it's nice to know there are still some "perks," so to say.
Unfortunately this is not the case for those who suffer from severe amnesia. Those who cannot remember much of their past and have difficulty encoding new memories suffer in more areas that simply forgetfulness; due to the fact that so much of their memory has been erased, those with amnesia tend to have far lower imaginative and creative skills. Think about it. If someone told you to paint a sunset over mountains with trees and flowers but you had very limited memory of these things, you would not be able to complete the task well. You would certainly not be able to come up with imaginative ideas easily on your own.


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/01/070117-amnesia_2.html

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=amnesia+brain+damage&num=10&um=1&hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&biw=1212&bih=680&tbm=isch&tbnid=p4hMTW-REtaXgM:&imgrefurl=http://www.undergrad.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/~kkwlau/amnesia101.html&docid=zwovzoPSu-HZ9M&imgurl=http://www.undergrad.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/~kkwlau/clip_image002_0000.jpg&w=408&h=381&ei=gz6mTuW1G9KSgQezsrH8Dw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=508&vpy=142&dur=1057&hovh=217&hovw=232&tx=91&ty=135&sig=111762342993106543989&sqi=2&page=1&tbnh=142&tbnw=152&start=0&ndsp=16&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0

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Classical conditioning is used when you take an animal that responds to a previously neutral stimulus which is paired with another stimulus, to automatically draw out a response. The most well known way of learning this concept, is knowing about Pavlov's discoveries. Within his discoveries he discovers the meanings of: unconditioned stimulus (UCS), unconditioned response (UCR), conditioned response (CR), and conditioned stimulus (CS). In the video provided by an Office episode, Jim Halpert is trying to get Dwights Schrute to do what he wants; similar to how Pavlov tries to get the dog to do what he wants. In the Office situation, the sound of the computer re-booting is the UCS. When Jim supplies Dwight with the Altoids that is the UCR. Eventually as the video keeps playing, Jim's goal is to re-boot the computer which is now the CS without offering an Altoid. Now that Dwight is used to getting Altoids every time he hears that re-booting sound, that is the CR; he starts craving the Altoids every time he hears that sound.

Previous to listening to Dr. Peterson's lecture on consciousness, I had never critically examined the idea of a conscious thought in relation to those choices made without us being actively aware of them. The idea that we could be aware of something, without actually being conscious of such an awareness, is extremely interesting and shows the complex nature of our brains. To explain such a concept, we discussed and viewed a video regarding a patient who had his corpus callosum severed in order to relieve his severe seizures.

Corpus Callosum.jpg

As seen in the above picture, the corpus callosum serves to connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain so that they can share the information that they receive simultaneously. In this way, despite the fact that information is relayed to one side of the brain or the other depending on the position of the stimulus, the entire brain is aware of it. So in severing this connection, communication is stopped and any functions that are unique to one side of the brain or the other don't get relayed in the fashion that they should. This is especially evident in looking at the Broca and Wernicke areas of the brain.

Broca and Wernicke.png

These areas, responsible for the production and understanding of speech, are localized to the left area of the brain. This means when someone who has a severed corpus callosum interacts with something using only their left hand (meaning the signal is sent to the right half of the brain) they will not be able to articulate in words what the object is without viewing it. What is intriguing, however, is the fact that they are still aware of the identity of the object, just not on a conscious status.

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As can be seen in the video, this experiment yielded very unusual results that present a variety of questions. It would seem that our mind can be aware of things without us even knowing it, which throws into doubt the idea of a unified consciousness. Another question that I find myself asking is in regards to how how much info is stored in our brain subconsciously and how often such information is used by our brains without us being actively aware of it. Also, if our brain comes up with falsified stories to explain such information, how much of what we think we know about ourselves and our self consciousness is really true?

Stuttering and the brain

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During our lectures on language and thought, I was absolutely amazed to see how the brain could know something yet be unable to speak about it, or somehow communicate its knowledge due to a severed corpus callosum. This idea of thoughts being unable to be spoken led me to think of stuttering.

Stuttering is a speech impediment that affects a lot people, mostly children. (I was a child stutterer, myself). It can range from the repetition of sounds, the prolongation of syllables, or elongated pauses between words and speech that occurs in spurts. For more information, go here. Many might recall the recent movie The King's Speech, where King George VI deals with many problems, such as his own stuttering.

Some scientists have found that while stuttering is often caused by emotional factors (such as stress or family dynamics), there are genetic factors as well (over 60% of stutterers claim someone in their family has stuttered as well). Stutterer's brains process speech and language differently than non-stutterers, but it's not that they don't use language and grammar properly. According to this article, when they begin to speak, their motor output does not function properly. In fact, "The right hemisphere is considered the non-dominant hemisphere for language, and the activity may indicate that the right hemisphere is compensating for something that is not happening in the left hemisphere". This subject still remains to be fully understood, but while most children phase out of stuttering by themselves, speech pathologists and therapists are able to help adults with their stuttering too.

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It is easy for people to create false memories or memory illusions, like we experienced during our discussion this week. Many people included words in the lists that weren't actually said. It is amazing how our minds associate certain words, which causes us to believe that the words were actually in the list when they weren't. False memories can have a large affect on many situations throughout the world. An example of this was the case of Paul Ingram. He was led to believe that he had sexually abused his two daughters, when in reality he had never committed any crime. He merely believed that these events had occurred, because of people that he trusted providing him with all of this false information. People believed the girls even though there were many inconsistencies with their stories. The dates were constantly changing with each time that they were interviewed and there was no physical evidence of abuse on any of the girls. Paul even "confessed" to these crimes, but his stories of the events were not close to the accounts that the girls had given. The charges against Paul were eventually dropped two days after he pleaded guilty because the officials knew that he was having false memories.

This story of the Ingram family shows how false memories can truly affect people's lives. Many false memories consist of the mixing of multiple memories. For example, when recalling an accident that happened while driving home from work, someone might say that there was shattered glass covering the road. However, in reality, there might have been no shattered glass anywhere.

False memories occur all the time without notice. Did you ever think of how many false memories you've had that have lead you to stray from what had actually occurred in the past?

Here is a link to a story of a woman's experience with her own false memory:
My Lie: A True Story of False Memory

A Simple Trick to Remembering

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A mnemonic device is "any technique used for the purpose of either assisting in the memorizing of specific material or improving the function of memory in general." There are several types of mnemonic devices. You've probably used them before without even realizing! Most people use acronyms, acrostics, and rhymes, but there's also grouping, visual association, and the Method of Loci in which you place the items you want to remember in a visualized room or route.

The concept of mnemonic devices is a helpful one, especially to college students. Everyday we are presented with loads of information that we need to absorb so that it can be used at a later date. Learning mnemonic devices can help us with that. Take this video for example. In the popular TV show The Office, we see Michael Scott use mnemonic devices to remember his clients names. Although his way of doing so is offensive, it does work!

Mnemonic devices can be used for many things: remembering dates, remembering names, remembering the order of the planets (I'm sure as a child you were taught My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos!); the list is endless. I'm sure you also learned this one, too: mnemonic device.jpg

However, mnemonic devices don't work for everything. Although they are easy to use for recalling small pieces of information, or simple facts, larger concepts and ideas are a lot more difficult and many times making the mnemonic device more difficult to come up with and memorize. When this happens, it is important that people learn to recall the information in other ways.

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These are the faces of a miscarriage of justice. The Norfolk Four case is eerily similar to Paul Ingram's-- if not even more terrifying. Four former naval officers confessed to the rape and murder of a young woman. They were tried, sentenced, and served time for a crime they had no hand in. The true criminal also confessed, confessed to committing the act alone. Yet his testimony was ignored, as was other irrefutable evidence.

Why do individuals admit to obscene acts they have not done? Why are countless people willing to ignore facts that stare them in the face?

First, I suggest referring back to the suspects themselves. All were former naval officers. This suggests that they had been conditioned to respect authority. When the men were brought into questioning and interrogated by a ruthless and unforgiving detective who would not take "no" for an answer, this conditioned response may have made them more susceptible to falsely confessing.

Loftus's interpretation of the "misinformation effect" undoubtedly played a contributing role. The interrogator would feed the men parts of others' confessions until the stories lined up more consistently. When the true rapist and murderer was discovered, they even convinced the Norfolk Four that they had found this man on the street and invited him to join in their mass crime.

As with Paul Ingram, police were under intense pressure to imprison for a heinous crime. Though there was no false testimony working against them, the cop harassing them was notorious for eliciting false confessions and later indicted on charges of corruption. One of the four had a particular interest in the woman killed which sparked a tangled web including more than seven suspects-- none of whom were related to the crime in question.

Per haps the jurors were biased by the suspects pleas of "guilty" and their brutal depictions of the crime they thought they committed. The men were told they would receive the death penalty if they didn't plea guilty and since sentencing each of them has rediscovered their innocence and are released or pending pardon from the mayor.

This Frontline video provides just a glimpse as to what the human memory is capable of believing:


The topic of dreaming has been the inspiration for many different films over the years. However, innovative filmmaker Christopher Nolan changed the cinematic perspective on dreams in his 2010 blockbuster, Inception. Nolan, who stepped into the realm of psychological cinema previously with Memento and Insomnia, comes back to tell a tale of psychological espionage and bring viewers into a fantastical world where one has the ability to invade another's mind.

The film deals with many psychological themes and is mainly based off the concept of what is real and what is a dream. The film blends worlds, often spending time in the dreams as the story progresses. A skilled thief is hired by a powerful man to infiltrate the mind of his rival and plant an idea to disable his corporation entirely. The film is relatable to psychology due to the fact that the film is based of the concept of lucid dreaming.

Lilienfeld defines, in the chapter dealing on human consciousness, that lucid dreaming is an "experience of becoming aware that one is dreaming" (171). Inception's characters work in the area of dream invasion, and often share a lucid dream together. Unless they get lost in limbo, an unconstructed dream space, they are fully aware of the dream. Stay with me here. The film gets very bizarre, convoluted and, basically, crazy as it follows the characters on their journey into the different levels of the subconscious mind. One character is labeled as the architect, the member in charge of knowing the levels and controlling the dream. This person is essentially the lucid dreamer.

In reality, many people have stated that they have experienced a lucid dream from time to time. Personally, I don't think I ever have been able to become fully aware while in a dream. I think I would remember something like that. I wish I could, though and will give it a try. A former roommate of mine claims he lucid dreams almost every night. I'm not sure if I believe him, but yet again the descriptions of some of his dreams he made me wonder how anyone could make such things up. The topic is only becoming increasingly more popular in modern science, and Inception brought the concept to life on the sliver screen.


http://john-b-badd.hubpages.com/hub/Inception-and-Lucid-Dreaming
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASf55cov5F8&feature=player_embedded
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66TuSJo4dZM&feature=player_embedded


*I have been trying to post pictures and a link to a video on lucid dreams but it freezes my browser when I attempt to post it. I have tried firefox, chrome and safari. What am I doing wrong?


Memento

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Memento is a well known movie directed by Christopher Nolan that depicts the life of Lenny who suffers from short-term memory loss. He still retains his previously long-term memories before he was afflicted with the condition, but he cannot make any new ones.
To see a trailer for Memento: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vS0E9bBSL0

After watching Memento (if you haven't I highly recommend that you do) it begs the question of whether or not it accurately depicts what it would be like to suffer from short-term memory loss. I do not not have much background or experience with the constructs of memory so after doing some research I found that the scientific community generally agrees that Memento is one of the most realistic and accurate depictions of anterograde amnesia.
Here is an interesting article on the validity of Memento:
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/292/5522/1661.full

What makes Memento so powerful is that you are immersed into the life of Lenny and feel as if you are in his shoes. From the way the movie is presented in reverse you get a real sense of what it is like to suffer from anterograde amnesia. It is as if you partake in Lenny's thought process and are as clueless as he is of what just happened.
Here is an interesting graph of how time progresses in the movie:
Memento_Timeline.png

In the end, Memento raises the question: what is real? Is our memory to be completely trusted? Can we always trust our interpretations of the world around us? Memory can be flawed so easily, how are we to know if anything in our past ever happened? In the end, as in the case of Lenny, reality is what we make it.

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