Posts Tagged ‘neuroscience’

23rd November
written by Steph

Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner for those of us living in the United States, I feel that talking about a book that takes a trip through the madness industry is apt. Oh come now! I can’t be the only one who finds that large family gatherings are something akin to a trip to the loony bin! If, like me, you tend to find that congregations featuring your nearest and dearest tend to be a bit, well, colorful, OR if you just find yourself interested in mental health issues, I’m sure you’ll find this book enjoyable and educational… Whether it also leads you to mentally evaluate how many of the criteria on Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist every person you meet exhibits, well, that’s just another perk, now isn’t it? Like so much non-fiction, I think that The Psychopath Test is a fun read for those who have a pet interest in a certain subject but aren’t actually experts in that field. Those who have, say, majored in Psychology (as I did at university) will find that there are a lot of tidbits that are already familiar (though certainly I learned some things I didn’t already know), but that there is also a lot of glossing over of material as well as oversimplifications made for the sake of engaging storytelling or enhanced accessibility for the layman. That is why, although I found this book fun and interesting, I also found it exceedingly frustrating. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jonson states anything that is deliberately false in this book, but there were moments where I felt like many nuances were lost (or counterpoints were omitted), so as someone who is more than passingly familiar with clinical psychology (though I will say straight up that although I am working on my Psychology doctorate, my area of expertise is cognition and perception NOT clinical populations) I found myself arguing with this book quite a lot. Just as a fair warning, after finishing this book, I jotted down some notes in my book spreadsheet, and when I imported those notes into Word, they filled an entire page. So yeah, I have feelings when it comes to this book (and yes, a lot of them are crabby and could likely be written in all-caps, but worry not, I've saved you from Caps Lock Steph... this time...). (more…)
19th February
written by Steph
I don't normally use this blog to talk about my work - in fact, I often tend to specifically avoid talking about it, in part because the day-to-day rigors of a grad student don't exactly make for fun reading, but also because I like to keep that part of my life separate.  Sort of a "never the twain shall meet kind of deal"... only now, if you'll forgive me, I shall briefly allow for the twain to meet. For the past, oh, year and half, my advisor and I have been working on a project involving fMRI decoding methods (i.e., putting people in fMRI scanners and then trying to "read out"/categorize the subsequent brain activity as one of two things) and visual working memory (i.e., remembering what something looks like/visual information about an object even when it is no longer right in front of your face).  We've been trying to get this study published since August 2008, and it has finally come out!  This would be reason enough to celebrate, but to make the icing on the cake doubly sweet, not only am I first author on the study, but it wound up being published in the scientific journal, Nature (I say "wound up", as though it weren't a really exhausting and difficult process that involved huge amounts of works, and control experiments run and analyzed at the speed of light (all conducted by yours truly))!  For those of you in the scientific know, I need not elaborate, but for those of you who aren't: it's a big deal!  Nature is just about the best journal one can publish in (the alternative being, Science), so I'm really pleased. So far the article is just available online on Nature's website, but for those of you without institutional subscriptions to that magazine, only the abstract is available.  BUT, if you're interested, stories about the findings from our paper have been picked up by several popular press news sources, two of which you can read here and here (there are others, but I've avoided ones that fail to mention me (because I'm vain...), or ones that erroneously mention me, such as a slew of UK articles that have already conferred me my PhD (this is why you must always take what you read in the media with a grain of salt!)... and I've also not linked to any of the foreign language press).  I'm probably most excited about the second article, simply because I provided the bulk of the interview material for that one (as opposed to letting my advisor field the majority of the other interviews).  Lo and behold, I think I actually come across sounding quite smart.  Oh, and I must of course thank Tony for taking the lovely headshot of me that graces the first article! I will probably post once again when the article is printed in the physical print journal, but for now, I hope you'll excuse this small indulgence.  I suppose from now on, when Tony and I fight, I can no longer fall back on the old standard, "Well, I'm not a mind reader!"  😉 We now return you to your regular scheduled programming.