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.

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: Alzheimer’s Disease

August 6, 2014

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My project is a power point describing a series of events that an Alzheimer’s Patient may experience and what troubles they will have. I seperated my project into four sections, each describing a symptom of AD. I was interested in this topic because my Grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within the past 3 months so it is close to my heart as well as very interesting.


“Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer’s Association.” Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer’s Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2014.

“Coping With Alzheimer’s Disease in Daily Life.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.


“Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s DiseaseNew.” Dementias, Including Alzheimer’s Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2014.

 “Alzheimer’s Disease.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 July 2014. Web. 28 July 2014.




Unfortunately, the blog will not let me upload my power point. I am going to take screen shots and upload them as soon as possible.