October 2011 Archives

Robert Zajonc (rhymes with science) was one of the most innovative psychologists of the last 50 years and contributed much toward understanding emotions and how our thoughts shape our emotional lives. His experiments revealed the mere exposure effect which shows that repeated exposure to any new object increases our liking of that object. Check out this demonstration of the effect here.

He also proposed that people, often unconsciously, mimic the facial expressions of their spouses and that, over the years, couples who tend to share similar facial expressions will become increasingly similar in appearance.

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Based on the assortitative mating activity we did in class you might think that couples are initiatially drawn to each other who are similar in attractiveness and may even share certain facial features but this is not what Zajonc found in his experiments. Here is a NY Times article reporting on the original finding and the methods used to arrive at this conclusion.

Long-Married Couples Do Look Alike, Study Finds.docx

Now conjure an image of the person you are currently dating or interested in. Do you really want to look like that person 25 years from now?!

Another facial expression that signals emotion and often reveals the stirring of the heart for another, or perhaps just plain old embarrassment is the blush. blushing.jpeg

Recent studies have found that blushing can help reduce criticism from others and increase social bonds.

Hold Your Head Up. A Blush Just Shows You Care.docx

Your textbook also describes how knowing someone else is fond of you can increase attraction. This seems rather obvious and yet researchers have found that not knowing whether or not someone likes you at all can be an even more potent factor toward attraction.


Uncertainty Heightens Romantic Attraction.pdf

How many of you already act indifferently toward a potential boy/girl friend when you really are head over heels?

I was intrigued by the theories on what constitutes intelligence in this chapter, and specifically on the story of Christopher Langan. How can someone who has such highly-tested I.Q. end up working in a bar or on a farm (and be satisfied doing it)? And how does he feel about himself and what constitutes "intelligence"?

Here's some video of Langan's thoughts, and some of his thoughts on eugenics may be surprising (3 parts total):

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it"
-Joseph Gobbels (Reich Minister of Propoganda in Natzi Germany).

Toward the end of Ch. 7, Lilienfeld discusses false memories. More specifically, he discusses the different ways in which false memories are brought about. For example, in the seven sins of memory, he addresses how bias and schemas may influence our memory of a particular situation. In Natzi Germany, propoganda was heavily used to sway the public opinion. Victims, particularly Jews and socialists were primarily targeted. These victims were portrayed in a negative light, characterized with over exagerated traits.
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Perhaps Gobbels used this sin of memory to his advantage by implacing a negative schema of Jews and socialists, thus distorting peoples memories. He may have additionally used "persistance", by constantly delivering this message. From a biological standpoint, memories are created and stregthened through long term pontitiation in the hippocampus. Acording to Hebbs rule, every time a stimulation occures the nerogical connection is strengthened.

Long-Term-Potentiation1.jpg Thus after hearing a lie so many times, the lie eventually may becaome embedded in the brain, perhaps acounting for flase memories.

If memories are this suseptible, should we really trust historical accounts and more specifically the media?

Growing up, my house shook with my father's snoring each and every night; Loud enough to wake me up on the other end of the house, (on a far, too regular basis). Like with any stimuli with highly repeated exposure, I underwent habituation in which I no longer let this snore bother me, but it was not always this easy.

Only after 10 years of my life, and many more years of snoring, my mother suggested he see a doctor. This suggestion was provoked by an escalated severity in the snoring in recent years. Dad's snoring was so bad that in between breaths, he would stop breathing for anywhere between one and sometimes up to 4 or 5 seconds. When lying awake listening to your Dad stop breathing, 4 seconds is a lifetime.

After a trip to the doctor, Dad was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Prior to the doctor visit, neither myself nor my mother knew much about sleep apnea, its symptoms, or its severity. We had know idea that in some cases sleep apnea can be so sever that it can cause suffocation. Recently, I have learned that Sleep Apnea can also be linked to heart disease. Interestingly enough, in later years my father would also have double bi-pass surgery on an 80% blocked main artery.

Sleep Apnea is as simple as a diagnosis and the issuing of a mask to wear at night to provide pressure to the airway, (CPAP). So do you know anyone who snores loudly and on a regular basis that may have instances of no breathing?

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/ask-the-expert/sleep-apnea-and-heart-

picture: diseasehttp://www.clinicalsleep.com/images/default-banner.jpg

Make up for October 20, 2011

In the court of law, attorneys often rely on witnesses to help strengthen their arguement/ point of interest. But can a witnesses' statement be used if it isn't 100% correct? The answer is, we don't have a choice. This is because each time a person retrieves information from long-term memory it alters the previous details. As new information interacts with old information the overall memory is changed. Anxiety/stress which increases in most people when they are being interrogated or put on the spot (witness stand) significantly affects memory. Too much cortisol, which is associated with the stress hormone can prevent any new memories as well as accessing existing memories. So law students be sure in the future your witnesses are relaxed and comfortable to increase the accuracy of what actually happened the night Mrs. Robinson died.


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Resource:

http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/stress.html#stressmemory

A Forgettable Momento

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After learning about amnesia, it reminded me of a particular hollywood movie. The 2000 movie Momento revolves around a man who has short-term memory loss and uses clues and tattoos his body in order to find the man who killed his wife.

Leonard Shelby, the main character in the film, suffers from anterograde amnesia. This means that he is unable to create new memories from new experiences. This illness makes his task much more difficult than it should be for a normal human being. Throughout the movie he is constantly trying to find clues that will help to lead him to his wife's killer, and he tattoos the most important ideas across his body.

Amnesia is a serious disease that can have a huge affect on someone's life. I find it rather intriguing and can't imagine what it's like for someone that suffers from the illness.

Momento is an extremely entertaining film. It is one of Christopher Nolan's first films and I enjoyed every minute of it. Everyone should check it out if they want to get a better idea of how anterograde amnesia works!

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Teens are often given a bad rap for staying up late, oversleeping for school, and falling asleep in class. But recent studies show that adolescent sleep patterns actually differ from those of adults or kids. Recent studies show that during the teen years, the body's circadian rhythm is temporarily reset, telling a person to fall asleep later and wake up later. This change in the circadian rhythm seems to be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night for teens than it is for kids and adults. This can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early.

Maybe this is why most good sleeper's take 15-20 minutes to fall asleep?

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Hollywood vs. Amnesia

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Hollywood seems to give off the wrong impression of amnesia. The movie 50 first dates is an example. If you haven't seen the movie, Henry (Adam Sandler) meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and they hit it off. But the next day when he sees her, she has no idea who he is. In the movie, they say that Lucy suffers from Goldfield syndrome due to a head injury in a car accident; however, this is a fictional term for anterograde amnesia, or short-term memory loss. Also, according to Sallie Baxendale "The most profound amnesic syndromes usually develop as a result of neurosurgery, brain infection, or a stroke. These factors are overlooked at the movies in favour of the much more dramatic head injury."

Click HERE to read Baxendale's article

Do you think it's bad that film makers twist scientific topics to create a better plot, giving off the wrong impression of amnesia to the public?

Hypnobirthing, Does it Work???

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Hypnobirthing, is an interesting technique that clams to naturally relieve the majority of pain associated with child birth by hypnosis. During birth you will not be in a trance or asleep, but in a daydream state that allows you too be conversant and totally in control. There is a whole website devoted to this natural method that you can check out to get more information in this interests you. Do you buy into this claim that a little hypnosis can relieve the pain of child birth, and would this be something you might be interested in?

http://www.hypnobirthing.com/howitworks.htm

Have you ever been a victim of "sleep attack" during class lectures? I guess many of college students have felt some kinds of "sleep attack" during the early-morning lectures or after-lunch lectures.

Narcolepsy is one of sleeping disorder, and it causes the rapid and often unexpected onset of sleep. A new study of Devanjan Silder, a researcher of Sannford-Burnham Research Institute, explained the relationship between narcolepsy and weight problem.

There are two types of fat: white and brown. White fat stores calories while brown fat burns them.Lacking of the neuropeptide hormone, orexin*, that encourages hunger and wakefulness may cause "a lack of energy-burning brown fat."

Right now, there is not perfect treatment for the narcolepsy, but more research about orexin would help many people who are suffering from "sleep attacks."

"Orexin"- is a hormone that narcoleptics do not have. Orexin is related to our appetite and sleep. sleep.jpg


While reading the text on conditioned behavior and unconditioned stimuli and responses I thought about the reality TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which is based on counseling celebrity drug addicts past their addictions. From what I understand, conditioned behavior is a significant part of drug addiction, where the unconditioned stimulus is the drug, and the unconditioned response is the high.

In this case, the environment, setting, or people would be the conditioned stimulus. This creates the need, or the impulsive feeling to take part in using the drug, which is the conditioned stimulus. Addicts tend to be reminded of their addictions based on where they are, and whom they are with. A major part of curing or counseling drug addicts is keeping them in a similar environment with addicts, however removing the conditioned stimulus or the drug.

When Dr. Drew uses the extinction process, he slowly exposes his patience to the conditioned stimulus (environment) to create the conditioned response (Cravings) however he doesn't expose them to the unconditioned stimulus (Drug). Gradually overtime a new conditioned response to the similar conditioned stimulus, diminishes the original conditioned response; which was taking the drug. The addiction diminishes through the process of addiction, for the time being. However the patient can relapse through spontaneous recover where the Conditioned response reappears when the patient exposes himself to the unconditioned stimulus once again. My question is, is the extinction process really an "extinction" process if can come back at anytime?
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For most people, that answer would be a clear no. But for users of methamphetamine (meth), ingesting this ingredient and numerous others is just business as usual. Why is this drug so damaging? A look at pictures such as these http://www.myfox8.com/wghp-pg-faces-of-meth,0,1425347.photogallery makes you wonder how the people have become so scary looking in such a short time.
http://citizensagainstmeth.org/meth_ingredients.html gives a very good description of all the ingredients in meth.
Consuming these ingredients alone is damaging, but combining them is even more so. So what exactly makes people look like this after using meth? According to experts, a combination of the effects of the toxic chemicals, lack of sleep, spending money on the drug rather than hygiene, and weight loss contribute to the less than stellar appearances of the users.
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50FirstDates.jpgEver since I watched 50 First Dates for the first time I have become very interested in memory loss. From studying memory in the past week I have learned a lot about the different types of memories. Drew Barrymore's character in 50 First Dates, for anyone who hasn't seen the movie, damages her brain in a car crash and can only remember one day at a time after the accident. Her long term memory is still in tact as she remembers her life before the accident as we remember yesterday.
This form of amnesia, where every night her memory of that day vanishes, is not very probable in the real world. The main character in 50 First Dates suffers from a very Hollywood version of Anterograde Amnesia. Although she can clearly remember her past before the accident, she can not hold any new memories and therefore lives in the same moment over and over again.
Even though amnesia cases in the movies tends to be very unrealistic, I can really get an understanding of how life must be for a sufferer of memory loss and I am grateful that my mind is still in tact. Hopefully psychologists in the future will learn how to better treat amnesia, but I wonder what it would be like to live only one moment for the rest of my life?

A Voice with No Words

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I cannot even begin to imagine growing up without learning to speak a language because language is such an integral part of human life. For a young girl named Genie, that was her unfortunate reality. Because she was isolated for the first 13 years of her life, Genie missed the critical period for language learning and was never able to learn one language fluently. I think it is interesting that after a certain point in ones life, language can no longer be learned fluently.

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How would you be able to go through life without being able to speak any language?

tings.jpgWhy is it that after I meet someone, I will recognize them later yet cannot put a name to their face. Names are stored separately from the semantics part of our hippocampus. Therefore names can be harder to remember. An easy solution is to ask their name again, but that can be annoying. Some techniques I've used in the past include repetition, mnemonic devices, and alliteration.

Title quote: "My names is," by Eminem

tings.jpgWhy is it that after I meet someone, I will recognize them later yet cannot put a name to their face. Names are stored separately from the semantics part of our hippocampus. Therefore names can be harder to remember. An easy solution is to ask their name again, but that can be annoying. Some techniques I've used in the past include repetition, mnemonic devices, and alliteration.

Title quote: "My names is," by Eminem

Narcoleptic Weiner Dog

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After reading the chapters, I came across a section regarding narcolepsy that really caught my attention. The disorder narcolepsy is when a living organism experiences an episode of sudden sleep that can last seconds to several minutes. A surprise, elation, or strong emotions can even lead some people with narcolepsy to experience cataplexy, a complete loss of muscle tone. Genetic disorders and sometimes brain damage increase the risk of narcolepsy and studies have shown that the hormone orexin plays a key role in the sudden attacks of sleepiness. Medications are hopefully being developed to help patients with narcolepsy. Here is a video I found that is somewhat comical regarding narcolepsy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Li7pKbpDf8

Narcoleptic Weiner Dog

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After reading the chapters, I came across a section regarding narcolepsy that really caught my attention. The disorder narcolepsy is when a living organism experiences an episode of sudden sleep that can last seconds to several minutes. A surprise, elation, or strong emotions can even lead some people with narcolepsy to experience cataplexy, a complete loss of muscle tone. Genetic disorders and sometimes brain damage increase the risk of narcolepsy and studies have shown that the hormone orexin plays a key role in the sudden attacks of sleepiness. Medications are hopefully being developed to help patients with narcolepsy. Here is a video I found that is somewhat comical regarding narcolepsy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Li7pKbpDf8

Is Hypnosis Real?

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After reading the section on what hypnosis is and isn't in the text, chapter 5, and comparing that information to my experiences with hypnosis I struggle with believing that hypnosis is real.
Since I was first introduced to the concept of hypnosis, I thought it was an interesting concept. Being able to be lulled into a sub conscious state with someone else "controlling" you was an awesome idea to a 16 year old boy. Then as I started going to some of the hypnosis shows I started questioning the validity of it because the peers of mine who i talked to claimed to have no recollection of what had just happened. It seemed to me that there should be at least some knowledge of what you had just done. The doubt really started coming after I was selected to be hypnotized. I tried to keep an open mind about it but to no avail i wasn't able to be put under.
After reading the text it really makes me question because on of the Myths of hypnosis is that you forget what happens while you are hypnotized. Every one I have ever talked to, which has been a fair number, has said they don't remember what occurred and now the text disputes that claim. It makes me wonder if the people selected in these shows fake it for the attention.
Maybe its just me but hypnosis seems a little too hooky to me.

If you're like me, you may have experienced a similar dilemma when prompted by friends or family to tell your best joke at that last party or family get together...

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I tend to remember the essence of the joke, you all know that one about the bar right? and remember the good feelings it gave me, which usually is what lead to its encoding in the first place.

What i struggle with and have began to realize may be a hole in with our advanced encoding process is my loss for the small details like precise wording and the delivery style of the joke which made it so funny. Most great jokes rely on a punchline, which seems to inherently lose its "punch" when the lines are not remembered word for word.

If our sensory memory is able to hold a couple lines of a comedian's joke for only a couple seconds, the entire joke or at least its important phases will be passed on to our short term memory. The success of our short term memory to pass on information to the long term memory for the jokes ultimate storage, is reliant on making meaningful connections with the information, some of which will be remembered. With most other oral tales, this process would work perfectly, however with jokes, the integrity of the story is often times ruined by our own over simplification of it in our minds.

So next time you hear a great joke, hold back from normal processing and make a conscious effort to focus on the wording! It may even help you charm a good looking classmate before being passed onto grandma during the holiday season...

Advertisements effect our perception in numerous ways ("Ways of Seeing" by John Berger is a good read on this subject). But our chapter on memories got me thinking about the potential for advertisements to effect our memories as well. Could part-or-whole of a memory I have simply be from a commercial? Turns out the possibility is there...

This article cites a journal study focusing on the "false experience effect" of high-imagery, vivid advertisements. In the study, certain students were shown a vivid commercial for a fake product (popcorn) while others were shown a text ad of the product, and a certain number were also given the corresponding product to taste while others weren't. But those who watched the commercial were just as likely to report later that they tried the product as those who actually tried it. Is your t.v. implanting memories into your mind?tvfamily.jpg

Returning from the Dead

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Nobody knows for certain what happens to people when they die. This is because once people die, they can't communicate with the living to explain their experience. But sometimes, people are pronounced "dead", and somehow manage to return to life a short time later. Often, people who have such near-death experiences claim that during the time they were "dead", some strange things happened to them. Many people describe leaving their bodies and floating above them, seeing impossibly bright light, and viewing their entire lives pan out in seconds. Because they've essentially died and come back to life, they are able to recount their experiences to the living, and give us a short glimpse into the world of the dead.

Unfortunately, these claims are difficult to back up with solid evidence. Experiments to test out-of-body experiences have been widely discussed, but would be a challenge to carry out. This is because such experiments would involve inducing near-death experiences, which would be inhumane. One commonly discussed (but never performed) experiment involves placing a sign that reads, "You are dead" high up and out of viewing-range of the "dead" subject. If, when the subject regains consciousness, he or she knows what the sign said, then that person must have had an out-of body experience; otherwise, he or she wouldn't have been able to see the sign.

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Sleeping on the Job

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In chapter 5, I found narcolepsy to be extremely interesting. Narcolepsy is a sleeping disorder in which people can fall asleep at any moment lasting from seconds to minutes, and occasionally as long as an hour. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to live a life knowing you could fall asleep at anytime...talk about embarrassing! Imagine what it would be like to fall asleep during a date or in the middle of work!

Not only can narcolepsy be embarrassing, but incredibly dangerous. According to the New York Times article, Narcolepsy, on average 1500 people die every year from narcolepsy related car accidents. In addition, narcolepsy is very dangerous because cataplexy, a complete loss of muscle tone, occurs in narcoleptic people while they are awake. More information that I want to know about narcolepsy is, can narcolepsy be treated effectively? Is it possible eliminate narcolepsy with medication?

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What do your dreams mean?

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I found the dream theories to be very interesting. I've always thought of dreams the way Sigmund Freud took sides with the Native Americans. Freud created the Dream Protection Theory which was an idea that our dreams are our guardians while we are sleeping. The mental censor in our brain, the ego, isn't able to repress the sexual and aggressive instincts we have as well when we're sleeping, as when we're awake so dreams protect us from these instincts disturbing our sleep. Dream-work turned the instincts into symbols and pictures which are also known as wish-fulfillment, simply, how we wish things to be. In order to find the true meaning of your dream Freud proposed that you had to reverse the dream-work. On the contrary, Hobson and McCarley came up with activation-synthesis theory which said that dreams were simply the brain activation during sleep, not an unconscious wish. They said that dreams showed the brain trying to make sense of the random and internally generated neural signals during REM sleep. More specifically, REM sleep is activated by surges of the neurotransmitter acetylocholine while serotonin and norepinephrine shut down. Acetylcholine activates the cells located in the pons and since serotonine and norepinephrine are responsible for thought, reasoning, attention and memory the pons sends out incomplete signals. The forebrain does it's best to put the signals together into a story, the result, dreams. After learning about the Activation-Synthesis Theory, I'm not sure which I agree more with. Freud's theory is what I expected dreams to be, but Activation-Synthesis makes more sense realistically.

My sister is not a zombie.

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After reading the chapter in our textbook about consciousness, I learned many myths and truths about sleeping. However, I did not need the book to tell me that people who sleepwalk are not zombies, like you see in the movies, and you can actually have fully conversations with people who are sleepwalking. I have had a few experiences with sleepwalkers, the most recent being my 6-year-old sister. Her sleepwalking has been going on for a few months and the episodes are very similar. She will walk downstairs, sit on the couch, and watches tv. I always ask her why she came downstairs and she will answer "cause". Her eyes looked zoned out and it is very creepy. Sometimes we will have full conversations with her and she never remembers in the morning.

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Have you ever had an experience with someone sleepwalking? Did you know they were sleepwalking right away or did it take a while before you realized they were not awake?

I remember nothing...

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Have you ever remembered something that never actually happened? This is actually quite more possible of happening than you might think. One of the more interesting topics in discussion we had was of people having false memories.

When somebody tells you something over and over, or makes you think something was there that really wasn't....you can start to develop false memories. For example, when people were showed pictures of Bugs Bunny and told he was at Disney World, they started to develop "memories" of seeing Bugs at Disney. However, Bugs isn't a Disney character!

http://urbantitan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Bugs-Bunny.jpg

This thought makes me wonder how many of my "memories" may not be memories at all....hmmm. Did I really go to class last week?

Best way to memorize

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From my personal experience, my best way of memory is creating a connection between the event which you want to memorize and your personal feeling, which means building a connection between short-term memory and long-term memory. For example, when I witness an event and really want to memorize it, I will imagine I am a person involved in the event and try to imagine what I will feel in that condition, and then I will memorize that feeling. By doing this, I can easily recall the whole event when I have the same feeling again.

Many of you have probably seen the Austin Powers movie trilogy, and probably laughed at the clips where Dr. Evil is always in search of "Frickin' sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their frickin' heads" As far-fetched as marine animals being used as weapons might seem, the U.S. Navy has been using dolphins and sea lions for decades, though as far as I can tell none have actually had laser beams attached to their heads.

According to THIS article, dolphins and sea lions are being used to patrol the waters outside U.S. Naval bases. The animals are trained using Skinnerian principles, mainly with positive reinforcement in the form of treats. Don't feel bad for the animals, however, as none have been killed on duty in the entire history of the program. This program is just another way that B.F. Skinner has influenced society with his behavioral approach to psychology.

Something I never thought much of in relation to memory and learning is phobias, and I was intrigued when our text ushered in the topic in that context.
It's true that people aren't always afraid of thing with which they've had the most frequent or traumatic unpleasant experiences. I've had a deep seated emetophobia (fear of vomiting) since I was a child, but the first time I became ill in that way was when I was seventeen and had no traumatic encounters with the act previously.

The theory of preparedness and evolutionary predisposition to phobias is a great one, and makes me think of Carl Jung (what with the collective unconscious). But what about the unexplained character of many of them (sure, clowns aren't all that funny, but are they actually dangerous enough to warrant the dread they seem to invoke in many)? There are phobias out there that seem to function on a symbolic and psychodynamic level: when a literal threat is too terrible to face, the fear is cast off into a symbol. What parts of the brain work to achieve this displacement? It's certainly a survival mechanism of sorts, but would the displacement not interfere with learning about the actual, literally perceived danger?

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Gift or Curse?

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Something I found very interesting in these past four chapters was the phenomena of hyperthymestic syndrome. This is where one has a memory far superior than the norm. One with hyperthymestic syndrome can remember literally everything that they have experienced. They can also remember which day of the week corresponds with a given date. However, these people also suffer from remembering depressing or traumatizing events very vividly, and being unable to forget them. While to one without this syndrome, it seems incredibly "cool" because it appears so impossible and amazing. However, is it possible that it could also be a curse?

[BOOM] Whatcha Say?

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Has this ever happened to you? When your friend says something to you, but you were distracted so you didn't quite "hear" them, but then you understood it 2 seconds later. This is a perfect example of echoic memory. I wrote "hear" in parenthesis because your auditory system heard what your friend said perfectly. You just didn't pay attention to it completely to send the information to short term memory. Echoic memory has a duration of ~3 seconds and is one of the five components of sensory memory. So next time this happens to you, don't feel like you are rude because you interrupted them, blame it on your echoic memory.

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While reading the psych textbook, I came across and interesting tidbit of information. On page 216, it says that

"Spanking and other forms of physical discipline are correlated postively with childhood behavior problems in Caucasian families, but correlated negatively in African American families. Moreover, spanking tends to be more predictive of higher levels of childhood aggression and anxiety in countries in which spanking is rare, like China or Thailand, than in coutries in which it's common, like Kenya or India" (Lansford et al,. 2004-2005)

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little girl spanking.jpgSpanking alone is already a controversial issue. Most of us agree that dicipline should lie somewhere between breaking a child's will, and providing no guidance for behavrior.

However, when looking at the ways that culture plays a role, things seem to turn so much more "gray". Why is it postive in some cultures and negative in some? Why is it correlated with aggression in some places but not others?
Personally, I think there may be a role in how children view what is "normal". Children may associate their parent's love with how other parents treat their children.

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What do you guys think are some of the reasons that culture affects children's behavior so strongly? Being from another country, I am especially interested in seeing how race and culture alters our perceptions as people.

A "memory" is defined as the retention of information over time, but how is it that some memories change while others do not? While reading chapter seven on the inner workings of memory and our abilities to retain such information, I was intrigued by the different scenarios in which our so-called memories fool us and re-route our recollections from what actually occurred during a particular event to something completely different. Specifically the concept of transience, that memories change and fade with time, much like a street changes with construction or looks different when we are re-visiting our old neighborhood.
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It made me think back to when I was younger living in a different state and different neighborhood. If I were to revisit my old street again, how different would it look? And what about those old memories...just how different would they be now as compared to the originals?

I Don't Know; Google It

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(make up for October 20th discussion section)

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The dynamics and workings of memory storage are endlessly fascinating. Every time I think of it, I always find myself inevitably drawn to the same place: what implications does memory modification--or maybe just the modification of how we remember--hold for evolution?

I was intrigued by the concept of elaborate encoding as introduced by the article on the woman who can't forget. She was so engaged with the particulars--the whats--involved with her memories that the memories themselves were bolstered. A modern and ever-growing concern is the effect of technology on memory. Search engines are of particular interest, and I've run across a number or articles pursuing the same questions. Our memories seem to be shifting from the whats to the wheres of information. What are we to make of this collective external memory of the internet? What does this mean for elaborate encoding?

I first learned this silly sentence way back in my eighth grade science class. We were learning how to classify organisms, but the whole class had trouble remembering the order of the classifications. Thanks to Mr. Searls and his handy mnemonic, I was not only able to remember the information for that one science test, but am still able to recall the same information today with no trouble at all (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species...).
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Mnemonics are useful devices that help us encode and recall memories. People often use these to study for tests or to recall long lists of words that would be difficult to remember otherwise. Mnemonics use knowledge that we already have and apply it to information that we are trying to learn. In this example, kings playing checkers is common knowledge that makes something more complex easier to recall.


We all have memories of our past, whether happy or sad. We sometimes cannot control what we recall or feel because of implicit memory that connects our current situation to our past. We may suddenly remember the happy memories we spent with friends and loved ones and of those memories when we felt alone. Implicit memory is a gift because we can suddenly connect the experience that we do today like having a nice thanksgiving dinner with friends and automatically remember the dinners with our family. Yet it is a pain because we did not have happy memories only, we also have sad memories. And the emotional memories can allow us to trigger those moments also. Therefore, how can we control our minds to allow just recalling our happiest memories?

Here is a video that explains more about explicit and implicit memory, and explains how implicit memory helps with child adaption.



Note: [Add clever title]

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Procrastination is a wide-spread problem that affects many college students, including myself. For instance, I put this blog entry off until now because football was on and video games are far more fun. However, the biggest procrastination promoter, at least for myself, is the internet.

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There are several solutions to this problem, but one of the most effective was introduced to us in Chapter 6. Through his research with monkeys, David Premack found that we can positively reinforce a less frequently performed behavior with a more frequently performed behavior.

I've used this technique many times in my college career to finish projects that I can't seem finish. Whenever I need to get something done, I just promise myself a couple hours of playing video games in exchange for the completed work. So now that this blog is finished, I'm going to go play Minecraft!

For my younger sister's 8th birthday we ordered in Chinese food, a favorite of hers and mine. Unfortunately though she ended up throwing up later that night, and now we no longer have Chinese food as much as we used to because she no longer likes or can stand the taste of it. untitled.bmp This is known as conditoned taste aversion. I found this very interesting because it is different from most examples of classical conditoning; it requires only one trial to develop the aversion, the delay between the CS and UCS can be about 6-8 hours, and it tends to be very specific. It is also an example of classical condtioning that I hear talked about all the time, but I never knew before I read it in the book, that it is an example of classical conditioning. Which makes me think and want to know what other examples of classical conditioning impact my life

What i thought most interesting about what we have been learning lately is the subject of memory. An interesting subject because to say the least i can hardly remember what i did yesterday.... One of my new favorite shows is called Unforgettable with Poppy Montgomery who, now, since the death of her sister can remember everything down to the littlest things of her life.
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After seeing this show since the subject isn't really talked about in our text book i looked it up online, it showed it is a very new topic of research but i found another similar story like this where a lady can remember every day exactly since the age of 11. My question remaining is does something such as a traumatic event have to trigger this sort of memory?


After talking about the placebo effect in discussion, I stumbled upon this youtube video that talked about the different effects and types of placebos. It made me really think how people in developed countries can be so dependent on medication and other drugs. There can be a sense of feeling as though there should be a treatment for everything that someone could ever come across. When we take a pill or get a shot, we assume that it is going to do something for us. How much of a pill or other medications effect is just due to us thinking that we are better. I am not too familiar with how exactly doctors use placebos, but I feel as though when people come to their doctors asking for medication, they probably could just use a placebo and get the same results. How do you guys feel about placebos in general? Is it alright for a doctor to "prescribe" a placebo when he feels it could yield the same results as conventional medications?

Being a full-time student at any university / college can be stressful as is. Also having other responsibilities such as a job or being involved with sports can definitely cause for many all nighters and sleep deprivation. Studies show that it is recommended that college students get 9 hours of sleep. However most college students only obtain about 6-7 hours of sleep. Have you ever crammed all night for a test, and then feel both mentally and physically exhausted the next day? Our body needs to obtain the stage of REM sleep in order for us to function at our best. Sleep
I know from personal experience that it's a rare occasion when I get to sleep for 8-9 hours. I tend to notice that I feel much better and find it easier to retain material while studying when I am able to have 8-9 hours of sleep. How much sleep do you receive? Would you say it's enough or would u like to receive more?

When I first meet people, I usually get lots of puzzled looks because I don't have an English name but yet I have no foreign accent. This is because I started learning English when I was 5 and half years old and I grew up in the United States. When it came to the time when I started learning Spanish in middle school, it was easier for me to learn another it because I already know two other languages. I realized that I seem to understand more in depth than my peers about how Spanish was structured and used. The book described this as metalinguistic insight. Looking back now I'm glad I got to learn two languages when I was younger. Although I always wonder at what age when learning another language would a person develop an accent?

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Pigeon racing has been a sport for hundreds of years now. With pigeons like the homing pigeon, who can navigate and return home from hundreds of miles, these birds have become the basis of pigeon racing. For lack of time, pigeon racing consists of a couple steps:
1. Pigeons are trained to come home.
2. Pigeons are clocked in and shipped out hundreds of miles for races.
3. Pigeons are released and the bird with the fastest average time upon entering the loft, wins.

Step 1 is the most crucial step in winning on race days. Having your pigeon clock into your loft as soon as it comes home. Pigeon fanciers have trained/conditioned their birds similar to that of Pavlov. At a young age, pigeons are introduced to a system. Every time during feeding, the pigeon fancier would whistle or shake a can as the birds ate. Once the pigeons were finished eating, the food tray's removed until the next feeding. The unconditional stimulus is the feed, the unconditional response is eating the feed, the conditional stimulus is the can shaking or whistling, and the conditional response is returning to the loft to eat. This process is repeated for almost a whole week before the birds are finally released out of the loft. While the birds are flying, if they hear the can or the whistling they swoop right down and into the loft as shown in the video.

During a race even seconds could determine the winner. If the pigeon fancier is disciplined and has trained the pigeons very often with their type of conditional stimulus, their pigeon trapping in could win the race. This is one way that classical conditioning has been used to train animals. What other animals have you seen classical conditioning applied to?

I'll start it tomorrow...

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They say that between 80 and 95 percent of college students procrastinate, this is because the average American student prefers fun over work. Big shocker there. I know for me I am an avid procrastinator and to fix that, although I still am one, I set myself up a positive reinforcement system. In my system I have a coloring page and for every 2 or 3 pages I finish reading I use one color on the page. This is a strange thing, but it works well.Thumbnail image for huey-dewey-louie-1-coloring-page.jpg The question is how are we going to reduce procrastination down the line and now. Procrastination is not going to be alright in the real world we need to step it up and figure out a way to start things today.

That Awkward Moment When...

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Have you ever experienced that awkward moment when someone says hello to you, but you can't remember who they are? This happened to me just last week. I was so frustrated because she looked so familiar and she even knew my name -- yet I couldn't remember from where we knew each other. I was experiencing tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon in which I was sure I knew something, but I was unable to access it. This phenomenon can be classified as a retrieval failure in which the information is in there somewhere, but that we can't quite retrieve it.

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When I ran into this "friend" of mine, I was embarrassed that I couldn't figure out who she was, that I just politely said hello and nothing else. I was suffering from the memory sin of blocking. It wasn't until hours later that it hit me suddenly that the familiar face I ran into that morning was the girlfriend of a friend of mine who I met while we were studying abroad together in Spain months ago. In remembering this, I felt like a whole set of memories opened up to me again and the next time I see her it won't be such an awkward moment!

What do your dreams mean?

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I found the dream theories to be very interesting. I've always thought of dreams the way Sigmund Freud took sides with the Native Americans. Freud created the Dream Protection Theory which was an idea that our dreams are our guardians while we are sleeping. The mental censor in our brain, the ego, isn't able to repress the sexual and aggressive instincts we have as well when we're sleeping, as when we're awake so dreams protect us from these instincts disturbing our sleep. Dream-work turned the instincts into symbols and pictures which are also known as wish-fulfillment, simply, how we wish things to be. In order to find the true meaning of your dream Freud proposed that you had to reverse the dream-work. On the contrary, Hobson and McCarley came up with activation-synthesis theory which said that dreams were simply the brain activation during sleep, not an unconscious wish. They said that dreams showed the brain trying to make sense of the random and internally generated neural signals during REM sleep. More specifically, REM sleep is activated by surges of the neurotransmitter acetylocholine while serotonin and norepinephrine shut down. Acetylcholine activates the cells located in the pons and since serotonine and norepinephrine are responsible for thought, reasoning, attention and memory the pons sends out incomplete signals. The forebrain does it's best to put the signals together into a story, the result, dreams. After learning about the Activation-Synthesis Theory, I'm not sure which I agree more with. Freud's theory is what I expected dreams to be, but Activation-Synthesis makes more sense realistically.

What do your dreams mean?

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I found the dream theories to be very interesting. I've always thought of dreams the way Sigmund Freud took sides with the Native Americans. Freud created the Dream Protection Theory which was an idea that our dreams are our guardians while we are sleeping. The mental censor in our brain, the ego, isn't able to repress the sexual and aggressive instincts we have as well when we're sleeping, as when we're awake so dreams protect us from these instincts disturbing our sleep. Dream-work turned the instincts into symbols and pictures which are also known as wish-fulfillment, simply, how we wish things to be. In order to find the true meaning of your dream Freud proposed that you had to reverse the dream-work. On the contrary, Hobson and McCarley came up with activation-synthesis theory which said that dreams were simply the brain activation during sleep, not an unconscious wish. They said that dreams showed the brain trying to make sense of the random and internally generated neural signals during REM sleep. More specifically, REM sleep is activated by surges of the neurotransmitter acetylocholine while serotonin and norepinephrine shut down. Acetylcholine activates the cells located in the pons and since serotonine and norepinephrine are responsible for thought, reasoning, attention and memory the pons sends out incomplete signals. The forebrain does it's best to put the signals together into a story, the result, dreams. After learning about the Activation-Synthesis Theory, I'm not sure which I agree more with. Freud's theory is what I expected dreams to be, but Activation-Synthesis makes more sense realistically.

Luck Is On My Side

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Have you ever wonder if your luck will really change, if a cat crosses your path? Many may say that it will change their good luck into bad luck because it's one of the big superstitions that people in the US believe in. Well, I'm in luck because in my Hmong culture, we don't believe in that superstition, but a similar one. Instead of a cat crossing our paths, our superstition involves snakes. Since there are barely any snakes in the metro area, luck is on my side!

Does your culture have its own superstition?

(image)- http://blog.qatestlab.com/2011/03/17/superstitions-in-software-testing/

Erasing the Pain

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We've all had those moments - the brief, aching seconds when you remember a painful experience such as a past breakup or the death of a loved one. Everything reminds you of it and you wish you could just move on and be happy. But what if you could erase a painful experience entirely? Or remember it without feeling like you want to cry?

With the help of a single pill called propranolol, the emotional reaction to traumatic memories can be diminished by inhibiting adrenaline. However, it cannot erase memories.
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This concept that the emotional pain of certain traumatizing memories can be reduced by taking a simple drug fascinated me. If humans forgot painful things, how different would our personal experiences be? Pain is an important part of life, but is it better to lead happy, easy existence?

If you had the choice to take propranolol, would you?
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The Magic Number

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George Miller claims that the digit span of most adults is between five and 9 digits, with an average of seven digits. This means that its hard for us to retain information that is "seven plus or minus 2." This concept is something that really interests me. It got me thinking about how my short term memory works and what I am able to remember. My thoughts on this subject lead right into the idea of chunking. Chunking is the organization of materials into meaningful groupings.

This is the perfect example of chunking:

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The more we break it down in a way we think we will be able to remember it, the more likely we are to actually remember it.

The way our short term memory works is incredible. When you think about it though, it makes total sense for our brain to break down the bigger things into smaller things as a way for us to remember them.

Mirror Neurons = Compassion

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When reading through this section I found mirror neurons to be especially interesting. I found the correlation especially interesting because you don't (when first looking at the vocabulary) directly relate mirror neurons and compassion. However when you think about it a little more in depth mirror neurons are partially responsible for your compassion. They allow you to imitate others thereby learning how to act like your model. By learning how your model acts you are able to predict how your model might react. By understanding how your model may react gives you a better understanding of why that person is the way they are, making you feel compassion for them if they are upset or hurt. Have you ever wondered why you feel compassion for somebody?

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Imagine being able to remember a 57,000 word dictionary perfectly or recite 252 random numbers solely from memory. Feats such as these seem impossible or perhaps only reserved for highly intelligent people with extraordinary mental capacities. However, these achievements have been attained by ordinary people who have trained their minds using mnemonics. brain_memory.jpg

Mnemonics are learning strategies that help people recall their memories and some people have learned to train their memories to achieve incredible results. This article in the NY Times Magazine documents how one man of normal intelligence was able to become a national memory champion after training with mnemonics. Perhaps we could all benefit from developing our mnemonic skills.

Falling Asleep on the road

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Have you ever pulled two all nighters in a row? If you have, then you know afterwards during the day. You keep drift off to sleep very easily and physically and mentally exhausted whole day. However, some people are suffering from narcolepsy must deal with this on a daily basis. They completely loss muscle tone and experience sudden sleep anywhere. . They don't know if what they experienced was a dream or if they actually experienced the situation. Imagine people falling asleep while driving or walking. Narcolepsy is a very common disorder; between 1 in 2000 people in the United States have this disease. You will be on the road with a narcoleptic any day.

How do you feel about driving on the same road with them?

The Art of Potty Training

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The chapter on learning was very intriguing. Learning is a concept that we all understand and is often associated with memory. Is learning a slow, gradual process or a sudden, all-or-nothing process? I believe it is a slow, gradual process especially when learning is teamed up with the idea of shaping. Shaping suggests that learning a new behavior is determined by the reinforcement that we are given over time as we come closer and closer to meeting the requirements of producing the behavior. This made me think of the art of potty training. Toddlers don't just sit on a toilet and know what to do. Wouldn't they be cool if they did, though? Potty training is an extensive process of praise, positive reinforcement, and lots of treats. Whether you use stickers, candy, or a bribe of other sorts, potty training is a behavior of shaping. When a toddler sits on the potty for the first time, they may have a tendency to be timid or completely fight the situation. After the toddler can sit on the potty in a calm manner, they are given a prize of some sort. This process goes on and on until the toddler can go to the bathroom on their potty, and eventually have the ability to communicate their need to go to the bathroom. After each stage of the process they are continually being positively reinforced and shaped with bribes to accomplish the task of potty training. Eventually, the tots are on their own and the potty training process is finally over.

Hyp-NO-tism

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I found the section on hypnotism to be quite interesting. I have never been a huge believer in things like palm reading and hypnotism, however I did have the chance to see it in action. During our senior year party in High School a hypnotist came and performed a live audience show. She called up a bunch of people from the audience and seemingly hypnotized them in to pretending like they were riding on a bear or eating ice cream. I believed it at the time, however after reading about the techniques they use, such as looking for the people who would most easily be persuaded, and whispering in their ears while on stage it makes me question whether or not it was real.

I will say that during the show I watched some of my friends do things that I don't think they would ever have done if they were in a normal state of being. One of the kids was drooling....another started crying. Makes me wonder which claim is right.

Slot Machines: The Big Gamble

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It's tough to think of anyone who values psychological findings more than the casino industry. A salient example of this is the extensive integration of a variable ratio (VR) schedule of reinforcement in casino games.

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In a 60 minuets report, Lesley Stahl, asserts that casinos are doing everything in their power to keep customers at the slots for longer periods of time. Not only are they leveraging the most potent schedule of reinforcement, a VR, but they are now introducing "modern slots", a new machine that has some important changes from their older counterpart. A few highlighted changes are the replacement of buttons for levers (allow a person to place bets faster than ever!). They also incorporate music, video, sound into the slots while allowing you to play hundreds of lines at once. Lesley Stahl believes that this flow of stimuli can easily overwhelm and trick someone into feeling like they are winning when the reality couldn't be any further from the truth.

So, are these casinos taking advantage of people by cleverly integrating psychological findings into their gambling floors, or are they merely providing a service that many people enjoy?

For more information, check out this 12 minute youtube clip that summarizes the original report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLD17r0U2D0

I just cut off WHAT??

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How cool would it be if you couldn't feel pain? A person could jump off of buildings without a parachute and feel nothing. You'd be on top of the WORLD! Well, in all actuality this inherited pain insensitivity could be very dangerous. Pain is the way our bodies alert us to something that is hurt or not quite right; so when this machine is not working correctly, we may be unaware of something that is really hurting us. This is very rare but when it does occur, it is innately planted within us and it doesn't go away. Babies could chew off fingers, toes or have a high fever and not even know it. That would be worrisome to parents!

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It's called Procrastination! Procrastination has became one of the most frequent study problems that college students experience. It's common, widespread and often troubling to many people. There are several methods to overcome procrastination, however, most procrastinators find them useless and painful to achieve. According to Chapter 6 in our textbook, a "remedy" was introduced to us; by applying Operant Conditioning, the most effective way to overcome procrastination is concluded by David Premack - think about all the wonderful things you would like to do, then reinforce yourself with these higher frequency behaviors only after you've completed your work. It's been proven effective by several Universities and Researches. I've tried it a few time, and it really works!

Are you waiting until the last minute to study for your Psychology Exam?
Are you waiting until the last minute to start posting your blog entry?
If you are, then admit it, you are procrastinating. Why not use Premack's Principle to overcome it!

http://dennislearningcenter.osu.edu/belgium-paper/BWT-belgium-paper.htm

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Cramming for Exam 2?

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The majority of PSY 1001 students are currently scrambling to finish their study guides and review all the chapters before Monday's test. Ironically enough one of the concepts we just studied gave evidence that in fact, cramming is no where near as effective as distributed practice.

In chapter 7 (p.261) our book not only advises us not to cram but actually gives us a law of learning; the law of Distributed VS Massed practices states that we remember things better in the long run when we study information in small increments over time (distributed) instead of studying in large increments over a brief amount of time (massed).

Unfortunately if you're just learning about the law of distributed vs massed practices, it is a little too late for you to apply it. Thankfully the authors were once college students themselves and realize the reality of kids studying weeks before-hand vs two days before does not have a very high percentage. To help us poor PSY 1001 students cram for Exam #2 they came up with Helpful Study Hints that have been derived from memory research which I have listed below. Good luck!

--Spread your study time out, reviewing notes and textbook in increments rather than
cramming
--Test yourself frequently on the material you've read.
--Connect new knowledge with existing knowledge rather than simply memorizing facts or names.
--Work to process ideas deeply and meaningfully - avoid writing notes down word for word from lectures or slides. Try to capture the info in your own words
--The more reminders/cues (mnemonic devices) you can connect from your knowledge base to new material, the more likely you are to recall new material when tested.

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Hypnosis comes from the greek work hypno meaning sleep. Most of the times, almost every single time that we are exposed to a hypnotized person, we are shown that they are unconscious and have no clue what is going on. I was very surprised that that is not the case. In chapter five it state that people who are hypnotized do not show brain waves similar to sleep waves. Also hypnotized people are fully aware of their surroundings and can actually recall conversations around them! So to say that hypnotized people are unconscious and sleep-like is truly a myth!

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Want to be more creative?

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In our daily life, we always recognize an object only for its traditional function . For example, we usually can't see a hammer's use as anything other than for pounding nails, however, a hammer also can be a paperweight or something else. That is functional fixedness, which inhibit us from solving a problem in a new way.

Functional fixedness is an obstacle to our creativity. As is known to all , children are more originative and imaginative than adults. Because adults have so many conventional thoughts, which limits our ability to realize other possibilities of objects. Conversely, children have an open mind to play with objects less intentionally.

Do you want to be more creative? Let's make efforts to overcome functional fixedness.

Easy Target?

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Of all the topics covered, I find the aspect (or section about) of memory to be the most interesting. It still blows my mind how easily we can be influenced by others. I was also a little embarrassed to see that I believed some of the stereotypes about memory.

I, just like many others believe (well I did) that amnesia meant total loss of all memories. Had no idea there were different types of amnesia. Where did this previous logic come from? I'd like to thank Hollywood and movies such as M.I.B. who present the world with this false information.
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However if I was able to believe this incorrect understanding of amnesia, who's to say I wouldn't be an easy target for being implanted with false memories? Being that I am now a professional critical thinker, I try to examine things closer. While on the road to understanding, it's better to make decisions on your own, without influence from others, especially when it comes to our memories.
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A Glimpse from the Past

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Karma is not the only thing that can come back to hurt you. In some cases, more experienced learners are at a disadvantage for learning new information. This is known as proactive interference, whereby old information can interfere with the acquisition of new information. proactive interference.gif

While reading about this I couldn't help but think about my prime years of my basketball career. In eighth grade, I had practiced rigorously to transform my basketball shot. Although it took, me a while to consistently shoot with the correct form, I eventually got it down. However, during high pressure games, I would, at times, unintentionally return to my old form. This leads me to my hypothesis: Under high stress situations, proactive interference is more prevalent and is thus more likely to inhibit the ability to maintain and retain new information.

Biologically, the hippocampus and the amygdala are close in terms of proximity.amygdilla-hippocampus.jpg The hippocampus has been shown to be involved with memories, producing L.T.P while the amygdala is involved with fear. Upon response to fear, the amygdala is activated and perhaps interferes with the recent information learned (i.e. my correct shot) or alternatively stimulates the activation of the previous information learned (i.e. my old shot).
Imagine if I had the ball with 3 seconds left in the game and instead of just shooting it, I thoroughly, thought out the process of shooting a basketball using correct technique. I would not get the shot off in time! Perhaps, to cope with the strenuous situation, my brain unconsciously returned to its old ways. Perhaps this is a primitive instinct? Have you had a similar experience? Why do you think this would occur?

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I was thinking about linguistic relativity when I saw these kind of funny pictures. They are funny because English speakers don't make sense of the illogical and strange words, and thus make fun of the generativity. According to the linguistic relativity, the language, Chinese in this case, determines how you think about the world. Chinese people believe every being feels the world as human beings do, so we need to respect the grass and don't step on the grassland. Based on this cultural context, it's not difficult to understand the transliterated sentence. The disparity in understanding the world makes the translatioins and transliterations so hilarious!

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Sleep walkers have been known to drive cars, turn on computers, or even ***put pillows in the oven while sleeping.*** Even more surprisingly, sleepwalking has been used as a legal defense for some people who have committed murder. In fact, one man drove twenty miles removed a tire iron, killed his mother-in-law, and stabbed his father. He was later declared innocent because he claimed to have slept through the entire event and was not responsible for his behavior. If you were on the jury, would you have declared this man innocent?

Sss...Sss...Santana?

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The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is one that I seem to encounter quite frequently in my daily life. I find it so irritating when I am trying to think of a word but just can not come up with it. However, it is rather interesting how I can usually determine the first phoneme of the word, but I just can't recall the rest of the word. An example of this that I have experienced is trying to remember Santana's name on the television show Glee. I know that her name starts with an S sound, but for some reason I always have difficulty remembering the rest of her name. What are your experiences with the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon?

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In chapter six, I found the paragraph about discipline and culture to be very interesting. Cultures have different methods to enforce discipline. Blacks are more likely to punish children with items resembling whips, like a belt, while whites would generally chose a paddle or a spanking. In China and Thailand, spanking is very uncommon. However, Chinese parents pinch and yank their children's hair more than other races. Latinos have been known to make their children kneel with bare knees on uncooked rice. Puerto Ricans may place a toddler into a bathtub of cold water after an outburst. Cultural differences certainly influence types physical discipline, but this does not mean certain punishments are more harsh than the others. Each of these methods can be applied with varying level force, frequency, and time. One must also take into account the children's age and vulnerability. Punishment of bad behavior works best when parents also positively reinforce good behavior.
The full article can be found here:

Memory and Reality

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memory1.jpegWe often use metaphors to describe human memory and a common comparison for memory is the computer hard drive. While we can think about the similarities in how information is encoded, stored and retrieved with computer and brain, the analogy can also be misleading. memory.png We expect the information we store on our hard drive to be just as we left it when retrieving it from storage, but our own memories are not exact copies of the original experience. In fact they often change and as old information interacts with new information, we actively reconstruct our memories each time we recall them.

Much of what happens in the court of law relies on witnesses recalling past events. In your activity today you will be discussing how this can go horribly wrong. We owe much of our understanding of the limits of eyewitness testimony to the work of Elizabeth Loftus. Here is an interesting Scientific American article summarizing her work.

Creating False Memories.pdf

And if you still are not convinced, check out this video showing how easy it is to misremember the details of a crime.

Some of you will have difficulty understanding exactly how Paul Ingram came to believe that he committed the crimes his daughter accused him of. Some recent brain imaging research provides a clue.
Researcher Show How False Memories Are Formed _ Northwestern University Newscenter.pdf

What role then does attention play in memory formation and what are some of the conditions necessary for false memories to occur?

Finally, as students, at one time or another you likely wondered how much easier school would be for someone with a photographic memory. You might change your mind after reading about a woman who can't forget anything.

The Woman Who Can't Forget.docx

Distraction from the Action

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(Makeup for Thursday, October 13 discussion)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4

The above video is a humorous, but entirely valid warning. It is a reminder that if we aren't constantly aware of our surroundings, that is, if something distracts us from more significant occurrences, we could end up in danger of harming ourselves or others. This concept, known as selective attention, was discussed in the textbook, as well as in our section. While the way we discussed it was silly, it also applied very much to everyday life, and is the reason for many fatal accidents. This video was a reminder to me to always keep an open mind, and to be attentive to my environment. Otherwise:

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(I am writing this for a make up 10/13/11)

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580394-3,00.html

This is an article I found online from time magazine. The article starts off with a story of a woman who was just in a car accident and is in what they call a "vegetative state". After several tests on the the woman's brain although her body could not function at all on it's own her mind could completely function. They learned this by asking the patient several questions while in a MRI different questions showed different parts of the brain working. For example they asked her questions about locations and her home which showed the parts of the brain light that are used for navigating and location.
In think about this you have to wonder how many people like this that have been in accidents or something has happened to where they have come to be in a "vegetative state" when in reality their body is the only thing that is not working their brain can completely work??

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The article goes on to talk about different studies and ways of thinking about consciousness which I think point out a lot of good points that our book doesn't really bring up. Like how hard the study of consciousness actually is.

Chapter 6 discusses classical conditioning- a form of learning in which a neutral stimulus paired with another stimulus elicits an automatic response. This observation was first made by Ivan Pavolov. In his experiment, the dog would only salivate upon exposure to the food. However, after a while, the dog would anticipate the food and would begin salivating anyways. Thus Pavilov, prepared the food behind a curtain. Suprisingly, the dog still salivated upon hearing the bell despite that no food was present. In this case the

unconditioned response: food
unconditioned response: salvation
conditioned stimulus: the bell
conditioned response: salvation

Here is a similar experiment from The Office. Now see if you can identify the responses and stimuli.
(The link to The Office clip is tagged below)

http://www.spike.com/video-clips/0jnov0/the-office-the-jim-trains-dwight

p.s. If you get all the stimuli and responses correct, you get an Altoid!


The ethics of testing on animals is a serious point that was mentioned in one of our lectures, but glossed over and never discussed in depth. Even so, when our speaker brought up the topic of testing on cats, I became very emotional. This topic is especially potent to me, as I have lived my whole life with animals, and am a vegetarian of 10 years. However, I still understand the importance of animal testing to the medical community, and to those people who reap its life-saving benefits. Because of this, I often find myself emotionally torn regarding testing on animals.
There are those who will claim that people who use animals as test subjects are doing it for pleasure, or for insignificant reasons. For example, PETA's outlook on animal experimentation is rather skewed:

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/default.aspx

This article makes the extraordinary claim that there are equally effective ways of testing products that do not involve testing on animals; however, it provides very little insight as to what these alternatives are, and how/why they work. This was frustrating to me, because I truly wanted to believe that there would be such an easy solution, and that animal testing could be done away with without much more than a few rallies and posters. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and no such thing was offered by PETA's article.
One technique this article does use is a lot of pathos: detailed descriptions of helpless and tortured animals locked in cages, angry words against "sick, perverted" scientists who "vivisect animals for the sheer pleasure of it", and gruesome images of the procedures carried out on the animals are very emotionally effective. But the article relies heavily on the pathological aspect of animal testing, and very little evidence in support of PETA's argument is provided. This makes the article biased and unreliable. For trustworthy information on any topic, it is best to select a source that is not emotionally or personally involved in that topic.
So I am still undecided when it comes to my stance on animal testing - I only hope that those who experiment on animals do so in the most humane way possible.

*Not this kind.
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The Sky Is The Limit!

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It was interesting to read about how the amygdala plays such a large role in your response to fear. It is amazing how disconnecting the amygdala in an animal can make it fearless to its predators.
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 I 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. Drugs could be developed to block these receptors and create the fearless athlete. Most likely, this would be too harmful for the athlete and would never be approved by any doctor.

Check this article out about how extreme athletes have an extreme taste for risk! http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/07/0709_040709_sciencerisk.html

By: Mike Warecki & Derek Liebhauser

The Memory of Smells

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I often find myself comparing new foods to something i've already had. For example, the other day I tasted my friend's juice and said it tasted like cotton candy. But why?

I found a blog written by Jonah Lehrer, talking about smell and memory. One particular paragraph really got my attention... in his post he stated:

"Why is smell so sentimental? One possibility, which is supported by this recent experiment, is that the olfactory cortex has a direct neural link to the hippocampus. In contrast, all of our other senses (sight, touch and hearing) are first processed somewhere else - they go to the thalamus - and only then make their way to our memory center. This helps explain why we're so dependent on metaphors to describe taste and smell. We always describe foods by comparing them to something else, which we've tasted before. ("These madeleines taste just like my grandmother's madeleines!" Or: "These madeleines taste like the inside of a lemon poppy seed cake!") In contrast, we have a rich language of adjectives to describe what we see and hear, which allows us to define the sensory stimulus in lucid detail. As a result, we don't have to lean so heavily on simile and comparison."

Click HERE to read the rest of Lehrer's blog

Now i'm curious as to how some foods can taste like a smell? Have you ever heard anyone say "this tastes like the smell of _______?" For example, the other night I heard someone say "this gin tastes like a Christmas tree," and they obviously don't eat Christmas trees, so they must referring to the smell.

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What oh what do we focus on?

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I have heard and often times said "I was just so focused on this... I missed that..." This deals with a concept that we have been discussing in class; illusions, and the fact that our brain will overlook and perceive certain images in a different manner than they actually are. When we are focusing and putting all of our attention on certain information, we will often times ignore or leave out the other information and what else is going on around what we were focusing on. Did you hit the car behind you because you were talking on your phone and not focusing on the car behind you?
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An example of this that often occurs in real life is the Cocktail Party Effect which I found to be very interesting and surprisingly true. What it is, is that in a noisy group of people, even when we are not listening to what other people are saying we will often times pick out that our name has been said. This happens because of selective attention, we select a channel and turn down the other channels; the part of the brain that allows us to do this is are the reticular activating system (RAS) and the forebrain. Is this a valid excuse for missing a piece of information or should be still just have been paying attention to it in the first place?

Nice website I found: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/brain/illusions/index.html

Dirty Little Secrets

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Over the past 50 years scientific experiments have gone through a drastic change in ethical procedures. It wasn't too long ago when the U.S. government was conducting secret tests on more than 400 hundred unaware African-American men, and resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths and infections. I asked many people if they have heard about the Tuskegee experiments, and surprisingly most of them answered no. I find it interesting that this huge government mishap is not more widely known, so I decided to investigate further into other unethical cases. I ran into an interesting case that was a psychology experiment that Stanley Milgram put together. He tested what extremes individuals would go to when under pressure by a higher authority. Check out this video of the controversial experiment that was replicated in 2009.


I believe ethical issues in research involve each and every one of us in some way or another, and we all need to be informed in past experiences in this subject so we can make the right choices in the future. One question i have is, would more people have known about the Tuskegee experiments if they would have been white men instead of poor African-Americans?


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.

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?

Despite what was said in "The Waterboy," anger and aggression is not controlled by the medulla oblongata . This is the job of the amygdala. In the brain, as soon as an aggression starts, our alarm system, the amygdala, is activated and this triggers a cascade of reactions to prepare our flight.

In one recent case, after a near drowning incident, I could not only vividly remember each detail, but while doing this, my body reacted as though I was reliving the experience. I was immobilized and unable to escape fast enough, the amygdala panics, and is flooded by alert signals. The amygdala "overheats," and suddenly I was unable to defend myself. I was paralyzed and felt like I was going to die. The time of the drowning is trapped as such in the amygdala. Maybe this is why I no longer swim alone?

waterboy medulla oblongata - YouTube.webloc

Color Bilind test

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~WX8HA64FH}Q2WS3F84%(XC.jpg I am a color blind person, usually I cannot distinguish the color of red and green, so every time there is a color blind test, it will be a hard time for me.
But one time, I have a very interesting finding, because the test room for color blind allows two people step in at the same time and using the same test picture, so I have the chance hearing what the person beside me said and just repeat that number to the nurse, and what is more interesting is that, after I knowing what is the number on the picture (I heard for that guy beside me), I actually can "see" that number in that colorful picture, and it's very clear. I think it may because after my brain receives the message from listening, it can affect the result which is send by my eyes. 6DVO41WF]V9SRD{]JI9FN$B.jpg

Brotha from anotha motha

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This topic is close to my heart, as I placed my son for adoption 5 years ago. I was very eager to learn more about this phenomenon after we spoke about it in class and dove right in to compare any similarities or dissimilarities with my personal situation. Adoption studies can be an integral part of learning more about nature versus nurture and my real life example will put this theory to the test.

An interesting turn of events is that Jack (my son) turned out to look very similar to his adoptive parents, almost more than me which is quite odd. His adoptive father and him will be in the supermarket and people will stop them to complement how much they look alike (it must be the blond hair and blue eyes). This could be a coincidence or a product of his environment affecting how he looks. I am not the only person who thinks that there is some sort of correlation with biological and environmental factors.

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http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/blogs/post/adoption-attachment-behavior-problems-discipline/

strength of oxytocin

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While reading chapter three I was interested in the hormone oxytocin. Which is a hormone that is responsible for reproductive functions like child birth and breast feeding. It also plays a significant role in maternal and romantic love creating strong bonds between relationships. From this information I started to wonder can a high amount of oxytocin released from the pituitary gland be dangerous?
The reason I wonder about this is because my fathers friend killed himself over a bad break up from his girlfriend. Therefore I went searching online for more information about the strength of oxytocin. I found a video that that shows a prescription of oxytocin created to help couples reunited romance and increase trust (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U896FX3YiOE). This video proved that a increase in oxytocin strengthens the bond between two individuals. Thus to much oxytocin can form a strong romance that may make a person feel they can not live without their significant other.

Healing the Brain

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_44841382_-2.jpgWhat if it were possible to reverse the effects of brain damage? Recent developments in stem cell research have opened the possibility that irreversible neural damage could actually be healed. Stem cells are cells that have the ability to become other specialized cells and in a technique called stem cell therapy, new cells are introduced to damaged tissues to repair them. While the concept of stem cell therapy has been around for many years, the field has begun to apply therapeutic techniques in human patients to treat various diseases and injuries.
Brainpet.gifStem cell treatments are now even being used on NFL players such as Payton Manning who recently received stem cell therapy in Europe. I have a grandparent who suffers from Parkinson's disease which is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system and it would be amazing to see the damage of the disease reversed. This possibility might even come out of the U of M where research into stem cell therapy for Parkinson's might one day find a cure.

Do they exist?

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Using the scientific method on the paranormal is pretty far fetched, because the observation is typically based on personal accounts; when applying the scientific method, one couldn't get passed the hypothesis. Just because YOU saw it, doesn't make it enough for me to believe it. ("Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence) Which is why the paranormal fall into the category of pseudoscience: which is a theory mistaken as scientific. Here is my failed attempt at applying parts of the scientific method to paranormal activitiy.

In parts of paranormal activity 1, when someone has had experience with the paranormal they OBSERVE a mysterious shadow, and the temperature will drop. In the Hypothesis one would conclude that spirits of ghosts drop the temperature of a room, and that shadowy figures are ghosts. One shouldn't make casual connections with an occurrence that has only occurred once. There are also multiple variables that cause a room to have cold spots, and shadows to appear. ("Correlation isn't Causation")

A theory for this hypothesis would need to foresee future paranormal events. If I use my hypothesis that shadowy figures are spirits and cause temperatures to drop, then I should be able to say that whenever a ghost or spirit is around, there will ALWAYS be a temperature drop. My hypothesis has just been proven false.


Paranormal Activty 2 Promo Clip by teasertrailer

My question is still , Do the paranormal exist? As much as I would like to answer that question based on my experiences, I cannot. That's bad science.

It is averaged that 2 out of 5 college students, or 40% involve themselves in binge drinking as a social activity. That's quite a lot of alcohol if you really think about it.

Before the maturation and pruning of the brain's neural structures, young adults are more likely to commit risky or impulsive acts, such as binge drinking, and are less likely to make good judgments. The amygdala, associated with emotion is to blame in these actions because it influences behavior.

Because young adults are more likely to involve themselves in binge drinking since it is seen as socially acceptable, and because the amygdala is in charge of emotions, wouldn't it make sense if binge drinking was attributed to the amygdala?

To answer that question, an experiment was conducted by researchers from Maryland and Vienna, Austria testing the genes and traits in the amygdala and the causation of acts of repeated binge drinking. The results were as follows: don't blame it on the alcohol Jamie, Blame it on the A-a-a-a-a-Amygdala.

And what else is to blame on the Amygdala??

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Yes the honey badger. To be honest, when I first heard about the role of the amygdala, all I could think about was the small fearless animal in this youtube clip (yes you should watch it, because its hilarious):The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger (original narration by Randall)
After watching this, I can't help but wonder; is there something horribly wrong with their amygdalas? Why are they so ambitious, do they even have amydgalas? Unfortunately I couldn't find any articles with research in this field, but if any of you could, that would be a great way to comment (**hint**hint**).

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So instead, I began to wonder if humans would benefit as a species if we were as fearless as the honey badger. One has to admit, when it comes to disorders like OCD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the amygdala can be quite a burden. But still, with our lack of claws and sharp teeth, we are basically soft squishy bags of free meat, and one has to give a huge thanks to our amygdalas. It is due to our ability to analyze situations and learn from our mistakes that our species is on top. But hey, thats just my one opinion, so feel free to let me know if you disagree or have anything to add (again,**HINT**HINT**).

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p.s. that's pretty sick

Got Milk?

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After learning of the many ways an experimental design can deliver inaccurate results(such as; participants not being selected randomly, biases and not ruling out rival hypothesis), I have become skeptical of many scientific claims.got milk.jpg

Many new studies bear results that contradict the common belief that milk makes your bones stronger. Some studies show milk drinkers to have stronger bones than non-milk drinkers, some studies yield the opposite, while some studies show no relation between milk and bone strength. How can there be so many different, contradicting results?
I believe many of these studies aren't selecting their subjects randomly. If you compare children that eat well, live a healthy life style and drink milk to children that lack milk in their diet and live an unhealthy lifestyle, the milk drinkers may have stronger bones and it won't necessarily be due to the fact that they have more milk in their diet. Another flaw in studies on the effects of milk may simply be a matter of correlation versus causation. There are researchers that claim drinking milk causes osteoporosis. "Evidence" of this claim is that the United States, with the highest consumption of dairy, has the highest rates of osteoporosis. This relationship may be due to one or more other variables such as: diet, exercise, and BMI (body mass index). The claim that milk builds stronger bones needs to be further researched and scientifically tested before I depend on milk as my source of calcium.
If there isn't much solid evidence for such a popular theory as milk building stronger bones, I wonder what, and how many, other mainstream theories need to be restudied?

Links to studies on milk's effects: http://www.livestrong.com/article/315144-does-milk-build-strong-bones/ http://www.whymilk.com/strong_bones.php http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-and-milk/got milk1.jpg

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It is a college student's worst nightmare, the presence of so many different opportunities to thoroughly embarrass themselves. But what if people seeing you embarrassed would actually make you viewed more trustworthy and desirable. According to a study put out by a University of California-Berkley student, people who were easily embarrassed were the ones that people felt most comfortable with and trusted the most.

One of the most prevalent situations that agree with these findings is the first day of class. As everyone is not familiar with each other, not many people will speak up when the professor asks a question. The looming presence of having that embarrassing moment will deter even the best of students away from the question. Do you agree with these findings, are the people who you find the most trustworthy, the type who are easily embarrassed?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/embarrass-trustworthy_n_987381.html


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. 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.)?

Sometimes we make generalizations or connections to simplify overly complex concepts in the world around us. While not typically harmful, we can sometimes get the wrong idea about certain things. One type of incorrect connection is apophenia, a tendency to percieve meaningful connections among unrelated phenomena.

Apophenia brings to mind the "Grilled Cheesus" episode from 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 bring home a victory; when they win, he believes it was 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. Some unrelated events that we make connections for are more obvious than others. How often do you think we make connections among disparate events?

This post was edited by Bea Cooper.

Neural Plasticity

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We use the brain every day. The brain activity allows us to do everything in our lives. But how can we store new information all the time? By neural plasticity, the brain can adapt or reorganize the new information received by our senses by redrawing neural pathways.

This change is very beneficial for us because it allows us to store new information. When we sit in class and learn, plasticity occurs in our brains so that the learned material can be stored in our brains. The environment plays a key factor in influencing plasticity. Therefore, if we use this fact, it can help us to use effectively more parts of the brain. This is done because of the change in the internal structures of the neurons, and because there is an increase of the amount of synapse between neurons.

Medically, plasticity is a precious gift because if a person loses a part of its brain, then plasticity of his brain can allow the person to live normally. For the brain changed its way of sending nerves around the body and allowing the person to function before the brain removal.

The brain can adapt as much as it can, but until what extent can it do so?

The amygdala, an almond shaped group of nuclei in the brain, is famous for its emotional capacities, and the memory of such capacities. Most common traits are that of fight or flight, fear, stimuli and the memory of those stimuli. But another aspect of the amgydala, that is not so commonly known or discussed, is it's effects on the actions of young adults or adolescents. Let me explain...

All young adults or teens under-go a neural process called synaptic pruning, or maturation of complex neural structures. Before this happens, young adults have lesser capacities of planning and judgement and are more likely to act in fits of impulse or riskiness. The amygdala, associated with emotion and the prefrontal cortex associated with judgement play key roles in this process because of their influences on behavior.

What interests me, is the concept of binge drinking and the emotional value it is given with the amygdala. It is averaged that 2 out of 5 college students, or 40% involve themselves in binge drinking as a social activity. That's quite a lot of alcohol if you really think about it. Because young adults are more likely to involve themselves in risky behavior because it is seen as socially acceptable, and because the amygdala is in charge of emotions, wouldn't it make sense if binge drinking was attributed to the amygdala?

Well, an experiment was conducted by researchers from Maryland and Vienna, Austria testing the genes and traits in the amygdala and the causation of acts of repeated binge drinking. The results were as follows: don't blame it on the alcohol Jamie, Blame it on the A-a-a-a-a-Amygdala.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/02/23/1019020108.full.pdf+html
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Adoption and Identity

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Being adopted has given me a somewhat unique lens through which to construct and reflect on my identity. With virtually all of the biological - or 'nature' - side of my existence unknown to me,citizen-kane-4.jpg I was forced to create a narrative about where I came from. In closed adoptions, facts about heredity, ancestry, and even the existence of siblings remain unanswered.

Nurture for adopted individuals then plays the explicit primary role in forming self-identity. The fact that I've always known I was adopted adds another level to this identification, through trying to answer the unanswerable by constructing possible scenarios to how I came into the world. Understanding that my immediate environment and the larger social totality completely constructed my identity and the ideologies in which I see everything through, how then does the void of my existential background also shape who I've become and continue to be? And how do these narratives stretch beyond the individual to broader cultural and social narratives?

Memory

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Memory is something that has always amazed and fascinated me. The idea that we are able to retain and remember events that have happened through the years is crazy. My grandmother, who had dementia, first began losing her memory in 2009. When we would visit, we would have the same conversations over and over. For us, time moved on- but for her, she kept re-living the year 2009. Although her short term memory was gone, her long term memory was still intact.

I found the part about taxi drivers' brains to be really interesting. The idea that their brains could actually differ from ours was really cool. When you think about it, it makes sense, but it isn't something I would have thought about on my own. This article on it is pretty interesting: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/677048.stm

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Can Be Brave Like the Cat?

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

As we have read two articles, we know there is a relationship between amygdala and our emotion of fear. However, recent research has discovered, amygdala play a role in how we recognize a face too. According to the article, Brain Cells Prefer Whole Faces, our brain amygdala respond to the social stimuli like face recognition. Adolphs-HiRes (1).jpg

Small almond shaped brain part, amygdala, may have more secret functions.

In a 1945 publication of the Albuquerque Journal, a journalist reported that Georgia Green, a blind 18-year old girl, was traveling 50 miles north of Trinity Site (where the first atomic bomb was tested) when the atomic bomb was detonated. bomb2.jpgAccording to their records, she "saw" the flash of light from the detonation, and said to her brother who was driving the car, "what's that?" People began to believe that this girl saw the flash because the bomb was so bright, even from 50 miles away. This urban legend is poorly and mysteriously supported; we can use a few of the principles of scientific thinking to evaluate the validity of this urban legend.

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First, there is an issue of correlation versus causation; we do not know for sure that the reason Georgia Green said "what's that" had anything to do with the bomb's detonation, it could have been caused by something else that happened at the same time. Which leads us to the next principle: replicability. If she would have been placed in the same situation but at a different time, would the same thing happen? Lastly, we can evaluate t
he urban legend using the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There would have to be extraordinary evidence to support the argument that blind people acquire or experience some kind of reaction to the radiation produced by the atomic bomb, for example.

http://www.snopes.com/science/atombomb.asp


In a 1945 publication of the Albuquerque Journal, a journalist reported that Georgia Green, a blind 18-year old girl, was traveling 50 miles north of Trinity Site (where the first atomic bomb was tested) when the atomic bomb was detonated. bomb2.jpgAccording to their records, she "saw" the flash of light from the detonation, and said to her brother who was driving the car, "what's that?" People began to believe that this girl saw the flash because the bomb was so bright, even from 50 miles away. This urban legend is poorly and mysteriously supported; we can use a few of the principles of scientific thinking to evaluate the validity of this urban legend. atombomb.jpg

First, there is an issue of correlation versus causation; we do not know for sure that the reason Georgia Green said "what's that" had anything to do with the bomb's detonation, it could have been caused by something else that happened at the same time. Which leads us to the next principle: replicability. If she would have been placed in the same situation but at a different time, would the same thing happen? Lastly, we can evaluate t
he urban legend using the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There would have to be extraordinary evidence to support the argument that blind people acquire or experience some kind of reaction to the radiation produced by the atomic bomb, for example.

http://www.snopes.com/science/atombomb.asp


Playing with the Amygdala

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While playing video games, I've often caught myself yelling and swearing at the TV. Yes the TV, an inanimate object. This makes me wonder, what inside me would compel me enough to yell at something that can't even yell back?

Then, I came across the amygdala in our textbook. Located in the brain, this little almond-shaped bundle of nuclei causes emotional responses (including yelling at televisions). The amygdala sends impulses to the hypothalamus, activating the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response.

With a little research, I found this article, which sums up a study linking the amygdala and violent video games. Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine randomly assigned a group of teens into two groups. The first group played a non-violent, racing game and the second group played a violent, first person shooter. After 30 minutes, the researchers scanned each teen's brain.

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The results showed the teens that played the violent video game had increased activity in the amygdala. This effect was not present in the participants that played the non-violent game. So, for broken keyboards, controllers, and reactions like this, we have the amygdala to blame.

Reading these two articles game me insight into the unfamiliar source of very familiar human reactions by focusing on how our minds connect with our bodies in response to fear. Understanding how we react to other humans and animals and connecting those feelings is a crucial part of day to day life and it was interesting to see the importance of our amygdala responses within a historical context of human survival.

I have a lot of interest in alternative health practices and decided to look into the associations between the amygdala and its usage within alternative health. I came across a cool site that gave me insight into "exposure therapy" where practitioners help coach patients to "retrain" their fear responses by exposing them to the exact things that cause them anxiety or fear.

Wondering if anyone has had experience with this type of treatment? Do you think it's possible to retrain our mind's fear responses?


A couple weeks ago when we were talking about Nature Vs. Nurture it got me thinking... about Twins studies which, are studies that compare fraternal and identical twins and their similarities or differences between the two. We learned in class about the Bogle family who all for the most part turned out to be criminals or partake in criminal behavior. So i was thinking the explanation which is unknown for this subject could be the same unknown in why twins who are separated at birth are so much a like even after growing up in very different families.

This is a Picture of my twin and I we are on the outsides.
72215_450151016742_703461742_6055892_2644989_n.jpgThis got me thinking because I am an identical twin. For several years now we have participated in the twins study her at the university of Minnesota. Last time we did the study was after we turned 16 years old. We went through a series of tests including, genetic and blood testing and they came up that we were 99% alike in all aspects of our life. Some of which they tested us on was emotion, friends, likes, dislikes, body image, thoughts, brain activity, and blood. I never realized how much we were alike until faced with the facts. We also have a younger sister that can't seem to be any more different from us.

This leaves me with a question thought since twins share more genes than regular brothers and sisters could similar things happen to just two siblings split up at birth? I think this question would help determine the difference in genes and the topic of nature versus nurture.

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Do we act the way we do because of genes from our parents or the environment we were raised in? This is nature vs nurture at its finest! Nowadays, criminals who are being tried for a certain crime may be let off because they were predisposed to being an alcoholic because their mother was (the genes). I don't necessarily buy that. Genetics do not excuse how some people act, but there is some evidence out there that correlates higher criminal behavior with genetic factors. I would agree that if a criminal was raised in an environment where drinking was promoted or seen on a regular basis, they may be more prone to drink themselves--environmental factors play a key role.

In this article I've linked, a researcher has found evidence in other studies that has come to show that, usually, genetic factors don't play a key role in criminal behavior. There is a sentence in the article that reads, "[t]hey concluded therefore that in respect to common crime, hereditary factors are of little significance." However, it should be noted that reading a little farther into the researcher's paper, she concludes that although genetic factors may not play a major role in criminal behavior, those factors are more likely to influence property offenses. So which idea plays the most important role---nature or nurture?

In the above quote said by Ernest Hemingway, he seems to suggest that humans are born with an inherent disposition to being evil. This makes me think of William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies that tells the story of a group of British boys get stranded on an island who became savages within a few weeks. While reading this novel in my English class, we discussed the hotly debated topic of nature (Does all humans have an inherent evilness?) versus nurture (Was it because of society, that these boys thought it was okay to steal, lie, and kill to stay alive?). At the end of reading the novel, we concluded that humans are born with a "beast within us" as Golding put it as. But as our psychology textbook states, there seems to be no clear cut way to separate nature from nurture.


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During my senior year of high school, I watched a family friend's baby grow from a baby into a toddler. As a baby, when she didn't receive what she wanted she would cry and pout. But as a little toddler she would hit me when I wouldn't give her an extra cookie or something else that she wanted. This made me wonder how a little toddler barely 2 and half years old knew to hit me when I didn't give her what she wanted and certainly her parents wouldn't have taught her to resort to violence when she didn't get what she wanted. Does this mean that no matter how good, innocent, or young a person is deep down there is a "beast" within all of us just waiting to emerge?

Phantom Limbs are For Real

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A few years ago I used to love watching the show House. And I knew watching it that everything I saw was not always accurate or realistic, like a majority of new crime and medical dramas. One episode that stayed with me from two years ago was "The Tyrant". During the episode House cures his friends landlord of a pain in his phantom arm by means of a "mirror box". I thought that it was pretty interesting, but I doubted much of the things that were going on in the show.


Two years later here I discover that phantom limbs are for real; a persons brain still believes that the arm is there and still tries to send impulses to the arm, in fact 80% of amputees say they feel phantom pain. Pains in these phantom limbs come in various forms including squeezing, boring, throbbing, burning and stabbing. I then came by that there is a real treatment for phantom pain; this treatment is using a mirror box, designed by Vilayanur Ramachandran, which one has their remaining arm in the box and they see it the reflection as if it were their own missing limb. This gives the illusion that the brain can send motor commands to the phantom pain they believe is there and the pain is relieved.

Here is a follow up article if you want to learn more... http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661302019071

And a pretty sweet video you should for sure check out...

BUCK FEVERRR

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I love the thrill of buck fevers, but I've always wonder what causes buck fevers. A buck fever is where you get a nervous excitement as a beginner hunter when seeing a game. After reading the two articles, I found that the amygdala involves in processing emotions. It was shocking to know that with the presence of an animal, our brain cells in the amygdala were the only ones that responded to that animal. Since the amygdala is such a small portion of the brain, I would have thought that many other parts of the brain would respond to an animal at sight too.

Thus, knowing that the amygdala involves in processing our emotions, and that it responded only to animals, I can say that the amygdala was the main cause of buck fevers.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/21798910@N06/3014589660/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The Depths of Memory

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How memories are stored is a mysterious phenomena that I have always questioned. Most people don't take the time to think of how amazing it is that a taxi driver can get you to any destination with only an address. Most people don't know that this ability to memorize surroundings is directly correlated with the size of the hippocampus.

In the movie, "50 First Dates," a character suffers from short term memory loss. The character, 10 second Tom, has a short term memory that lasts ten seconds. There is no clear answer as to why short term memory occurs, or if it is a result of damage to the hippocampus.

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After indulging in the articles and other peers responses, I have made the conclusion that fear is driven by the amygdala, a grouping of nuclei found in the medial temporal lobe. The amygdala is attached to the hippocampus, the area in the brain where memories are developed and stored. Therefore, the amygdala's main functions are memory and emotional feelings. Fear would fall into the category of both memory and feelings.
After hearing the professor and another peer tell stories of being frightened by a dog either attacking them or scaring them, I had a similar experience myself. I personally was not affected, but a young neighboring girl was.
I have a small, very friendly dog that enjoys any humans company. One afternoon, my roommate went out to his car, but unknowingly left the back door open and my dog ran out following him. Upon leaving the house, he noticed a father and daughter outside, so being a friendly dog he started to quickly walk over to the neighbors.
However, the young daughter did not notice my dog approaching her, and when he was only a few feet away she saw him and started screaming. My roommate heard the cries and ran over and grabbed my dog, but the fear had already taken over the young girl.
The young girls amygdala sensed fear and she reacted by screaming and crying. Even though my dog never got close to touching her, just the fact that something unknowingly approached her triggered her amygdala to sense fear. I hope this memory does not haunt her through her life, but since memory is a key component to the amygdala, who knows how traumatic this experience could be.


Nature versus nurture is a topic that is up for much controversy. However there is evidence to prove that nurture has an influenced upon some of America's most well known criminals. For example, Frank Lucas also knows as the "American Gangster" was born in La Grange, North Caroline. He moved to New York where he was known as Bumpy Johnsons right-hand man. Bumpy Johnson was known as a thug who committed many crimes. After his Johnsons passing, Lucas took over the business and followed in Johnsons footsteps.

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Bumpy Johnson and Frank Lucas


Once Lucas took over, he brought his family up from North Carolina to live a better life-style. Franks brothers followed him as they all looked up to him and looked at him as a strong influence in their lives. All of Franks brothers became criminals due to how Frank ran his drug operations. This is a prime example of nature vs. nurture. Due to Bumpy Johnson behavior that influenced Frank Lucas, Franks family ended up following in those footsteps. Now ask yourself this question, how many of your actions were done because someone you looked up to also did it those same actions, whether you knew they were right or wrong? Even look at your academic career; Was it because someone influenced you to be a well-rounded student or were you naturally born smart and it is in your genes?

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with my parents, and not coincidentally much of the time I was also reading my textbook. I found many of the examples provided in the textbook to be interesting, and I wanted to see how they would hold up while conducting my own experiment. I ended up quizzing my dad on "Popular Psychology Knowledge." To my surprise, he answered True to only two of the questions, though all are actually false. I dismissed this result as an anomaly at first, but upon further reading, I realized my dad was simply reacting to demand characteristics, meaning he was altering his experimental behavior based on what he thought the experimenter (me) wanted to hear.

mtoportrait.jpg This principle sparked my interest, and I researched a little more into it. I found this article detailing the phenomenon. This source of bias is an obvious way that researchers can be forced into incorrect conclusions, and thus is noteworthy as a pitfall for experimental design. Can any of you think of a way to completely eliminate the effect of demand characteristics?


<-Martin Orne, pioneer of demand characteristics research.

This is a repost of my response to leex5619 blog post "Nature vs. Nurture" in writing 1 that was lost in webspace (thanks Eva for finding it!):


I was also drawn to the 'nature vs. nurture' issue in this class and your questions made me think about how I've had similar questions in life about identity and personality. I was raised in an adoptive family, always knowing that I was adopted but never knowing any information about my birth parents. Your post is interesting to me because your questions are similar to ones I've had in my own life but coming from a perspective of a broader change in environment due to relocation in cultures, whereas mine is from the perspective of relocation of families within the same (presumed) culture, though this relocation is not in my conscious memory. But in each case, enough time has passed in life that one can look back and ask the questions you're asking, which I've also had and probably always will to some degree. Would my personality have been drastically different had I been raised by my birth parents? And do I find my sense of identity within myself and the family I was placed in, or do I view myself as an 'outsider' of sorts with a conscious knowledge that the environment I was raised in apart from my biological roots completely shaped (or reshaped) who I am? My searching the web for articles related to this actually led me back to the U of M, to the Minnesota/Texas Adoption Research Project.

The study started in the mid-80s and followed 190 adoptive families to the present, looking at numerous aspects such as relationships surrounding these families and at the adoptees themselves in relation to their development and sense of identity. An interesting part of this to me is how the researchers studied the "narrative" that adopted children create in their development to help form their identity. The study's website states,

"Adopted youth are confronted with the challenge of making meaning of their beginnings, which may be unknown, unclear, or otherwise ambiguous. Meaning-making (e.g., Kegan, 1982; Klinger, 1998) involves constructing a story about oneself that attempts to answer many questions: Where did I come from? Who were my parents? Why was I placed for adoption? Do my birthparents think about me now? Do I have siblings? What does adoption mean in my life? This story, or narrative, helps adolescents make sense of the past, understand the self in the present, and project themselves into the future (Grotevant, 1993)".

I also had all these questions and subsequent constructions in my mind growing up, but never thought of them as a "narrative" that I created to help form my sense of identity until now. I remember creating grandiose and (too) self-important histories for myself...I was the son of some refugee from a far-off land and my mother was forced to placed me up for adoption so I could have citizenship... Or she was actually very wealthy and I was the product of some elite scandal, giving me up for adoption only to someday come back and reveal that I was some heir to richness (yeah, that didn't happen). The site goes on to say,

"The narrative approach to identity highlights the integration and coherence of the self through the evaluation of the structure, content, and function of the narrative (e.g., McAdams, 1987, 1993, 2001; Mishler, 1999). From this perspective, the adolescent is viewed as creating and recreating a life story that makes meaning of and gives purpose to his or her experience of adoption".

The two constructions I pointed out about myself (of which there were many more) help me understand in this context how I did deal with being in an adoptive family. My parents' relatives, backgrounds, ancestries, etc. weren't my own, so my "story" as it were always started with my immediate surroundings, and I had to create everything beyond that. Not only was the environment I was raised in shaping who I was, but the knowledge of being adopted also helped shaped that by my trying to fill the void of what was unknown. Questions about one's identity, potentialities, character traits and such inevitably come up and change through life and through different periods of feeling fulfilled or having doubts and regrets. Everybody has these. But being adopted as I was, or moving across the world to a completely different culture in your youth - as you were - merely opens up a few more avenues for questioning who we are and where we fit into this world. I've never pursued finding my biological family beyond requesting for my original birth certificate once the record was opened, but the nature vs. nurture issue is still one that I think about often looking back at my life so far.

MN/TX Adoption Research Project http://www.cehd.umn.edu/fsos/Centers/mtarp/keyfindings/keyFindOutChild.asp#detai ls

adrenaline superman.jpgIf you are a superman one day, I believe it must be the contribution of adrenaline. Only adrenaline has the tremendously supernatural power to push your body beyond its limit. It's so amazing that adrenaline can immediately arouse your potential abilities when you're in any sort of dangerous, scary, exciting or life threatening situations. Can you imagine you'll lose your adrenaline someday? How weak you'll be when you are facing danger.

Conversely, what will happen if adrenaline is excessively released? One of my frineds ever experienced adrenaline released over her personal limit. She became so wired during that time, talking rapidly and incoherently. Although adrenaline is so important to our life, balancing its amount in our body is also significant.

Innocent or Psychopathic?

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After reading some of the articles that were posted and learning that since the amygdala controls many emotional responses, I wondered what would happen if there was some sort of damage to it?
So I did some research and found an article relating damage in the amygdala to psychopathy, a mental disorder where people lack empathy and remorse. Researchers discovered that psychopaths have an amygdala smaller in volume than others. I would think that this information would be very useful in things like murder cases.

For example, the infamous case of Casey Anthony, a Florida mother who was accused of murdering her 3-year-old daughter and was on trial this past summer. I followed the case for a good deal of the summer and for most of the trial she seemed unaffected. She was seen out partying and having a good time with her friends multiple times.

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How could a mother be on trial for the murder of her child and not be a compete mess every single day? Many different news reporters who were following the case suggested that maybe she was a psychopath and that seemed to be a reasonable explanation. If so, did Casey Anthony ever undergo tests to see if she was psychopathic? Would this have affected the outcome of the trial in which she was found to be innocent? Could this have affected other similar trials in the past?

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What are you scared of?

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Sometimes the amygdala, the center of emotion in our brain, causes us to be more fearful when we get into certain situations. These irrational fears are called phobias, and they occur when the amygdala releases certain hormones that cause a particular level of anxiety or fear. The thing about phobias is that even though people understand their fears are irrational, they are unable to change how they feel. Phobias are common, though not all have the phobia or the same intensity of fear. I myself have a mild phobia of bridges, and while I know my fear is irrational, that does not make bridge crossing any easier for me.
It is interesting to learn about the different categories of phobias and to see what situations could cause these fears. For example, these causes can be environmental, where one's experience in the past can then affect how they react to a similar type of situation in the future. Is it possible to retrain the brain to get rid of phobias, or possibly lessen the intensity of fear?

Watch this video to learn about some of the world's weirdest phobias!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rl7Lr6eDLc

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobia

The average American is exposed to thousands of advertising messages a day -- but much of it is processed unconsciously. The binding problem explains how with rapid, coordinated activity that crosses multiple cortical areas we are able to bind together and make sense of all this information marketers throw our way.

The text states that many of the sensory inputs we're exposed to are processed unconsciously, and that many of our actions occur with little or no forethought or deliberation.Subliminal perception, or perception below the threshold of conscious awareness may definitely come into play while processing advertisements. An example is the subliminal ad for McDonald's. Although the placement of the Mickey D's logo was indeed a technical error, did it actually subliminally influence those who were exposed to it? Did people actually stop watching Iron Chef to run and get a Big Mac?

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The answer? Probably NOT. This is because we can't engage in much in-depth processing of the meaning of subliminal stimuli. As a result, these brief messages probably cannot produce changes in our attitudes or decisions. In the case of subliminal messaging -- there isn't any extraordinary evidence to back up the claim. I wonder then why some companies still engage in subliminal advertising if it has been proven to be ineffective... maybe more Carlson students need to venture to Elliot Hall to learn about it!

Just a little insight from a Marketing major in a Psychology class.

Are we really born that way?

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nature-vs-nurture-resized-600.png Nature and nurture is the old debate that the scientists are still debating about. Nature is the effect of the people and environment in your life, but nurture is the genetics you received from your parents. Even though we get genes from our family member, I think we can change our behaviors and personalities if we want to change them. Other than 100% genetically determined characteristics such as eye color, birth marks, and blood type.


People love to say that they got their personalities from their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I am good at math and science, because my parents are good at them. However, when I think about the debate of nature verses nurture, I started to think about my lives differently. For example, my parents started to love classical music because I joined orchestra and I enjoyed listening to them. My parents are likely to be influenced by me or my sister as the other way around. Also, my sister and my personality changed after we moved to America because our environment and culture influenced us.

Which one do you think has the stronger effect on making us who we are?

Aphasia- a loss or reduction of language following brain damage typically a result of a stroke. Chapter 3 discusses the different areas of the brain associated with language. To my surprise, there is more than one area affiliated with language in the brain. For example, the Broca's area is located in the frontal lobe and is responsible for speech production while the Wernicke's area, which is in the temporal lobe, is responsible for understanding speech. Why would language function in two separate lobes? It would seem sufficient that one function would be located in one specific part of the brain. Perhaps there is a deeper reason for the brain set up.

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Two years ago, a Hebrew elementary teacher I knew, suffered a stroke. He began experiencing symptoms of Aphasia and was unable to communicate coherently in English, however he was able to speak and understand Hebrew. Perhaps, primary language is developed in one part of the brain while secondary language is developed in a different part. The implications of such a study could have huge effects. Over one million people in the U.S. suffer from Aphasia today and learning a secondary language might be the best solution. However with all considerations, one must still remember that this is just a case study and there are many other victims who were not as fortunate. If we could replicate this transaction and record similar results, this hypothesis would be much stronger. Overall, there is much to learn in this topic and this case study should be further investigated.
? חושבים אתם מה (What do you think?)

MISC_Social_Network_Circle_lg.jpgHow many friends do you have? What do they look like? Did you know that your amygdala determines the number and the looks of your friends? Recent researches have shown that amygdala volume correlates with the complexity and the size of a person's social networks. In another word, large amygdala equals more friends and larger social circles.

In addition, according to D Bzdok and his colleagues, larger amygdala makes you good at face recognition. It's also a major factor that helps you make more accurate judgement about people's faces. If you think you are good at remembering people's faces but don't have a large or complex social network, then try this Face Memory Test . If you did not get a great score on this test, then you know your amygdala is what's affecting your social behaviors. Do you have good friends? Ask your Amygdala!

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http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v14/n2/full/nn.2724.html
http://www.mendeley.com/research/ale-metaanalysis-facial-judgments-trustworthiness-attractiveness/

One Trick Pony???

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I know what the amygadala's purpose and function is, but I never really realized the full effect it has on people throughout their daily lives. Not until I read the two articles that is. It's interesting how fear, something we hardly think of, controls so much of ourselves.
The only time I actually thought of fear was during a scary movie, heights, or walking alone at night, but there's so much more. For example trying something new, or putting myself out there.
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Reading the two articles, I realize that amygdala controls the sense of fear. But I can hardly find a 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.

I generate some hypotheses too! I suggest one's aggression trait may be associated to the degree of the activity in the cells of amydgala. Moreoever, modifying the amygdala may be a way to treat those who live in deep fear in their everyday life.

I wasn't surprised to find out that the amygdala is located near the part of our brains that is resposible for memory. When you think about it, it is our memory that helps us learn how we will respond to certain situations (the book calls this fear conditioning . I can definitely put some real life application to this subject matter.

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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.

While it is clear we all have fears, the big question is how do we get over them? This guy says all you have to do is work with him and his people, pay for an audio (totally refundable) and your life will be changed! He sounds pretty convincing doesn't he, but as critical thinkers we should be aware of extraordinary claims!

I think John Wayne summed it up best...
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The section of the brain that controls human emotions is the amygdala. The amygdala controls every emotion, imaginable. Some people experience very dominant and prominent emotions given off by the amygdala. These irrational fears are called phobias, and they occur when the amygdala releases certain hormones that cause a particular level of anxiety or fear.
When I was younger I had acrophobia (fear of heights). Even when we went to Camp Snoopy (previously named) at the Mall or America my favorite "ride" was the escalator! However, as I got older (not necessarily grew up :)) I went to universal studios, six flags, valley fair etc. and I build up enough courage to go on the most extreme rides . Today, I don't even give heights a second thought. I believe that you are able to out grow your phobias because they "get old." In other words you stop believing that the same thing is frightening. Like after you watch a scary movie a couple of times, you know what is coming/what to expect. Heights are always going to be tall and far from the ground.
See I you have any of the top 10 phobias:

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobia

As I read through the textbook, I found myself drawn to the research surrounding the 10% myth. It is one of the most widely known psychology rumors started by William James, who stated that we don't use all of our "intellectual potential", a thought that was greatly misconstrued to mean that we only use 10% of our brains. Luckily, Karl Lashley disproved this in the 1920s, but until that point it was an extremely widespread myth.

So what was the impact of this long-held belief?

Lobotomy procedures are one example of the impact of this belief.
The procedures consisted of cutting out part of the prefrontal cortex. However, the creators of this procedure, Egas Minz, failed to realize that if one part of the brain is removed, the rest of it is affected as well. If Egas Minz had known that we use all of our brain and that the parts are interconnected, would he have gone through with it? Would the lives of thousands of lobotomy patients have continued normally? We may never know, but it is definitely something to imagine.

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Imagine playing a game of basketball where a gorilla, seemingly out of nowhere, walks by. Now imagine not noticing the gorilla until someone shows you a video of it later. Inattention blindness is when we are so focused on a task, that we are oblivious to other stimuli--even something as ridiculous as a man in a gorilla suit. In this case, perception is involved and influences what we see, even if we don't see it at all.

A concept related to perception is a Just Noticeable Difference (JND). For example, when tasting different cups of coffee that you know have different amounts of sugar in them, it may be nearly impossible to figure out which one has less because the difference between them is so small. This shows how our perception is not always accurate.

A fun activity to see perception at work is by looking at a perceptual illusion, such as this.

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Believe it or not, all of the dots on this image are white! The illusion of gray spots happens because of the inhibitory response, which occurs as a result of the dark surrounding.

It is important to take notice of our sensation and perception so we can be aware of our surroundings, and not be blind to a gorilla walking among us!

What's the underlying cause?

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The other day I read an article on the American Psychology Association's website that outlined the new rules that feds have put in place for trans inmates. To my understanding, the revision is designed to get all trans inmates the appropriate care they need. Previously, only federal inmates with a preexisting diagnosis were eligible for transgender-related care. However, this amendment expands the system so that all inmates suffering from Gender Identity Disorder (GID) are now applicable for this care.
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This novelty got me to thinking about what causes GID through a nature vs. nurture lens. Is the disorder more likely to be caused by genetic abnormalities or life experiences such as defects in normal human bonding? The anecdotal evidence presented in the APA's article may suggest that nurture is a more important contributor to this disorder than nature because it implies that a significant part of the trans prison population develops GID while incarcerated: many prisoners weren't covered by the old feds rules. Do you think that the stressful, and many times unhealthy, prison environment is responsible for this disorder or that some other factor is to blame?

Link to original article:
http://www.apa.org/news/psycport/PsycPORTArticle.aspx?id=ap_2011_10_03_ap.online.all_D9Q52F401_news_ap_org.anpa.xml

Amygdalae(s) Realize

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thisisfear2.jpgWhile 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. The amygdala is crucial to evaluation of events' emotional significance, and also appears to be responsible for the influence of emotion on perception. It's the emotional arousal, not the importance of the information, that helps memory. Consider beta blockers--drugs that have an effect on anxiety, among other things--and their possible implementation for memory modulation.

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 expression recognition, art, poetry, all kinds of expression?

Let 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 without the amygdala we might be fearless. If we didn't have our amygdala we wouldn't be afraid to do anything!

I am terrified of swimming in lakes and oceans because of the animals that 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 happened: the tube started to sink. I wished then that I hadn't had my amygdala, 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...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_BSPgnvmHM

What are you scared of?

Echolocation

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Echolocation is a technique certain animals utilize, they make sounds and listen to echos bounce off surrounding objects to navigate. While in Hawaii, I whale watched and witnessed echolocation first hand. It was amazing, but not as amazing as the story of Ben Underwood, a blind 16 year old and the first human capable of using echolocation. At age two, retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer had developed in his eyes. Chemo and radiation treatment began immediately, but after ten months the cancer was still present. His mother had to make a choice, and his eyes were removed.

A year after the surgery, Ben was riding in his car seat when he said "Mom, do you see that building?". Ben noticed the noises the car made were reflected and was able to repeat this process of Echolocation by making clicking noises with his tongue and listening to echos. In some situations, Ben was even more aware of his surroundings than his friends; playing in the streets, he could hear cars from blocks away while other children noticed them only after they turned into the block. The human ear is an amazing tool. It is incredible that the the 3 smallest bones in our body are part of such an intricate process, and through this process Ben was able to see again.

When one sense is lost, our other senses are strengthened. Do you think a person with perfect vision could harness echolocation?

Lion King.jpgOne 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, and Lion King. You wouldn't think that harmless children's movies could possess subliminal messaging that may not always be positive. A majority of the messages that people have reported being present in the movies have been about sex. For example, for a short moment, the stars in Lion King spell out the word sex. In Aladdin, a character supposedly says "good teenagers take off your clothes" under his breath. Some people can see or hear these messages and others can't. 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?

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. More easily put, it is our fight or flight response. I personally experienced my amygdala going into full gear while being chased out of a Barcelona subway by two strange men in the middle of the night-scary stuff!

Even movie stars use their amygdala for the fight or flight response!
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Where would any of us be if we didn't have the urge to either run or fight back in a dangerous situation? I think it is fascinating that we as humans are always on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations even before we are consciously aware that one exists. When we do come face to face with a threat, our instincts take over, and like magic, we know what to do. This humorous video shows a baby and her "version" of the fight or flight response. While comical, it makes me wonder: when put in a situation where it is not physically possible to fight or run, do our bodies invent a new way to use our adrenaline for survival?

Cute baby showing her fight or flight response!

What if our brain was one big mush with no specific functions in specialized areas? Chapter 3 would certainly be easier. However, there could be negative reprecussions as well. Damage to the brain would have a variety of negative effects as opposed to more limited effects in certain areas.

My blog today is about Aphasia- a loss or reduction of language following brain damage typically a result of a stroke. In Chapter 3, Lilienfeld discusses the different areas of the brain associated with language. To my surprise, there was more than one area affiliated with language in the brain. For example, the Broca's area is located in the frontal lobe and is responsible for speech production. In the neighboring temporal lobe, the Wernicke's area is responsible for understanding speech. I was intrigued that language functioned in two separate lobes. It would seem sufficient that one function would be located in one specific part of the brain. Imagine if the Psychology department had classrooms located on the east bank, west bank, and St. Paul campuses. It would be inconvenient. However, the brain seems to function quite effectively with its diversified areas of function. Perhaps there is a deeper reason for the brain set up.

Two years ago, a Hebrew elementary teacher I knew, suffered a stroke. Fortunately, the man survived, however he began experiencing symptoms of Aphasia and was unable to communicate coherently in English. However to much surprise, this former Hebrew elementary teacher was able to speak and understand Hebrew. Perhaps, primary language is developed in one part of the brain while secondary language is developed in a different part. The implications of such studies could potentially have huge effects. Over one million people in the U.S. suffer from Aphasia today and learning a secondary language might be the best solution. However with all considerations, one still must still remember that this is just a case study and there are many other victims who were not as fortunate. Furthermore, there could be other plausible reasons for this phenomena. If we could some how replicate this transaction and record similar results, this hypothesis would be much stronger. Overall, there is much to learn in this topic and this case study should be further investigated. ?מה אתם חושבים (What do you think?)

A couple weeks ago when we were talking about Nature Vs. Nurture it got me thinking... about Twins studies which, are studies that compare fraternal and identical twins and their similarities or differences between the two. We learned in class about the Bogle family who all for the most part turned out to be criminals or partake in criminal behavior. So i was thinking the explanation which is unknown for this subject could be the same unknown in why twins who are separated at birth are so much a like even after growing up in very different families.

This got my thinking because i am an identical twin. For several years now we have participated in the twins study her at the university of Minnesota. Last time we did the study was after we turned 16 years old. We went through a series of tests including, genetic and blood testing and they came up that we were 99% alike in all aspects of our life. Some of which they tested us on was emotion, friends, likes, dislikes, body image, thoughts, brain activity, and blood.

So this got me to thinking is it different for just normal brothers and sisters when they are split up at birth .. so what is the difference in genetics? and if that is what is really making the difference?

http://a2.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/6383_126247914225_591239225_2620378_7359563_n.jpg

What is Consciousness?

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One of the most perplexing and fascinating questions that psychologists face is understanding the nature of consciousness.

Many students think of consciousness as being alert, aware, and able to process information on a "deep" level. In other words, to be aware that you are thinking. Others define it as the level of attention and focus (mindfulness) we exert in our waking lives.

Sometimes, in order to critically analyze a mysterious and complex phenomenon, it helps to define its opposite.

We might gain traction if we think about what it means to be unconscious or have our conscious minds altered in some way by hypnosis, meditation or drugs.

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Many believe that being asleep is equivalent to being unconscious. Today in class we are going to gather data and write about sleep habits. But consider these distinctions between being awake and asleep.

• The brain processes sensory information while you are sleeping.
o Important information, e.g., a baby's cries will serve to awaken someone, whereas moderately loud snoring, or the sound of a train in the distance will not.
o Noises are often incorporated into dreams.

• The brain processes internal bodily signals while you sleep.
o When a person is too warm/cold while sleeping, generally he or she will make compensatory adjustments to be more comfortable.
o A full bladder will awaken a sleeping person.
o Mental activity related to a person's experience is often incorporated into dreams.

For more about consciousness check out the following:

Sizing Up Consciousness by Its Bits.docx

A Dream Interpretation- Tuneups for the Brain .docx

Music, memory, and mistakes- Top neuroscientists explain how the mind copes in a chaotic world .pdf


iSad

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Must pay tribute to Steve Jobs today. I won't repeat all the accolades here. You will read and hear about his legacy from many others often in the next several weeks. To say his impact on everyday life was huge is an understatement. His vision created so many of the cool things you now take for granted and all accomplished a decade before retirement age.

So to honor Steve's vision of simplicity, elegance, fun and ease of use I want to describe your mission for writing assignment 2

Been reading your blogs and am pleased overall by the effort and thought you have been putting into them. Now I want to challenge you. Make your posts shorter.

For writing 2 you will not create a new blog but you will improve upon writing 1 and repost in the writing 2 category. The number 1 goal is to make the blog no more than 2 short paragraphs (4-5 sentences each). Any writing 2 blog longer will receive at best 3 points, perhaps less.

Also you will fix problems with first, (e.g. ugly html links in the body of the text, add a helpful visual or link to other media). You may want to revisit my guidelines for excellent blogging (and full points) at this earlier blog post.

Finally, you will work with a classmate to do this. Help each other edit and problem solve. Comment on each other's post. Come up with a catchier title that draws more people in. I am noting who comments on other people's blogs and whose get the most attention week to week.

Be sure to tag your partner by including their name in the tag box in dashboard.

I'll go over this more in class today.


You know how people say that either you are going to "fight or flight" in scary situations? Well a couple of summers ago I got to test that theory. I was at home and it was one of those super windy stormy nights which normally I would really enjoy, cutting the humidity is always a good things in my mind. I went to bed but got woken up a couple of hours later to the sound of a power drill.. the whirling sound of a drill going through a lock or something to that effect. God knows this is the one time that I actually wake up when there is a loud sound but I did and I sat and waited for the person to break in because I was going to attack them. However, after I had been sitting there for a while and they still hadn't broken in I started turning on the lights in my house, making noise and I went down stairs to my kitchen and grabbed a big knife. I figured it was now or never to take care of this guy who was trying to break in ( although I wished I had a baseball bat instead of a knife but I worked with what I had). Anyway I went and threw open the front door expecting to find a person breaking into my house but instead I found my screen door had come unlocked from the door and was swinging back and forth in the wind making the "drilling" sound.
Well, this whole situation showed that at first my amygdala had serious control over me, I was super scared that someone was breaking into my house and I didn't know what to do. But then I started to take control of my mind and not be afraid and the sympathetic nervous system took over and my fight reflex kicked in and I started acting rationally (kind of) and assessed the situation. I figured that this guy was pretty dumb since it had taken him at least a half an hour to break in and so he would probably be scared if someone opened the door with a knife.
That is how one I was super glad I hadn't called the cops about a break-in because I would have looked super dumb, two I have a tendency to fight not flight, and three I need to invest in a baseball bat just in case someone actually does break in.

This link shows a good diagram of the autonomic nervous system and points out the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasympathetic_nervous_system

The ethics of testing on animals is a serious point that was mentioned in one of our lectures, but glossed over and never discussed in depth. Even so, when our speaker brought up the topic of testing on cats, I became very emotional. This topic is especially potent to me, as I have lived my whole life with animals, and am a vegetarian of 10 years. However, I still understand the importance of animal testing to the medical community, and to those people who reap its life-saving benefits. Because of this, I often find myself emotionally torn regarding testing on animals.
There are those who will claim that people who use animals as test subjects are doing it for pleasure, or for insignificant reasons. For example, PETA's outlook on animal experimentation is rather skewed:

http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/default.aspx

This article makes the extraordinary claim that there are equally effective ways of testing products that do not involve testing on animals; however, it provides very little insight as to what these alternatives are, and how/why they work. This was frustrating to me, because I truly wanted to believe that there would be such an easy solution, and that animal testing could be done away with without much more than a few rallies and posters. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and no such thing was offered by PETA's article.
One technique this article does use is a lot of pathos: detailed descriptions of helpless and tortured animals locked in cages, angry words against "sick, perverted" scientists who "vivisect animals for the sheer pleasure of it", and gruesome images of the procedures carried out on the animals are very emotionally effective. But the article relies heavily on the pathological aspect of animal testing, and very little evidence in support of PETA's argument is provided. This makes the article biased and unreliable. For trustworthy information on any topic, it is best to select a source that is not emotionally or personally involved in that topic.
So I am still undecided when it comes to my stance on animal testing - I only hope that those who experiment on animals do so in the most humane way possible.
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The section of the brain that controls human emotions is the amygdala. The amygdala controls every emotion, from rage to calm and upset to excitement. Some people experience very dominant and prominent emotions given off by the amygdala. These irrational fears are called phobias, and they occur when the amygdala releases certain hormones that cause a particular level of anxiety or fear.
When I was younger I had acrophobia (fear of heights). Even when we went to Camp Snoopy (previously named) at the Mall or America my favorite "ride" was the escalator! However, as I got older (not necessarily grew up :)) I went to universal studios, six flags, valley fair etc. and I build up enough courage to go on the most extreme rides offered. Today, I don't even give heights a second thought. I believe that you are able to out grow your phobias because they "get old." in other words
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobia

Over the past 50 years scientific experiments have gone through a drastic change in ethical procedures. It wasn't too long ago when the U.S. government was conducting secret tests on more than 400 hundred unaware African-American men. This study was responsible for hundreds of necessary deaths and infections of many more.
I asked my friends if they have heard about the Tuskegee experiments, and surprisingly most of them answered saying they never heard of it. I find it interesting that this huge government mishap is not more widely known. This led me to investigate further into other unethical cases.
I ran into an interesting case that was a psychology experiment that Stanley Milgram put together. He tested what extremes individuals would go to when under pressure by a higher authority. Check out this video of the controversial experiment that was replicated in 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcvSNg0HZwk&feature=player_embedded&noredirect=1

I believe ethical issues in research involve each and every one of us in some way or another, and we all need to be informed in past experiences in this subject so we can make the right choices in the future. One question i have is, would more people have known about the Tuskegee experiments if they would have been white men instead of poor African-American?

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This topic is close to my heart, as I placed my son for adoption 5 years ago. I was very eager to learn more about this phenomenon and dove right in to compare any similarities or dissimilarities with my personal situation.

So far I have not noticed anything in particular that Jack (my son) is more affected by his environment or by his genetics. Now that I have learned about this I am excited to see what happens as he grows up.

One side note, he does have a close resemblance to his adoptive parents but that turned out to be chance. But with that already gives a point to the environmental side.

Here is a link to adoptive families' magazine blog post by one of their readers, I find it quite intriguing. The adoptive mother is having behavioral issues with her son and is asking for other reader's advice. This could be a question of is this genetic or environmental???

http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/blogs/post/adoption-attachment-behavior-problems-discipline/

I am interested in anyone else's feedback since this will be something that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life.

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The effects of brain damage due to trauma and disease can be devastating for those who suffer its consequences. People afflicted with brain damage can have a wide range of symptoms from minor memory or motor issues all the way to the loss of major brain function leading to a vegetative state or death. However, exciting developments in medical research relating to stem cells have offered promising possibilities for treating brain damage by regenerating injured neural structures.

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Brain Damage from Alzheimer's

One of the concepts we have studied in chapter three, is the idea of neural plasticity following brain injury and degeneration and how scientists have attempted to develop methods of repairing damaged brain and spinal cord axons. An area that has seen rapid advances in potential treatments is one called stem cell therapy. Our textbook describes stem cells as cells that have "the potential to become a wide variety of specialized cells" (p.92) and the implications of stem cell malleability can be seen in stem cell therapy which "introduces new cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury" (Wikipedia).

While the concept of stem cell therapy has been around for many years, the field has begun to apply therapeutic techniques in human patients to treat various diseases and injuries. Even NFL players have sought stem cell treatment such as Payton Manning who recently received stem cell therapy in Europe (LA Times). While most stem cell therapy treatments for brain damage are still in very developmental stages many scientists in the field see promising potential in the not-so-distant future. A news article in The Independent discusses researchers in England studying the potential for stem cell therapy to repair brain damage and the hope that possible treatments may be on the foreseeable horizon. It is an exciting and possibly revolutionary field that one day may change the prognosis for people suffering from what was often thought of in the past as an irreversible condition.

Phobias and the amygdala

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The amygdala is the portion of our brain that controls emotions. Whether one experiences excitement or fear, the amygdala is responsible. Sometimes, the amygdala causes us to be more fearful when we get into certain situations. These irrational fears are called phobias, and they occur when the amygdala releases certain hormones that cause a particular level of anxiety or fear.
The thing about phobias is that even though people understand their fears are irrational, they are unable to change how they feel. Many people suffer from phobias, though not all have the same intensity of fear. Similarly, not everyone has the same phobia. I myself have a mild phobia of bridges, and while I know my fear is irrational, that does not make bridge crossing any easier for me.
It is interesting to learn about the different categories of phobias and to see what situations could cause these fears. These causes can be environmental, where one's experience in the past can then affect how they react to a similar type of situation in the future. Is it possible to retrain the brain to get rid of phobias, or possibly lessen the intensity of fear?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobia

Hi all! I just read Professor Wlaschin's email regarding blogs and thought that a how-to post with lots of pictures might be useful for people who are completely lost.

I think that the main issue is that people are going directly to http://blog.lib.umn.edu/wlas0006/1001a/ then clicking on this button in order to create posts:

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This does work, but the user interface isn't particularly inviting and doesn't allow for editing or insertion of images without code. Here's what I'm referring to:

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Sooo..instead of going directly to the section blog's URL, go to http://blog.lib.umn.edu/uthink/ to sign in. There are at least two "sign in" links on the Uthink homepage - one in the upper right-hand corner and one in the gold box on the left. They look like this:

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and

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When you sign in, your dashboard should pop up. It looks like this:

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In order to create a new post, click on the "System Overview" button right under the University of Minnesota logo on the top of the page and select "Section 24 PSY 1001pub." Then, either hover over the "Create" button on the toolbar and click on "Entry" when it appears OR click on the orange-ish "Write Entry" button near the top of the screen. Here's a quick screenshot of the process:

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You should now see the "Create Entry" screen. You can either type up your post there or copy-and-paste it from a separate word processor. Screenshot:

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Don't forget to mark which category you'd like your post to be in - just check the appropriate box on the bottom-right corner of the screen:

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You can use the toolbar to add/edit images, change formatting, and so on and so forth. Here's a screenshot of that - notice image button on right and formatting buttons on left.

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I know that some people were having issues uploading images and/or had "ugly" links in their posts - in that case, I'd recommend uploading the photos you'd like to use to Photobucket or a similar free image-storing site. Then, grab the URL of the image and use HTML to insert it into your post. Here are a couple of screen-shots of the process:

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and the code (sorry it's in image format..easier to display):

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For those having issues posting videos, it's SUPER easy to embed video via Youtube (and far more effective than posting a link that very few people will summon the motivation to click on). Just find the video you're looking for on youtube, click on the "share" button under it, then click on the "embed" button. Copy and paste the code into your blog post and you're good to go. For example, this:

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will yield this:

If you have any questions about HTML, I'd recommend checking out w3schools.com. The blogging platform used here is Movable Type, but I didn't find their site particularly helpful or informative. Here's a link regardless.

Anyways, moving on to editing posts:

To manage your posts, hover over the button on the toolbar which says "Manage" then click on "Entries" when the drop-down menu appears. At this point, your screen should look like this:

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You should then be able to click on the title of your post to begin editing. If you're having difficulty finding your post(s) or wish to find a certain person's posts, you can edit your viewing preferences to reflect that:

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Last but not least, you can change the name/picture displayed on your blog from the preset values. To do this, simply click on your name/ID in the upper-right-hand corner of the page:

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That will bring you to this screen, which should (hopefully) be self-explanatory:

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Hopefully that's somewhat helpful. Let me know if anything's unclear and I'll edit/add things as necessary.

Reading the textbook a couple of weeks ago, I was quite surprised to come across a blurb commenting on the concept that people are either left-brained or right-brained. Basically, the theory claims that left-brained people are logical and do well in math and science, whereas right-brained people are more likely to be artistic dreamers and wander off on tangents. Supposedly, the dominant side or a person's brain affects the way in which they live and learn to a large degree and can affect their academic abilities.

As the book points out, however, there is very little solid evidence to support this theory. Both hemispheres of the brain are in fact in constant communication via the corpus callosum and other interconnections. While the theory may have worked well to explain personality differences back in the 1800's when it took root, we now have the ability to perform brain scans and other tests which prove that activities once thought to be strictly "left" or "right" brained such as spacial reasoning or language processing do, in fact, utilize both hemispheres.

I'll leave you with a few quick questions:

Why do you think that people were so quick to embrace the concept of "left-brained" versus "right-brained" differences and identify themselves as one of the other? Why are online quizzes which supposedly assess your personality and/or beliefs so wildly popular, and in what ways might this be beneficial or damaging to takers?

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To define something as ambiguous as fear, it has taken scientists many years of research. While there seems to be an understanding of the physiological effects of fear, it is the neural paths and connections that seem to produce indefinable effects. But, by taking a different view of fear, we can gain an overall understanding. From the evolutionary standpoint, it's theorized that fear is a response designed to keep an organism alive in less than savory situations. But, how does that work? It is by learning and responding to stimuli that warn us of the dangers we encounter via neural pathways to our amygdala, which interprets the input and decides how significant the stimulus is and to trigger an emotional response. However, fear goes beyond even feelings and emotions in a moment, it is also the specific memory of the emotion from similar events. After a shocking experience, most people remember the logical reasons for the experience, like the time and place, but will also relive the memory, and their body will react as such.
I know this is something I've experienced myself. So, one time my family and I went on vacation in Thailand during the Monsoon season. We decided to go out one day on a little pleasure cruise in the Gulf of Thailand. It was an idyllic day with perfect weather and smooth waters, and we were having a great day. We got out quite a ways from shore and we saw that the sky was changing from the placid state it was, to a tempestuous gray. The water started to get pretty choppy, and we were having a relatively difficult time getting back to shore. Then all of a sudden a wave hit the boat and I fell out. I remember it so vividly, falling out, and crashing below the surface of the water. My heart raced, pulse quickened, and I fought for breath as I sank lower and lower. It felt like an eternity in the water, but I finally resurfaced, having been genuinely fearful for my life. Just remembering this whole ordeal and writing about it causes this physiological response, like I'm reliving the whole ordeal over again. And that's sort of what the amygdala does, the almond shaped structure stores feelings of memory. It is through the amygdala that we access these split second decisions based on the experiences we've had. It is thanks to the amygdala that I harbor some fear of going out on open water. And I'm sure it explains a lot of people's fears. Anyone have a story similar to mine, where you can relive it mentally and physically? Or have something else to say?

Embarrassed and Trustworthy?

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I always find it very interesting to see how people try to protect themselves from being placed in a potentially embarrassing situation. I am by no means saying that I do not do the same the thing, I do. After reading a study published by a student at the University of California, Berkley, I found it interesting, but at the same time making sense, that people who are easily embarrassed have been shown to be more generous and trustworthy than their counterparts. This seems like something that would not be brought up, but now that a study has been conducted it brings a lot of pieces together. Thinking about a person who is embarrassed easily, they would most likely not want to upset someone by being untrustworthy or undesirable. In turn, that could put them in a situation that could be embarrassing or awkward for them.

When placed around your peers, everyone acts different in some way. As we walk around campus and go out to social events around campus, the majority of the people that you see are more timid than what they would be if they were around friends. A great example of this is the first day of class, especially a smaller class that is discussion based. Everyone will sit quietly and when the professor asks a question very few people will answer. As the semester goes along and people feel more comfortable, more and more people will open up and participate. I find it very interesting how different social situations can bring out different personalities in people. This study made me think about how the ever looming presence of being embarrassed in front of our peers can alter the way that we compose ourselves. It is one thing that I will never understand, but it will never cease to exist.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/29/embarrass-trustworthy_n_987381.html

strength of oxytocin

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When reading chapter 3 from the text book I was really interested in the hormone oxytocin. This hormone is responsible for emotional bonds and creates trust between people. It also plays a role in maternal and romantic love. That got me thinking about the amount of killings (suicides) that are between dating couples. I watch this show called snapped where women go crazy over the men they are dating. One women in fact killed her own mother in order to live happily ever after with her boyfriend. In addition to the show my fathers bestfriend attempted to kill his girlfriend because she no longer wanted to be with him. He shot her in the head and then shot himself killing himself but his girlfriend lived. I started to wonder what s the correlation between the amount oxytocin realsed women and the crazy choices women make on the show.
So i begin to search for some sort of evidence that proves the amount of oxytocin released can be vital to such killings. I did not fnd anything that said boldly there is a connection but i did read this article that suggest to me it can be some correlation. The article mentions that In people, plasma concentrations of oxytocin have been reported to be higher amongst people who claim to be falling in love. The article noting the more oxytocin contributes to people being in love to me has a lot to do with why they would feel the need to do crazy things in order to be with that person.
http://psychcentral.com/lib/2008/about-oxytocin/all/1/

Color Bilind test

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I am a color blind person, usually I cannot distinguish the color of red and green, so every time there is a color blind test, it will be a hard time for me.

Every time during the color blind test, when everyone is doing a easy job, just read the number in front of them at loud, I was always stare at these strange picture and can't find anything on them. Only people who have these kind of experience knowing how embarrassing is that.

But one time, I found a very interesting thing, because the test room for color blind allow two people step in at the same time and using the same test picture, so I have the chance hearing what the person beside me said and just repeat that number to the nurse, and what is more interesting is that, after I knowing what is the number on the picture (I heard for that guy beside me), I actually can "see" that number in that colorful picture, and it's very clear. I think it may because after my brain receives the message from listening, it can affect the result which is send by my eyes.

Do you ever have a craving for something you just saw a commercial for? This is a pretty common occurrence that makes marketers everywhere happy that their ads are influencing you.

The average American is exposed to hundreds, or even thousands of ads a day -- but most of us cannot recall nearly that many -- how is this possible? Many of the advertising, or messaging, we are exposed to is being processed unconsciously. The binding problem, one of the great mysteries of psychology, deals with how our brains manage to combine or "bind" diverse pieces of information into a unified whole. This explains how we use rapid, coordinated activity that crosses multiple cortical areas to help us bind together -- or make sense -- of all this information marketers throw our way through commercials, advertisements, product placements and more.

The Lillenfield text stands by the fact that we process many of the sensory inputs to which we're exposed unconsciously, and that many of our actions occur with little or no forethought or deliberation. But besides processing this information unconsciously, is there any of it that we are being fully exposed to unconsciously without ever detecting?

Subliminal perception, or perception below the threshold of conscious awareness may definitely come into play while processing advertisements. An example of this is the subliminal ad for McDonald's that can be seen in the following youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xPvYgTvr8I. Although the placement of the Mickey D's logo was indeed a technical error, did it actually subliminally influence those who were exposed to it? Did people actually stop watching Iron Chef to run and get a Big Mac?

The answer? Probably NOT. Subliminal persuasion, or sub-threshold influence over our choices and decisions, but it is probably very unlikely in most cases. This is because we can't engage in much in-depth processing of the meaning of subliminal stimuli. As a result, these brief messages probably cannot produce changes in our attitudes or decisions.

As one of the principles of scientific thinking states -- extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and in the case of subliminal messaging the evidence is not as strong as the claim.

Therefore, the next time you're feeling upset about your spending habits - you can't blame it on subliminal advertisements. Even though you're exposed to so many advertisements, ultimately you control your own attitudes and decisions - isn't that comforting?

I still wonder why some companies do engage in subliminal advertising if it has been proven to not really be effective. Have any of you ever caught any subliminal adverting on TV? Do you think it works?

Maybe more Carlson kids need to venture to Elliot Hall to learn about it!

A little insight from a Marketing major in a Psychology class.

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After reading the nurture vs. nature section of the book, I couldn't help but think if homosexuality could be related to either one. I personally feel that homosexuality is not inherited through genes but this article has got me thinking a little. http://www.physorg.com/news84720662.html The article alluded to fruit fly gene alterations that eventually led to homosexuality. I looked up this study and found a good article here  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/science/article3025835.ece about how scientists have found a mutation gene known as "gender-blind" or GB. This mutation, which they've found a way of turning on and off, can make flies bisexual! This came as a surprise to me because I have never thought that your genes could play a role in your sexual orientation. Though the implications cannot be directly inferred to humans, it is interesting enough to see that gene mutations in fruit flies can give such information.

I also read an article http://news.softpedia.com/news/Homosexual-by-Birth-41918.shtml which was a bit clearer on the different genes and variables/trends that have been associated with homosexuality. They gave an example of how homosexuality in men increases with the "number of biological older brothers he has, even when he does not grow up with his older male siblings." I found this extremely interesting and it sort of ties into the nature part of homosexuality.The overall message that I got from all three of the articles was that though there are common factors in genes and homosexuality, the larger part of it was up to how the individual grew up, nurture. I also agree with the last article that "it is too early to decide which of our models is most feasible." So what are your opinions about homosexuality and its relations with nature vs. nurture?

Phantom Limbs are For Real

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I used to love the TV show House. I would watch House religiously. And I knew watching it that everything I saw was not always accurate or realistic, so I would just disregard them as made up. One episode that stayed with me from two years age was called "The Tyrant". During the episode House cures his friends landlord of a pain in his phantom arm. Immediately I thought that the technology would be so amazing, but I doubted that it actually existed, in fact I hardly knew phantom limbs existed.

Two years later here I come by that there is a real treatment for phantom pain. This treatment is using a mirror box, designed by Vilayanur Ramachandran and colleagues, which in turn reflects the remaining limb onto the other side so it appears that both limbs are present. With this illusion that the brain can again send motor commands to the phantom he or she believes that with moving their real limb the phantom limb also moves so if it has a cramp or is uncomfortable the brain almost is getting tricked into believing the arm is whole again.

If anyone is thinking why is this relevant let me tell you that this is so vital to life. In House the person he helped was a soldier, and often these people with the phantom limbs are soldiers. And these soldiers are fighting for our safety and wellbeing and they deserve to have the most comfortable lives possible given the circumstances. Much of my family fought and died or were injured and they all deserve the utmost respect and medical treatment.

Here is a follow up article if you want to learn more... http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661302019071

And a pretty sweet video you should for sure check out...

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When I first heard about the amygdala, all that could come to mind was the honey badger. In case you have no idea what I am talking about, please watch this short (and hilarious) clip so that you can understand why on earth I am talking about some small furry mammal:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r7wHMg5Yjg

Ok, so now that we are all on the same page, I can properly begin to blog my thoughts. So obviously, after seeing how fearless the honey badger is, I began to wonder if there was anything peculiar about their amygdala's... Like is it a smaller size? Do they even have one? What on earth do they use it for?

To my surprise, I couldn't really find any articles with any research based on honey badger amygdalas (but if anyone else could, it would be a GREAT way to comment this blog **hint**hint**). So I then began to wonder, would humans benefit if they were more fearless like the honey badger?

One has to admit, when it comes to disorders like OCD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the amygdala can be quite a burden. But still, would we gain any profit if we were able to reduce its affects? Would we strive more as a species if we took more risks and with less hesitations?

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In the end, I decided no.
Let's think about it; humans are weak in all physical senses of the word. We have no claws, no super speed, no poison, no protective shells or tough skin, heck we don't even have camouflage. We are basically soft squishy bags of free meat, and the only reason we are still alive is because of our brains. Yes, we are the most dominant species on this planet, not because of our strength, but because of our ability to analyze situations and learn from our mistakes.

So overall, if we had any harm to our precious amygdala's, it would only end badly for the homo-sapiens.

But hey, thats just my one opinion, so feel free to let me know if you disagree or have anything to add (also another GREAT way to comment **HINT**HINT).

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p.s. that's still pretty sick

Are they really based on true stories?
We see movies such as Paranormal Activities in our everyday lives, where ESP related phenomena occur. We see these books and movies about ESP, demons, and ghosts terrorizing, haunting, and possessing people, and how they claim that these experiences are based on true stories and true experiences; but are they really true? Have they or could they be tested? In some cases we often see that these are paid actors, special effects, and a work of fiction at play. Yet as obvious as this is, we still believe that this may be true and take it as it is given to us. This is a great example of a metaphysical claim that cannot be proven or disproved. They make claims about the world that we cannot test. One would also expect with such extraordinary experiences you would find the evidence to be just as extraordinary, however we are given mediocre explanations that cannot be proven, or disproved. This is out of the bounds of what science deals with. Science deals with claims that we can put to the test, and claims based on the natural world that can be answered with data. So why is it that even though we know these claims aren't backed up by much evidence, there are a vast majority of people who still believe in them? Not to say that these things do not occur, or cannot, but can they be tested in ways that isn't recognized in the book?
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A recent article written by Rebecca Webber examines the root cause of siblings who are very successful in the same field. Her experiment was conducted by interviewing four groups of siblings. Through her research and observations she came up with a theory that would explain why siblings become experts in the same field. First, she stated that the older sibling usually gets into a field first and the younger sibling usually follows when he/she sees the older sibling being successful. It is more likely for the younger sibling to be successful in the field as well due to them sharing the same genes. The siblings share the same genes so they would posses a lot of the same skills, personality, intelligence and or looks.
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Reading this article reminded me a lot of the nature vs. nurture debate as well as the family studies research. This article clearly points to the nature side of things, stating that genes have a lot to do with the way people turn out to be. It also points to the family research studies because they are children that grow up in the same household that turn out to be very similar and have similar skills and interests. Although theses are some very strong claims, I personally believe that children are highly effected by how they are raised my they're parents and their surroundings. I truly believe that nurture plays a tremendous part in our lives.

Got Milk?

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 After learning of the many ways in which an experimental design can deliver inaccurate results, I have become skeptical of many scientific claims. Some of the errors in scientific studies include participants not being selected randomly, biases of the researcher and not ruling out rival hypothesis. Causation vs. correlation, random selection and pseudoscience all cross my mind when hearing results of a correlation or experimental design. I am now skeptical of one very popular and strongly believed in theory: Milk builds stronger bones.


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Many new studies bear results that contradict the common belief that milk makes your bones stronger. Some studies show milk drinkers to have stronger bones than non-milk drinkers, some studies yield the opposite, while some studies show no relation between milk and bone strength. How can there be so many different, contradicting results?
I believe many of these studies aren't selecting their subjects randomly. If you compare children that eat well, live a healthy life style and drink milk to children that lack milk in their diet and live an unhealthy lifestyle, the milk drinkers may have stronger bones and it won't necessarily be due to the fact that they have more milk in their diet. Another flaw in studies on the effects of milk may simply be a matter of correlation versus causation. There are researchers that claim drinking milk causes osteoporosis. "Evidence" of this claim is that the United States, with the highest consumption of dairy, has the highest rates of osteoporosis. This relationship may be due to one or more other variables such as: diet, exercise, and BMI (body mass index). The claim that milk builds stronger bones needs to be further researched and scientifically tested before I depend on milk as my source of calcium.

Links to studies on milk's effects: http://www.livestrong.com/article/315144-does-milk-build-strong-bones/ http://www.whymilk.com/strong_bones.php http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-and-milk/
After seeing all of the research that suggests such a popular theory as this may be somewhat, if not completely, incorrect, I am forced to wonder: what other mainstream theories that I believe be true could actually be false?

Two Souls, One Body.

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The lives of twins bring many mysteries to psychology as well as sharing a unique perspective on the effects of genetics vs environment on a human being, but how would it effect you to share not only an environment but a body with another person? I growing up i knew two Dicephalic Paragus twins, more commonly referred to as "conjoined twins", who deal with the implications of this condition daily.

When a single egg attempts to separate into two embryos and is somehow restricted in the process of splitting or two fully separated embryos are somehow forced back together, the two eggs will form a partially intact body depending on when the restriction occurred. Conjoined twins can take on many different levels of attachment and independence.

In Brittany and Abigail's case, each girl has their own heart, lungs, kidney (actually contain 3 in total), stomach, spine, spinal cord, gallbladder, and most importantly brain. As one moves down past the stomach, the girls anatomy merges together to form one oversized and surgically modified ribcage, one diaphragm, one breast each, an enlarged pelvis, one liver, one intestine, bladder, and one set of reproductive organs.

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Many of you may have seen the twins in an old TLC documentary. A clip from the documentary is attached below.
TLC documentary clip
Here is a more recent news report on the girls seen on ABC earlier this spring, as well. ABC News story

Abigail and Brittany's situation brings up many questions. With one set of sex organs, how will the girls cope with the social implications of marriage and children?
Brittany's recent engagement has brought changes for the girls in learning to cope with the legal implications of marriage in their unique situation

Conjoined twins also bring up the question of growth and development. In what ways did Abigail and Brittany develop differently to function in unison?
With each controlling one arm and one leg, the two must constantly work together to preform simple tasks like clapping, and getting ready in the morning. Other more complicated tasks like driving and biking have forced the girls to rely more heavily on each other. For example, only one of the girls controls the foot pedals in the car. One body also means compromising on how time is spent. The girls say that they often take turns choosing what to do.

How do their physical contraints limit the individuality of their intellect and decision making?
Some teachers have let the girls take tests together (because one will always have the information the other needs right?), while others see them as two individuals and thus force them to take tests separately. The pair took two driving tests for each to receive their own licence. the girls seem to have separate personalities and interests implying that genetics serve a large part in personality seeing as they have lived close to identical lives.



Remember the Amygdala

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Many of my memories that I seem to remember the most detail about have something to do with my getting into some sort of trouble. The details all seem so vivid to me, even years later, and that all has to do with a little almond shaped area in the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is located in the medial temporal lobes of the brain and has been shown to perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions.

Generally, it seems to be our fearful memories that we remember the most. The heart starts beating, little beads of sweat start to form on the forehead, prickly hairs my stand up on the back of one's neck. One of my most remembered memories is one from high school. I was at a party and had been, ahem, under age drinking. (Let me just state that I am now legal drinking age!) Everything seemed to be going smoothly until there was a very loud knock on the door and someone yelled "COPS!". So, out the back door I went. It was raining and I was running. Fence? No problem, I jumped it. I did, however, slip in the grass and lay motionless for about three seconds. Then I was back up and ready to run again.

After what seemed like forever, I finally made it back home. I crawled through my bedroom window(remember, I was 16 and not supposed to be out at a party) heart still beating wildly. I peered up the stairs, no lights on. Good sign, that means mom is still asleep. I threw my wet clothes into the hamper and went to bed. Phew. I had escaped the cops...and mom.

That memory will always stick in my mind, even several years later, much thanks to the amygdala! Without it, we wouldn't be able to share these memories and laugh about them years down the road.

Smell and Schizophrenia?

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The limbic system is the emotional center of the brain and also is tied to smell, motivation and memory. This system was evolved from a primitive system dedicated to smell that was linked to survival behaviors in early mammals. How interesting that the part of our brains that is responsible for our feelings was first the spot dedicated to smell. It makes sense that smell is tied to memory, we've all had times when we've caught a wiff of a particular scent and had a strong memory pulled into focus but I had no idea how emotional the power of smell could be.
A associate psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study where he compared the size of olfactory bulbs in people with and without schizophrenia.
"On average, the bulb sizes of schizophrenic subjects were 23 percent smaller than those of subjects in a control group. These findings not only concentrate on an area of the brain previously ignored in schizophrenia studies, but, according to Turetsky, they also offer a biological basis to his earlier findings that people suffering from the disease were abnormal in their ability to smell." - http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200009/the-emotional-power-smell
If they were able to replicate these findings and find causation (not JUST correlation) that could be a huge breakthrough in the treatment for schizophrenia.

Here is a (simple) picture of the olfactory bulbs and limbic system!
http://wikis.lib.ncsu.edu/index.php/Olfactory_bulbs

Before we start talking about the amazing functions of amygdala, I would first ask you to write down how many close friends you have and what their faces look like. If you are like me, who is not an expert at remembering and recognizing people's faces, then you are basically telling me that your amygdala is not so big.

Recent researches have shown that amygdala volume correlates with the complexity and the size of a person's social networks. In another word, large amygdala equals more friends and larger social circles. Do you think your amygdala is what made you social outcast? Do you believe social disorders are caused by genetic reasons, such as the size of your amygdala, rather than environmental factors?

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In addition, according to D Bzdok and his colleagues, larger amygdala makes you good at face recognition. It's also a major factor that helps you make more accurate judgement about people's faces. If you think you are good at remembering people's faces but don't have a large or complex social network, then try this Face Memory Test . If you did not get a great score on this test, then you know your amygdala is what's affecting your social behaviors.

The amygdala is composed of tiny nuclei, yet it's functions are very important to people today. It can affect people's emotions, memories, social behaviors and physical behaviors. Next time when people ask you questions such as "why do you like dogs" or "why do you have so many friends?", give them a simple answer - "my amygdala decided for me".

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http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v14/n2/full/nn.2724.html
http://www.mendeley.com/research/ale-metaanalysis-facial-judgments-trustworthiness-attractiveness/

Despite what was said in "The Waterboy," anger and aggression is not controlled by the medulla oblongata . This is the job of the amygdala.

In the brain, as soon as an aggression starts, our alarm system, the amygdala, is activated and this triggers a cascade of reactions to prepare our flight. It causes, among other things, stress hormones. The result: while the body is under tension, blow flow, heart rate, and breathing speed up, muscles are contracted, and ready to begin flight.

In one recent case, after a near drowning incident, I could not only vividly remember each detail, but while doing this, my body reacted as though I was reliving the experience. Because I was immobilized and unable to escape fast enough, the amygdala panics, and is flooded by alert signals. The amygdala "overheats," and suddenly I was unable to defend myself. I was paralyzed and felt like I was going to die.

It is the dissociation that enabled me to stay alive, but, paradoxically, it caused the feeling of fear. The time of the drowning is trapped as such in the amygdala. Maybe this is why I no longer swim alone?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfC4u5GCy3I

Located in the Limbic System, the Amygdala, by definition "plays a key role in fear, excitement, and arousal." Under this description, it is the Amygdala that is activated in fight or flight situations as well as any other emotionally arousing experience. With this being said, one topic that has come to my interest several times, is the relationship between memories and events under amygdala activation.

As one student posted about an experience involving fight or flight at a roller rink, he believed the situation was remembered in great detail due to the high intensity of emotions. Being that this situation involved a fight or flight decision, it is apparent that the amygdala was activated. The question that I have is, "Is there a direct relationship between the amygdala and long term memory storage?"

After doing simple research, I found a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in Irvine, CA, in which researches set out to find an answer to this exact question. (Link on bottom of post.) In this study, the results were positive in that there is a direct relationship between amygdala activation and Long Term Memory storage.

"The findings of our studies using human subjects are consistent with those of our other studies using animal subjects in indicating that memory storage is influenced by activation of B-adrenergic systems and the amygdala. Considered together, these findings provide strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that the amygdala, especially the baso-lateral nucleus, plays a central role in modulating the consolidation of long-term memory of emotionally arousing experiences," (McGaugh, Cahill, Roozendaal 6).

This is easy to relate to our personal lives, as it is not difficult to recall an experience of heightened fear from our childhood. To now understand that these vivid images and memories were aided by my emotions and ultimately the amygdala, is intriguing. Overall, i find it extremely interesting to think that simple emotions that activate our amygdala, can be directly related to a more efficient storage of memories in the long term.

Original Article:
http://www.pnas.org/content/93/24/13508.full.pdf

Nurture VS. Nature

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My sister and I are two years apart, but we are like twins. Ever since we were young, we were best friends and stayed together for 18 years until she left to college. Even though we didn't look very similar, we had same personalities. We both were introvert and shy when we met new people.

After my sister and me both moved to America, our personalities started to change. We both did not notice how much we became more outgoing until we visited Korea two years ago. My relatives and friends were surprised when they saw us because we were so different. When we were young, we had a family party during Christmas. When all of my relatives gathered together, my sister and I were timid to talk to people and shuttered the answers when someone asked questions. We stuck together whole day and followed my parents around. This shows how much we were not socially engaged.
However, now we both have a lot of friends and we talk to people easily even at the first time. We don't get timid by crowd or people anymore. As I compare myself from the past and now, I think the environment changed our personalities. When we lived in Korea, I grew up under my typical Asian grandparents. They were very conservative and valued Korean traditions. They did not allow us to hang out with friends outside. We always had to study, and wear neat clothes that do not show our bodies a lot. However, when I started to live apart from them after we moved to America, my sister and I started to change. We followed more American culture and made different types of friends. They were more outgoing and talkative than my friends from Korea.

When I was reading the text book about nature and nurture, this came to my mind. Why did my sister and my personality change so suddenly? Did environment affect our personality? Or were we born with our extroversion? Which more affects people's personalities?

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In a 1945 publication of the Albuquerque Journal, a journalist reported that Georgia Green, a blind 18-year old girl, was traveling 50 miles north of Trinity Site (where the first atomic bomb was tested) when the atomic bomb was detonated. According to their records, she "saw" the flash of light from the detonation, and said to her brother who was driving the car, "what's that?"

Before the article and news of the detonation were released, the public did not yet know of the bomb's existence; they believed it was an accidental explosion at a munitions dump.

This urban legend is poorly and mysteriously supported and was even tweaked in other publications shortly following the release of the original article. We can use a few of the principles of scientific thinking to evaluate the validity of this urban legend.

First, there is an issue of correlation versus causation; we do not know for sure that the reason Georgia Green said "what's that" had anything to do with the bomb's detonation. A spider could have crawled up her arm, the seat belt could have pinched her finger, a gust of wind could have blown in her face, etc. It could have been a complete coincidence that something else happened at the same time the bomb went off. Which leads us to the next principle: replicability. If she would have been placed in the same situation but at a different time, would the same thing happen? Would she be able to "see" the flash of the bomb again? Lastly, we can evaluate the urban legend using the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If it so happens that Georgia Green actually saw the flash of the detonation, what is the explanation for such a phenomenon? There would have to be extraordinary evidence to support the argument that blind people acquire or experience some kind of reaction to the radiation produced by the atomic bomb, for example.

http://www.snopes.com/science/atombomb.asp

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Memory.

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Memory is something that has always amazed and fascinated me. The idea that we are able to retain and remember events that have happened through the years is crazy. My grandmother, who had dementia, first began losing her memory in 2009. When we would visit, we would have the same conversations over and over. For us, time moved on- but for her, she kept re-living the year 2009.

Although her short term memory was gone, her long term memory was still intact. She could tell us what soap opera episode she was watching when Kennedy was assassinated or what outfit she wore to various family events, but she had no recollection of what she had done 20 minutes ago. As sad is this was to see and experience, it was also kind of incredible.

I found the part about taxi drivers' brains to be really interesting. The idea that their brains could actually differ from ours was really cool. When you think about it, it makes sense, but it isn't something I would have thought about on my own.This article on it is pretty interesting: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/677048.stm

Echolocation

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Echolocation is a technique used in animals like bats, whales and dolphins. These animals make sounds and listen to echos bounce off surrounding objects to navigate. When I was snorkeling in Hawaii, I was able to hear whales in the distance which was incredible. We also went whale watching and I was able to witness echolocation first hand. However, none of this was quite as amazing as the story of Ben Underwood, a blind 16 year old boy who is the first human capable of harnessing echolocation.

At age two, Ben's mother noticed a strange light in his pupil that turned white in 3 days. Retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer had developed in his eyes. His infant cancer was very rare, and affects only 6 out of every million children. This cancer grows rapidly so doctors began chemo and radiation treatment; if the cancer reached his optic nerve he would die. After ten months, the cancer was still present. His mother had to make a choice, and his eyes were removed.

A year after the surgery, Ben and his mother were driving with the windows down when he said, "Mom, do you see that building?". We see objects because light reflects off of them. Ben sees them because sound reflects, and in this case because the noises the car made were reflected. After this experience, Ben was able to repeat this process of Echolocation by making clicking noises with his tongue. Growing up, he learned to play video games, rollerblade and ride his bike. In some situations, Ben was even more aware of his surroundings than his friends. Playing in the streets, he could hear cars from blocks away while other children noticed them only after they turned into the block.

The human ear is an amazing tool. The outer ear funnels sounds into the eardrum, then into the ossicles containing the smallest bones in the body, the hammer, stirrup and anvil. The cochlea is filled with fluid and converts sounds into neutral activity. The hair cells contain cilia and go into the cochlea. The auditory nerve picks up the sounds of the excited hair cells, travels through the thalamus and then the brain interprets sound. It is incredible that the 3 smallest bones in our body are part of such an intricate process, and through this process Ben was able to see again. Ben Underwood died due to complications with his cancer on January 19th, 2009. He was the only human capable of echolocation at the time, but he has influenced many others. Daniel Kish, another blind man, has learned to see with his ears too. He is now teaching other visually impaired children.

Video:

Neural Plasticity

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We use the brain every day. If there was no activity in a person's brain, then he is considered dead. The brain activity allows us to do everything in our lives. But how can we store new information all the time? By neural plasticity, the brain can adapt or reorganize the new information received by our senses by redrawing neural pathways.

Neural plasticity is when the nervous system in the brain changes

This adaptation or change is very beneficial for us because this change allows us to store new information. When we sit in class and learn, plasticity occurs in our brains so that the learned material can be stored in our brains. The environment plays a key factor in influencing plasticity. Therefore, if we use this fact, it can help us to use effectively more parts of the brain. This is done because of the change in the internal structures of the neurons, and because there is an increase of the amount of synapse between neurons.
Medically, plasticity is a precious gift because if a person loses a part of its brain, then plasticity of his brain can allow the person to live normally. For the brain changed its way of sending nerves around the body and allowing the person to function before the brain removal.

The youtube video is about a girl, who had her right hemisphere removed and is living a normal life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSu9HGnlMV0

The brain can adapt as much as it can, but until what extent can it do so?

After indulging in the articles and other peers responses, I have made the conclusion that fear is driven by the amygdala, a grouping of nuclei found in the medial temporal lobe. The amygdala is attached to the hippocampus, the area where memories are developed and stored. Therefore, the amygdala's main functions are memory and emotional feelings. Fear would fall into the category of both memory and feelings.
After hearing the professor and another peer tell stories of being frightened by a dog either attacking them or abruptly running up to them in a scary manner, I had a similar experience myself. I personally was not affected, but a young neighboring girl was. I have a small, very friendly dog that enjoys any humans company. One afternoon, my roommate went out to his car, but unknowingly left the back door open and my dog ran out following him. Upon leaving the house, he noticed a father and daughter outside, so being a friendly dog he started to quickly walk over to the neighbors. However, the young daughter did not notice my dog approaching her, and when he was only a few feet away she saw him and started screaming. My roommate heard the cries and ran over and grabbed my dog, but the fear had already taken over the young girl.
The young girls amygdala sensed fear and she reacted by screaming and crying. Even though my dog never got close to touching her, just the fact that something unknowingly approached her triggered her amygdala to sense fear. I hope this memory does not haunt her through her life, but since memory is a key component to the amygdala, who knows how traumatic this experience could be. Some people will often criticize people for being scared, but would it be better to be scared, or fearless? photo.jpg

Playing with the Amygdala

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cod3.jpgIt's pretty clear that video games provoke emotional responses. Just join any online first-person shooter game and you can listen to players yell, swear, and even threaten one another, but why do players become so emotional when playing certain games? Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine showed that playing violent video games has a direct effect on the amygdala. The study is summed up in this article: . The research team split up a group of 44 adolescents and randomly assigned them to one of two groups. The first group played a non-violent racing game called "Need for Speed: Underground" and the second group played "Medal of Honor: Frontline," a violent first-person shooter. After 30 minutes of playing their respective games, the teens had their brains scanned.
brainscan.jpg The results showed teens that played the violent video game showed increased activity in the amygdala with a decrease of activity in parts of the brain involved in self-control, inhibition and attention. This effect was not present in the participants that played the non-violent game. This experiment has proven to be replicable. John P. Murray, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, conducted a similar experiment. This time though, instead of video games, Murray had the participants view short clips from the boxing movie "Rocky IV." Using the same process as the Indiana University researchers, these children also showed increased activity in the amygdala. The effect of violent video games on the amygdala has been present in my own life as well. On any given day, my roommates and I can be heard yelling and shouting obscenities at the TV. We may play the video games, but through the amygdala the video game plays back on our emotions.

After reading some of the articles that were posted and learning that since the amygdala controls many emotional responses, what would happen if there was some sort of damage to it?
The first thing that came to mind was psychopathy, which is a mental disorder is which the person has a lack of empathy and remorse, and more generally a lack of emotional depth. So, I decided to do some research and found some interesting articles on the topics and came across this one:

The article confirmed my belief that the amygdala is the reason behind the emotional disabilities found in psychopathic patients. However the reason why this dysfunction in the amygdala occurs is still unknown. I also learned that psychopaths were found to have an amygdala that was smaller in volume compared to others, which would make sense.

So my next question is how have people been utilizing this knowledge? I would think that this information would be very useful in things like murder cases. If someone was convicted of a murder and showed almost no remorse for their actions, does that make them a psychopath?

For example, the infamous case of Casey Anthony, a Florida mother who was accused of murdering her 3-year-old daughter and was on trial this past summer. I followed the case for a good deal of the summer and for most of the trial she seemed unaffected. She was seen out partying and having a good time with her friends multiple times. How could a mother be on trial for the murder of her child and not be a compete mess every single day? Many different news reporters who were following the case suggested that maybe she was a psychopath and that seemed to be a sensible explanation. If so, did Casey Anthony ever undergo tests to see if she was psychopathic? Would this have affected the outcome of the trial in which she was found to be innocent? Could this have affected other similar trials in the past?

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Amygdala: Friend or Foe?

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I have often wondered about the fight or flight instinct within all human species. It seems that for many people the choice is consistent no matter what the situation. My entry today will be based of experience in my life.

During a recent weekend I was caught up in a mess of horrible situations. I was hanging out with a small group of friends, when two of my buddies started to rough house. Things quickly got out of hand when I noticed one of my friends trying to continue "fake fighting" after the other was attempting to end it. I immediately thought of the amygdala and how it is a key factor in making split moment decisions when scared or provoked. I attempted to end the situation peacefully only to get sucker punched in the face by the person. Immediately my amygdala kicked into gear and it turned into a serious fight. Without going into too much detail it ended with what I thought was a good friend pinned to the ground with a bloody mouth, by my other friends. Thankfully me and the guy talked it out later and are now closer friends than we were before hand.

After the situation I kept thinking about the readings I had read regarding the amygdala. Me and this person are very similar people and it proposes the question of whether or not we have similar brain structure. Neither of us would back down and both of us immediately regretted it ever happening and apologized to each other sincerely. During the encounter I noticed my friend who was originally frightened by the guy change his attitude completely and jump on him and pin him down. It's amazing how quickly decisions can change and fear can be swapped out for confidence in a split second. I do not believe that any of the events that had taken place that night would have been possible without the help of the amygdala.

Psychology has, over the past few years, become a topic of much interest to me. Not in the sense that I'm willing to switch my major to psychology, but more so that I'm fascinated by the study of human behavior and all the strange quirks that psychologists have discovered about it.

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with my parents, and not coincidentally much of the time I was also reading my textbook. I found many of the examples provided in the textbook to be interesting, and though I believed them, I wanted to see how they would hold up while conducting my own experiment (in this case my parents were the subjects).

My first question, posed individually to both my mom and my dad, was straight out of the text book; which compass direction would you travel to get from Reno, Nevada, to San Diego, California? Much as the textbook had indicated, they were both quick to respond "Southwest, of course." I then explained to them the concept of heuristics, and why they were both so quick to say a completely false direction.

After a few more questions of this nature, my dad (ever the thinking type) realized what I was doing. When I finally came around to quizzing him on "Popular Psychology Knowledge," he answered True to only two of the questions (for those of you who don't know, all 10 questions are False, though they all seem True). I knew what my dad was doing -- using the counter-intuitive answer in hopes that he could in some way appear more intelligent than the average human. Upon further reading, I realized exactly what he was doing. Instead of being "more clever," he was actually reacting to demand characteristics, meaning he was altering his experimental behavior based on what he thought the experimenter (me) wanted to hear, or more precisely what he thought others wouldn't say.

This principle sparked my interested, and I researched a little more into it. I found this article /a> detailing the phenomenon. Martin Theodore Orne, pioneer of demand characteristics research This source of bias is an obvious way that researchers can be forced into incorrect conclusions, and thus is noteworthy as a pitfall for experimental design. Can any of you think of a way to completely eliminate the effect of demand characteristics? So far I've only come up with Naturalistic Observation...

As I read through the textbook, I found myself drawn to the research surrounding the 10% myth. It is one of the most widely known psychology rumors started by William James, the founder of functionalism. He stated that we don't use all of our "intellectual potential", a thought that was greatly misconstrued to mean that we only use 10% of our brains.

However, Karl Lashley's findings are what intrigue me the most. He disproved this rumor by having mice figure out mazes with cuts to different parts of their brains. This was to see if there was a specific area that worked better than others when mice navigated the maze. In fact, his findings showed that no area of the brain was more significant to their navigation.

This finding finally debunks the myth that has contributed to the self-help industry with books that claim to "harness" the other 90% of your brain, therefore helping people stay away from the trap of pseudoscience. Also, it shows doctors and medical professionals that all of the brain is important to the functioning of a person so it is extremely dangerous to cut out even the smallest area. Lashley's finding can help save patients' lives and their ability to function in the world.

Of course, I believed this myth for quite awhile, almost leading me to fall into the basket of unsupported claims that is pseudoscience. I would stop in the self-help section of Barnes & Noble, contemplating how much reading an 120 page guide to using all of your own brain would help me. Luckily, the fiction section was more appealing.

Yet I still wonder how the 10% myth affected the procedures of early surgeries and what it would look like if a person did use only 10% of their brain. These are scary thoughts, but thoughts that are key to understanding the significance of Karl Lashley's findings.

BUCK FEVERRRR

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Now why would buck fevers have anything to do with the amygdala?

Well, after reading these articles, I learned that not only does the amygdala have connections with emotions; it also has strong connections with animals because studies shown that our brain focuses more on animals rather than things. The amygdalae are almond liked-shapes that make us conscious of our emotions towards animals and people. Meaning, the amygdala may be the cause of beginner hunters getting buck fever when seeing a game in the distances.

From the readings, I found it interesting that if you had your amygdala removed, you may become fearless and or have no emotional feelings towards animal or people. Thus, in this case, you would not experience buck fevers as well.

Some may like the feeling of buck fevers and some may not. I don't know why people dislike the feeling of buck fevers. The only reason I could think of are because they get too nervous or overly excited and then it causes them to miss their shot.

I love the thrill of buck fevers because I get nervous excitement feelings when I spot a game. Buck fevers usually only happens to people who are beginner hunters, but for me, I seem to get buck fevers every year that I go hunting. The symptoms that I experience during a buck fever are; my breathing pattern changes, my heart pounds rapidly, and my stomach starts having butterflies. In addition, with the sight of a game, our amygdala alerts us of the game's presence, thus creating emotional connections like fear or excitement between our brain and the animal. In conclusion, I think buck fevers may have just been our amygdala doing his job.

Now why would one want to remove the excitement feelings that our brains have to offer?

I wouldn't want to get rid of my amygdala, would you?

Chemical Senses and Memory

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Smell and taste is one of the most interesting topics of sensation and perception. These senses are stimulated chemically. In other words, for example when chemicals stimulate the receptors inside of the taste buds in mouth, we start to feel the sense of taste. These buds are in papillae. We are able to taste from our tongue, throat and inside part of the cheeks. However, the most sensitive part is our tong. The front edge of the tong is very sensitive for sweet tastes and the upper sides of the front tong tastes salty very well. Also, tong's middle sides are sensitive for sour tastes mostly where the spicy tastes are sensed mostly at the back of the tong. However, it is an unavoidable fact that the entire tong itself is able to sense and detect every kind of tastes at any parts because receptors and taste buds are everywhere on the tong. For example, one can easily taste a very spicy pepper from his/her front edge of the tong. The thing is, different types of tastes have different and specific spots on the tong.

Another chemical sense it the smell. While we breathe, we also inhale some chemicals that are in the air and some of them stimulate the receptors which are located in the nasal passage. After these receptors are notified by these chemicals, the message is ready to be sent to the brain. These chemicals could be from flowers, food, perfume or even a person's own smell.

These senses are not only for us to detect things but also remind us how we felt during the times that we have interacted with specific tastes or smells. As the interview which is recorded in video with Dr. Stuart Firestein, from Columbia University, says that the connection between taste and smell, and memory is still unexplainable. There are theories that could bring an explanation to this issue and one of them says that they are processing in intimate locations of the brain; hence, they might be affecting each other. They both connect to memory but the strongest sense that triggers memory is the smell.

In my opinion, it is very interesting to remember exact emotion when I smell something even though that memory belongs to many years ago. For example, couple weeks ago I smelled someone's perfume and it reminded me my childhood because my mother used to use the same perfume.

All in all, it is obvious that smell and taste are very important chemical senses for us and have really strong connection to memory, especially the smell, even though scientists have not figured out why.

For the interview and video: http://bigthink.com/ideas/25252

I have heard and often times said "I was just so focused on this... I missed that..." This deals with a concept that we have been discussing in class ;illusions, and the fact that our brain will overlook and perceive certain images in a different manner than they actually are. When we are focusing and putting all of our attention on certain information, we will often times ignore or leave out the other information and what else is going on around what we were focusing on. For example the Cocktail Party Effect which I found to be very interesting and surprisingly true. That in a noisy group of people even when we are not listening to what other people are saying we will often times pick out that our name was said. This happens because of selective attention, we select a channel and turn down the other channels; the part of the brain that allows us to do this is are the reticular activating system (RAS) and forebrain. The book states that these areas activate the regions of the cerebral cortex, such as the frontal cortex, during selective attention. Is this a valid excuse for missing a piece of information or should be still have just been paying attention to it in the first place?

The Depths of Memory

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Memory has always amazed me. It is incredible how memories are stored and saved over time. Whenever I start to ponder this phenomenon, how memories are stored, I can't help but get the image of Dumbledore's pensieve from the Harry Potter series. When I read about the hippocampus in the third chapter, I was instantly drawn in.

I always thought that taxi drivers just studied maps all the time...It hadn't occurred to me that their brains could actually be proportioned differently. However, it is still inconclusive as to if their time and experience driving causes the enlarged hippocampi or if those with larger hippocampi naturally fall to the taxi driving profession because it is a natural "talent."

Another aspect of memory that has always intrigued me is short term memory loss. When I was reading about the hippocampus, I was under the impression that it was only in charge of one's spatial memory, or remembering where things are around them in their environment. However, damage to the hippocampus can result in inabilities to form new memories. I first became interested in this concept when I saw the movie, "50 First Dates," where there is a woman who suffered an accident and from then on could not form new memories: she relived the same date for the rest of her life. In this movie, there is a man named Tom who has a short term memory of 10 seconds. Here is a link to a short clip showing his condition: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jk7WuvNKe_g

However, the text doesn't explicitly say that this is the cause of short term memory. One hypothesis stated that the hippocampus stores memories briefly before they are transferred to the cortex to be stored permanently. In this case, it could be the cause to short term memory loss. However, another hypothesis says that memories are directly stored in the cortex and merely strengthen over time. This hypothesis does not suggest that damage to the hippocampus results in short term memory loss. Therefore, I do not yet have a clear answer to my ever-growing interest in memory, and short term memory loss, but I am excited to learn further and hopefully get my questions answered.

I ran into this problem in my last post on differing levels of analysis--the problem of polarizing perspectives and the importance of reciprocity between perspectives to maintain whole understanding.

It's easy to see why this comes to mind immediately when contemplating the nature-nurture debate. I found myself wrestling with extremes, again. It seems that exclusive subscription to either nature or nurture compromises identity. It is certainly to better to find the overlap and the dialogue between the two so that expression is given some depth.

But even then, are nature and nurture not just two variables in an equation that plays out deterministically? I notice others have posed similar questions.

I think of the Bogle family. Such widespread, grave actions may seem to indicate some extent of hard wiring, "on whose nature Nurture can never stick." (Shakespeare) Caliban.jpg

Anomalies become fascinating. Consider the member of the Bogle family who graduated from high school with a GPA of 4.0 and received a full scholarship to Oregon State University. One has to wonder about this Bogle's genetic make up and upbringing.

Is the question of free will a sophomoric one? Spontaneity is a phenomenon I'd love to study.

I've run across the idea of psychodrama, a method of psychotherapy in which clients are encouraged to continue and complete their actions through dramatization, role playing and dramatic self-presentation.

At the core of psychodrama is a powerful premise: that spontaneity and anxiety are inversely related. Typically people think of this as knowing they will be more free to act once their anxiety is lowered, but, like a perfectly balanced see-saw, when one end is up the other is down, and vis-versa. Yes your spontaneity will rise when your anxiety is lowered, but the reverse is true. The more spontaneous you are the lower your anxiety. This is where using psychodrama and role-playing in therapy can have a tremendous asset in helping people overcoming anxiety. (Daniel J. Tomasulo)

It seems relevant to my initial concern of compromised identity and spontaneity. Could it be that the fluid playfulness of shifting, fictive identities is what gives psychodrama the power to restore an individual's well-being? What does this say about the power of all manner of expression?

naturevsnurture2.gif In Chapter 3, I found myself very much drawn to the section concerning behavioral genetics; this idea that how human beings act, behave may be due to what our parents gave us for genes. On the other hand though, I would argue that a lot of how we respond to certain situations (behave) is due to the environment in which we were raised --nature vs nurture at its finest. I find this idea to be interesting because a lot of times nowadays, criminals who are being tried for a crime may be let off because they were predisposed to being an alcoholic because their mother was. I don't necessarily buy that. I would agree that if they were raised in an environment where drinking was promoted or seen on a regular basis, they may be more prone to drink themselves. However, genetics do not excuse how some people act. All in all, I believe that overall the environment a person was raised is the most crucial element to criminal behavior.

In this article I've linked, this researcher has found evidence in other studies that has come to show that, usually, genetic factors don't play a key role in criminal behavior. There is a sentence in the article that reads, "[t]hey concluded therefore that in respect to common crime, hereditary factors are of little significance." However, it should be noted that reading a little farther into the researcher's paper, she concludes that although genetic factors may not play a major role in criminal behavior, those factors are more likely to influence property offenses.

So for myself, I find this debate quite interesting. One experiment that this paper I linked never covered and I'm sure this has been done before, but what would happen if researchers observed and measured the criminal behaviors of identical twins that were raised in different homes--say they were adopted by two different families? Maybe one of the adoptive families has a more "criminal-inclined" environment, where the other family has hardly any criminal history or "criminally-inclined" environment. This would give researchers any even more solid way of deciphering the nature/nurture effect because these adopted children have the same genotype, but different environments.

I continually find myself wondering how else we can tweak our research experiments to better understand this interesting idea. I find nature vs nurture a very fascinating topic!

But is this true? Are humans born with an inherent disposition of being evil? Or is it because of society that humans fall prey to temptation?

This makes me think of William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies. A group of British boys get stranded on an island and within a few days they become savages. In my English class, we discussed whether or not this is because of some sort of inherent evilness within all humans or was it because these boys had to do what they had to do in order to survive, even if it meant killing each other. This begs the question, was it nature or was it nurture?

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During my senior year of high school, I watched a family friend's baby grow from a baby into a toddler. As a baby, when she didn't receive what she wanted she would cry and pout. But as a little toddler, when I took away something that she wanted she would hit me. This made me wonder how did a little toddler barely 2 and a half years old knew to hit me when I didn't give her what she wanted. Did she learn that? Turns out she had learned it from her older sister. But then where did her sister learn it? Certainly her parents wouldn't have taught her to hit others. Does this mean that no matter how good or innocent a person is deep down there is a beast within all of us just waiting to emerge?

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