Tag Archives: Cognition

The Psychology Behind Mindfulness


You know those nights when you’re lying in bed (for what feels like forever!) and you just cannot fall asleep? All the thoughts about the day and whatever else might be popping into your head are swimming through your mind and keeping you awake…

It turns out mindfulness has been found to help people quiet those thoughts that keep them awake. The practice of mindfulness has been studied for use in treating all kinds of maladies, such as depression and stress as well as for use with patients suffering from physical conditions such as chronic pain, cancer, or HIV. This article asserts that it has also been found beneficial in helping with weight loss and maintaining an exercise program. The article also notes the technique’s usefulness in treating symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disturbances. So, the question is, why? And how?

Mindfulness relies on the ability to focus attention on your awareness of the current moment. You allow yourself to be aware of any and all thoughts, feelings, and experiences you may have in order to process them without evaluating them critically. In essence, it relies on the ability to focus attention and maintain enough concentration so that you can seize control of thoughts that enter your awareness (which obviously takes a lot of practice). The more you practice mindfulness, the more you will prime the neural networks required for the process of identifying and acknowledging thoughts without criticizing them. Given all this, it makes sense that the technique might be effective in treating symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disturbances. By shifting the focus of your attention and being more aware of the current moment (instead of whatever thoughts are keeping you awake), you may be able to better control your emotional responses to your thoughts.

The trick to mindfulness is the promotion of increased awareness of thoughts in order to promote better control over emotional responses to them. This is why mindfulness has been used as a treatment for anxiety disorders as well. The ruminative thinking that keeps us awake at night is a major cause of insomnia and also present in many anxiety disorders. The idea is that the ability to acknowledge thoughts in a different way, without driving yourself crazy over them, will ease anxiety (which is caused by this type of thinking). In order to do this, mindfulness encourages a sort of selective attention in which you focus your attention on something such as breathing, instead of rumination.

Okay, that explains why mindfulness is effective. But what types of strategies do people use?

Breathing is only one of many techniques you can use in order to focus your attention and be more aware of what is currently happening. (This short video explains how to do a common breathing exercise called the “4-7-8 Breath.”) Meditation is the technique that is perhaps the most talked about. Movement exercises can also be helpful.

In fact, mindfulness has been shown to have an impact on the functioning of the brain in general. For example, This article says that people who meditate show superior performance on tasks associated with the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which deals with tasks related to self-regulation, the ability to direct attention, behavior and suppress immediate responses, and the ability to alternate strategies quickly. These skills are all necessary to exercise mindfulness and you would develop them the more you practice the technique.

In addition, when practiced regularly, mindfulness also leads to a weakening in the “functional connectivity” between the amygdala and the rest of the brain and a strengthening in the “functional connectivity” among areas associated with attention and concentration. So, “mindfulness practice increases one’s ability to recruit higher order, pre-frontal cortex regions in order to down-regulate lower-order brain activity,” Adrienne Taren, a researcher studying mindfulness, says.

So, next time your thoughts keep you awake, maybe consider being more mindful about what you are thinking. Like every other skill, it may take some practice before you start reaping the rewards from practicing mindfulness, but who knows what will happen once you’re able to focus your attention more effectively.

What do you think? Do you practice mindfulness or think it could be useful?


Study Tip: Spatial/Relational Studying

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a problem with flashcards. Teachers would tell me to make flashcards for vocabulary words, for example. I found that once I’d written the words on the card, and added their definitions, I could already remember which definitions matched which words. Since I could match the words and definitions accurately, studying the flashcards no longer felt necessary. The whole process felt redundant and unhelpful to me. But the problem was that just because I knew which word went with which definition, that didn’t mean I understood the term.

In class, we discussed maintenance rehearsal versus elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal is rehearsing a piece of information enough to keep it active. In this rehearsal, it doesn’t ver really move into long-term memory. Elaborative rehearsal, however, is rehearsal that involves processing. It helps us move information into long-term memory. Learning isn’t just about repeated exposure (think of the penny or the Apple logo). Learning needs deeper levels of processing. This might involve imagery, meaning, or personal tie-ins. Learning that involves surface details or sound patterns just doesn’t stick as well. Research supports the textbook and the discussion we had in class. In a study by Craik and Tulving (1975), participants were asked to answer questions about words. Sometimes, the participants answered about the meaning of the word (deep). Other times, they answered about the sound/structure of the word (shallow). They were then asked to pick the original words out of a longer list. While the deep processing took longer, the subjects who semantically processed the words showed greater performance on the recall task.

My original study tip is developed from several sources: my personal study habits, our class discussion, the research, and a technique mentioned in class by a fellow student. In a discussion about the problems of flashcard usage and maintenance rehearsal, this student mentioned how one could create flashcards using class notes etc., but then instead of engaging in repetitive and rote memorization with those cards, attempt to categorize them instead. I felt that this would be a much more meaningful way to interact with the material. As I thought about this suggestion, and pondered my own study habits, I came up with my suggested study tip: Flowcharts

You’ll need a whiteboard (a gallon plastic bag around a white sheet of paper works, but the bigger the board the better. In the ITCC, there are tons of big white boards free for our use!), dry erase markers, and small cards/sticky notes. First, write out important pieces of information on the cards. These bits of info can be definitions, theories, categories, relationships, tasks, people, ideas, studies, aspects of studies, etc. For example, if you have notes on a scientist who did two studies, each of which had two main findings, write out a card for the scientist, each study’s basic details, and details on each of the findings. When you’re done with the information for the chapter, shuffle your cards. Next is the fun part.

diagram-empty-2Now, you want to take your cards and start sorting them into a flow chart! You can stick them up on the board, and use the markers to draw connecting lines and arrows. The most important part here is to emphasize relationships. Thinking about how your concepts interact is important for making them stick in your long-term memory. It’s much more effective than just memorizing!

flowchartPractice putting your cards in a linear/chronological flow and drawing arrows between steps. Show what came first conceptually, and influenced later steps. Then try a hierarchical structure. What are the overarching themes and categories, and the subcategories and details? How do they relate to each other? Don’t be afraid to draw tons of arrows! The more times you engage with the pieces of information in different ways, the more comfortable you’ll be with them.

Good luck studying!

A Lean, Mean, Caffeine Machine

If you spot me around campus, odds are I have either a cup of coffee or a travel mug filled to the brim with a steaming cup of java. In class today, my professor asked me to do the math and figure out how many cups of coffee I’ve had so far this semester, and the number came out to around 315 with a margin of error of around 15. I grind my own beans, I use a French press, I revel in my knowledge of how to make the best cup of coffee (a very true statement). But how does coffee get us going? What is it about caffeine that makes college kids so dependent on the stuff that it’s almost like an addiction? Look no further, you caffeinated heaps of procrastination, because I’ve done the research for you!


Meet Adenosine. Adenosine is not your friend. A study shows the effects of adenosine on the brain and how it is a part of our daily lives. To sum it up, our brains slowly produce more and more adenosine as the day drags on. As this neurotransmitter binds to its receptors, we begin to feel more relaxed, even tired. Adenosine and melatonin work hand in hand to promote sleep, so in a way, I suppose adenosine actually is your friend.


This little molecule we know all too well. Behold, caffeine! Its (relatively) similar structure to adenosine means that it acts as an inhibitor to the adenosine receptors. As the caffeine binds to these receptors, the adenosine cannot and therefore we don’t have the calming effects from it and therefore become more jittery and less tired. The brain also sees these somewhat foreign molecules as a threat and triggers the adrenal gland to start producing more adrenaline to attack them. This increase in adrenaline also allows us to become more alert and causes the dependency effect.

What does this mean for cognition? Well, since caffeine imitates the effect we receive from sleeping, we basically have to look at the effects of getting enough sleep and clearing away all the accumulated adenosine. Studies show that sleep deprivation takes away from your cognitive abilities, including, but not limited to, slower reaction times, reduced fine motor skills, inability to focus attention, the list goes on, really. So when we drink caffeine, we prevent or slow down those effects and that allows us to become the A-student we’ve always wanted to be.

There is a downside to every college student’s moderate to severe (to lethal) dependency upon caffeine, however. As more and more caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors and the actual adenosine molecules can’t be absorbed, the brain creates more receptors to accommodate for this change. As a result, you end up becoming more tired in the long run because your brain requires more caffeine to have the same inhibitory effect. In fact, a study conducted by Bertil Freedhold that I couldn’t actually obtain because I don’t have a Google Books account but read the abstract for tells us that after a week-long dosage of caffeine to lab rats, the number of adenosine receptors in their tiny little brains was increased by about 25%.

So, when you reach for that 316th cup of coffee, take into consideration the fact that you’ll actually end up being more tired in the long run. Just a thought.

Daydreaming: Helpful or Harmful?

Do you ever find your mind wandering while doing boring tasks, like cleaning or laundry? Are there times when you are trying to study that you have to reread a paragraph because you were thinking of something else? Do you ever think about if daydreaming is detrimental to the task at hand, or could it possibly help cognition?

A new study at Bar-Ilan University wanted to know how daydreaming and “mind wandering” affected task success. In their experiment, a transcranial current was directed to the areas of the frontal lobe that have been found to be associated with mind wandering. Participants were asked to track and respond to numerals flashed on a computer screen and also to report on a scale of 1 to 4 of how much they were experiencing spontaneous thoughts that had nothing to do with the numeral task. The results were far from expected.

The experiment found that increased mind wandering behavior made by external stimulation actually helped success on the numeral task rather than hindering success like originally thought. One of the explanations for this was that both mind wandering and task functioning are controlled in the same areas of the brain, the frontal lobes. By stimulating the spots associated with daydreaming, task functioning may have also stimulated and increased. So in terms of this experiment, daydreaming actually increases cognition.

So how can the results of the experiment be used in the real world? The low levels of electrical stimulation could actually be therapeutic in nature for those who have low levels of neural activity. Regularly stimulating the frontal lobe to increase cognitive function could have positive long-term effects for those with low or abnormal neural activity.

Something that the Bar-Ilan University lab would like to study next is how external electrical stimulation would affect other behaviors, like multi-tasking. Would it be the same as this current study and positively help success rates, or would it negatively hinder them? That is something we will have to look for in the future.

I personally think this study is really interesting because I find myself daydreaming a lot and have always thought that it was bad. I’ve tried many things to get myself out of the habit of my mind wandering, but after reading this article it may not be such a bad thing after all. Although excessive daydreaming would probably be detrimental, it sounds like little to moderate daydreaming is actually beneficial to cognition and task performance.

So if you find yourself daydreaming, don’t fret. Let your mind wander to success.

source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150223164531.htm

Prove your mom wrong: Gaming is beneficial to cognitive development.

Do you remember when you were a child and your mom would limit your television watching time, or when she would take away your Nintendo DS, or not let you use the computer for those addicting games? As a normal child your response was always “WHY MOM?” but she always had a better answer and it almost always include something like “You could be spending this time reading, or playing outside, those video games are only making you dumber.” Do you remember? Well I am here to tell you that there is a possibility that your mom was wrong. Research has demonstrated that video games can be beneficial to cognitive development.

When people talk about video games they focus on the negative effects it has on gamers’ lives: social isolation, violence, and addiction; but very rarely do you hear anything about beneficence. As I scrolled through my twitter feed, I saw an article that Psychology Today called Cognitive Benefits of Playing Video Games. It automatically caught my attention, but the context was even more interesting.

The underlying theme of the article is to explain what aspects of the video games has a positive effect on our intelligence and why. When you engage in the activity to play video games, you are signing yourself up for a multitasking adventure, faced with obstacles that require you to overcome them in matters of second, while keeping in mind your goal and the best ways to achieve it. With this being said research has suggested that this process demonstrates long-lasting positive effects on: perception, attention, memory, and decision-making. It has demonstrated that gamers test higher on visual attention, executive function and cognitive flexibility.

When it comes to visual attention, research specifically focused on Sustained attention, impulsiveness and vigilance. This accounts for the amount of time you spend looking at a specific stimulus, while also improving your selective attention, in that sense that you are able to pay attention to many things at once. Impulsiveness accounts for ability in which you respond to the stimuli in a certain way without putting much thought into it, while also knowing that perhaps that was the best option. Also, when you play video games, and have this visual attention, and make a certain move, you need to keep an eye out for any new stimuli that may appear as a result of a past action. After all, your vision is being over stimulated in a way that games believe to be compensatory. Yet while your visual sense is being stimulated, Eichenbaum believes that gaming also has a positive effect on executive functioning, specifically in frontal lobe and the ability to make decisions, plan ahead, switch tasks, and multitasking.

I believe that a lot of these benefits can be traced to the very basic cognitive definition of elaborative rehearsal. I thought of this automatically primarily because it has been primed, but also because when I think about gaming, I think about the fact that these people are playing the same game over and over again. So they are repeating the information but in a way that is meaningful: learning what to do from previous experience. On another note, I thought about unintentional learning, the idea that they do not think they are learning, much less sitting in front of a book on how to successfully accomplish the goal of the game. Instead, they are thinking they are engaging in this activity for fun and not doing any precious research on how to accomplish the goal. In my perspective, gaming can help you to think faster on your toes, while taking into consideration the best available option.

If you are anything like me, you like to prove people wrong. So take advantage of this opportunity, call your mom, and tell her that she was wrong. Also keep this in mind, when you have kids of your own. Save yourself from that call from tem telling you that you were wrong.

If you want to read some more about this topic, here are the links.

Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201502/cognitive-benefits-playing-video-games

Research: http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/7-1-article-video-games.pdf

Busting Bilingualism

Anyone who knows me should know that I start salivating whenever I even hear the word “language.” Those who know me even better know that I speak 4 languages, some more fluently than others. Whenever I see articles that attest to the fact that those individuals who are talented enough to master more than one language, I can’t help but get a little excited because it makes me feel special. I mean, who wouldn’t? However, is there really a correlation between multilingualism and cognitive performance?

My interest in multilingualism was sparked when I watched this video by a not-too-famous YouTuber. Spoiler alert: she’s not actually speaking those languages, that’s what we in the industry call “gibberish.” So I got to thinking about how she must be cognitively advantaged if she can even feign knowledge of all of those languages. However, a later video of hers disproves this. So I did some research.

An experiment conducted by Simon and Wolf in 1963 put bilinguals and monolinguals to the test in cognitive performance. In their task, participants were presented with a color and a shape on one side of a screen. If the figure was red, they had to push a button on the right side of the keyboard. If it was blue, a button on the left was pressed. The experiment varied in congruent and non-congruent trials where sometimes the color and the side of the screen it was presented on were similar, and sometimes that was not the case. The experiment showed that both types of participants performed equally, disproving that cognitive function was superior in bilingual people. This task was performed with people of varying levels of multilingual proficiency. For example, one trial consisted of native English speakers, native English speakers who also spoke Spanish, and English-Spanish interpreters whose jobs require them to be fluent in multiple languages. All participants performed the same regardless of level of proficiency in multiple languages.

Furthermore, research has shown that the level of proficiency in basic lexical tasks is decreased across languages in bilingual participants. Time and attention are divided between the two languages, so the learner doesn’t go as in-depth into the language as monolingual speakers of the same language do. In a fluency test, participants were given a letter or category and one minute to name as many words as possible either beginning with the letter or in the category. At the end of the minute, bilingual participants showed a much lower total number of words said than their monolingual counterparts.

So the next time you think that learning a language will help you in the workplace, you need to weigh in on the good, the bad, and the ugly of being multilingual. Yes, you’ll be able to communicate with several different types of people, but does the benefit really outweigh the cognitive cost?

Woman with Super Vision

The article that I found falls into the category of cognition because of how it relates to the mental process of receiving knowledge through one of the five senses; our sight. The retina is the beginning of visual information processing, and it is here that light hits light sensitive cells known as receptors. These receptors are shaped like rods and cones (the rods being much bigger), and they are what turn the light into nerve impulses that are then transported to the cortex of the brain by the optic nerve.

Nearly everyone has three types of cone cells that distinguish different bandwidths of light. The combination of these signals determine the color we see reflecting off of an object. Despite the fact that our sensitivity to these cells differ from one another, one person’s perception of color tends to match the perception of others. It was thought that being color blind was the only anomaly to this process of color (people who have a hard time differentiating certain colors because of a faulty cone in the retina), but a theory has suggested that an extra cone could produce the opposite effect and allow a person to see multiple variations of the colors we already see. This fourth cone is seen in different animals, such as zebra-finches and goldfish.


The article is about a woman named Concetta Antico who has tetrachromacy; a genetic condition in which the development of the retinas is affected by a specific gene variation, and results in her having four cones. What may seem like a solid color to the rest of us, can appear to be a multitude of colors to Antico. For example, instead of a green leaf, she sees a green leaf with red hues tracing its edges. Instead of a dark gray shadow, she sees a shadow filled with “lilac and turquoise and blue”. Apparently, Antico can see 99 MILLION more hues than the rest of us who are stuck with trichromatic vision (three cones). Luckily, Antico is an artist. Through her paintings she hopes to give people a glimpse into her world of colors, allowing them to experience the beauty that they’re missing out on.

On the left is Antico's painting of what she sees. On the right is the same image, but to the normal eye.

Tetrochromatic Vision vs. Trichromatic Vision

The original article I found seemed very interesting and eye catching, but the actual information it gives about how our vision works didn’t seem to be strong enough evidence due to the little information it gave. However, I found a second article, that mentions the same woman, on BBC.com that goes into great detail about tetrachromacy in humans, and the research behind it. This second article also gives more information about Antico; how grocery shopping is a nightmare because of all the loud colors, and how her favorite color is white because it’s the most calm, yet still beautiful.

I thought it was interesting that tetrachromacy is thought to be a condition only found in women. The thought process behind this is that our red and green cones are found in a gene that only lies on the X chromosome. Since women have two X chromosomes, they are able to hold two separate versions of this same gene. It’s estimated that 12% of the female population are tetrochromats.

Artificial Intelligence: Positive or Negative change?

The human brain is undeniably something extraordinary. Weighing at just an average of 3 pounds, the brain is the mastermind behind everything that humans do. Cognitive Psychology is the study of knowledge, its creation, and its uses. Understandably enough, the brain, which is the source of all knowledge, is the most essential part of this study. Now imagine an artificially man made brain that allows non-human, non-living things, to think and feel like just like humans.

Perhaps you have wondered and wanted to know more about the information behind popular Hollywood movies such as “iRobot” starring Will Smith or “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” starring Haley Joel Osment. These types of movies feature entities or beings that were artificially created by man to possess human-like qualities such as intelligence, emotions, and feelings. Could those actually translate into and happen in real life?

Artificial intelligence is defined as the attempt to artificially create cognitive beings that can think and feel very much like humans. As technology continues to advance more and more each day, it is undeniable that the idea of creating artificial intelligence has most likely crossed the minds of scientists and the general public at least once.

As one would predict, our knowledge of artificial intelligence and the questions that will arise as we acquire more knowledge about it are highly positively correlated. That is, as our knowledge of artificial intelligence increases so will the questions we have that are left unanswered. Is it possible, or even more, is it even a good idea in the first place to create such beings that possess such subjective qualities, which are universally known to differentiate humans from other living things? What happens in instances, such as in the movie “iRobot”, when these beings start to possess more and more intelligence, which then threatens the existence of humans? Do we, as the general public, have an incorrect perceived notion of what the effects of artificial intelligence could potentially bring to us because of Hollywood movies such as “iRobot” and “Terminator”? Yes and no.

This video clip highlights the opinion of Stephen Hawking, a well-known physicist, on the exponential development of artificial intelligence.


He mentions that although very useful, “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete.” This statement from a highly influential and respected physicist may confirm our fears of such movies. It IS possible for artificial intelligence to develop faster than the human brain ever could and for it to threaten the mere existence of the human population.

However, on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, one could not deny the advantages that artificial intelligence has contributed to the human race to help us live much more convenient lives. This TED talk given by Andre LeBlanc mentions some fears associated with artificial intelligence but highlights more all the advantages that the advancement of artificial intelligence has contributed to the human race, as well as where it is headed in the future.


As part of the general public who is affected by technology everyday, personally, I don’t think it would end on the most drastic side of each spectrum. It is not something as simple as good or bad. Technology continues to advance everyday- yes. However, unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure whether artificial intelligence is headed in a positive or negative direction. Only time can tell.

Technology and Cognition: Helpful or Harmful?


Personal Technology in Class

The availability and practicality of technology has increased drastically in the last few decades alone. As the development of personal devices has progressed, and social media has increased in popularity, young people are increasingly sucked into a virtual world. This begs the question, is technology hampering or helping us? Especially in a class setting, is it problematic that students are continually “plugged into” their devices and networks? Is it distracting them or providing new and unique ways for them to connect with information?

An article in the student newspaper of Texas Tech connected with students and professors to assess their opinions regarding technology and learning. There are two basic positions. First, the article discusses the negative aspects of technology in class. Several students say that having their phones available to them in study time is detrimental to their attention and efficiency. Not only do students misjudge their own ability to multitask, but they also find themselves going to their phones for distraction when they’re bored in class, or between ideas in an essay. Secondarily, the article discusses the way that personal technology can be helpful to learning. It can provide helpful study tools, such as providing music (although studies looking at music and studying have mixed results, music can often increase positive mood while studying). More significantly, it connects students with a vast pool of information. With just a few taps, students have a world of data and research at their fingertips. Overall, the article doesn’t pass judgement on technology in the classroom, but simply interviews and presents various opinions.

The cognitive ideas behind this article include the idea of parallel processing vs. serial processing. We know that the human mind is capable of doing multiple things at once on a neural level. However, this does not mean that we are good at multitasking. Research has shown that it is very difficult for us to focus consciously on multiple things at once. A specific study cites how those individuals who were heavy media multitaskers (those who use more than one type of media at once were not actually able to multitask on cognitive tasks. Another issue with technology in the classroom addressed in this article is it’s effect on how we relate to others. This study discusses the social distancing that occurs when individuals make excessive use of the internet. Could this have something to do with the lack of involvement that occurs with technology-addicted students? Students who are already prone to social anxiety or shyness seem more likely to be addicted to the Internet. Perhaps these students are the ones that “hide” in their technology instead of participating in class discussions.

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

Adaptive Communication Technology in the Classroom

While I think that this article prompts interesting discussions, I was concerned that the article didn’t bring up several important aspects of technology in the classroom. First, it did not discuss the use of technology for adaptation and accessibility in communication. How we communicate is certainly an important aspect of cognitive psychology. My younger brother has autism and Down syndrome, and he has made progress in his communication since he began using iPads, Smartboards, and other adaptive technology. The use of images and switches and recorded voice to assist him in communicating in class has been incredibly helpful. Second, the article doesn’t mention the use of technology as a memory aide. I have known many students who use flashcard apps to practice memorization. These apps quiz you on information and cycle through the ones you struggle with. It would be interesting to look into the effectiveness of technology such as this, and how students feel about it.

What do you you all think? Does having access to technology help or harm your cognitive functions in class?

Marijuana Use Hastens Onset of Schizophrenia

Marijuana use


Schizophrenia is one of the most well-known and perhaps the most misunderstood mental disease to the layperson. However, with the new knowledge stated in the above article and the new laws legalizing the use of Marijuana, we must understand what we may be getting ourselves into.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am in favor of the legalization of Marijuana so long as there are other arguably worse drugs that are legal…and no, I do not partake and I’ve never had a desire to; which means I do not have a vested interest in the ultimate outcome of this policy.

When I mention Schizophrenia, most individuals I talk to bring up the movie A Beautiful Mind and bring up hallucinations. They also typically throw in the “Crazy” word at some point with the occasional “really” in front of it. While this can be true for some individuals, what is talked about less is the cognitive aspect of it all. After all, for these people THIS is their reality; it’s not just “something in the heads” to them, these things really do exist. Working in a mental health facility, I’ve witnessed what these individuals have to go through weekly.


Schizophrenia affects both males and females equally. Though it is found in all socioeconomic groups, it shows up more within the lower levels. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they start off poor, but for reasons we will discuss later, they may just end up in a worse position. Additionally, those of African descent are more likely to receive the diagnosis. The typical onset is in the early 20’s for males and later 20’s for females, though the range is between the ages of 18 and 30.

The effect on a person’s life could be dramatic based upon when they have their first episode. If a person is 17, they’re typically still in high school whereas a 30 year old is probably already done with college (unless you’re me). Those suffering from this disease find it hard to concentrate for obvious reasons and often get distracted from whatever they are doing. Their cognitive functioning is harmed because of this. An article done by Ronan O’Carroll suggested that verbal memory showed the greatest sign of impairment with these patients. Since most of education is verbal (lectures), one can only imagine how difficult it would be to get through school!

So, let’s get back to the original article which tells us that those individuals who use marijuana are likely to have their first episode about 2 years earlier than those who do not. If this is true, then the age range could potentially be 16 – 30 as typically marijuana users start in their mid to late teens. They also suggest that its use may trigger schizophrenia in those individuals that wouldn’t develop it otherwise.

As adolescence is a critical time for development within the brain. Potentially, the author suggests, the use of the drug could have an effect on the maturation of certain functions within the brain. Some may argue that 2 years is not a whole lot of time, however, 2 years of extra development could mean a lot. Two years could mean that the person has a diploma and is that much more employable and it could even mean finishing college completely!

One of the biggest complaints about the article is that the individuals who did the study did not just look at Marijuana use; in fact, the words that were used were “Alcohol” and “Other illegal drugs. They stated in the title that it was just about Marijuana. The article goes on to state that substance abusers in general were more likely to have their first symptoms 2 years earlier. This leaves a huge question within my mind about the validity to the claim that it’s Marijuana because it could potentially be any other illegal drug.

Ultimately, if these results are true for Marijuana use, the potential consequences could be devastating on an individual level. It is clear that this research needs to be refined to distinguish between the different types of drugs there are. If this holds true for Marijuana, then we must prepare for the potential consequences. For example, funding mental health hospitals to better deal with these issues, though we should be funding mental health more to begin with as it is sorely lacking and often overlooked. We must educate the populace of the potential harmful effects that this could have on younger individuals. This will not guarantee anything, of course, but it will allow individuals to make a more educated decision.