Author Archives: Caroline Susan Baldwin

Training my Dog

Reinforcement is anything that strengthens a behavior. There is both positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement adds something desirable to the situation that encourages that subject to repeat the behavior. A negative reinforcement removes something that is unpleasant to the subject from the situation. Both positive and negative reinforcement reward the subject. They strengthen behavior.

This is different from punishment which decreases behavior. Positive punishment gives something to the subject that the subject does not like if they do not do the correct behavior. Negative punishment is taking something away from the subject that they enjoyed.

Reinforcement has been found to a more successful way for getting subjects to repeat a certain behavior because it rewards them for doing the correct thing. Punishment is also successful, but not as much because it can only teach a subject what not to do.

I have used both reinforcement and punishment on my dog, Chloe. Electric fences are positive punishment. I used these on her to make her stop running out of our yard. If she crossed the property line she was given a small shock. After crossing once, she never did it again. A beeping noise also goes off when she gets close to the electric fence. Chloe has associated this noise with the shock (classical conditioning) and will turn around whenever she hears it. I also taught Chloe some tricks with positive reinforcement. Through shaping I was eventually able to teach Chloe how to roll over. Every time she completed the task successfully I would give her a treat (normally a piece of cheese). This turned into a problem though because I might’ve made her do the trick too many times. For a while after teaching her how to roll over, Chloe would start rolling over and over and over every time someone in my family got some cheese from the refrigerator. She wouldn’t stop until they gave her the cheese or picked her up. Once I think she did 6 or 7 spins before I stopped her. Thankfully this only lasted a few days. She stopped this dizzying habit when we stopped responding to her.

Type of Twins

My cousins are twins. They are both girls, look very similar, and have similar personalities. Growing up though my family and I had our doubts that they were identical. They both have blond hair and blue eyes, most people can’t tell them apart. But I always could and so could the rest of my family, except of my little sister, who mixes them up every time. So, they look a lot alike but they don’t look identical. They have different shoe sizes and one of the twins has more freckles than the other.

But then they also have very similar personalities. They have always played the same sports, had the same friends, and now both are pursuing a medical career at the same college, where they are both in sororities. When they are doing their own things, both tend to ask as leaders, helping others, yet put them in the room together and one always dominates and becomes the leader. At every family event, I have always noticed the same twin taking charge. If you separate them though they both take charge. Also sitting next to both of them I found one to be more sympathetic and the other more outgoing. These differences are only distinguishable when they are separated though.

So are my cousins identical or fraternal twins? Identical twins, or monozygotic twins, occur when a fertilized egg splits, creating two of the same organism. These types of twins share the same DNA and because of that are very similar. Fraternal twins, or dizygotic twins, on the other hand, come from two different eggs and two different sperm. This causes the twins to be different. They do not share the same DNA. Fraternal twins are no more alike, genetically, than other siblings, they were just born at the same time.

Learning about these differences in definition I now strongly believe my cousins are identical twins, they are too similar not to be. The differences they have that allow me to distinguish them have come from various environmental effects. Each twin has had different experiences and therefore has become their own person. One of them had a concussion while the other did not. In addition one studied in Denmark for a few weeks while the other did not. Events like these have shaped my cousins differently, so even though they are identical, they are each their own person with a unique life.

Many people have heard that humans only use 10% of their brain at any time. This however is a false statement brought about by misread data. In fact we use a lot more than that of our brain at all times. Our brain allows us to read and draw and move and think and breathe and live. But this doesn’t mean we need all of it. Many health issues require that some of the brain be removed from the patient. It is amazing that this is even possible, but there are some side effects. Patient behavior may change depending on what part of the brain was affected. I have a good friend who underwent brain surgery. She had a tumor so they removed a chunk of her frontal lobe, the part of the brain near the forehead. Ever since that surgery though she has had a horrible short term memory. She is still able to live each day like a normal person, she just has little techniques to remember small things like where she parked her car.

Photo from Google Images. This is not a CT scan of the patient I mention, but this is how their brain would look. The white is the skull, the grey is the brain, and the black is emptiness. One can see one side of the brain along with the cerebellum is present but the other hemisphere is missing.

So a person can have a piece of their brain removed and still live as a normal human, but how much of their brain can a person live without? I recently did an internship at a hospital and met many interesting patients. Perhaps the most spectacular was a patient who had brain surgery at a young age because they were suffering many dangerous seizures. How much of their brain was removed? The whole right hemisphere of their brain was taken out, that’s almost half of the brain! This procedure is no longer done today, but this patient grew up with this condition. This patient looked normal when I met them, but they had far more side effects than my friend did. They acted similar to a 12 year old and were not able to live on their own even though most people at their age lived without their parents. Apart from that though they were a completely functional person. With the effects the patient was still very nice to me and understood what was going on around them. They knew how to eat and talk and do everything a 12 year old could do. And they no longer suffered seizures. I was amazing that the patient looked normal yet on their CT scans, an imaging system similar to a MRI, one side of their head was completely dark indicating that there was no brain in the right half. The brain is an amazing thing that we use for everything, but although we use over 10% of it regularly, we are able to survive without all of it.