Author Archives: clh5783

Gone in a Flash

A flashbulb memory is a vivid, enduring memory for how one learned about a surprising or a shocking event. It involves memory for the source of event information, as opposed to only a memory for the event itself. The brain regions involved with flashbulb memories are unknown. (Davidson, 2005)

According to the APA, the idea of a flashbulb memory was first proposed in 1977 by psychologists Roger Brown, PhD, and James Kulik, PhD. They believed that these memories become so emotionally important to us that they are stored as vividly and accurately as a photo. Today’s research however has shown that these memories are not as accurate but yet still very clear and vivid. (Law, 2011)

One of the most widely known events that would relate to this topic would be the horrific moment when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Too many people can describe that moment whether they were in New York City or across the country, many of us can recall that exact moment in time when those terrible events began to unfold on the television. We are likely to remember when and where we were as the terrible news came about just as well as the event itself. I know I was sitting in my 3rd grade classroom looking up at the television in the corner of the room, where my teacher and other students felt it was horrible to watch nobody turned it off. I even remember the days following, and the moment of silence asked of us each morning before the start of class for a few days. I can picture myself in the classroom but I cannot completely remember the news itself aside from small bits and pieces of it.

A moment in my life that has seemed linked to a very strong emotional event was the death of my grandmother. She had been in the hospital for over a month and I was 6 years old. I was at my grandfathers house the night she died, and he and my mom say me down next to my “little bear” teddy bear on the couch next to the window. I can’t quite remember the words they used but I remember my response, I remember laughing at my mother telling her she was joking with me and asking to go visit my grandmother. I was old enough to understand death but it took a week to truly hit me. To this day I can still picture this moment in time as if I were sitting behind myself in the past on that couch. Like somehow my mind had warped what every angle of that room looked like. However, if I walk back into that room and look out that window from the couch if doesn’t suddenly pop into my head it seems to follow up with other sad events in my life or if for some reason I’m randomly thinking of her.

These flashbulb memories however are not always 100% accurate. We tend to believe that all of these memories are completely accurate the way we replay them through our head but we are very prone to make errors. It’s too easy to forget important details or “remember” things that never actually happened. As we take in new information we need to be open minded to the fact that not only new evidence confirms our original belief. As we repeat these memories to others, we also hear other accounts of that event which may seem more vivid than ours and might lead us to “revise” our own memories. Even the flashbulb memories that seem to be unforgettable have their own inaccuracies and can be wrong. (Vitelli, 2015)

Law B.M. (2011) American Psychological Association: Seared in our Memories

Davidson, P. R. (2005) Source Memory in the Real World: A Neuropsychological Study of Flashbulb Memory.

Vitelli, R PhD. (2015) years Remembering 9/11

What was I wearing that day?

Why is it that we have the ability to remember the details of our first kiss like the time, location, day, and even the clothing we were wearing when it happened? Yet, among plenty of other things we can hardly remember the food we ate for breakfast the day before. Although each of these memories were events in which you participated in, only one Is episodic in nature. Episodic memories represent our memory of experiences and specific events that allow us to reconstruct the actual events in our minds at any given point in our lives. We tend to see ourselves as actors in these events and the emotional feeling is normally part of this memory as well not just the details and facts of the event almost like an “episode” of our lives.

There are three steps in episodic memories, they are encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. Encoding is the process of receiving and registering information. Attention is a necessary component for encoding events and information effectively. If you are distracted you are less likely to recall the event. The next step is consolidation, the process by which memory traces of encoded information are strengthened, made stable, and stored for later retrieval. This process is completed easier by linking the information ready to store with an existing network of information. The memory trace can indefinitely be retrieved once the information or event has been consolidated which can take anywhere from days to weeks. The last and final step of forming episodic memory is retrieval, which like it sounds, is the recollection of the information that was encoded. This can be expressed as mentally traveling back in time to replay that moment.

Someone’s first kiss can have a very large emotional tie, making the event easy to encode and consolidate as well as easy to retrieve later on. Due to the episodic memory, if you wanted to know what color shirt you were wearing during your first kiss you would play the “episode” in your mind as if you were watching yourself in order to easily “retrieve” such information.


Works Cited

UCSF Memory and Aging Center (2015) Episodic Memory San Francisco, CA: Sandler Neurosciences Center.

Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience (3rd Ed.). California: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Do You Eat Breakfast?

Courtney Sadler
Psych 256
Blog Post 1

Throughout my childhood my parents, teachers, and even social media have always been there nagging us and making sure we eat a good breakfast before going on about our days. There are many areas of the brain involved with appetite and hunger although our eating habits could also have had an association with those habits of our ancestors. Food in general is a necessity to live therefore I can imagine that getting enough food is very important to staying as healthy as possible. What would cause us to eat as soon as we wake up whether we are hungry or not. Although there is no single area of the brain responsible for sensing and responding to food, the areas of the brain associated with the desire and regulation of hunger were the hypothalamus, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the amygdala (Freberg, 2010).     Although there is no single area of the brain responsible for sensing and responding to food, the areas of the brain associated with the desire and regulation of hunger were the hypothalamus, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the amygdala. The area I found to be most closely related to hunger was the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a major regulatory center for hunger, thirst, sexual behavior and aggression (Freberg, 2010). There are two areas in the hypothalamus that control hunger. The part of the hypothalamus that causes you to feel hungry when stimulated is the lateral hypothalamus. If you were to lesion the lateral hypothalamus, you would have a lack of hunger if any at all. The second part, the ventromedial hypothalamus gives you that full feeling when stimulated. Unlike the lateral hypothalamus, a lesion to the ventromedial hypothalamus would give the patient a complete lack of the fullness sensation (Valenstein, et al., 1970). Recent research has also shown us that the orbitofrontal cortex is involved with detection of how pleasant or good food tastes to us and the amygdala controls the wanting and desire for food (Felsted, et al., 2010). This observation may play an important role in understanding the decision making involved in our choice to eat breakfast and what we include in that meal.  (Green & Nachtigal, 2010).
There are also three types of receptors on the tongue with sensory connections in the cortex. They are the thermoreceptors (sense temperature), mechanoreceptors (touch or texture), and nociceptors, (sense pain). These receptors are responsible for detecting qualities or characteristics of food (taste, smell, temperature, texture, and spicy/sweet).  The flavor of the food is then compounded by the cortex where the brain fuses together the senses from these receptors. Research has shown that connected areas of the brain then determine the intensity of the desire for that flavor and the degrees of hunger (Green & Nachtigal, 2010).
The primary method used to determine the interconnectivity of the brain areas that also show the components of flavor when eating is by the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) Shown by a study conducted by D. M. Small world and K. Rudenga (2010). In this study liquids containing a potentially nutritious substance (sugar) as well as a potential “toxin”, capsaicin were fed to (16) subjects. Capsaicin is a compound that once in contact with any tissue will cause a burning sensation. The reason they chose to use the capsaicin is because it has been shown to activate the thermoreceptors and nocireceptors that I noted earlier in this blog post, detect temperature and pain. Studies have shown that the same part of the cortex responds to other basic tastes as well. These researchers have discovered that there are “different” connections based on the significance of the taste. Good foods activate one set of connections, while what is perceived as a toxic food activates another part of the brain (Rudenga & Small, 2010) Taste alone however can’t determine whether a person chooses to continue or stop eating. The results of this study showed that those who had eaten the potentially nutritious stimulus had greater connectivity than that of the capsaicin between the anterior ventral insula and the hypothalamus therefore showing a connection with eating certain foods over others. For example choosing sugary cereal over bitter fruits in the morning. (Rudenga & small, 2010)
Overall, the decision making process involved with whether or not we eat in the morning and what we eat can be attributed to certain areas of the brain. I do however believe the decision to eat breakfast in the morning before worrying about the rest of our day could be a survival instinct, and could help influence what foods we eat based on what types of foods kept those in prehistoric times alive long enough to reproduce and carry on such traits or “tastes”. It’s possible that they consumed meats from animals they hunted to survive so it could impact our decision to have steak or sausage for breakfast but then again maybe those eggs you had for breakfast last week gave you gas so you chose to avoid them and went with the cereal instead which in turn has sugars that your body perceives as “good”.

Freberg, L.A. (2010). Discovering Biological Psychology (2nd edition). New York, NY: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Valenstein, Elliot S.; Cox, Verne C.; Kakolewski, Jan W., (1970) Reexamination of the Role of the Hypothalamus in Motivation. Psychological Review, Vol 77

K. Rudenga, B. Green, D. Nachtigal, D. M. Small (2010) “Evidence for an Integrated Oral Sensory Module in the Human Anterior Ventral Insula.” Chemical Senses.

J. Felsted, F. Chouinard-Decorte, X Ren, D. M. Small (2010) “Genetically Determined Brain Response to a Primary Food Reward.” Journal of Neuroscience