Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

July 20, 2014

coming soon! my new edition Discovering Behavioral Neuroscience an Introduction to Biological Psychology #BioPsych #Neuroscience #PsychScience #Psychology

I am very proud of my latest edition! (Cengage has all the details)

I am very proud of my latest edition! (Cengage has all the details)

If you are familiar with the first and second editions of this textbook, you know that we like to pick colorful visuals that portray the biology behind the behavior. For this third edition, we selected an image of a “brainbow” of the hippocampus of a transgenic mouse. Brainbows are constructed by promoting the expression of different ratios of red, green, and blue fluorescent proteins by individual neurons. This imaging process has assisted researchers interested in mapping the connectome, or the neural connections of the brain. The brainbow technique was developed in 2007 by researchers under the direction of Joshua Sanes and Jeff Lichtman.

My books were written with my love of the subject and an attention to currency, detail and the direction of the field. I endeavor to teach students at the level I find them.  My books are used around the world based on their clarity and the importance of making complex concepts easily understandable. Meeting the unique needs of the gifted in presenting complex concepts and ensuring those with challenges are not left behind are major efforts in my writing. The great Psychologist William James said it best when it comes to teaching:

“…in teaching, you must simply work your pupil into such a state of interest in what you are going to teach him that every other object of attention is banished from his mind; then reveal it to him so impressively that he will remember the occasion to his dying day; and finally fill him with devouring curiosity to know what the steps in connection with the subject are.” –William James (1899, p. 10)

 James’ goals for the classroom instructor might seem lofty to some, but many of us who teach neuroscience have enjoyed the peak experience of seeing students “turn on” to the material in just the way James describes.

This is an exciting time to be a neuroscientist. Every day, science newsfeeds announce some new and dramatic breakthroughs in our knowledge about the nervous system and the human mind. Important questions raised in the past now have definitive answers. In 1890, James also commented that “Blood very likely may rush to each region of the cortex according as it is most active, but of this we know nothing” (vol. 1, p. 99). With today’s technology, it is safe to say we now know much more than “nothing” about this phenomenon James described. 

I hope you will become as fond of my book as I am!


July 18, 2014

readings for 18 july 2014 #PsychScience #psychology

Filed under: a current story,Biological Psychology,General Psychology,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 10:05 am
Do YOU recognize this scene or the video game it represents? Yes, Zelda of course!

Do YOU recognize this scene or the video game it represents? Yes, Zelda of course!

Here is what I am reading today:

“Cognitive improvements in the intervention group were made on all measures surveyed, including memory, planning abilities, and speed of mental processing.  Miia Kivipelto, the lead investigator, and a prominent expert on lifestyle factors related to dementia, said at a press briefing: “It’s a proof of concept study giving the first evidence from a large, long-term, multi-domain randomized controlled trial really showing that we can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment in an older at-risk individual.”  A seven-year followup study is slated to begin next year.”

“”This paper represents an important next step beyond previous studies that have broadly outlined strategies for sustainably feeding people,” said lead author Paul West, co-director of the Institute on the Environment’s Global Landscapes Initiative. “By pointing out specifically what we can do and where, it gives funders and policy makers the information they need to target their activities for the greatest good.””

“”Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers,” noted lead author Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the UChicago High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory. Cacioppo co-authored the report, now published online in the journal Psychological Science, with colleagues from UChicago’s Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, and the University of Geneva.”

“The “Walk to Victory over Paralysis” is a treadmill walkathon, which will benefit the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network® (NRN). – See more at:”

The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, demonstrate that mobile games can be used to reliably conduct research in psychology and neuroscience, reproducing well-known findings from laboratory studies. The small size of standard laboratory studies means they can be limited in their ability to investigate variability in the population at large. With data sent in from many thousands of participants, the scientists at UCL can now investigate how factors such as age and education affect cognitive functions. This new way of doing science enables questions to be addressed which would not previously have been practical.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers explained: “Smartphone users represent a participant pool far larger and more diverse than could ever be studied in the laboratory. By 2015, there will be an estimated two billion smartphone users worldwide. In time, data from simple apps could be combined with medical, genetic or lifestyle information to provide a novel tool for risk prediction and health monitoring.””

“The research team, led by Professor Daniel Freeman, found that worrying, low self-esteem, anxiety and experiencing a range of unsettling changes in perceptions most likely led to the feelings of paranoia.”

“”Controlling glucose is a dominant problem in our society,” says Ronald M. Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and corresponding author of the paper. “And FGF1 offers a new method to control glucose in a powerful and unexpected way.””

“We now know that this is both wildly wrong and wildly dangerous. A sliced mushroom may look like an ear, but that doesn’t mean you should eat it to cure your earache (choose the wrong mushroom and you can add 24 hours of talking to furniture to your troubles). But as we shall see, the doctrine of signatures, when properly applied, has in fact been for some cultures an indispensable tool in medicine.”


July 5, 2014

readings in psychology for 5 july 2014 #psychology #PsychScience

Ronnie and me!

Ronnie and me!

Here is what we are reading today:

“Often referred to as nature’s sunscreens, MAAs are usually employed to protect an organism from DNA-damaging UV rays; however, the mantis shrimp has incorporated them into powerful spectral tuning filters.”

“The findings aren’t definitive because they don’t prove cause-and-effect and they seem to conflict with some previous research that looked at fewer heart conditions over shorter periods of time.”

“A large brain, long legs, the ability to craft tools and prolonged maturation periods were all thought to have evolved together at the start of the Homolineage as African grasslands expanded and Earth’s climate became cooler and drier. However, new climate and fossil evidence analyzed by a team of researchers, including Smithsonian paleoanthropologist Richard Potts, Susan Antón, professor of anthropology at New York University, and Leslie Aiello, president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, suggests that these traits did not arise as a single package.”

“The Franklin Institute 3D-printed this remarkably complex model for a new exhibit. Skeptics said it couldn’t be done, but the finished product accurately reflects the 2,000 strands of nerve cells found in the brain.”

“”We finally got a clear cut case of an autism specific gene,” said Raphael Bernier, the lead author, and UW associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the clinical director of the Autism Center at Seattle Children’s.

Bernier said people with a mutation in the CHD8 gene have a very “strong likelihood” that they will have autism marked by gastrointestinal disorders, a larger head and wide set eyes.

In their study of 6,176 children with autism spectrum disorder, researchers found 15 had a CHD8 mutation and all these cases had similar characteristics in appearance and issues with sleep disturbance and gastrointestinal problems.”

“Various manual tasks in everyday life require the use of the right hand or are optimized for right-handers. Around 90 percent of the general population is right-handed, only about 10 percent is left-handed. The study of Ulrich Tran, Stefan Stieger, and Martin Voracek comprised two large and independent samples of nearly 13000 adults from Austria and Germany. As in modern genetic studies, where a discovery-and-replication-sample design is standard, the use of two samples allowed testing the replicability and robustness of findings within one-and-the-same study.”

“”We have very clear evidence that this version of the gene came from Denisovans,” a mysterious human relative that went extinct 40,000-50,000 years ago, around the same time as the more well-known Neanderthals, under pressure from modern humans, said principal author Rasmus Nielsen, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. “This shows very clearly and directly that humans evolved and adapted to new environments by getting their genes from another species.”

This is the first time a gene from another species of human has been shown unequivocally to have helped modern humans adapt to their environment, he said.”

“”This is an important step toward understanding what physically happens in the developing brain that puts people at risk of schizophrenia,” says Guo-li Ming, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology and neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Cell Engineering.”

“the results of our study that walking may provide a safe and accessible way of improving symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.”



June 21, 2014

readings in psychology for 21 june 2014 #psychscience #psychology #glass

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 6.19.47 PM

Happiness is a warm puppy!!!

Here is what I am reading today:

“According to his study, PET scans identified 93 per cent of people in a minimally conscious state, and that 74 per cent would recover within the next a year. The functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) identified 45 and 56 per cent, respectively.

Soddu’s research, which included colleagues from Belgium and Denmark, was recently published in The Lancet.”

“They’ve seen a lot of change in their lifetime – we all have – but Google Glass is a new tech unlike any other. You have to see how these folks react to this high-tech gadget. They’re saying exactly what we’re thinking!”

“What is the driving engine behind biodiversity? One and a half centuries years ago, Charles Darwin recognized that species are subject to evolutionary change. Now, we know that all aspects defining an organism are encoded in its genome. Yet, how new species emerge from slight genetic changes remains unanswered. Crows, for example, are all black or grey coated, and they exhibit a strong tendency to select partners that look like themselves.”

“The new findings, published June 19 in Cell, may throw light on psychiatric disorders marked by impaired social interaction such as autism, social anxiety, schizophrenia and depression, said the study’s senior author, Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, a professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. The findings are also significant in that they highlight not merely the role of one or another brain chemical, as pharmacological studies tend to do, but rather the specific components of brain circuits involved in a complex behavior. A combination of cutting-edge techniques developed in Deisseroth’s laboratory permitted unprecedented analysis of how brain activity controls behavior.”

“Last year Karl Deisseroth, a Stanford professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, announced a new way of peering into a brain – removed from the body – that provided spectacular fly-through views of its inner connections. Since then laboratories around the world have begun using the technique, called CLARITY, with some success, to better understand the brain’s wiring.”

“The study was led by Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, together with Mark H. Ellisman, Ph.D., a neuroscience professor at the University of California, San Diego. In a previous study, the two had seen hints that retinal ganglion cells, which transmit visual information from the eye to the brain, might be handing off bits of themselves to astrocytes, cells that surround and support the eye’s signal-transmitting neurons. They appeared to pass them to astrocytes at the optic nerve head, the beginning of the long tendril that connects retinal ganglion cells from the eye to the brain. Specifically, they suspected that the neuronal bits being passed on were mitochondria, which are known as the powerhouses of the cell.”

““Astrocytes are among the most abundant cells in the brain, but we know very little about how they are controlled and how they contribute to brain function,” says Dwight Bergles, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, who led the study. “Since memory formation and other important functions of the brain require a state of attention, we’re interested in learning more about how astrocytes help create that state.””

“”Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications,” says study senior investigator Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s. “While many schools are cutting music programs and spending more and more time on test preparation, our findings suggest that musical training may actually help to set up children for a better academic future.””


June 9, 2014

readings in psychology for 9 june 2014 #PsychScience #psychology


Teaching is Love.

Here is what I am reading today:

““We think that reducing the flow of information between these two brain structures that play a central role in processing auditory information sets the stage for stress or other factors to come along and trigger the ‘voices’ that are the most common psychotic symptom of schizophrenia,” said the study’s corresponding author Stanislav Zakharenko, M.D., Ph.D., an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology. “These findings also integrate several competing models regarding changes in the brain that lead to this complex disorder.””

““We’ve known for a long time that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you don’t sleep well you won’t learn well,” says senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, PhD, professor of neuroscience and physiology and a member of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But what’s the underlying physical mechanism responsible for this phenomenon? Here we’ve shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory. We also show how different types of learning form synapses on different branches of the same neurons, suggesting that learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain.””

check out the cover photo “An artistic rendition of a glomerulus in the mammalian olfactory bulb, with affiliated excitatory mitral cells (dark green) and external tufted (ET) cells (white) and inhibitory periglomerular (PG) cells (brown, pink, orange). Local dendrodendritic processing involving ET and PG cells appears to control whether the mitral cell output of a glomerulus is entirely ‘on’ or ‘off.’ Artwork by Greg Dunn, Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of Pennsylvania. For more information, see the article by Gire and Schoppa in this issue (pages 13454–13464).”

“…In humans, there are three common variants, or alleles, of the APOE gene, numbered 2, 3 and 4. The obvious step, Roses realized, was to find out whether individual APOE alleles influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The variants can be distinguished from one another using a technique called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). But Roses had little experience with PCR, so he asked the postdocs in his team to test samples from people with the disease and healthy controls. The postdocs refused: they were busy hunting for genes underlying Alzheimer’s, and APOE seemed an unlikely candidate. The feeling in the lab, recalls Roses, was that “the chief was off on one of his crazy ideas”.”

““We know that some chemotherapeutic agents can kill brain tumor cells when they are outside the brain (as in a laboratory test). But because the agents cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, they are not able to kill brain tumor cells inside the brain. With the peptide carrier, these agents can now get into the brain and potentially kill the tumor cells,” says Mayo neurology researcher Robert Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study.”

“The quick diagnosis and successful treatment of the adolescent just 48 hours after cerebrospinal spinal fluid and blood were received for analysis portends the broader application of powerful, “next-generation sequencing” (NGS) techniques in solving infectious disease mysteries, not only in cutting-edge research labs, but also in clinical laboratories accessible to hospital physicians everywhere, according to Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, a professor of laboratory medicine at UC San Francisco. Chiu is senior author of the case study, published online in the The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on June 4, 2014.”

“Lead author Dr Allan Pacey, Senior Lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: “Our knowledge of factors that influence sperm size and shape is very limited, yet faced with a diagnosis of poor sperm morphology, many men are concerned to try and identify any factors in their lifestyle that could be causing this. It is therefore reassuring to find that there are very few identifiable risks, although our data suggests that cannabis users might be advised to stop using the drug if they are planning to try and start a family.””

who was little albert??

“For generations, psychology students have been asking the question, “Whatever happened to Little Albert?”, the baby who John B Watson and Rosalie Rayner conditioned to fear furry things back in 1919. Five years ago, it seemed that the question had finally been answered when Hall Beck of Appalachian State University in North Carolina and his colleagues published the results of some intensive archive-snooping. They declared that “Albert B.” (as the baby was called in the original report) had actually been Douglas Merritte, a child who died of hydrocephaly just a few years after the experiment. Now, however, two psychologists in Alberta are disputing that claim, and The Chronicle of Higher Education has just published an article on the matter.”

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Quote to Ponder

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

Discovering Biological Psychology 2nd edition

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Discovering Biological Psychology 2nd edition

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