Laura’s Psychology Blog

One Professor’s Observations of the World of Psychology….   

July 29, 2009

Discovering Biological Psychology 2e Instructors’ Resources Are Ready to Go

For those of us on quarter system, school seems pretty far away, even as August 1 approaches. For those of you on semesters, however, school is just around the corner. I was pleased to see that my Instructors’ Resources for Discovering Biological Psychology 2e were up and running on the Cengage site.

Instructor Resources for Discovering Biological Psychology Are Up and Running

Instructor Resources for Discovering Biological Psychology Are Up and Running

The resources contain the usual–testbank (2400 questions by me), powerpoints, lecture notes and enrichment ideas, and so on. We still have our wonderful 1e animations that I did with John Woolsey–lots of good feedback on those from students and faculty.

I am especially proud of two new features–I spent a huge amount of time sorting through online videoclips on youtube and other sources, and integrated my recommendations with the lecture notes. I piloted these with my Spring Quarter 09 students, and they were really well received. Most are in the 2-3 minute range, so they break up lecture without losing one’s train of thought. Students stay awake. The second feature we added was a set of 10 clicker questions for each chapter, again integrated with the lecture notes. I really enjoyed using iClicker this past Spring, so once again, these questions have been tested on my own students.

I hope you find these resources useful in your own teaching! If you can think of other things we could incorporate, please let me know.

Mind Reading–One Step Closer?

Filed under: Biological Psychology,General Psychology,Psychology,Technology — Laura Freberg @ 9:12 am

Neuroscientists have known for some time that we do not have a “happy” center or an “anger” center of the brain, but rather these emotional states have unique patterns of activity. Now it appears that researchers can identify a person’s mental state rather accurately by comparing his/her patterns of activity to those of other participants.

Mind Reading Is Not What It Used to Be

Mind Reading Is Not What It Used to Be

Participants engaged in eight tasks, including reading, memorizing, and decision-making were scanned with fMRI. Researchers were able to pinpoint which of the eight activities were occurring with 80% accuracy. They were also able to determine whether participants were viewing faces, animals, houses, etc. from the fMRI data. More info on the project is available at lead author Stephen Jose Hanson’s website at Rutgers.

Hanson is interested in continuing his research to identify disorders of connectivity, possibly shedding further light on ADHD and autism, among others. Behind much of this basic research, however, is the more shadowy potential use in interrogation and justice. David Dobbs of Slate considers the potential of this new information here. Fortunately, ethics scholars are taking these issues seriously. The Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, among others, has some interesting material on imaging and ethics.

July 23, 2009

Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Trying to Eat Healthy Foods

Filed under: Dieting — Laura Freberg @ 7:48 pm

Alarmed by his reading about the relationship between high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and insulin resistance, Mr. F has embarked on a quest to eliminate HFCS from his life. We’re finding that this is way easier said than done. When Wikipedia describes HFCS as “ubiquitous,” they aren’t kidding. The stuff is everywhere.

Our first project was to find a replacement for what we fondly refer to as “tensies.” (You can tell we’re Lord of the Rings fans). A “tensie” chez Freberg is a mid-morning snack, and usually takes the form of a Fiber One bar, Nutrigrain bar, or Quaker oat bar.  All run between 90 and 150 calories, and all, of course, list HFCS as a main ingredient.

A search among Internet recipes turned up a reasonable substitute. Our first efforts were tasty and satisfying. We ran the recipe through, and it came out to be 127 calories per bar, well within our tensie range. Mr. F thought it was just a tad boring, so he plans to make smaller bars and add mini chocolate chips and nuts.

Unfortunately, we found that some of our ingredients were still problematic. Rice Krispies contain, you guessed it, HFCS, and so do the marshmallows. FiberOne cereal contains aspartame. I quit using aspartame years ago after a chemistry colleague told me that it was the likely cause of my dry, painful, and red eyes (I thought I was just reading too much). She was right. After I quit the aspartame, my eyes went back to normal. So we continue to hunt for alternatives to the Rice Krispies and FiberOne. I’m hoping the local New Frontiers has some HFCS/aspartame free choices. I’m not sure what to do with the marshmallows, although I think there are ways of making your own. We really wouldn’t need marshmallows in little squares, just the goo to hold the bars together.

Our First Effort at a Healthier Bar

Our First Effort at a Healthier Bar

For additional inspiration, we read the labels of some of our Jenny Craig products, and were surprised to find “corn syrup.” I’m a psychologist, not a food scientist, so we decided to do some snooping around regarding the similarites and differences between corn syrup and HFCS.  It turns out that while both standard corn syrup and HFCS are made from corn, the former is mostly glucose while the latter is mostly fructose.

American Like Their Sweets

American Like Their Sweets

In 2005, the average American consumed nearly 30 kg (66 pounds) of HFCS, as corn is heavily subsidized by the federal government, making corn products unusually cheap. In addition to being suspected of contributing to America’s obesity epidemicproducts containing HFCS also have high levels of reactive carbonyls not found in table sugar. Carbonyls have been implicated in tissue damage, such as nerve damage and foot ulcers, in diabetes. 

Some food manufacturers are responding to concerns about HFCS, and are actually going back to good old sugar. I hope more do. I would definitely be willing to pay more. If I’m going to have something sweet, I’d rather have the real thing, and something that is unlikely to cause health problems. We’ll continue our quest for an HFCS-free bar, so stay tuned.

July 21, 2009

I Want to Hold Your Hand….

Filed under: Avocations — Laura Freberg @ 2:57 pm

I was never much of a Beatles fan (much preferred the Rolling Stones), but I did enjoy their early songs. This one is currently stuck in my head as a result of some interesting experiences Mr. F and I have had over the last few months. For years, we have always enjoyed taking walks, and when we walk, we hold hands. I guess I never thought too much of it, other than it was something nice and reassuring that we both liked.

Recently, we have been stopped by people, and not just one or two but quite a few, who have commented on how they see us walking holding hands, and they want to know “how” we manage to do it. They’re not alone. WikiHow even has a page on how to hold hands, and I think it’s sad that this is something people are apparently anxious about.

Holding Hands on a Walk Is Fun

Okay, I may be a psychologist, but I am definitely not a clinician or marriage therapist, so we just answer as many questions as we can based on our own experience. It seems that a lot of people are looking for “something more” in their social relationships, enough so that they would stop complete strangers on the street to ask how we get along. Perhaps our current economic depression is leading to a renewed focus on finding more satisfaction in relationships than in trips to the mall.

Wikipedia says that in Western society, handholding is mostly an action between women and children. I did hold my children’s hands a lot when they were little, as none of them had the temperament of little ducklings that follow their mother in neat little rows. Put them down, and they were gone! Handholding is also described on Wikipedia as a generally inoffensive (gosh, I would hope so) example of a PDA–public display of affection.

Why do we hold hands? Well, the “A” part of the PDA is important to us–it’s just friendly. It has other positive side effects. We have both saved the other on many occasions from a nasty spill (our sidewalks in SLO are not exactly user-friendly). We also communicate–if one of us sees something funny, but it would be impolite to point, etc., a simple squeeze of the hand tells your partner “hey look at that.” A shared smile completes the conversation.

Holding hands isn’t for everyone. I’ve heard people say that they would feel “controlled.” Hmmm–with that kind of attitude, one wonders how much true “A” there is in the relationship to start with. These people probably wouldn’t want to wear matching windbreakers either….which we have been known to do. But for people who want to have a little more “A” in their lives, this is surely an easy way to start.

July 15, 2009

No ADHD at the Midnight Showing of Harry Potter

Filed under: Hobbies,Teaching Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 10:02 am

Mr. F and I are not night people–when left to our own devices, we are definitely asleep by 11pm, no later. But we made an exception for the midnight showing last night of the latest Harry Potter film, and it was definitely worth this morning’s sleepiness (and caffeine fixes all anyway).

Professor Snape may not be my teaching role model, but we apparently have the same personality type.

Professor Snape and I share the same personality type, but I wouldn't say he's my role model for teaching...

Being me, I couldn’t just enjoy the movie, but I had time before the start of the show to observe my fellow film-goers, most of whom looked to be about 16.  I’m not around this age group very much–my students are in the next age group up, and there are significant differences. So in a way, I was getting a preview of the coming attractions I’ll see in my classroom a year or two from now.

For starters, you might imagine that a group of teens, with very few “adults” in sight, might be a rowdy bunch. Not so. They were opinionated–a preview for the next Twilight film produced both cheers and jeers, but you could have heard a pin drop when Harry began. The movie was relatively long by current standards–we exited the theatre at about 2:45–but it held the audience in rapt and polite attention.

The message I took away was that attention is not a problem for these teens. Making education as fascinating as Harry and Ginny might be another matter, but if we can move in that direction, I think they’ll meet us at least halfway.

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Quote to Ponder

It is not a lack of love,
but a lack of friendship
that makes unhappy marriages
-------- Nietzsche

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