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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

   Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink is an exploration of rapid cognition, of the thinking that happens in the blink of an eye, and is an attempt to “understand this magical and mysterious thing called judgment” (Gladwell 260). He refrains from using “intuition” to describe this kind of thinking, as he believes we use that word to describe irrational thought. Gladwell argues that those first two seconds of rapid cognition are completely rational and just involve thinking that moves a little faster and operates a little more mysteriously than deliberate, conscious thought and decision-making.

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The Itch: Mind Over Matter?

    Imagine an army of ants crawling up your back. Slowly they move up your spine, their short legs scurrying along. Eventually they reach your neck, briefly touching your skin before they move up the back of your head. Does your skin feel tingly? Did your head start to itch? Did you give in to the temptation to scratch? If so, you aren’t alone; I had those same sensations as I was writing this. That inexplicable sensation of itching just by reading about it is not uncommon. Atul Gawande, in The Itch, a treatise on itching published in The New Yorker, described a similar experience.

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The Bionic Arm

    Bionics: the study of mechanical systems that function like living organisms or parts of living organisms. This is the topic of recent and exciting scientific endeavors aimed at returning relatively normal functioning to patients recovering from amputations of limbs.  This research is finding ways to restore neural connections to, and thus neural control of, the prosthetic replacement for the amputated limb.  For Amanda Kitts, who was in an accident that left her with only the uppermost part of her left arm, a “stump” in the vernacular, bionics is providing a prosthetic arm that not too long ago would have existed only in science fiction.  Ordinarily Amanda would have been fitted with a prosthetic limb very limited in its ability to replace the

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The Challenge of Determining Consciousness

Consciousness is a state of awareness of self and the environment and is determined by the level and content of this awareness, also referred to as arousal and awareness respectively (1). Consciousness itself takes many forms, as can be seen in the many combinations of level and content of awareness. When describing comas and vegetative states, people often use the terms interchangeably and freely without regard for the differences in consciousness of patients in these states. This however does not account for the differences in consciousness of patients in these states. In a coma, a patient is described as having “disordered arousal,” as opposed to an impairment of the content of consciousness (as is found in patients in minimally conscious states).

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