Break (17 Dec – 6 Jan): Catching up on Sleep

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

The health effects of a sleep debt(Image via Wikipedia)

We all know how the school session goes: you stay up late doing homework, chatting with friends, going out, cruising the Internet, whatever. If you’re like me, grading, planning, playing with my daughter, talking with my wife, trying to maintain some level of sanity. Whatever you’re doing, the upshot is that you’re not getting as much sleep as you need, right?

And, we all know how much a teenager needs to sleep every night, right?

And, we all know when our circadian rhythms render us at our lowest ebb when sleep is most likely, right?

Well, now that he Winter Break is upon us, it is a good time to catch up on sleep because I’m sure that we’ve all run up quite a sleep debt, a lack of an adequate amount of sleep to support optimal functioning. This debt can be paid with a few nights of good sleep. I hope your sleep debt is paid now.

Along with this concept is REM rebound where you experience an increase in REM sleepbecause of a reduction in REM-sleep. While the lack of REM-sleep can be caused by almost anything, one cause is a lack of sleep of any kind.

It seems to me that this makes a great blog topic for the break.


Week 8 (5 – 9 Dec): Levels of Consciousness

This is one of my favorite units, but unfortunately it is (a) not a major unit and (b) we don’t have a lot of time to devote to it. When I worked as a therapist, I focused a lot on altered states of consciousness and how they could be used to help people change their lives. I often talked about making your unconscious your ally. In general, our conscious selves are our logical selves and our unconscious selves are our creative selves. Most of us don’t make very good use of our unconsciousness.

Because our conscious minds work serially we can only consider one thing at a time. This lends itself well to logic and reasoning. But, it can trap us into very linear thinking and block us from considering a full set of options. Also, it makes it easy for us to ignore our emotional responses or at least keep them unconscious or out of our awareness.

To help us develop an awareness of our unconscious thoughts and desires, we should pay attention to our dreams and more spontaneous thoughts. We have to cultivate the ability of capturing the thoughts that occur to us without thinking about them. This is what Freud meant by free association: don’t think, just state the first thing that comes to mind. It helps to quiet your conscious mind, which takes discipline since our consciousness does not like being quiet.

The unconscious is not perfect or magic, but it has access to a greater variety of information and ideas. If we allow ourselves to become aware of that information and those ideas, we may be able to find solutions and options that we hadn’t considered before.

Ideas for comments & blog posts:

  1. What do you think about consciousness versus unconsciousness as ways of solving problems and coping with the world in general? Are you aware of your unconscious self? Can you sense a difference between the two? If so, can you describe it? Leave a comment or blog about it.
  2. Blog about any experiences you’ve had meditating or doing yoga or other consciousness altering events. Or, tell us about your attempts to become more aware of your unconscious self: what did you do? how well did it work out?

Week 7 (28 Nov – 2 Dec): Vocabulary Review

English: logo of quizlet

Image via Wikipedia

Quizlet is a website that will make flashcards of words & definitions. It also has sets of flashcards that others have made for you to use. As you can imagine, you will need to study vocabulary for the test & this, I think, is a good source for that. This should compliment the flashcard set we have in class.

I’ve embedded a link to a set of their flashcards for levels of consciousness. I don’t know why the links look so weird. I used the embed code provided by the website, but I don’t know enough about HTML to straighten it out. Still, the links work. There are 36 flashcards on this set. Use them.

  1. Leave a comment with your reaction to the cards.
  2. Join quizlet & start posting them on your vocabulary page!
  3. See if you can use them in our Friday vocabulary games!

Week 6 (21 – 25 Nov): Perception

This has been a busy week. Much busier than I had anticipated, but not too busy that I haven’t had time to think about perception. The biggest problem with this section is that it has so many little perception rules that it seems unruly. Thus, the visual notes, the two assignments, and other ways of organizing the information.


Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorite things about the unit is that it is so accessible in our daily life. Nearly every time you travel through traffic, you can identify perceptual laws. And, if you are out at night, you can see how they can go awry. For example, I was running the other night and on that dark stretch in Phu My Hung over by the Korean International School, I saw a car coming towards me. I was momentarily alarmed when I saw that its right headlight had come unattached and was heading right for me! The car seemed to be literally expanding right before my eyes. Then, I saw that it was simply two motorcycles whose headlights had traveled more or less at the same height for several meters giving the illusion that they were joined: law of common fate, law of proximity.

But also their sizes and heights acted as cues. Two objects that are the same size are seen as being the same distance while a smaller object is perceived as farther away than a larger object. Two objects that are the same height from the horizon, or in my case just the same height since there is no horizon at night, seem to be the same size while an object closer to the horizon is perceived as farther away. Thus the two headlights seemed to be the same distance and thus strengthened the impression of their proximity and their common fate.

In addition, top-down processing suggested that two headlights would be from a car. Of course, where I’m from there are more cars than motorbikes, so I wonder if it would be the same for y’all coming from a land of many motorbikes and few cars. Perhaps that is something to blog about or comment on.

Binocular depth perception cues are much more difficult to have casual experiences of; you have to do things to give yourself the experience. For example, look at something and close one eye and then the other and watch how it jumps back and forth. If you can get closer then you can compare the degree of jump as you close each of your eyes. This would be a demonstration of binocular disparity. Is this top-down or bottom-up processing? Again, comment or blog.


Week 5 (14 -18 Nov) Visual Notes

I’ve been doing some research & thinking about perception. Mostly I’ve been researching ideas for communicating the ideas quickly and helping y’all synthesize them and fit them in with what you already know. In this regard, I’ve been thinking about two of you in particular, Shinie & Danny, because of their artistic nature and visual nature. Shinie has mentioned that she would like to have more posters and drawing assignments in class because that helps her learn. I suspect it does Danny, too. It also helps everyone else, but probably not as much. So, what’s my point?

Visual Notes!

Brand Camp University NYC - Hajj Flemings & Pe...

Image by deanmeyersnet via Flickr

The idea behind visual notes is that you take your notes from the class, and turn them into something highly stylized and visual.

You could do this on a daily basis. In that case it would be a visual diary.

You could do it on a weekly basis and make a visual summary.

Either way, it makes for a fun, interesting, & aesthetic to process & synthesize information. If you find this type of thing fun or interesting, then it would be motivating also.

Visual Notes of My UnPresenting workshop

Image by via Flickr

There are lots of sites out there with examples of this type of work on them. You can peruse some of them, to get ideas, but really it is only limited by your creativity & skill.

It doesn’t even need a lot of skill. The real point is that you spend time with the material thinking about it and then doing something with it.

As with anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. This will include the actual artwork, penmanship, calligraphy, and lay out.

If you give it a go, I think you’ll be surprised how much of a boost it will give your recall for material. I’d love to see your products and feedback about whether it helped or not.

Here’s a link to “Sketchnote Army.” A sight that gathers samples and has other explanations.

Here’s a link to another site called, “core77: design magazine & resource” and a post entilted, “Sketchnotes 101:Visual Thinking.”

Lastly, I’ve included some articles that I hope will be helpful.

Related articles

Sense Video

I was so inspired by Tram that I decided to get into the act! Here are some videos that explain aspects of taste & smell. I’d love to put up more, but other duties call. Enjoy these & I’ll add some more later this week.

Taste & Smell Together

A very good video explaining the basics of taste buds.

The position of the taste buds on the tongue.

A fine video explaining the basics of taste, the basics of smell, & how they work together.

A Wobbler’s Story

This is the blog post I promised about the woman who lost her sense of balance & then recovered it. This is one of my most favorite case studies. It is remarkable in what it demonstrates in our resilience.

Cheryl always feels like she is falling. There is never a moment in her life that she does not experience the sensation of falling. When she is lying flat in bed, she feels as if she is falling. When she is sitting in a chair, she feels as if she is falling. When she stands, she feels as if she is falling. And when she falls and is lying in a heap on the ground, she still feels like she is falling.

Not only does she constantly have the sensation of falling, but when she moves, everything moves. She describes it as eve

Vestibular System

Inner ear, showing semi-circular canals Image via Wikipedia

rything seeming to be made of Jell-O or being wiggly. Moving objects seem to bounce. Rooms spin.

She can not be still because she is constantly trying to catch her balance. Walking is nearly impossible. Standing more so.

Cheryl lost her sense of balance when she was given the antibiotic gentamicin for a post-operative infection.  Gentamicin is cheap & effective, but when taken for too long of a period of time, it will destroy the inner ear causing hearing loss, ringing in the ears, & a loss of balance

. Cheryl can still hear, but she has ringing in her ears & no sense of balance. She was 39 years old. People who suffer a loss of balance due to gentamicin call themselves Wobblers.

Balance relies on two separate sets of inputs. First are the signals that come from our semicircular canals. These tell us which way is up and how badly we’ve gotten off of perpendicular. They are responsible for that lingering disquieting spinning sensation after having been spun around.Cheryl’s semi-circular canals were destroyed by the gentamicin.

The second source of balance information is from the eyes. When we can see the horizon and other horizontal lines, we can tell if we’re upright or not. Motion sickness comes from this source. Oddly, Cheryl’s visual support for her balance is easily disturbed by looking at zig-zagging lines or other designs that are not square or imitate depth. Consequently, Cheryl is constantly fatigued. Her brain is working overtime to keep her relatively balanced taking away resources used for calculating, reasoning, or even communicating.

Luckily, Cheryl found out about a neuroplastician named, Paul Bach-y-Rita. He had developed ways of retraining the brain to use other cortical areas to compensate for deficits. His has helped people who have had strokes, accidents, and birth defects. And, he had a

Paul Bach-y-Rita (1934 - 2006)

possible solution for Cheryl.

His idea was to help her bypass the semi-circular canals & the cortical area that interpreted their input. He realized that she probably was still getting signals from the canals, but that it was “noisy” filled with bad information and perhaps some good information. The problem was that the brain didn’t know which was which, & then when she tried to match her faulty information from her semi-circular canals up with the accurate information from her eyes, her brain didn’t know which to believe. So, Bach-y-Rita created a helmet that was lined with sensors. These sensors would detect the position of her head. He fed this information into a small thin device that she would press to her tongue. It was covered with electrodes. When her head tilted one way, that area on her tongue with tingle with gentle electrical energy. When it tilted another, her tongue would tingle in another place. In this way, her brain could start to learn which signals were accurate and which were not, & then begin to match up the accurate information and ignore the inaccurate.

It took her only a couple of hours to get the hang of it. She was able to maintain her balance while the helmet was on her head & the tongue tingler was in her mouth. She was even able to maintain her balance for a few minutes afterward. So, she began to wear it for a couple of hours everyday, & the length of time that she could maintain her balance increased… exponentially. It soon began to stretch into days.

They sent her home with the device. She wore it whenever the effect began to wear off, & soon it lasted weeks. Then, it was months. Now, she hasn’t needed it for years. In essence, she was cured. Her brain had adapted to her new sensory input for balance! It was a miracle.

A tongue sensor that is similar to the one Cheryl wore.

An apparatus similar to the one Cheryl used