Author Archives: abarrow

“The Gut is Faster than the Mind”

Have you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach? That hunch that something is either right or wrong? That little voice in the back of your head telling you something is wrong but you can’t explain it, it’s just there? Have you ever met someone and you know you already don’t like him or her but you can’t explain why? If you ever get that feeling or voice don’t ignore it. That is your intuition speaking to you.

Intuition is referred to as our sixth sense; it’s that moment where you instinctively know whether something is right or if something is wrong. It gives us the ability to directly know something without having to analyze the situation (analytic reasoning), linking the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind along with our instinct and reason.

Your right brain is in charge of being intuitive and your left-brain is in charge of rational thought. According to researchers your intuitive right brain is observing your surroundings even when your conscious left-brain is focused on something else. Researchers also suggest that your body can process all of this information while your conscious mind is unaware of what is happening.

In a study conducted by Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, he wanted to test his theory that it is important to pay attention to “somatic markers” and that “the gut is faster than the mind” by conducting an experiment called the “Iowa Gambling Task.” In this experiment subjects were trying to win money and decide which deck of playing cards were the most profitable by choosing between four decks of cards. Within the 4 decks there were 2 risky decks and 2 non-risky decks that would produce profit. While conducting this experiment Damasio had his subjects hooked up to monitors so that he could observe his subjects skin for their response to stress.

The results of this experiment showed that it only took drawing 10 cards from the risky deck before his subjects to start show physical signs of anxiety. The crazy part is that it took the mind way longer to catch up to the reaction of the body. It took about 50 cards before the mind decided to change decks, and even then the mind couldn’t explain why they should switch decks. It took up to 80 cards before the subjects could explain why they switched decks. This experiment shows that intuition is faster than rational thought.

There are some people that are more rational thinkers, where they have to focus on the structure of something. Then there are intuitive thinkers, where they don’t have to focus on the details. They are more abstract. I find it really interesting that the mind is capable of giving you that gut feeling that something is either right or not. Its crazy how the unconscious mind can process so much information automatically without us even realizing. If you ever get that “gut feeling” that something isn’t right, you should trust your intuition, it is better to play it safe rather than sorry.



NFL Players Suffering from Brain Disease

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative brain disease that is found in people who have had serious blows to the head. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes who play ice hockey, football, bull riding, and wrestling. Symptoms are first seen around 8-10 years after experiencing traumatic brain injury. There are four clinical stages of CTE. The first stage includes dizziness, headaches, and deterioration in attention. The second stage includes memory loss, erratic behavior and poor judgment. The third and fourth stages include slowing of muscular movements, progressive dementia, deafness, suicidality, and vertigo. The only way to test for CTE is post mortem during an autopsy.

A study that was conducted by the Department of Veteran Affairs and Boston University in 2012 revealed that former NFL players are at greater risk for brain disease. In the study they tested the brains of 91 deceased players and of those 91 players 87 of them tested positive CTE. They then tested 165 former football players who played at either the high school, college, or professional level and of those tested 131 of them tested positive for CTE. Of the 40 percent of those who tested positive were the defensive and offensive linemen. The defensive and offensive linemen are at greater risk because they come into contact with one another every play of every game. The findings from this study supports previous studies that suggests that it is the more minor repeated head injuries that are dangerous and not the violent collisions that occur less often. Within the past 4 years 3 former NFL players committed suicide, and they were all found to have CTE.

Based on these finding the NFL is trying to make football safer, and there is an ongoing debate on the necessity to change rules and gears in order to protect athletes from brain damage.

Encoding Process on ADHD

ADHD is a chronic condition including attention difficulty, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It is often first noticed in childhood and can continue into adulthood. People with ADHD often struggle with memory retention and encoding.

Anselm B.M. Fuermaier conducted the study “Source Discrimination in Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” to see if people with ADHD have insufficient item memory. In the study he compared 37 adult participants who were diagnosed with ADHD to 40 healthy participants. Participants were selected according to age, diagnosis, intellectual functions, and willingness to participate in the study. These participants were assessed on their memory functions of encoding, retention, and source discrimination.

Fuermaier tested all of the participants individually. They were given word list paradigms that were divided into three parts: the Immediate Recognition Test, the Delayed Recognition Test, and the Source Memory Test. Standard measures of cognition were applied during the 40-minute delay of the Delayed Recognition Test.

There was a medium significant effect; the participants with ADHD and healthy participants differed in their performance in the experimental memory tasks. The data shows that the participants with ADHD showed a significantly decreased performance in the encoding of information and in source discrimination, but there was no significant difference for retention of already encoded material. The data from this study suggests a different pattern of memory impairment in adults suffering from ADHD with a deficit in source discrimination.

People with ADHD have weak divided attention, which makes it difficult to deal with two tasks at the same time. Due to the difficulty with divided attention, people with ADHD have more difficulty with the encoding process.

People without ADHD have richer retrieval paths, which are paths that guide ones thoughts towards the content to be remembered, whereas people who have ADHD have weaker retrieval paths. Due to people with ADHD having less elaborative encoding, the creation of retrieval paths is decreased. This assumption can be supported by the results of this study. I was interested to find out that this study was the first to show impaired source discrimination in adults with ADHD.



Everyone is a little bit blind

In class we learned about the human eye and how the retina contains rods and cones, when light hits the rods and cones the receptors fire, which sends signals to the brain for visual recognition. But did you know that all humans have a blind spot in their eye?

Why do humans have a blind spot? In the article that I read, it says that the blind spot is the part of the retina known as the optic disk, where the optic nerve leaves the eye. The optic disk is also the point in the eye where blood vessels enter to allow blood flow. The optic disk has a diameter of about 0.06 inches. All humans have a blind spot in their vision because there are no rods or cones at this point in the retina. But why don’t we notice this gap every time we look at something? There are a couple different theories out there to why we don’t notice the blind spot in our vision. One of the theories is that the brain uses visual signs of the person’s surroundings to fill in the missing piece. Another theory says that the opposite eye actually compensates for the blind spot. The brain is so well trained at filling in the missing piece of your vision that it is really hard to notice your blind spot. But if you want to see if you can detect your blind spot, or if you don’t believe you have a blind spot in your eyes then check out this image below.


While looking at the image make sure your nose is lined up in between the cross and the circle. Then, cover your left eye and with your right eye stare at the cross. While you are staring with your right eye at the cross slowly start moving closer to the computer screen. As you get closer the circle will start to disappear. You have just found the blind spot in your right eye. Now do the same thing with your left eye. Cover your right eye and stare at the circle with your left eye and move closer to the screen. You will notice that the cross will disappear at a certain distance. You have just found the blind spot in your left eye. I did this test a few times for each eye and each time the circle or cross disappeared.

After doing this test you realized that you do in fact have a blind spot in your eyes. But, according to researchers people are able to shrink their blind spots by doing certain exercises. How is something like that even possible? In this article the author wrote about a small study that was conducted that involved 10 subjects who were given specific eye exercises to do. The researchers of this study found that by doing these exercises you can shrink your blind spot by 10%. It’s amazing how our brain is capable of filling in the missing pieces of vision and we don’t even notice it. The brain is capable of so many things that we shouldn’t take it for granted.