What is attention and consciousness?

Attention and consciousness are the foundations on which we create an understanding  of the world. Together they form the ground upon which we build a sense of who we are as we define ourselves in relation to the myriad physical and social worlds we inhabit. They are also the basic functions that give rise to “the mind” – a real kettle of fish.

A User’s Guide to the Brain, Chapter 3

User’s Guide to the Brain: Sixth and Seventh Senses

The ending section of Chapter 2 (Perception) brings up two senses we frequently do not think about. They are a sense of direction and a sense for sex.

For me, the sense for direction is of great interest. While Ratey, the author, does not go into details about this possible sixth sense in humans, he mentions that there are findings of magnetite particles in human brain tissue. Crystals of magnetite are found in the heads of honey bees and of homing pigeons. These crystals are a natural magnetic material, which may explain how these animals find their ways. It’s intriguing that there is also an element like that in the human brain. This sounds like a great discovery (done by researchers at the California Institute of Technology) and can potentially explain how some folks are so great with navigating in their surroundings and finding their bearing across continents and oceans without compasses! The possibilities are endless; think of how technology can become if we incorporate the use of these innate crystals with physical devices!

The seventh sense, the sense for sex, refers to the “sense organ” inside the nose that detects pheromones. The technical term is “vomeronasal organ” or VNO for short. Located just on either side of the septum in the nose, the human VNO helps explain why we are attracted to certain scents, which runs the perfume and lotion industries. It has not been confirmed that this is indeed the spot were we detect pheromones, but it’s interesting stuff.

Mass Media and Other Contributors to Eating Disorders

A notable amount of the literature and research conducted on eating disorders has been devoted to reporting the influence of mass media on individuals with eating disorders. Many proclaim that mass media advocate a standard of slim beauty that is unattainable and unrealistic. It is easy to point a finger at the media and declare, “The media causes eating disorders.” This statement, however, is extreme. It singles out the mass media as the main culprit behind why eating disorders are so prevalent in Western countries and is a growing problem in East Asian countries. The statement simplifies eating disorders as if they stem from one problem and ignores many other factors that play roles in this complex group of psychological disorders. This essay will briefly discuss factors such as family influences, psychological elements, and neurological and genetic factors that, in addition to the media, contribute to eating disorders.

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The Break of Curveballs

Visual illusions are a fun and entertaining way to find out more about our perceptual system. Illusions occur when the brain is presented with conflicting sensual information that it cannot easily interpret. What results is the perceptual experience of illusions. This paper will focus on the illusion known as the “Break of the Curveball,” discussing how the illusion is achieved and how it offers insight into the mechanics of human visual perception.

The curveball illusion is one commonly observed in a game of baseball by batters on home plate. The pitcher stands on a mound and throws a baseball towards home that is 60.5 feet (18.44 meters) away. The pitcher throws the ball in such a way that makes the baseball spin. The ball’s trajectory is a curved path created by the imbalance of the forces on different sides of the ball. Although the ball’s curved path towards home should appear gradual, batters often experience a sudden and dramatic drop of the ball just as they swing the bat. The ball’s change in position is often called a curveball’s “break.”

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Nature vs Nurture in Bulimia Nervosa

Extensively studied, bulimia nervosa is a condition where individuals have persistent concerns with their body image and weight. They have frequent episodes of binge eating followed by either purging or fasting for days to compensate for the large amount of food eaten earlier. A large amount of research has been dedicated to finding the possible influences that drive bulimics to such extreme eating behaviors. Findings are not exclusively supporting either the nature or the nurture side of the debate. Rather, they add insight to the whole picture of the disorder. This essay will discuss some findings that provide a nature view of bulimia and some that provide a nurture view.

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