Author Archives: Nico

The Impact of Anxiety and How to Potentially Reduce it

Throughout this entire semester, I’ve always managed to get stumped in regard to coming up with a topic to write about for these blog posts. I’ve stared at my computer, became frustrated, and even procrastinated. With many days of me saying, “Oh, I’ll just write my blog post tomorrow.”, came an overwhelming and increasingly amount of stress and anxiety. On each passing day of me not writing my blogs, I would continue to worry about everything surrounding this one assignment. Basically, I would continue to think about all of the “what-ifs”. What if I didn’t do the assignment and my grade dropped? What if I failed my class? Essentially, I would lose my mind and get extremely anxious over something as small as a simple blog post. This is ultimately why I’ve decided that, for this blog post, I would somehow connect cognition to anxiety. After taking some time to fully think about the topic of anxiety in relation to cognition, I wondered, how exactly could anxiety impact working memory and attention?

Bubbles powerpuff girls | Powerpuff girls

 

For those who may not know, anxiety is basically an emotion where people feel worried, nervous, or uneasy, especially when there’s an uncertain outcome. In order for anxiety to occur, there needs to be something that completely captures someone’s focus and then causes them to process it [and mostly likely lead to overthinking]. In other words, it involves their attention and working memory. Attention refers to “the processes we use to monitor incoming events” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2017, ch. 3). Working memory, on the other hand, refers to a cognitive system that temporarily stores and manages the information needed to accomplish complex cognitive tasks such as planning, organizing, maintaining goals, etc. Although attention and working memory are two different cognitive functions, they are very much connected.

In regard to the idea that anxiety impacts attention and working memory, there’s a lot of mixed evidence. However, I managed to find a study that looked at numerous studies with mixed evidence and ultimately resulted in the support of the overall idea. According to a study done by a researcher, named Tim Moran, the study suggests “that anxiety can causally influence performance on WMC [working memory capacity] tasks and that the most pronounced effects of anxiety are on measures tapping domain-general attentional processes rather than on domain-specific stores” (Moran, 2016, pg.843). In other words, anxiety can in fact influence what we focus on and basically think about. After realizing the impact that anxiety has on attention and working memory, I also wondered, could coloring [i.e., in coloring books] somehow influence such cognitive processes by potentially reducing anxiety?

Bubblez GIF | Gfycat

For as long as I can remember, coloring has always been a relaxing activity for me to do. Even though I haven’t done it in a while, it’s an activity that I highly recommend others to partake in. In my opinion, it can help take your mind off of things, especially during these troubling times. As I’m sure you all already know, the world has been dealing with a pandemic called the Coronavirus. One way in which world leaders have tried to help limit the spread of the virus is by ordering citizens to basically stay home. Even though staying at home is believed to be a safe precaution in regard to limiting the spread of the virus, being told to stay home and not go outside unless absolutely necessary can be quite stressful and cause a lot of anxiety.

Dirty Jokes In 'The Powerpuff Girls' That You Missed When You Were ...

With this pandemic in our midst, people are most likely becoming stressed/anxious due to not being employed, not seeing family or friends, and not having the ability to explore the world as humans are basically meant to do. To reduce such anxiety, people need healthy ways to help cope. This therefore leads to my belief that coloring in coloring books could potentially help reduce such anxiety-filled feelings. One study in which I found supported the idea of coloring reducing anxiety was done by a researcher, named Jayde Flett, and her colleagues. Together, they decided to test whether coloring was related to improvements in various psychological effects. Among such effects was anxiety. The entire study is linked down below, but, ultimately, they found that “following a week of coloring, … participants reported lower levels of depressive symptoms and anxiety [and it extended] prior laboratory-based research where participants reported reductions in anxiety or negative mood following a single session of coloring” (Flett et. al., pg. 413). With that being said, I believe that this study proves that focusing your attention on something else besides something that gives you anxiety, can make you process things differently and ultimately reduce your stress and anxiety.

Coloring GIF - Coloring GIFs

Even though there was only one article that I mentioned in this blog about coloring, and it supported my claim, I believe that there may be other sources that support it as well. I wasn’t able to find any contradictory evidence in regard to this topic, but I’m sure that there actually might be some available. In addition, coloring may not be the only way to reduce anxiety. I’m sure that there are many different healthy ways of reducing anxiety. Besides that, it’s quite interesting that coloring in coloring pages can help reduce anxiety. With all of this in mind, what do you think that there are other ways to potentially reduce anxiety? Please do share your ideas in the comments and tell me what you think!

References

[Image 1]: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/560487116124607128/.

[Image 2]: https://imgflip.com/i/3xtzqr. {*NOTE: I made this meme…}

[Image 3]: https://gfycat.com/rewardinghandmadebinturong

[Image 4]: https://www.bustle.com/articles/102867-dirty-jokes-in-the-powerpuff-girls-that-you-missed-when-you-were-a-child

[Image 5]: https://tenor.com/view/coloring-ddlg-gb-gif-8603769.

Flett, J. A. M., Lie, C., Riordan, B. C., Thompson, L. M., Conner, T. S., & Hayne, H. (2017). “Sharpen your pencils: Preliminary evidence that adult coloring reduces depressive symptoms and anxiety”. Creativity Research Journal, 29(4), 409–416. https://doi-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/10400419.2017.1376505.

Moran, T. (2016). “Anxiety and Working Memory Capacity: A Meta-Analysis and Narrative Review.” Psychological Bulletin, 142(8), 831-864. http://dx.doi.org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/bul0000051.

Robinson-Riegler & Robinson Riegler. Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind. Pearson, 2017. ISBN: 9780134003405.

Does Isolation Affect Memory?

Just like my last blog post, I originally had no idea what to write for this blog post. After hours of thinking, I still managed to end up with a blank screen. Yes, I know I’m dramatic… Yet, I’m still not sure why it takes me so long to figure out what to say for these blog posts. If anyone has seen the TV show SpongeBob, you will remember the episode where SpongeBob had to write an essay. For the longest, all he could come up with for his essay was the word “The” [as seen in the photo below]. In a way, I originally felt just like him. Jokes aside, I took forever to find an idea. I laid on my bed and stared at my bedroom ceiling. Surrounded by the four walls of my bedroom, I laid on my bed in isolation thinking about this blog post and how I could remember cognitive concepts discussed in my class to, essentially, talk about in my blog post. Then, I suddenly got an idea! I wondered, how could isolation affect people’s memory?

As you all now know, the world has been highly impacted by this pandemic called the Coronavirus. As far as I know, please correct me if I’m wrong, it’s a deadly illness that essentially causes respiratory problems. It affects all ages and can be spread by sneezing and/or coughing. It could also be spread by touching certain surfaces that already have the virus on it. Besides the detailing of the virus, world leaders have basically ordered citizens to adhere to social distancing and only go out of their homes if absolutely necessary. In other words, people have to stay home. Social distancing and staying at home may seem like a nuisance to most people, but it’s understanding that people with power are trying to maintain and/or limit the spread of the virus by limiting physical contact. Although staying at home is considered a safe precaution, being isolated and/or told to stay home can be quite an impact when it comes to people’s mental states.

With that being said, I believe that social isolation could potentially impact people’s memory. Based on the notes and lectures given in my class, memory essentially refers to a brain function where data or information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2017). Although memory may seem like an out-of-the-way concept in relation to social isolation, I believe that it could be an interesting concept to investigate. While scrolling through different news articles that were recently uploaded online, I found an article that essentially talked about how different parts of the brain could be impacted by social isolation and therefore cause problems with things such as memory. Specifically, the article had claimed that “…prolonged social isolation physically changes the shape and function of your brain. The hippocampus, the region responsible for learning and memory not only shrinks in size in response to long-term isolation, it loses its plasticity and may eventually shut down altogether. At the same time the amygdala, which regulates your fear and anxiety response, goes into overdrive” (Tarantola, 2020). In other words, this article basically claims that memory could somewhat be decreased due to the effect of social isolation.

Uhh Patrick Star GIF - Uhh PatrickStar BrainMalfunction GIFs

Although this is an article that claims such information, it’s important to find actual studies that support such a claim. Luckily, I was able to find a study by credible researchers. By sampling numerous men and women aged 50+, the researchers, Read et al., were able to support the claim. According to the study, Read et al. found that “… isolation increased, and memory decreased over time. Among men an initially high level of social isolation was associated with a somewhat greater decrease in memory. Among women a greater increase in social isolation predicted a greater decrease in memory and a larger change in social isolation was associated with further larger changes in isolation, although when social isolation reached a higher level it subsequently decreased” (Read et al., 2020). In other words, social isolation does, in fact, have an impact on memory.

Delete Spongebob Squarepants GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Even though this was only one article that supported such a claim, and it focused solely on older adults, there are other studies that support it as well. Referenced below are other supporting studies that use different approaches to investigate the effect of isolation on memory. Although there are supporting studies, I noticed that there were also other articles that contradicted it. So, why is there mixed evidence about this topic? All-in-all, it’s quite interesting that memory could potentially be impacted by social isolation. With that being said, do you think that social isolation could impact memory? Please do share your ideas in the comments and tell me what you think!

SpongeBob SquarePants | Squilliam Returns | WE THREW OUT HIS NAME ...

References

[Image 1]: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/449585975273434792/.

[Image 2]: http://auwritingcenter.blogspot.com/2015/10/learning-from-best-how-not-to-write_5.html.

[Image 3]: https://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1797692-spongebob-squarepants.

[Image 4]: https://tenor.com/view/uhh-patrick-star-brain-malfunction-gif-14480625.

[Image 5]: https://giphy.com/gifs/reaction-5YO4km322zuNy.

[Image 6]: https://gfycat.com/zanycavernousamericanratsnake.

Read, S., Comas-Herrera, A., & Grundy, E. (2020). “Social Isolation and Memory Decline in Later-life”. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 75(2): Pages 367–376, https://doi-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.1093/geronb/gbz152.

Robinson-Riegler & Robinson Riegler. Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind. Pearson, 2017. ISBN: 9780134003405.

Tarantola, Andrew. “The psychological impact of COVID-19 isolation, as explained by scientists”. Engadget, 27 Mar. 2020. Retrieved from https://www.engadget.com/2020-03-27-pyschological-impact-covid-19-isolation.html.

Additional Articles

Almeida-Santos, A., Carvalho, V., Jaimes, L., De Castro, C., Pinto, H., Oliveira, T., . . . Pereira, G. (2019). “Social isolation impairs the persistence of social recognition memory by disturbing the glutamatergic tonus and the olfactory bulb-dorsal hippocampus coupling”. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 473. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-36871-6.

Wang, Bin, Wu, Qiong, Lei, Lei, Sun, Hailun, Michael, Ntim, Zhang, Xuan, . . . Li, Shao. (2019). “Long-term social isolation inhibits autophagy activation, induces postsynaptic dysfunctions and impairs spatial memory”. Experimental Neurology, 311, 213-224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2018.09.009.

Is Chewing Gum A Life Hack?

Similar to my last blog post, I originally had no idea what to write for this blog post. I stared at my computer and became highly frustrated. To fight off my exhaustion and lack of focus, I decided to take a second and chew on a piece of gum. After chewing on a piece of Wrigley’s Extra Long-Lasting Flavor Peppermint gum, I, all of a sudden, got an idea. Since I was chewing gum, I figured that I would research and talk about how chewing gum affects cognitive processes. I understand that it may have influence in numerous cognitive processes, and that it may take forever to talk about, but I only wanted to mention maybe one or two things in regard to cognition. Before I get to the main topics of this blog post, I’d like to ask readers a question. Have any of you ever been recommended to chew gum before an event that made you extremely nervous? If so, has it ever helped you cognitively?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always struggled with test anxiety. With my test anxiety came my lack of focus and lack of memorization. Every time my teachers and/or professors would tell me that I had a test that was fast approaching, I would stress and become highly anxious. In relation to that, I would also lose sleep, not eat, over-study, and essentially lose my mind. I know, it sounds dramatic… Nonetheless, I would always have a lot of problems before the day of a test, and I would lack focus and memory while taking it. One day, I remember getting ready to go and take my test in Statistics. I made sure to eat well, sleep well, study decently, and make sure that I had somewhat of a firm understanding of the material being tested on. When given the test, I immediately forgot everything and had a really tough time focusing.

While taking the test, I was thinking about all of the “what-ifs”. What if I failed this test? What if I failed the course? What if I didn’t graduate? I know, I’m dramatic… Anyways, before taking the test, I remember asking my friend if she had any tips in regard to me focusing and, essentially, doing well on the test. She claimed that chewing gum would help me focus more and get my ideas flowing. I didn’t think it would help, but I tried it anyways. Once I started chewing a piece of gum and continuing the test, I realized that I became slightly more focused than usual and remembered a lot more material. Fortunately, I managed to pass with a good grade. So, with my experience in mind, does chewing gum in fact help with focus and memory?

Bored One Punch Man GIF

According to a study in 2009 by Wang et. al., chewing gum can “facilitate the process of working memory by enhancing the neural activity in memory and attention-related brain areas” (Wang et. al., 2009). In addition, chewing gum “during stress increased brain activity in [the] amygdala, hippocampus and insula compared to stress alone” (Wang et. al., 2009). In other words, these researchers found evidence to support the idea that chewing gum can influence working memory and attention. Although this is a study that supports such a claim, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the claim is fully supported throughout other studies made by researchers. Based on other studies, this study in particular can either be supported or not.

One study in particular that goes against the idea of memory being impacted by chewing gum is a study done by psychologist, Andrew Smith in 2009. Essentially, he found that “no significant effects of chewing gum were observed in… memory tasks” (Smith, 2009). However, he also discovered that “chewing gum increases alertness” (Smith, 2009). So, with that being said, does this apply to my experience with chewing gum and testing? I managed to focus more and remember more, but did chewing gum actually have an effect on my cognitive processing or was it an external factor? All-in-all, there are numerous studies with various results in regard to the idea of chewing gum impacting memory and focus. In order to fully find an answer to the question of whether chewing gum impacts memory and focus, more research needs to be done. With that being said, do you think that chewing gum can impact your memory and focus?

Opm GIF

Overall, this concept of chewing gum impacting memory and focus relates to two topics that were discussed in class. If you’re not sure what the two topics are, the two topics are obviously working memory and attention. Based on the notes and lectures given in my class, memory essentially refers to a brain function where data or information is encoded, stored, and retrieved when needed. This applies to my testing experience because I believed that chewing gum allowed me to go through my memory and retrieve data that was needed to complete my test. Besides memory, attention, which was technically the other topic discussed in this blog post, refers to “the processes we use to monitor incoming events” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2017, ch. 3). This applies to my testing experience because I was, at first, having trouble processing the questions given on the test I was taking. When chewing gum, I was therefore able to better process the questions being asked on the test and somehow manage to answer them. Although evidence varies based on studies on chewing gum in relation to memory and attention, I believe that chewing gum could potentially be a life hack not only based on my personal experience but based on various cognitive research.

Image result for one punch man thinking gif

References

[Image 1]: https://monkey-network.tumblr.com/post/185116290758/honestly-one-punch-man-season-2-is-the-most.

[Image 2]: https://giphy.com/gifs/one-punch-man-6IkjQmpaRwIabJ2G3C.

[Image 3]: https://giphy.com/gifs/opm-JoMYZauwFmy8E.

[Image 4]: https://tenor.com/view/saitama-one-punch-man-huh-what-confused-gif-13951206.

Wang, X., Gitelman, D., & Parrish, T. (2009). Effects of chewing gum on working memory and stress. Neuroimage, 47(1), S145. https://doi-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/S1053-8119(09)71460-0.

Smith, A. (2009). Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test. Nutritional Neuroscience12(2), 81–88. https://doi-org.umw.idm.oclc.org/10.1179/147683009X423247.

Robinson-Riegler & Robinson Riegler. Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind. Pearson, 2017. ISBN: 9780134003405.

Study Tip?… OOF

For this assignment, I originally had no idea what to write. I literally stared at my computer and became frustrated. Then, all of a sudden, I got an idea. Since I used to have a tough time processing information for a bunch of difficult classes, I figured that I would attempt to write a study tip for this assignment in relation to cognitive psychology. It’s somewhat weird, but it’s also an idea. Hopefully, I don’t sound uneducated about this and this turns out to be an alright idea. Anyways, there are many ways to study for a class. You can find a quiet place and read, take breaks in between reading, make flashcards for unknown terms, and generate potential questions about important points.

One study tactic that I use in particular is take notes by hand during lecture and reread them, instead of typing them and then rereading them. It sounds like it’s not much of a study tactic, but it’s a form of studying that somewhat works for me. Not only can I process the information better by writing my notes and rereading them, but I can incorporate other ideas while I’m writing and somewhat get a better understanding of material. It’s somewhat hard to explain… According to an article in 2014 [see link below], two investigators named Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, studied whether students remembered more after taking notes by hand or by typing. All-in-all, the study showed that students who typed notes were able to record more information than handwritten note-takers, yet students who wrote their notes were able to basically understand topics better than the students who typed notes.

Why is this you may ask? Well, the article essentially claims that the problem is that people who take notes by typing, type only the things they hear without actually processing and understanding the information. People who write their notes, can’t write as quickly, but they can essentially think more in depth and write things in their own words to better understand the material being lectured in their classes. Nonetheless, this whole idea of processing information while note-taking relates to certain topics discussed in class. Even though it relates to memory, which hasn’t been fully discussed in class yet, it also relates to bottom-up processing. “Bottom-up processing basically refers to a flow of information that proceeds from the stimulus to the neural activity driven by this stimulus to its eventual identification” (Robinson-Riegler & Robinson-Riegler, 2017, pg. 27). In other words, sensory data goes straight to the brain to be analyzed and interpreted. When taking notes for example, information is transferred starting with the retina and proceeding to the visual cortex. Then, eventually, information is processed.

Overall, note-taking can be a good way to process, review, and/or study information. Like I had mentioned before, I prefer to write my notes over typing my notes. The last time I actually typed my notes, I accidentally managed to delete them off my computer. I was devastated, especially since I needed them for a difficult class. Luckily, my friend was in the same class as me, and she let me borrow her notes for the time being. Even though I prefer handwritten notes, I’m not necessarily bashing people who type their notes. I know that the evidence I found claimed that handwritten notes were better than typing notes, but that was only one article. It doesn’t necessarily mean that handwritten notes are better for everyone. Typing notes can actually be quite helpful as well, especially for those who have certain disabilities where they can’t write notes. If you’re interested, you can look at another study by Mueller and Oppenheimer [see the second link], and look at the pros and cons for both methods of note-taking. Other than that, I believe that all of this study tip is quite effective.

Citations:

Mueller, P., & Oppenheimer, D. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25 (6), 1159-1168. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581. [Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6b6a/25a7a6d95056530eee02bf0aba3692e1c73c.pdf].

Robinson-Riegler & Robinson Riegler. Cognitive Psychology: Applying the Science of the Mind. Pearson, 2017. ISBN: 9780134003405.

Mueller, P., & Oppenheimer, D. (2016). Technology and note-taking in the classroom, boardroom, hospital room, and courtroom. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 5(3), 139-145. [Retrieved from https://www-sciencedirect-com.umw.idm.oclc.org/science/article/pii/S2211949316300102#bib12].