Final Project

August 11, 2014

The limbic system is always something that has fascinated me.  Teenagers go through a lot of changes both physically and emotionally and have to deal with problems regarding the limbic system.  I thought it would be cool to incorporate text messaging with information about the limbic system.  Here it is:  a friend of mine just had a breakup with her boyfriend and I walk her through to deactivate her limbic system.  Enjoy!

PS: sorry for the bad texting language but I really wanted everyone to get the whole feel 🙂  The “thought bubble” on text 2 is my thoughts that my friend cannot see

Legend of Texts:

WTH- what the heck

OMG- oh my god

WHT- what

“The D Word”- Dylan

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Imaginary Neuro-Tech

August 10, 2014

Throughout scientific history, many technological advances have been made.  In the year 2014, there are so many different types of imaging systems for the brain and so many different angles the brain can be seen in.  An MRI looks at the structure of the brain- tissues and cross sections of the brain; a PET scan looks at molecular information of the brain; and a CT scan looks at bones and soft tissues.  The technology I would be creating would be somewhat of a high resolution camera that would be able to see specific neurons in the brain and how they are intreating with one another.  Assuming technology has majorly advances at this point in time, this camera would be able to capture these neurons in a cross section, much like an MRI, so a neurologist would be able to clearly see each section of neurons.  Let’s take this into a real world situation- an MRI has located an issue within a specific part of the brain, or even a tumor.  This camera would be able to go in and capture neuronal activity.  This would allow the neurologist more insight into the problem the patient is having.  Now, the whole point of this camera is so brain surgery does not have to be performed until further knowledge is gained, so there would have to be a noninvasive way the camera went in- possibly through the nose and into the brain that way.

As stated before, technology would have to be extremely advanced for this to happen.  The first thing that needs to occur is a camera that can capture photos at that level of high resolution, almost at a microscopic level.  The next thing in the series of advancements would have to be this microscopic camera that would be small enough to fit through the sinuses into the nose.  I assume this would not be as difficult because we already have cameras this small, the right technology would just have to be compacted into a small volume.  The second part of this camera would have to be an accompanying video camera so the surgeon would be able to see where he/she is in the brain.  This would allow the camera into certain regions and specific places (prefrontal cortex, cerebrum etc).  At this point in time, with technology rapidly advancing at the rate it is, I would give this technology another 15-20 years to be created.  A lot of the parts needed are existing at this point in time, its just putting the pieces of the puzzle together and then testing it to make sure it is accurate which could take up to 5 or 6 years in itself.

Overall, I think this type of technology would be a great addition to the types of brain imaging we have.  We have so many different brain imaging types that could work together and  I believe this would make a huge victory in the medical field and if the technology is created right, save many lives and help to expand the existing knowledge we have of the brain.





Neuroscience and the Law

August 9, 2014

On November 5, 2009, Kent Kiehl, a neuroscientist, took the stand to describe the scientific findings from an fMRI scan of Brian Dugan’s brain.  Kiehl took the stand for around 6 hours describing how Dugan scored a 38 out of 40 on the Hare Psychopathy Checklist and continued on with the analysis of Dugan’s brain.  Allowing fMRI evidence into court has recently been a controversial subject because, as some critics say, it is rarely used in diagnosis and there is no way to know that during the time of the scan, the defendants mental status is the same as it was when he/she was committing the crime.

An fMRI, otherwise known as a functional magnetic resonance imaging, uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create a very detailed image of the blood flow in the brain.  More specifically, an fMRI can also be used to detect where certain activity is occurring in the brain which can lead to scientists to understand what we are feeling, when we are lying etc.  Other technologies used in court cases include a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.  A PET scan is a type of nuclear medicine imaging.  It involves a patient to inhale, swallow or be injected with radiotracers which are used to light up a specific point of activity in the body or brain.  In court cases, a PET scan is better than an fMRI to diagnose mental abnormalities such as schizophrenia or any other mental disorder.

Using an fMRI as evidence in a court case has been a very controversial subject in both the medical field and with lawyers, judges and jurors.  In reality, an fMRI can be used to detect physical abnormalities in the brain.  In this case, if there is tissue missing from the brain and there is indication of a psychiatric illness, this is more or less legitimate evidence in a court case.  The brain scan doesn’t lie.  On the other hand, fMRI’s are rarely used for diagnosis and there is a much better way of showing the same data in a more concrete way.  In addition, there is no way to say that the defendants brain is in the same condition as it was when he/she committed the crime.  The brain changes all the time, so unless the scan was done directly after the crime was committed, there is no way of knowing.   A PET scan is much more concrete than the fMRI scan.  It is used much more in the field to diagnose psychiatric conditions and is much more established for diagnosis than the fMRI is.

Therefore, with the evidence presented above, my recommendation is not to let fMRI’s be used as court evidence.  If the defense team would like to present another method of technology with a more solid reputation, I think that is to be taken up in a separate manner.  An fMRI does not use enough concrete evidence to dismiss a person from a crime they have committed.  It is important that everyone get a fair and equal trial, and by using an fMRI, I do not think that is an acceptable thing to allow back into the courtroom.

Perception and Perspective

August 7, 2014

I’m so sorry this is late. I was traveling and had no internet access.

Anyways, I chose to talk about perception in regards to internal and external factors and use three different examples to demonstrate that. I wanted to show how these factors impact our though process in such a significant manner. I had a great time in this course with everyone. Wish you all good luck and hope you enjoy my blogpost!

We go around everyday, to work, to school, to the supermarket. We feel grief, pain, and happiness. Our brain has the ability to perceive things, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. Sometimes we think something without knowing that we had the ability to think at that level or to that extent. The memories that are stored in our brains are what distinguish us from others; the experience we have set us apart and help us look at things differently than others we know. How much of a part does this play in perception? I am going to be looking at three different examples, and describe what causes us to perceive these experiences in the way that we do.

When someone goes through a traumatic experience, and that person is in denial of the situation, we always hear phrases such as, “That’s a good sign; it’s the first step towards recovery.” Have you ever wondered what that meant, or where that came from? Is it really true that there are steps to check off a list to get through grief?

The 5 stages of grief was a concept originally mentioned by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book, “On Death and Dying”. She had come to a conclusion that people experienced the 5 steps of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance through careful observation of people diagnosed with terminal diseases. Since then, this concept has been used in a widespread and straightforward manner, being taught in classes and spoken about otherwise.

However, Kubler-Ross eventually stated that, “she regretted writing the stages the way that she did, that people mistook them as being both linear and universal. Based on what she observed while working with patients given terminal diagnoses, Ms. Ross identified five common experiences, not five required experiences.”

One thing that people misinterpreted was that the 5 stages of grief were supposed to be experienced step-by-step by someone who is grieving. They found clarity in the chaos, finding it comforting that there were clear, logical directions they needed to get through this tough time. They perceived this as the solution, thus making it seem as though they had passed the ultimate grief test when they finally reached the final goal of acceptance.

Now let’s look at another example. When someone experiences a major accident or illness, there are instances where the best chance for survival is amputation. This brings forth the concept of phantom limb pain. The most interesting aspect of this phenomenon is that the pain is mentally localized in the limb that no longer exists on the body. Is there a way that you can reverse the effects of the pain by visualizing a lack of it?

Let’s start off with the exact meaning of the term, phantom limb pain. Phantom limb pain is associated with sensations of pain referred to an absent limb. There have been many tries at therapies for this pain, and a specific example is the study conducted called “The effect of opioids on phantom limb pain and cortical reorganization.” This study tested the effectiveness between oral retarded morphine sulphate (MST) against placebo in a double-blind crossover design in 12 patients who were experiencing phantom limb pain after unilateral leg or arm amputation. The results showed that pain was significantly lowered through the use of MST; placebo was not so effective. Pain thresholds were not significantly altered, but attention to the pain was lowered under MST. This showed that the perception of the placebo effect was not particularly useful in this instance, as the medicine that reduced the pain sensation was what ended up being the most effective.

However, an experiment developed by the neuroscientist Vilyanur S Ramachandran used mirrors to help lessen the phantom pain sensation. The experiment worked in a simple way: a mirror is placed in a strategic manner so that the healthy limb is reflected to resemble the absent limb. There is sensory conflict within the brain, as the brain sees movement, but it knows that there is no limb present in that area. The visual perception overpowers the conflict, and relief is felt in the absent limb.

The idea of mirror neurons was brought up by the Italian scientist Giacomo Rizzolatti, who observed mirror neurons in monkeys’ brains fire not only when their arm reached out, but also when another monkey’s arm reached out. The same was found in humans, which was why the mirror experiment was so effective.

Let’s look one last example. Racism and gender bias has been a very important issue in the past, and is still a major issue now. Even though people claim to be evolved and modernized in their thinking, they are unable to see that their subconscious mind is not that easily altered. Does this make you a fundamentally bad person? Are there any ways to change this mindset?

There is a part of your brain, the amygdalae, that activates in the presence of fear, threat, anxiety, and distrust. A test called the Race Implicit Association Test, or the Race IAT, was conducted on a selected group of Caucasian contestants where they were able to come to the conclusion that 70-87% of the Caucasians in the US displayed bias against African Americans in the test. This was concluded because these participants had a higher activation of their amygdalae to African American male faces than when they were shown Caucasian faces.

This is a small example of how even though the conscious mind might not have been actively biased against African Americans, there was still a part of the brain that responded to the stimulus the way it did due to predispositions they knew growing up. Although it was easy for them to control their conscious bias, the tests showed that there was still something in the “back of their minds”, as they say.

Through these examples, you might get a sense of what affects our daily perceptions. In the case of the phantom limb pain, it was internal perceptions regarding your body system, the visual, as well as the sensory system. On the other hand, the perceptions of grief and bias were based on external experiences and stereotypes that we are exposed to as we grow up. These examples clearly show that the world we grow up in shapes our personalities and our perspectives. The information that we get from the outside world is always in our reach, and we are always exposed to it. The only way that we can shape our personalities and biases positively is by ensuring that the information available is not falsified, but rather based on facts while also being accessible for everybody.

Neurodegenerative Diseases: An Overview

August 7, 2014

Unfortunately, I have known many people in my life who are affected by a neurodegenerative disease. I have always been interested in these diseases, and the course provided me with the proper background knowledge to further study these diseases. I decided to focus on four prevalent neurodegenerative diseases: ALS, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s. I created a zine for each disease. I wanted to provide enough information without it being overwhelming or confusing, and I think the zine was a perfect way to do that. I hope you can learn a lot from my project!











Seeley WW, Miller BL. Chapter 371. Dementia. In: Longo DL, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18eNew York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012.
Olanow C, Schapira AV. Chapter 372. Parkinson’s Disease and Other Movement Disorders. In: Longo DL, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18eNew York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012.
Brown RH, Jr.. Chapter 374. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Other Motor Neuron Diseases. In: Longo DL, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Jameson J, Loscalzo J. eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18eNew York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012.
Standaert DG, Roberson ED. Chapter 22. Treatment of Central Nervous System Degenerative Disorders. In: Brunton LL, Chabner BA, Knollmann BC. eds.Goodman & Gilman’s The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 12eNew York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2011.
Ropper AH, Samuels MA. Chapter 39. Degenerative Diseases of the Nervous System. In: Ropper AH, Samuels MA. eds. Adams & Victor’s Principles of Neurology, 10eNew York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2014.

‘Chin Up: Fear and Sadness Will Not Last Forever’

August 7, 2014

Sorry this is a bit late, I had trouble uploading all the pictures.

Anyway, this is my children’s book on anxiety and depression. I hope the colorful pictures and easy to follow storyline inspires all of you to grasp tomorrow and take the chance to do things that make you happy. From personal experience, anxiety once seemed like an actual person, I let it take everything over. But now, I understand that fear is only as big as you think it is.

f1 f2 f3 f4 f5 f6 f7 f8 f9 f10 f11 f12 f13 f14 f15 f16 f17 f18 f19 f20 f21 f22 f23 f24

Final Project: Sources

Basic/Background Information:


Physical and Mental Effects of Anxiety and Depression:

Treatment/Therapy Options:

How Family and Friends Can Help:




Final Project- Time Perception

August 7, 2014

Hi everyone! I chose to talk about time perception in the brain for my final project. Time perception is something I have been very interested in for a few years and it immediately struck me that that’s what I should do my project on. I chose to make a video describing different aspects of time perception. Though I’m still not the world’s greatest public speaker, I thought that making a video would be slightly more entertaining than writing a paper. In the video I talk about the speed of different sensory signals, duration distortions, how health issues affect time perception, and I even list off some interesting facts at the end.

I was hoping to embed the video directly into this post, but the video wayyy exceeds the MB limit, so I will provide you with a direct link to the video on Vimeo here.

My sources:

“Brain Time” By David Eagleman (

“Does Time Exist” (

“Do Humans Have a Biological Stopwatch?” by Dan Falk (


Visual perception

August 6, 2014

To start, for my project I have decided to compose a report on how our minds perceive the world around us. How initial contact with the world is processed by the brain, as well as the origins of perception. Through my research I have tried to bridge together concepts from neuropsychology, with the biology/anatomy of the brain. My aim was to look at individual concepts/areas of research  in depth, and link them together to give a more holistic view of the cognitive process of perception.

I hope this information can be valuable to anyone studying psychology, or simply with anyone with the slightest interest in the subject, who wants to know more of the neuroscience behind how our brains are able to carry out an autonomic process, such as having the ability to detect changes in facial expression. I have tried to break down my research as much as I could so that it can be easily understood. Enjoy!

The retina is a light sensitive, specialised tissue lining the inner surface of the human eye (consisting of a layered structure, made up at least five neurons: photoreceptors, horizontal cells, bipolar cells, amacrine cells and ganglion cells.) Using an ophthalmoscope looking into the human eye, the optic nerve will be seen in the centre of the retina, with the appearance of a small white circle measuring about 2 x 1.5 mm across. Ganglion cells are known as the output cells of the retina, which are contained within the optic nerve. The axons of these neurons transmit electrical impulses to the brain, relaying information of the objects we see, while the photoreceptors are located on the outer of the retina, closest to the lens of the eye. As light travels through the human retina, the activation of the rods and cones (type of photoreceptor) takes place. The pigment contained within these photoreceptors absorb photons (a particle of energy associated with light), stimulating an electrical impulse in order to activate the succeeding neurons forming the retina.
But how exactly is this electrical impulse initiated?
To break it down: 

  • The pigment molecule present in rod cells is called rhodopsin.
  • When light reacts with this molecule, it is broken down into two: opsin (an enzyme), and retinal.
  • The enzyme formed works by keeping the rod cell constantly hyper-polarised (by  closing the Sodium ion channels).
  • As we’ve already learnt, this hyper polarisation allows an action potential to be generated, which travels through the optic nerve to our brain. In this way, our brains are able to form an image of the object we are viewing.
  • This is why after staring at a bright light, it takes a while for this light to disappear from our vision, as not all of the rhodopsin has been restored.

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Sensory memory, also known to psychologists as the working memory model, may be defined as a system with ability to momentarily hold multiple pieces of information within the brain, which can then be manipulated. The role of working memory is concerned with the initial contact between the individual and their external environment. It’s function mainly is in processing environmental stimuli, and is associated with vital cognitive functions such as language comprehension, as well the perception of familiar faces (a human instinct). Such information is recognised by the brain, processed and decoded, existing in our memories for extremely brief moments.

The neural basis of facial perception is an area of great interest to neuroscientists and psychologists, providing a key focus for extensive research. This area of study can provide scientists with information of the specificity of  our visual recognition system , as well as the structural arrangement of the brain; not to mention the importance to humans of forming the ability to recognise faces, being able to determine someones identity, as well as to learn about their mood, sex, and age. The fusiform gyrus (also known as the occipitotemporal gyrus) forms part of the  temporal lobe, and is thought to be associated with both face, and body recognition (despite the many conflicting ideas of the functionalities of this region), and sits just above the brain’s cerebellum, pons and medulla.

These identified “core” regions of the occipital and temporal lobes have been found to play a  vital role in how our brain distinguishes between different faces, of which the neural activity has been found to have a much higher response to known faces than to faces that are otherwise “unknown” to us, confirming the specific response of our brains to specific faces. The cognitive processing of human faces has also generated much research, revealing that our fusiform gyrus forms a “holistic” view of faces, taking in details such as the distance between facial features, as opposed to focusing on individual features separately, which then allows us to form a general overview of someone’s face. Not only will enhancing our understanding of how our brains distinguish between faces reveal details of the highly complex cognitive processes involved, but will also aid the development of sophisticated technologies needed for various security procedures (as seen in airports for example). Additionally, such research will be able to shed light on disorders such as “face blindness”, otherwise known as prosopagnosia, or other such related disorders, known to occur following serious brain injury, or a stroke (when the bloody supply to the occipitotemporal gyrus is completely cut off).

The amygdala specifically, lies deep within the brain’s temporal lobe, forming a dense network of neurons, of which have been found to be important in regulating our emotions. However, it has emerged from recent study that there may be cross communication between the amygdala and the fusiform gyrus during facial recognition (receiving electrical input from regions such as the hypothalamus, hippocampus and olfactory bulbs). What this tells us about the brain is that these components do not have simply one function. The way we see things occurs as a result of rapid cross communication between these components.

This research has helped me confirm that the way we perceive the world is pretty incredible. Thinking of each and every thing we recognise from our environment at each given moment confirms the complexity of the perceptual process. However, with this in mind, this complexity requires technological advances to enable scientists to locate, and map the origin of where perception comes from. While studies suggest the significance of the fusiform gyrus in facial recognition, more research is needed to confirm this. As for working memory, the neural basis, and genetic component is not yet known, while numerous theories exist.


 Author:   Soderquist, David R.
Title:   Sensory Processes


Final Project: Neurogenetics

August 6, 2014

My final project is an online poster with a brief introduction into neurogenetics. Here’s the link:

I chose neurogenetics because I’ve always had a particularly keen interest in genetics. Over the course, I’ve seen how closely linked genetics and neuroscience is, particularly regarding neurological disorders, and I wanted to explore that a little more. The final product is perhaps not as in depth as I was hoping to go, but I think it still highlights the most important aspects of what neurogenetics is really about.

My project is aimed towards high schoolers with minimal background in either genetics or neuroscience. I was originally planning on doing more of an infographic, but I wanted to include explanations that were more…well, explanatory. That’s how I ended up with a poster of sorts. It combines the high level of interest that accompanies the bold graphics and colors of an infographic, but still doesn’t compromise on content.

I hope you guys like it!


Bean, Andrew, Ph. D. “Genetics and Neuronal Disease (Section 1, Chapter 15).” Neuroscience Online: An Electronic Textbook for the Neurosciences. Ed. John H. Byrne. Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy – The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, n.d. Web. 06 Aug. 2014.

Greenstein, P., and T. D. Bird. “Neurogenetics. Triumphs and Challenges.” Western Journal of Medicine (1994): 242-45. PubMed Central. Web. 6 Aug. 2014.

“Huntington Disease.” Genetics Home Reference. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2013. Web. 06 Aug. 2014.

Huntington, George. “On Chorea.” The Medical and Surgical Reporter: A Weekly Journal 26.15 (1872): 317-21. Wikisource. Web. 6 Aug. 2014.

Case Notes

August 6, 2014

Part I:

The brain is filled with billions of cells called neurons that communicate with one another by sending electrical signals called action potentials. The action potential travels down the axon, the output end, of one neuron and reaches the dendrites, the input end, of the next neuron at a connection called the synapse.

During a seizure, the brain experiences sudden abnormal electrical activity. A seizure can happen in only one part of the brain, called a focal or partial seizure, or in both sides of the brain, called a generalized seizure. It is possible to experience loss of consciousness due to the overwhelming electrical activity in the brain.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes reoccurring, unpredictable seizures. Generally, two unprovoked seizures are required for diagnosis. An electroencephalogram (EEG) will show abnormal electrical activity in the brain that is indicative of epilepsy. CT scans and MRIs are also often done to find the cause and location of the problem.

To perform an EEG test, electrodes connected to a recording machine are placed on the scalp. The recording machine measures the electrical activity of the brain, often showing abnormal patterns in patients with epilepsy. The EEG may show the area in the brain where a seizure starts. An MRI scan uses magnets and radio waves to generate pictures of the body. An MRI scan of the brain can show abnormalities in size or shape, or other abnormalities like a tumor.

There are many possible causes of seizures other than epilepsy. One type of non epileptic seizure is a psychogenic seizure, like a panic attack, caused by subconscious thoughts or emotions interfering with normal brain activity. Organic seizures have a physical cause,  like abnormal levels of sodium or glucose in the blood, or a heart problem.

It seems that Jerrod is experiencing absence seizures. Absence seizures are characterized by staring and subtle body movement, and cause loss of awareness. It was noted that Jerrod stares blankly during his seizures, some muscles twitched, and he moved his head slightly back and forth. Also, he was nonresponsive and had no memory of the seizures.

The main goal during one of Jerrod’s seizures is to prevent him from being injured. There should be nothing around him that could hurt him if he were to hit it. He should not be held down or moved, as this could be dangerous as well.

Treatments for epilepsy vary from person to person, but can include medications, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgery. During surgery, a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS), similar to a pacemaker, may be placed to reduce the number of seizures.


Part II:

Rasmussen Syndrome is a neurological disease, most often found in children under the age of 10, that usually effects only one hemisphere of the brain. It causes frequent and severe seizures that cause damage to the brain, which could include loss of motor skills and speech, hemiparesis, inflammation of the brain, and mental deterioration. This disease can cause irreversible damage, but for some children, surgery can decrease seizures and improve cognitive abilities.

An EEG will show abnormal patterns that indicate seizures and epilepsy, and can also tell us where in the brain these abnormalities are coming from. Ultimately, an MRI helps diagnose the disorder by showing a loss of brain substance (atrophy).

In Jerrod’s case, the left temporal lobe, part of the left frontal lobe, and possibly parts of the parietal and occipital lobes will be removed in the hemispherectomy. The corpus collosum, which allows the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate, will be severed.

Removal of the left temporal lobe may affect Jerrod’s memory, emotions, or communication. Removal of part of the left frontal lobe may affect his decision making, problem solving, and planning skills. Removal of the parietal lobe may affect his processing of sensory information, and removal of the occipital lobe may affect his vision. He will also be partially paralyzed on the side opposite of the removed hemisphere.

Jerrod’s deep brain structures would remain intact, including the thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. Though the left temporal lobe is removed, Jerrod will likely retain some control over his emotions because his amygdala is left intact, and some control over memory because his hippocampus is left intact. He will still have full control over the side of his body of the removed hemisphere.

After the surgery, Jerrod’s family should make sure he receives proper physical, occupational, and speech therapy. They should also talk with his school to discuss what options for support he would have there.

Jerrod’s level of functioning would likely get better over time, as he would not be having the seizures that cause damage to his brain nor would he be taking as many medications as before the surgery. Since he is young, the remaining hemisphere of his brain will adapt and will be able to take over the function of the lost side. However, he would experience some weakness or paralysis on the side opposite of the removed hemisphere.

One question I had was about the rate of success of this surgery. I found that recently, 86% of children who had a hemispherectomy were either seizure-free or have non-disabling seizures that do not require medication. However, for patient’s with Rasmussen Syndrome, only 65% are seizure-free after the surgery.

I would recommend that the family goes ahead with this surgery for Jerrod. He is still young, so he is likely to recover successfully. The surgery would prevent further damage to his brain as he will be having seizures less frequently and they will be less severe. The effects of not receiving the surgery will be more harmful than the consequences of receiving it.