Science Article

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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Parts of the Brain

anatomy of brain

To understand our behaviors, thoughts, and actions it is crucial we recognize the functions of the different parts of the brain. Depending on the type of sensations being perceived and the section of the brain being actively, we will respond to stimuli differently. Below are some of the most important parts of the brain to know. Firstly, there is the old brain, whose parts occur without conscious effort. This includes the brainstem, which is the oldest part and central core of the brain. The brainstem is responsible for automatic survival functions, and at its base is the medulla, which allows for heartbeat and breathing. Above the medulla, is the pons, which helps coordinate movements.  At the top of the brainstem is the thalamus, which acts as the brain’s sensory switchboard by directing messages to the sensory receiving areas in the cortex and transmitting replies to the cerebellum and medulla. To …

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Motivation

light bulb, lightbulb, light

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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Sociopathy vs. Psychopathy

two faces purple and blue

While these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to different sets of characteristics and symptoms. Both psychopathy and sociopathy are classified under antisocial personality disorder, which is a part of the Cluster B personality disorder group. Behaviors of those in this group demonstrates a disregard for societal rules and others, as well as unpredictability.  According to Psychology Today, some symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include criminal activity, manipulation, impulsiveness, aggression, irresponsibility, irritability, disregard for the safety of self and others, and a lack of remorse.  Within the category of antisocial personality disorders is sociopathy, which is distinct in its volatility. Sociopathy is primarily shaped by environmental traumas, such as abusive relationships or a troubled childhood, but individuals who are genetically predisposed have a higher likelihood of developing the disorder. Some common behavior of sociopaths include emotional outbursts, lack of self control, and a disregard for societal rules.  Sociopaths lack …

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Tourette’s Syndrome

analysis, biochemistry, biologist

Recently, I watched the movie “Front of the Class,” a story about a man with Tourette’s syndrome who learns to appreciate his tics as a reason for his success. Throughout the movie, the audience sees the man where he is in the present time, striving to become a teacher and spread awareness of Tourette’s, as well as his childhood.  As a child, the boy struggled with feeling outcast and misunderstood due to his tics. He was viewed as disruptive by his teachers due to his uncontrollable sounds, and as a joke by his fellow classmates. Even his own father could not accept his son’s condition until it was formally diagnosed.  When he grew up, the man hoped to become a teacher to instill the importance of uniqueness and acceptance in his students. However, with these goals came obstacles as he went from one interview to the next without any success. …

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Socially Aversive Traits Over Time

drama, comedy and tragedy, theater

Although people’s overall temperament remains constant throughout life, people become less socially aversive as they age. According to the article, “People Seem to Become Less Socially Aversive with Age,” over time, dark personality traits, which causes individuals to put themselves over others, lessen. To prove this claim, researchers followed around 500 German adults, between the ages of 18 and 65 years, over a four year period. To assess their aversive traits, such as egoism, moral disengagement, narcissism, psychopathy, sadism, self interest, and machiavellianism, participants filled out personality questionnaires. Using their responses, researchers found evidence that, apart from psychological entitlement and sadism, people’s level of socially aversive traits decreased through the four year period. At the same time, these findings show that knowing how a person’s level in the dark core of personality develops helps predict how that person’s level in socially aversive traits develop. Thus, there is an underlying Dark …

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How are poor sleep and loneliness connected?

alarm clock, stand up, time of

Poor sleep and loneliness are two issues that are interconnected in a cycle that affects its sufferer psychologically and physiologically. Loneliness, the sense that one has less social interaction with others than ideal, can be worsened by the lack of sleep.  In a paper by Melanie Hom, Caol Chu, Megan Rogers, and Thomas Joiner in the September 2020 issue of Clinical Psychological Science, the authors discussed their studies relating sleep to loneliness. According to 84 studies, containing over 200,000 individuals, there was an overall pattern that the “more people express that they have sleep difficulties, the higher the level of loneliness they feel.” At the same time, “the more loneliness people express, the less effective they think their sleep was.”  Generally, the connection between earlier sleep difficulties causing loneliness in the future was stronger than early loneliness causing sleep problems. Regardless, both issues worsen the other, perpetuating a cycle that …

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How Does Autism Relate to Gut Dysfunction?

vegetables, onions, carrots

According to Think Autistic, the connection between gut function and autism is pivotal in understanding how gut problems correlate with emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with autism. By learning about gut dysfunction, parents can have a more well rounded approach in dealing with their autistic child’s needs.  As written in Spectrum News, about 40% of children with developmental conditions, including autism, have gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and reflux. Such symptoms correlate with more intense aggression, hyperactivity, irritability, anxiety, defiance, and tantrums in children with autism.  Issues in the gut can worsen symptoms associated with autism, so by learning about gut dysfunction we can have a more nuanced approach to behaviors common among children with autism.  Inside the gut are microbiotas, which are essential to our ability to absorb food, produce vitamins, strengthen the immune system, and maintain the gut barrier. A study published in the …

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