Category Archives: Sensation

Scared of What?

Many people in the world have phobias, things/places that they are scared of beyond belief. For example, many people have a fear of spiders otherwise known as arachnophobia.

I had some phobias before in my younger years. I was deathly afraid of spiders and heights. However I would always say “No, I’m not afraid. Are you!?” to seem manly to my friends. This never changed the fact that when I was at home by myself and saw a spider next to me, I would go to the other room, not killing it but just leaving it alone. Also, whenever presented with opportunities that involved heights like a rock wall, I did not back down. This situation was a little different. I would start the challenge but then realize how far I was from the ground, obviously not following the common advise “Don’t look down”, and freaking out while hanging on the side of a wall. Undoubtedly, I would let go or slip and return to the sweet ground once again.

Through my life I have been heavily involved with Boy Scouts. I started when I was 7 as a TIger Cub and am now an Eagle Scout with 4 Eagle Palms; I have spent many years in Scouting. Through these years, many of them have been spent in the woods with no electronics. You will be surprised how your body changes when it realizes you have no niceties anymore. You will begin to avoid things that normally you would try hard to get like Oreos for example.  Instead, you begin to crave the main meal like lasagna because you need the nutrients. Along with your body adapting comes overcoming fears, one of them being insects of all kinds. Since you are living in very close vicinity with every insect known to man, you must become very comfortable dealing with their presence in a calm fashion, otherwise you get made fun of. As you would expect spiders were included in the insect category and I have had many run ins with these creatures. I remember one time in particular where I realized that I had to overcome my fear of spiders. My friend was more afraid of spiders than I was and there was a black widow on the roof of his tent, right over where he was sleeping. That would freak out anyone but the fact still remained that we needed to remove it so we could continue sleeping. No one else was up so it left me to deal with the nuisance. I was so inclined to wake up a leader to do it for me but the amount of alarm that would raise at 3 am would be all on my shoulders and I did not want that. So I took my Pringles can and proceeded to whack the spider multiple times until it was dead. I felt bad that I killed it but I also felt vindicated that I overcame my fear.

Recently I overcame my fear of heights. My friend called me from back home and asked if I would like to celebrate his 18th birthday with him. Since we were really close friends I obviously said sure. He told me he was skydiving and would come pick me up so we can do so on a specific weekend. The height I knew I would be at was frightening but two things made me say yes. The first being that if I said I was too scared he would definitely hold that over me for a long time. The second being that I heard skydiving was one of the most exhilarating things ever to be done. So I said yes and that weekend came up and we both went to the skydiving center. He even got a package where we went an extra 3,000 ft higher so we could have more free fall. Retrospectively, I am so glad he did. That was the best experience of my life. Now I look at heights a different way. Instead of being scared, I think that if I fall, I will die quickly so I don’t worry about pain or anything.

Matthew Zackschewski – mgz5020

Taste Aversion

Andrew Kelly

Taste Aversion

Blog Post #3


In Psych 100, we just recently learned about a phenomena call taste aversion.  Taste aversion is, essentially, when a human develops some sort of reluctance towards foods or drinks if they become sick afterwards.  After learning about this in lecture, I immediately thought of a similar occurrence that I had experienced when I was younger.

When I was younger, ear infections were a very common occurrence in my life.  As many as four to five times a year, I can remember sitting in the doctor’s office, with an ear ache, just waiting for my doctor to tell me, once again, that I had an ear infection.  The more I had an ear infection, the stronger the prescription they would give me.

So there I was again, sitting in the doctors office when he came it with a new prescription.  He began to explain and elaborate how this stronger prescription would do the trick.  However, these pills were far different than the ones I had previously taken.  They were much larger, and had a foul smell attached to them as soon as you would open the bottle.  So everyday for the next two weeks, I would have to take not only one, but two of these pills to get better.  I thought it wasn’t so bad until I tried to take the first dose that same day.  Plugging my nose to eliminate the smell, I took the first pill immediately got sick to my stomach.  And that was only the first pill for that day so I still had one to go.  Again, agonizing as I attempted to swallow the pill, I managed to get it down and the sickening feeling got even worse.

Every time I would take the pill, I would wash it down with a glass of chocolate milk.  However, the taste of the pill was so strong that not even chocolate milk could wash it down.  I began to make an association with the taste of the pill with the chocolate milk.  So after I was done with the prescription, I couldn’t take a sip of chocolate milk without cringing and becoming sick to my stomach.  I would become sick every time I had tried.  This taste aversion made me stray away from chocolate milk for a while.

Within the taste aversion phenomena, we were also learned about biological preparedness in where the sense of taste was a much stronger reminder of a specific event.  In my case the taste of chocolate milk brought me back to the sick feeling in my stomach.  However, if I were to smell chocolate milk or any other sense that can be associated with chocolate milk, I would feel little to no effect on how I was feeling.  This demonstrates that everything cannot be learned equally well.

After learning about these two phenomena’s, especially taste aversion, it was very interesting to learn about why such an event had happened to me when I was a child.

You Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone

As we all know, Penn State has a multitude of options when it comes to food. There are the commons, the many specialty places (i.e. the mix, the leaf, etc.), and many places close to campus. However, being the somewhat lazy college kid that I am, I tend to frequent the places that are closest to me. In my week, I will eat at the mix in Pollock almost every day; it is close to my dorm and is normally quick with the orders I choose. Now, with the second semester starting, I cannot stand the food there anymore. I have eaten my favorite combinations from the menu many times and now, every time I eat it again, it tastes bland and not exciting. I believe that I have developed some sort of sensory adaptation to the food at the mix.

Sensory adaptation is a process by the sensory receptors in the body. As a constant stimulus, like my food, continues to stimulate the sensory receptors, they become less receptive to the stimulus unless a big change happens (like they forget the cheese on my cheesesteak). This is different from habituation cause in sensory adaptation, the receptors themselves become less responsive to the stimulus where as in habituation, the brain does not send those signals to the cortex.

There are many options at the mix to choose from, from the simple chicken strips to the complex Philly cheesesteak. I have tried all of these and even tried putting different things on them or trying to eat them in a different combination, but I continue to eat my meals from there with a dull expression on my face. The food does not taste as exciting or strong anymore. I noticed this at the end of last semester as the food I kept getting from the mix almost every day began to taste more bland and generic.

My friend, and future roommate, Alex has been convincing me to try the Pollock commons. I have been going there almost every day for dinner now and even though they have different items daily, I have begun the same process as the mix. It does not help that I get the same things at the commons, salad, some pizza, and whatever thing they have new that day. I still enjoy going there because the few items that they have that change.

An interesting point to discuss is the fact that sensory adaptation can go away. If the constant stimulus is taken away, the receptors return to normal in regards to that stimulus. Therefore, I recently revisited the mix and ordered a cheesesteak. I was surprised at how much I liked it; it had a lot more flavor than I remembered. It was the exact same thing I would get all last semester but since I hadn’t eaten it for a while, it tasted so much better. I think the most appropriate saying that best sums my experience with eating here at the mix is “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

Matthew Zackschewski – mgz5020


FOOTBALL and the Sympathetic Nervous System

There are times in life when a father wants his son to follow in their footsteps in some type of way. Whether it be musically, spiritually, or physically, there comes a point where that father introduces that son to something in hopes that the son will stay with it and “carry-on the banner”. With me, this hand-me-down activity was Football. I started in the pee wee league and it was all fun and games. The pace wasn’t too fast and nobody was trying to take your head off. I was always a smaller guy but it really didn’t matter in pee wees and midget leagues.

I tried to give up football after my 9th grade year to pursue a much safer and alternate lifestyle playing drums in the Marching Band. I wanted to do this because I felt like I didn’t want to get hit anymore and the competition would sky rocket if I would go play varsity football. Long story short, The Varsity coach ended up persuading me to come out for the football team and claimed that he could use some young receivers. Great, another year of football.

My 10th grade year we were in training camp and it was time to Start Hitting! Compared to the juniors and seniors, I was small. We were in a drill and the coaches basically used us, the “young receivers,” as hitting dummies. The older guys knew that they would be targeting us in this drill so they took it easy. The coaches noticed this and yelled at the older guys to really HIT us HARD and tackle us. The coaches also encouraged us to not give in too easy. So me being a smaller guy and not liking the hitting aspect of football so much, started to get scared, sweat and get butterflies but then a different feeling took over. It was my turn in this Angle Tackle drill and the defender was the Best Player we had on our team. It was do or die time. So They pass me the ball and he is coming at me on an angle while I trot towards a cone. Adrenaline was pumping through my body. My heart is beating hard and fast. Eyes were wide open with my jaw clenching my mouthpiece really tight. My Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is the thing that had me feeling this way. As we approached the point of supposed impact he was really low to the ground. I don’t know where it came from but I literally took flight. I leaped in the air and hurdled cleanly over the best player on the team. I believe that my eyes saw that he was about to take my legs out. And as a VERY quick reaction that was almost reflex like, my legs got out the way via me jumping. I never thought that hey, I’m going to jump over the best player on the team. It was just the Fight or Flight mode kicking in. I did anything to survive. I stayed in this Fight or Flight mode for 3 minutes making 2 more older guys miss. If we were in the same situation, I do not believe I could do it again especially if the SNS didn’t work the way it did. The strength, timing, and quickness, that I needed only came about from the SNS communicating to my muscles and firing off my motor neurons. In 3 years of Varsity football this sensation has never reoccurred.

The Psychology behind Anxiety and Panic Attacks

How many times have you felt so nervous about a test or performance that you start to sweat, you get heart palpitations, and you feel like you’re going to pass out? If that has ever happened to you, then you’ve experienced an anxiety attack. Have you ever walked down a street or hallway, when suddenly your ears start to ring, your stomach hurts, and voices become louder? If you have, then you’ve experienced a panic attack, and that’s really unfortunate. Trust me, I should now. But, I will get to that later.

What is truly amazing is the science behind why our bodies do this. When we feel stressed out over a situation, our body immediately goes into Fight or Flight mode, which we discussed in class. Our brain is doing a number of different things when we go into Fight or Flight mode. It all starts with the Hypothalamus activating two separate nervous systems: the sympathetic adrenal-cortical systems. In class we talked about how the sympathetic nervous system controls our bodies’ reactions. The adrenal-cortical system affects our bloodstreams. The sympathetic nervous system sends out two “stress hormones” to the body’s muscles, called adrenaline and noradrenaline. This causes increased heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, the adrenal-cortical system starts to work. According to an article on, “the hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) into the pituitary gland, activating the adrenal-cortical system. The pituitary gland (a major endocrine gland) secretes the hormone ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH moves through the bloodstream and ultimately arrives at the adrenal cortex, where it activates the release of approximately 30 different hormones that get the body prepared to deal with a threat “(Layton).  This sudden rush of hormones sends our bodies into overdrive, causing extreme discomfort when one isn’t even put into a stressful situation.

Now, I’m going to talk about my personal experience. During my junior year of high school, I suffered from a severe panic disorder where I would get extremely severe panic attacks during school. Because of that, I developed anticipatory anxiety (getting anxious because you don’t want a panic attack to happen, but it happens anyway), and feared sitting in class, walking to class, and eating lunch in the cafeteria. Unfortunately, it got so bad that I had to do my work in my school’s guidance office without falling behind; no one expected me to be there for seven weeks. Thankfully, all of my teachers were willing to cooperate with me, while I struggled with trying to become healthy again. I’m not going to go into too many details, but I became depressed and missed out on a lot of important things. But, those gruesome months have made into a much better person. If it weren’t for SSRI’s, I would probably not be where I am today. I didn’t choose to talk about this to gain pity. I chose to write about this because I think people need to recognize that this is a serious issue that many people deal with, and knowing what actually is happening during a panic attack takes away the thought, “Holy shit, I’m going to die” which can send someone even further into panic mode.


If you have any questions, this is the article I used: