“The positivists have a simple solution: the world must be divided into
that which we can say clearly and the rest, which we had better pass
over in silence. But can any one conceive of a more pointless
philosophy, seeing that what we can say clearly amounts to next to
nothing? If we omitted all that is unclear we would probably be left
with completely uninteresting and trivial tautologies.”
“Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson
If you’re interested in neuroscience or psychology, I’d highly reccomend any book by Oliver Sacks! I get asked a lot about books to read so you can also check out this video I made with my top 7 and this masterpost which includes websites where you can learn more!
For centuries, physicians have been fascinated by the many manifestations of migraine, and especially by the visual hallucinations or auras- similar in some ways to those induced by hallucinogenic drugs or deliria–which often precede a migraine.
Dr. Sacks describes these hallucinatory constants, and what they reveal about the working of the brain.
Awakenings is the remarkable account of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen in a decades-long sleep, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, “awakening” effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of these individuals, the stories of their lives, and the extraordinary transformations they underwent with treatment.
3. The Island of The Color Blind
Oliver Sacks has always been fascinated by islands, and this book is an account of his work with an isolated community of islanders born totally colorblind. He listens to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow.
4. Uncle Tungsten
A book about Sacks’ childood;
his discovery of biology, his departure from his childhood love of chemistry and, at age 14, a new understanding that he would become a doctor.
5. An Anthropologist on Mars
This book talks about 7 seemingly paradoxical neurological conditions: including a surgeon consumed by the compulsive tics of Tourette’s Syndrome except when he is operating; an artist who loses all sense of color in a car accident, but finds a new sensibility and creative power in black and white; and an autistic professor who has great difficulty deciphering the simplest social exchange between humans, but has built a career out of her intuitive understanding of animal behavior.
6. Seeing Voices
A journey into the world of deaf culture, and the neurological and social underpinnings of the remarkable visual language of the congenitally deaf. Sacks writes “The existence of a visual language, Sign, and the visual intelligence that goes with its acquisition, shows us that the brain is rich in potentials we would scarcely have guessed of, shows us the almost unlimited resource of the human organism when it is faced with the new and must adapt.”
6 Ways to Improve Your Study Habits That Are Backed by Science
Study in the same format that your test will be.
The research: In a study done by
Morris & Coworkers, participants’ retrieval performance, which was a
rhyming task, depended on whether or not their encoding task was that of
processing for meaning or for rhyming.
In other words, participants who had an encoding task that required
processing for rhyming had a better retrieval performance than did participants
who had an encoding task that required processing for meaning. This is known as
How it applies to your studying: If
you know your exam is going to be exclusively short answers, then study by
answering short answers and not by completing practice multiple choice tests. If
you know a set of terms will be tested in a matching format, then create a
study guide that involves you having to match terms to definitions or examples.
Match the context.
The research: Godden and Baddely really
worked hard to prove their point about encoding specificity. They had half of their participants study, or
encode, underwater while diving and half study on land. Recall for all participants was underwater
and those from the diving condition had a higher recall than those who studied
How it applies to your studying: Study in
the same room that your exam will be in.
If your exam is in the same room as your class, it’s even more
Match your internal state.
The research: Eich and Metcalfe measured
the impact of state-dependent learning by having subjects listen to happy or
sad music and think thoughts that matched the mood of the music. They rated their mood and once it reached
“very pleasant” or “very unpleasant”, the encoding aspect of the study began
and they studied lists of words. The
participants returned two days later, followed the same procedure to put them
in happy or sad moods, and were then given a memory test. Those whose mood at retrieval matched their
mood at encoding had higher rates of recall.
How it applies to your studying: Try to
match your moods when studying with your mood during your exam. This does not mean stress yourself out at all
times, but if you’re relaxed and content when studying and during the exam,
that is better than being sad while studying but content during the exam.
Relate the material to yourself.
The research: Rogers and coworkers
presented participants with a question for 3 seconds and then a word who then
had to answer if the word answered the question or not. Questions included “Printed in small case?
Rhymes with happy? Means the same as happy? Describes you?” During recall tests, subjects remembered 25%
more words that they had rated as describing themselves, as compared to only 5%
recall for size, 8% for rhyme, and 14% for meaning. This is known as the
How it applies to your studying: Try to
find things in your material to remind them of you. For instance, I had an exam on the endocrine
system recently and my dog has an endocrine disorder so I related the flow of
hormones to my dog. By writing this article, I’m relating long term memory to
myself in preparation for my Cognition exam.
Use visual images.
The research: Bower and Winzenz used
paired-associate learning (a list of word pairs is presented) and later
presented only the first word.
Participants were tasked with recalling the word it was paired
with. One group was instructed to
silently repeat the pairs while the other group was told to make a mental image
of the word pairs interacting. Subjects
who created visual mental images remembered twice as many word pairs than those
who silently repeated words.
How it applies to your studying: Assign
different concepts to different things in the room. This works whether you are studying in the
exam room or if you’re studying in your dorm.
If I were doing this for my bio exam, I’d “hang up” the idea of the
systemic and pulmonary circuits of the heart in my closet, put the idea of
homeotherms and poikilotherms on my key hook, and microwave the concept of
action potentials, etc.
The research: Muller and Pilzecker had two
groups of participants; one group learned one list of words and immediately
learned a second list while the other group learned one list of words, waited
six minutes, and then learned the second list.
When asked to recall the first list of words, the six minute delay group
were able to recall 48% more than the immediate group. By having a delay, it allowed for the
formation of a stable memory of the first list, otherwise known as
How it applies to your studying: Study in
chunks of time. Don’t stay up all night
studying! Not only is it bad for your health, but it also disrupts the
consolidation of memories. Instead,
study for smaller amounts of time and take short breaks. Take a 15 minute walk, stretch, read a book,
watch a Youtube video, etc. But don’t
study all in one shot. A 48% increase in
recall could do wonders for your grade!
“Penny” Patterson (b. 1947) is an animal
psychologist, best known for her work with Koko, the gorilla that learned to
communicate through signs. She taught Koko more than 1000 signs of a modified
version of American Sign Language, which she dubbed “Gorilla Sign Language”,
greatly advancing research in animal behaviour and linguistics, and
Dr Patterson got her PhD from Stanford University in
1972, presenting her work with Koko. She is now the President and Research Director
of the Gorilla Foundation, as well as a professor of psychology at the Santa
Phineas Gage is one of the most famous patients in the history of neuroscience. He was 25 years old when he experienced a serious accident at his work place, where a tamping iron was shot through his head - entering under his eye socket at exiting through the top of his head - after an explosive charge went off. The tamping iron was over a metre long, and after exiting Gage’s head landed 25m away.
Initially Gage collapsed and went into minor convlusions, but recovered quickly and was able to speak after a few minutes. He walked with little assistance to an ox-cart and was brought to a nearby physician. Initially the physician did not believe his story because he was in such good condition, but was convinced when:
Mr. G. got up and vomited; the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain, which fell upon the floor.
Gage exhibited a number of dramatic behavioural changes following the accident. Harlow, the physician who initially treated Gage, described this change “He is fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previously his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or advice when it conflicts with his desires”. However the surgeon Henry Jacob Bigelow described his condition as improving over the course of recovery, stated he was “quite recovered in faculties of body and mind”. This may have been early evidence of neural plasticity. This recovery was also reported by a physician who knew Gage while he lived in Chile, who described his ability to hold on a full time job as a Concord coach driver, a job that required exceptional social skills.
Gage’s neurological deficits following his traumatic brain injury is thought to have been exaggerated and distorted over the course of history, to the point that he is often portrayed as a ‘psychopath’. Scientific analysis of the historical accounts of Gage’s life following his accident, namely by the psychologist Malcolm Macmillan, find that these distorted accounts are most likely untrue, and that Gage made a very good recovery.
Post-mortem analysis of the Gage case concluded that it was the left frontal lobe that was damaged in the accident, although further neurological damage may have resulted from infection. Combined examination of the Phineas Gage case with the other famous cases of Tan and H.M. have concluded that social behaviour, memory, and language are dependent on the co-ordination of a number of different brain areas rather than a single region.
Schizophrenia is a familiar term within the mental health community. While the diagnosis itself is relatively rare when compared to the general community, schizophrenia has become a misconceived and blanket term for a variety of different diagnoses.
In reality there is: schizophrenia, schizoid, schizotypal, schizophreniform, and schizoaffective disorder. Sadly, and all too often, these disorders and their distinct differences are not recognized. So without further ado, here is a <brief> breakdown of the different disorders and their specific diagnoses/symptoms:
Schizophrenia: Easily the most recognized and commonly-used term, schizophrenia is diagnosed when a client has at least 2 of the following symptoms:
Disorganized of catatonic behavior
At least one of the symptoms has to be delusions, hallucinations or disorganized speech. Additonally, schizophrenia is only diagnosed if symptoms have been present for at least six months.
Schizophreniform: Literally the exact same as schizophrenia, however symptoms have been present for less than six months but at least one month.
Schizoaffective: Again, all the same criteria of schizophrenia, except there must also be evidence of an intermittent (it’s not always present) mood disorder. A mood disorder may consist of a major depressive episode, a manic episode, or a mixed episode - in which both depressive and manic symptoms present. The most common example I have seen/used is somebody with symptoms of Bipolar and Schizophrenia (it’s quite a fun combination, as you can imagine).
Schizotypal: This is actually a chronic personality disorder first and foremost. Therefore most of the symptoms affect - you guessed it- the individual’s personality. The official diagnosis criteria include:
Significant impairments in personality functioning as shown by:
Impairments in self functioning:
Identity: Confused boundaries between self and others; distorted self-concept; emotional expression often not congruent with context or internal experience.
Self-direction: Unrealistic or incoherent goals; no clear set of internal standards.
Impairments in interpersonal functioning: i.e. empathy, romantic interest
Pathological personality traits in the following domains:
Psychoticism - eccentric behaviors, cognitive dysregulation, and unusual beliefs or experiences
Detachment - i.e. withdrawal
Negative Affectivity - i.e.anhedonia, “void of emotions”
Schizoid: Once again, a personality disorder. The criteria for this disorder, according the DSM-5 are:
Significant impairments (i.e., mild impairment or greater) in self
(identity or self-direction) and interpersonal (empathy or intimacy)
One or more pathological personality trait
domains OR specific trait facets within domains, considering ALL of the
Detachment - few, if many personal/close relationships
Disinhibition vs. Compulsivity
And of course with just about any and every disorder in the DSM - these symptoms can not be the result of drugs/alcohol/medications, and they must have some sort of impairment on the individual’s social or occupational functioning in order to be a qualifying diagnosis.