Cayla McNally's blog

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Book Commentary of Kay Jamison’s Touched with Fire

Kay R. Jamison’s book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, discusses the traditional view of the “artistic temperament,” with the telltale traits of moodiness, dark creativity, and temporary bouts into mania, with the symptoms linked to manic-depressive illness. In many cases, the artists themselves knew that there was something unique about their states of mind. Of his friends, Lord Byron once said, “We of the craft are all crazy. Some are affected by gaiety, others by melancholy, but all are more or less touched” (Jamison 2). Jamison focuses on those who have, over the years, been revered and stigmatized for being “more or less touched.” Many artists, such as Vincent van Gogh and Ernest Hemmingway, were known as much for their manic-depressive disorders as for the profound and unique musical and literary works they produced. Some of these artists were able to move past their disorder to lead a ‘normal’ life; others, such as Anne Sexton and Virginia Woolfe, were unable to overcome their illnesses, and ended up either in a psychiatric hospital, some eventually killing themselves.

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Have We Been Here Before?: Déjà Vu and its Implications on the Brain

Most people have experienced déjà vu, which was translated as “already seen” by Émile Boirac, a French psychic researcher, in the late 19th century (2), at least once in their lives; when partaking in one of the day’s numerous menial activities, we have had an eerie stirring from within us, coupled with the strange feeling that we have done the exact thing before. It is not a feeling of familiarity, but instead a feeling of duplication, a carbon copy of what one has dreamt or seen before. Déjà vu, also called paramnesia, affects upwards of 70 percent of the population, with varying degrees and frequency, and occurs most often in the 15 to 25 age range (1). Being one of these people, I am extremely interested in the implications of déjà vu, as well as in what it can suggest about the functioning of my brain.

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This Is Your Brain on Porn: Pornography Addiction, Society, and the Brain

Many of my drug using, sex crazed friends have said at least once that having an orgasm and doing a line of cocaine create the same feelings within the brain. I am able to understand why there is a chemical change when participating in a sexual act, but I cannot comprehend how people can be addicted to pornography, which has virtually no interaction with the viewer. Sexual acts that one partakes in, like all activities that one partakes in, changes the chemical reactions and firing rates in the brain; so why is it that viewing pornography, which is a mainly optical activity, can change the brain, and even more than that, create an addiction? Simply put, pornography addiction is the “abuse and overuse” (1) of various types of pornography; however, on a deeper level it is a very complicated subject. It raises both medical and social questions, and it is uncertain if the answers to these questions will ever be agreed upon. It is one of the few addictions that are just considered to be a psychological addiction; possibly because of that, most doctors do not consider it an actual addiction, but instead as a sub-condition of obsessive compulsive disorder (1).

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Postpartum Psychosis: An Unknown Affliction

I had originally intended to write about postpartum depression, which had afflicted my grandmother, a mother of ten children, one of whom died at an early age, during the 1950's and 1960's, as well as my aunt, who suffered from it during the late 1970's; however, while researching this topic, I discovered another, and far rarer disorder that debilitates new mothers, entitled postpartum psychosis. While postpartum depression affects one in ten new mothers, postpartum psychosis only affects one in five hundred to one thousand new mothers during the first few months after childbirth (1). What interested me the most was the striking difference between the two disorders; at first observation, postpartum psychosis appears to simply be a more intense version of postpartum depression, but upon a closer look, it becomes clear that it is its own unique disorder, with its own unique problems and solutions.

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Correlations Between Alcoholism and the Brain

As someone who has always had an interest in the social sciences, especially those dealing with addiction and compulsive behavior, I am intrigued by the role that the brain plays in substance abuse, especially alcoholism. While it has been discussed in class that most characteristics are influenced by both genes and the environment, I still wonder which plays the larger part in alcoholism, a person’s surroundings or their genetic information. Specifically in this paper, however, I plan to focus on how alcoholism affects the brain, and conversely, what role the brain plays in the disease.

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Book Commentary: Our Class and Biology: an Exploration of Life

 

It is difficult to compare the part of the textbook that I have read, which deals with evolution in relation to adaptation, with specific concepts that were discussed in class, due to the different styles of teaching that the book and the class utilize. The class discussions were normally overview of the subjects, because there was not enough time to delve into the nuances of each discussion topic; conversely, the book has the liberty to take more time to explain difficult concepts somewhat more in depth, which is not possible in class. The scope of the book helped explain the topics that were minimally discussed in class; however, the book failed to portray science as it was discussed in class, as a means of discovery instead of a definite body of facts and laws.

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Sexual Differentiation and Gender Roles

As we evolve from zygotes to fully-functioning adults, we are influenced by a myriad of various factors, from the way we are raised to who we associate ourselves with. When I think of what I have become, I think of all my external influences- what I have read, whom I have met during my lifetime, the experiences I have had; what I rarely ever think of is my genetic makeup and how it has influenced me as a person. Out of the functions that genes oversee in the human body, the most intriguing is sexual differentiation, which is the development of a person from an “undifferentiated zygote” to a fetus, which will then evolve into a walking, talking, conscious male or female (2).

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The Power and Complexity of Human Memory

I can remember going to a zoo in Canada with my parents when I was 3 years old; I can remember certain things said, that my father bowed out on seeing the lions because his feet hurt, and I can most certainly remember thinking that an angry gorilla was going to escape and throttle me in its gargantuan hands. One thing I cannot remember for the life of me, no matter how hard I try, is what anything looked like during my week there. I have no recollection whatsoever of the surroundings, no matter how much time I spend thinking about it, no matter how many times I present the question to my parents. Why is it that I can remember certain words, certain feelings, but nothing else? Why do people remember certain things, but blank on other things?
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