Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Memory, Neuroscience.

Description: We talk about how the hippocampus is involved in processing memories but when some researchers looked specifically at how we process information about when an event occurred and where that same event occurred it turns out that information is processed earlier and fed separately into the hippocampus.

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “How the brain encodes time and place: Neuroscientists identify a brain circuit that is critical for forming episodic memories.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2015. <>.

Brain cells and memory

Date: September 23, 2015

Links: Article Links —

In the research described within this article MIT researchers Chen Sun and Takashi Kitamura report findings that show that the previous belief that information about the physical location or context of events at the time at which they occur are separated within the hippocampus are not correct. Specifically their data indicates that that location and temporal information are actually fed separately to the hippocampus indicating that these features of memories have been processed earlier in the memory processing flow. They found that an area known as the entorhinal cortex contains two types of cells that they refer to as island cells and ocean cells. Their research indicates that island cells seem to be involved in processing timing information while ocean cells seem to play a role in locating where events have occurred.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. If we think of memories simply as recorded information describing the entirety of events that happened in our past, what does this research suggest about ways in which we need to change that understanding if we want to understand precisely how our brain creates and stores memories?
  2. Given the results of this research what would be the most appropriate way to describe the role of the hippocampus in the processing of memory?
  3. How does this research relate to the distinction between episodic and semantic memory that is often talk about as a basic difference in the structure human memories?

References (Read Further):

Takashi Kitamura, Chen Sun, Jared Martin, Lacey J. Kitch, Mark J. Schnitzer, Susumu Tonegawa. Entorhinal Cortical Ocean Cells Encode Specific Contexts and Drive Context-Specific Fear Memory. Neuron, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.08.036


Posted by & filed under Intervention: Adults-Couples, Prevention, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing, The Self.

Description: So to continue with the upbeat theme of students and stress, the articles linked below focus on the impact of traumatic events, such as personal or family serious illness or the death of a loved one on members of the College and University student population. The web article suggests ways in which faculty and students can help students cope with traumatic life events all the research articles cited below focus more on the incidence and the consequences of traumatic events experienced by undergraduate students

Source: When the unexpected happens: What can students and professors do to help students in crisis successfully balance work and life stressors? Monitor on Psychology,

Date: July/August 2015

Traumatic events

Photo Credit: American psychological Association

Links: Article Links — When the unexpected happens: What can students and professors do to help students in crisis successfully balance work and life stressors? Monitor on Psychology, 46(7), 42.

The day-to-day stress that builds over a typical term at college or university is one thing, but adding into that the stress and demands of a traumatic life event such as a serious illness or the death of a loved one can add exponentially to the burden carried by undergraduate students. The articles cited in this post focus on events such as these and examine their impacts as well as making recommendations for ways in which professors and fellow students to assist those students cope with such events.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of events might be considered to be particularly traumatic or stressful when added to a typical undergraduate term load and what sorts of things might we do to help students cope with such events?
  2. What sorts of things would you recommend that colleges and universities do in order to assist students coping with traumatic life events?
  3. According to the research articles cited below, what are some of the ways in which college students seem to cope with traumatic life events and it is very over the first three years of college or university?
  4. What are some of the factors that mediate (influence) the level of distress observed following experience of a potentially traumatic event?

References (Read Further):

Shallcross, Sandra L.; Frazier, Patricia A.; Anders, Samantha L. (2014) Social resources mediate the relations between attachment dimensions and distress following potentially traumatic events. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 61(3), Jul 2014, 352-362.

Read, Jennifer P.; Griffin, Melissa J.; Wardell, Jeffrey D.; Ouimette, Paige (2014) Coping, PTSD symptoms, and alcohol involvement in trauma-exposed college students in the first three years of college. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Vol 28(4), Dec 2014, 1052-1064.

Posted by & filed under Intervention: Adults-Couples, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Prevention, Psychological Intervention, Stress, Stress Coping - Health, Stress: Coping Reducing.

Description: For many students but especially for first year students, the first (fall) term can be rather stressful This is especially true for students who have not found their education particularly stressful prior to entering university or who have not developed or built strategies for recognizing and preparing to cope with the stress of the evolving term. Are you ready for the term?

Source: Stress and the College Student

Stress (Brown University Health Services)

Date: Various 2014/2015

stressed student

Photo Credit: Viridian Housing Charity

Links: Article Links — Stress and the College Student

Brown University – Stress:

Ok, so you are probably aware that a college or a university can be a stressful place to be. As well, even if you are a first year student, you are probably aware that your fall term will be more manageable if you plan now (near the start of term) for the stressful times to come later in the term. If you do not have a solid place, now is a good time to put one together. The link above contain some good, psychologically grounded, advice about the nature of stress and about the kinds of things you can do to prepare for it and to deal with it when you experience it. The article cited below in the reference section, describes systematic research into the effectiveness of several stress management strategies. You know you’re only getting get busier as the term moves along, and so a bit of time spent now investigating and investing in some stress management strategies would certainly be time well spent.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are your expectations, or perhaps rather what should your expectations and be, regarding the nature and extent of stress you anticipate experiencing later this term?
  2. What strategies and plans do you have in place to help you cope with stress in which additional strategies might you be considering now that you’ve read the articles noted here?
  3. Thinking about what, if anything, your college or university has done to help you prepare for the stressful aspects of the upcoming term and what recommendations would you have them consider going forward?

References (Read Further):

Baghuhrst, Timothy and Kelly, Betty C. (2014) An examination of stress in college students over the course of semester. Health Promotion Practice, 15(3) 438-447.

Posted by & filed under Families and Peers, Group Processes, Intergroup Relations, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Persuasion, Social Cognition, Social Influence, Social Perception, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Are our decisions in situations with positive or negative financial outcomes governed solely by the pluses and minuses of gain and loss or are there other factors such as the nature of our relationship with the people with whom we are buying selling or trading that are important influences on our decision-making strategies?

Source: Science Daily: Trust me: Research sheds light on why people trust

Date: August 11, 2015

Trust me

Photo Credit: michaeljung / Fotolia.

Links: Article Link

Social Psychologists have conducted a lot of research into how people behave in gaming situations that involves opportunities for gain and loss of money or other resources. Recently published research from Dartmouth College to just another important factor beyond gains and losses in how people perform and how they think about gaming situations they will be their relationships with the other people who are in the “game” with them. In this particular study participants played a financial investment game and were led to believe that they were playing this game either with a close friend, a stranger, or simply with a slot machine. In fact they’re playing against a computer program that basically reciprocated trust choices 50% of the time. The researchers also use neuroimaging to look at the areas of the brain that were most active in each of these conditions. What they found was a participants reported that positive interactions or wins but occurred when they were playing with a close friend were perceived as more rewarding in such situations when they occurred while interacting with a stranger or with the machine. The researchers suggested that their results reflect the importance of social relationships and how we make our day-to-day decisions.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might it be that we would find positive events more enjoyable when they involve people with whom we have trusting relationships?
  2. What might be the adaptive value in humans tracking the level of trust they feel with those with whom they are interacting on an ongoing basis?
  3. To what extent do you think the situations created by the researchers in this study do or do not accurately reflect our real-world experience in situations where making investment like decisions?

References (Watch Further):

Dartmouth College. “Trust me: Research sheds light on why people trust.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2015. <>.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Health Psychology, Depression, Disorders of Childhood, Group Processes, Intergroup Relations, Interpersonal Attraction Close Relationships, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Social Psychology, The Self.

Description: Ignoring the title of the article this post focuses upon for a second what would be your prediction? Is hanging around with depressed people likely to make you depressed? What about the opposite (hanging around with happy – or at least well-adjusted stable people)?

Source: Science Daily: Happiness spreads but depressions doesn’t

Date: August 19, 2015

Happiness spreads

Photo Credit: Kalim / Fotolia.

Links: Article Link

So do the mental or mood states of other “rub off” on us? Do happy people make us happier and do depressed people make us more depressed? Well research by social psychologists at the University of Warwick suggests that only half of the above statement is true. Having friends who were depressed did not increase the likelihood that adolescents would show signs of depression over a 6 to 12 month period. However, adolescents were likely to show fewer signs of depression or were, in fact, half as likely to start to show signs of depression if they had at least 10 friends who could be described as having healthy moods. Healthy moods were generally defined as being happier or lower in symptoms of depression. So while perhaps you don’t need to pick all your friends carefully, it would seem advisable to at least be sure to have a good number of friends that display healthy mood states. The authors of this research are not entirely clear as to why this might be their likely a number of concepts, principles, and theories within social psychology that could help us put together some hypotheses for why this might occur.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What Social Psychological theories or concepts are there that might support your hypothesis in response to the question at the top of this posting?
  2. What about the findings discussed in the article?
  3. What do these findings suggest about adolescent and your adult life planning?

References (Watch Further):

  1. M. Hill, F. E. Griffiths, T. House. Spreading of healthy mood in adolescent social networks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2015 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1180

Posted by & filed under Assessment: Interviewing Observation, Classification Diagnosis, Clinical Assessment, Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, General Psychology, Genetics: The Biological Context of Development, Neuroscience, Psychological Disorders, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Oliver Sacks, renowned and beloved neurologist, author and teller of captivating stories about his patients, their experiences, the human brain and ultimately of the human experience and condition passed away today (August 30, 2015) at the age of 82. I posted on Oliver not long ago (April 2015 search his name on this blog or click his name in the Tag Cloud over on the right margin of this pager to see the post) when he wrote about his experiences as a terminal cancer patient. Oliver and his caring insight into human neurology and human experience will be greatly missed.

Source: Various (NY Times Obit)
Date: August 30, 2015

Oliver Sacks

Photo Credit: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

Links: Article Links –Obituary NY Times

Video Obituary

I listed Oliver’s books in the April blog entry and would re-iterate my advice that if you are interested in Psychology, the brain, the mind and human experience you should read one or all of his books. In the meantime I have placed several links below to YouTube videos that contain Oliver Sacks himself talking about a broad range of things. Take a few minutes and watch one or two and meet the man himself or be reminded of what an engaged and engaging science storyteller Oliver was.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What did the video you watched tell you about the nature of people or the human experience in general that you may not have learned from your psychology courses or your psychology textbooks?

References (Watch Further):

Oliver Sacks on Hallucinations

Neurological Disorders as Alternative Ways of Being

Human Beings and Myth Making

Oliver Sacks’ YouTube Channel

Posted by & filed under Language-Thought, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience, Research Methods, Sensation-Perception.

Description: What part(s) of our brain are actively involved when we have to resolve conflicts like deciding when it is safe to cross a traffic filled street? Well, it may be that the hippocampus, known to be involved in memory processing, is also involved in resolving action conflicts.

Source: Science Daily: Memory region of the brain also involved in conflict resolution.

Date: January 15, 2015

hippocampus and Conflict

Photo Credit: © RUB, Grafik: Bierstedt

Links: Article Link Ruhr-University Bochum. (2015, August 20). ‘Memory region’ of brain also involved in conflict resolution: Hippocampus is involved in quick, successful decisions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2015 from

The authors of this research article noted the involvement of the hippocampus (as opposed to the higher regions of the cortex) in the brains of people trying to resolve action conflicts like when it is safe to cross a busy road. The indicate that they are not sure how this function (conflict resolution) interacts with the role of the hippocampus in memory, thought they speculate that the quick processing into memory of solved conflicts would be quite adaptive. They also indicate that their speculations will have to be tested.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might it be adaptive to have a “lower” area of the brain/nervous system lay a role in resolving action choice conflicts?
  2. Why might it be adaptive to have resolved action choice conflicts stored in long term memory?
  3. How might the researchers investigate their hypothesis regarding the role of memory in relati0on to resolved conflictual action choices?

References (Read Further):

Oehrm, Carina R. et al, (2015) Human hippocampal dynamics during response conflict, Current Biology, online now, DOI:

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Anxiety OC PTSD, Clinical Neuropsychology, Consciousness, Psychological Disorders, Schizophrenia, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Besides being musicians, what do Brian Wilson, Peter Townsend, Carlos Santana and Jennifer Hudson have in common? Well, they have found inspiration in music and voices only they can hear.

Source: Globe and Mail: How hearing voices, long assumed a sign of mental illness, can be a part of the human experience.

Date: July 12, 2015

Hearing Voices

Photo Credit: David Clark/iStockphoto

Links: Article Link —

Listen to an interview with researchers in this area:

So hearing voices means you are mentally ill right? Well it is true that hearing voices is a symptom related to a number of mental illness diagnostic categories including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use. However, there is increasing evidence that hearing voices may be an experience many more propel have than just those with a diagnosis. The standard treatment advice used to be to assist people in ignoring the voices perhaps with the use of anti-psychotic medications. While this is still a core part of how such experiences are approached, especially when the voices are troubling, there are efforts to try and better understand how the human brain might generate such experiences and what else, besides medication, might be used to control them. Person, for example, reports that he has found the hearing his inner voices out quietens them and seems to act as a sort of barometer for how well he is coping with whatever is going on in his life.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is it possible for someone to hear voices and not be mentally ill?
  2. What would an understanding (at the brain level) of how some people hear voices tell us about human thought, consciousness and general cognitive functioning?
  3. What sorts of things do these studies suggest about our thinking about the symptoms of mental illness?

References (Read Further):

McGrath et al (2015) Psychotic experiences in the general population” A cross-national analysis based on 31,261 respondents from 18 countries. JAMA Psychiatry, 72(7), 697- 705.

Johns, Louise C. (2005) Hallucinations in the general population, Current Psychiatry Reports, 7(3), 162-167.

Durham University Hearing the Voice Project

Woods, Angela, et al (2015) Experiences of hearing voices: Analysis of a novel phenomenological survey. Lancet Psychiatry, 2(4), published online.

What does it mean to hear voices? Authors Angela Woods and Ben Alderson-Day discuss the results of their new study with Lancet Psychiatry Editor Niall Boyce.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Health Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Intervention: Adults-Couples, Motivation-Emotion, Psychological Disorders, Psychological Intervention, Substance-Related Disorders, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: Are addictions diseases? Is that the best way to think about them, especially in relation to approaches to treatment? Marc Lewis, a neuroscientist who struggled with addiction early in his life suggests we need to rethink the simple equating of addiction with disease if we are to properly understand addictions, and, more importantly, understand how addicts stop being addicted.

Source: Globe and Mail Book Review: The Biology of Desire

Date: August 14, 2015

BookCoverDesire                    Addiction not a disease


Links: Article Links —

The American Society of Addiction Medicine on its website defines addiction as follows: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” Marc Lewis takes exception to this somewhat simplistic view (and to the alternative but equally simplistic views that addiction is entirely a matter of individual choice or that it is a matter of noxious environmental influence). Instead he argues for a more interactive model focused on how our motivational systems (desires) work to build patterns of addiction behaviour that change brain structures and neuro-chemistry along the way. Lewis argues that addicts who quit (and many do) succeed when they can begin to envision a future without drugs that is positive and thus motivating. Social support can also assist in this process. By contrast, a disease model takes control out of the hands of the addict and makes treatment initiation and support more difficult or less likely.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does Marc Lewis suggest needs to change about our current views of addiction?
  2. Are changes to brain neurochemistry and structure a part of Lewis’ model of addiction and treatment?
  3. What would intervention/treatment programs for addicts look like if Lewis’ model were generally adopted?

References (Read Further):

Lewis, Marc (2015) The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease, Doubleday Canada.

Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Assessment: Clinical Decision Making, Clinical Health Psychology, Health Psychology, Personality Disorders, Psychological Disorders, Schizophrenia, Uncategorized.

Description: So what is the first thing that pops to mind when you think of “cat people”? Crazy? Weeellll it’s a bit more complicated. Read this discussion by Andre Picard of an article suggesting that childhood cat ownership increases the chances that one will show symptoms of schizophrenia in adulthood.

Source: Andre Picard Column Globe and Mail

Date: June 16, 2015

Crazy Cat

Photo Credit:


While it is typical to talk about mental illness as reflecting a “chemical imbalance in the brain” an important not yet answered question involves how it is that such imbalances arise. If environmental influences are thought of as social (e.g., how your parents or peers treated you) it is hard to see how early social experiences could be related to later mental illness. (It is not impossible, however, as work of the role of early toxic stress on later developmental outcomes is making clear). But what about early exposure to things like infections or pathogens such as toxoplasma gondii, found in cat feces? Picard’s discussion points to the sorts of things that need to be sorted out before we start to worry about the implications of the kinds of pet or pets we had as children and their influence on our mental health. Base rates of cat ownership, other potential triggers, and, most importantly, an understanding of how such things influence the development of mental illnesses.

So don’t give your cat away just yet, there is much more research needed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How might cat ownership be related to the later development of mental illness?
  2. What are some of the things we should be cautious about before blaming cats for mental illness?
  3. What are some of the research questions that need to be answered before we can begin to seriously examine the relationship between cat ownership and later mental illness?

References (Read Further):

Torrey, E. F., Simmons, W., & Yolken, R. H. (2015). Is childhood cat ownership a risk factor for schizophrenia later in life?. Schizophrenia research, 165(1), 1-2. DOI:

Cannon, T. D., van Erp, T. G., Bearden, C. E., Loewy, R., Thompson, P., Toga, A. W., … & Tsuang, M. T. (2003). Early and late neurodevelopmental influences in the prodrome to schizophrenia: contributions of genes, environment, and their interactions. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 29(4), 653-669.

Bushman, B. A. (2014). Dogs: Can They Help Promote Human Health?. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 18(1), 5-8.

Marsa-Sambola, F., Muldoon, J., Williams, J., Lawrence, A., Connor, M., & Currie, C. (2015). The Short Attachment to Pets Scale (SAPS) for Children and Young People: Development, Psychometric Qualities and Demographic and Health Associations. Child Indicators Research, 1-21.