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The Amygdala plays a key role in fear, excitement, and arousal; being located in the Limbic System. Under this description, it is the Amygdala that is activated in fight or flight situations as well as any other emotionally arousing experience.

Is there a direct relationship between the amygdala and long term memory storage?"

Recently, I found a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in Irvine, CA Within this study, 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 dour 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).

Do You have distinct and vivid memories in which you were emotionally aroused from childhood?

I was adopted before I was born. I was picked up by my mother when I was 36 hours old so she is the mother that I have ever known and so I thought it would be interesting to explore the nature vs nurture idea. The last thing that I have to mention is that I know nothing about the women who gave birth to me and so there is nothing about nature that would effect this situation ( ie. I have no biases about this women that I know of). I have come to the conclusion that nurture is a much stronger effect on a person in terms of their beliefs, personality and personal traits. After much effort, and to my dismay, my mother and I have the exact same personality, we act the same way, think the same way and since we are so similar we tend to butt heads on a regular basis.

The only issue with this discovery is that I have no knowledge of my birth mother and so it could just be a coincidence that she and my mother have the same personality, but I am doubting that this is the case.

This article has an interesting look at nature vs nurture in both adoption and twin studies

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:

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.

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!

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.


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?
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:

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.


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 ( 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?


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??

Binge Drinking.jpg

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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**).

Screen shot 2011-10-01 at 6.00.35 PM.png

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 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: milk1.jpg


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?

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?

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?


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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:


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.


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.



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...

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


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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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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?


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!

Cheeseburgers and Consciousness

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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?


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.

Brocas area 2.gif

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!


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.
Fear is not just a one trick pony .one trick.jpg


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.


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...

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:


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.


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.
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:

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...

What are you scared of?


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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!

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!


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. The article alluded to fruit fly gene alterations that eventually led to homosexuality. I looked up this study and found a good article here  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 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?

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.

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.

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