Synaptic plasticity With a focus on redox mechanisms By John Smythies M.D.

August 24th, 2008

Until recently the brain was thought to operate like a digital computer with fixed synapses in which learning was effected by changing weights in these synapses by procedures such as matrix multiplication. Now, however, it has been shown that neurons are highly dynamic structures (Smythies 2002). New synapses are constantly being formed and old ones removed. This results in a continual change in the wiring and connectivity pattern of the brain. This process is mediated by an enormously complex neuroanatomical and neurochemical processes. This essay will describe just one feature in all this—redox reactions.

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Narratives: Is This How We Think? By Russell Eisenman, Ph.D.

September 28th, 2008

Narratives are the stories we tell. From a radical standpoint, one could say that there is no reality, just narratives. Even without this radical position, one can appreciate the importance of the narrative as a way we communicate and think. In recent years, the study of narratives has increased, and there are now journals devoted to the study of the narrative.

From an evolutionary psychology viewpoint, the brain has evolved over the course of thousands of years. We know from historical findings that earlier cultures did not have the language or intelligence that we now possess. As a result, certain structures could be inherent in our language and thinking (Chomsky, 1972), that has helped us evolve language and thinking, and which could explain the narrative findings I am about to present.

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I Hate You, But I Have A Good Reason by Randall E. Osborne Ph.D.

October 1st, 2008

One need only watch national television to witness the ramifications of hate. The “terrorist” attacks on the United States have resulted in many reactions. One of those reactions is a resurgence of National Pride. National pride is a powerful force but, sometimes, it blinds us to the perceptions that others have of us. Recent research has shown that strong national pride (coined natio-centrism) can bias how one processes information about other nations and cultures.

I teach a course on the Politics and Psychology of Hate over the Internet with a colleague at Indiana University East. Many of the students in this course were mortified by media footage showing some individuals (including children) celebrating in response to these recent attacks. In the end, the primary catalyst for their concern was “how could anyone hate me when they don’t even know me?” Yet we make judgments every day about others that we do not know. We make those judgments often based on obvious characteristics such as gender or ethnicity. For one of the first times in many American’s lives, we are confronting the reality that someone can “hate” us simply because of our country of origin. For those of us that have not traditionally been the targets of hate, this is a humbling reality.

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