September 2011 Archives

The Amygdala: Our Lifesaver?

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Who could have guessed that such a tiny, almond shaped organ in our brain would have so much effect on our daily lives? The amygdala is stored in the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) and it plays a key role in fear, excitement, and arousal. Scientists have discovered that without the amygdala, we become fearless. Fear is what keeps us grounded and guides us to make smart decisions. Without our amygdala, who knows what our lives would be like.

The article "Humans, Like Animals, Behave Fearlessly Without the Amygdala" demonstrates how vital the amygdala is to our lives. In the article, a woman who had holes in her amygdala displayed no fear. One night she walked through a park alone and was attacked by a man with a knife. The next night, she walked through the same park alone once again. Due to the holes in her amygdala, she was unable to make smart decisions that an average person would make.

The article "Human Brain Responds to Animals, Cute or Creepy" talks about how individual brain cells found in the amygdala respond only when we see animals. The reason that our brain pays so much attention to animals is likely because animals can pose as a threat to us. Whether an animal is cute or terrifying, the amygdala alerts us to their presence because it recognizes that animals are potentially dangerous.

I found an interesting video on YouTube that talks about how important fear is to our survival. In fact, our bodies can react to a threat before we are even consciously aware of it. Signals are sent to our amygdala via the optic nerve and it triggers the fight or flight response. We are then able to make a quick decision on whether to stay and fight our fear, or run away from it. Link to video:

Last summer, I had a very memorable encounter with my amygdala. I was going on a run through my neighborhood at night when a pitbull appeared out of nowhere and started biting my leg. I started out with a fight response and tried kicking the dog to get it off of me, but that didn't work, so I chose the flight response and ran away as fast as I could. Luckily, a car drove by and scared the dog away. My amygdala was able to recognize that I was in danger and trigger my fight and flight response. Now, I know that it is probably not the best idea to run alone at night.

Saying that the amygdala is an important part of our lives is a complete understatement. What would our lives be like without it? Would it even be possible to survive?

By: Shannon Lee

Apophenia and Grilled Cheesus

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Sometimes, we make connections to simplify overly complex concepts that we wouldn't be able to fathom without these simplifications. These generalizations typically aren't harmful to us, but sometimes they can give us the wrong ideas about certain things. One type of incorrect connection is apophenia. Apophenia is a tendency to perceive meaningful connections among unrelated phenomena. We make certain connections among separate events that we encounter in order to make sense of the world around us.

This idea reminds me of the "Grilled Cheesus" episode of Glee, where Finn makes a grilled cheese that turns out to have an image of Jesus on it. He prays to Grilled Cheesus for his football team to win their next game; when they bring home a victory, he believes it is all because of Grilled Cheesus. This is an example of Apophenia because Finn is making the connection that they won their football game because of Grilled Cheesus, when in reality there is no connection between the two.

I recently experienced apophenia as I was walking to class one day. Earlier, I had been thinking about how I should send a Facebook message to a friend from high school that also attends the University of Minnesota so that we could plan a time to get together for lunch and catch up. So I was walking along, and guess who I ran into - this friend I had just been thinking about earlier! I couldn't help but think that because I was thinking about her, the universe somehow made it happen for us to run into each other. Looking back now, I know that our run-in was merely a coincidence. However, at the time, it just seemed too unbelievable to be chance.

Some unrelated events that we make connections for are more obvious than others. How often do you think we make connections among disparate events?

Fear...Is it all in our minds???

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I wasn't surprised to find out that the amygdala and memory are connected. When you think about it, it is our memory that helps us learn how we will respond to certain situations. I can definitely put some real life application to this subject matter.
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Latricia Jackson. She was walking home from school on a cold Minnesota Winter day. Suddenly. when she was 10ft from her house, a dog jumped on her. To this day she is still afraid of dogs. Doesn't matter how big or small


Even though I am 24yrs old now, when I'm out and I see a dog, in my mind I say "you're ok, you're not afraid of this dog." Yet the minute it gets too close to me I jump and I'm out of there! It's like the memory of what happened when I was younger is the only thing that allows me to have this fear. If I couldn't recall the incident I truly do believe I would be fine.

I know eventually I will have to get over this fear, my boyfriend would like for us to have a dog someday. Where does one begin?


Adrenaline is a hormone manufactured by the adrenal glands. When you are in adrenaline.jpghigh-stress or physically exhilarating situations, the adrenal glands release adrenaline into the blood. Adrenaline causes changes in the body to make it more efficient for "fight or flight", like stimulating heart rate, constricting blood vessels and dilating pupils. What suprises me most is that your body literally know when you are in any sort of dangerous, scary, or life threatening situations as well as situations that require you to do something beyong the limit of our body.

When I was 10 years old,I was riding my new bike on the driveway.Because I just learned how to ride,I wasn't used to it yet.Suddenly,someone was walking toward me.In that moment, I forgot how to stop and I couldn't control my bike.I was going to fall down. At that instant,I noticed that the way I was falling I would have broken my tail bone. Out of nowhere adrenaline kicked in.I cushioned my fall with my elbow. Fortunately´╝îI only bruised my elbow and knee.How amazing adrenaline is!

There is no doubt that we can't live without adrenaline.However,what will happen if our body releases adrenaline too much?What's the mechanism to balance the amount of adrenaline.

Makeup Blog for Missed Discussion Section - 9/29/2011 - Week 4 - S&P

Sometimes we miss things when we are distracted. But have you ever just completely missed something although you were paying attention? This can happen when you pay too close attention to just one aspect of the larger picture.

This video is an excellent demonstration of this. eye.jpg

Did you see the gorilla? Many viewers don't. This inattentional blindness occurs when someone's attention is focused elsewhere. Some viewers are too focused on counting the passes of the basketball, that they completely miss the fact that there is a person in a gorilla suit! In this demonstration it is kind of funny, but it is almost scary to think about what other things we might be missing because we are too caught up on something else. Sometimes a great attention to detail isn't the best thing.

Subliminal Messages

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One concept that we learned about in Psych 1001 so far is the concept of subliminal messages. Subliminal messages or subliminal persuasions can be and most likely are present in our everyday life. These messages are hidden but can often make an influence on simple and sometimes complex decisions we have to make. This concept is very important to understand and apply to our lives in the fact that companies or government parties could be using these messages every day to influence our actions or thoughts
One example of subliminal messaging that I have heard a lot about is messages in Disney movies. Some of these movies include Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, Lion King. You wouldn't think that a harmless child's movie could possess some subliminal messaging that may not always be positive. The accounts that I have heard of and somewhat seen have most likely been placed in such movies, aiming towards the adults. The messages that people have reported being present in the movies have been about sex. For just a short moment, the stars in Lion King spell out the word, in Aladdin, a character supposedly says "good teenagers take off your clothes" under his breath. All of these can be thought they are really in the movie when really your mind is just telling you they are. But then again maybe they really truly are there. So my question about subliminal messages is how do you know if you are really being subliminally messaged, or when you are just making yourself think that you are?

Subliminal Messages

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One concept that we learned about in Psych 1001 so far is the concept of subliminal messages. Subliminal messages or subliminal persuasions can be and most likely are present in our everyday life. These messages are hidden but can often make an influence on simple and sometimes complex decisions we have to make. This concept is very important to understand and apply to our lives in the fact that companies or government parties could be using these messages every day to influence our actions or thoughts
One example of subliminal messaging that I have heard a lot about is messages in Disney movies. Some of these movies include Aladdin, the Little Mermaid, Lion King. You wouldn't think that a harmless child's movie could possess some subliminal messaging that may not always be positive. The accounts that I have heard of and somewhat seen have most likely been placed in such movies, aiming towards the adults. The messages that people have reported being present in the movies have been about sex. For just a short moment, the stars in Lion King spell out the word, in Aladdin, a character supposedly says "good teenagers take off your clothes" under his breath. All of these can be thought they are really in the movie when really your mind is just telling you they are. But then again maybe they really truly are there. So my question about subliminal messages is how do you know if you are really being subliminally messaged, or when you are just making yourself think that you are?

Sensation And Perception

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Sensation is distinct from perception but most of us use these words interchangeably. After this week you should know the difference. Sensation begins with stimuli from our surroundings. This week you will be learning about the amazing mechanisms like rods and cones in the eye and hair cells in the ear that transform stimuli into neural impulse which the brain can interpret and create meaning.

Perception is what the brain does after your sensory organs have picked up and translated the stimulus.

Many students struggle with some of the underlying concepts that researchers have used to determine the range and limitations of our sensory organs.

Here are a few everyday examples of sensory experience that you can test or are familiar with that describe phenomena discussed in your book. See if you can name the concept and explain why it occurs.

Different portions of the body vary in their sensitivity to touch. Try this 2-point discrimination task with a friend.

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Bend your paperclip to make two points that are relatively parallel to each other

Have your partner shut his or her eyes, and ask them to guess if you are touching their hand with one or two points of the paperclip

Try this on various parts of the hand, arm or other parts of the body and with different distances between the two points

This next scenario represents a different S & P concept. Do you know what it is?



Isabel has prepared three cups of coffee but can't recall how much sugar is in each. The cup with the smallest amount of sugar is easy to identify, but Isabel can't taste any difference between the other two cups even though she knows one has more sugar.

Finally, it may be a case of early onset of dementia but this happens to me more than I would like to admit. I ask my daughter,"Hey Ruby, have you seen my sunglasses anywhere?"

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Try and identify three concepts from your book or lecture this week that describe what is going on in each case.

And for those who want to know a little more background concerning our in activity in discussion section this week, check out this short article

Would you spot the gorilla?.pdf

I found this guy's vlog and he is really really excited about the amygdala, which is good because it makes learning easier for me. He said a lot of really useful stuff about the amygdala that is applicable to everyday life.

It is a little long so if you don't want to watch it, he basically said that there are many things that stress us out during the day (like my new job) and inhibits our ability to use our neocortex (the logical part of the brain). So your logical part of your brain is being overcome by the amygdala which is counterproductive because it is not letting you be logical. FRUSTRATING!

One of the things he said that can help is taking deep breaths! This is really true because when I am stressed I try to remember to breath and it really helps me start to think logically and feel better. For example "if this person doesn't get their drink in time it is not going to be the end of the world and you shouldn't care if they are pissed at you." The extra oxygen allows me to use the logical part of my brain to think this.

Unfortunately, the logical part of my brain isn't much better sometimes... Either way... I am happy that I learned this because knowing how to overcome stressors in life is important for everyone. I wish I could turn off my amygdala when I go to work. However I don't know what the impacts of turning your amygdala would be, but it is a cool idea for those of us in the service industry at least.... :)

Lets Get Fearless!

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Amygdala a small area in the brain that makes us conscious of our fear, anger, and pleasure. The articles showed us that with the removal of the amygdala we might be fearless, not phased by anything that would normally freak us out (e.g, snakes, sharks, or spiders). So essentially if we didn't have our amygdala we wouldn't be scared to do anything!

I am terrified of swimming in lakes and oceans because of what animals are in them. Last year I went tubing for the first time. I was clinging to the tube trying to stay on with no part of my body touching the water. But then the unexpected and worse possible outcome happened. The tube started going underwater. At that point if I didn't have my amygdala I wouldn't have been scared. I wish then I hadn't had my amygdala that day because that experience ruined tubing for me.

This link may be scary for some of you if you are scared of spiders. I personally could never do this, but you are pretty much asking for it if you are on fear factor...

What are you scared of?

The Amygdala

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The Amydala is a feature of our brains that is associated with emotions. It is most known for it's association with fear and how animals and humans deal with fear. The articles presented were both really interesting and covered two different aspects of the amygdala, which I enjoyed. One thing that grabbed my attention was that the amygdala was named according to its almond-like shape. The enjoyment I got from this was either due to the incredible simplicity of the name, or the fact that I really like almonds. Either way, it is a fascinating concept.

The articles focused on how the brain responds to animals; most specifically, the relation our brain makes between certain animals and how we - or our general instincts - feel about these animals. Of course, it works both ways as animals experience fear as well. But for this blog posts purpose, I'm going to focus on the human aspects. As I read along through the first article I read and got to the part about the rattlesnake, it really hit me that our brain and how it functions is quite remarkable. It only takes a split second of associating a specific animal or object to our feelings about them. In turn, we are able to make fast decisions such as jumping over the rattlesnake or petting the cute dog.

As I was reading both articles, I couldn't help but wonder if the amygdala could be manipulated - or in a sense - changed over time. In my child psychology class, we watched a video about how a child's mind adapts to certain experiences over an extended period of their life (age 1, age 2, age 3, and so on). It also showed how a child's mind adapts when shown certain reactions by adults. I feel as if the concept of fear is somewhat learned as well as it is instinctual. Which leads me to question, how does the amygdala know which experiences are the most fearful for us? Is it based on experience? Or, as the article had mentioned, is it based entirely on evolution and how the brain has dealt with these experiences in the past (i.e. how our ancestors responded to certain animals, objects, environments, etc.)?

Can I be good friends with snakes, spiders, and ghost which I fear of terribly if I could take my amygdale away from my brain? The answer may not easy as like I hope, but study of relationship between amygdale and our fear behavior can help people who are suffering from overboard fear emotion. medium_hdpzqw7z_9a_01.jpg

Through two readings, I have learned that people pay more attention to not only animals which bring us danger like snakes but also other animals which bring us warm feelings like dogs or cats. As I always feel extreme fear toward snakes, our brain, amygdale, responds to animals quickly as we see them. According to the University of Iowa's case study, a lady whose amygdale does not reside normally has no sense of fear, for instance she does not have fear of snakes or walking after dark alone. Is removing amygdale cool? Can I be a fearless and strong person?
I have watched this video clip just for reference in class. In this video, a lady, who has a spider phobia, cured her phobia with a hypnotherapist. Although hypnotherapy is very questionable, he cured her spider phobia in this video. I do not quit believe that hypnotherapy cures people's fear, but I believe that using amygdale study and find a medicine or psychological therapy is a great idea to cure people's fear.

The Free Will - Determinism Debate discusses two radically different doctrines that attempt to explain how the world functions. In gross terms, determinism argues that all things in the world are the result of previous actions and therefore no event can be manipulated in any way. Conversely, the Free Will doctrine states that human beings are genuinely free to make decisions and determine outcomes in their lives.

Before the twentieth century and the foundation of the theories of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, the scientific community strongly favored Determinism because this doctrine agreed with their view of the world. This view can be simplified as follows. All large structures are made of smaller structures, atoms. All atoms interact with the environment in measurable and, more importantly, predictable ways. This universally accepted understanding of our environment suggested that macro-interactions (day to day interactions) result from many predictable micro-interactions; thus free will is illusory.


The establishment of contemporary physical subjects has radically changed science's view on this debate. We have come to realize that Newtonian Physics does not accurately describe our entire environment; specifically it fails when analyzing the very big and the very small. We have come to realize that, especially when studying subatomic physics, we can only hope to understand many events, not to determine them. This indeterminate characteristic of physical events can be interpreted as the source and existence of our free will.

How can't I apply the belief in free will to my life? My faith in the existence of free will is fundamental to my life, without it I might as well be dead. A belief in determination fosters a complacent and indifferent disposition to all things. After all, how could one genuinely live if they had no power to create change?

I'm no hard science major, but I think that one of physic's greatest goals is to create a Theory of Everything (TOE). A TOE is a theory that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena, and predicts the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out. How would the discovery of such a theory force scientists to reexamine this debate? Would the framework of such a theory leave room for the continued belief in free will or would scientists return to adopting their archaic belief in Determinism?


Reading these two articles surrounding the amygdala was interesting because it gave me insight into the unfamiliar source, of very familiar human reactions. Understanding how we react to other humans and animals and connecting those feelings with the historical context of human survival was something I had never thought about. It was crazy to see how an amygdala- absent mind works by observing the mentioned person reentering a setting where she had recently experienced an event most people would deem as incredibly traumatic.

I am really interested in alternative types of treatment and the idea of amygdala centered therapy in relation to fear proved very interesting. I stumbled upon an article( on "exposure therapy" and the idea that we can control our amygdala by conditioning ourselves to remain in situations we would usually find scary until our fear subsides. The article, and the treatment method, take the idea of facing our fears to a whole new level. The text mentions the treatment being effective for those with extreme phobias, anxiety attacks and those facing PTSD.

The idea of exposure therapy plays around with the idea that we can change our amygdala and could prove to be an effective method in treating various fear related disorders.
Has anyone heard about or had experience with this type of therapy?

Because sometimes, it might.

The amygdala sure is an interesting name for something so extremely pivotal for the basic survival of both animals and humans. This almond shaped mass in the temporal lobe of our brain is used for emotions such as fear, anger and pleasure. In a nutshell, the amygdala is responsible for our fight-or-flight response. You know that feeling when you can hear your heart beating through your chest and feel your sweat starting to trickle down your face and you are ready to either fight or run? Yeah, that response.

Imagine yourself alone in an underground subway in Barcelona in the middle of the night. That's where I was when my amygdala went into full gear. I was walking out of the subway when I saw two strange men mumbling things in Spanish and following me. Obviously, I had not used my common sense in being alone and things didn't feel right. Looking back, I now know that my amygdala was responsible for the screaming voice in my head saying "run as fast as you can and get out of here!"

Needless to say, I followed that voice and started to run up the stairs and out of the subway. This was definitely the smartest thing to do because the two men started to chase me until I reached the top of the stairs. If my brain were to have been scanned at that moment, my amygdala would definitely have been lighting up!

What could have turned into a terrible situation was saved thanks to my amygdala. That little guy sure did save me a whole lot of trouble! Who knew something so small and seemingly insignificant would end up being the reason I knew to just run?

Differing Levels of Analysis

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I am interested in unity. ´┐╝

This is, in part, why when I heard a psychology professor state, and restate, "The mind is what the brain does," I was both intrigued and disturbed. "The mind is what the brain does."

difffering levels.png

Let me start with the intrigue. The statement seems to offer reconciliation to the mind-body dualism that permeates--even plagues--Western thought. Now that is something; while interested in dualism I am not an advocate of it. But it was again in the context of Western thought that I found myself disturbed.

We westerners are marshals of cold facts, quick to organize, connect, shuffle, reorder and synthesize relative hard values into discreet categories. And what especially lends itself to dualisms: we love to reduce. It is efficient.

But I am interested in unity. My hold on the concept of the mind being what brain does is fragile; I might too easily reduce the mind to the brain, or, less often, the brain to the mind while ceasing to behold both simultaneously.

I often wonder if Sigmund Freud was guilty of reducing the mind to the body by assigning all of human action a will to pleasure. He reinvented--and reduced--the meaning of erotic.

Models are models, and should seek to illuminate rather than substitute for reality. We cannot reduce something to a single aspect of its nature. This is why, when I reached page three of my text Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, I was immediately drawn to figure 1.1.

...We'll keep one crucial guideline in mind: We can't understand psychology by focusing on only one level of analysis. That's because each level tells us something different, and we gain new knowledge from each vantage point. (3)

Speaking of eros, figure 1.1 immediately reminded me of Plato's ladder of love, with each rung participating in and leading to the rung above. The West loves its levels of analysis, doesn't it?

On that note, I will close with an image from Brandeis University I ran across a couple of years ago: a structural comparison between a brain cell and a computer reconstructed map of the Universe at the level of clusters of galaxies. Talk about patterns that permeate different levels of nature!


Amygdalae(s) Realize!

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amygdalus plant.jpg

Amygdala: what a funny name. I had to chuckle when I discovered it was named for its simple almond shape rather than for its complex functions. But I suppose that's what the amygdala is all about, isn't it? Initial sensations.

While the amygdalae are probably most famous for their association with fear, I can't help but wonder about the enormous ripple effect that would occur if it were altered in various ways. Observations have been made, of course (monkeys and partial encephalectomies, a woman with lipoid proteinosis), but the emotions and behavior observed hold further implications: memory formation. Strong emotions make strong memories.

It seems like everything eventually connects. Recently I was doing a bit of research on dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, and got to reading a little about beta-blockers that block action of epinephrine and norepinephrine. They are banned from the Olympics as they can reduce tremors and stage fright. Following links like a meandering digital bread crumb trail, I came across an article on beta-blockers and memory modulation.

No surprise that article was found at the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics! Questions seem to blossom in fractal patterns.

Without the amygdalae--or with altered amygdalae--what would the hippocampus have to put into context and sequence during memory formation? Would traumatic experiences and repressed memories cease to exist? On a grander scale: how has the amygdala affected evolution? Facial recognition, art, poetry, all manner of expression?

I immediately think of the amygdalae and mythologies. The Garden of Eden, for example, has been interpreted by various scholars as a metaphor for preconscious unity. I can see a link between that and the infantile experience of mature amygdalae but undeveloped hippocampus (and consequently infantile amnesia). I would love to investigate more creation myths to see whether there are parallels with the development of the human brain and consciousness.


Just heard about an interesting study happening here on campus involving how International students adjust to college.

You can earn up to 5 REP points or a $35.00 Target gift card if you choose to participate.

You are eligible if:

*You identify as an international student whose first language is NOT English.
*You have just started your first semester at the University of Minnesota.

Click here for more information about the study

I have learned about the amygdala in my previous anatomy class in high school, but have never read any studies on it and first hand experience or scientific research about. Just the function (triggers sense of fear). I was not surprised by how the animals, or lady with lipoid proteinosis reacted without the amygdala, I was more curious.
I thought "if I were to face a fear so grave, without my amygdala, would that bring me more danger or make me braver?" "If we removed the effect of the amygdala, could we create fearless more effective soldiers?" "Would the world turn to turmoil, because no one feared the law?" all these questions ran through my head as I thought more and more about this thing, this thing in our brains that makes our knees buckle, gives us goosebumps, makes our hair stand on the back of our necks, was it really worth it?? Could we better off without it?
The answer to that I think is no. No, because without it we would go against something bigger, stronger, and more powerful. We would have no fear to make us cower, and end up being eaten alive or something similar. Our fear, it's what keeps us from doing stupid stuff, like going into a lions den, or shooting a firework off in our hands. Fear keeps us alive.

Nature vs. Nurture

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This week in discussion section we will discuss the nature/nurture question as it relates to the story that you read about the Bogel family. Pretty crazy situation for the Bogels. Would make a nice reality TV series on FOX. We should all be grateful we were not born into that clan!


Still, how do we know what drives such criminal behavior? Is it in our basic makeup, the code in our genes? How much is this behavior learned from our parents, siblings and friends?

Here are a couple of article that address both sides of the issue. Some food for thought before Thursday's class.

Altering a Mouse Gene Turns Up Aggression, Study Says.docx

The Pleasure of Giving.docx


More about your blog assignments

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Here is some criteria for what I am looking for in your blog posts.

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There are some general guidelines in the syllabus that you should refer to. The criteria below are more specific instructions that will help you create interesting and comment provoking blog posts.

Blogs are worth 6 points each. You will earn points based on the following. The first two are the most critical.

1. Explain a concept from Psy 1001 lectures or the Lilienfeld text that has interested you over the past two weeks. This should be your first paragraph. Essentially, summarize some new information you have learned in psychology that you think is cool. DO NOT directly copy out some definition from the text book! Summarize in your own words.

2. Provide a real-life example that illustrates the concept you described above. Most likely from your own experience but it could involve someone you know or some current event that is relevant. Show us how you can apply what you just learned in class to your own life. Why does it matter? Why should we care?i-think-therefore-i-blog.jpg

3. Creativity counts! Incorporate other media into your post by using a photo, video, or link to other articles.

4. Connecting. Good blogs should connect to other internet media. You should first look to comment on or refer to other blog posts in your class. Extra credit for blog posts that receive the most comments.

5. Clarity and mechanics. Blog posts should be short, to the point, focused on one topic. Paragraphs should be brief, you are pushing it if they go beyond 4 sentences. Refer to the syllabus for what we mean by what makes a clear and functional blog post.
Here are some additional tips:

The 4 Pillars of Writing Exceptional Blogs

20 Types of Blog Posts - Battling Bloggers Block

6. Finally, end your blog with some kind of question. Based on what you have learned and what you know from your own experience, what questions do you have? Perhaps your fellow students or instructor has some ideas or other places to look for answers.

Hopefully, this will provoke comments from others which might earn you extra credit!

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Week three news

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OK, scores have finally been posted on Webvista. Now that I have gotten through grading this first assignment, I believe I have a solid method for organizing this task and should have future grades up quicker.

To see my comments about your work simply pull up your document and on the upper right hand corner is a comments pull down menu. Select "show comments stream". You can respond to these comments if something doesn't make sense. I also highlighted sections in your doc that I wanted to draw your attention to.

You do not need to make these corrections on this assignment. They are simply suggestions for ways in which you can improve your writing in the future.

Congratulations to team BAM! for doing the best work of the week. They earn an extra point for their excellent effort. You are welcome to check out their work on Google docs to see what it takes to be the best.

Many of you in this section still have not come up with a group name or symbol. Make sure you do this for all future assignments.

Now on to biological psychology and the role of genetics.


Reading the two articles, I realize that amygdala controls the sense of fear. Two experiments confirmed the hypothesis: one is that researchers who inserted electrodes into people's brains found cells in amygdala alerting when people saw the images of animals; the other is that animals without amygdala became fearless when they faced other threatening species.

I can hardly find a good situation in which we can live without any fear. It is the fear that alerts us and restricts our crazy behavior and actions. Indeed, we need to be fearless when facing new adventures (e.g., bungee jumping), but we don't need to permanently remove the amygdala to do so. In the case of patient SM suffering from lipoid proteinosis, SM's "fearless characteristic" made her brave enough to walk through the same park where she had been attacked the night before. In this situation, amygdala places a very crucial role in keeping us alert and safe.

However, I guess that modifying the amygdala might be a way to treat those who live in deep fear in their everyday life.

I previously had no knowledge of the function of the amygdala. I learned that the amygdala triggers a persons and animals response to fear. It is amazing how disconnecting the amygdala in an animal can make it fearless to its predators. I also found it very surprising that the woman with lipoid proteinosis responded to her attack in the park. Instead of going a different route after be attacked the previous night, she decided to continue her same routine. This did not seem like a typical response to such an attack. I remember camping with my family in first grade I got lost trying to take a shortcut in the woods. This scared me because it took my hours to find my way back. Ever since this experience, I am paranoid about getting lost when I am walking through the woods.
In my free time, I enjoy wakeboarding in the summer. When trying new tricks I am often afraid of falling and injuring myself. The hardest part of progressing in the sport is having the right mental focus and being able to block out fear. I feel if my could control my brains response from my amygdala or if it was damaged, I would be able to progress rapidly with new tricks. I wouldn't be surprised if eventually professional athletes in extreme sports started searching for treatments to alter their amygdala in order to diminish their fear. Most likely, this would be too harmful for the athlete and would never be approved by any doctor.

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For Cats, a big gulp with a touch of the tongue...

"It has taken four highly qualified engineers and a bunch of integral equations to figure it out, but we now know how cats drink. The answer is: very elegantly, and not at all the way you might suppose. "

Not all good questions are psychological.

How Do Brains Work?

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Well that is a huge question that I don't expect you to answer here but check out this video where Steven Colbert challenges Steven Pinker to explain how the brain works in 5 words or less.

For this blog entry you might want to comment on a very key part of your brain that influences a great deal of your behavior: the amygdala.


Notice how it is directly connected to the hippocampus who's main function deals with memory. In addition researchers have mapped some of the connections the amygdala has with other parts of the brain. Amygdala connections.jpg

From this image you can clearly see that the amygdala is well positioned to widely influence brain function. Much like the hub of a bicycle wheel.

For this writing assignment check out these two articles for ideas about the function of the amygdala. Summarize what you learned from these readings and then describe how this new knowledge might apply to your own life.hs-amygdala.jpg

Humans, Like Animals, Behave Fearlessly Without the Amygdala.docx

Human Brain Responds To Animals, Cute Or Creepy - NPR".pdf

Facial Feedback Hypothesis

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facial feedback.jpg

Our in class activity this week involves running a small experiment to test if forcing facial muscles into a smile or a frown changes how humorous cartoons are perceived.

You will be writing about how this experiment was executed and organizing your findings into a document that follows APA style rules for psychological science publication.

Based on the data collected by your group and the class as a whole, did the experiment confirm your hypothesis?

Here are a couple of news articles that explain why laughter feels good and another which describes how a botox injection might dampen other emotions.

Laughter Produces Endorphins, Study Finds -

Botox May Deaden Not Just Nerves.docx

Talking About Minds

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blog dog.jpg

Be creative with your blog posts. Feel free to post pictures, videos, music to help your post rise above pointless barking.

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