# Memorization is as Easy as Pi

Akira Haraguchi, a man residing in Japan, was able to memorize 111,700 digits of pi. I am not sure about everyone else, but I have been able to memorize 3.14159, and this number was looped around more of my classroom walls than I would like to admit. My six memorized digits match the 7 +/- 2 digit span task that we have learned about. Of course, we now know that people can hold 7 +/- 2 chunks, so the only question is, how did Haraguchi manage to put 111,700 digits into five to nine chunks? Has he increased his working memory? This is where it gets complicated.

Haraguchi assigned each digit several syllables. In his interview, he reveals that the number zero is assigned the syllables o, ra, ri, ru, re, ro, wo, on, or oh. This puts his chunking at the maximum of nine, and he continues this for the rest of the numbers. Of course, there are ten number (0-9) in which he must memorize, so it might be assumed that his chunking capabilities are slightly higher than the average person’s. Now we know that each number is assigned various syllables, but how does that help him remember the order of pi? Haraguchi reveals that he has created over 800 stories by combining the syllables into words, the words into sentences, and so on.

This is utilizing deep processing, since he is giving meaning to numbers, which will lead to better recall later. Additionally, he sees pi as equal to saying the Buddhist mantra, which indicates that he has made it personal. This also helps with recall. His working memory has not (and could not) increased, but he has found a way around the five to nine digit “limit.” This is a lot more exciting than the 110 digits memorized by Steve using race times. The next question is: how could Haraguchi possibly remember the exact wording of all these stories, and in the right order?

One way Haraguchi might be ensuring that this does not occur is by rehearsing. He recites 25,000 digits a day, dedicating three hours of his life to saying numbers by telling stories. As Reisberg discussed in chapter eight of Cognition, along with nearly every teacher I have had since high school, you are more likely to be able to recall something if it was learned well originally, and if you revisit the material later by practicing it. Haraguchi is essentially quizzing himself on part of pi every day, helping him to remember the order of the story, and thus the number.

I know The Guardian is not the best place to find “real” psychological news, but I was disappointed that there were not more details about how he memorizes pi. The chunking and meaning all make sense, but even by practicing 25,000 digits a day, how does he memorize 111,700 digits without mixing up the order of the stories or using a synonym for a word (I know that I never end up using the exact wording of a story twice). This is briefly explained when Haraguchi states that the first hundred digits are all about humans, but if there are over 100,000 digits and the first story chunk is only one-hundred, the rest must be much larger chunks in order to meet the 7 +/- 2, or he has much more than nine chunks.

My guess is that he splits his chunks into chunks, but did not mention it during the interview. Perhaps the first 15,000 digits are stories about living things, which break up into humans, cats, dogs, trees, etc. The next 15,000 may be household items, and include stories about couches, silverware, etc. Perhaps even these categories are split into smaller parts. I initially thought it would be impossible to memorize over 100,000 digits (the 110 discussed in class seemed incredible!), but I now believe that with many years of dedication and practice, it is possible. This does, however, leave me with the question: is there a limit to how many chunks within chunks a person can have? My best guess is yes, since the 7 +/- 2 chunks seems to hold true.

One possibility

Here is a diagram I created to explain my best guess of how Haraguchi memorizes so many digits. He stated that he uses the ones I labeled “humans,” “words,” “syllables,” and “numbers,” and I inferred the “living things” and “staying positive” in order to explain how 800 stories can be placed in 7 +/- 2. Notice that there are six steps that I created for my possible explanation, which still goes along with the chunking theory.

Although this article was mostly informal (such as asking Haraguchi how he plans on spending March 14), the questions and information about how he is able to remember so many digits fascinated me. I was disappointed that there were a few gaps I had to do my best to fill in so that the cognitive psychology would make sense (there is no way 800 stories are only split into humans, animals, and plants because that would be many more than nine stories per genre), but I would be interested in future interviews with Haraguchi explaining his process of memorization in more detail. Is my theory correct? Do you think you could memorize over 100,000 digits? This kind of memorization would require a lot of attention and effort; probably more than I have.

# I Don’t Remember Being A Baby: Infantile Amnesia

In class one day, I remember our professor asked the question, “Who remembers doing something when they were a baby?”  I recall one person raising their hand and the professor shot them down by saying, “No, you don’t.”  Come to think of it, why is it that we don’t remember what happened when we were younger, yet we can remember things that happened in middle school or even some aspects of elementary school?  To be honest, we only remember the stories that people tell us about when we were younger.  For example, my parents told me that I did this and that when I was 13 months.  I remember them telling me that, but I have no idea of me actually doing what I did 22 years ago.

According to Prigg (2014), memories before the age of three are often never remembered.  However, research shows that they may know the answer to this mystery.  Growing up is a process of development.  We grow physically and mentally.  Researchers believe that as we grow older, new brain cells take over the existing cells therefore leading to something called infantile amnesia.  Infantile amnesia is the absence of memories that often occur the first three years of our life.  Additionally, researchers believe that neurons in the hippocampus impairs memory storage when we reduce the levels of neurogenesis.  Throughout the process, new neurons travel into the hippocampus which often interferes with existing memories.  As the new neurons move into the hippocampus, they often remodel hippocampal circuits which may lead to destruction of memories that were stored in those circuits.  Think of it this way. You’re renovating a house built in the 1800’s, but in order to get the floor plan you anticipated, you often have to destroy old foundation from 200 years ago essentially making a new and improved house.  That’s kind of what the new neurons do when they move into the hippocampal circuits as we grow older.  In a later study, researchers wanted to determine the sufficient level of neurogenesis in the hippocampus for memory.  They discovered that having less neurons in the hippocampus can result in insufficient memory, but they also discovered that having too many neurons in the hippocampus will overwrite what you’re attempting to memorize and will thus lead to forgetting.

To put this into perspective of what we’ve discussed thus far, there are three memory processes: encoding, storage, and retrieval.  Memory is not accurate in the details, but we have memories, or recollection, of something happening.  The memory process is not a flow chart, although we tend to think that it may be because it makes sense to put it in the order of encoding it, storing it, and retrieving it.  For this scenario of an episodic memory (autobiographical memory), it seems like we encode it, but it never makes it to storage as it’s overwritten by new neurons, and therefore we are not able to retrieve it.  But what is this memory stored as? Short term memory or long-term memory?  Personally, I think that the reason for infantile amnesia is due to the fact that short-term memory plays a role in this.  While we were younger, we receive incoming information –> it goes into our sensory memory –> ghoes into our short-term memory + neurogenesis happens + the process of developing –> goes into lost memory.  I personally don’t believe that, as infants, we have the capability to rehearse the incoming memory in order to maintain it which results in losing that memory.

As I mentioned earlier in my blog post, why do we remember moments from elementary school? As the brain continues to grow and mature, it allows us to comprehend/internalize certain moments.  Our brain is adjusting to memories at a young age that as we develop, that it finally gets the swing of things by storing memory instead of losing it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2624700/Why-remember-childhood-Researchers-new-brain-cell-growth-erases-earliest-memories.html

# How reliably can you recall an incident?

Many of the shows I watch on TV are crime shows such as CSI: SVU and Bones. After watching these shows and after reading the brief application section in our textbook about what witnesses pay attention to, I became intrigued with the reliability of witness testimony in the justice system. I found an article written in the Stanford Journal of Legal Studies that discusses the problems with eyewitness testimony. Since as early as the 1970s, researchers have been conducting experiments looking at the ability to introduce false facts into memory. These experiments have found that the human memory is highly susceptible to committing false facts to memory. With the results of these experiments third parties such as experimenters, lawyers, and police officers must be cautious not to suggest or introduce false facts to the witnesses. However, false facts can still be committed to memory without the help of a third party. When we retell stories after the incident we rarely include every detail but often emphasize a specific portion. The more often we tell the adjusted story, it will become more realistic and further be committed to memory.

Chapter Five of the textbook briefly discusses how even if we see a perpetrator of a crime we don’t necessarily commit his or her appearance to memory. In most cases, the observer can not determine what they were wearing or even what race he or she was. Many factors including duration of the incident and if there was a weapon present often affect the attention of the witness. Witnesses can usually state facts about the weapon (color, size, or if the perpetrator was wearing jewelry) because at that given time they struggle to remove focus from the weapon. However, if the duration of the event is long enough, a witness may begin to pick up on more details about the environment.

The emotional state that you are in when recalling a story can also contribute to changes in the memory. Whether we like it to or not, personal bias finds its way into our memory. For example, when a witness is called into identify a suspect out of a line-up, they will often identify the same suspect in more than one line-up despite if the identified suspect is the culprit. This occurs simply because the witnesses’ memory has been influenced by their own bias as well as the third parties involved. All of these factors contribute to the reliability of witness testimony. The jury serves to determine the validity of each testimony.

Overall, I agree with the fact that memory can easily be altered by outside influences including third parties and your own emotional state. I have experienced how emotional states can affect your memories of a given event. For example, when I have started out having a good morning, but my friend has texted me to cancel our plans for the afternoon, I am overall more forgiving and less irritated. However, if I had a bad morning, then my friend texts me to cancel plans I am more annoyed.

References:

Reisberg, D. (2016). Paying Attention. In Cognition(6th ed., pp. 141-181). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Tversky, B., & Fisher, G. (1999, April 5). The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://agora.stanford.edu/sjls/Issue%20One/fisher&tversky.htm

# “It be ya own memory storage” How accurate is this viral tweet?

As I was scrolling on Twitter taking a mental break from school work, I came across a tweet originally posted by @brjxv­_ on February 13th and I immediately went “Holy crap this is perfect for my next blog post!” The tweet said “so you’re telling me my brain can save the exact features of a stranger I saw once on the subway in 2010 so they can appear in my dreams but I can’t recall the answers to a test worth 25% of my final grade? It be ya own memory storage smh”. However, how accurate is her tweet?

Dreaming has always been a complex topic and although we see lots of studies on dreaming, there is still so much psychologist don’t know yet. According to Mark Solms in his article “The Interpretation of Dreams & The Neurosciences” (1999), dreaming seems to be concentrated in “the frontal and limbic parts of the brain concerned with arousal, emotion, memory and motivation, on the one hand, and the parts (at the back of the brain) concerned with abstract thinking and visual perception, on the other”. If this is the case, it’s very possible for memories to be involved in dreams if the same brain processes/areas are used. It’s also possible that the man’s face that she claimed she only saw once appearing in her dreams is due to implicit memory, which are memories often guided by previous experiences (such as priming), however the individual has no conscious realization of this, according to Cognition: Exploring The Science of The Mind (6th Edition) written by Daniel Reisberg (our cognitive textbook). I believe that it’s likely that the man she claims she saw once on the subway was actually someone she saw often but was unaware of actually seeing them (for example it could’ve been someone who has the same commute as her) or the man looked similar enough to other people she saw often enough for her brain to dream about this man. Of course, this is all speculation but I think it’s still interesting to think about. There are people who claim that with dreams, the brain cannot create new faces and the people you dream about are actually all people you’ve seen before, however I found no evidence to support this. There is still much to learn about dreaming

Now onto her struggling to recall (although retrieval is the more accurate term to use, which is “locating information in memory and bringing it into active use”- according to Reisberg) the answers to her test, its most likely her using the wrong type of strategies for studying the material. The main issue with people forgetting the information needed for a test is that they often use maintenance rehearsal, which is when the “person simply focus[es] on the to-be-remembered items themselves with little thought about what [the] item means or how they relate to each other”. For example, creating notecards with the definition of words and you simply memorize the definition on the back of the card is a type of maintenance rehearsal. You are rehearsing the definition, yes, but you are not thinking about it on a deeper level such as “how does X relate to Y?” or “what is the significance of knowing the definition to this word?” Thinking about materials on a deeper level is known as elaborative rehearsal. Creating multiple connections (retrieval paths) to memory storage will help you do better on tests because if you create only a singular retrieval path, that path may not be strong enough to use when you come across the question. If the question is not strong enough to illicit an activation of that one and only retrieval path to memory storage, you will not be able to retrieve the correct answer. Just like in life, it’s always a good idea to have back up plans, including retrieval paths.

Overall, @brjxv_ tweet has some evidence to back up her claim. However, the usual goal of tweets is to make you laugh and this tweet definitely achieved that goal (well at least for me but I hope you found it funny too).

# The movie “Focus” and priming

In the movie Focus, which stars actor Will Smith, he explains how he used number priming. In class we talked about word or letter priming. A section of the movie shows how this man will bet on anything! So actor Will Smith shows how he could get this man to pick the number he wanted him to pick by using priming. Unconsciously Will Smith is priming this man in order for him to win this bet.

Will Smith tells the man i bet you that you can randomly pick a football player on that field and i bet i can guess who you pick! Well Will was priming this man alllll day to see the number 55. He also uses a mix of visual priming as well. At the beginning of the day before the man was to pick his football player, he was surrounded by the number 55, but did not know it. First the man woke up and left his hotel room, where the chandelier had the number 55 on it, then while waiting in the elevator,  there was a poster with the same number on it. Now the man walks through the lobby he is surrounded by people in jerseys with the number 55 on it. Now the man is leaving the hotel and the door man even has a small pin with the number….55 on it! While getting into his car, his driver passes more people in the same jersey with the number 55, and he also is surrounded by protesters who are holding up signs up with the number on it. Now the man doesn’t see it, but he does,  the driver comes to a stop and the man sees a taxi cab driver yelling at people. The man clearly sees the angry taxi cab driver. Even the song choice the man listens to is priming him. The man speaks in another native language and the song says woo in it, well in his native language, woo means 5. The song says woo woo 124 times. The man picks up his binoculars to see which person/ number he is going to pick……and……..

Will Smith is ready to guess which number he picked, and of course you can guess the man picked 55. When the man picked he saw a familiar face because the football player 55 was the angry taxi cab driver that he had saw earlier that day. The man picked number 55 because he was being primed all day and he saw a familiar face in the jersey so a little voice in his mind was telling him to pick number 55!

i thought this at first was crazy because i didn’t even notice that he was being primed until Will Smith explained how he primed the man. After being in multiple Psychology classes and learning more about priming, i have learned how you can make people think what you want them to! I couldn’t believe i was being primed while watching the movie because we notice it but we do notice it. I was wanting to do a mini experiment with this within my own life to see if i could prime a friend in a similar way. This is something cool we could try on our friends and family at home. Only difference is that in the movie WIll Smith came into some major MONEY and we will not! BUT it would be cool to test on someone without them knowing.

# Does your heart fall in love or is it your brain?

Due to the fact that it was recently Valentines Day, I decided to research what exactly happens in the brain when someone is in love and whether our brains are more included in the action of falling in love than we think. Love is everywhere and I am choosing to focus my research solely on intimate relationships between two lovers. Though this is a tough subject to analyze due to fact that everyone portrays and loves in diverse ways, the data I found that was researched thrived to keep the studies controlled causing them to be reliable considering the circumstances.

Before explaining the reasoning’s behind why a lot of cognitive psychologists believe that our brains enormously affect our reasoning for falling in love, we must first consider what it means to fall in love.

“Falling in love is an experience that involves very intense affective and cognitive changes including euphoria and overwhelming joy, increasing arousal and energy, emotional dependency on the partner, craving for emotional union with the beloved, and obsessional thoughts about and focused attention of the special other (Steenbergen 2014).”

https://pixabay.com/en/brain-hearts-love-emoji-icons-619060/

The answer is surprisingly yes. There is a a big endorsement of the brain being number one in romance, and if this idea is true and love is in the brain and not the heart, is there love at first sight? The science again says yes. According to a meta-analysis done by Professor Stephanie Ortigue at Syracuse University, when a person falls in love, 12 areas of the brain work in tandem to release euphoria-inducing chemical such as dopamine, Oxycontin, adrenaline and vasopressin. Other researchers also found that blood levels of nerve growth factor(NGF), the molecule involved in the social chemistry of humans, also increases. The NGF levels were significantly higher in couples who had just fallen in love.  Ortigue says that “these results confirm love has a scientific basis(Ortigue).” It is concluded that it only takes about a fifth of a second to fall in love.

So, does your heart fall in love or the brain? This is a complicated question that is not completely know. However, after reading some articles and studies I developed my personal view on the matter and believe it to be both. The heart and the brain are both related because the complexity of love is formed by both bottom-up and top-down processes from the brain to the heart and from the heart to the brain. For example, activation in some parts of the brain can generate stimulation to the heart, butterflies in the stomach and so on. I did not realize how important the brain is in the concept of being and falling in love. Love remains one of the biggest mysteries in science and will stay one of the most intriguing concepts.

Start of this blog post:

I randomly found an article that mentioned the connections between love and the brain and was really intrigued by the concept. However, I did not see a way to connect this idea to what we are specifically learning in class, so I decided to forget the idea. Right as I stated researching a new topic for my second blog post, we learned about the stroop and flanker test in class. I got excited, as I remembered reading about a study that used these two tests and went back to my original blog post idea to analysis the connections between love and the brain.Overall, I loved reading the many articles I did in order to write this post. I hope y’all enjoyed this read and find this concept as interesting as I did.

References

Steenbergen, Henk van, et al. “Reduced Cognitive Control in Passionate Lovers.”SpringerLink, Springer US, 2 Nov. 2013, link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11031-013-9380-3

Leiden, Universiteit. “Reduced cognitive control in passionate lovers.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131111091355.htm>.

“Neuroimaging Love – Romance Is More Scientific Than You Think.” Science 2.0, 26 Aug. 2014, www.science20.com/news_articles/neuroimaging_love_romance_more_scientific_you_think.

“Love and the Brain.” Love and the Brain | Department of Neurobiology, neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/love-and-brain.

Heussner, Ki Mae. “Addicted to Love? It’s Not You, It’s Your Brain.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 8 July 2010, abcnews.go.com/Technology/addicted-love-brain/story?id=11110866.

Loyola University Health System. “What falling in love does to your heart and brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206155244.htm>.

# The Mind of Walter White

I know I’m probably extremely late to the game, but I just recently started watching Breaking Bad, and I am obsessed. The show is honestly a psychological jackpot, from Jesse’s family life at home to Marie’s kleptomaniac tendencies. The most interesting character in my opinion however, is Walter White. A high school Chemistry teacher turned into a creator of Methamphetamine. He becomes a completely new person once he is diagnosed with cancer and his life begins to be surrounded by the danger and of course, ALL of that money. He goes from being Mr. Wholesome to becoming the next Scarface.

But why?

Walter White believed he had nothing to lose. This has been shown to convince people to take risks that they would more often not do in any other circumstance. This is known as risk sensitivity. Also, at the beginning of it all, he only pretended to be bad. I think we all know how that turns out simply by looking at the Stanford Prison Experiment. When you are placed into a situation where you must act a certain way and are channeling those feelings, you are more likely to act in this certain way, which shows why Mr. White easily blows up the drug dealers office with fulminated mercury. This connects to mood congruency, where the tendency to remember emotionally charged information is easiest when you are in a mood matching the experience. This is how it became easier and easier each time for Walter to commit these acts.

in my own opinion I also think that Walter White, from the very beginning and even before he began cooking the meth, suffers from some kind of amygdalar damage. He shows very little to no emotion when it comes to his wife and to Walt Jr. To me he just seemed as though he was just a very neutral person who had no real extreme emotion over anything, which would indicate a problem with his amygdala. This could also play a key role in his willingness to cook meth with Jesse. If he has less emotion connected to the decisions he makes, he would be more willing to go along with the riskier decision.

I think one of the biggest things that led Walter White to become who he was is one of the more obvious ones; money. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and that treatment is not cheap by any means. Every time he completed a deal and was given more money, he would almost go into this state of euphoria. It is shown that as a person’s wealth increases, they become less compassionate and they feel as though they deserve more, and they experience increased levels of entitlement. There have been studies done that show the same part of your brain that is effected by cocaine, (dopamine levels are increased, creating the feeling of euphoria) is also effected by acquiring large sums of money.

While I am still in the early seasons of the show, it is amazing to watch how Walter White transitions from the harmless chemistry teacher to the ruthless and deceptive Meth dealer. Huge changes in his life and in many parts of his brain play key roles in making him into who he is.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/statistical-life/201309/the-psychology-becoming-walter-white

http://time.com/money/4362798/money-cocaine-brain-psychology-investing/

https://blog.ted.com/6-studies-of-money-and-the-mind/

# Alakazam- Alakazoo! Magic uses cognitive psychology to pull one over on you!

She transforms before your very eyes! (using smoke and mirrors!)

is Magic really all smoke and mirrors? In the literal sense, no. Not all magicians utilize smoke and mirrors to captivate and awe-inspire their audience; well, the good ones don’t at lease. So what is a magician’s secret to a great magic trick, without the use of smoke and mirrors? A magic trick that utilizes principles of cognitive psychology. Many magic tricks are actually taking advantage of how the audience views the world. An excellent example of this is a simple card trick that involves a dollar bill and a regular playing card. The trick is a simple one, once it is explained, but it takes advantage of the principle of unintentional blindness, that is, the trick happens all in front of our eyes and we don’t see it. So it seems that magic is more than just smoke and mirrors after all.
So how do magicians utilize cognitive psychology in their magic tricks? Most of their tricks are taking advantage of the flaws in the human eye. The eye can only see vivid details from a particular spot, which we learned in class is called the fovea centralis. The rest of the eye that relays visual information to the brain does so less accurately. To compensate for this, we must continuously move our two foveas, one for each eye, on to whatever thing, or stimulus, we wish to get a better view of. But moving our foveas is not the only compensation tactic we utilize to make up for the flaws of our eyes vision. Our brains have the ability to manipulate the information that our eyes send and do not send. For example, our peripheral vision is not good at picking up color. Were able to see color in our peripheral vision because our brain is inferring the color. At face value, our brains ability to manipulate what we actually see seems like a great thing, but this ability has its faults as well. When we are concentrating on something particular, our brain, in attempts to simplify our life, is also capable of ignoring some of the information that our eyes are sending it. This phenomenon is referred to inattentional blindness. Most magician’s magic tricks are performances that take advantage of a cognitive psychology principles, like the two mentioned, in one form or another. There you have it, I guess the rabbit is out of the hat.

An excellent example of how magicians utilize cognitive psychology in their magic tricks is provided below.

Were you surprised by the sheer simplicity of the trick? I sure was! If you were like me and didn’t notice how the magic trick was first performed, don’t beat yourself up about it-it’s just a little hocus-pocus!  As you can see from the video, the card trick takes advantage of both our eye’s poor peripheral vision and our brain’s ability to ignore sensory information. At first the magician presents a normal appearing playing card and a dollar bill. He folds the dollar bill around the card a few times, snaps his finger and boom! The card magically seems reversed on the bottom as it slides between the dollar bill. Unfortunately, there is no magic. The magician has not only cleverly concealed the fact that the card is ripped, but also folded it before his audience without them noticing it. For the most part, the rip is concealed by the magician’s thumb, but when it is exposed it is most likely to go undetected. This is because the audience is probably paying attention to the green dollar bill, and our peripheral vision is not strong enough to pick up the hints of the ripped card. At exactly 0.37 in the video, you will notice that the bottom left corner of the card, right under the ‘LAR’ of the word dollar, is more shaded than the rest of the card. This is because the magician is starting to push this part of the card backwards in preparation for the trick. Within a few seconds of this, at .40 the magician uses his pinky, ring finger, and middle finger to push the rest of the portion of the ripped card back as he unfolds the dollar bill in front of the card. Here, the magician is taking advantage of the phenomena of inattentional blindness. While he unfolds the dollar bill open, most audience members are probably focusing on the dollar bill and are not noticing his three fingers reaching behind the card to push the ripped portion of the card back. Thus before he even snaps his finger, which most probably recognize as an attempt to divert their attention, the trick has already been played. Thus, this cleaver magician has provided us with a perfect example of how magicians utilize cognitive psychological principles to perform their magic tricks.

Magic. It’s mystical! Its stupendous! It’s a big fraud! It also uses cognitive psychology to fool its viewers into believing that it is real. Well, at least the stuff you see on the street corner and in las- Vegas anyway. The real stuff is just referred to as technology now days. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” Author C. Clarke. Though, to be fair, even technology

utilizes cognitive psychology on its users in some form or fashion. So the next time you hear someone say “all magic is-is a bunch of smoke and mirrors”, you can say “Actually, it’s all cognitive psychology baby!”

# LSD’s impact on the brain

Addiction has always played a role in my family’s life. I find how drugs effect your brain to be very interesting. I found this article talking about the effects of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide otherwise known as LSD very interesting. LSD was first synthesized in 1938. The psychological properties weren’t clear until 1943 and the drug was banned in 1960. The things that this study found are said to be groundbreaking for the neuroscience field.

The study included 20 volunteers who were mentally and physically healthy and agreed to take LSD for science. The group was split up into two days. One day the volunteers received 75 mcg of LSD and the other day volunteers received a placebo. The volunteers were injected with LSD and put through three different imaging techniques. The volunteers reported a oneness with the universe as well as many visual hallucinations. They also experienced many different pictures that researchers were able to track from parts of the brain other than the visual cortex. Researchers also found that areas of the brain that are normally segregated, communicated with each other. As well as areas that normally communicate, were sometimes segregated. This is what is believed to create the feeling of oneness with the universe and the loss of personality known as “ego-dissolution.”

David Nutt, senior researcher on this study said “The findings of this study is to neuroscience what the Higgs boson was to particle physics.” He also stated that neuroscience as a field has waited for these findings for 50 years.

After being injected with the LSD or placebo, volunteers were put through three different kinds of brain imaging: arterial spin labelling, resting state MRI, and magnetoencephalography. The researchers also measured blood flow, connections within and between brain networks, and brain waves of all of the volunteers.

The volunteers on LSD were “seeing with their eyes shut,” which explains the hallucinations and the seeing images from different parts of the brain. The scans also showed a loss of connection between the parahippocampus and the retrosplenial cortex. The drug is also thought to reverse the restricted thinking we learn as early as childhood and throughout adulthood.

The drug is now being studied to see if it could possibly help patients with psychiatric disorders.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/apr/11/lsd-impact-brain-revealed-groundbreaking-images

People who have ADHD are more likely to experience difficulties with the attention blink test.  Due to their difficulty to stare at a fixed space and attention deficit they miss more letter sequences.

To put this into perspective, this can be applied to the real world for any given person in circumstances such as if a driver in front of you is swerving off the road, you will briefly become focused on that catastrophe (attention blink) in the making and lose sight of the specific details of the traffic around you in that moment.  I can only imagine how difficult it may be for a student in a classroom that is not on ADHD medication and is trying to pay attention to a lecture but sees phones lighting up with notifications or hears students talking outside in the hallway.

As someone who has ADHD (not on medication) this makes sense to me.  When doing the attention blink test on the Zaps program used in my Cognitive Psychology class there was a continuous stream of 80 different tests.  I found myself fidgeting in my seat and having to take breaks.  It made me feel irritable and impatient and I had a hard time finding the first letter in the sequence for the first few trials.  Eventually I sort of picked it up but I struggled finding a second letter in the sequence.

Sources–