We’ve Moved!

I’m starting a new position at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA in Fall 2017. The General Psychology course there is 105 instead of 101, so I’ve created a new page to host the student blogs that you can access here. It was a difficult decision to move the main site, as there are many of you who have this site bookmarked or have signed up for the email summary of new content. I would encourage you to update your bookmarks so you continue to see the new content. Unfortunately, you will have to sign up for email notifications again on the new page. I apologize for any inconvenience. I hope to see you all on the new site to keep up with a new round of Gen Psych students exploring psychological concepts.

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Media Project – Nature Walks

This particular research study, titled “Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation”, discussed an experiment that was conducted to see if walking through nature was better for one’s overall mental health than walking through urban areas.  39 healthy participants were given a rumination self-report, or a Reflection Rumination Questionnaire (RRQ), in which they answered questions regarding their perceived level of rumination.  Rumination is a state of deep, often negative thought and can sometimes lead to anxiety and stress.  Participants also had a brain scan, in which activity in the brain, specifically in the sgPFC, is examined.  That area of the brain is known to show more activity during this type of negative, self-reflective thought and behavioral changes that occur during rumination.  After recording the participants’ rumination levels, they were each randomly assigned to either go on a 90-minute walk through nature or a 90-minute walk through a busy urban area.  Phones were given to each participant to make sure they stayed on the path and actually walked the whole 90 minutes.  Immediately after each participants’ walk they were given the Reflection Rumination Questionnaire again and went through the brain scan.  Results based on the Reflection Rumination Questionnaire showed that those who went on the nature walk showed a decrease in self-reported rumination.  For the sgPFC scan, participants who walked through nature showed a decrease in blood flow, a sign of relaxation and a sign of a decrease in sgPFC activity.  Those who walked in the urban areas did not have a decrease in blood flow.  These findings could possibly mean that living in urban areas could be a contributing factor to mental illnesses.  On the other hand, walking through and constantly seeing nature can be very beneficial for anxiety and other mental issues.  The lesson to be taken away from this experiment is that it wouldn’t hurt to get out of the house and go to your local park every now and then.  In fact, it would be very beneficial for your overall metal health.

 

Summarizing this article was not too challenging for me.  Although, it did require some thinking and problem-solving skills to make a decision of what information to leave out.  Throughout the article, I noticed that a lot of the results from the experiment were repeated and said in different ways.  I could have done the same thing, but I thought clearly stating the final results of the experiment once would be enough in order to process the outcome of the study.  I decided to add the process and the preparation  for the experiment to get a better idea of what the researchers were specifically looking for and testing for.  I also thought it was important, although a minor detail, to say that the participants were all relatively young and healthy.  This fact makes the results of the study even more impressive.  Despite the healthy state of the participants, the area in which you walk through affected them greatly.  Now that there’s scientific evidence supporting a more nature-centered lifestyle and that being around nature helps with mental health, hopefully more schools and parents will implement nature walks and time spent outside into their children’s lives.  Having to summarize this article into my own words has been slightly challenging at times, but overall, I think the summary represents the article very well.  This process also made me grateful for and impressed by the real professional journalists who summarize articles and research findings everyday into a form the public can understand and relate to.


A Reflection on Psychology

I have very much enjoyed being in a Psychology class, this semester and I have learned a lot about, not only how the human mind works, but about my own mind and personality.   In the beginning of the semester, I wrote an Introductory post about the three classes I was most interested in learning about.  I would say that those predictions were mostly true.  I definitely learned a lot when we talked about stereotypes & discrimination and how it still affects certain minority groups today.  I also enjoyed learning about personalities and personality disorders.  During that week, we got to take a few online personality tests, which were very interesting to see the results of.  It was also interesting to discuss the many personality disorders in the world.  I have known friends and family who have suffered from many of them, so it was very informative for me.

At the end of my Introductory post, I proposed a question that I had hoped I would be able to answer by the time I finished this class.  I had asked in what way could I apply what I’ve learned to my everyday life and possibly my future career?  As I mentioned earlier, learning about the personality disorders was very interesting and definitely gave me new perspectives on the many different disorders that exist.  Also, the week in which we discussed ways in order to help us get a better quality of sleep was very informative and useful, for me.  I often struggle with the amount of sleep I get and when I get it.  It is sometimes hard for me to stay on a good, consistent sleep schedule and learning about tips to help us sleep and how much we should sleep helped me a lot.  Throughout the semester, I have become more and more informed about the psychological issues and challenges people go through everyday.  It has made me appreciate psychology and psychologists even more than I had before.  I will definitely use the knowledge I have gained from this class in my everyday life.  Overall, it has been a challenging, yet very interesting semester in this class!


Media Production Project

Does Sleep Deprivation Increase Susceptibility to False Memories?

Can one be more susceptible to false memory formation due to the lack of sleep?

Steven J. Frenda a psychological scientist, along with his colleagues, at the University of California, Irvine conducted a study on whether or not sleep deprivation increases susceptibility to false memory formation. Two experiments were conducted to reach their results and conclusions on this question.

In experiment one, one hundred and ninety-three undergraduate student’s self-logged the number of hours they slept per night, Frenda and colleagues posed that getting 5 hours of sleep or less was associated with forming false memories. In the beginning, students completed a questionnaire that described a plane crash and had been told that video footage of this crash was widely seen all over social media. The main question participants were asked was if they had seen “video footage of the plane crashing taken by one of the witnesses on the grown.” Experiment one’s misinformation task was that photos and audio of a crime scene were shown to participants and then asked questions about them.

The findings from experiment one needed further confirmation but broadly suggested that less sleep is related to memory suggestibility. Researchers wanted to further understand when during the formation of false memories did restricted sleep have an effect. Researchers were also curious about retrieval of memories and if restricted sleep was the one to blame for that. With these things in mind, they conducted experiment two. Here, the researchers had four main groups with their independent variable being sleep. Participants were either told to immediately sleep or stay awake then take the questionnaire in the morning or take the questionnaire then sleep or stay awake.

The researchers found that students that had read the narratives, viewed the photos and took the memory test after staying up all night were more likely to form false memories and report false details from the text narrative. On the other hand, students who saw the photos before staying up all night had almost very similar results for false memory formation.

“The researchers believe these findings have important legal applications: Recent studies are suggesting that people are getting fewer hours of sleep on average, and chronic sleep deprivation is on the rise,” says Frenda. “Our findings have implications for the reliability of eyewitnesses who may have experienced long periods of restricted or deprived sleep.”

Frenda closes by says that further research need to be conducted before enforcing specific law enforcement and says, “We are running new experiments now, in order to better understand the influence of sleep deprivation on processes related to false memory.”

Reflection:

After writing my own summary of the research article, I underestimated the amount of thought and summarizing that went into writing an inside view on today’s psychological studies. I definitely thought it would not be so difficult to compose my own thoughts and feelings to summarizing a study as well as keeping the readers entertained. It was difficult trying to condense the study’s experiments because I thought that everything was important and worth mentioning in the journal article for the reader to fully understand the material and the flow of the study. In the study there is a shift from experiment one to experiment two and it was difficult trying to create my own shift in the journal article because I had to be careful about plagiarism.

I think the journalist wrote the article in a way that the regular person could understand the article which was something that I struggled with when I first started to re-write the article. The journalist did talk about some parts of the study, but failed to mention other parts that I thought were important to mention and would make understanding the study easier. Adding those details about the study, that the original journalist missed, is something that I added to my re-write of the article that is different from the original creator.

I don’t think that the perspectives of the journalist were wrong, I just don’t think that there was enough detail to completely understand the study in its entirety, but, I did like how the journalist made reading the paper easy without the use of difficult words or phrases that the general audience might not understand.

 

 

References:

Link to the original article: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/sleep-deprivation-may-increase-susceptibility-to-false-memories.html#.WRN-1FKZOfT

Link to the scholarly article: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797614534694

 

 

 


Media Production – Music as a Reward

For most, music is enjoyable. We turn on the radio on our way to work, we listen to music as we do homework, and play it at parties. However, there is a small percentage of the population that finds almost no pleasure in music. This condition is known as specific musical anhedonia.

In a recent study published in September, 2016, a team of researchers addressed the neurological differences that exist between those with music anhedonia and those without the condition. In order to investigate this, three group of 15 volunteers with different sensitivities to music were recruited for the study. A series of tests were run while the participants were listening to music to measure their response. These tests included skin conductance measurements and fMRI scans.

After completing these tests, the researchers found that participants with musical anhedonia rated the excerpts of music as less pleasurable and less emotionally arousing than the other participants. The fMRI scans were completed to measure the interactions in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). After these, the researchers found that participants with specific musical anhedonia showed less activity in the nucleus accumbens and corpus striatum (which plays a role in motivation and reward) than those with average music sensitivity. When presented with monetary rewards, however, the participants with musical anhedonia and participants without showed equal level of activity in the nucleus accumbens.

These finding have lead researchers to believe that multiple reward pathways are present in the brain. The activation of the pathways differs according to the reward presented. The researchers have also concluded that the level of connectivity between cortical regions of the brain determines the effects experienced by the body both physically and emotionally. These findings have allowed researchers to understand the variability that exists in neural pathways. It has also allowed for a better understanding of the cause and mechanism behind musical anhedonia. This could potentially be useful in developing a treatment for this condition now that the neural pathway is better understood.

After writing a new news article on the original research article, my perspective on journalists has definitely changed. Sometimes, journalists are blamed for twisting words to make research articles support the attention-grabbing claims they want to make. While this may be true for some, I think this is due to the fact that journalists are trying to summarize the words of a scientists to make their findings more accessible to the general public. Since the audience is mostly uninformed, the journalist cannot use any of the technical terms or go too deep into the science behind the conclusions. As I was trying to simplify the findings being discussed in the scientific article, the real scientific findings started to get lost or blurred in my efforts to simplify.

I did chose to leave some of the information out of the article. I mostly left out a lot of the information regarding the methods of the experiment. Many different tests and brain scans were performed. The terminology, procedures, and the statistical explanation of the results seemed too complex to include in an article for the general public. Although it may be useful to further understanding the study, information on methods is not necessarily critical to understanding the conclusions being made.

I have come to realize that journalists have very tough jobs since they are the mediators between scientists, experts, anyone that has something to say, and the audience. They make the information accessible to the public. Their job becomes tougher when they must “translate” information into everyday language while also making the article entertaining, attention grabbing, and worth reading without losing sight of the actual data being presented. Through the course of this project, I have learned that is important to look at the scientific information behind claims presented in the media. I have also learned that conveying research findings is important and must be done so in a form that the audience can easily understand the ideas, finding, discoveries, and claims being made.

 


Media Project: Does exercise truly help our brain functioning ?

For generations people have associated old age with a decline in memory capacity, and a healthy mind to a heathy body. In many instances people mistake old age in general for being responsible for this “decline” when in reality it’s the brain alternations due to age that cause this decline.  Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine compared the levels of activity in different brain regions between young people (18-31years), and old people (55-74 years) while performing a memory task. The trick to this study was to determine if being physically active helps reduce memory deficiency within individuals.

The study was split into two different parts in order to compare how different levels of physical activity affect associative encoding in the brain. The first part of the study required the participants to perform physical activity on a treadmill in order to collect data on their peak oxygen uptake (VO2),  which is a ratio of  gas exchange that occurs while performing physical activity. The data on VO2 was used to determine the cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) of each of the individuals in order to compare them with each of the other participants. The second part of the study required the participants to take on a memory task that involved recalling face-name pairs that were presented to them in pictures during various different time periods with a limited amount of time to recall the information. The researchers also used Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to observe the level of brain activation in each of the participants while performing the memory task.

The results demonstrated that older individuals with higher CRF and higher levels of physical activity  have more activation in brain regions involved in learning and memory such as the left hippocampus and bilateral thalamus when compared to younger adults with low VO2 levels. This correlates to the idea that high CRF scores correlate to a diminish in cognitive decline in individuals as they age.

The researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine later correlated their study to one from the Univeristy of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The study done at UCLA collected data on the affects of different levels of physical activity on brain size and how different brain sizes correspond to the possibility of developing some sort of disease related to cognitive decline such as dementia.

The correlation that was found was that higher levels of exercise in older individuals leads to higher brain activity which in turn leads to a decline in the possibility of developing dementia.The researchers at UCLA also determined that the hippocampus which is the part of the brain used during learning activities does actaully grow with more physical activity. The growth of the hippocampus demonstrates that the brain can change in size due to external factors such as daily exercise.

It is important to understand that partaking in physical activity does not mean that an individual can never develope dementia or any other type of cognitive decline, but the process does slow down. Being involved in physical activity does not mean once in a month it has to be a constant routine that is done even at an old age in order to see the benfits later on in life.

Both of these studies show a positive correlation between physical activity and higher memory capacity at an older , which in turn demonstrates that old age is not the only cause  for deficiencies in memory capacity/recall because there are ways of slowing down the process of brain alternations. So exercising has its perks: a fit body and a lower risk of developing dementia so I guess next time you  don’t feel like getting off the couch just remember you are killing two birds with one stone so why not partake in a little daily exercise!

 

 

 

Reflection:

Many times when we read news articles we are quick to judge the author of the article and assume that they are giving false information out to the public for the mere purpose of getting increased rates of viewing. Before completing this assignment I always thought journalist exaggerated the claims in their articles in order to reel people in. After writing this summary of the news article found in the magazine “Psychology Today,” I can say I respect these individuals for taking the time to write these articles. I now have a changed view on these journalist because it was extremely difficult to incorporate the information found on the scholarly research paper into a limited amount of words. It is often times difficult to understand the statistics reported on the research studies in order to properly present their findings without falsely reporting the results. Research reports tend to be extremely long so it is impressive how these journalist are able to compact everything in a well organized and interesting way while still presenting the important parts of the study to their audience. My summary is approximately 300 words shorter than the actaully news article and much less extensive than the scholarly article. I made sure to incorporate some of the information not reported on the news article in order to bring both reports together. I made sure to include enough “important” information to allow people enough basis to understand what the research and its results were about. It was extremely difficult to incorporate/understand the statistics behind the research so even though it was important I decided to leave it out instead of including information I did not understand. It was also very difficult to incorporate information from both because the news article was straight to the point, while the scholarly article extensively reported the results. In all I have learned to appreciate the work these journalist do instead of just assuming they are writing about topics they have no clue about. So next time I read an article from a magazine, newspaper, or blog, I will read the content of the article with more knowledge of how hard it is to present this type of information to a public that might not have any background on the topic , and prevent from falsely informing them.

References:

Scott M. Hayes, Jasmeet P. Hayes, Victoria J. Williams, Huiting Liu, Mieke Verfaellie. FMRI activity during associative encoding is correlated with cardiorespiratory fitness and source memory performance in older adults. Cortex, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2017.01.002

Zaldy S. Tan, Nicole L. Spartano, Alexa S. Beiser, Charles DeCarli, Sanford H. Auerbach, Ramachandran S. Vasan, and Sudha Seshadri. Physical Activity, Brain Volume, and Dementia Risk: The Framingham Study J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2016 : glw130v1-glw130.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201701/physical-fitness-keeps-your-brain-in-good-shape-study-finds%3Famp

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2017.01.002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Aducanumab against Alzheimer’s

Here it goes! The last post of the year!

Exciting and perhaps groundbreaking results from the study The antibody aducanumab reduces Aβ plaques in Alzheimer’s disease reveal what may be a possible treatment for the deteriorating Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid-Beta plaque formation are key indicators of Alzheimer’s. The study performed research on the Aducanumab antibody, which is something in our bodies designed to fight off pathogens when helping our immune systems, which demonstrated success after being tested for on subjects for a whole year. Using this antibody in therapy could possibly reduce memory loss in a dose dependent fashion (Sevigny et al. 2016).

Previously, old therapies were not successful in removing plaques, however this study was successful in causing a decrease in the amount of existing plaques, at least in some of the participants that they tested (Sevigny et al. 2016). Aducanumab was developed by the company Biogen, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found when observing human memory B cells that made these antibodies which could bind the amyloid plaques.

The aim of the trial was to find an adequate, yet safe, dosage of the antibodies that could clear these harmful plaques. A total of 165 participants between the years of 50 and 90, with either a mild form of Alzheimer’s or prodromal Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s with lots of asymptomatic plaque build up, were tested. This was a double blind, placebo using experiment. One group was set up as a control, receiving a placebo, while the experimental group received one of the four dosages of Aducanumab, depending on their body weight of 1, 3, 6 or 10 mg (Sevigny et al. 2016). Afterwards, the researchers gave the placebo or antibody through an infusion 14 times over the span of four weeks. However, only about 20 individuals stayed as patients dropped out throughout the study (Sevigny et al. 2016).

Scans were done on the subjects in order to see how they were doing with the new treatment. Amyloid actually absorbs Florbetapir, so they used this see how the plaques changed. The scientists found that plaques ultimately shrank and the higher the dose administered, the better the results were. The Amyloid Beta plaques seemed to decrease in amount as well (Sevigny et al. 2016).

Additionally, the study performed this testing on mice as well, to further explore the effects in larger numbers. They found that as Aducanumab bonded, cells in the brain were activated to eat up Amyloid Beta plaques (Sevigny et al. 2016).

Some tests were given that asked participants to answer a series of questions, however it was inconclusive as some revealed what could have been a decrease in cognitive decline while other tests didn’t reveal anything (Sevigny et al. 2016).

Like other drugs, Aducanumab treatment had a noticeable adverse side effect called ARIA, or an amyloid-related imaging anomaly. Basically, it indicates more fluid found in a part of the brain which could signal a hemorrhage. Those that received higher dosages of the antibody showed more cases of the negative symptom, among which were headache and urinary tract infections. At 10 mg, 41% of patients developed ARIA. Scientists don’t exactly understand the reasons why ARIA forms (Sevigny et al. 2016). Thus, in future studies, they aim at managing these side effects because the benefits to the drug are immense and could really help our society as a whole and those who are suffering with this neurodegenerative disease.

REFLECTION

Upon reflection, writing a summary on my particular research article “The antibody aducanumab reduces Aβ plaques in Alzheimer’s disease” was extremely challenging in more ways than one. Just getting started and remembering what I had read previously was difficult. The research article, like other primary literature pieces that I read for other classes, is written educated individuals that had full knowledge on the topic and procedure at hand as they performed the experiments themselves. They fully understood what took place and made their own interpretations based on their findings, and their purpose, therefore, was to convey to other researchers like them and journals why their research was significant and what the results mean in terms of its effects on us. Like I previously mentioned, their target audience is not the common lay person, who has little to no previous psychological or scientific background. So, the language that they used contained terms and phrases that were complex. It was up to myself to change the words and ideas in a way that was both clear and easy to understand. In addition, I had to make sure that I did not leave any details out of my summary as well. This time around I included information on the procedures as in how the doses were administered and how much of it was given. I also made the effort to define some terms and explain in really simple ways how procedures were brought out and simplified what they found by a lot as well. I have always known that the role of a journalist is no easy task. However, I did not realize that they covered and read scientific literature and cited them as they reported on findings. Covering the bases of the journal article in a way that catches the eye of the reader is not an easy task at all.

SOURCES

News Article- https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/alzheimer-s-drug-shows-promise-in-small-trial/

Research Article-  http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v537/n7618/full/nature19323.html

 


Reflections

I look back over my first blog post about psychology and saw how time flew by since the beginning of February to May 2017. The class and I,  all covered most of the psychology topics and the topics which were most interesting to me were the Sleep, Drugs ,Alcohol and the Brain and Classifying Mental Illness. At the beginning of the year I said the same exact topics and they resulted being interesting to me. My least favorite topics were scientific method, brain structures , and neurons. Those topics also resulted to be hard for me in class and exams. Before the course started, I thought scientific method, research method, and experimental design were not interesting. My question about this course was, what kind of  psychology skills can I develop and put to use? The skills I developed from this class is, how to study for tests, how sleep affects the body, the effects on drugs, how to do research, and the mental illnesses caused by genetic or formed by a certain disorders.  Since this was my first psychology course I was amazed of how much information I have learned throughout this course and will use it to my advantage and future use to help others and myself.


Artificial Intelligence

The idea of artificial intelligence has been the fascination of science fiction since its inception. While science fiction’s depiction of artificial intelligence is often insidious, it brings with it the promise of technologies that are more effective and more efficient. What was once fiction may be reality thanks to a group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Although countless technologies have attempted to emulate the computing power of the human brain, few have come as close as the diffusive memristor. In essence, they succeeded in the production of a man-made neuron that has the unique ability to mimic the connections present in the human brain.

This new technology has the potential to create a new class of neuromorphic computers that bring with them the promise of energy efficiency and an increased capacity for learning. Previous efforts to duplicate the phenomenon of biological synapses have had limited success. The secret of this new class of artificial neurons lies in their ability to imitate the “synaptic Ca2+ dynamics that occur in biological systems” (Wang et al. 2016). The ability of memristors to incorporate these types of Ca2+ dynamics gives rise to both long- and short-term plasticity. Synaptic plasticity, the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time in response to their level of activity, has been linked to postsynaptic calcium release. Rather than using calcium, memristors make use of silver nanoclusters.

The basis on which the device functions can best be understood by investigating its structure. The diffusive memristor consists of two platinum or gold electrodes that sandwich a film with embedded silver nanoclusters. When a current passes from one electrode to the other, the silver nanoparticles begin bridging the gap between the electrodes. This results in a conductive channel that dramatically increases conductivity, and thus the speed of signal transmission. This conductive channel is only maintained in the presence of an electric current. Once the current stops running through the system, the silver particles relax back to their ground state and the conductive channel is broken.

Now we can observe how this tendency of the memristors can give rise to plasticity. If the time between pulses is shorter than the time it takes for the silver particles to relax, more particles are pushed into the gap. Over time, this can result in the formation of a fully conductive bridge. The researchers that observed this phenomenon called it “paired-pulse facilitation, or PPF” (Wang et al. 2016). PPF is similar to the way in which neurons increase the fidelity and strength of the signals they transmit in short-term plasticity. On the other hand, if a pulse excites the silver particles for too long, they being to migrate to one electrode. This decreases the number of silver nanoparticles in the gap between the two electrodes, and results in slower signal transmission. This phenomenon was deemed “paired-pulse depression, or PPD” (Wang et al. 2016). PPD is analogous to the refractory period that occurs after exciting a neuron.

Finally, when diffusive memristors were assembled into simple networks they gave rise to spike-timing-dependent plasticity. In other words, memristors that fired together reinforced each other by increasing the speed and strength at which a signal traveled through that frequently-used network. Networks of memristors that were not used as often had weaker signal transmission that those that were used frequently. This phenomenon arises without the need for complex pulse engineering and can lead to long-term plasticity. The remarkable promise that this technology shows in these early stages lends itself to the usefulness of its possible applications.

Summarizing a research article in a way that can be understood by a larger audience is a task I severely underestimated. Primary literature often has a narrow audience of highly trained experts and students, due to its reliance on jargon. For this reason, I had to carefully comb through the article and decide what I wanted to include in my summary. Often, I found myself having to look up words and concepts so I could better explain these crucial elements in my summary. It was a challenge to find a balance between including critical parts of the study and excluding nonessential, convoluted details.

I based what I included in my article in part on what the news article included from the study. While the news article did an adequate job summarizing the important findings of the study, it lacked essential background knowledge and the mechanism behind memristor plasticity. When I first read the article, I had to look up several key terms, like plasticity and spike-timing-dependent plasticity. This could be because the article is intended for an audience that has a scientific background however, it still detracted from the flow of the article. This problem could easily be solved by including short definitions of key terms. This is why I chose to include definitions of words that a general audience may not know in my summary. Furthermore, the article lacked an explanation for the mechanism behind memristor plasticity. While this may be a personal preference, I found the mechanism behind the machinery to be an important discovery that was easy to simplify.

Putting myself in the shoes of a journalist has developed my respect for the unique challenges they face. Their task is to provide an accurate summary of the material in a study while capturing the attention of a large audience. Understanding a research article thoroughly enough to decided what should be summarized and what should be excluded requires a great deal of experience and intuition.

 

References

Wang Z., Joshi S., Savel’ev S. E., Jiang H., Midya R., Lin P., Hu M., Ge N., Strachan J. P., Li Z., Wu Q., Barnell M., Li G. L., Xin H. L., Williams R. S., Xia O., Yang J. J. (2016 March 23). Nature Materials, 16, 101-108. Retrieved Mary 10, 2017.

News article- https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-artificial-synapse-gets-closer-to-mimicking-brain-connections/

The research article had no link to it since it was sent to me in the form of screenshots.


Media Production Project

In today’s society, it seems that we’re all just trying to seek out happiness in whatever form we can find it. We look at self-help books, treat ourselves to physical pleasures, search for love, and work a job to afford these things all in an effort to achieve the goal that every person before us has to achieve. Happiness, however, is an elusive creature and even trying to pin down exactly what it is can be difficult. Thankfully, there seems to be no shortage of intellectuals from various fields that are happy to contribute their research to the patchwork quilt that makes up our understanding of what happiness is and how to attain it. One such study was published in January of 2017 by a coalition of computer scientists and psychologists at the University of Cambridge.

This study was conducted to determine if there might be a correlation between movement and happiness. It has already been shown in multiple studies that physical exercise has a variety of benefits both physical and mental, but the authors of this study wanted to see if there was a positive correlation between less strenuous forms of movement and happiness. In order to test this hypothesis, an app was developed that would help collect data to see if the correlation existed. The app, released to users of Android cell phones, periodically questioned the user throughout the day about when they had last been active and what their mental state was like. The physical aspect of the data was corroborated by the accelerometers in the phones. Data was collected from February 2013 to June 2014 and when the data was analyzed the results seemed to support the original hypothesis. There does seem to be a positive correlation between physical movement, even as relaxed as walking, and happiness.

That being said, it is very important to point out somethings about the nature of this study and of correlations themselves. First, by the definition of a correlation, we cannot determine a causal relationship based on this study alone. We do not know if people who move often are happier than others or if happy people ae more likely to move than others. Second, there are some limitations built into the study itself. The study was conducted only with people who had access to the Google Play store during the time when the study was conducted and as it was entirely volunteer based, results of this study can only technically be applied to those who participated and not to the populace at large. Another flaw, however unavoidable, in this study was that the measure of people’s happiness was determined by self-report and furthermore happiness was defined based on people’s moods and whether they identified with certain adjectives such as “calm” or “anxious” which, it could be argued, is not a very good operationalization of happiness.

Regardless of the limitations of the study, I certainly thing that it’s interesting to think about and I can’t see any harm doing a little study of your own and to see if your overall sense of happiness is affected if you make an effort to increase the level of physical activity in your life.

 

Original News Article

Scholarly Article

 

 

 

 

Reflection:

Over the course of this project, I have learned quite a bit about the difficulties associated with both journalistic writing in general as well as the coverage of psychology in journalism as well. I was very lucky in that I chose a fairly decent article to begin with so I had a good model of what I wanted to accomplish. In this case I didn’t struggle to keep myself within the confines of the limit set by the original news article, but I didn’t go into an extreme amount of detail and focused primarily on the premise of the study, how it was conducted and the results. Even in regard to those topics, I didn’t get into as much detail as I could have for two primary reasons. First, I didn’t feel like all of it was crucial for the understanding of the study. Second, there were some aspects of the study especially in regard to how the results were calculated and technicalities involving the app that I can’t describe because even I don’t fully understand them.

When I first started this project, I couldn’t understand why journalists and news outlets would produce news that was so sensationalized and sometimes misleading. Now I have a better understanding of why they do it once I found myself in the position of trying to summarize a scholarly article with limited words and an audience that may or may not have a background in psychology. It’s hard to cover all the bases when you have limited space and still want your article to seem relevant to people. Hearing that movement has a positive correlation to a very specific definition of happiness, but only verifiably for a specific group of people isn’t really sexy or groundbreaking. It’s much more attractive to just say that movement probably makes you happier and leave it at that. In the future, I will be much more skeptical of pop psychology reports in the future.