E. Carriere: October 2011 Archives

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?


I Don't Know; Google It

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(make up for October 20th discussion section)


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?

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?

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?

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by E. Carriere in October 2011.

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