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I’ve always wondered about the different ways to remember things a little better; either just for remembering the answers to quiz questions or remembering your mother’s birthday (hopefully  not). Well first we ask ourselves what are the best ways we remember things? Is it cramming the night before the test? Or repeatedly saying your mother’s birthday over and over again? Well there’s this idea that the mind is a computer (which in fact it is). The computer analogy is that “It doesn’t really matter whether some piece of information is stored on your hard-drive, or in the cloud, as long as it is usually ready for access when the need is there.” Is it true? That is what I’m here to figure out.

We all know humans were designed to be social beings; however, in today’s day and age this has become less of an important factor to people thanks to technology (thanks technology…) Though when we do have social interaction we create social connections with other people which are our networks which we tend to remember. This is how we’re able to remember your friend’s worst enemies friend’s boyfriend that didn’t do anything for her for valentine’s day. Crazy right? When we involve ourselves in these connections we tend to remember those connections more strongly.  We increase our biological memory when we use external objects such as a picture to remember the time you went on that vacation to Europe or a selfie that you saved to remember the time you were suppose to be paying attention in class for the quiz you need to study for; which are the important memories our brains save in the long term. This is an example of memory extension. The important thing is not where stuff is encoded but the uses which it can be ready. So there will be no need to use biological memory if we can just look up the answer on Google. Wrong. We should; Although people do tend to do this as an everyday lifestyle. We may not remember the cast to Vampire Diaries because there is no need to remember if we can just look them up. We are less able to recall what we can search such as a telephone number. Can you recall every single single best friend’s number without looking it up in your phone? Or remember a family member birthday without receiving the notification from Facebook? Probably not.

One study found that people who took pictures of the in a museum could not recall the artwork or the location than those who did not. This shows that we rely more on external uses than our own minds.

We are not using the information source to remind us what’s in our heads, but we can retrieve it by other means, memory extension used from other people’s minds. For example, parents use their children to remember all there little friend’s names until they hear it enough to recall it on their own. Kids usually have their parents to remember their ballet practice, medicine, and when and how long. When the work gets overwhelming it may help to use what others know and what can be exchanged. No this does not mean cheat on a test.

Before pencils, paper, email, books, or media have been around, how did people get information? Orally! We talked to others and exchanged information brain to brain. We remember who said what so why not use that for even better purposes. Yes, the test we have to study for. Group project and group studying is the best way to do this. We are as social as the birds and the bees long before we had technology; therefore, it will come naturally on relying on others for information you may not understand yourself. Why try to force yourself to remember everything (which is very difficult). The best way is to create emotional connections and networks. This may not be the only way to remember things but it may help for that upcoming test! Study well!

 

References:

 

Frakt, Austin. “A Memory Shortcut, With a Little Help From Friends.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/08/upshot/a-memory-shortcut-with-a-little-help-from-friends.html?rref=collection/timestopic/Memory&action=click&contentCollection=science&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=3&pgtype=collection.   

 

 

Exploring Autism

Image result for autism

For eight years I have worked for a family with children on the autism spectrum. Autism is a term that is not easy to explain or define. Even with tons of research, so many aspects of autism are still unknown.

Many articles about this topic involve descriptions of various brain structures. The hippocampus is one highly studied area of the brain. A study involving eight to twelve year old children found that the hippocampus of children with autism is larger when compared to the control group. The study also found that the size difference of the hippocampus diminishes as children get older.

Declarative memory is also associated with the hippocampus. People with autism are often able to remember general facts without a problem. Having the capability to remember facts can help those with autism to develop social scripts. These scripts can be useful for daily tasks, such as remembering how to behave in different social settings. Creating social scripts can help people with autism to successfully introduce themselves when meeting new people. On the other hand, those with autism do have a hard time with autobiographical information, which is also a part of memory. A lot of specific details do not tend to stick in the minds of people that are on the autism spectrum.

Flexibility of switching thought processes is also difficult for those with autism. In particular, it is the rapid transition from internal thoughts and the external world that pose difficulties. The article mentions that deciding what to say next in a conversation is a decision which happens in just seconds, making it difficult for the brain to switch thought processes.

This article also points out that much more research on autism and the brain is still to be done. Some more recent work has been done on rats, but not yet humans. Perhaps research in the future will expand on this topic.

https://spectrumnews.org/news/memory-hub-underlie-social-cognitive-quirks-autism/

https://www.parents.com/health/autism/the-history-of-autism/ (picture)

Connection between motor and cognitive functions in the brain.

We have all heard the debate between whether parts of the brain have specific functions or whether parts of the brain have several different functions. We understand that Broca and Wernicke’s areas are responsible for language formation and understanding, so they have one specific localization and function. Then, on the other hand we have parts of the brain like the hypothalamus that is responsible for many things such as hunger, emotions, temperature, and sleep. The article I found argues the link between cognitive processes and motor movement.

The authors of this article believe that there is a link between motor movement and cognitive processes and they most likely share a evolutionary history. We discussed in class about some beliefs of localization of function, how some processes are specific to certain areas. This article discusses how cognitive functions and motor control can be localized in the same area of the brain and they do not have separate processing centers in the brain. The article states “Both cognitive and motor function are controlled by brain areas such as frontal lobes, cerebellum, and basal ganglia that collectively interact to exert governance and control over executive function and intentionality of movements that require anticipation and the prediction of movement of others.” (Liesman, Moustafa, & Shafir 2016).  They are saying that the process of motor movement requires initial cognitive interpretation before action can be taken. That means that we take time to determine how and when we are going to move before we actually do it and that requires both cognitive and motor processes. They support these claims with both cognitive and neural data.

When they discussed the overlapping of memory with the motor-cognitive interactions I couldn’t help but to think of the saying “it’s just like riding a bike’ meaning that you never really forget how to ride a bike once you have initially done so. With that saying it’s easy to visualize the connection between memory and motor-cognitive functions. Even when it has been years your muscles and brain remember how to balance and pedal to keep you upright and moving.

One study that they used as data really interested me. They stated, “tetraplegic patients are able to operate an EEG-based control of a hand orthotic with nearly 100% classification accuracy by mental imagination of specific motor commands” (Liesman, Moustafa, & Shafir 2016). So even patients that have no motor ability in their limbs are able to move an EEG hand by solely imagining the motion itself. This shows the link between the cognitive function of imagining a movement and the motor movement itself.

I enjoyed this article and it was an interesting read about the connections in our brains. The article was very well written and addressed many different areas and viewpoints on the topic. I really never thought of how much cognitive function went into our motor movements and how they are related. The question I would leave you with is, How often are you aware of your cognitive pre-planning of motor movements and if you ever thought of their ability to be connected?

Leisman, G., Moustafa, A. A., & Shafir, T. (2016). Thinking, Walking, Talking: Integratory Motor and Cognitive Brain Function. Frontiers in Public Health4, 94. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2016.00094

What if half the world didn’t exist?

Can you imagine living in a world where you can only recognize half the world? This is a reality for many people. This is because of something we call Neglect Syndrome.  You may have heard of this also as hemispatial neglect or unilateral neglect.  Neglect syndrome is normally caused by damage to the parietal lobes. In our textbook it describes neglect syndrome as “when an individual seems to ignore half the visual world”. For most cases the damage is on the right side of the brain so it causes people to ignore the left world. This syndrome is an issue of attention, not blindness. You are “blind” to one side of the world but deals nothing with vision. Dr. Paresh Malhorta from the College of London perfectly puts it as “”It is not blindness in one eye, and it’s not damage to the primary sensory cortex, it’s a process of ignoring, for want of a better word, one side of space”.  This ignorance to the one side causes massive issues for victims of this syndrome.

There are many reasons for why someone may have neglect syndrome. The most common being stroke and accident. This syndrome is mainly seen in older patients because of the the main cause being strokes. In the article The Brain Damage that Hides Half the World, it follows an older man named Mr. X who suffered a stroke on the right side of his cerebral cortex. The author described the man as very intelligent and well put together. When you first look at Mr. X you would not know he had this syndrome. Psychologists were curious about Mr. X and did several experiments to understand the syndrome better. One test they preformed was on a piece of paper with horizontal fragments in which the experimenter asked Mr. X to connect the fragments. All the sections on the right were connected but everything on the left was blank. The experimenter asked Mr. X if he completed all the segments and he genuinely thought he successfully put a line through the whole page. When the experimenter flipped the page around to reveal the left side of the page, Mr. X just thought it was a joke or magic trick. This reveals to us another thing about neglect syndrome, those that have the syndrome do not know they do. 

There are many other examples of what victims of neglect syndrome struggle with the most. If you asked Mr. X to draw a picture of a house, clock, or face he would only draw the right side of the object. There are many simple things Mr. X can’t do in his daily life. He will only eat half of his plate of food, wash half his body, and even only read half of a word. They are not able to drive as well. This goes to the question of how people with this syndrome deal with only seeing half the world. And the answer is a simple one they never really do they just have to adjust to their new world so they can take care of themselves and do basic everyday activities. Dr. Malhorta did similar experiments on a man named Alan Burgress, who also suffered from a stroke. One they did quite often was ask Alan to put a dot in the middle of a 25 cm piece of paper. Of course at first he put the dot  2cm away from the right side. After repetition of the same task, Burgress started to improve being able to put the dot 10 cm from the right. This didn’t mean he was able to see the left side, it just meant he started to train himself to know where the middle would be to be considered “normal”. Dr. Malhorta stated that “It’s slightly abstract that they know there’s some problem on the left hand side, and they use strategies to try and overcome the problem, without really being able to appreciate it in it’s fullness.”

Another fascinating feature with the syndrome was found back with Mr. X. When shown a picture of a normal house someone with damage from a stoke would again not see the left side of the house. If the experimenter were to ask him if he wanted to live in the house he would say of course I would it is a beautiful house. If they were to show him the same picture of a house but this time with flames coming out of the left side he would not see the flames. The interesting part is when he is asked if he would want to live in house. Surprisingly he would say no to this question. He is unaware of the flames but knows something is wrong with the house he just doesn’t know why he would’t want to live in the house. This brings us to the last main point tied with neglect syndrome. Psychologist Michael Graziano puts it simple for us by saying that “He can process stuff on the left side. He just can’t attach the property of consciousness to it”. This ties back to the first point mentioned on how it is not blindness that causes neglect syndrome it is attention. The brain is such a remarkable thing and it is syndromes like this that help remind us of that and also help make us appreciate the fact that we can see the whole world with no effort.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/nov/23/man-brain-ignores-half-world

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/09/hemispatial-neglect/500000/

The Age of misInformation

I do not remember how I learned the coined term, “Age of Information”, but when I was thinking about it one day, I googled it. Whenever I use Google, as I have done for this project, I think to myself how grateful I am to not have to walk, bicycle, drive my car, ride the bus, or even better, ride in my stagecoach in a massive dress and hat, to the nearest library to discover the answers to my questions. This is the beauty of Internet. I have all the answers to my questions readily available at my fingertips. With this convenience though comes a cost. Not all the information on the internet is necessarily true. No information anywhere is necessarily true. So what happens when we do learn the accurate information to incorrect information? Is this new, accurate information easy to replace the old, false information? My search for the term, “Age of Information”, is a somewhat small, yet ironic, example. I will not lie: I romanticize the notion of the Digital Age. When I looked it up for “giggles” and I saw a few results that stated, “We are no longer in the ‘Age of Information’.”, my reaction was “NO! THAT IS NOT TRUE WE ARE TOTALLY STILL IN THE AGE OF INFORMATION WITH ALL THIS INFORMATION EVERYWHERE!”. I was unable (and unwilling) to accept that an alternate “fact” could be true. This is a pretty petty example, because besides, who makes the decision on what “Age” we are in anyway?

One of University of Mary Washington’s own, Professor Patrick Rich, has done research on this phenomenon: the continued influence effect. According to the continued influence effect, misinformation sometimes persists even after its retraction and correction. Rich’s “The Continued Influence Effect of Implied and Explicitly Stated Misinformation in News Reports” investigates how implied misinformation is more resilient to change than explicit misinformation. What does this mean? An example used in his paper is a real life news story that reported a family of four dying on the same night they ate Chinese food. Even after the story was recanted with the fact that the family actually died from a “faulty furnace”, the Chinese restaurant from which they ate still went out of business due the bad, and false, publicity. Implied misinformation requires the readers to “self-generate” their own stories and explanations to a certain event, which certainly happened in this case.

Well, that is nice. What does this have to do with Cognitive Psychology? A better question would be how this does NOT relate to Cognitive Psychology. Only 121 out of 565 pages of our textbook, Cognition: Exploring the Science of the Mind, is dedicated to the explanation of Memory. (Fun Un-related Fact: mnemonic is one of my favorite words of the English language). Not only does the persistence of Implied Misinformation pertain to the functions of memory but also the profound, intricate, and powerful functions of judgment and reasoning.

Pause.

Before I elaborate further on these two concepts, I need to say, as a novel student in cognitive psychology, I am definitely “in over my head”!

Play.

Let’s start with the working-memory system. We did learn a little about that in Chapter 1. Chapter 6 describes the working-memory System, which is essentially an updated name of short-term memory, in more detail. Some interesting qualities of the working-memory are that information is easy to gain, but also easy to lose, and that working-memory is much more fragile than long-term memory. I thought I had while reading Prof. Rich’s article is, “what if the implied misinformation happens to reach long-term memory?”. Long-term memory is much more permanent after all, which would be an apparent hurdle for correcting the misinformation. As stated previously, newer information is as easy to learn as it is to forget. This is a rather simple perspective.

Something I find to be extremely interesting is that, the textbook states that connections promote retrieval of memories. In context of continued influence effect, this means the self-generated stories of implicit misinformation makes it easier to remember, rather than the retracted version of information.

Persistence of implied misinformation, or more precisely, explicit misinformation, may also be related to confirmation bias and belief perseverance, which are supposedly, functions of judgment and reasoning. Explicit misinformation is information that is blatantly false. Professor Rich’s heroes, Ullrich Ecker and Stephen Lewandowsky, are experts in terms of the continued influence effect of explicit misinformation, and I will link one article written by them, too. I think we are all guilty of confirmation bias. We accept information, which supports our beliefs and worldviews, and dismiss anything that contradicts our ideas. I am a bit of a hypocrite. I profess to being the queen of open-mindedness and objectivity and yet, if I learn something that logically conflicts with my beliefs, I become “emo” for a week and question all of my life decisions until I decide whether to disregard the challenging concept or revise my beliefs to accommodate the seemingly conflicting idea.

What can we learn from the phenomenon of the continued influence effect of misinformation? How can the continued influence effect be applied to real life? I personally believe that social media, particularly Facebook, is polluted with explicit misinformation.

Pause.

I do not Facebook anymore. John Donne was a complete liar when he said, “no man is an island”. I am a remote, deserted, inaccessible island in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. So no one will witness when my ice caps melt and I sink into the ocean. So, take that, John Donne!

(Depending on my grade on this assignment, “Pause” and “Play” might be my thing because I like it)

Play.

Anyhow, everyone generates the media now, and information travels fast, whether it is true or not true. “Huey Newton”, a song by one of my favorite artists, St. Vincent, often gets stuck in my head, particularly the descriptive lyrics, “cowboys of information”. With the magic that is the internet, we are all cowboys of information! As “Cowboys of Information”, we are going to need to learn, practice, and educate others in the importance of healthy skepticism and critical thinking when discerning new information.  Alas, these are the times of the “Information Age”.

~*~**~~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

References:

https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/xlm-0000155.pdf

https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/780/docs/12_pspi_lewandowsky_et_al_misinformation.pdf

https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/05/01/526363506/can-repeating-false-information-help-people-remember-true-information

<-Because I am not as intelligent as I pretend to be

Anxiety Cells in a Hippocampal-Hypothalamic Circuit

In the US alone, forty million adults of the ages eighteen and older suffer from a form of an anxiety disorder. The DSM-5 describes anxiety disorders as conditions that heighten feelings of excessive fear and anxiety due to reactions to real threat and anticipation of threat. These behaviors are associated with fight or flight responses, escape/avoidant behaviors, over-preparation for future danger and more. When these behaviors occur past a period of six months they result in cognitive functional hindrances and inhibit an individual from fully interacting with their environment.

This article offers a summary on a study observing “anxiety cells in a hippocampal-hypothalamic circuit.” Mazen Kheirbek and a team of researchers have discovered specialized neuronal cells in the hippocampus of mice which become overactive when placed in situations eliciting stress. The hippocampus is involved with stages of memory and has been shown to be more vulnerable to stress due to memory retention of stressful events and their outcomes. Mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Epilepsy and Schizophrenia are commonly associated with various damages to the hippocampal region.

Often when studying the hippocampus (and other areas of the brain) researchers will use rodents to observe brain activity. This particular study utilized mice and observed their behaviors when responding to situational stimulus. This experiment emphasized place cells which are neurons located in the hippocampus that become active when an animal inhabits a specific area in its environment. The mice, already prone to higher anxiety levels, were placed in a maze in which several pathways led to open areas. Mice are naturally anxious in open areas, so the activity of brain cells were monitored specifically at the bottom of the hippocampus with focus during the period when the mice entered open areas.

The results demonstrated that as the mice entered these situations the action potential between hippocampal neurons increased with the rise of anxiety. The researchers then proceeded to prove that the cells were a primary motivation for anxiety responses by using optogenetics. Optogenetics is a technique that uses light to control chosen cells in living tissues that have been genetically modified to express light-sensitive ion channels. The team was able to increase and inhibit action potential firings in the lower hippocampal region and results showed that when the firings were increased anxiety levels increased as well, to a point where the mice refused to explore at all. Kheirbek describes that, “these cells are probably just one part of an extended circuit by which the animal learns about anxiety-related information.” He believes that the hippocampus is piece of the brain that speaks to the hypothalamus as part of the limbic circuit of communication when something should be avoided due to danger.

The direct route and reactions of neuron cells in the hippocampus and its influence on anxiety behavior of mice allows the possibility of advancing forward to conduct studies on monkey species and humans in the future. The findings of this study may offer suggestions for advancement in treatment techniques and searches for new branches of therapy regarding mental illnesses.

While I had to conduct research outside this article to search for missing information and identify the actual study as it was not listed, I think it’s an extremely important piece, bringing awareness to a disorder that influences the lives of so many people in modern day society. I personally have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessional Compulsive Disorder that manifests into extreme levels of stress and anxiety every day. While I am extroverted and participate in a wide domain of leadership roles, I still worry about every little detail and how it will affect myself and others. The possibility of a new means of controlling my anxiety levels and a new option for improvement in other people is extremely exciting to me. I paid the four dollars to read the full experimental study and it proceeds to go into details beyond what is covered in this article by examining ideas about specialized cells and specific activation details within the mice’s brains. Overall, I think this study signals the increasing change around the stigma of mental disorders, as researchers continue to search for new ways to help those who need assistance. I’m eager to keep an eye on this study and see if they are able to discover new information and techniques that could reform so many lives!

 

Original Article:

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/31/582112597/researchers-discover-anxiety-cells-in-the-brain?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180131

Original Study: 

http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(18)30019-9

References: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4276740/

https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

https://web.stanford.edu/group/dlab/optogenetics/

Do color preferences change during the seasons?

When the weather is changing with the seasons so is the color palettes that go along with them. Summer reminds me of hot pinks, yellows and many other bright colors. When fall is in session I think of thanksgiving colors dark green, browns as well as oranges they match with the changing of the leaves around me as well. Winter is my favorite season of all when I think of colors is more darks and neutrals that really stand out to be. Lastly spring colors are like Easter eggs to me light colors as in pink, blues, greens.  

I know that my clothing changes with the seasons due to the different temperatures but as well as the colors I choose. Is this due to just my own personal preferences or is there a real reason behind it. Do you think there is a connection between what we are seeing in our surroundings and what we prefer? I do believe the what surrounds you dose effect the prefers you have in life.

There was a study done by Karen Schloss in the journal of Cognitive Science trying to find out is there is a connection. The study was conducted with 50 participants who lived in the same area for roughly seven years. There were a few conditions that needed to be assessed before being able to be a participant. Every person needed to have their eyes checked to make sure there was no color blindness in any of the volunteers. After this study was complete only 39 of the 50 completed the full year long evaluation.

The study was conducted over a year long period. Of the 50 participants who choice to continue through the year long process that were shown the same picture of color box which include 37 color blocks and asked to access what colors they liked best. Fall was considered October thought November, winter was January though March. Spring April through May and lastly June through August. To see what colors, they like best they had to rate each color as very much or not at all. Below is an example of what the participants were looking at and rating their colors preference.

When the study was complete they found a connection between what colors people like during a certain season. It suggested that the colors we like do change as the seasons change. They found that people tend to like some colors more during certain season because it reminds us of items we are seeing in that season. While those same colors during a different season we might not like because it reminds us on something gross. An example of this was giving that during fall people tend to like dark green- yellow because it reminds us of fall leaves, but these same colors were disliked in winter because it reminds people of vomit.

Below is an image to the average color preferences during each season. The black line is representing fall, blue is winter, green is spring and yellow is fall. The tones of the color are in four categories as well. As you can tell from the pictures the color preferences change with each season.

 

 

I know that I always have the same favorite color but when the seasons change I tend to change the colors I ware. I didn’t know that this could really be some cognitive relationships rather than just a consequent. Below is the link to the npr article I read.

https://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2017/03/03/517177552/as-the-seasons-change-so-do-our-color-preferences

 

How the brain functions while freestyling

The best freestyle artists of all time, such as Eminem, Jay-Z, BIG, Logic, Proof, and countless more are having a look into how they are able to take the words in their head to make rhyming lyrical works. Researchers have found that freestyling changes the way your brain functions to increase integration and motivation and decrease the functions of self-monitoring and control (livescience.com). In hindsight, this makes sense; rappers need to be able to take words, that would otherwise be unconnected, and make stories, meaning, or a flow while being able to incorporate rhyming. With this being the brains goal, things like control and filtering get in the way. They slow down the brains processing when the main purpose is to keep the flow of rhymes going. Though this helps rappers create better formed rhymes, thinking more on what you’re saying and not how your saying it causes a lot of rhymes that violate social norms and often offend people.

Most of the changes that allow the brain to rap happen in the frontal cortex. Which of course, is known for it’s influential role in judgement. However, in a study by eight researchers, it was found that these judgement sections are quieted to make room for the creative thought expressed as raps. In this experiment, the researchers recruited twelve male rappers who agreed to “spit bars” while in a fMRI. They were given an eight-measure (bar) to memorized before the experiment to be rapped in the fMRI and act as a control. After the individual recited the given rhymes to a beat, they were told they could freestyle about whatever they chose to the same beat. The researchers found, partially what they expected. The medial prefrontal cortex, influential in creative thought, memorial retrieval, strategy, and attention shifting was requiring much more blood than it usually would. All of these functions are crucial in creating a plan to be converted into words that are rhymed to a beat. As a result, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex quieted to the demands of the medial. The dorsolateral being the influential section for judging and monitoring/censoring thoughts…which doesn’t happen if it is submissive to the need for rhymes (An fMRI Study on Freestyle Rapping). The researchers also found that the amygdala was often “lit up” during the creation of raps. This is why many great rappers often get emotional and bring up their past in their rhymes. This emotion also contributes to the lack of judgment by pairing creativity with intense feelings. Therefore, though great freestyle rappers are able to think quickly on their feet, they often say things that offend many people or don’t represent the ideals the rapper actually believes in.

This study was very careful to make sure that the changes in the brains behavior were due to the introduction of freestyling. They used the memorized rap as a control to make sure that the brain does not “light up” this way for any kind of rapping. They also made sure that they found the same kind of results in different people. They concluded that the results were accurate because across the participants, the introduction of freestyling caused the brain to change its function to best produce rhyming. However, I would like to see a follow-up experiment that has more participants to understand if their results can truly be generalized to all freestyle rappers.

I would also like to see a study that specifically focuses on rappers who have been doing the art for most of their life. A neuroscientist named Heather Berlin spoke at the 92nd Street Y’s Seven Days of Genius event about rapper Eminem. “He probably has more advanced connections in terms of his language areas. Over time, when you practice something, a cognitive skill or a motor skill, you’re developing connections in the brain. So I’m sure his brain would look slightly different” (TheCut). Seeing how his brain specifically works while he’s freestyle would be fascinating. Overall, the basic concepts behind rapping are being understood, but the long-term affects they have on the brain are still unknown.

 

Landsbaum, C. (2015). What a Neuroscientist Said About Eminem’s Brain. TheCut.

Retrieved from: https://www.thecut.com/2015/03/what-a-neuroscientist-said-about                       eminems-brain.html

Pappas, S. (2012). How Eminem Invents Freestyle Rhymes on the Spot. LiveScience. Retrieved

from: https://www.livescience.com/24817-freestyle-rapping-brain-activity.html

Liu, S., Chow H. M., Xu, Y., Erkkinen, M., Swett, K., Eagle, M., Rizik-Baer, D., & Braun, A.

(2012). Neural Correlates of Lyrical Improvisation: An fMRI Study of Freestyle Rap.

     Scientific Reports, 834. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00834

Concussions and their Impact.

In two recent studies presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting, concerns were raised about concussions and the impact they have on cognitive abilities. These researches believe that concussions have a negative impact on the athletes and individuals who suffer from this injury, especially in their mental functioning. They worry that the concussions may have long term and widespread effects on their mental health.

Study Number One: Visual Working Memory

In the first study, the researchers found that concussions have an effect on a person’s visual working memory. This refers to the ability to remember specific things you have seen. Scientists always knew the working memory was impacted by the injury, however, in this new study the evidence suggested that the impact lasts much longer than they originally believed.

To test this theory, two groups of people were given a visual memory test. The first group consisted of people ranging in age from 18 to 80, and the second a group consisted of college students averaging around age 21. Each group was made up of both people who had suffered from concussions and also people who had not. The participants in the study were shown a picture and then seconds later another image was shown and they were asked if it was the same image as before. Overall, the people who had never experienced a concussion answered the questions more accurately (for the most part) than those who had history with a concussion. The results showed that regardless of how old these people were or when their concussions occurred, those who had a concussion previously in their life did worse on the memory test.

Visual working memory is a well-known and well-discussed topic in psychology. In class when we talked about working memory, we related it to tests like the digit span which is used to determine the holding capacity of working memory. This is similar to the study that was used in the experiment which tested visual working memory. Both tests were forms of looking at working memory in different ways to compare how our brains work when compared with other’s.

Study Number Two: Attention Defects

The second study looked at individuals and their ability to pay attention. Researches found that people with concussions in their medical history had a general lack of awareness in social situations compared to those who hadn’t. The participants in the study were given an MMN test. This test involved showing a person a flashing letter M on the screen and then switching it to an N to measure if the brain activity spiked when the letter switched. This would indicate that the person was indeed paying attention to the activity. The results showed that people who had concussions in their lifetime did not have the same spike that those who had not did. This meant that the concussions in their history affected their attention abilities. Again, concussions had a negative impact on the individual’s mental health.

In cognitive psychology some of the topics we focus on include attention, memory, problem-solving and thinking. It is clear that both of these studies look at how people process information and their ability to perform certain tasks based on whether they have experienced a concussion before compared to if they had never had that type of brain injury. Scientists that conducted this study plan to do additional testing on how concussions affect people’s thinking abilities. However, until then, it is pretty clear that based on the evidence in these two studies, it can be said that concussions have a negative impact on a person’s mental health and their ability to use working memory or pay attention to their surroundings.

As an athlete, I found this study to be interesting and also a little bit alarming based on the evidence shown. It’s crazy to think a game I play today could affect my mental skills when I’m older and more developed in life. The results that these scientists found indicate that people (like myself) who play sports and put themselves at a higher risk for brain injuries like concussions to occur have a greater chance of developing mental functioning problems later on in life. That is the scary reality that all athletes put themselves at risk for their own entertainment, but also in some cases for money or popularity. Hopefully in the future better research can be done to help prevent so many concussions from occurring in today’s world.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/04/06/concussion-and-cognitive-skills-whats-impact.html

 

The Absence of Fear

As some of you likely know National Public radio produces a variety of podcasts. My favorite, Invisibilia, is a podcast that exists to explain the psychology behind our everyday behaviors with case studies and research. In season one episode two, the hosts explore the feeling of fear, where it comes from, and what happens when someone does not experience it.

The program begins by arguing that today people are experiencing more fear in their daily lives than ever before. This point is emphasized with a story about an environmental psychologist, Dr. Roger Hart, who followed around a large sample of children in a small town in Vermont to see how far they could go from their homes. When this study was done in the 1970s children as young as four years old could travel unsupervised for generous distances documented by Roger Hart on a map. By age ten, some children could travel the entire town unsupervised, at the time in history it seemed parents did not fear things like shootings or abduction. Recently, Dr. Hart discovered that children in that same town were only allowed to walk unsupervised in their own yard though statistically the crime rate and other variables in the town remain virtually the same.

The host of the program asserts that statistically crime rates are at the lowest levels ever nationally, however more and more Americans are modifying their behaviors based on the more constant presence of fear. Therefore, the presence of fear is influencing our decision making. Dr. Ralph Adolphs, professor of psychology at Caltech, stated that our overall fear threshold or how much fear we experience daily was set at a high level. Naturally, our body is going to perceive some stimuli and possible threats and be wrong, false positives as the program calls them. This adaptation worked well in ancient times when there was more danger present in the everyday. However, Dr. Adolphs insists that today fear is experienced more often, with more false alarms than before, and influences our decisions more than necessary.

In our textbook we learned that specific areas of the brain are responsible for different functions. Through localization data it was determined that the area of the brain responsible for producing a fear response through a circuit of neurological connections is called the amygdala. The amygdala perceives what stimuli should be considered a threat. However, what happens when the brain is damaged, and a person cannot experience fear? The hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller interviewed neuroscientist at the University of Southern California, Antonio D’Mazzio, who worked with a woman named SM. SM was physically incapable of experiencing fear. Dr. D’Mazzio described how by looking at SM you could not tell that she had this condition however, through neuroimaging like PET and MRI scans they were able to determine that she suffers from a disease called, Urbach-Wiethe. An incredibly rare disease, the sufferers have calcified masses on their amygdala. In SM’s case her amygdala are completely covered. This causes her to be biologically incapable of experiencing fear.

At first, to me this condition sounded like a super power, but as explained by SM’s case it is extremely dangerous. Without the sense of fear she has been taken advantage of in the past at the worst she has been held at knife and gunpoint. Scientists have tried to expose her to fearful things to no reaction and even conducted an experiment to condition her to experience fear, all to no result. The only positive of her situation is that because she cannot conceptualize that she was threatened in her past she has not had any past bad situations. In fact, when asked if she was usually happy SM said, “9 times out of 10, yes I’m happy.”

This podcast, the stories, and research it presented demonstrates topics covered so far in our class. It shows that areas of the brain are specialized and have different cognitive functions, that damage to them can prove their function (localization), and that there is biological basis for our decision making or cognitive skills. In SM’s case her lack of fear causes her to perceive every stimulus as not a threat. By examining case studies like SM’s and through techniques like neuroimaging and cognitive tasks we can learn more about our thoughts, where they come from, and how we might prevent them from controlling our behavior in maladaptive ways.

Spiegel, Alix, and Lulu Miller. “Fearless.” Invisibilia, season 1, episode 2, www.npr.org/podcasts/510307/invisibilia.