Knowledge is a Gift


Since it’s Christmas and Chinese New Year season, I decided that you all should give the gift of knowledge!!! WOOT WOOT!

Your task is to educate your classmates on the power of psychology!  You need to reflect on the following learning outcomes form the Biological Level of Analysis and create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to educate your fellow students:

  1. Environmental affect on physiology (brain plasticity)
  2. Biological correlates of addiction (avoid adderral perhaps?)
  3. Interaction between Cognition and Physiology on behavior (meditation / mindfulness)
  4. Extent to which genetics influence behavior

Your explicit assignment is linked here: biological-level-of-analysis-psa


Election Day Reading!


Since we’ll be in the PAC watching the returns, here are two articles you should read between prognostications! Be ready to discuss both next class!

The Brains of Buddhists: A great Atlantic Piece elucidating the work of Richard Davidson. Excellent for LOs of evaluating coping strategies of stress as well as BLOA cognitive effect on physiological process!

Generation Adderall: Really interesting New York Times piece by a former Adderall addict

Examine One Interaction b/t cognition and Physiology

In order to address this learning outcome, we’ll look at studies by Richard Davidson of the AMAZING UW-Madison.  This one from 2004 in which he analyzed the brain waves of monks versus non meditating indivuduals and found that Monks produced more gamma waves which contribute to increasing grey matter in the brain:

Years ago, he even famously scanned the brain of the Dalai Llama. You can read the ways in which the Dalai Llama’s brain are different here:

Additional research by Davidson and colleagues is found below…this very recent study (2013) found that 8 weeks of mindfulness practice reduced the body’s stress response significantly:

Additionally, Davidson conducted research with others that found gene expression altered as a result of mindfulness:

Baboon Bullies; Stress and Physiology

Professor Robert Sapolsky of Stanford with one of his subjects

Read the article linked below discussing the work of Robert Sapolsky and his research into Baboon Hierarchies, the hormone cortisol, stress response and the environment’s effect on physiology below:

Spolsky article on stress

If you don’t like the PDF linked above, you can read the online version here:

**We’ll discuss how the contents affect our understanding of psychology in general, as well as the BLOA learning outcomes in particular next class!!!***

2 Effects of the Environment on Physiological Processes

The first study you’ll need to know is Sapolsky’s work with baboons and the physiological effects environmental stressors have on the release of cortisol (see linked post):

**The other study you’ll want to know in order to address this learning outcome completely is Rosenweig and Bennet’s study from 1972 involving Rats and environment**  In this study they placed rats in either a stimulating environment or non stimulating environment for 30 or 60 days. They were then killed, and lesioned. Researchers found that the rats who spent time in the stimulating environments had increased thickness in the cerebral cortex area of the brain**

Why We’re Smart and Can I Get Smarter?

UPDATED ASSIGNMENT SHEET: Intelligence Essential Question PBL

You’re concerned with your intelligence. You probably, erroneously, even attach your self esteem to your academic reported level of intelligence. You believe intelligence is the key to your future happiness (when you really should be focused on your present happiness anyway…).  You care about intelligence.  So, it would follow, you’d care to understand how you were blessed (or stuck) with the intelligence you have or if that previous statement is completely absurd!  Perhaps intelligence is not something you’re blessed or cursed with but rather something that you cultivate.

Your task is to discover the answer.  Is intelligence fixed?  Is it fluid?  Can we control it?  Are there some aspects of intelligence we can control but others we cannot?  Your job is to figure it out ! So download the learning helper above and begin your investigative work into the realm of intelligence!

Brain Localization

“Examine one study related to localization of function in the brain” is a learning outcome in the biological level of analysis (BLOA).

It is VERY important to understand that as Dr. LeDoux, Neuroscientist at NYU and director of the Emotional Brain Institute, says we must:

“Be suspicious of any statement that says a brain area is a center responsible for some function. The notion of functions being products of brain areas or centers is left over from the days when most evidence about brain function was based on the effects of brain lesions localized to specific areas. Today, we think of functions as products of systems rather than of areas. Neurons in areas contribute because they are part of a system”

But, having said that, I.B wants you to understand that certain brain regions are INTEGRAL parts of a SYSTEM.

We’ll examine two case studies to address this learning outcome: S.M. and H.M.

H.M — The Man With No New Memories

Read the post humous description of H.M and his Case Study below:

Next, enter the study into your STUDY GUIDE FOR STUDIES

We’ll then watch a Scientific American Frontiers’ episode regarding memory and see some similar H.M. Cases.

Questions about H.M: 

  1.  Is the Hippocampus the sole creator of new memories?
  2. Are memories stored in the Hippocampus?
  3. What area of the brain is the Hippocampus in?
  4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Case Study of H.M?

S.M — The Woman Who Lacked a Physiological Response to Fear

Notice that I didn’t say, “The woman who had no fear.” I didn’t say this because she did not lack fear completely, but rather she lacked the physiological fear response that is created/initiated by the amygdala.  Dr. LeDoux of NYU, perhaps the most famous researcher in the world in regard to the Amygdala explains the Nuances of the Amygdala and fear here:

S.M. was a woman who famously lacked an Amygdala due to surgery to reduce her epileptic seizures. Read about S.M here: