Why is the gut called The second Brain?

The gut which is approximately 9 metres and starts from the oesophagus to the anus is named as “The second brain” by some scientists.


Does that mean the gut performs the cognitive functions like thinking, perception, decision making, problem solving?? Well, no. But stay with me here.

It has 100 million neurons which is more than the neurons in the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system (your brain has 86 billions).It is called Enteric Nervous System technically.These neurons are to facilitate the purpose of performing tasks on site, instead of bothering the brain with the tasks of digestion and absorption etc. So, it is equipped with it’s own senses and reflexes.

90 % of the fibers of the vagus nerve (which connects the gut and brain) deliver information from the gut to the brain. (As if the gut is saying, You don’t tell me what to do.. I will tell you what to do!)


95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. The gut harbors 100 trillion microbiota which can form hormones like dopamine(the feel-good hormone), serotonin(natural pain reliever of the body) and noradrenaline(helps in increasing heart rate and blood flow to the body). These hormones can directly impact the physiology of the brain and thus the behavior and mood of a person.


Gut microbiota also influences psychological processes such as stress response and cognition. In people with depression the number of bad bacteria is more than those without depression. These bad bacteria send inflammatory chemicals to the brain.


Recently, the gut microbiota has been implicated in other brain disorders including autism, schizophrenia, and age-related disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.


Maybe, in the future psychiatry will need to treat both the brains equally or at least inclusively. And maybe we need to pay more heed to our gut feelings.


Bonus: Here’s how you can increase good bacteria and reduce bad bacteria in the gut:
Clean up your diet.Reduce sugar and processed foods.Eat prebiotics like onion, garlic, walnuts, banana, oats.Eat probiotics like curd, kimchi, kombucha, pickles.

Is the claim of the movie ‘Lucy’ that humans use only 10% of their brain wrong?

The movie ‘Lucy’ is a fascinating science fiction.

Although not all facts presented in the movie are wrong, but, the statement of Professor Norman saying:

“Animal life on Earth goes back millions of years. Yet most species only use 3 to 5% of its cerebal capacity. But it isn’t until we reached human beings at the top of the animal chain that we finally see a species use more of its cerebral capacity. 10% might not seem like much, but it’s a lot if you look at all we’ve done with it.”

Professor Norman in ‘Lucy’

Is a LIE.

Am I saying this? No.

Following are the lines of Luc Besson, the director of the movie.

“It is totally not true. Do they think I don’t know this? I work on this thing for 9 years and they think I don’t know it is not true. Of course, I know it is not true. But there are many facts in the movie which are right.”
“The good thing with movies is that you mix up everything and then in the end it looks real.”

Luc Besson, director of ‘Lucy’

Does that mean the movie is no good? Of course not! When Professor Norman says that humans use only 10% of their cerebral capacity, it can be implied in context with the consciousness of the processes that the brain involves in on the daily basis. There are many functions which are not in your conscious control like that of heartbeat, digestion, breathing (you can control it but it goes on even when you are not aware of it).

What the movie proposes is that what if we could be conscious of all those things( like when Lucy calls her mother and says I want to thank you for a thousand kisses that I can still feel on my face) and even more control them! When it goes further it proposes the fantasy of accessing not only yours but also others’ minds! May be we could access all of it, may be not. We can’t say unless we can be conscious of every process of the brain.


Sources:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273699018_The_Mythical_Brain_Is_the_Science_of_Movie_Lucy_Wrong
https://www.iue.edu/hss/psychology-myths/index.html

Do Humans use only 10% of their brain?

Allow me to bust this myth for you.


Human brain is made up of 86 billion neurons! Each of which is connected to a useful circuit. It is trusted with the most intelligent job of controlling most of the actions of the body or rather playing as a supervisor in the system. It uses 20% of the energy needed to function the body. Had the brain only been so marginally used, why would your body supply it with so much energy! It would have been a major flaw in evolution.


Guess who is processing all this ocean of information! Just observe the room you are sitting in, the color of the paint, the furniture, the light, temperature, sound. All this information is processed by your brain. God, What a beauty! And, who is processing all your thoughts which run literally at the speed of light! (The speed of electrochemical signals in the brain)


Although, some functions of the brain may be localised i.e. one particular section of the brain participates more in it than the other sections, nevertheless, the whole system works in sync. The different areas of brain of a healthy person are always active, depending on the task at hand some areas become more active than others. 


Further evidence from neuropsychological studies show that there is no area of the brain that can be damaged in adults without some measurable loss of function.

This clearly means that all the brain parts function as a system to thrive in the world.

Designs in Psychological Researches

Psychological research like any other scientific research involves posing an important question and then trying to answer that question by forming a theory(a possible explanation).

The theory is then converted into a hypothesis(a testable theory) and tested by collecting relevant data. The data is analysed by various quantitative and qualitative methods. The analysis might prove or disprove the proposed hypothesis. The results of the test are then made public for the other scientists and laymen.

One important aspect of psychological research is that the experiment you design should be replicable. The more people test it, the more reliable it becomes. 

There are 3 major designs in Psychological Researches:

Descriptive

It is like taking a snapshot of the present scenario, you know, just to get an idea of what is happening. It can be anything. The happiness of the population of a country. The stupidity of all your friends. 

Let’s say, you decide to do a descriptive research on IQ of the people sitting around you. Ha ha lets see who is the smartest.

Step 1: Convert a concept into something you can measure. Let’s say you decide to measure IQ in terms of solving a riddle. (Operationalizing)

Step 2: You give them the riddle and just watch how fast they solve it(if at all).

Now, you have a data to analyse the average IQ of people around you or what is the IQ of most people around you.

Studies like depression in adult women, awareness about mental health in public, sense of responsibility in kids are all examples of descriptive research. 

There can be many methods for Descriptive research like:

Naturalistic Observation: Just let the people do their thing and observe them. (Basically spying)
Survey: Ask a lot of people about their behavior or opinions whichever your study is about. (Similar to an election survey)
Interview: Go and do a face to face talk.
Case study: Dig at case of one peculiar person or group of people. (Case studies are done to understand rare cases, like the man who claims to be God! You sure don’t want to miss what goes inside that mind ha?)


Correlational

This is to understand the relationship between/among two or more traits.
For example, eating Mango 🥭 for breakfast and score in a test. However, it is important to note that correlational studies do not claim cause effect, i.e. to say there might be relation between eating mango and scoring good but it does not necessarily prove that it is the only factor. There can be other factors at play. Maybe you had the most sound sleep too, maybe you were in an uplifted mood.

Correlational studies thus predict a possibility of cause and effect, not necessarily proving it.

Experimental

Experimental studies prove the causal effect of one variable on another.
This means to put the people in laboratory setting(controlled setting) and observe if there is a change in one behaviour(dependent variable) by manipulating a situation(independent variable).

This requires two groups:

Control group–  A group you wouldn’t mess with.( Don’t manipulate the independent variable) Keep everything constant.


Experimental group– A group you would mess with. ( Manipulate the independent variable and see the effect on dependent variable).

So, if you were to study the effect of caffeine on anxiety levels by experimental method. You would have to give decaf coffee (a placebo) to the control group and test their anxiety level.
And, give coffee with caffeine to the experimental group and test their anxiety level.

It is important that you don’t let other factors change that is to ensure that there is no other factor contributing to anxiety of the groups. Both the groups should be in same kind of room, with same temperature, same treatment, same questions asked. There should be only one difference of decaf and caffeine.

It is also important that you keep the participants of the control group and experimental group random(To avoid the sampling bias). I mean what is the point of keeping all the people with higher anxiety in the experimental group and the calm ones in the control group.
This will only prove coffee guilty of a crime it did not commit.

Now go on, collect data and analyse if coffee ☕ can be a cause of anxiety.

Schools of Psychology

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Psychology is studied through many lenses. Here are the most important schools of psychology explained for a beginner and even a layman.

Structuralism

I am interested in understanding the structure of consciousness. Why not develop a periodic table of basic elements of sensations and psychological experiences? (Just like the periodic table of elements in Chemistry)

A sincere structuralist

Structuralism focuses on understanding the nature of the mind or consciousness. This school of psychology was developed by Wilhelm Wundt in his laboratory. Wilhelm and his followers were interested in making a periodic table of the basic elements of sensations and psychological experiences. It is built on the premise that it is possible to objectively understand the mind or consciousness and was thus rigorous and scientific.

Functionalism

I am more concerned about how this behavior evolved and helps in better survival of people.

A functionalist

Functionalism was developed by the American psychologist William James. Functionalists were inspired by the theory of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin. They believed that just like humans have developed certain traits in order to increase their chances of survival so has the brain adapted behaviors which help in survival. This theory has evolved into Evolutionary Psychology.

One major limitation of this theory is that we cannot know which psychological characteristics our ancestors possessed or did not possess; we can only make guesses about this.

Psychodynamic Theory

You know what? I believe that the behavior is driven by unconscious thoughts, feelings, and memories. ( We don’t really have much free will, you see.)

The Psychoanalyst

The most famous theory of Psychodynamics was introduced by Sigmund Freud, according to him our behaviors are a reflection of our unconscious thoughts, feelings and memories. Sigmund Freud, in his private clinical practice with patients, concluded that psychological disorders are a result of painful childhood experiences that the patient has forgotten. Freud’s findings form the basis of the contemporary practices in therapy.

Behaviorism

Try all you want, it isn’t objectively possible to understand the structure of the mind so rather focus on the behavior!

Mind, it is like a black box, a stimulus goes in and a response is sent. (Humans have no free will)

The Behaviorist

Behaviorists were of the view that mind and its processes like thinking, learning, remembering, can’t be objectively studied and therefore the psychologist should focus their study on the observable behavior. They should study how a behavior can be enhanced, demotivated or controlled.

John B. Watson, an American psychologist, was the founder of behaviorism. He was influenced by the works of Ivan Pavlov.

Cognitive Psychology

Well…. Isn’t the mind kind of like a computer, it receives the input from the surrounding, processes the information, and gives an output. Let’s study the cognition processes like thinking, perception, memory, and learning, etc. (Psychologist speaking in the background: Bring in the MRI)

A Cognitive Psychologist

Hermann Ebbinghaus was the one of the first to study mind in view of Cognitive Psychology. Cognitive psychologists study the cognitive processes like memory, perception, thinking, learning, etc. by the use of brain imaging technique like MRI, fMRI, etc.

Adding to the behaviorism school of thought, cognitive psychologists believe that it is not possible to entirely eliminate the study of mind because evaluation and interpretation of stimuli is an integral part of understanding behavior.

For example, if I appreciate you, Appreciation would be seen as a reinforcing (positive) stimulus by a behaviorist but what goes on inside your mind (interpretation of my comment; Did she mean it or is it only people pleasing or is it a means to ask a favor or was this a sarcastic comment) is as vital as the stimuli (my comment) in shaping the response.

Humanistic Psychology

I believe humans are much more than a responding machine to external stimuli. Humans are thinking and feeling individuals who are capable of self-actualization. (You hurt my feelings when you say humans have no free will)

Humanistic at heart

The humanistic approach believes that humans are individuals with many possibilities. Too much effort is spent in laboratory research in quantifying behavior.

The humanistic is concerned with the fullest growth of the individual in the areas of love, fulfillment, self-worth and autonomy.

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow is considered one of the leading architects of humanistic psychology.

What is NOT Psychology?

Common sense/The obvious

Psychology is often blamed for stating the obvious.
Would you deliver potentially fatal electrical shocks to someone because someone in white coat tells you to? Common sense would say NO!!! But psychologist Stanley Milgram famously demonstrated in his obedience experiment that majority of people would do the same.
We, humans, often confuse familiarity of a situation with the understanding of it.
Embracing the obvious- On top of it, isn’t the purpose of psychological science is making findings about the human mind and behaviour available – obvious! – to everyone. The very findings which were not-so-obvious! before. (Gravity didn’t seem so obvious before Newton made it, did it?)

Popular notions

Playing hard to get is attractive. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Out of sight, out of mind.These are all popular notions. (Note that last two are for the same context but conflicting.)
Many social and cultural notions are popular worldwide. However they have no scientific bases. They float by word of mouth and through cognitive biases like confirmation bias where people tend to find evidence for their already established beliefs.

“Psychological facts”

Don’t share your weakness with anyone, you never know who is going to use it against you.(No, psychology does not say so. Nevertheless,it is a good advice!)Someone who gets angry easily, subconsciously desires to be loved. (Hmm.. sorry folks, not psychology.)There are tons of such psychological facts on the internet. But, you got the point.
These statements simply feel good to be true. It is only wishful thinking that makes one believe in them.

Myths

The average human uses only 10% of their brain capacity. You must have heard of this statement many times. In 1907, psychologist William James speculated that humans “are making use of only a small part of [their] possible mental and physical resources,” and in 1936, writer Lowell Thomas paraphrased James and claimed that “the average man develops only 10% of his latent mental ability”. Since then, it has become a common belief that humans only use 10% of their brains.
However, neuroscience discards the idea completely. In fact, the brain has little tolerance towards waste or excess. Neurons which do not connect to active useful circuits would soon be dead.

Pseudo-psychology

Disciplines like palmistry, astrology,etc. are not psychology and do not in any way relate to it. Pseudo psychology makes use of the Barnum effect i.e. personal descriptions feel accurate if they are stated in general terms. For example, “you work hard but do not get desired results” or “you are a loving person but are most often misunderstood by people”. These statements are generalized and can apply to anyone.
On the other hand, Psychology is based on testable and verifiable scientific theories. They are obtained through research based on empirical data.

Let’s learn note taking

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Note taking is a vital part in the academic learning and is also beneficial in learning new skills like coding, writing, marketing, etc. Note taking is being emphasized upon, not only because the notes itself have some value but because of the purpose they serve. Notes are important because when a learner makes notes while learning anything new either in a lecture or during reading, her mind is put into work by engaging her in cognitive functions like writing and thinking. When the learner types or writes the learned knowledge, her mind has to work to filter the information, highlight the ones that are important than others, neglect the ones that are useless or complimentary, form questions and opinions for further learning and understanding of the subject. These all cognitive functions happening at the back of her mind, make the knowledge leave a mark on her memory. Subsequent retrieval of the information stores the information in the long-term memory. Well organized notes help in revising the topic easier and fun.

It is thus very important to know how to make the notes and figure out your personal best way of note making.

Here are some popular and adapted ways of note making. Figure out which works the best for you and experiment with mixing it up if no one method is enough.

Linear Note taking

Sentence method

Sentence method

This is the must brute method which involves forming sentences as you go on learning any new useful information and neglecting the ones that aren’t useful.

Outlining method

Outlining method

This is the method that you see in almost all the books in the academics. It involves dividing the data or information into headings and subheadings. The headings come first and then under it its subheadings and their details and the next heading and so on.

It is efficient in a way that it divides the data into sections and your brain prefers chunks of data over piles of data.

Non-linear note taking

The Cornell method

The Cornell method

In this method, you need to put the heading at the top of the page, leave 5-6 lines at the bottom of the page. and then divide the page into two parts keeping the left section half as wide as the right section. This wider right section is for your notes that you take in the lecture or while watching a video or while reading a book. The narrower left section is for you to write the keywords and cues from the notes. Cues or keywords are the words which can form the whole story once you see them while revising. You can use this section to write the questions which arise during the lectures too. The bottom section is for the summary. This is where you note down main points that you take away from the lecture.

The Charting method

Charting method

This method suggests making a chart out of your notes, in which you try to divide the information into two parts. This is a useful method if the information can be categorized. For example, comparison of political views, stating the pros and cons of technology and so on.

The Mapping method

Mapping method

This is a method useful for visual learners, it is like making a mind map of your notes which can take you from one point to another. Take the main heading or objective of the learning and write it at the center of the page. Now, write the related ideas and information branching from the center. Write the sub-topics or sub-ideas branching from their respective headings and so on. This will thus form a tree where many topics and details emerge from the central idea or heading. While retrieving your learned topic, you can vividly remember your tree and its branches.

The SQ3R method

This is a useful method if you are learning from a book. The SQ3R stands for survey, query, read, recite and review. Survey means skim reading to find out the headings from the page and then forming questions out of them. Now, read the page in order to find out answers of the formed questions (keeping the motivation of finding answers). After you have formed an understanding of the topic and found your answers, write them down in your notebook (recite).  Once you have finished writing your notes, review them.

Guided Notes

This method is helpful in learning along with understanding the topic. For this, you need to have the review questions while you learn. These review questions can be answered as you go along the lecture, or reading or watching the video. This can be considered one of the most beneficial learning method, but it has its limitations as the review questions are not always available in hand.

Footnotes:

Note taking – Wikipedia

Cornell notes – Wikipedia

https://www.thoughtco.com/note-taking-research-1691352

The Story of Eugene Pauly (EP)

In 1992, Eugene Pauly was admitted to hospital, vomiting and experiencing severe stomach cramps. He was later diagnosed with viral encephalitis, a relatively less harmful virus but in rare cases, this virus finds its way to the brain and harms the brain tissues. In Eugene’s case, this virus had cut through the medial temporal lobe (a silver of cells which scientists believe is responsible for cognitive tasks like recalling past). He lost his semantic knowledge, for example, he could not remember the day of the week, could not remember the names of the nurses and doctors, had trouble recalling conversations. He had lost the ability to form any new memory and also was diagnosed with amnesia. He could not remember his friends and family.

His case was studied by the memory specialists at the University of California. He was studied by Larry Squire, who had studied the neuroanatomy of memory for three decades. Squire observed that his brain was very similar to the very famous case of H.M. who was institutionalized and studied for the rest of his life. Squire and other scientists studied the case by neuropsychological tests and memory tests.

In a particular instance, he was asked to draw the map of his house but he could not do it. However, he could fetch food and water from the kitchen whenever he felt hungry and thirsty. He would stand up and go up straight to the washroom whenever he had the urge to. This surprised the scientists that how a man who could not map his house can find his way to the kitchen without any assistance.

In another instance, he went out of the house without his wife (His wife used to take him for walks around the neighborhood). His wife was terrified knowing this because he did not remember his address and family. If he was lost, there was no way he could find his way back home. She went out to find him but could not find him anywhere. She came home crying only to find her husband in the house watching television. She was happy to see him back but also surprised. She informed Squire about it.

Squire and his assistants designed an experiment for him, they had 16 different objects and divided them into 8 pairs. In each pair, he took an object randomly and pasted a rectangle on its base that stated “correct”. He was asked to choose one and then asked to see if his choice was correct. In the initial weeks, his performance did not show any improvement, it was like he was not learning any new information. But, as the weeks passed, he started improving in choosing the correct object. However, as the psychologists changed the conditions of the experiment even mildly, for example when the scientists kept all the 16 objects in front of him all at once and asked him to keep all the correct objects in one pile, he could not perform at all or he started following the same routine by picking an object and almost automatically turning it over to see if it is correct. This proved that he was not learning any new information and no memory was created in his mind. He did not remember which objects were “correct”. In fact, all that he performed was only a habit.

He could carry his daily activities like going for a walk, eating a bacon and egg, watching a television show, and others because they all had become a habit.

We can only imagine how powerful habits can be when they can be incorporated in the life of a severely amnesic person. Habits have a mechanism of a cue, a routine, and a reward. But that is a story for some other day. Until then, take care.

Footnotes:

BOOK- The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

Anterograde Amnesia, Wikipedia

https://prezi.com/dets_ne113us/the-study-of-eugene-pauly-1992/

About a little pup…


On my way to the bus stop I saw a tiny pup moving around freely on the road, checking the world out. He was carefree and unbounded. This tiny little thing had nothing to worry about. His siblings were crawling around and he had set to travel alone.
While crossing the road, standing in the middle he saw a bus coming toward him. Amused by something new, he stopped and started looking at it.
I was worried what would happen but he was not scared at all, perhaps he doesn’t know how to be scared, so he stuck to amusement. The bus driver moved the bus from the other side leaving this little bunch safe. I was happy that he was safe, I moved forward and went to him, appreciated his cuteness but he wanted to have a little more conversation and his siblings came around too but I had to rush and catch my bus, so I waved them a goodbye and moved on.
I think I must leave early from home, I have some people to catch up to too.❤️😘

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