Science Article

Memory

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Our memory is what allows us to remember new information and retrieve old information in order to make sense of the world. Memory is the persistence of learning over time, involving the storage and retrieval of information. This process can be defined by three steps: encoding (new information enters our brains), storage (information being kept in the brain), and retrieval (information being remembered for later use).  Retention Measures  In order to measure our retention of information there is recall, recognition, and relearning: all of which are used in our daily lives testing how much information endures in our long term memory. Recall is similar to a fill in the blank question, in which information must be retrieved without cues. In contrast, recognition is more similar to a multiple choice question where a certain stimuli can be matched to previous information. Lastly, relearning can determine how much one remembers because it …

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Neurobiology of Aging

age, youth, contrast

In our mid-twenties, our physical performance peaks when mild cognitive decline begins. When we turn fifty, our eyesight worsens and in our sixties, we become more prone to disease and sickness. Our increased mental and physical vulnerability is rooted in biological and neuroscientific reasoning from the weakening of neural connections within the brain to the deterioration of the immune system.  Cognitive Decline  Our brain contains over one hundred billions neurons which are utilized to send information to the brain and elicit responses. Neurons are nerve cells, which act as the building blocks of the nervous system. At one end of the neuron is the dendrite, whose branching extensions receive messages and conduct impulses across the axon. Sometimes the axon is encased by a myelin sheath which is a fatty tissue layer that enables faster transmission speed. The resting potential of neurons is based on the fluid outside the axon’s membrane, …

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Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, so it is the time to spread awareness of Alzheimer’s and inspire action to aid individuals suffering from the disease and the path to a cure.  Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia, causing memory loss and cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Association,  Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. The majority of individuals with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older, yet the disease is not a normal part of aging. Although Alzheimer’s has no cure, aducanumab is used as a treatment to potentially delay clinical decline. However, the disease is progressive, where sympyoms gradually worsen over time going from mild memory loss to losing the ability to perceive the environment and interact with others. As the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., a person with Alzheimer’s generally lives 4 to 8 years after diagnosis.  Signs and Symptoms One …

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Sleep

Sleep is crucial to our ability to survive: it is the periodic, reversible loss of consciousness. Through our body’s circadian rhythm, our bodies are regulated in a 24 hour cycle, and when sleep does occur, it is in a 90 minute cycle of REM sleep. Sleep has many imperative functions for survival, yet many individuals face sleep disorders.  Circadian Rhythm  Our body has a circadian rhythm, which is a biological clock that occurs on a 24 hour cycle. The cycle is altered by and experience and influences body temperature, arousal, and energy throughout the day.  At around 2am is the deepest sleep, with the lowest body temperature around 4:30 am. Around when we wake up, about 6:45 am, there is the sharpest rise in blood pressure: over the next few hours, melatonin secretion stops, bowel movement likely occurs, there is the highest testosterone secretion and the highest alertness. Between noon …

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Non-Verbal Learning Disorder

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Children with non-verbal learning disorder (NLD) have a combination of social, emotional, and learning deficits. Unlike other learning disorders, NLD does not impact the ability to process language; instead, it affects social interactions, executive function, organization, and problem-solving. According to the Child Mind Institute, five major areas are impacted by NLD. Firstly, visual and spatial awareness is an area of weakness for those with NLD. Oftentimes, this leads to children with NLD being physically awkward and unable to perceive shape and position. Another aspect of NLD is higher-order comprehension, which is the ability to relate the big picture of something and to smaller details. This weakness makes it difficult for children with NLD to take notes in school because they tend to write everything being said, rather than identifying important information. Additionally, students with NLD struggle with math that goes beyond the data memorization. The importance of recognizing concepts and …

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Intelligence

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Intelligence can be defined as the ability to learn from experience, solve problems, and use knowledge to adapt to new situations. Simply Psychology states that intelligence “has been defined in many ways: higher level abilities (such as abstract reasoning, mental representation, problem solving, and decision making), the ability to learn, emotional knowledge, creativity, and adaptation to meet the demands of the environment effectively.” Specifically, psychologist Robert Sternberg defined intelligence as “the mental abilities necessary for adaptation to, as well as shaping and selection of, any environmental context.” With its many definitions, intelligence is a fascinating and multifaceted topic with a rich history and diverse explanations.  History of Studying Intelligence  To begin with Charles Spearman, an English psychologist, established the two-factor theory of intelligence in 1904, using factor analysis. By identifying custers of closely related test items, factor analysis revealed that people who did well in one skill area also tended …

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Hearing

head with music notes

Our body’s auditory system allows us to process external sound to better understand the world around us. In doing so, we utilize the parts of the ear to absorb sound and the steps of processing in the brain to interpret what we hear.  Soundwaves  We hear sounds (measured in decibels), through sound waves, whose height, length, and complexity determine what we hear. The amplitude, or the height of the sound wave, dictates the volume of the sound. A high amplitude means that the sound is loud, whereas a low amplitude causes a soft sound. Within the ear, loudness is determined by the number of activated hair cells in the cochlea.  In contrast, the frequency, or the length of the soundwave, affects pitch: a low frequency is a low pitched sound and a high frequency is a high pitched sound. There are multiple theories used to help us understand pitch perception. …

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Motivation

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What is Motivation? Motivation refers to a need or desire that energizes a direct behavior.   Motivated behaviors are caused by a combination of nature and nurture. There are four perspectives to explain motivated behavior  Instinct theory  Drive-reduction theory  Arousal theory  Hierarchy of needs “Growth needs do not stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person. Once these growth needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization” (McLeod, 2020)  What is evolutionary psychology?  Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory popularized the use of “instinct” to name behaviors, rather than explain them.  “According to evolutionary psychology, individuals are motivated to engage in behaviors that maximize their genetic fitness” (Lumen, 2021). An instinct is a complex behavior that is unlearned and rigidly patterned throughout a species.  Although instinct theory failed to explain human behavior it opened the door for …

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Associative Learning

left and right side of brain

Learning refers to the relatively permanent change in an organism’s behavior to a given situation due to repeated experiences in that situation, so long as the behavior change is not because of nature response tendencies, maturation, or a temporary state. One type of learning is associative learning, which is made up of classical conditioning and operant conditioning.  Classical Conditioning Classical conditioning refers to learning to link two stimuli in a way that helps us anticipate an event to which we have a reaction. Ivan Pavlov’s studies with the salvation response in dogs demonstrated this concept: Pavlov found that salvation from eating food was eventually triggered by what should have been a neutral stimulus, or a stimulus that does not normally trigger a response. Initially, food was the unconditioned stimulus, since it naturally triggered the unconditioned response of salivation before any conditioning took place. Prior to conditioning, the neutral stimulus was …

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Nervous System

neurons with black background

The nervous system is the body’s speedy electrochemical communication network. It consists of nerve cells within the peripheral and central nervous systems.  Central Nervous System (CNS)  The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord, which contain neural networks: brain neurons that cluster into work groups. The spinal cord acts as a two way information highway connecting sensory organs and the brain. Sensory information ascends up the spinal cord, while descending neural fibers send back motor control information to the muscles in the body.  One of the most important functions of the central nervous system is reflexes, which are simple, automatic responses to a sensory stimulus. For instance, a pain reflex is demonstrated when one’s hand touches a flame. As the brain receives the stimulus, it responds by causing the hand to jerk away. Reflexes are composed of sensory and motor neurons that communicate between interneurons.  There are many …

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