“‘Male Brains’ Linked To Higher Autism Risk in Women, Study Says”

autism-awareness

Article Summary:

Just as the human face can be depicted as feminine or masculine, brain structures are also distinct in a way to determine masculine or feminine structure. Male and female brain structures, however, can be developed in both men and women. This is the reason women with masculine brain structures are at a higher risk to develop autism spectrum disorder. The idea of masculine and feminine brain structures stem from the idea of men having thinner cortex and women having thicker cortex. Due to this, men are more likely to develop the autism spectrum disorder than women because they are more likely to have the masculine brain anatomy.

In addition, when discussing autism, it is important to note that the condition is neurodevelopmental which indicates that symptoms begin during childhood and children are more likely to not achieve typical milestones of maturity. Physicians use the term spectrum to provide a range of symptoms or level of disability to measure different persons. For instance, some autistic patients may not be able to function in social environments but they possess extraordinary math skills. Over time, the condition will allow the individual to function on a higher or lower level – there is a possibility of change in behavior depending on the individual. According to Christine Ecker, professor at Goethe University, autism spectrum disorder is two to five times more common in males. Her research team, however, have not been studying the probability of autism developing in the male population – but more so the male brain structure population.

Moreover, Christine Ecker and her team based their research on the study of brain anatomy differences that could potentially lead to the development of autism spectrum disorder. To test their theory, they evaluated the cortical thickness of the brain in relation to the condition. Ecker notes, “females tend to have a thicker cortex than males in various regions of the brain” and “previous studies have also shown thickness to be significantly altered in people with autism”. To conduct the study, the researchers tested “98 high-functioning adults with autism (49 of them men) and 98 adults without autism (51 of them men). Both groups were roughly within the same age range: mid-20s, on average”. People who had a history of head injuries or abnormities were excluded from the participant pool. To carry out their study, the researchers used a MRI scan to observe cortical thickness or the grey matter across the surface of the cortex. What researchers found, as stated above, is that brain phenotype varies from men to women. Women who had male structured brains were at high risk for the autism spectrum disorder. Why is this? The thicker the matter across the cortex the harder it is for the brain to fully interact as a system.

Furthermore, Ecker explained how her goal consisted of finding a way to start earlier diagnosis of the autism spectrum disorder. This biological approach could show physicians ahead of time if their patients are at risk. In addition, this can also benefit psychologists, who are treating autistic patients in that it will provide concrete proof to their assumptions.  The most important thing to take away would be “Women with male brain anatomy are three times more likely to develop the autism spectrum disorder than women with female brain anatomy”.

Reflection:

I would have to argue that this research project was very informative and interesting. Throughout the project I was able to read many interesting articles that covered autism spectrum disorder and got a grasp of what the disease is and is capable of. Prior to my research, I knew about the neurodevelopmental disease but I did not know the specifics. Since reading about the condition more, I have a firm idea of how the condition can act as a social, physical, and mental burden. Socially, autistic individuals may have a harder time interacting with others when compared to someone living without the condition. Physically, the disease can cause individuals to express little emotion or large amounts of emotions when faced with certain stimuli. Mentally, I believe the disease can be the biggest burden in that it disengages autistic individuals from the rest of their environment.

The disorder may seem as a huge disadvantage because it makes social cues harder to identify from autistic individuals perception and it can also cause one to lack emotion in serious situations. Living with autism spectrum disorder, however, isn’t all that bad. The disorder can come with a few negatives as well as positives. Some autistic individuals are able to focus intensely on specific activities or subjects that allow them to exceed others of that field. For instance, a well known example would be autistic individuals who are math or science geniuses. The idea here is that these individuals are able to see complex things in a much simpler way.

In conclusion, I now have a new perspective on autism spectrum disorder and how it affects the everyday lives of individuals. Moving forward, I would like to continue my research and become more involved with the autism movement.

Source:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/08/health/autism-typical-male-brain-study/index.html

Scutti, Susan. “‘Male Brains’ Linked to Higher Autism Risk in Women, Study Says.” CNN. Cable News Network, 08 Feb. 2017. Web. 02 May 2017.


Happiness :)

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“Not getting what we want can make us just as happy as getting what we want” (Dan Gilbert).

In the Ted Talk given by Gilbert, I discovered that over time human beings evolved not only physically to adjust to their physical environment, but they have also evolved to mentally cope with the everyday mental hardships in life. There were two main types of happiness that Gilbert discussed: synthetic happiness and natural happiness. In the above quote, natural happiness would be described as the joy we get from “getting what we want” while synthetic happiness is described as the joy we get from “not getting what we want”.

Initially, while listening to the speaker discuss synthetic happiness I immediately asked myself, “Why would anyone want to be synthetically happy”? As he continued to discuss how synthetic happiness was a defense mechanism that allows us to remain happy in times of stress or misfortune, I realized that it would be reasonable to incorporate this form of happiness into my everyday life. There are many ways that we seek happiness from misfortune. For instance, when an exam doesn’t go as planned, we always keep in the back of our minds that the next exam will be better. Or maybe if we lose a significant other, we may tell ourselves that we are better off without them and that the right one will come along soon. This way of thinking is what helps us remain happy when things do not go our way. I didn’t realize until now that I had been healing emotional wounds by falsifying my happiness. To my surprise, synthetic happiness is just as effective as natural happiness.

In my opinion, Dan Gilbert is a credible source when discussing this topic due to the extensive research that he and his lab partners have been conducting overtime. I would say that the study is considerably reliable in that it included random sampling in participants. The amnesiac and non-amnesiac participants do differ in a major way which helped the final results of the study due to different outcomes when questioned/examined by the researchers.

Furthermore, Gilbert discusses how “some things are better than others”. Preferences that drive us “too hard and too fast” could cause us to be at risk. He added, when our ambition is unbounded we are liars, cheaters, and etc. When our fears are unbounded we are cowardly, reckless, and etc. However, when our ambitions and fears are bounded we are cautious, joyful, prudent, and thoughtful. Living a life that is bounded and free of unrealistic expectations allows us to manifest our “synthetic” happiness into “natural” happiness that will last a life time.


Divorce: Spotlight Post #1

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In the Article, Divorce Not Always Bad for Kids, the author, Rachael Rettner, discusses how children are better off with divorced parents than living with parents who fight often. She stated, “Constant exposure to their parents’ strife is likely what causes children’s future relationships to suffer”(Rettner). This sounds sensible because it is a known fact that children are impressionable. To see their parents exemplify volatile behavior can lead to future volatile behavior in their personal relationships. In a similar article titled, Divorce Doesn’t Harm Children – Parents Fighting Harms Child, the author, Susan Gadoua, expresses how staying married for the sake of the children does not benefit them at all. Gadoua asserts, “Children are resilient and when you are happy, they are much more likely to be happy”(Gadoua). While additionally stating, “Regardless of whether parents stay together or split, if there is fighting going on between them, the children will suffer”(Gadoua). I agree that any form of conflict coming from the parents will later affect the children. It does not matter if the parents choose to stay together or not, if conflicts continue to arise, the children will likely be harmed mentally and emotionally.

On the contrary, some researchers have argued that the separation of parents will hurt their children in the long-run. With divorce rates soaring in the United States, the number of potentially scarred children increases as well. In the short article, Divorce ‘permanently harms learning and affects their ability to make friends’, Jenny Hope, discusses one interesting finding that entails how children with divorced parents tend to struggle in the educational environment. She states, “By following 3,585 children from around the age of four — Children of divorce experience setbacks in maths test scores and show problems with interpersonal skills and internalizing behavior”(Hope). This is a reasonable finding because divorce forces children to deal with personal matters that can consume them to the point of losing interest in their academics. Children can also become so consumed with their feelings and no longer have the ability to be attentive in the educational/social setting. Additionally, the article, Divorce Hurts: Three Ways Divorce Harms Children, the author discusses how children need a sense of stability to feel comfortable with their everyday lives. Parents who divorce are interrupting the “routine” that children have and wish to stick to. Later in the article the author discusses how the loss of a parent leads to the loss of material things. By the parents splitting “the child may still feel a sense of loss because that parent is no longer present in the household” and children lose out on material things because “it costs more to operate two households than it costs to operate one”.

In my opinion, the divorce process should be depicted as a peaceful one. This is an emotionally challenging event in a child’s life and to see their parents in conflict, only adds to the trauma. If a married couple is unhappy with one another, they should split. Staying in a marriage for the sake of the children will not make the children turn out to be better individuals. Experiencing consistent conflict will cause them to have behavioral issues themselves later in life. What’s important is what’s being depicted in front of the children.

Sources:

“Divorce Hurts: Three Ways Divorce Harms Children.” Meriwether & Tharp, LLC. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.
Hope, Jenny. “Divorce ‘permanently Harms Learning and Affects Their Ability to Make Friends’.” Daily Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 02 June 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.
Rettner, Rachael. “Divorce Not Always Bad for Kids.” LiveScience. Purch, 30 June 2010. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

Gadoua, Susan Pease. “Divorce Doesn’t Harm Children – Parents Fighting Harms Child.” Psychology Today. N.p., 15 Nov. 2009. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.


Intelligence

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Brown eyes vs blue eyes: Jane Elliot, a third grade teacher decided to teach her class what arbitrary discrimination felt like. In the experiment she had the power to shape the reality of her students and she did just that.  According to Elliot, blue-eyed people were smarter than brown-eyed people. Brown-eyed people were not allowed to play with blue-eyed people. Brown-eyed people were portrayed as a “menace” to society just as African-Americans are in the United States. Brown-eyed people soon began to associate their eye color with bad qualities. When interviewed the kids said the discrimination was just as bad as whites calling black people “niggers”. On the contrary, blue-eyed people felt superior and happy while brown-eyed people felt hateful toward themselves and discriminators. The speaker discussed how minimal differences can be the basis of discrimination when authorities add value to one group and devalue the other, while later posing the question of, “how do we teach people compassion after they have experienced suffering”? The psychological component to being discriminated against not only affects your social interactions with others but also your performance in many areas. For instance, brown-eyed students, after being discriminated against, began to perform poorly on tests and assignments. Blue-eyed children’s feeling of superiority helped them perform better on tests and assignments. I believe as an educator the best approach would be to create a positive environment for all children to thrive in. In high-school we were given equal opportunity to thrive in the educational environment. If more schools were like my school children would not struggle as much with their self-esteem in school.

Stereotype Threat: When facing a negative stereotype, one’s performance will confirm that the stereotype is true. You can experience a sense of threat that you will be treated in terms of the stereotype. Anxiety is a detrimental factor that keeps people from doing their best. Everyone experiences negative stereotypes depending on the groups they associate themselves with. In the video, the researchers conducted a study on a mixed racial class. When students were told the task was a test of athletic ability, African-Americans performed better. When told the task was a test of sports strategy, the White students out performed the African-American students. Stereotypes are the reason both groups of people felt intimidated while doing certain tasks. African-Americans had already subconsciously associated themselves with having athletic abilities, while the Whites felt superior in the intellectual field. If we could find a way to break free from the stereotypical ideas that are embedded in our brains, then we would be able to see the potential that we all have to be successful at any task.

Pygmalion Effect: During the Ted Talk given by Dr. Alia Crum, one example involved researchers in Italy who studied patients undergoing a painful surgery. This included multiple incisions in the body to later gain access to the heart/lungs. Patients were given strong doses of morphine sulfate. In the study, half of the patients were given the dose of morphine by a doctor directly. The other half were given the dose of morphine by a pre-programmed  pump. Both groups of patients were given the same dose but did not experience the same amount of relief. The group that wasn’t aware of the pre-programmed pump felt less relieved of the pain than the group who had a doctor directly give it to them. Are you getting fitter, healthier, stronger because you believe you are? Well according to the example, the patients felt better because the act of knowing allowed them to somehow link their mind with their body. I think we can apply this situation to our everyday lives in terms of living a happier life. It is not always up to a certain product, person, or circumstance to help you feel better about life. It can just be a psychological thing. If we learn to expect the best out of situations then our minds and bodies will follow.

Removing negative stereotypes from certain groups of people and adding positive stereotypes to all groups collectively will allow an increase in the performance, health, and confidence of individuals.


Violence

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I disagree with the majority when discussing the effects that violent video games have on children. I believe violent video games can serve as an outlet for children and adults. As humans, we need stimulation, excitement, and also an outlet to help release tension that builds up over time. Violent video games are not making children more violent, they are revealing our true human nature and what it is that we find exciting.

Video games can be seen as a healthy mechanism when coping with anger and frustration. Rather than destroying the source of your pain, you can turn to a video game and release your anger out on a fictional being. Video games are not introducing children to violence– they are ridding them of their potential violent attacks. Children and adults are well aware of the violence and misfortunes that life presents. So a video game should not be blamed for the introduction of crime. We know life is crappy and video gaming has provided a way to cope with it.

According to Obama, there has been “huge drops in the murder rates” in major crime cities such as Dallas, New York, and Los Angeles. What does violent video gaming have to do with the declining long-term crime trend?  Well gaming has become one of the many activities that humans can turn to to release stress or frustration. Other activities that are useful would be practicing the art of boxing, karate, football, and etc. Contact sports and violent video games all involve the interaction with a “human” form that allows us to relieve ourselves by being physical.

Source: Robertson, Lori. “Dueling Claims on Crime Trend.” FactCheck.org. The Wire, 13 July 2016. Web. 19 Mar. 2017.


Sleep

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In the TED Talk, Russell Foster, outlines different theories that explains our need for sleep. He went on to discuss how 32 years of the human life is spent sleeping, which helps highlight how important sleep is to the human body.

Why do we sleep? According to Foster, restoration is one of the main reasons we need sleep. Through sleep we are able to restore the energy that we burned throughout the day. Also, sleeping at night tends to enhance our overall creativity because of “neural synaptic connections” are linked and strengthened while those that are less important tend to “fade away” (Foster).

Furthermore, Foster went on to discuss the effects of sleep deprivation stating that 31 percent of drivers microsleep and these instant uncontrollable naps are due to different energy draining attributes. He states, “Tired people are sometimes massively stressed which can result in memory loss — but stress can also cause the loss of sleep”. Weight gain was also a consequence of sleep deprivation. If you sleep 5 hours or less every night then you have a 50 percent more likelihood of being obese. This is due to sleep loss causing an increase in the release of the hunger hormone “ghrelin” which activates the hypothalamus.

How to detect sleep deprivation? Chances are you are sleep deprived if you, “rely on your alarm clock, you appear tired to others, you are easily irritable, you need tons of stimulants, and it takes you a long time to get out of bed” (Foster).

How to prevent sleep deprivation? Your bedroom should be turned into a “sleep haven” that will help encourage you to sleep. At the end of the day a light source in the room should not be allowed, but in the morning it could help you get into your biological sleep routine. I think that this method will help college students a lot in that it encourages us to sleep at night and rise for classes in the morning. A realistic amount of sleeping hours for college students should be 7-8 hours a night. According to the idea of restoration, 10-12 hours of sleep during the weekend would be beneficial for college students as well.


Memory

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In the TED talk the speaker, Elizabeth Loftus, discusses how her job is to study when people remember events or “think” they can recall an event to full extent. Studying when people forget is opposite of what Loftus finds truly important when discussing memory. She goes on to state how there is an even bigger problem in society when people tend to “think” they can recall memories — that can potentially  hurt the individual being accused.

For instance, there are 300 innocent people being convicted due to false memories. With rapidly advanced technology, DNA can help us prove that the individuals did not commit the crimes they are being charged for. People are more likely to believe the victim because we rely on memory to help us recall events. Though, society has the wrong idea of how memory works and how strongly we can rely on it. False memories are common and should be investigated thoroughly to prevent innocent individuals from being hurt.

Loftus, continues by discussing misinformation from witnesses and secondary sources in general.  In the 1990s therapy resulted in huge problems of extreme memories that did not actually occur.  Where do the bizarre memories come from? Dream interpretation, hypnosis, and more psychobabble therapy tactics that the general public seem to find attractive. Loftus and her team conducted an experiment that involved development of false memories by actually planting false memories into the minds of their subjects. This allowed Loftus to test out her theory and also apply is to current circumstances that needed immediate evaluation.

Personally, I do not believe that memory should be tampered with. Not by others or the individual. Memory should be left to function on its own. If a person experiences traumatic events throughout their life, those events should not be repressed or altered into another memory. Tricking the brain is like tricking reality. Your mind and perceptions are your reality, so to falsify memory is to falsify the way you perceive life.


Exploring the Mind of a Serial Killer

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I chose to talk about this specific topic because I have always been interested in what exists in the minds of serial killers. Their motive/drive has always been an interest of mine. I enjoy watching documentaries based on serial killers in America. My favorite serial killers to research are Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer, because they were no fans of random selection. The people they chose as victims had much in common. At the end of each documentary, the researcher always pose the question of, “What drove this kind of behavior?”  As the audience we too, would like to know what is driving this kind of volatile behavior, while hoping the behavior can be avoided or reversed.

How do you end up with a psychopathic killer?  According to Jim Fallon, there are three components that tie into the development of a psychopathic killer: genes, brain damage, and environment. Epigenetic effect is the interaction of genes, brain damage, and the environment. A psychopathic killer behavior is likely based on the timing of these three components.

What I found to be most interesting is our brain’s ability to become insensitive to Serotonin. Serotonin is supposed to make us kind and relaxed but while in utero, the MAOA gene (major violence gene) makes us aggressive if there is too much Serotonin. The brain becomes insensitive to Serotonin, so kind and relaxed behavior is not effective. Also, the MAOA gene is on the X chromosome, so it is only inherited from the mother. As a result, men are more likely to be psychopathic killers and aggressive by nature.

While viewing the talk, the researcher seemed to be fairly trustworthy with his findings. Though anecdotes were apart of his talk, the researcher also included scientific evidence such as brain scans and the correlation graph of the MAOA gene effects. Though the researcher used his family as his participants, it did not skew his findings because he used random selection while picking from a family that has history that supports his research.

Research Question: Does nature drive psychopathic killing behavior more than nurture? Are humans who inherit certain genes more likely to be psychopathic killers versus those who are from abusive/aggressive homes.

In order to explore this research question I would have to conduct a case study. A case study seems to be the most ethical and information giving due to an extensive amount of research and time that will be tied into it. An experiment would be considered too unethical and a survey would not give me the full truth that I am seeking.


Parenting Styles

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When discussing how to approach parenting, many people may have different ideas of what good parents are. However, there’s only two types of parenting styles that people seem to agree with and execute.  You have the strict and controlling parents, and there’s also parents that are extremely relaxed when it comes to discipline and guiding their children.

I believe that both parenting styles should be combined to produced happy, healthy, and productive members of society. Parents should


Refinement Post: Do Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?

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When conducting a study on preference I think a key factor crucial to the experiment is deception without harm.  As Holly mentioned in her Research Methods blog post, it was obvious to us, the audience, that the wigs the women wore were fake hair. To the men this could have altered their natural preference detector. In any experiment the participants are to be aware that an experiment is being conducted but they should also be blind to what they are tested on. Considering a fairly ethical/safe experiment such as the one the MythBusters conducted, it would be absolutely harmless and rewarding to deceive the participants to collect valid data.

Another strong point that Holly made was how different the women’s behavior was. Each woman behaved in a different way which could have appealed to each guy differently. I think that if the experiment was controlled a bit more, then it could have been a strong experiment.

Lastly, the final point that Holly made was how randomization played a major role in the experiment. Holly stated, “Getting more men in– allowed for a bigger sample which allows for more empirical data, heightening the chance that their results are good”. Though a larger number of participants isn’t as important as the random picking of the participants, I agree that the randomization of the experiment heightened the chance of precise results.