Category Archives: Brain

Sleep Walking

Sleep walking is a very interesting phenomenon. As the name suggests, sleep walking is the action of walking in your sleep, which typically occurs in stages 3 and 4 of the sleeping cycle. Sleepwalkers look as if they were awake, with their eyes wide open and with good sense of coordination. However, everything they do is completely unconscious to them, given that they are asleep. Once they wake up, sleepwalkers have little to no memory of what they did while they were walking around. Typically sleepwalkers perform very simple actions, but some cases have been reported where sleepwalkers have performed complex tasks such as cooking and driving. Waking up a sleepwalker is very difficult, since they are in a very deep stage of sleep. It can also be considered dangerous because the sleepwalker could get panicked and confused as to why he or she is standing up instead of being in a bed. It is very difficult to guess how many times you have sleepwalked, but sometimes the experience is so extreme that it automatically encodes in your memory. When I was eight years old, my family and I went to Brazil for the holidays. We stayed in a huge resort with wild animals such as monkeys and peacocks walking around. It was during that trip that I sleepwalked for the first time. I don’t remember the experience very well, but what I do remember is waking up in a random bench near a lake and having no idea how I had gotten there. I walked around for a while trying to locate myself, but everything was dark and scary for me. After walking for maybe thirty minutes, I finally came across the familiar hallway where our room was located. When I knocked on the door, I remember my mom freaking out because I was outside. I didn’t know I had sleepwalked until years later, so I couldn’t tell her exactly why I was outside. As far as I know that is the only time I ‘ve ever sleepwalked, and it was certainly one of the most mysterious experiences of my entire life. Nobody understands why sleepwalking happens, and it is important to take means about it since it can be very dangerous, especially if you do it in a foreign country while you’re eight years old.




2) The Book

Am I Schizophrenic?

Schizophrenia is the severe brain disorder that affects the mind. Some common behavior that results from having schizophrenia includes hallucinations, disorganized and delusional thinking, inappropriate emotions and disturbed auditory perceptions. It affects about one percent of the US adult population and is generally passed through relatives.

Unfortunately we were not aware of all this information about schizophrenia when we watched the Academy Award winning  movie, A Beautiful Mind. The movie is centered around character who has schizophrenia. When we discovered that he was schizophrenic we also were revealed that almost everything we saw him doing and everyone we saw him talking were hallucinations. This was completely shocking news. We were not very educated on the subject of schizophrenia and didn’t realize that they had extremely realistic hallucinations like that. It completely messed with our heads and we both started doubting everything in our own lives and whether it was real or not. Wondering if our lives as we knew them were only hallucinations. Since the character couldn’t distinguish between what was real and his hallucinations it was easy to believe that we too could also have it. It also did not help that the movie was based on a true story.

Now after learning more about schizophrenia I think it’s safe to say that we were being a little over dramatic and had gotten too sucked into the movie. Though we are at the age when schizophrenia commonly develops, we do not have any of the common symptoms of it like disorganized thinking. Along with neither of us have any known family members who have schizophrenia, which is good sign- being that it is commonly passed among families.

Even though the movie completely messed with our minds, it was still amazing and we learned a lot about schizophrenic behavior. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the subject and hear a story about a person who really has schizophrenic and how they live their life trying to work with it.

My Symmetrical Life

Since I became self-aware many years ago, I’ve known that I always have done things differently than all of the other kids I met.  Never being able to put a name to it, I always just put this off as everyone having quirks.  However, in class when we discussed the topic of disorders, I found one word on a lecture slide to be quite enlightening:  symmetry.  This concept was then strengthened by a story told by Dr. Wede.  The topic on which the slide and story were focused was obsessive compulsive disorder.

Thinking back on my childhood I always liked things to be symmetrical and to come in even numbers.  This may appear as trivial to some, but it was more of a way of life for me.  From refusing to eat an odd number of chicken fingers as a kid to stepping on side-walk tiles the same number of times with each foot, this concept seemed to find its way into every aspect of my life.  As a kid I was often confused about the subject, but could find comfort in the fact that no one tended to notice and that my mother shared many of these compulsions.

The aforementioned story told by our professor was about checking the lock on your door many times a night to make sure that it locked.  When living with my parents I don’t often check the lock on our door, because I never seemed to care about that as we live in a safe neighborhood.  In State College, however, I do find myself worrying about this sort of thing, most likely because it is not just my things that I have to keep safe and there is only one other person that can lock the door if it is found to be open.  Usually I can find solace if I possess a concrete memory of locking the door with some sort of time frame.

These compulsions have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, so now I don’t notice them very much if at all.  They can interfere with my life, but not nearly as much as the amount that is usually associated with a disorder.  That is why I think that my situation is less disorderly and just a slightly different way of living.

Moral Questions for Operant Conditioning in Animals

Have you ever wondered why we, as humans, measure the intelligence of other organisms by their ability to mimic the characteristics or behaviors that we exhibit? For example, consider a dog. If a dog listens well, does tricks, and obeys orders given by their owners then that dog is considered to be intelligent when compared to a dog that does not obey their owners. Now, if these two dogs are the same breed and the same age it is safe to assume that one has received training, most likely in the form of operant conditioning during their raising while the other dog did not. Does the fact that one dog was taught how to do tricks through positive reinforcement, most likely, make it more intelligent than the dog that was not given the same opportunity? I would venture to say that tricks and obeying orders does not explicitly illustrate the intelligence level of animals. I would argue that tricks and obeying orders is simply a medium which trainers and psychologists use to project the intelligence of animals into a tangible scale that most people are able to understand.

Now, the question arises: is it morally right and psychologically safe to use classical and operant conditioning methods to make animals perform tricks and obey orders that they would inherently never do in nature. Granted, domesticated animals such as service dogs serve a greater purpose than ‘rolling-over’, but take this idea and extrapolate it out from domesticated animals to organisms that truly have no place in captivity.

Consider the orca whale. For over 30 years these animals have been used as show animals for organizations like SeaWorld performing tricks for crowds of people of all ages. I would recommend watching the documentary ‘Blackfish’ in regards to the details of the orcas of SeaWorld, and for those of you who have seen it you might understand my stance a bit more clearly (Blackfish, Cowperthwaite). By nature, the orca is an extremely emotional driven animal. They live in families that live and die closer than most humans do to their families. Naturally, they are extremely intelligent and highly skilled in teamwork. A short video (hyperlink: shows how a family of orcas not only using teamwork to capture a seal, but using observational learning techniques with the children to try and show them how hunting works (Killer Whales). As we saw in class, the use of observational learning requires the use of mirror neurons which seem to only be found in organisms with high cognitive development such as primates and humans.

The heightened ability to learn through observation may have been a reason leading to making orcas show animals, but this has proven to have negative influences on the animals. In the film ‘Blackfish’, SeaWorld trainers explain how they used positive reinforcement to promote behavior and negative punishment to demote behaviors. On the surface this worked to train the animals to do tricks for their performances. However, just as Pavlov’s dog would do after conditioning if the trainers would make the orca do a trick and deny it a reward they would get frustrated. This frustration has led to violence and, in cases, the death of trainers.

Unfortunately, the moral questions continue. As stated before, orcas are very family based creatures. When taken from their homes and dumped into a cage with strange whales they can quickly begin to show signs of anxiety. There are cases where this anxiety has led to violence against other whales and to trainers. Over time, this anxiety has led to what seems to be similar to antisocial personality disorders and even depression. Once again I would highly recommend watching the documentary ‘Blackfish’ to get a sense of what I have talked about.

I hope this has sparked some thought into why we as humans find it necessary to psychologically shape other creatures when given the chance. In the case of orcas this forced conditioning has led to possible psychological disorders and in the case of domesticated animals it has led to the near complete dependence on humans for survival.

I encourage comments, thoughts, and criticisms.


Works Cited:

Blackfish. Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Dogwoof, 2013. Film.

“Killer Whales “Gang Up” to Capture Seal.” Killer Whales “Gang Up” to Capture Seal. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2014.

Observational Learning and Children

The concept of observational learning is what makes higher-level animals different from others in the animal kingdom. Observational learning is the ability to learn a concept without direct experience. The observer will simply learn through seeing the task performed.  There are certain neurons within the brain that scientists have discovered while studying observational learning. These neurons were deemed mirror neurons. For someone to engage in observational learning, they need to include four elements into their learning process. First, they must be paying attention and notice the task being performed. Next, they must properly encode the memory of how the procedure or element is performed.  After that, they must be able to properly imitate, or be able to do the task properly. Finally, and often the most important concept, the learner must be motivated, or have the desire to learn.

As discussed in class, children are great observational learners. One experiment in particular, Bandura’s experiment, showcases this well.  In the experiment, an adult proceeded to hit a BoBo doll violently with a hammer and mallet. Next a child would enter the room, and perform the same exact task that the adult has previously displayed. This rectifies that children are great observational learners. This is why often when working with children you must watch how you act, what you say, and how you interact with co-workers.

I work at a summer camp full-time during the summer with about five other counselors. Most of us know how to act properly in front of the kids, but one person in particular displays questionable behavior in front of the children. He often uses foul language and talks about adult topics in front of the campers. But worst of all, he displays rough behavior while playing in the pool.  Rough housing in the water is a very dangerous act to engage in.  I noticed that when he displays this behavior, the campers soon after catch on, and start pushing, shoving and tugging at others while in the water.  Not only does this put the kids and others in dangers, but it also makes reprimanded the children a lot more difficult. Since they saw someone in authority perform this act, they think that it is acceptable, and often argue this when getting scolded by another counselor.

Overall, observational learning is often taken for granted by humans because it comes so naturally to us. It also puts us higher above other animals in the animal kingdom in regards to our learning abilities. Observational learning helps us learn new ideas quickly but this is also a negative when it comes to children picking up bad behaviors when exhibited by adults.

Classical conditioning

John Brzozowski

Classical Conditioning

            During class we learned about classical conditioning and the results of the experiment done by Pavlov. The theory of classical conditioning has to do with stimulus and responses or reflexes. In his study he was able to pair the sound of a metronome with the presentation of food; which elicited the unconditioned response of salivation by the dogs. He was then able to have this unconditioned response by the dogs, without the unconditioned stimulus of the food, by just playing the metronome. Therefore the dogs learned to respond to the sound because they expected it to be immediately followed by the unconditioned stimulus, being the food.

After going over this in class I tried to look back in my life to see if there was any time where I either unknowingly used classical conditioning on someone or had it done to me without my knowledge. I could not think of anything, but my roommate who takes the same class had an idea. He decided to use this method to condition me into having an unconditioned response without the unconditioned stimulus. His conditioned stimulus was him saying the words, “John, mint!” which would then be followed by him throwing a small mint at me with great force and accuracy. This would elicit the unconditioned response of me cringing. He did this enough times so that when he no longer paired the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus together, he could still get the response he intended. He had effectively conditioned me to respond without the correct stimulus. I realized what he was doing after the first time he had not paired the two stimuli together and therefore the extinction period was not very long. But effectively, we proved the findings of Pavlov to be true.

False Memories

A couple of years ago I was doing the laundry when my sister yelled down to me that her bed was shaking. Since she is typically one to exaggerate, I did not think much of it and told her to calm down. In her classic dramatic fashion, she yelled that she thought there was an animal under her bed and for me to come upstairs. By the time I got up there, the shaking had stopped, which led me to believe I had been right the entire time. Within minutes everyone was posting on Facebook about their houses shaking and asking if anyone else had felt it, and within an hour they were reporting on the news that a minor earthquake had happened in the Eastern United States. I felt like an idiot for making such a mockery of my sister, because she had been right.

Since I was in the laundry room with bother the washer and dryer running, I did not notice the shake at the time. However, whenever I recall the experience, I remember feeling the floor shaking. If the shaking that my sister felt had just turned out to be her being dramatic, I would remember the story as just that. However, since the shaking did end up being an earthquake, I falsely remember feeling a shaking sensation, too.

This memory phenomenon, known as false memories, has to do with your memories being affected by outside sources, such as wording, being told a story about that memory, etc. In my example, the earthquake taking place made me create a false memory of the house shaking. In other examples, such as an eye witness reporting a crime, words used by the questioner to the witness could affect their memory. If the questioner asks a witness of a car accident “Which car smashed into the other?” the witness may remember a small fender bender as a way more severe accident. Because of this, many courts do not count eye witness testimonies as evidence for or against a crime. Another example is memories from childhood. While many of us don’t have our first actual memories before three years old, someone may claim they remember their first birthday party because they have been repeatedly told stories about the event from older relatives who were there.

Though we can create false memories, many of our memories are not false. Actually, most of them are true. Our memory is a very powerful thing and is not easily swayed, but when it is, false memories come into play.



Proactive Interference


Memory can be tricky at times, especially when you are learning something that is similar to something you have learned in the past. For example, when I moved to the United States three years ago I had to make a lot of changes in my life, one of them being getting a new phone number.  Having had the same number for over two years made it difficult for me to adapt to my new phone. When I started making friends in high school, I sometimes gave them my old phone number because my brain was confusing it with my new one. There are a lot of people that I didn’t get the chance to know very well because they had no way of contacting me, since they had the wrong phone number. It wasn’t until the end of my first semester in my new high school that I memorized my new number completely, and finally stopped mixing it up with my old one. This type of confusion is called proactive interference, which is one of the two main types of interference where the memories we try to create get confused with memories we have from the past. In other words, proactive interference is experiencing difficulty in learning or memorizing something new due to information we already know. Confusing my new phone number with my old one is one example of proactive interference because the information I learned before (my old number), kept interfering with my ability to memorize the new information (my new number). Since both memories were similar, my brain confused the new one with the old one for almost one semester until I finally adapted. Another example of proactive interference would be when teachers mix up their student’s names because they get them confused with the names of students they have had in the past. Interference is a very common aspect of the human memory, especially when it comes to memorizing two very similar things. The old memory has been in your brain for a longer period of time than the new one, which makes it harder for you to adapt since your brain will keep remembering the similar information you already know. It is a matter of time and memory exercises for your brain to fully grasp the new memory and stop confusing it with the old one.

Deep Processing Before Battle

I want to talk about the theories behind completing an arduous task, studying for an exam. As a college student, your life, career and future depends on these three headed monsters called assessments. So what do we do? We slay those filthy creatures with whichever means possible and with whatever minimal time we have.

What is the best way to study, though? Studies have actually been conducted on studying. As much as that sounds like an inception, study-ception if you will, it is true. Every current college student, or so it appears to those pulling all nighters in the patee library (the ones napping on their books and desks), that cramming and staying up extra late is the sword to which the exam monster can be mutilated. However, the information you are “retaining” is simply and most likely just not sticking. Instead of showing up to battle the exam wielding a sword and a good looking companion, you show up with a large coffee and hefty eye baggage. It might have just been a more strategic move to bring a pillow and blanket and just sleep on the damn exam. Believe me, I’ve been there.

That lack of sleep affects your ability to perform well on the exam. I’ve done it before; many have. Although you were able to study thru all the material and it could be fresh in your mind (as fresh as those ragged pajamas you’re wearing and haven’t washed since you bought them), you will most certainly make stupid mistakes. We’re talking, screwing up two plus two on a calculus exam-stupid.

So we know now that it’s not about the quantity of studying but rather the quality of studying you participate in. We talked about many strategies in our psych class for proper studying. No, sleeping in the library wasn’t one of them… (Although sleeping on the couches in the business building should be one. Those are comfy, anyone concur?) We talked about the idea of creating visual representation of the information you’re reviewing and/or learning. Caution: this isn’t referring to some people’s ability to be “visual learners”, since this style of learning hasn’t been shown to actually exist.

Concept maps are good to help show relationships between the information you understand and others you may not. This is what we learned to be called deep processing. Think about it for a second… If you are spending hours studying flashcards and memorizing individual words and phrases, when it comes to exam slaying, your mind may be fumbling over words you may forget and may not be able to think about the context of the concept.

So here’s the gameplay. We need to create concept maps all the time with our course material. Professor Wede even suggested doing this while note taking as well, which gives the nod to pencil and paper note taking. We draw nodes with certain information or terms and connect them to other things we’ve learned. For note taking, many of this unconsciously do this, but draws arrows to notes referring to something else you have written previously. This is also another form of a concept map. I found that even relating course material with another course I did well in, and was able to actually recall information, aided my deep processing ability and allowed me to put things into perspective.

Concept maps are an ingenious idea and have proven to work. They may change from rendition to rendition but it allows one to look at information in a different light and understand the graphical and hierarchical representations of information. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours down to the last minutes of studying, periodically make concept maps throughout your learning and all throughout your studies. Put your learning into context and in such a way that your complex, unique human brain can understand it. We learned this in class but I can attest, generating concept maps is actually effective. You’ll be on your way to kicking the ass of that three headed monster we call exams.

Happy battles,

Kenny G.

My First Memory?


My First Memory


From our current understanding of memory suggests that we do not recall anything before we are four years old. It continues that if we do recall something it may not be that you actually experienced it but that because people have told it to you, you then create and fill in the details with your mind as if you really remember it happening.


This was explained more in detail with the experiment we went over, during a lecture where they did an experiment where they tried to create a memory just through talking about the one made up event mixed with multiple other real memories. This is a very interesting and somewhat powerful thing that psychologists have found out.


My first memory is of the 1996 World Series where the third basemen for the New York Yankees catches a foul ball and then celebrates as if they had won the World Series. The only reason I believe this is truly a memory and not just something told to me by my parents, is that my parents never talked to me about this because it was not a big deal in their mind.


The one problem is that I have no recollection of where I was during the event; I don’t even know if I actually watched it or if I saw it a couple years after and encoded it as if I had seen it live.  If I think really hard I can vaguely remember sitting on the couch and watching it on my fathers lap.


The problem I have now with this memory is that it is impossible for me to have this vivid of a memory because you are not supposed to remember anything before you are around 4 and I was only about 14 months at the time. So the only valid explanation is that I am just recreating it with my mind as the people in the studies did.