February 2012 Archives

Forgetful Lucy

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In the popular movie, 50 First Dates, starring Adam Sandler (as Henry) and Drew Barrymore (as Lucy), memory loss is demonstrated. Lucy suffers brain injuries as a result of a car accident. Henry falls in love with Lucy, just for her to forget who he is the very next day. Demonstrated by her actions and words in the movie, it can be concluded that the accident resulted in damage to her hippocampus. The hippocampus is critical to our memory. She suffers from anterograde amnesia, the inability to encode new memories from her experiences.
50 First Dates accurately portrays the result of memory loss with the presence of amnesia. Unlike other movies, this movie contains more scientifically accurate information, as Lucy never regains her memory. It is a common misconception that you will instantly gain back your memory after such trauma. Some individuals may gain back some memory slowly while others will not at all.
She maintains a daily routine, reliving each and every day the exact same. Her routine consists of picking up the newspaper (which is always from the same date), ordering waffles at the local diner, and painting her room. Similar to Henry Molaison, or more commonly known as H.M., whom we read about in the text, she lives everyday as if it were alone by itself. Whatever pain or happiness she has experienced will be forgotten the next day. However, in H.M.'s case, he had surgery, removing large chunks of his hippocampi, in order to stop his epileptic seizures. Instead, he developed this rare form of anterograde amnesia. It is extremely unlikely that a car accident or any other sort of accident could result in such severe brain damage. This movie portrays a similar condition to H.M.'s, Hollywood just tends to portray the most dramatic of circumstances. H.M. and Lucy's lives have essentially been frozen in time, reliving each day the same, without retaining or learning any new information.
50 First Dates acts as comical relief for this rare form of amnesia as seen in this clip:

But I Swear She Said "Rough."

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As discussed in our text as well as demonstrated in the discussion section meeting on February 29th, our memory is far from perfect. Using schema, we associate bits of information and draw conclusions from stimuli that does not explicitly show everything that we remember. Not only that, we can also be led to believe that we remember something that not only never happened, but is completely outlandish or impossible. This got me thinking. Why do our brains do this? Why is memory not simply a series of pictures or video clips saved somewhere in our brain to be recalled and reflected upon later? On top of that, why is it that we can only recall seven (plus or minus two) pieces of information at once?


Above all, why is the public perception a memory so far from actual human memory capabilities? It is sited in the text that young children believe that they can remember far more than they actually can, and older children will not predict that they can remember as much information. This means that humans have realized at a relatively young age that the span of their memory is limited. But why, then, do humans believe that their memories are clearer and more correct than they actually are? I suppose only additional research will tell.

There are thoughts that go either way, but according to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's cannot be cured, prevented, or even slowed. This is scary to think about, since a lot people are unsure about what Alzheimer's even is. Alzheimer's, also known as AD, is a disease that effects brain function. It is a form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It effects a person's ability to think, their memory, as well as their behavior. Some research says that your odds to contract AD are heightened if you are female, if you have high blood pressure, or if you have suffered sever head trauma. Some researchers also believe that certain herbs and dosages of Vitamin D can prevent Alzheimer's, though none of that is heavily proven. To get the raw data, I think this short video is a good source. It's interesting (and scary) to see how much AD really affects the lives of those around us.

Why Buy?

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Can you ever think of a time you ran out and bought something because it was on an ad? Or a particular commercial made a product always stick out in your mind? One of my favorite commercials is actually from Axe..found here. They play up a common problem for guys and make it funny and entertaining. Of course, all guys use deodorant..or at least they should be, so this commercial may make them think about using Axe the next time they decide to run to Target for a new one. Humor is one of the most common attempts to sell a product. And as far as I'm concerned, it works!

Lionsgate: School of Autism

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My long-time best friend, Adrian, is an E.A. and music teacher at Lionsgate Academy in Crystal, Mn. Lionsgate is a public high school and junior high designed for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, which is to say- the only school of its kind in MN. I've had the distinct pleasure of volunteering with, guest speaking to, performing for and hanging with the students Lionsgate. They are amazing. The ways that they process information, communicate and interact are so peculiar (albeit fascinating) when compared to what we think of as "normal." Many of the students fidget (Stereotypy), some don't speak at all and others fixate on specific subjects (Restricted Behavior) for example: one boy is an expert on the subject of Gibson and Fender electric guitars. He knows the history, place and process of manufacture, how to take care of the guitars- all of this, but he has no interest in playing a guitar. If you ask him about anything else in the world he relates it to electric guitars.

The list above was the most striking observation from my time spent at the school; the range of behaviour and social development from student to student in terms of how far those characteristics deviated from what many of us take for granted- and this is one of the reasons that management (or 'treatment') is often difficult. There are different schools of thought about which types of treatment and therapy are most effective, but as of now there doesn't seem to be any definitive answer. Therapies range from psychoactive drugs, to dietary supplements, music therapy, behavioural therapy and beyond. In the end it seems like Lionsgate is the best possible solution- a place where children and adolescents can grow and develop and receive different combinations of the above therapies and- all the while do the things that other "normal" children and adolescents want to do.

Cetacea Skills

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It's amazing that some of our friends in the animal world are capable of being trained to perform tricks for entertainment or learn skills to help aid us in our life-or even their own. Man's best friend, Jane Goodall's chimpanzees, and even Shamu all have acquired and learned skills to use for one of these purposes.

For this blog post, it's all about cetaceans and how they learn. Cetaceans include marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises. They're noted for their high intelligence, which also makes them excellent learners! Through positive reinforcement
these flippered friends quickly learn tricks like the one seen in this
Shamu performance.

Training is done through the use of hand signals and targets and when the behavior is done correctly, the animal is rewarded with food, attention and toys. If the animal doesn't do exactly what it was told, they simply receive a neutral response and time to think about the task again. Through operant conditioning any type of behavior can be easily learned.

Is Autism Treatable?

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Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. The development of autism is something that has stumped researchers for over fifty years. The lack to determine what exactly causes autism is why there is no significant reliable cure to autism. There have been some medications that have helped improve an autistics child's behaviors, but nothing has been proven consistent for autism from child to child. I recently saw a movie called Temple Grandin. Like the movie's name, the movie is about a life of Temple Grandin who suffers with autism. Even though Grandin had autism, she led a really successful life. She went on to college and gained her PhD. from the University of Illinois and has now become one of the most gifted animal scientists in the United States. I personally think that autism can be treated. Like Grandin said, worst thing you can do to autistic children is doing nothing. She also said that she's pained by the fate of some autistic people who may be "geeks" but are bright and talented. "While one goes to work for Google and another works for Disney, a third is in the basement on disability," she said. Autistic children can be improved by more care and engagement.

How Lion Taming Works

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lion-taming-4.jpg How can such an aggressive, humongous animal be made to be tamed by humans? The answer begins at birth, where the cub is separated from its mother and bonded with the tamer. The training techniques are actually not that dissimilar than training a dog. When the lion is ready to be trained, the tamers use a form of operative conditioning to get the results they want. This process coined by B.F. Skinner involves the tamers to slowly convince the lions to do what they want. The tamer will give the lion a reward for doing something anywhere close to what they want them to do. For example, when a trainer wants a lion to move left, any movement to the left is something positive. The trainer would reward the lion with something to eat. This form of positive reinforcement encourages the lion to do what the trainer wants them to do. He would then use a form of classical conditioning to associate some sort of action to what the lion has to do. The trainer may want the lion to move left when he snaps his finger. He would use this combination of classical and operative conditioning to get the lion to do what he wants the lion to do.

I watched the video, BBC Horizon- The Secret World. I found this video very fascinating. I wanted to see what they had to say about, When do we become aware of self? I think that this is a very interesting topic to think about and before I watched this video I thought about the earliest memory I could recall and I could only remember things from when I was five years old. I wondered if this is when I became aware of myself? Then I watched the video where he described how they tried to determine when little children first become aware of themselves. It was really interesting watching the mirror self recognition test. They would have the children look in the mirror and see themselves and then the parent would put a spot on the child's cheek and see if they noticed the change. These kids noticing the spot on their face, which had not been there a moment ago, represented them becoming aware of themselves. It was really something seeing how the sixteen month child didn't notice the change and then the twenty-two month old child did notice the change. It's weird how six months can make such a difference.

This video made me wonder if the age you become aware of self has anything to do with how observant of a person you are? Just like in the video with the people passing the basketball back and forth and the monkey just walks through the center and most people don't see it. I added this video at the bottom to see how aware you are:

There is a disease that more children are diagnosed with each year than AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined. It is a disease that affects 1 in 110 children, with no known causes, and no current medical cure. This disease is autism. Autism refers to a group of complex brain developmental disorders that mainly affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. The different disorders are characterized by difficulties in social interactions, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors, all in varying degrees. These disorders include but are not limited to Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and of course autistic disorder. These different diseases are referred to as the "autism spectrum", which simply refers to the different levels of diagnosis that are possible. Children on the autism spectrum may share similar traits, but this spectrum also makes them very different. Depending on their level of diagnosis, one child may be barely capable of reading and writing, while another child is high-functioning and is able to attend a normal school.
Research has shown that children as young as one year old can begin to show signs of autism. Many of the signs that are considered "red-flag indicators" for parents include lack of babbling or words by a certain age, a lack of smiles or joyful expressions at a young age, or a lack of back-and-forth sharing of sounds or other facial expressions.
This disorder is quickly becoming one of the most prevalent in children in the world, but there is a severe lack of funding for it. For example, muscular dystrophy affects 1 in 100,000 children each year, and receives $162 million in funding, while autism affects 1 in 110 children each year and only receives $79 million in funding. I believe it is important to have funding for all diseases that have any sort of detrimental effect on someone's life, but with autism as the fastest growing developmental disorder, shouldn't we as a world be more concerned about the potential negative effects of this disease than we currently seem to be?


All statistics and facts came from www.autismspeaks.org




This is an example of an advertisement from the 1920s where Classical Pavlovian Conditioning is found. In this anti-alcohol ad, the unconditioned stimulus is the warning about the "sweet innocent girls" being enticed by men who will "prey on the flower of American womanhood" because of alcohol consumption. The unconditioned response, then, is the fear of alcohol consumption. The conditioned stimulus is simply the mention and thought of alcohol and the conditioned response is that people will not want to drink alcohol or want the younger generation to drink either.

In general, the advertisement is supposed to convince the audience that drinking alcohol is bad, and could be detrimental to the next generation of American women. By instilling fear, it seems like the approach of this advertisement was probably very effective.

It is really interesting that an example of Classical Pavlovian Conditioning can be found from this long ago at a time only a few decades after Pavlov had even begun his research. I am sure that there were probably advertisements well before the time of Pavlov's research where the unconditioned response, conditioned response, unconditioned stimulus, and conditioned stimulus could still be identified.

Dog Tricks!!!

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Teaching a dog how to do a trick is not an easy task. Dogs learn how to do tricks by repetitions, it takes a lot of time and effort by there owners. Dogs learn best by having fun and getting rewarded for doing the right tricks such as a dog biscuit which can also be known as Skinner's principle of partial reinforcement. There is two different kinds of reinforcement the first is continuous reinforcement and that and that results in learning faster. The second is partial reinforcement and that results in slower learning. Dogs learn a lot different compared to humans, and the respond a lot different to certain things. For dogs you should just use one or two words if you want the dog to do a trick you taught them because of how there brain works, they can only process so many words at one time.

here is a video of probably the most amazing dog tricks that i have ever seen.

Where does consciousness reside "what makes you, you" self-awareness has always been an interest of mind. The idea of consciousness amazes me, how does it happen?
Why is it unique to everyone? And where does it reside? Marcus de Sautoy and BBC's The Secret You did a wonderful job asking these questions and showing us the modern approaches we use to solve these big questions. The Secret You tries to explain where consciousness resides and explains that the cortex, located on the outer part of the brain, allows us to be self-aware. e5f557bfe90197e1ee0a485bb8eb39bd.jpegThis self-awareness comes from nerve cells in the brainstem sending projections from the thalamus out to all areas of the cortex; this constant "Activeness" is part of what makes us aware. As far as evidence the show did a great job because they had and actual brain which was really interesting to see. But after hearing these origins of consciousness I began to wonder about situations where these origins are disrupted by either disease or accidents. There are cases where people are unconsciousness for extended periods of time wake up and are back to themselves in no time, but in other cases people can loose all self-awareness. I've attached a very interesting case of Dissociative amnesia where a woman lost all sense of self-awareness for 10 months and then all of a sudden had it trigged and for the most part returned to her normal self. Cases like these amaze me and I hope to see more scientific breakthroughs in understanding the brain in the future.

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Imagine you just paged through a popular magazine and saw both of these toothpaste advertisements. Shortly after, you find yourself using the last squirt of your old toothpaste, which means it is time to head to the grocery store to pick up some new toothpaste. What a coincidence! I cannot speak for everyone, but personally, after seeing these advertisements, the usual 4-hour debate between buying Crest or Colgate would now be a lot easier.

It was no accident that a beautiful woman, with a beautiful smile ended up on the same page as a tube of Crest toothpaste. To create this advertisement, those in charge of marketing at Crest headquarters were relying on psychological manipulation to get us to buy their product. They are basing this advertisement on the human tendency to react to the unconditioned stimulus of seeing a beautiful person (with beautiful teeth), with the unconditioned response of wanting to look like that person. By pairing the beautiful woman with a tube of Crest toothpaste, the marketers are hoping to establish their product as a conditioned stimulus. As a conditioned stimulus, consumers like ourselves would see Crest toothpaste in stores, feel the wanting emotion that was originally elicited by the unconditioned stimulus, and throw the Crest toothpaste into our carts.

Undoubtedly, tossing this toothpaste into our cart would be adding it to a stack of other products that have been similarly conditioned into our minds. This kind of advertising technique is applied in many scenarios. In this election year, another popular place to find this conditioning is in presidential candidate commercials like this one, for Republican candidate, Rick Santorum. As you will see, all positive emotions are associated with Santorum, while negative emotions are associated with President Obama.

Can you think of other ways that we are constantly being conditioned through advertising?

Many people in the United States have probably never heard of classical conditioning. To add to this, many of the select group who have heard of classical conditioning probably do not completely understand how it works. What's funny is that almost everyone in the United States is involved in some sort of classical conditioning every single day, with or without knowing it. You might be thinking how is that possible, but the answer is simple: advertisements. Many advertisements work on the basic principles of classical conditioning. They take an unconditioned stimulus paired with an unconditioned response, and use them to give you a favorable opinion of their product. Let's look at this commercial to really see the effects of classical conditioning. Everything about the Liquid-Plumr commercial screams classical conditioning. For starters, the commercial features a cast of entirely attractive people. This is a form of classical conditioning alone as it takes an unconditioned stimulus (the attractive people), which causes an unconditioned response (arousal, desire, etc..), to give the previously neutral conditioned stimulus (the Liquid-Plumer) a positive light in your brain, called the conditioned response. As if this isn't enough to convince the consumer to buy their product, Liquid-Plumer also uses well directed humor to effectively condition their target market in a similar fashion as above. When it is all said and done, Liquid-Plumr did a fabulous job with this commercial as it used two types of classical conditioning (attractive people and humor) to effectively train consumers to have a positive opinion of their product, with or without the consumer knowing it.

Tag Ad.jpg

Many ads like the Tag ad above demonstrate false advertisement; or does it? The Tag ad basically states with a couple sprays of Tag you will smell so great that women will be swarming all over you. The imagery of it sounds good but most men know better than to believe that this will happen. Or that was the assumption I made. Then i thought about the boys in middle school and high school with raging hormones trying to find the easiest way to attract the girl they like. To those young men this ad might be just the answer they needed. I believe young men from ages13-18 is the audience that Tag is trying to attract. If i am right the attraction of women is a good way to get young men to buy their product. Do you think this is false advertisement or just brilliance on Tag's behalf?

According to BBC's "The Secret You," humans do not become self-aware until the age of 18-24 months. This is tested by placing a red dot on children's faces without their knowing, and then seeing if they realize it is there when placed in front of a mirror. If they reach up to their face to investigate the dot they see in their reflection, they are self-aware.


My niece is 17 months. Before today, I thought she was completely self-aware. I know she understands she is looking at a person when standing in front of a mirror, like the boy did at the beginning of the video. She may even realize that it is the same face she usually sees when looking in a mirror, but what does that mean? I'm not sure she'd recognize the red dot on her cheek right away like the 22 month old girl did. I took the below picture with my niece about a month ago on my computer, so she was 16 months. Right when she saw our faces come up on the screen, she waved. She knew she was looking at people's faces, but she probably didn't understand it was her own.

Photo on 2012-01-23 at 17.22.jpg

Before becoming completely self-aware, babies are constantly experiencing and learning new things. So, if we become self-aware around 18-24 months, what are we before then? Do babies carry out ideas without knowing how they do it? Do they think of the desired result, like playing with a toy, and their body simply takes care of the walking and picking it up without them realizing? I would love to know how a baby's mind works, because I don't quite understand how we can even function without knowing we are our own "self".

And self-awareness goes hand in hand with memory, I believe. My earliest memory was getting my pet dog when I was just under 2 years old, and I don't think it's a coincidence that that falls under the period where one becomes self-aware. I don't think you can have one without the other. So, I could argue that my life didn't truly start as a full-fledged, self-aware person until I was 2, right?

Beckham Bares It All!

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We all saw the Super Bowl commercial that had everyone buzzing featuring much more of David Beckham than we have ever seen before. Beckham bares it all for his "Bodyware" david-beckham-body_display_image.jpgcollection for H&M. But what really was the goal of H&M marketers? It is clear that advertisers where manipulating female's emotions and male's emotions as well. Women see David Beckham as a gorgeous soccer player and wish they could be with him. Women may even tell their boyfriends to go out and buy Beckham's Bodyware! Men see Beckham and wish they could be him (a hint of jealousy perhaps?). The conditional stimulus is H&M as a company and David Beckham's new Bodyware line. The unconditional stimulus is the feeling of shock when you realize what the commercial is about and who is in it. the unconditional response in this commercial is the feeling of desire for either David Beckham or for the Bodyware collection. Finally, the conditional response is the need to either be with Beckham or to look like him. Much like the dogs in Pavlov's conditioning experiment, some female's conditional response may even be salivation! Some people argue that this is a sexist and degrading advertisement. Watch the commercial below. What are your thoughts?

Neurocognitive Theory and NDEs

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Blog Post 2
While reading Chapter 5, I was able to resonate with a lot of the material and information presented regarding the psychology of sleep. For instance, neurocognitive theory brought up the fact that children's dreams tend to be a lot simpler than those of adults. Children dream about things like animals in the zoo, whereas adults tend to have dreams that are a little more meaningful, such as things that concern their every day life: life being single, self-consciousness about their appearance, etc.
I've noticed that as I've grown older, I've put a lot more thought into my dreams upon waking up. When I was younger, my dreams were simply pointless events that didn't hold much significance, but a lot of things I've been dreaming about recently have made me think about the way I'm living my life. It's funny how whenever I get into a fight with someone important, sooner or later I'll have a dream that reminds me of their importance in my life, which suddenly makes my problems with them less significant.
Another part of this chapter that stuck out to me was the part regarding near-death experiences. I think that the scientific evidence concerning these instances is very fascinating, but I'm left wondering how religious folk would respond to these claims? Many people have used this as evidence for the after life and might take offense to these findings, however factual and scientific they may be. Matters of science vs. religion are always intriguing to me.

Where the Conscious Resides

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It is difficult for psychologists to be sure of exactly what part of the brain consciousness resides in. However, recent studies have given them more evidence about what parts of the brain are involved. The Secret You provides evidence that the cortex, located on the outside part of the brain, allows us to be self-aware. This self-awareness comes from nerve cells in the brainstem sending projections out to all areas of the cortex. In addition, the video states that consciousness is about constant activation of the cortex. I also found it interesting that the doctor in this video had access to an intact human brain. The information from this video has led me to wonder what tests and studies were conducted in order to figure out what part of the brain controls the conscious. Furthermore, are there any ways to strengthen the power of our conscious? Also, what similarities and differences are there in the way the brain functions regarding the conscious and unconscious? Upon further research, I have found that recent studies suggest that there are certain complex decision making situations in which unconscious decisions pay off more often than conscious decisions. However, there were limitations to the conscious decision making abilities in these studies. The following link is an article that discusses this topic: omplicated.decisions. I feel that the human conscious is an extremely interesting topic, and I hope that additional scientific breakthroughs will be made regarding it in the near future.conscious-machine_cp3hb_2263.jpg

E*Trade, E Stands for Emotion

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(Link to Video Below)
Advertisements are the quintessential form of manipulation. More specifically they are very skilled at manipulating our emotions. Everywhere we look from a billboard to Television there are messages being thrown at us to take action; be it political commercials or automobile commercials there is a constant flow of information about things we need to do or buy. All of these use elements that grab our emotions.
One of the best examples of emotional stimuli that advertisers use is in recent E*Trade ads. As shown in the video there are a number of different elements that tap into emotions. The first and most prominent is reveled right at the start of the commercial with main character being a baby. Immediately there is a sense of innocence and trustworthiness with the ad. What kind of company would ever jip you that has a baby as their mascot? The second element is the emotion of reacting to humor when suddenly the baby begins to talk. This not only brings about a positive feeling for the add, but it ingrains it in our memories. For people that watch television, I know very few that wouldn't remember the E*Trade commercials. There are also other more subtle emotions addressed in this specific video such as depression that might come from not having a retirement plan.
"Ultimately, the effectiveness of advertising must be thought of in terms of the experience it creates for the viewer, and emotion has an inescapable role to play in that experience."1


1. Young C., Capturing the Flow of Emotion in Television Commercials: A New Approach, Journal of Advertising Research, (2004), 44 : pp 202-209

Link to Video:

I have always found paintings and different forms of art so interesting. It always seems like the artist is just waiting for you to find the hidden message they put there. They all just have little secrets, which why I think it's extremely difficult to get bored of studying art.

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When I read about vanishing points and saw this picture in the book, I literally stopped and studied it for a good 5 minutes. It took me awhile to understand the painting. Once I saw how it was put together, it really gave me a good idea of what vanishing points are. Since it was so hard to trace the lines of the building to where they meet, the many vanishing points make this an impossible figure. It was interesting to Google the painting and to see how it would have to be constructed. These are the types of things that make me want to learn more about architecture and art. I always wonder how artists are capable of painting these types of things and how architects design such intense buildings.


Visual perception, an interesting and popular research focus of psychology, is the function of the eyes and brain working together to interpret our surroundings. Take this picture for example: some people may see a vase, while others may see two faces. Perhaps if you look at it long enough you will see both. This phenomenon relates to the theory of figure-ground organization. Figure-ground organization is one principle of Gesalt's theories of perceptual organization. This concept explains that when we look at an object we do not just look at the object; instead, we see the object in relation to its background. This explains why reversible figure-ground images, like the one above, can change in our mind as we look at it.
I find perception to be a very interesting topic because it gives a biological example of how differently everyone interprets information. Reversible images in general are a classic illustration of how every aspect of life can have more than one dimension, more than one point of view. Although figure-ground perception deals specifically with sensory information, in many ways it represents how people all have different perceptions of the world--different ideas, opinions and views--and that these can all change over time.

3d-chalk-art-river1.jpg Recently these "3D Chalk Art" pictures have been popping out all over the place. It really is amazing how lifelike these pictures look! I believe that one of the ideas used is Size Constancy. The artist of this chalk picture made the rocks that he wanted to look further away smaller, even though they would be equal in size if picked up. We may also use perceptual sets that convince us that this image is 3D. Our brain sees the shadowing and automatically perceives as a three dimensional space. However if viewed from a different angle we would easily be able to tell that it is just a drawing. Even though our mind is being tricked, I think we should all be thankful that these things can trick our brain because they are pretty cool!

Smelling the Beans in Brazil

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Are different people able to sense different stimuli? We all have the same five senses right? Even though that is true many of our senses have a natural variation and some lose their ability over time.

The sense of hearing or audition is a sense that loses its ability to perceive certain stimuli. "Teen Buzz" is a product to take advantage of this phenomena. It is basically a loud and annoying buzz that is emitted at a frequency of approximately 17.4 kHz. At this frequency the sound is only really heard by people under the age of 25. Its intended purpose is to be projected around businesses in order to stop loitering, vandalism, and drug use. I tested myself and my 19-year old friend, we both could hear the 17.4 kHz buzz. It was loud and almost hurt to listen to. It would definitely be a good deterrent.

All senses also follow a natural variation when it comes to ability. Just like height or weight a person's ability to sense stimuli will be different compared to almost anyone else. Just as there are super tall people, there are also people who have a heightened ability to sense things. Olfaction, or the sense of smell, follows this and a person with a heightened sense of smell could "smell the beans in Brazil", as the proverbial phrase goes.

As with the other senses certain animals have a sense of smell that is many times better than even the best human's. The silvertip Grizzly Bear (pictured below) has the best sense of smell of all animals. Their sense of smell is 7 times stronger than a Bloodhound's which are renowned for their ability to detect and follow scents.


We all love sleep, but...

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Imagine having the opportunity to be in a race to New Mexico from Las Vegas, the prize being 2 million dollars hidden in a locker at a train station. Now factor in being narcoleptic, and what a problem that would be! Italian Enrico Pollini, played by Rowan Atkinson, has exactly that problem. Moments before opening the locker where the prize money is stored, he falls asleep! While he may make it seem like a funny disorder, narcolepsy is no such thing.

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where a person can suddenly fall asleep, no matter the situation, for anytime between a few seconds to up to an hour! Often those who experience narcolepsy also experience cataplexy, which is a complete loss of muscle. Picture a wooden collapsable toy:


With a simple push of a button, the giraffe completely falls over, with no control over his body. And although this is a toy, the giraffe has no control, just like a cataplexy narcoleptic! I personally find narcolepsy a very interesting sleep disorder. And while scientists still do not know what causes narcolepsy, they are slowly finding treatments to quiet the symptoms. Modafinil is a medication that promotes wakefulness, and has so far proven beneficial for narcoleptics. We all love sleep, but I prefer to choose when I fall asleep!


I was very confused after watching the BBC video, The Secret You. Towards the end of this movie, an experiment was done to test the human decision making process. An Oxford professor was placed in an fMRI machine where he was asked a series of questions. He would answer the questions by pressing a button in either his right or left hand. By monitoring his brain activity, the researcher was able to determine which button he would press six seconds before he would press it.

This amazed me and really made me think. What really controls our decisions? I would like to think that I am in control of every decision I make, but am I? Is it me or my brain deciding? And if my brain is a part of my body, is there really a difference? If our brain made the decision for us, then technically we made the decision ourselves. However, we were not aware that we made this decision, so did we really? It is a confusing subject to think about. I still do not entirely understand it, and I don't think many people do.

My belief going into the video was that I was in complete control of my decisions. I felt that I was presented a set of options, and from those options I chose the best one. After watching the video, I have a slightly different understanding. I feel that when making decisions our brain uses our past experiences to decide what is best for us, thus creating the set of options we choose from. This is something that we don't consciously recognize. After this happens, then our brain chooses the best option.


babys-face2.jpgHave you ever thought about when you really know or recognize yourself; know "how you look like"? Actually, I cannot remember the first time that I recognize myself in the mirror. However, I found out in the BBC fascinating that we human begin to recognize ourselves or have the self-awareness between 18 to 24 months. That's an interesting fact! This makes me recall the first time that I held my younger brother to look in the mirror when he was just 12 months old. He was kind of curious about the "image" in the mirror and tried to touch "him". He knew that there was "one person" there but did not know it was him. And now, I know why he could not recognize himself. In terms of this thing, I remember one thing with my roommate's dog. The dog is a jack-a-bee. My roommate put the dog in front of the mirror. The dog stood there looking into the mirror and could not recognize the image when she almost 2 years old. She saw herself in the mirror then looked elsewhere. And it seemed like she was not curious about the image in the mirror. So, apart from human, chimpanzee and gorilla can really recognize themselves in the mirror. Probably, we human and apes share similar genes. Here is a video from YouTube that can be a great example of self-awareness of the chimpanzee or gorilla. Enjoy!

jpgIn BBC's video, The Secret You, Oxford mathematician Marcus de Sautoy went through an fMRI scan while being asked questions that would either make him press the button in his left hand or in his right hand. Shockingly, his brain decided which button he would press six seconds before Marcus was consciously aware of which one he would choose. Even more surprising, and in some sense, disturbing, is that John, the man administrating the fMRI, was aware of Marcus' decision before Marcus was aware of it. By looking at images of Marcus' brain during the scan, John could see if Marcus was going to choose the right or left button.
This information raised these hair prickling questions: who is in charge of your decisions? Is it your brain? Your conscious self? And most importantly, is there a difference? frmi.jpg
Clearly, there is a difference between your brain and your conscious self. This was proven when the brain made its decision six seconds before Marcus was aware of it. But does this mean that Marcus doesn't make any of his decisions, and that his brain decides things on its own accord? No, I do not believe this. After the fMRI was completed, John explained that the brain takes into consideration what your conscious self desires and acts upon that as well.
However, I can't help but to be somewhat spooked by this data. Although my brain takes into consideration by conscious thoughts, it ultimately has the power to make my decisions. In that sense, does that mean that my brain is a separate entity? That my brain is not really "me"? Which makes me think, how much control over my life do I really have? Where is the line between my conscious thought and my brain activity? These are all questions that have risen after watching this movie that will remain around, and most likely unanswered, for long after I'm around to hear them explained.

Total Buzz Kill

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When I first heard about the Mosquito alarm, the high frequency pitch that becomes more undetectable as one gets older and hearing decreases, I was curious about its imgres.jpgeffectiveness. I myself had special interest in the Mosquito and its effectiveness because my hearing is in each ear is drastically different.

Due to nerve damage I received in my right ear in a football game my sophomore year, the hearing ability of my right ear is equivalent to that of an eighty year-old man. Since the injury, I noticed that there were certain noises that did not bother me when they came from my right side, yet when I would turn around, they would become increasingly annoying. So when I learned about the Mosquito, I decided to perform my own experiment.

I put on my headphones and tested my hearing range with each ear. When I had the headphones on both ears, I could hear the different pitches. Then I took out the headphone in my right ear (the damaged one), and played the different pitches, and I could hear them again. But when I placed the headphone in only my right ear, I could not hear any of the different pitches.

I found doing this test to be very interesting, and the results of my own personal case study proved the difference in frequency recognition between the two ears. I find the concept of the Mosquito alarm to be very interesting and am curious to what you guys also think, and your responses to TeenBuzz test. So here is the video that I used to test my hearing, and I encourage you to test it for yourself, as well as ask older people what there reactions to the high pitches are, if they have any!

You just Became Aware

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At what age do you believe you recognized yourself? The moment when you looked in a mirror and thought- that is me, or when someone pointed to a picture to you as a baby and you were able to make the connection that, that was you at a younger age. One man, Marcus de Sautoy, makes a documentary in search for that.
Sautoy visits a unit in which they have pinned down the age at which we discover ourselves. This happens between the ages of 18-24 months. They were able to pin point this down by conducting a study. In the study you place a child/ infant in front of a mirror, when he/she makes eye contact with themselves in said mirror you place a mark on the child's face. Once this mark has been placed on the face you allow the child to look at the themselves again- if the child reaches for the mark on his/her face it is a clear indicator that they have realized that it is a reflection of themselves- thus meaning the have become aware of what they look like.
Sautoy brings up an amazing point, you can live up to a year in your life with no knowledge of yourself. You could look at yourself and not even know that you are seeing yourself. This self-awareness allows you to engage in yourself and see your past through pictures and memories with images of yourself. The only three things that are able to do this are humans, orangutan, and gorillas. This is an amazing feature for us to have.
I love being able to see this as I babysit many children. When you're with a young baby they are fascinated by mirrors but when you ask them if they see themselves they become very puzzled. It is also like when you show a young child a portrait of themselves as a newborn- it is hard for them to imagine their body that young. Our life is forever changed because we can recognize ourselves. Just think: What do you think humans would look/ dress like without the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror? Do you think looks would be as important? Do you think our ability to recognize ourselves if for the better- or not?

Consciousness is at the very core of what makes our waking perception of reality. We are able to process all that sensational data given and make it a coherent image of our world. That consciousness is what gives us the ability to be the highly successful albeit complex species we are.

But what does all this mean. What is our brain doing while we busily process all this data that makes our perception....well conscious. Other animals don't have the level of perception that we have. The ability to not just recognize what we see as food or threat, but see a situation and understand our hand in it and how that situation came to be without necessarily observing the cause. To get an idea of what that process is we need to compare the waking mind to that of a state of unconsciousness. While we sleep our brains are still active. this has been shown in many previous studies. The mind however active is definitely not conscious. This sleeping "condition" present researchers with a comparable state to make their observations. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Milan have devised a way to look at the activity of the brain to direct stimulus under the two different conditions.
By wearing a set of electrodes the researchers are able to apply a shock to the brain by a process called Trans Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). As the shocks are applied the electrodes are able to sense the activity of the brain. IN the conscious mind the responses are wide spread stimulating areas all over with complex patterns associated with each individual area stimulated. In contrast the unconscious mind, or sleeping, has only localized responses. This suggests that the mind has a great deal more connections while it is conscious and that those connections are very wide spread and diverse based on the stimulus. To be clear that a more interconnected and communicative mind is a more conscious one.

This study while relatively simple gives a pretty clear indication of what a conscious mind looks like; lots of communication and signal responses all over the mind and variable based on stimulus. The intriguing bit about this is that we know have a clearer picture of what consciousness looks like and may be able to perceive the level of consciousness in other creatures.

bwy1254405966k.jpgWe all know that our large brains were critical for us to become the dominant species on Earth, allowing us to form language, solve problems, and understand the world around us. But do we truly know what our minds do for us? The complexity of our brains is only starting to be uncovered, as new theories about our dreams come into play.
After waking up from a nightmare this morning, I decided to write my blog on dreams - how important they are to survival, and what they could mean to our daily lives. Many people wake up from especially odd or frightening dreams wondering if the imagined occurrences have anything to do with the issues faced in their current lives. This is why radio shows and newspaper articles with "the dream doctor" can become so popular and why it is easy to search for explanations on typical dreams and nightmares over the internet such as in this website.
Our dreams have always been a mystery to the individual as well as in science. Some think of dreams as being a connection to a mystical world, while others believe there is no rhyme or reason to them at all.
This article interested me specifically as I researched more about dream interpretations, with psychologist Antti Revonsuo arguing that dreams help us to stay sharp, because dreams safely stimulate extremely stressful situations and train the mind to take the appropriate steps necessary for survival. The article brings up reports of people who had just survived a life-or-death situation, saying they entered "a mode of calm, rapid response, reacting automatically, almost without thinking. Afterward, they often say the episode felt unreal, as if it were all a dream. Threat simulation, Revonsuo believes, is why." The psychologist even claims that 2/3 of all dreams are threatening, supporting the theory that threat simulation indeed plays an extremely important role while we sleep. This is especially true when we look to the past, where many of these simulations actually happened, such as being chased by an animal or getting lost in the forest. This certainly shows how our brain is always working to protect us from our worst fears, by coming up with solutions should they ever happen in real life. In our dreams, the brain simulates what we fear most, going over and over again what might happen and what we can do to get out of the situation safely. While it may be a little traumatizing to dream about our worst fears so often, we can be assured that if it ever were to happen, we could use our dreams to get out of the mess in the most efficient way possible - which can be a relief when you really think about it.sonhos3.jpg
This article is very interesting and I encourage anyone to read it for themselves. Of course, we still cannot confidently say we know exactly why we dream, as the mystery of the brain becomes ever more complex with further studies. However, this theory offers quite an interesting argument.

Impossible Figures!

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An interesting thing that I recently came across was something called an impossible figure. An impossible figure is an illusion created by a two dimensional figure that the visual system subconsciously interprets as a three dimensional figure. At first, the brain processes the figure to be three dimensional but after staring at the figure for a few seconds you begin to realize that it is impossible and that figure is really two dimensional.One person who mastered this illusion was M.C. Escher. In his famous drawing Waterfall (shown below), the path that the stream of water takes appears to recede farther away rather than go to the top of the waterfall. He uses cues to enhance the height in field effect which makes the water appear to flow downhill and still end up higher than it started.


Another famous impossible figure is the Penrose triangle(above), which appears to lie in a plane and one side seems to project out at an angle from the other two sides. Both of these images appear this way because of Gestalts laws of closure, which state that we will see objects as wholes and fill in what is missing. Here are a few more pictures below, can you see how they are impossible?




Do You Hear What I Hear?

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Do you hear what I hear is a relatively famous song that is played at Christmas time. But one day during my Senior year in High School one of my teachers put us to the test. He played the different teen buzz sounds, or "mosquito" sounds to see if our class could hear them. Each noise had a certain age that should be able to hear it.


The first tone, the 8000 kHz, everyone should be able to hear no matter how old you are. As expected, all of us in the class could hear the tone. Then he played the 10,000 kHz which everybody under 60 should be able to hear. Once again, everybody in the class could hear the noise. Then he played he 12,000, 14,000, and 15,000 kHz tones, which correlates to everybody under the ages of 50, 49, and 39 respectively. As predicted, the class of 18 year-old's could hear the noise, but many commentated on how faint the last tone had been. Finally my professor played the 16,000 kHz tone which people under the age of 30 should be able to hear. Much to my surprise, I couldn't hear it, and not one of my classmates could either. The entire class was 18 years old or younger, and no one could hear the tone. I was floored by the fact that nobody could hear the noise we are suppose to hear at our age. So while many people think that the new wave of ringtones could be these "mosquito" ringtones, the small sample of my class shows that even those who are suppose to benefit might not be able to.

Growing up with an Asian mother she was always worried about my health and my weight, especially since my dad is obese. She would constantly pester me about eating too late at night, giving me the evil eye when I reached for the bag of chips. I'm happy to say that she is not right but... she is also not wrong. According to an article in Web MD an experiment containing two groups of mice proved that on average there was a 20% weight increase when the mouse's eating habits were changed. On the other hand according to Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., she believes that eating a healthy 200-300 calorie snack helps maintain a high metabolism through out the night, still leaving you hungry in the morning for breakfast. Finally, an article from illpumpyouup.com meets in the middle saying its eating the right thing at the right time. Eating a couple hours before bed is a good thing, leaving you with a slight hungry feeling before you go to bed, meaning that your body is burning your fat.

Legitimacy of these articles may vary from person to person, because Web MD is a well known site some readers may view it as more accurate information. Otherwise, if your like me hearing that eating before bed is actually O.K. makes everything else seem insignificant. Also the legitimacy of each article cannot possibly pertain to each reader because everyone's body, metabolism, and diet are different. In the end I think each reader knows their own body best, and what eating style would be most beneficial for them.



Obesity is a problem with our population today; I don't think anyone would deny that. But can obese persons avoid being obese? Or is that just the way they were designed to be. To many the answer is either one or the other, however I believe that it is a combination of both nature and nurture. Some people are at higher risk of obesity than others, but I firmly believe that everyone can be fit. It's no secret that Americans have the stereotype of being overweight, so why would we be the only country with that stereotype if it is natural? We have lots of fast food, and lots of people who lead lazy lifestyles. A study by Treuth et al showed that there are genes that affect whether someone is prone to be obese, but they also show that the environment and habits have almost as much importance. This article supports my view that some people have the odds stacked against them, but through hard work can remain in shape and fit. My response to the issue: Eat better and exercise more. If everyone followed that simple formula (some have to try harder) obesity wouldn't be an issue. Nature may be a factor in the obesity debate, but nurture is the most important and influential side to this debate.


Are YOU an Olympic Athlete?

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Gearing up for the Olympics this coming summer in London, I can't help but think--Why am I not participating?! And additionally, what creates a Gold Medalist? Looking into how athletes get to the Olympic and Professional level, the debate of Nature versus Nurture comes into play. Being a multiple sport athlete myself, I find this topic extremely intriguing. Growing up, I was taught that you can beat the most talented players with a hard work ethic and a heart for the game. According to several articles on the subject, this debate may never be settled. One post on expertfootball.com gives examples of great athletics running in families, yet concludes the article by saying that great athletes are created and not born. This may sound confusing, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Some people are born with genes that make them more apt for athletic success, however, if they chose not to pursue their talents, they will not reach Olympic Status. There is a reason you always hear about pro sports players spending hours and hours at the gym keeping themselves strong. In my opinion, getting that gold medal is a direct reflection of how hard you trained for it. Natural talent will only take an athlete so far.

One issue that has grown more and more controversial in recent years is how and why "non-traditional" sexualities occur. Scientists have many theories on the issue, including the parental manipulation/kin selection, which involve the parents unconsciously producing a non-heterosexual child usually for the intent to assist in rearing a sibling's offspring. Ultimately, the question to be answered is if an individual can be born homosexual or what environmental factors lead to differing sexual orientations.

A study of twins in Sweden points to the problems of looking at only "Nature" or "Nurture" factors. Among mono-zygotic or identical twins there was a sizable, but far from high correlation between genes and sexual orientation compared to DZ or fraternal twins. Thus, the scientists who involved with the study concluded that there was not one side of the Nature vs. Nurture dichotomy solely responsible for sexual orientation, and it was, in fact, a combination of blurring of the two.

My reaction to any Nature vs. Nurture argument is that is rarely any one side of the issue that creates the individual. Rather, it is foolish to try to analyze issues through this dichotomy because the lines between them are so often blurred.Btwins_585x350_667905a-1.jpg

images.jpg Living in America today we consume processed foods all the time. The price, taste, and convenience of these products are why Americans love them. Grocery stores carry more processed food and products that are chemically engineered and grown with the help of pesticides than natural and organic food. These unnatural choices are also much cheaper in comparison to the prices of healthier foods. Americans save money by buying these foods and many find them to be tastier. But how will eating these low quality foods now affect us in the future?
Americans love meat. They typical plate consist of Meat, a large amount of carbohydrates (bread or potatoes) and a small amount of vegetables. Americans eat about 8 ounces of meat a day; this is about twice the world average. Each year the typical American will eat about 200 lbs of meat. This is twice as much meat than was consumed 50 years ago. The number of cancer cases in the United States has increased significantly also. Cancer rates went up 55% from 1950 to the year 2000. It is believed that the amount of meat and the type of meat that we consume is directly related to this increase. Much of the meat we buy contains sodium nitrate. This is used to help preserve the meat but is also believed to be a carcinogen. This article shows that sodium nitrate not only can increase your risk of cancer but can lead to other health problems. Instead it is recommended that we eat natural meats, such as local meats and grass fed meats.
Foods containing refined carbohydrates are also suspected of causing cancer. Examples of foods containing these are white bread, chips, granola bars, candy, and almost all sweets. These types of foods are eaten by Americans all the time and many are believed to be healthy. Not only do these carbohydrates play a large role in the development of diabetes but also heighten the chances of developing cancer. Carbohydrate intake has a proven correlation with the risk of cancer, especially in the colon and breast.
Although these foods are a large part of the American diet it is recommended that we eat less animal products and processed foods and more vegetables, fruits, and other forms of proteins such as seeds and nuts. It is believed that doing so will greatly reduce a persons risk of developing cancer. Doing so is hard when our stores sell mainly processed foods and doing so is also more expensive. But in the long run the rewards are great. America as a whole will be able to lower cancer rates in the United States simply by changing their diets.

nat-nurt alcohol.jpgOne of few things that comes to mind when I think about the "Nature vs. Nurture" debate is alcoholism. Is there certain traits that one must inherit in order to have addictive behaviors? Or do addicts pick up their habits from the friends and family around them? Many contributing factors of this problem (some call it a disease) are discussed in this article titled "Alcoholism: Nature vs. Nurture." In my opinion, I believe that those who have addictions also have the power to overcome their addictions or prevent them from happening in the first place, even if it is encoded somewhere in their genes. Many experts say that alcoholism runs in the family--if you have a family history of alcoholics, your chances of becoming an alcoholic are increased. Looking at the picture above, I don't think any baby comes out of the womb wanting to crack open an ice cold Rolling Rock! Though I do see how certain traits that cause addictive behaviors can be a large contributing factor, I think what substance one is addicted to is affected more so by their environment. Among many other nature/nurture debates, alcoholism is one topic that remains unclear as to which plays the stronger role. As said in the article, however, "most experts would agree that it is probably a combination of all these factors - family history, personality, environment, and genetic predisposition - that leads to someone becoming an alcoholic." If you are in a family with a history of alcoholism, you have both nature and nurture playing their roles: alcoholics in your environment and in your genes.

With weight loss shows on every television network these days, people across the United States are consistently aware of the obesity take over in our country. With people as young as toddlers being considered overweight and even obese, how does this happen at such a young age? But more importantly, why?
Nature vs. Nurture. A common debate, but when it comes to the children of america what is making them so overweight? Is it their genetic make-up? Or is it their lack of exercise and proper diet? This blog looks at a Nature vs. Nurture study. The study claims that childhood obesity is 77% because of genetics and 23% due to the environment that the child grew up in. So for those who believe that they are bound to be plumper or bigger because of their parents think again. There are ways to prevent excessive weight gain; and even though we all know it, it truly is simply a proper diet and exercise regimen.

To leave you all with a startling fact: The World Health Organization classifies around 400 million people worldwide as obese, including 200 million children under the age of five. So take care of yourselves! And for further readings check out this website to not fall into this horrific statistic, and heres a glimpse into an extreme case:

There are many reasons why people become vegetarians, but they predominately fall within three categories: health benefits, ethical responses, or in support of environmental sustainability.


Although there are definitive pros and cons to both sides of the argument, it is a very personal decision. With this as my premise, I will try to summarize and simplify the main points before I put in my two cents. Please reference this article for further credibility.

Here are the claims: vegetarianism proponents argue that eating meat "harms health, wastes resources, causes deforestation, and creates pollution (1)." What's more is the ethical stance that killing animals for food is cruel and unnecessary because non-animal food sources are plentiful.

To counter, opponents argue that consuming meat is healthful, humane, and that "producing vegetables causes many of the same environmental problems as producing meat (1)." In addition, they cite that humans have been eating and benefiting as a means of evolution from meat consumption for over 2.3 million years.

Lisa Simpson, my favorite pro-veg.jpg

These three articles expand and challenge the former claims: Why Become A Vegetarian, Why I Am Not a Vegetarian, and My beef isn't with beef: why I stopped being a vegetarian.

After reading the articles I have come to these conclusions: eating meat and Environmental activism, Pro-Veg.gifvegetarianism both have draw-backs in regards to health (vitamin and protein deficiency vs. heart disease susceptibility), and ethically one can not presume to say definitively that killing animals is "wrong" or "cruel", when it is part of the natural cycle of life and a component of human evolution. Once these issues are put aside as impasses, we can examine another approach to vegetarianism, one that is slightly more apropos as a current issue: sustainability.

My third article described one woman's switch from radical vegetarianism to a small farm operator raising (and killing) chickens, pigs, sheep, and others. Woginrich became a vegetarian in response to the misuse of resources, pollution, habitat destruction, animal hormone pumping, and environmental liabilities caused by the poor farming practices of the commercialized American meat industry. She says that "to be vegetarian is to be a pacifist, avoiding the fight against animal cruelty. Eat meat from sustainable farms, and we will win."

I have to agree with her stance. Vegetarianism for animal activism is a personal ethical decision. Vegetarianism for "heath benefits" is dubious. However, if you become a vegetarian in response to the negative practical aspects of the industry, I believe your efforts can be redoubled by supporting small farms that promote the humane treatment of animals as well as environmental sustainability.

So that is my opinion. I know this topic is controversial, so you will probably have your own thoughts. If my sister read this, she would be pretty outraged at my "moral apathy" (she is a stoic vegetarian who sends annual donations to PETA). Feel free to unload ideas.

The Debate of Many Centuries

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nature vs nurture.jpg The grand debate about nature vs. nurture; what is more significant? Genes? The way one is brought up? Or are both a crucial part to a person's way of being? In this article a child's potential future is discussed. When little, kids want to become astronauts, doctors or superheros. Most times, these ideas don't actually come into reality. What does come into reality though are lifelong careers in diverse fields. How do people come about choosing which field they want to study and work in? Is it in our hearts, our passion? Is it influenced by a parent, teacher or coach? Many people also wonder how this certain upbringing and external influences affect twin. Whether they are identical or fraternal, genes and influence can be taken into account in order to test the nature vs. nurture theory. nvn twins.pngThe article discusses how a parents use of trajectories can influence the way a child develops and groups up. Psychologist George W. Holden from Southern Methodist University came up with four trajectories that parents influence their kids into a certain way of development ending in the last way being that the parent no longer has control over their child and is instead reacting to the actions being done by the child whether they be good or bad. Many other topics can arise from the child development aspect of nature vs. nurture; sexuality, success in school, having a criminal record even something as simple as clothing styles. This is a question that might never be answered. With the current research and evidence, I can conclude that the majority of the time there will never be a nature or nurture rather a nature and nurture combination.

What does it take to be a world class athlete? Is it perseverance, hard work, commitment, hours of training and sacrifice? Or are champions decided before they every play their first game, run their first race, or even take their firsts steps? The debate of nature vs. nurture in athletics has been plaguing athletes and coaches for a long time. What is that makes top athletes better than all of the rest?
As a competitive athlete i understand and feel the burden of always wondering if my genetics will help or hinder me in athletic endeavors. When we look at a fact or figure like, the top 33 mens marathon records of all time are held by African runners, It is hard not to believe that an athletes genes play a significant role in how successful they are. This sounds like a disheartening figure, almost encouraging people to not even try because they are already pre-determined to fail. But even if we accept that nature plays a significant role in our athletic ability how do we know that the edge that these champions receive isn't strictly in strength, endurance, or other physical ability, but that of an athletes willingness to train, their perseverance, the mental toughness that pushed them harder than others. I refuse to believe that when i line up for a race that everyone there doesn't start on an even playing ground and it is the athlete that works the hardest, trains the hardest, and races the hardest that wins. If you start an event thinking that your competition was born to beat you, your already beaten.
Studies have linked certain genetics to be more prominent in athletes but it has not been proven that a person is born a champion. The following article discusses this ongoing debate and the amount that genes might affect our elite athletes, i would recommend all those interested in the subject to read farther.
I would like to close just by saying that i believe that it takes a multitude of factors, both from nature and from nurturing, to create a champion athlete and regardless if you think you have the genes of champion, you better give it absolutely everything you have come race day!

Man on the Moon

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Have you ever seen a cloud that looks like an animal? What about that grilled cheese that looked like jesus? Both of those are examples of pareidolia, which occurs when the brain takes meaningless images and turns them into something that means something. I can't tell you the number of times that I was walking around in the dark and thought I saw a man in my house that turned out to be clothes on a chair. More popular examples of pareidolia is the 'Man on the Moon' and the 'Face on Mars' that the textbook talks about. In 1976, the Mars Viking Orbiter took pictures of the surface of Mars and by random chance and the way that light made shadows on the rocks, the picture of rocks on Mars turned into the image of a face. Pareidolia can be so convincing to some people that just this image was enough proof to them that there was intelligent life on Mars. Another example of a large population creating an image out of unintentional stimulus involved the 1954 Canadian dollar. So many people saw an image of the devil in her hair that it was taken out of circulation. The likeness that was used on the bill was taken by a camera and not drawn so there was no devil, but it isn't very hard to see if you look closely.
What examples of pareidolia have you seen in your life?

vegetarian-protein.gifHave you ever thought about taking on the challenge of not eating meat or dairy products for any given length of time? It seems like quite the challenge, but around 7.3 million people around the US practice do so. Vegetarianism is a practice that is increasingly becoming more popular around the world every day. A central debate recently has been asking about whether or not this is a healthy life habit. Many sources have proved their points as to whether indeed is or is not.

The first article I have linked argues that vegetarianism is not beneficial in any way. The author argues that it make you feel weak due to the lack of nutrients meat holds. Also, a disadvantage is the fact that it can cause you to become unhealthy because of the nourished feeling one gets from eating meat.

The second article I found argues that vegetarianism is extremely healthy for you and will decrease the risk of developing obesity, heart disease, and even high blood pressure. Also, many toxins can be eliminated from the body with the elimination of meats in ones diet.

Finally, the third article I found leaned towards the more neutral side of the debate. It is a more FAQ style article and gives both pros and cons about choosing a vegetarian lifestyle. It answers questions such as where vegetarians get their vitamins and minerals, whether or not it is safe to be practiced by children, and how to start this lifestyle.

Overall, I think that being a vegetarian would be a healthier option in the grand scheme of it all. It would definitely be a hard step for some people but by eating food not filled with toxins, they are already making a healthier leap forward into better eating habits.

Listed below are the articles I used to support each point:


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