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Update

Hello!

Thank you to whoever is viewing this and to anyone who follows my blog or has left lovely comments on any of my posts. It has really boosted my blogging confidence! This blog has over 12,500 hits, which is rather a lot and I don’t know how that’s happened! However, I apologise again for not updating enough during the course of my undergraduate degree in Psychology. I guess on top of all the work there is to do (particularly now I’m in the process of writing my dissertation) there just isn’t enough motivation/time left to write even more about Psychology on the blog as well. Overall though, to anyone who is thinking about studying a degree in Psychology- DO IT! It is a degree that will open so many doors for you career-wise as it has such vast application. It will give you a whole new way of looking at things, make you a more empathetic and understanding person as well as boosting your self confidence. I’m coming towards the end of my degree now, with graduation very close on the horizon and I am feeling quite sad but happy too. Ready to start a new chapter in my life!

In other news,  I’ve started a food blog! You can view it here:

http://theveryhungryprocrastinator.wordpress.com/

Hopefully I’ll update this one more often…

Thanks again to everyone who’s enjoyed the blog x

The Universe, The Brain and a Mouse.

Brain scanning technology is quickly approachi...

In one of my third (and final) year university lectures last week, we were being taught about MRI  (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and our lecturer wanted to demonstrate the sheer complexity of the brain. She explained that it is easy to over simplify the brain when describing it in terms of it’s regions or in terms of neurons. A lot of psychology is concerned with pinpointing certain areas that correlate with certain functions or behaviours. But the reality is that the brain is way more complicated than that. The brain is a series of connections and pathways that strengthen and weaken and some stop working altogether (this is also a simplification). Throughout my degree, I’ve been thinking I had a good understanding of the scale and complexity of the brain until I saw the video that my lecturer showed us.

(Needs to be watched in HD)

This is a journey through a mouse’s Somatosensory cortex. A tiny portion of the mouse’s 1mm thick cortex.

Green: Thy1HYFP (Layer 5B Neuron Subset 35% of total neurons)
•Blue: Tubulin (Dendrites, Axon Cores)
•Red:SynapsinI (Synapses)
•Each red synapse contains about 100,000 protein
switches
•Six million synapses in the Assue volume shown
•At least one hundred billion synapses in the whole mouse brain
…and the human brain is of course much bigger and has hundred of trillions of synapses.
I won’t go into how they took these images as I don’t even understand it fully but if you’d like to read the paper the reference is-
Micheva, K.D.,Busse, B.L.,Weiler, N.C., O’Rourke, N., Smith, S.J, (2010). Single synapse analysis of a diverse synapse population: Proteomic imaging methods and markers. Neuron 68:639
That might give you an idea of the complexity we are dealing with here. It certainly ‘blew my mind’ as it were and also it got me thinking and daydreaming philosophically for the rest of the lecture…
The brain is sort of like the Universe isn’t it?  Each subject is at opposite ends of the spectrum: micro science and macro science but they are similar in that they have that scale of complexity that gives you a headache when you try to comprehend it.
Some physicists have apparently found evidence that the Universe is like a giant brain, which is certainly a fascinating concept! http://www.themindunleashed.org/2013/07/physicists-find-evidence-that-universe.html
I just think that picture is a beautiful example of how complex and amazing we all are!
Note to self: Stop thinking about the Universe when you should be thinking about fMRI experimental designs.

Apologies!

I haven’t written on here since last year! I’ve been so busy with year two of my Psychology degree I haven’t had much time to update the blog. I have a whole summer free now though. There has been a lot of interest in the ‘Psychology meets art’ section, particularly in the subject of creative people with mental illnesses so I hope to bring a part two very soon along with an update on what it’s like to study Psychology and everything that is interesting me at the moment!

Thank you if you are reading this. Updates soon!

Autistic Spectrum Disorder

A follow up to my previous post about Autism. Here is another fascinating documentary that focuses on the importance of understanding that everyone views the world in different ways. Exclusive footage of the process of diagnosing Autism in the UK is also shown.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01lyczl/Growing_Children_Autism/

Note: I am not sure if this link will work for those outside the UK. Apologies.
Further info: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/whats-on/tv/ou-on-the-bbc-growing-children

attitude

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” William James

Understanding Autism (mental disorders awareness)

It is currently the last week before my exams so I haven’t been able to write a proper blog post. Will be posting properly again soon! However, here is a link to a brilliant documentary on Autism by Louis Theroux. It includes very honest accounts about what life is like for families in the USA who have children with Autism. The documentary also follows the amazing children and staff at the inspirational Developmental Learning Center in Warren, New Jersey. I understand that if you are not from the UK then this link might not work- apologies!

Louis Theroux – Louis Theroux – Extreme Love – 1. Autism

Louis Theroux. Foto: Gaute Singstad.

Louis Theroux. Foto: Gaute Singstad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Famous artists who suffered from mental illness (Psychology meets Art 1)

This is the first installment of my ‘Psychology meets Art’ feature in which I expore the relationship between these two domains. This post includes a list of famous artists who are to said to have suffered from mental illness and an explanation of how I think this has influenced their work.

  1. Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh suffered from epileptic seizures as a result of the amount of absinthe he drank. Art historians have studied his personal letters and noted that experienced very depressive states, which were followed by manic episodes where he showed extreme passion and determination towards his work. Could it be that he had bi-polar disorder? Some say he may have had schizophrenia. Many have tried to diagnose him but the answer is not known. Many of his late paintings show an optimism to return to good mental health. However, the painting below; ‘Wheat field with crows’- (1890) that depicted wheat fields under troubled skies reflects his melancholy feelings of extreme loneliness. The dark sky seems to represent a feeling of overshadowing doom. It was in fact in a wheat field like this that on the 27th July 1890 Vincent Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver.

2. Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni

Michelangelo suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He would isolate himself and work on his arts for very long periods of time. He refused to ever take off his boots. He also had a very short temper and would suffer from angry outbursts towards those who offended his beliefs.

3. Georgia O’Keeffe

Reportedly had clinical depression.

4. Pablo Picasso

Was also said to have had clinical depression.

5. Jackson Pollock

American abstract artist Jackson Pollock dealt with clinical depression. He experienced a nervous breakdown in 1938 and resorted to alcohol and substance abuse in order to cope with his debilitating self-doubt and a marriage in turmoil.

6. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes

His paintings reflected his depression with themes such as absurdity, meaninglessness, physical torment and death.

7. Edvard Munch

Many of Edvard Munch’s works depicted his depressive states. His period of paintings that showed dominant women devouring weak men like vampires were as a result of his obsession with his first love.

In the early 1900’s he became an alcoholic until, in 1908, he collapsed. As he was hearing hallucinatory voices and suffering paralysis on his left side, he was persuaded to check into a private sanitarium where he reduced alcohol intake and improved his mental state.

Self-portrait Between the Clock and the Bed (1940-42) his last self portrait before he died represented the fact that he had ‘hung back from the dance of life’. He is stood rigidly and awkward as if to apologise for using space next to his paintings that he referred to as his ‘children’ as he devoted his life to them, even through bouts of depression.

The list of not just artists but creative people in general, whose lives have been affected severely by their own ill mental health, is endless. Some seek refuge from reality in their creative works and others become ill because of their obsession with their art. It is said that mental health disorders such as bi-polar are associated with manic episodes of great creativity, followed by extreme emotional low points. There is no doubt that mental states, be it highs or lows, have inspired some of the greatest artwork in history.

What are your thoughts?

Edvard Munch's Madonna

Edvard Munch's Madonna (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Understanding Aphasia (mental health disorder awareness)

Aphasia is a language disorder that causes an impairment of language ability. The first video shows Sarah Scott who suffered a stroke at the age of 18 and now has Broca’s aphasia. This means that she has difficulty articulating her words. There are many different types of aphasia: Broca’s aphasia is an example of ‘non-fluent’ aphasia; this is where the person has good comprehension but speech is not fluent. Another type of aphasia is ‘fluent’ aphasia, which is where speech is fluent but the person has difficulty conveying meaning and the speech does not make sense. Aphasia can also affect reading and writing ability. The second video shows Sarah talking about how aphasia has affected her life and includes the importance of acting ‘F.A.S.T’ to signs of a stroke. Aphasia can also occur as a result of a head injury or can develop because of a brain tumour, infection, dementia or a learning disability such as dysnomia.

Location of two brain areas that play a critic...

Location of two brain areas that play a critical role in language, Broca's area and Wernicke's area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you would like to know more you can visit the National Aphasia Association website-

http://www.aphasia.org/index.html

or the communication disability network connect-

http://www.ukconnect.org/index.aspx

Prosopagnosia – ‘face blindness’ (mental health disorder awareness)

Whilst revising the effect of damage to the parietal lobe of the brain I came across the disorder Prosopagnosia. The disorder is associated with damage to the parietal and occipital lobes of the brain. However, many people have not ever suffered from brain injury and are therefore evidence that there could be a developmental or genetic influence. The effect is an inability to recognise faces and remember new faces. The woman in this video, when asked which image shows a picture of her mother could only identify her by the colour of the jumper she is wearing. She is unable to recognise a photo of her own face either.  There is currently ongoing research being carried out in order to gain more insight about the disorder. If you would like to find out more visit:

http://prosopagnosiaresearch.org/