domingo, 3 de abril de 2011


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime sleep attacks. Overcome by sleep episodes all day, Mohammed has an average of 60 sleep attacks per day.
Although he might try to fight it, it is impossible.  It took 18 years for him to be diagnosed, and before he was diagnosed he would constantly feel guilty when he fell asleep, even though it wasn’t his fault. Watching a narcoleptic having a sleep attack might seem a bit funny to most people, but in reality the struggles he\she goes through are very difficult and pitiful and not funny at all.
Doctors and scientists still don’t fully understand narcolepsy, limiting the research of how to prevent or cure the disease, making it dangerous. People with Narcolepsy, such as the man in the video, need to be very careful with their surroundings. Whenever Narcoleptics have sleep attacks, they usually fall to the floor and if they are near something sharp they can hurt themselves easily. Precautions must be taken such as putting carpets on the floor, which can be both economically and physically exhausting.
It must also be a difficult disease to have because most people in the world are very judgmental and will think a narcoleptic is drunk or drugged during one of his\her attacks. Having a job is pretty much impossible due to the fact that falling asleep at a meeting or during any important time could be considered disrespectful and might affect the quality of the person's work. It is hard for people, including me to understand the implications of having narcolepsy and the fact that it is impossible to control. It is easy to be suspicious and think the person is faking the attack because of the dishonesty present in this world and society. Hopefully someone will be able to find a cure for this disease and help all the unfortunate people who battle narcolepsy.

domingo, 20 de marzo de 2011

Sleep and Dreams

The importance of sleep is much higher then most people think it is. Not only does sleep help to recharge the brain and repair neurons, but it also recognizes data to solve problems, process newly learned information, organize and archive memories, lower a person’s metabolic rate and energy consumption, gives the cardiovascular system a break, and allows you to grow. In other words, sleep is essential to living, especially if one wants to be healthy.
While we sleep the brain acts as if we were awake and also allows us to dream, multiple times throughout the night. Dreams have always been important in the world and society. Although dreams have occurred since the beginning of time, we still don’t understand them or their purpose. We have dreams during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and during non-REM. Our dreams tend to be a little different in each stage. During REM, the amygdule, which deals with the unpleasant emotions (fear, anger, etc), influences the dreams because it (the amygdule) is active. About 75% of dreams in this stage are negative. Differently, during non-REM the amygdule is not active and so dreams are more positive. During REM, our body is paralyzed, but some people have what is called ‘REM Sleep Disorder’, which enables their body from being paralyzed and so they act out their dreams, often hurting themselves or people near them.
It is thought that the Parietal Lobe is in charge of dreaming because rare people who have damaged their parietal Lobe don’t dream. The reasons for which we dream are thought to being: to keep us asleep, to keep us mentally healthy, dreams have meanings, and are important for our psychological wellbeing. Another theory to why we dream is that dreaming helps us face similar events that occur in the waking world. During the day, our consciousness is in control of our mind and we push away all the frightening thoughts we don’t want to face. So, during the night we unconsciously dream scary things such as someone close to us dying to prepare us for when it happens in the real world. All those ‘reasons’ are simply theories, which I believe in. The true reason to why we dream hasn’t been discovered, but as technology advances the hope of solving this mystery increases.

lunes, 7 de marzo de 2011

Sensory Deprivation and It's Affect on the Brain

What happens in your brain when you are truly alone? A study was made to analyze what happens to the brain when deprived of stimulation. Six random people were put in confinement cells for 48 hours and in complete darkness, some even without being able to hear or feel. It was a horrible experience for them and their brains did suffer. The patient’s brains were tested before the confinement and functioned at normal levels, but after the 48 hours it was obvious that their brains had deteriorated. Many of them would talk to themselves, hallucinate, pace back and forth for hours without stopping, and other odd actions. This experiment suggests how fragile the mind can be, especially when alone.
In many countries prisoners are tortured by being put in confinement cells for long periods of time. A known fact is that during the Korean War, when Americans and Canadians were held as hostages and deprived of their senses they were easily brainwashed. Today in America, there are at least 20,000 prisoners in isolation cells. A man who experienced being in a confinement cell and now is free has realized that more than at least 2/3 of his brain has deteriorated and that now he has no ability with time, can’t follow directions, can’t drive on a busy street, etc, and he knows that it is permanent. If these patients were only put in isolation cells for 48 hours and treated humanely and still their minds deteriorated, imagine how prisoner’s minds are affected since they are isolated for long periods of time and not treated kindly. In my opinion it is a horrible way to torture people and ruin their mental abilities.


1. Synesthesia:
A condition in which normally separate senses are not separate. Sight may mingle with sound, taste with touch, etc. The senses are cross-wired.

2. Grapheme (color synesthesia):
is a form of synesthesia in which an individual's perception of numbers and letters is associated with the experience of colors. Color synesthesia is one of the most common forms of synesthesia, and because of the extensive knowledge of the visual system, one of the most studied.
3. Ordinal (linguistic personification): 
is a form of synthesia in which numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities. Personifications tend to co-occur with grapheme-color synesthesia and share many of the characteristics that are definitional of synesthesia, such as being consistent over considerable time intervals and generating concurrents automatically.
4. Number (form synesthesia):
is a form of synthesia in which a mental map of numbers, which automatically and involuntarily appears whenever someone who experiences number-forms thinks of numbers.  In particular, it has been suggested that number-forms are a result of "cross-activation" between regions of the parietal lobe that are involved in numerical cognition and spatial cognition.

5. Sound (color synesthesia):
is a form of synthesia which involves hearing sounds in response to visual motion and flicker. Sound-color synesthesia can be further broken down into two categories, “Narrow band”and “Broad band”:
Narrow band AKA music is when music elicit different shades, hues brightness of colors relative to the tones, notes or even instrument played. Broad band synesthesia is when individuals will be able to see colors from hearing sounds of the ordinary (ringing of alarm clocks, people walking, construction, birds flying, besides music.

6. Lexical (gustatory synesthesia):
 is one of the rarer forms of synesthesia, in which spoken or written words evoke vivid sensations of taste, sometimes including temperature and texture. Gustatory synesthesia may be due to increased connectivity between adject regions of the insula in the depths of the lateral sulcus involved in taste processing that lie adjacent to temporal lobe regions involved in auditory processing.


Mental Abilities: Genius, Savant and Autism

1. Explain in detail what "savant syndrome" means.
Savants are people who despite serious mental or physical disability have quite remarkable, and sometimes spectacular, talents. This is an exceedingly rare phenomena and the Savant syndrome is perhaps one of the most fascinating phenomena in the study of human differences and cognitive psychology. It is often claimed that, because of the extraordinary abilities involved, we will never truly understand human memory and cognition until we understand the savant.

2. What does genius mean?  Explain the difference between genius and savant.
A person who has an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, music, art, etc. The difference between genius and savant is that geniuses have exceptional intelligence in all areas, unlike savants who have spectacular talents despite having serious mental or physical disablities.

3. What is a stroke and how could it affect your mental functioning?
blockage or hemorrhage of a blood vessel leading to the brain, causing inadequate oxygen supply and, depending on the extent and location of the abnormality, such symptoms as weakness, paralysis of parts of the body, speech difficulties, and, if severe, loss of consciousness or death. The specific abilities that will be lost or affected by stroke depend on the extent of the brain damage and most importantly where in the brain the stroke occurred. The brain is an incredibly complex organ, and each area within the brain has responsibility for a particular function or ability.

4. What is a functional MRI and how does it help us understand brain activity?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.MRI uses a powerful magnetic field, radio frequency pulses and a computer to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and virtually all other internal body structures.Detailed MR images allow physicians to better evaluate various parts of the body and determine the presence of certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods such as x-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography.

5. What is the corpus callosum and what role does it play in your brain's activity?
Corpus callosum consists of nerve fibers and is placed on the longitudinal fissure, under the cerebral cortex. There are three parts of corpus callosum: genu (the front part), splenium (the bottom part) and truncus (located between these two parts).
The essential assignment of corpus callosum is to allow the two hemispheres to communicate. Because two hemispheres have completely different functions and responsibilities, they have to have something that will join these functions together, so that our brain could function properly as one organ. Corpus callosum is actually connecting these functions into one, carrying information from one hemisphere to another and vice versa. It is also responsible for lateralization of the brain, which means that it determines which side of the body will be preferred. Eye movements are regulated and coherent due to fast action of corpus callosum. 

6. What is epilepsy and how might it affect your brain's abilities?
Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system, specifically the brain. In epilepsy, the brain's electrical rhythms have a tendency to become imbalanced, resulting in recurrent seizures. A seizure occurs when the brain's nerve cells misfire and generate a sudden, uncontrolled surge of electrical activity in the brain. If seizures arise from a specific area of the brain, then the initial symptoms of the seizure often reflect the functions of that area and are usually damaged or altered.

7. What is autism?
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.
 8. What is Asperger's Syndrome?
Asperger's syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger's syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics. Doctors group Asperger's syndrome with other conditions that are called autistic spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders. These disorders all involve problems with social skills and communication.


domingo, 27 de febrero de 2011

Nature vs. Nurture- Intelligence

                                 Accidental Genius:
An idiot savant is someone who is a genius in one thing or subject but struggles with all other areas (handicap). A savant's overall abilities are very low and usually because the baby's brain didn’t develop correctly. Their brains are wired differently, allowing the right side of their brain (the creative side) to become more dominant then the left. All savants have unusual skills but they are divided into different categories. A normal savant has a skill but it isn’t considered useful or the best anywhere. The gifted savants can do something that society considers useful. Lastly, the prodigious savants can do something that is considered the best anywhere (there are less than 100 prodigious savants in the world). Scientists have struggled studying these savants because they all are disabled in some way, usually autism, and can’t communicate what is going on inside of their brains. It is sad how such smart and talented people struggle though life. I have heard many people say that they wish they had skills like these savants, but would they really give up their overall abilities to have one amazing skill?

Nature vs. Nurture- Intelligence

                           Make Me A Genius:
In my opinion being trained properly can allow you to achieve almost anything. After practicing so much, the brain develops in a different way (what you do or don’t do changes the brain). It’s like teachers, parents, and coaches always say, ¨Practice makes perfect! ¨ Susan Polgar is a perfect example that by working hard you can accomplish anything. She was born an ordinary child in Hungary and her dad was convinced that he could teach her to be a genius. So, when he discovered her interest in chess, he decided to teach her how to be a chess expert, which is what she grew up to be. She became the first woman to earn the men's Grandmaster title.  Memory is a tool most geniuses learn to use. They come up with tricks to remember things such as chunking, which is putting groups of information together. Also, with constant repetition things go from the moving memory to long-term memory. An example of how are brain adapts to our lives is that Susan uses the part of the brain where most people store and recognize faces to recognize the chess board and its pieces. It is interesting how our brain can become more intelligent by practicing and the right training. What if we all started practicing and training the way Susan did? Could we all become a genius at one thing?