Research Update #2 (Our Microbial Minds)

Update #2!!! I’ve finished my research (which consisted of watching TED talks, reading books, and reading lots of scientific articles). I feel like I now have a clear understanding of what the microbiota is and its role in the human body, modern day causes of dysbiosis, how the brain-gut axis works, and science linking gut microbes to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), anxiety/depressive disorders, and Schizophrenia. I ended up going beyond the initial scope of my research question and exploring the application of bacterial probiotics (also called “psychobiotics”) as a form of alternative medicine. Psychobiotics are a class of bacterial supplements specifically aimed at treating psychiatric conditions. While they are still very much in the research phase, there have been surprisingly promising results, especially on the ASD frontier.

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Microexpressions and More

Since the certification exam was a greater time commitment than expected I will continue working with Dr. Schug this fall semester to re-code videos from past subjects as well as coding new videos for newly developed projects. After completing CITI Human Subjects training as well as microexpression reading training using the Microexpression Training Tool, also released by the Ekman group, I will submit an IRB proposal to analyze the effect of daily technology use on people’s ability to read microexpressions themselves as a follow-up project to my summer research with the Facial Action Coding System.  Although I am actively pursuing a career in medicine rather than psychology research, I believe my knowledge and skills concerning facial coding will benefit me in a clinical setting with being able to detect emotional nuances in face to face interactions with patients. I highly recommend that any psychology majors interested in learning more about FACS and microexpressions in general to contact Professor Schug to join her lab group that discusses FACS and how to code facial muscle movements.

Post 1: The Psychology of Free Will

At this point I have read three books and done some online article research on the topic. The first book I read was titled Free Will by Sam Harris. It was the first book I tackled purely because it was the only one readily available at my local bookstore, and I had to wait for the other books to come in from an online order. While this book only briefly goes into the psychological studies I have set out to focus this project around, I still felt it was an important read because it worked to define free will and deeply explored the potential implications a lack of free will would have on life as we know it. My favorite quote to sum up Harris’ view of free will was as follows: “You can do what you decide to do – but you cannot decide what you will decide to do” (38). This is my favorite quote first of all because I think the phrasing simplifies the whole view in an amusing manner, but also because it addresses what to me seems to be one of the most confusing aspects of his (and my) belief in a lack of free will. Many people would like to argue that as long as I can choose what I would like to do, then I have free will. However, you need to then ask the question WHY would you like to do that? And the answer why you would like to do that is what he (and I) believe you lack control over. I may have decided to come to William and Mary and I have done just that, but why I decided to come to William and Mary was the result of an infinite number of biological and environmental factors that I had no control over all coming together in precisely the right way to cause me to decide to go to William and Mary.

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Eating Disorders, Feminism, and Psychology: A Compelling Combination

All three of my memoirs, read and annotated, alongside 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder.

All three of my memoirs, read and annotated, alongside 8 Keys to Recovery From an Eating Disorder.

After finishing Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi, I read Appetites by Caroline Knapp, which blew me away on so many levels. [Read more…]