Monthly Archives: January 2014

Trauma and Visual Pathways

Head trauma can be caused from a wide variety of incidents: from falling and hitting your head to being in a serious accident. No two brains are exactly the same, but damage to certain areas of the brain can cause general, isolated problems. For example, damage to the occipital lobe has an increased chance of impacting vision.

In 2012, a family friend of mine was in a serious accident. He had extensive injuries to the back, as well as minor injuries to the top, of his head. He is very lucky to be alive today. He has since recovered greatly from his physical injuries. However, he still suffers from memory problems, and the effects of damage to other mental processes.

A majority of his problems with memory occur in the short-term; he forgets what he is told within thirty seconds. For example, someone can tell him to complete three simple tasks, A, B and C. After he completes task A, he cannot remember what the other two were. However, most of his existing long-term memories can be recalled with ease. It is interesting to see that he can talk about things that happened long before his accident, while having great difficulty creating new long-term memories.

The other part that was greatly affected was the parietal lobe, which is where the dorsal processing stream is located. The dorsal stream is a big part of perception and actions and is responsible for determining the location of objects, often known as the “where” pathway. His case shows dissociation, just like D.F. in the Milner and Goodale study from 1995. Dissociations are “situations in which one function is absent while another function is present.” (Goldstein, 2011, p. 73). D.F. had problems with the ventral processing stream, or the “what” processing stream. She could not identify the card slot correctly, but when an action was carried out, she knew exactly where and how to place the card into the card slot.

In the complete opposite way, the effect on my friend’s dorsal stream allows him to be able to identify objects, but not know where or how to reach for or grab them. A simple example is trying to pick up a saltshaker at dinner. He can identify the item, but cannot locate it in perspective to him to pick it up. He described it in a simple way. It is like running your hand over a wall in search for a light switch without looking; even though you know it is a light switch you search for, you will have a tough time finding it because you do not know where it is.

Before lesson three, I had no real idea that anything like this could happen: that there were specific parts of the brain that directly influenced how one perceives objects and their locations. As a friend, it is a good feeling to know what is happening with the brain when someone is going through this situation. A better understanding of something allows one to be more sympathetic.

Picture 5

Works Cited:

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

Photo From:

**The above source is also an interesting article about the visual pathways being connected to dyslexia.**

My Nose Knows! by Lori Hohn

Growing up i have always had a keen sense of smell. I always seemed to smell things that no one else did. They say a pregnant woman’s sense of smell increases because it is nature’s way of helping her protect her unborn fetus. I would say my sense of smell is like a pregnant woman times two. My sense of smell has seemed to have increased a bit since the birth of my children. Most woman’s sense of smell goes back to normal after their children are born but mine has never been normal. I am thankful for this ability because it has saved lives.

Now you would think having this ability is great. Sometimes I smell things I would rather not. I do recall a few events where my keen sense of smell has saved a life or two. When I was younger and still living at home with my parents. One day I was leaving for work and came upon something that smelled like gas. I looked all around the house inside and out but didn’t find anything leaking. I mentioned this to my parents but they did not smell anything. I started to worry that there was a gas leak that was undetected. I did not want to go to work and find out that my house blew up. I went home after work and investigated a bit more. I thought maybe someone’s car was leaking gasoline because it was a very faint smell. I checked with my neighbors and they said their cars were fine. This smell just did not go away and it was really starting to worry me. I tried talking my parents into calling the gas company. I tried to convince them that it would not hurt to just have them come check but they refused. My neighbors did not smell it either.

Finally the next day while at work, I decided to call the gas company and explain the situation. They sent someone out to the house right away. My parents were not happy with me because they felt that everything was fine. I am thankful that i called the gas company. They came out and discovered there was a leak underground near our gas meter. They thought it was kind of interesting that I was able to smell this because they couldn’t. They ended up having to dig up around the gas meter and replace a pipe and the meter. Thankfully it did not cost us anything but left unattended this could have become a more serious problem. My parents were shocked and relieved that it was fixed. They always thought it was strange that I would smell things that no one else did but in this case it helped to save us from a bigger problem.

So how does this relate to cognitive psychology? We perceive information through our sense of smell. According to Goldstein (2011) “The perceptual system takes sniff intensity into account when a person is perceiving odor intensity” (p. 56). There are many different forms of perception such as olfactory, auditory, and visual perception. Our perceptual system is designed to help us gather accurate information about our environment (Goldstein, 2011).  There are many ways our perceptual system is designed to protect us from harm. As with my experience sometimes your perception is different or a particular form of perception can be stronger than others. As we have learned perception comes from stimulation of our senses (Goldstein, 2011). In this case my sense of smell is profound.

We use our perceptual system to help us gain information from our environment to warn us and help us gain knowledge (Goldstein, 2011). In my case my olfactory perception seems to be my strongest perception at times and in this case saved my family from unknown danger. The bottom line is we should be aware of others perceptions and take into account that everyone’s different perceptions could help protect you. I can tell many stories about how my olfactory perception has been a blessing and also an annoyance. This is just a reminder whereas many feel that our visual perception is the most reliable, we should not discount our other forms of perception.


Edmonds, Molly. (August 2008) How Does Pregnancy Affect the Senses of Smell and
Taste?, Retrieved January 30, 2014, from

Goldstein, E. Bruce, (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, And
Everyday Experience (Third Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Monell Chemical Senses Center. (December 2013) Variability in olfactory receptors
affects human odor perception. Science, Retrieved January 31, 2014 from:

“I’m a Maniac” by LaWanda Golub



 I’m a maniac. No really, right up until 1980 before they revised the “American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” 3rd Edition. I would have been called a maniac for most of my life. I am a maniac, along with 2.4% of other “maniacs” around the world. Today, I am included with the largest population of 4.4% of the “maniacs” living in the United States. (1)

Am I a maniac? Possibly on any given day I could be described that way by some. We would not want to ask my ex. I remember the day I left him. He was talking, and I asked him to stop. He continued, and I believe he even got louder. I simply picked up my purse and car keys, walked out the door, got in my car, and drove away. It had taken him two weeks to find me, but by then I had already started a new life. To this day, I have no emotional connection to the man I once spent eight years of my life. However, since that March day back in 1980, I am no longer a “maniac” now I am referred to as a Bipolar.

Bipolar is defined as;

(of psychiatric illness) characterized by both manic and depressive episodes, or manic ones only. (2)

Bipolar is not a new disorder.  In as early as the 1st Century of Greece, Arteaus of Cappadocia began writing and detailing symptoms in the medical field. Terms we use today, such as, manic and depression were once defined as mania and melancholia by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Romans were known for the “lithium salt” baths to raise the spirits of the melancholy and relax the mania. Today, lithium is still used in treatments for balancing bipolar patients. Even Aristotle was noted for crediting melancholy for contributing greatly to artist of his time with inspiration. “For as men differ in appearance not because they possess a face but because they possess such and such a face, some handsome, others ugly, others with nothing extraordinary about it, so those who have little of this temperament are ordinary, but those who have much are unlike them, majority of people. For if their melancholy habitus is quite undiluted they are too melancholy but if it somewhat tempered they are outstanding. (Aristotle 954b21-27) (3)   It was not until 1851 when French Psychiatrist Jean- Pierre Falret published the article “la folie circulaire “  (translated “Circular Insanity”) he describe one’s switching from severe depression to manic excitement. Falret, was also the first in the medical field to bring to light the genetic connection. This is believed to be the earliest document diagnosis of what is called bipolar today. (4)


Have we advanced much in our research on mental illness from the Greece 1st Century? Has the advancement of technology and understanding of the human body given us answers to reduce this illness to similarities of the common cold? What are the goals of today’s psychiatrist and what do they see for us “the maniacs” and our offspring in the future?

“It is all in your head.” I have been told that since I was a small child. In fact, looking back on my childhood, what memories are mine and what memories did “my head” create?  However the amazing fact, it is all in my head. Bipolar affects several areas of the brain. The main areas of the brain involved with Bipolar are the frontal and temporal lobes of the forebrain.  Bipolar affects the hippocampus, which helps us regulate the creation of memories and stress management, the thalamus, which helps us control emotions (especially, fight or flight), and the anterior cingulated, which helps us to respond to our environment. The cerebral cortex is accredited with being responsible for the negative thoughts associated with the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder. (5)

Over my lifetime, I had been described as someone who switches on and off.  Most of the people would say they are describing a character trait. However, with the advancement of technology I have learned that is exactly what I do. Now, we know neurotransmitters are involved in the causes of mood disorders. The two main neuroanatomical circuits in mood regulation are the limbic-thalamic-cortical circuit and the limbic-striatal-pallial-cortical circuit. A mood disorder may develop with any dysfunction of these mood-regulating circuits. Include that with the lack of control of a cell with the imbalance of chemicals, such as, the monoamines (noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine) and acetylcholine we have enough spark to set-off the roller coaster ride. A roller coaster ride, a common expression I find in group sessions after group sessions. (6)

What do the medical pioneers see for us “maniacs” in the future? One such pioneer is Dr. Yurgelun- Todd. To monitor brain activity she uses an imaging technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). “When we perform a task, like lifting a finger or memorizing a list of words, the regions of the brain that enable us to carry out that job is turned on. “The neurons are firing more and require more energy that changes the blood flow in the brain,” explains Dr. Yurgelun-Todd. (7) She one day hopes to advance preventive care so that we may have a medical exam that not only include a blood profile to help evaluate our physical health, but also a brain profile, as well.

I am Bipolar. I am a medicated coupled with therapy Bipolar patient. I do not carry it around like a privilege granting me exceptions or excuses for my daily actions. I am not a product nor a prisoner of my environment. I have hopes for future medical advancements but none so grand that it keeps me from confronting today. I have been reconditioned over the years to take the “excess” my mind allows in and create outwardly. I work and befriend other bipolar patients. We are not a club. We do not all have the same tendencies, likes, dislikes, and boundaries. But we are known to short circuit. No. I am not a “maniac”.

(1)A study was conducted by researchers around the world and funded by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pfizer Foundation, and a variety of other pharmaceutical companies and public health organizations.

(2) Merriam-Webster Dictionary

(3) This is the translation by Klibansky et al. (1964, p. 26)

(4) Wikipedia

(5, ) (6)(Manji & Lenox, 2000).

(7) Dr. Yurgelun-Todd was hired by the Brain Institute under the USTAR initiative and joined the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Utah July 1, 2008. She comes to Utah from the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School. She was also the Director of the internationally recognized Cognitive Neuroimaging laboratory at the Brain Imaging Center of McLean Hospital.

Caffeine: Increase Memory Consolidation, Retention, and Recognition


I have been an avid coffee drinker for quite sometime—every morning I go to my local Starbucks and pick up a cup of coffee. Caffeine is the energy booster that people choose when they need to be awake; whether it is tea, coffee, or soda. After reading Chapter 1 of our textbook, Cognitive Psychology, I became very curious about the phenomenon of memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is “the process in which experiences or information that has entered the memory system becomes strengthened and resistant to interference caused by other events or trauma” (Goldstein, 2011). I also wondered about what effects memory consolidation and retention, as well as how to improve it. A new study suggests that caffeine can “sharpen” our memory, increase our awareness, as well as boost our long-term memory (Gatlin, 2014). This study is one of the first of its kind to determine the effects of caffeine on memory.

John Hopkins University researchers conducted a double-blind trial that had participants take either a 200mg caffeine pill (equivalent to a cup of coffee) or a placebo pill. When consumed shortly after a “learning session,” it enhanced image recognition and recall. At the “learning session” participants were shown several images. The following day participants were showed the images from the previous day, as well as new images. John Hopkins researchers wanted to test pattern separation, which if the brain’s ability to differentiate similar images. Pattern separation is also an indicator of long-term memory retention.

The participants who took the caffeine dosage during the “learning session” were able to recognize the images more successfully, than those who were given the placebo. Dr. Michael Yassa, University of California, Irvine, said, “Caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories” (Gatlin, 2014). On the other hand, high doses of caffeine can have negative effects: such as headaches, nausea, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and you don’t get the benefits of memory enhancement! The ideal dosage of caffeine to experience memory benefits is about 200 mg of caffeine (Gatlin, 2014).

Memory consolidation begins on the synaptic level, which is where the brain creates new pathways for information (Goldstein, 2011). The “neural map” can take days, weeks, months or years to be made—it allows for memories to be retrieved when needed. The entire process of memory recognition helps to strengthen information in the long-term memory” (Goldstein, 2011). Coffee helps to enhance and speed up this process.

While reading this article a few days ago I enjoyed a cup of coffee. I think that I retained the information much better because I was alert and focused, which in turn improved my memory consolidation. According to the FDA, about 80% of Americans consume 200mg, or one cup of coffee, per day—the same amount as this study (Borota, Murray, Keceli, Chang, Watabe, Ly, Toscano & Yassa, 2014). Now we have an excuse to drink more coffee.



Borota, D., Murray, E., Keceli, G., Chang, A., Watabe, J., Ly, M., Toscano, J., & Yassa, M. (2014). Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature Publishing Group, 17(2), 201-203. Retrieved from

Gatlin, L. (2014, January 12). Caffeine has positive effect on memory, johns hopkins researchers say. Retrieved from

Goldstein, E. B., (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, And Everyday Experience   (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. (Original work published 2005)

Kristensen, L.  (2010). Coffee [Online image].
Retrieved January 31, 2014 from


Artistic Ability Gained After Brain Injury

Several years ago I was lucky enough to meet and become friends with an enigmatic man named Robert. We were introduced by a mutual acquaintance named Bill. After meeting Rob, he amazed me with his talented guitar playing. He impressed me further when he handed me a CD on which he had recorded several songs written and performed by himself. On this disc Rob played all the musical instruments: guitar, bass guitar, drums, piano, synthesizer, et cetera. He had written the vocals and sang them, as well as mixed, edited and ultimately produced the recordings, in its entirety, alone.

Robert’s ability to play all the instruments was impressive, as well as his understanding of the recording and editing process. Rob’s musical inclination however was not the most extraordinary thing I remember about him. What I remember most is when our mutual acquaintance, Bill, stated before age 17, Rob had never expressed any interest in music, let alone played an instrument.

Prior to age 17, Rob was a sports fanatic. He was a clean-cut football player and his idea of getting wild was not stretching before his daily 5 mile runs. At age 17 Rob fell from the roof of his mother’s van the concrete drive-way, striking his head and losing consciousness. After a trip to the hospital he returned home with a diagnosis of a concussion.

Immediately after this injury, Bill described how Rob’s personality changed. He became more daring, more outgoing, and more creative. He dropped out of sports, stopped cutting his hair, and picked up a guitar. On the negative side, Rob also became rebellious, defiant of authority and picked up a heavy drug habit. I only met Rob following his injury, the talented but troubled musician. Rob’s fall appeared to have awakened parts of his brain that were dormant or inactive before.

There is a term “acquired savant syndrome”, that I believe applies to what happened to my old friend Rob. Here are two recent stories that discuss this phenomenon: and This article, also delves further into this sudden development of talents.

The theory behind acquired savant syndrome is that an injury to the anterior temporal orbitofrontal cortex may cause decreased inhibition of visual systems involved with perception and in turn this enhances the person’s ability and interest in creative pursuits. (The “Acquired” Savant, Darold A. Treffert, MD) Some people with head injuries, like Lachlan Connors, ( appear to develop an uncanny ability to decipher, interpret and create music-without any prior knowledge or previously demonstrated talent. Per Lachlan’s mother, “He can pick up an instrument and within five minutes, he’s playing it.”

This website,, contains the collection of Dr. Treffert’s life-long research into the topic of acquired savant syndrome. It has many articles regarding this subject if one would desire to learn more about it.

Even more fascinating is that it may be possible one day for any individual to develop these abilities at will. The article at describes how researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation to change the activity of the brain cortex in volunteers and this temporarily granted normal people with savant-like skills. Some of these volunteers experienced savant behaviors that lasted a few hours. The possibilities for future applications are endless. In the near future when the teacher says, “Put your thinking caps on,” it might be a literal command instead of just a figure of speech!


“Prosopagnosia” by Joshua Gray

You are in a crowded department store mindlessly meddling through the vast array of merchandise. You recognize most of the items very quickly, perhaps even unconsciously. You suddenly hear your name from across the store. Somebody recognizes you. When you turn around, you see a person standing there, but you just do not know whom this person is. The struggle to decipher the identity of this stranger continues as they babble on as if they have known you forever. We have all experienced this dreaded, albeit momentary lapse in memory. But what if that person across the store was your own wife or mother? This is the sort of horror that people like college student Jacob Hodes deal with every day of their lives. Jacob suffers from a condition called prosopagnosia, or more commonly, face blindness.

Prosopagnosia seems like a condition reserved for Hollywood’s silver screen, but is much more common than one might want to believe. Garga Chatterjee, a doctoral candidate pursuing research in prosopagnosia at Harvard University stated: “2.5 percent of the world’s population has the disorder. That’s one person in every 50. That is not rare at all.” ( People with prosopagnosia can tell that they are looking at a face, but cannot differentiate one face from another face. They must use other empirical cues to decipher who it is they are communicating with. Many people with this condition have suffered damage to a specific area on the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex of the brain. (Goldstein, 2011)

While people coping with this debilitating disorder struggle through life laboriously attempting to recognize people close to them, it seems as though we are still in the early stages in regard to our understanding and ability to diagnose the condition. There exist only 100 documented cases of prosopagnosia in worldwide literature on medicine. If 2.5 percent of the world’s population truly does suffer from face blindness, this is a startling discrepancy. Perhaps one of the problems in this lack of diagnoses lies in the traditional nature of the research. Prosopagnosia has classically been studied in people who develop the disorder following a traumatic brain injury or a stroke. There have been recent developments in research that have made clear the existence of “developmental” or “congenital” prosopagnosia. There may exist a genetic factor prevalent in this disorder that was ignored in the past. (

Jacob Hodes never suffered a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. When Jacob told his family about his diagnosis, his own father’s prosopagnosia was discovered. It seems that Jacob suffers from the more recently discovered congenital form of the disorder. As Jacob struggles through college classes, parties, and general life, he lives with the fact that there is no current cure for face blindness known to researchers.

Can you imagine looking at yourself in the mirror, and not even recognizing your own face? As devastating as this sounds, this is something that 1 in 50 people may be dealing with worldwide. As intelligent or insightful as an individual may be, prosopagnosia is an often crippling diagnosis, which can lead to feelings of isolation or depression, and fear of social situations. Hopefully research in medicine and neuroscience can find a cure for this disorder sooner rather than later. Jacob Hodes said: “It’s not that I don’t know everyone. The problem is I don’t know whom I know.” ( As research develops, perhaps Jacob will one day recognize his friends and loved ones without the use of compensatory mechanisms. It would be nice to know whom you know.


*Watch Jacob’s appearance on “60 Minutes.”-



Chowhan, S. (2013, September 24). Living With Face Blindness. The Atlantic. Retrieved January 29, 2014, from

Goldstein, E. B., (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, And Everyday Experience   (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. (Original work published 2005)

Language and Speech Segmentation

One topic we have touched on in this lesson that I have found particularly interesting is language recognition, especially speech segmentation. Ironically, prior to beginning this lesson, I began to teach myself Polish with the help of a Kindle application, YouTube videos and other free online programs. I’m sure many people may wonder, “Why would you want to learn Polish?” It seems quite obvious that Polish is not a very common language in the United States in general, nor is it a common language in my current area in western Pennsylvania. In my hometown in north-western Pennsylvania, there was a section of the town which was commonly referred to as “Polak Hill,” which is where my grandfather, whom my sister and I called Dziadzia, pronounced with our own Americanized accent as Ja-Ju, was born and raised. His parents, my maternal great-grandparents, where both Polish immigrants. They arrived, separately, in the United States during the mid 1920’s; one from the border of Russia and Poland, the other from the border of Czechoslovakia (now known as the Czech Republic) and Poland. Now, almost 100 years later, I am the second generation of English-only speakers in my family.


My grandfather spoke fluent Polish, and I have several wonderful memories from my childhood of listening to him and his sister talk in this foreign, confusing language which they both seemed to fully understand. I was fascinated, even at an early age, by their ease of using both English and Polish in their everyday lives. My Dziadzia’s wife, my grandmother, fully detested using Polish. It was the only language her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother, spoke. Even after my grandmother moved to “Polak Hill” she could barely speak the language. Her parents, from Germany and Poland, were raised in bi-lingual homes as well, but used English as the primary language when raising their children. My grandmother has often told me that she could understand Polish better than she could speak it. Even to this day, she can only speak a few basic phrases but can have a full bi-lingual conversation with a friend; her friend speaking Polish and my grandmother answering in English.


I’ve been utilizing a few specific videos on YouTube, the link to one ca be found in my sources, that have been helpful in learning the correct pronunciation of the different syllabus’ and sounds made in the Polish language. One video in particular, entitled “Real Polish Conversation – odkurzacz” clearly demonstrates the concept of speech segmentation. Our book describes speech segmentation as an individuals ability to identify when one word ends and another begins within their own language or a language they understand (Goldstein, 2011). While I’ve mostly used this video to help with my pronunciation or certain character in the Polish language, I cannot always determine when one word ends and another begins. With more practice on my own time, I’ve begun to be able to make out individual words but still have a far way to go.


Perceiving speech is a prime example of top-down processing. With top-down processing, it becomes “possible to perceive individual words in a conversation even though the sound signal for speech is often continuous” (Goldstein, 2011). In my case, English is my primary language. I speak it fluently, have taught my child to speak it, and have several conversations in it each day. While some people I may talk to have an accent due to the different region they come from, I am still able to understand and reply to the conversations we have because of my prior experiences using the English language. Having spent the majority of my life near Pittsburgh, I pronounce some words differently than the friends I made while spending two years living near Philadelphia. Even though we all spoke English, the pronunciation varied. None-the-less, without top-down processing, my adjustment to the new region would have been much more difficult.


So while I spend my free time learning Polish, which my fiance says sounds like I’m intoxicated, I can’t help but wonder the struggles my ancestors faced when arriving in America. Only knowing Polish, the English words they heard upon their arrival had to have sounded like a string of random sounds, rather than intellectual speech. And while with time they were able to make out the distinct sounds and words in the English language, they also retained the ability to perform those same functions with Polish. Even my grandmother, who hasn’t had a conversation where she spoke Polish in more than four decades, has been able to assist me in the correct pronunciation of words and statements. I am hoping that learning this new language will strengthen my connection with my heritage, but prior to this current lesson, I hadn’t realized the complexity of the brain processes involved in language and speech. I know that in a later lesson we will cover language more thoroughly, so for the time being I will continue to give my brain an exercise by practicing my Polish.



Mają dobry dzień! Have a good day!




Free Translation and Professional Translation Services from SDL. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2014, from


Goldstein, E. B. (2011). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research and everyday experience. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth


Real Polish Conversation – odkurzacz. (2010, Nov, 11). retrieved Jan 29 2014, from Web Site:



Mirror Neurons and Social Interactions

The concept of mirror neurons were discussed in this lesson. This idea states that neurons respond to both performing an action and watching someone else perform that action (Goldstein, 2011). This presents the idea that mirror neurons may be responsible for our ability to relate to other people. Studies have shown that mirror neurons are a contributing factor in empathy and understanding other people. This also means that people without mirror neurons, or with damaged mirror neurons, may struggle with social situations and feeling empathetic.

V.S. Ramachandran, a neuroscience professor at the University of California, San Diego, discussed the role of mirror neurons in empathy. He brings up the point that to truly feel empathy for someone, we must feel what they are feeling. Mirror neurons are what allow this to happen. If we are watching someone else in pain, we must understand and be able to imagine that type of pain to be empathetic towards them. However, Ramachandran also says that mirror neurons are not entirely responsible for empathy (Marsh, 2012). They are a foundation, but not the entire process.

Early research is also indicating that deficiencies in mirror neurons may be responsible for disorders such as autism, where individuals are largely incapable of feeling empathy and understanding social cues. Since mirror neurons are partially responsible for why we can feel what others feel, researchers believe that those with difficultly understanding others may have limited mirror neuron activity. A study in 2005 published by Cognitive Brain Research demonstrated that when measuring mirror neuron activity, individuals high on the autism spectrum displayed diminished capabilities (Oberman, et. al.) This strongly favors the idea that mirror neurons play a role in empathy and understanding, which is often lacking in individuals with autism.

While the previously mentioned research shows strong connections between social functioning skills and mirror neurons, it is important to point out that they are not entirely responsible for these behaviors. As V.S. Ramachandran points out, generations of observation and imitation also play a key role in understanding social cues (Marsh, 2012). This is also related to top-down processing, which was discussed in this lesson. Top-down processing is the idea that our perception is based on our prior knowledge (Goldstein, 2011). According to this idea, we may develop social understanding by making sense of previous interactions and applying that knowledge to future interactions. Researchers believe that both mirror neurons and top-down processing are responsible for the development of social skills and human understanding.

We can see that mirror neurons are a large part of human interaction and that they are still undergoing much research. Mirror neurons have been shown to be linked to experiencing empathy. They are also believed to be partially responsible for disorders where individuals have difficulty feeling empathy and understanding social interactions. Ideas connecting mirror neurons and autism are still early, but studies have demonstrated strong relationships between the two. In addition to mirror neurons, the idea of top-down processing and perceiving things based on our prior knowledge, is a factor in how we interact with other humans. This type of processing and mirror neurons work together to develop and maintain the social skills we use every day.



Goldstein, E.B. (2011). Cognitive psychology. (3rd ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Marsh, J. (2012). Do mirror neurons give us empathy? University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved from

Oberman, L.M., Hubbard, E.M., McCleery, J.P., Altschuler, E.L., Ramachandran, V.S., Pineda, J.A. (2005). EEG evidence for mirror neuron dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders. Cognitive Brain Research, 24, 190-198.

How the Temporal Lobe Functions

How the Temporal Lobe Functions

Have you ever hit your head hard enough to give your self a headache for days to come? When I was 13 years old this unfortunately happened to me, but on a larger scale. I was in a car crash where I hit my head into the sidecar window, fracturing my skull and collapsing my eardrum. I was actually deaf in my left ear until I received eardrum reconstruction surgery to allow my primary auditory cortex to fully function once again. Learning about the brain and its functions in this course is not only academic for me, but also a reminder of the how the brain recovers.

The topic that I would love to discuss is the function of the Temporal Lobe and how this section of the brain contributes to most of our functions we take for granted. The Temporal Lobe is in control of remembering memories, understanding language, hearing and mustering up emotion and so much more. In this course we learn how the brain is separated into different sections, and what their functions may be. For example the Occipital Lobe is responsible for our vision and how we perceive distance. The Parietal Lobe is in charge of skin senses, such as hot and cold. And the Frontal Lobe is responsible for all of these senses, and also is in charge of cognation.

In our books the author describes the how the temporal lobe receives and process sound:

“When sound stimulates receptors in the ear, resulting electrical signals reach the auditory receiving area in the temporal lobe (Goldstein 30)”.

This description of the temporal lobes function proves that we need it in order to hear and that the Temporal Lobe is a Primary Receiving Area of the brain. When the sound reaches the Primary Auditory Cortex, it sends signals to secondary areas, which allows you to understand and process noise.

Scientist’s discovered what part of the brain serves a certain purpose by examining brain-damaged patients. When I was in my car crash, my skull was fractured right above my Temporal Lobe.  Not only did this happen, but my left eardrum also collapsed, causing my temporal lobe to only process what I hear through my right ear. I was lucky that I did not have internal bleeding, but if I had damage to my Temporal Lobe I may not be able to remember quite as well, or even process sound.

This lesson in our books really hits home for me, because a few years ago I was hearing this information from doctors and not under my own terms. I really enjoy learning how our brain and body work in unison, and how much we now know about our minds.  Its truly fascinating to me that our brain is categorized into different sections, and that these sections have specific duty’s. Without our Temporal Lobe we would not be able to remember beautiful memories, or even hear things around us.



Works Cited

Goldstein, B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience, 3rd Edition. Wadsworth, Inc.

Anthony Ferrono

Speed Freaks: Tunnel Vision and Physiological Perception

Speed Freaks: Tunnel Vision and Physiological Perception

Paul M Pozzi Jr 1/30/2014

*** WARNING ***

Before anyone begins to read this, a disclaimer is necessary: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. There is an exceedingly high likelihood that you will DIE or go to JAIL, lose your driver’s license, and have your vehicle impounded as evidence. In most states, exceeding the posted speed limit by double or 30 miles per hour, whichever is less, constitutes felony speeding. If you are caught, you will likely be charged with felony speeding, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, gross negligence, evading pursuit, resisting arrest, and several other violations of your state’s motor vehicle codes. Again, DO NOT attempt to duplicate this condition in the manner presented below.


So there I was: three in the morning on a Monday, rocketing southbound on US-101 back to Monterey from San Francisco. I was late. I was really, really late. My 72-hour weekend pass had expired four hours earlier and I was supposed to have been back on post by 2300 (11 PM for civilians) on Sunday night. I was speeding. I was really, really speeding. The last time I remember looking at the gauges on my motorcycle, I was doing somewhere on the dangerous side of 150 miles per hour near Edenvale. I think that was about when I started to notice that I couldn’t see my mirrors anymore. Normally, even when I was completely tucked in behind the windscreen, I could see mirrors in my peripheral vision. But since I was so late, and an invincible twentysomething, I kept that throttle pinned wide open. Then I noticed I couldn’t see the edges of the windscreen or even the lights of the gauges. When I came to my senses and realized how utterly stupid this behavior was (despite the rush I felt), I rolled off – slowly – and sat up. The first thing I remember being able to focus on was that orange needle against a white speedometer face coming down past 170, and I realized I’d just experienced tunnel vision. I was passing the exit for Gilroy, almost 20 miles and under seven minutes later.

A statute mile is 5280 feet. At 60 MPH, a vehicle is travelling 5280 feet per minute, or 88 feet per second (FPS). At 120, a vehicle is travelling twice that: 176 FPS. I figure I was probably doing close to 180 – just shy of the Japanese manufacturers’ gentlemen’s agreement of an electronically-limited 300 kilometers per hour (189 MPH) top speed for all their street-going superbikes. At that speed, my motorcycle and I were flying low, literally exceeding the maximum attainable speed of most helicopters and propeller-driven airplanes, covering an absolutely astonishing 264 feet every second. That’s nearly the length of a football field. In a second. I would’ve outrun everything CHP (California Highway Patrol) had except the radio.

Studies have suggested that humans are capable of normally processing approximately 13-15 frames per second of vision (Deering, 1998). It is estimated that the average human is comfortable processing information in a close-proximity moving environment, such as driving, at no more than 72 MPH. Currently, the accepted standard for the earliest phases of greyout is roughly 39 meters per second (NAMI, 1991), which is a precursor to true tunnel vision, where the human mind starts ignoring peripheral visual input in order to focus on survival (dealing with what is immediately in front of you) and what is referred to in aviation as g-LOC, or g-induced loss of consciousness. That would be where a human is physiologically overloaded by stimuli, environmental factors, or an extreme and prolonged adrenaline dump and momentarily passes out due to the brain focusing on survival of the body rather than providing sufficient blood flow, and thus oxygen, to the brain for sustainment of active cognitive processes.

Obviously, there are trained individuals capable of processing information effectively at these speeds, in controlled environments; otherwise we wouldn’t have such lavish extracurricular activities as low-altitude aircraft racing, professional or amateur automotive racing (on two wheels or four, and I’m including – reluctantly – NASCAR in this), but it should be highly stressed that these people are exceptions to the rule. While our eyes are capable of transmitting in excess of 200 frames per second (which means our optic nerves collect and transmit a picture to our brain in less than 0.005 seconds) (Brand, 2001), our minds subconsciously decide to process less than half of those images This is why we perceive seamless motion in even an old cathode ray tube television at a mere 30 frames per second (Brand, 2001). Depth perception, color acuity, and general visual clarity all fall victim to our brains deciding to ignore ancillary input in “fight-or-flight” mode, triggered by prolonged acceleration, massive adrenaline dump, or chemically-induced states of altered consciousness (Godnig, 2004, et al).

We’ve all been in a position at some point where we “saw red” or got so excited, scared, or physically traumatized that we briefly became wobbly-kneed, couldn’t focus properly, and making a life-altering decision such as “do I want scattered, covered, and smothered, or do I just want grits?” was all but impossible. The best course of action in such a situation is to take a few slow, deliberate breaths, back up a step or two cognitively, and repeat the thinking process again more deliberately. As any good tactical instructor will tell you: slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

And hash browns “all the way” is always the best choice.


MF Deering, “Limits of Human Vision”, Sun Microsystems, 1998

US Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI), Naval Flight Surgeon’s Manual: 3rd Ed 1991, Ch 2: Acceleration and Vibration

Dustin D Brand, “Human Eye Frames per Second”, 2/21/2001, online,

Dr. Edward C Godnig O.D. FCOVD, 2004, The Police Policies Studies Council, online,

Alan A Stocker and Eero P Simoncelli, 12/2004, “Constraining a Bayesian Model of Human Visual Speed Perception”, MIT Press 5/2005,