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Can information be lost while traveling through neurotransmitters?

Can information be lost while traveling through neurotransmitters?



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Can information be lost while traveling through neurotransmitters, if so then why? If information can be lost while traveling then is it possible to retransmit them and put back in order? For example data can be lost while traveling through network therefore we need to use TCP (transmission control protocol).

If information can be lost while traveling through neurotransmitter. Then is it possible that, not being able to remember something you want or remembering something that are not in their orders?


Synapse Information Processing

In the Neural Engineering Framework (NEF), synapses are:

  1. Leveraged to provide filtering of spikes at different time scales. This allows for managing heterogeneity in neurons, as well as allowing to trade-off speed of response for information integration over time.
  2. Used to create dynamical systems using these filtered spikes including oscillators, integrators and temporal memory networks.

In all of these cases, information can be lost. However, this is always framed as a trade-off between informational integrity (which can be measured various ways, such as how well a signal is classified, how well a dynamical system is approximated, how much information is compressed over time) and resource use.

Retransmission as Information Recovery

In the context of the brain, TCP doesn't really make sense. TCP assumes there is a copy of the information that is desired to be transmitted somewhere, but that's usually not the case in the brain. That being said, there is something called the phonological loop which appears to be a short term store of what was heard. Consequently, you could interpret this replay as a retransmission and consider it to be information recovery.


The Psychology Of Resting Bitch Face Syndrome And What You Can Do About it

Resting Bitch Face, or RBF for short, is an increasingly rife cultural advent describing a facial expression, or lack thereof, conveying a particular mix of irritation, judgment, or boredom. One journalist wrote of her own face:

“Essentially, someone displaying RBF might not be the kind of person you’d be inclined to ask for directions.”

As a psychologist, I became interested in the phenomenon when several clients cited RBF as the cause of symptoms. For example, Paolo* a 20-something gay man who’d long suffered depression and low self-esteem, said:

“I’m told all the time something about my face looks unapproachable. People judge me off the bat, thinking I’m judging them.”

I liked Paolo, but he was convinced this aspect of him caused the friendship dramas he often encountered. Worse, he believed these judgments were insurmountable, saying, “I can’t very well get a face transplant,” contributing to his helplessness.

In 2016, researchers studied the phenomenon using software that detects micro-emotions and found neutral faces identified as having RBF showed four times more contempt than other, genuinely neutral, faces. This showed as a subtle raising of lip corners and tightening around the eyes, which researchers concluded must similarly be registered by the brain. They suggested future research should examine why some people have RBF, what it means in terms of a person’s psychology, and why people react so badly to it.

In particular, it’s unclear whether contemporary RBF reflects an accurate perception of undue passive aggression or simply unfair judgements of people whose face we take issue with.

Indeed, sufferers themselves don’t experience feeling contemptuous, and some quick Googling reveals most self-identified RBF-ers plead innocent, asking for a reprieve.

It can also be argued that increased rates of RBF among women indicate the phenomenon is more likely a learned artifact of social norms than anything depicting a true underlying emotional state.

Much evidence suggests there’s more expectation for women to get along with others, and as a woman I definitely notice the pressure to constantly smile. It makes others uncomfortable when you don’t. And I feel resentful toward this ― faking a smile takes effort and makes me feel disingenuous.

However, as tempting as a free pass from smile duty may sound, we shouldn’t petition to free the bitch-face-ees or mount a pro-poker-face movement just yet. While artificial smiling is a learned habit, spontaneous smiling is an essential biological reflex we share with babies and other primates that engages a different set of facial muscles to faking with an important psychological function.

A major discovery informing psychological practice in recent years is Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, which explains our nervous system has three hierarchical defensive systems. Down the phylogenetic tree, animals rely solely on “fight, flight, or freeze,” but during our evolution, the Social Engagement System (SES) took over as the most adaptive means for responding to threat.

The SES is regulated by the vagal brake, a nerve that runs from the brain and relays information throughout the body. It detects cues from others’ voice and expression to establish it’s okay to put the brakes on a fight-or-flight response to stress, because we have support, blocking cortisol and releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that put the body into a state of relaxation and restoration.

If you’ve ever had someone not smile back at you, you’ve experienced what it’s like when your vagal break goes offline and primitive stress reactions kick in. You either start wondering if you’ve done something wrong, marvel at their rudeness, or withdraw, deciding it’s all just a little too hard. This is why people have such beef with RBF.

I can hear bitch face enthusiasts rallying as I type. “Harden up,” they might say, “I’m no one’s walking-talking valium.”

I’m sympathetic to this time and opportunities are too often wasted for fear of offending. However, making pleasing facial expressions isn’t just about placating others’ tender egos. The vagus activates through feedback it receives from the muscles of the face, head, ear, and throat, meaning for our own vagal brake to function, our face needs to be moving.

During a healthy exchange, mirror neurons enable us to feel what another feels by simulating it in our own body. Cues like rhythmic voice and positive facial affect create a positive feedback loop, and through a process called neuroception, the body literally thinks, “I’m smiling, so I must be safe,” and the positive visceral response of the SES is activated.

If our face isn’t inclined toward putting the old gym gear on, we lose tone in muscles of the middle ear and throat (leading to poor voice intonation and recognition), and face (creating a flat, unresponsive, mean-looking appearance). This reduces our ability to connect with others and experience positive emotions.

Accordingly, micro-expressions of contempt likely arise from people in our face we just can’t read or enjoy. In line with this, many personal accounts of RBF describe it as a feature of social anxiety.

People suffering psychiatric disorders often have SES impairments, though facial muscles can be out of practice from varying degrees of trauma, neglect, or having a depressed or anxious parent. The internet culture of screen-to-screen interactions is also a likely culprit for the RBF epidemic. And don’t get me started on Botox.

But fear not: like any muscle, the SES can be toned. And unlike false promises of triceps or glutes, developing a hardworking face may actually elicit the positive emotions and favorable reaction from others you desire. In fact, renowned psychiatrist Bessel Van De Kolk suggested the best treatment for many depressed or anxious people would be acting classes, for this reason.

Anything that exercises the head, throat, or ears will increase vagal tone. Pranayama yoga, OM chanting, and playing wind or rhythmic instruments are great regular activities.

To target RBF, practice relaxing the eyes and mouth. Front and back jaw movements, not necessary for chewing, are specifically social. Practice gently gliding your jaw forwards and backward, slowly increasing speed and fluidity of the movement.

This helped Paolo better activate a neuroception of safety in interactions, which eliminated both concerns about RBF and the defensive cutting remarks he had a habit of making in the name of humor, of which he was previously not conscious, and were likely the primary cause of friendship dramas affecting his self-esteem.

If you’re wondering where you sit on the RBF scale, the company behind the FaceReader software have invited people to upload a photo and “Test If I Have Resting Bitch Face.”

* Names and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality.


Can information be lost while traveling through neurotransmitters? - Psychology

We point out that neuronal excitability is due exclusively to cation influx.

We argue that excitability is a brief disturbance of the normally alkaline cytoplasm.

The transient loss of cellular homeostasis underlies the ‘sentience’ of neurons.

All of metazoan psychology is a direct consequence of excitable cell activity.

The field of ‘consciousness studies’ should be built upon modern neurophysiology.

Unlike the nonexcitable cell membranes that are ubiquitous in all domains of life, excitable membranes are found almost exclusively in animal organisms (Protozoa and Metazoa). Their transient permeability to ion flow makes possible the rapid detection of, and response to, external stimuli, and results in the phenomena that most clearly distinguish fauna from flora: perception, cognition, and motor activity. Interestingly, all known forms of membrane excitability are a consequence of one unique mechanism: the influx of positively charged ions into the normally alkaline cytoplasm. Here, we suggest that the sudden reversal of the membrane potential during the sensory potential and the action potential is an electrostatic disturbance of homeostasis that is the necessary first step in the processes of ‘sentience’ and ‘irritability’.


Neuroscience For Kids

Communication of information between neurons is accomplished by movement of chemicals across a small gap called the synapse. Chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are released from one neuron at the presynaptic nerve terminal. Neurotransmitters then cross the synapse where they may be accepted by the next neuron at a specialized site called a receptor. The action that follows activation of a receptor site may be either depolarization (an excitatory postsynaptic potential) or hyperpolarization (an inhibitory postsynaptic potential). A depolarization makes it MORE likely that an action potential will fire a hyperpolarization makes it LESS likely that an action potential will fire.

Discovery of Neurotransmitters

In 1921, an Austrian scientist named Otto Loewi discovered the first neurotransmitter. In his experiment (which came to him in a dream), he used two frog hearts. One heart (heart #1) was still connected to the vagus nerve. Heart #1 was placed in a chamber that was filled with saline. This chamber was connected to a second chamber that contained heart #2. So, fluid from chamber #1 was allowed to flow into chamber #2. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve (which was attached to heart #1) caused heart #1 to slow down. Loewi also observed that after a delay, heart #2 also slowed down. From this experiment, Loewi hypothesized that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve released a chemical into the fluid of chamber #1 that flowed into chamber #2. He called this chemical "Vagusstoff". We now know this chemical as the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

Otto Loewi's Experiment

Neurotransmitter Criteria

Neuroscientists have set up a few guidelines or criteria to prove that a chemical is really a neurotransmitter. Not all of the neurotransmitters that you have heard about may actually meet every one of these criteria.

The chemical must be produced within a neuron.
The chemical must be found within a neuron.
When a neuron is stimulated (depolarized), a neuron must release the chemical.
When a chemical is released, it must act on a post-synaptic receptor and cause a biological effect.
After a chemical is released, it must be inactivated. Inactivation can be through a reuptake mechanism or by an enzyme that stops the action of the chemical.
If the chemical is applied on the post-synaptic membrane, it should have the same effect as when it is released by a neuron.

Neurotransmitter Types

There are many types of chemicals that act as neurotransmitter substances. Below is a list of some of them.

Small Molecule Neurotransmitter Substances

Amino Acids

Neuroactive Peptides - partial list only!

bradykinin beta-endorphin bombesin calcitonin
cholecystokinin enkephalin dynorphin insulin
gastrin substance P neurotensin glucagon
secretin somatostatin motilin vasopressin
oxytocin prolactin thyrotropin angiotensin II
sleep peptides galanin neuropeptide Y thyrotropin-releasing hormone
gonadotropnin-releasing hormone growth hormone-releasing hormone luteinizing hormone vasoactive intestinal peptide

Soluble Gases

Synthesis of Neurotransmitters

Acetylcholine is found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Choline is taken up by the neuron. When the enzyme called choline acetyltransferase is present, choline combines with acetyl coenzyme A (CoA) to produce acetylcholine.

Dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine are a group of neurotransmitters called "catecholamines". Norepinephrine is also called "noradrenalin" and epinephrine is also called "adrenalin". Each of these neurotransmitters is produced in a step-by-step fashion by a different enzyme.

Transport and Release of Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are made in the cell body of the neuron and then transported down the axon to the axon terminal. Molecules of neurotransmitters are stored in small "packages" called vesicles (see the picture on the right). Neurotransmitters are released from the axon terminal when their vesicles "fuse" with the membrane of the axon terminal, spilling the neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft.

Unlike other neurotransmitters, nitric oxide (NO) is not stored in synaptic vesicles. Rather, NO is released soon after it is produced and diffuses out of the neuron. NO then enters another cell where it activates enzymes for the production of "second messengers."

Receptor Binding

Neurotransmitters will bind only to specific receptors on the postsynaptic membrane that recognize them.

Inactivation of Neurotransmitters

The action of neurotransmitters can be stopped by four different mechanisms:


Energy Psychology and the Resolution of Trauma

I am excited to speak with you today at this 5th International Congress for System Constellations and I’m also most happy to meet Mr. Bert Hellinger here. Knowing that Mr. Hellinger will turn 80 on December 16th, I would like to wish him an early happy 80th birthday. Also I want to thank the chairman of the IAG, Mr. Heinrich Breuer, for inviting me to this wonderful event.

Although I shall discuss some history, theory and methods of energy psychology, first I want to talk about something of great importance to individuals, families and the whole world. Of course, I’m referring to traumatic events and trauma, which is far too prevalent on our planet.

While I usually begin talks with a joke or humorous metaphor, it is difficult to find anything hilarious or even slightly humorous about trauma. Trauma is the antithesis of humor and consists of distress and agony. However, I can say with authority that while they are related, the traumatic event, the memory and the trauma are distinct. After a trauma has been resolved, meaning the distress is removed, actually the trauma is gone and all that remains is a memory. While it would be surreal and demonic to look back on most traumatic events with a grin from ear-to-ear, to experience relief, serenity and a degree of interest about the event after the traumatic stress has been eliminated, is not uncommon. Also, for those of us who have gone through trauma, an experience like this can often lead to deeper understanding and positive transformation.

GRIEF TRAUMA

I am no stranger to trauma and I am sure that all of you are well acquainted with it. For me, trauma began at a young age. While I do not remember the proverbial birth trauma, I do recall many painful medical treatments and some well-deserved spankings. However, when I was eleven my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she died of lymphoma at forty-three I was twelve. The cancer spread throughout her body. I watched as the mother that I loved and knew to be passionate and vibrant, wither away. She suffered immensely and I suffered with her. You see, in those days, cancer patients mostly remained at home with insufficient pain medication to the end, which meant intense pain. I saw and heard her suffering. My father confided in me that she was going to die a year before she did and he told me to keep it a secret. I recall the strong electrical charge—the bolt of lightening—surge through my body when he told me she was going to die.

Although she wasn’t supposed to know, I’m sure that she did. But she kept the secret too we didn’t talk about it. As a child, I frequently cried myself to sleep and prayed that she would be cured or at least wouldn’t suffer so much. As a good Catholic boy, I even tried to relieve her pain by placing a holy scapular at various locations of her pain. She told me that it helped, but the pain traveled throughout her body. There was no keeping up with it. I felt dejected, helpless and hopeless, and I was convinced that my effort was not helping, even though in some ways it was. I believe that she found some solace in my attempts and even some pain relief. Of course, my three brothers and my sister were tormented by her death and dying also. Our father’s heartbreak was the greatest of all, although we couldn’t understand that at the time.

For me, my mother’s illness and death were both agonizing and numbing. And these traumas interfered with my relationships for some time. I had complex grief and I tried to cope by not thinking about it and sometimes by emotional reliving, but ultimately none of this helped. Really I don’t think it occurred to me that my grief could be eliminated by anything other than the passage of time. Yet time was not healing these wounds and I had to wait three decades for relief through other means. Amazingly, each resolution took only but a few minutes and in some ways it was instantaneous. During this talk, I intend to discuss how trauma sufferers can be helped quickly, and in the workshop that follows we shall go into greater detail about this approach that I call energy psychology.

PHYSICAL INJURY TRAUMA

Another significant trauma occurred when I was twenty-one. I just graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , where I majored in the three P’s: philosophy, psychology and parties. The day after graduation, I had an automobile accident that nearly claimed my life. It was early June 1968, and I was driving my red Volkswagen Bug to the university’s student union to meet friends when a car much larger than mine—I believe it was a Chevy—ripped off my driver’s door. It sent me flying through the air, in what seemed to be slow motion, into some wooden steps that my body broke, bounced over a banister, slid along a side walk and rolled over before I came to an abrupt stop. Immediately, I tried to get up, and at that moment I could feel that I was bleeding inside. I rolled over and looked up at the sky, terrified that I was going to die. I shouted, “No! I’m not going to die! I refuse! I’m not ready.” I believe that affirmation and determination was a key to my survival.

I had many injuries, including a ruptured spleen. I underwent surgery, received 6 pints of blood (that’s 2.84 liters), and my life hung in the balance for several days. I was in the Intensive Care Unit for the first four days and in the hospital for ten days altogether. Over the next two months, I recovered at home. During that time, I also had surgery for thyroid cancer. Even though my physical condition improved quickly after the surgeries, I continued to experience psychological trauma for many years: fear when I was driving, anxiety, flashbacks and frequent episodes of panic with the feeling that I was going to die. [Do you get a sense that family loyalty might have been involved?]

I resolved that trauma over a period of time by learning to relax my hold on the steering wheel while driving and by riding out a severe panic attack one evening about ten years after the accident. Back then, I had many panic attacks and I became especially disgusted with this one, since it continued for over two hours. For some highly rational and defiant reason, I tried to intensify it. I closed my eyes and tried to go into the panic—into the abyss so to speak. With defiance, I spoke to the panic, “Come on and get me!”

The curious result was the opposite the panic instantly vanished. I had come face-to-face with my fear, stared it straight in the eye, did not waver, and the panic fled. I think I might have scared it away. About a week later, another panic attack started and again I tried to go into it. And again, it disappeared. I searched for any inkling of it in my body, but it was gone. I’m pretty sure that I scared that one away too. The satisfaction I felt about this serendipitous discovery! From then on, I no longer lived in dread of panic. If a twinge of anxiety occurred, I faced it, observed it, and it would vanish. I also knew that I could not use this approach to outwit panic, since the panic would surely know. I had to truly want to immerse myself in it, no matter what. I had to be for real. With this, my confidence grew and I came to understand the sources of my panic. Partly it was about a blind spot in my consciousness—something that I concluded while I was flying out of my car in June 1968. I had forgotten this. As I hit the sidewalk, I had the rather detached thought, “Am I going to die now or after I stop sliding?” It was not a matter of IF I was going to die dying was assumed. It was just a matter of how soon. When I stopped sliding along the sidewalk, my demise was inevitable at any moment. The panic always carried with it the sense that I was going to die now and I had to fight to stay alive. While it was good to decide not to die at the time of the accident, somehow I took this out of context. In a sense the accident and dying were ever present, or nearly so. Traumatic stress is created the moment we say “no” to the present moment and the flow of life energy is blocked. The ancient Chinese called it stagnant chi. Eventually I understood that panic—that strong electrical charge—was also connected to my mother’s death and dying. [Again, do you get a sense that family loyalty might have been involved?] To some, resolution of a trauma can be a long drawn out process, but when an effective method is applied, very little time is needed. We shall discuss more about effective methods, but first some reflections on the phenomenon of trauma.

WHAT IS TRAUMA?

Trauma is so prevalent that we might revise Buddha’s dictum about life being suffering and say that life is suffering because of trauma. Trauma, however, is not only about awful events, but about the attachment in the aftermath of the events. It is attachment at many levels that accounts for trauma.

While there is a conscious attachment to the memory and its meaning, trauma is also an unconscious attachment so that what fuels trauma is not so much what we remember as what we have misplaced in consciousness. In this view, trauma is about being blind to information and not coming to terms with it. Another way of understanding “coming to terms with” is to thoroughly process the event—recover the lost information and understand it from a wider perspective, a higher level of consciousness about it. Given this understanding, one approach involves an archeological expedition to uncover the lost data so that the unfinished business can be finished. As powerful as such an approach may be, many become people traumatized during the attempt to uncover and review. So trauma can build on trauma. This emotional upset has been described as abreaction in some circles, which is distinct from the original term. However, I have come to learn that reprocessing is not always sufficient and not always necessary if we address the fundamental cause of trauma. While reprocessing can often lead us to the fundamental cause, going directly to the fundamental cause is frequently more efficient. Nonetheless, there is value in many methods and as a psychologist who also practices couples therapy I would recommend a wedding rather than a divorce.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TRAUMA

Surely, memory is involved with trauma, although it is implicate rather than explicate memory that matters most. There are many aspects to consider when we examine trauma. Let’s take a brief excursion.

Trauma has many highly visible features. We can paint its landscape with a fine brush or a broad one. With a fine brush, we can talk about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders and many other diagnoses described in ICD-10 and DSM IV. PTSD is trauma in its most obvious form. There’s the traumatic event, the fear, and the helplessness. The event, itself, is bad enough although the aftermath, what we rightly call traumatic stress, is what torments. That torment includes any number of symptoms such as intrusive recollections, distressing dreams, flashbacks, avoidance, emotional numbing, splitting, and much more.

These are the conditions and the symptoms of obvious trauma and it can be singular or complex. However, when we use a broad brush, there are less obvious traumas that can have a major impact. Most psychological, societal and even physical problems are rooted in trauma. Also, the individual’s resources and perception are essential to the impact of the event. Some obvious traumatic events are tolerated well by some people and other seemingly inconsequential events are highly damaging to others.

THEORIES AND TREATMENT OF TRAUMA

There are many theories about trauma, each looking at a different slice. To the cognitive therapist, trauma is attachment to distressing memories and thoughts. The goal is to reframe one’s thoughts in a more rational direction or at least to become aware of one’s ability to dismiss thought. Consistent with this is the knowledge that you are the thinker.

To the behaviorist, trauma is conditioning attachment and extinction is the goal. Treatments have involved exposure, either flooding or gradual exposure. Frequently, this process itself can be traumatizing if the therapist or client is uncomfortable with strong emotion.

This brings us to the systemic aspects of trauma and treatment. Trauma is often intertwined with relationships that cause, perpetuate or enable the person to remain a trauma victim. The solution becomes one of shifting the relationship in a healthy direction, away from an unhealthy attachment or entanglement. Of course, the therapist’s interaction with the client is imperative also.

The neuroscientist sees trauma as attachment involving sympathetic nervous system activation, including hypervigilance of the amygdala in the limbic system. And there is also the disabling of the hippocampus, the brain structure implicated in our knowing that an event is past. Thus, trauma becomes ever present, not completed in time. The goal is to calm the amygdala and allow the hippocampus to record the event as finished.

To the chemist, trauma is chemical attachment and traumatic stress correlates with elevated levels of cortisol, glutamate, adrenalin lower levels of GABA and serotonin. The goal is chemical balance, maybe via medication.

To the body worker, trauma may be attached to the muscles, and the goal becomes one of awareness and release through massage and movement.

Trauma is also an ego attachment that interferes with one’s spiritual connection and true Self.

The shaman says that the soul leaves the body during a traumatic event and soul retrieval is needed. The shaman reportedly travels to under or upper worlds to escort the soul back to the body.

ENERGY AND BIOENERGY

And consistent with all of this, trauma it is an energetic attachment—an energetic block or imbalance, a disturbed and perturbed vibration of energy, a resonating energy field that goes on and on within the traumatized person and resonated outward to others.

If we consider Albert Einstein’s formula E=mc², we find that matter and energy are interconvertible—that matter is fundamentally frozen energy. Quantum physics has suggested that energy and consciousness are interrelated and that energy behaves in ways that are consistent with choice. Also, taking measurements of subatomic particles—observing them that is—affects what we can measure, such that subject and object cease to be valid distinctions. Several experimental tests of Bell ’s Theorem have compellingly demonstrated that related photons traveling away from each other are able to communicate in an instant, regardless of distance. They remain non-locally connected. Since photons travel at great speed, this finding is astronomical. It has been estimated that two related photons could be separated by half the distance of the universe, and still communication would be instantaneous. Connection and communication exceed the limits imposed by speed, distance and time. While the cosmos is local, it is also imbued with a heavy dose of nonlocality. Since everything was compressed into the cosmic fireball big bang, everything remains connected.

Matter and energy are not so different they are only different forms of the same reality. Thus, the unconscious, conscious cognitions, chemistry, brain, muscles, etc. are energy in distinct forms. Superstring theory holds that even quarks, the fundamental particles that constitute electrons and protons, are really vibrating strings of energy. And I believe that consciousness and spirit are intimately involved with energy.

Of course, even our bodies are composed of vibrating little strings of energy. Fritz-Albert Popp found that cells emit photons and that there is a difference between the frequencies of healthy and unhealthy cells. Perhaps this is the biological equivalent of a fiber optic communication network carrying subtle energies and information throughout our cells and outward to others. Will humans eventually learn to communicate great distances without having to pay Internet servers and telephone companies? And what will be the economic implications?

Once an energetic configuration or field is established, it has a proclivity to replicate itself. This is essentially about memory and form. In this respect, Carl Jung discussed archetypes, which are informational and influential fields not limited by space and time. In similar and distinct ways, Rupert Sheldrake discusses formative causation, morphic resonance and morphogenetic fields, this accounting for the forms of the inanimate, animate and even behavior. In the 1970’s, Harold Saxon Burr discussed Life fields (L-Fields), which he detected around rocks, trees, salamanders and humans. Life fields account for form. And this is perhaps why our bodies maintain their forms even though all of the atoms are recycled every four to seven years. It is suggested here that what holds the material body together is an energy field. Of course, as the years go on gravity does take its toll.

These findings have a 7,000-year history that goes back to India, where it was believed or discovered that the body has a life force, prana, and this energy is evident in chakras and auras. Five thousand years ago in China , a meridians system of chi (equivalent to prana) was described and acupuncture was developed as a way of regulating chi and thus health. Incidentally, chi can be translated as energy, influence, power, mind and spirit. Also in the 1970’s, research by Robert O. Becker and Maria Reichmanis revealed a lower electrical resistance at many acupoints, suggesting that meridians and acupoints are electrical. And in the 1980’s, researchers Pierre de Vernejoul and Jacques Darras injected radioactive technetium in specific kidney meridian acupoints on 330 patients and observed how the isotopes traveled the meridian. This and other research offers support for a bodily energy system that has electromagnetic qualities, including light, sound and subtle electrical current. Concerning the value of such a finding, the world’s largest study on acupuncture (GerAc), which is being conducted here in Germany, found that acupuncture at acupoints and acupoint locations was superior to standard medical treatment for certain pain conditions.

ENERGY PSYCHOLOGY

Trauma involves traumatic events, perception, neurology, chemistry, information, energy, consciousness, and spirit. If the structure of the trauma energy field can be substantially altered or collapsed, the trauma can be eliminated. And this appears to be exactly what we do when applying energy psychology.

Energy psychology’s more recent history dates back to the early 1960s, when Dr. George Goodheart, a chiropractor from Detroit , Michigan founded applied kinesiology. This approach employs manual muscle testing and holistic concepts to address physical problems. Goodheart pioneered therapy loca liz ation, which involves touching specific bodily locations (reflexes and such) while applying manual muscle testing. To the satisfaction of him and his patients, this approach provides the needed information to correct some otherwise intractable problems. Goodheart has explored a variety of therapeutic options including spinal and cranial adjustments, encouraging lymphatic flow, nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, flower essences, stimulating acupoints, and more.

Following Goodheart, others explored applied kinesiology to treat psychological problems. Goodheart discovered a connection among specific muscles, reflexes, and meridians while, psychiatrist John Diamond and others found correlations with emotions. Along these lines psychologist Roger J. Callahan developed a treatment method, which involves attuning psychological problems such as phobias and traumas and then physically tapping on specific acupoints. Besides many psychotherapeutic approaches, I had the opportunity to study the work of Goodheart, John Thie (founder of Touch for Health), Callahan, Diamond, and others. Like many of you, I explored many approaches to find better ways to help myself and others. In time I developed an integrative energy psychology approach, which I call energy diagnostic and treatment methods (EDxTM).

When I first encountered energetic approaches, I was skeptical. The idea of treating a psychological problem by tapping on the body was foreign to me. Of course, I knew about Reichian therapy and Rolfing, since one of my graduate professors used to undergo Rolfing sessions regularly and return to class after the weekend black and blue, rather beaten up. At the time that seemed odd to me. Also, I heard about a group therapy approach in the early 1970’s, which involved tickling group members who were not being honest. That seemed hilariously odd to me too. Also I knew about acupuncture, but I thought that was only relevant to physical problems.

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try. I used to have fear of heights and I eliminated this problem within a few minutes. The same applied to trauma. All I had to do was physically tap on specific acupoints while recalling the memory or being in a situation that caused emotional distress. Of course, at first I thought this was simply distraction. However, when the fear of heights did not return and when the memories forever ceased to be distressing, the distraction theory was immediately disqualified. A better explanation was needed, and we’ve touched on that somewhat already.

The essential features involve attuning the problem—thinking about it—and then stimulating the body in specific ways, such as by tapping on acupoints. Although I overcame panic by staying present, observing the panic and trying to intensify it, for some odd reason most of my clients were unable or reluctant to do that. But tapping somehow makes it easier and clients usually report that they feel calm and relaxed. Yet the results are not limited to relaxation there is also a shift in understanding and consciousness. After treating trauma in this way, people often shift out of ego attachment and became more philosophical and spiritual about what happened to them. “It doesn’t bother me any more. Oh, it’s just something that happened. I don’t know why it bothered me for so long. I feel more relaxed now, more at peace. The anger and resentment are gone.” These are the comments we hear regularly from people who were previously tormented by trauma.
ENERGY PSYCHOLOGY TREATMENT FOR TRAUMA

We have treated thousands of trauma suffers successfully with energy psychology. Let me tell you briefly about one patient that I treated in this way. Amanda, a 19-year-old female university student, was referred to me because of PTSD after an automobile accident in 1999. The driver in the other car crossed over the medial strip and struck her vehicle head-on, killing both of his passengers and himself. Amanda was pinned under the dashboard for several hours while a rescue team struggled to cut her out of the crushed car. She had multiple injuries and was in the hospital and then a rehabilitation center for several months. I saw her a year after the accident. She was having frequent nightmares, flashbacks, panic, anxiety, guilt feelings and she was also abusing alcohol.

Initially, we focused on her memory of being pinned under the dashboard. After she thought about it and rated the distress as a 9 on a 0-10 scale, I asked her to dismiss the memory from mind while following the Negative Affect Erasing Method (NAEM), a technique I developed many years ago. NAEM involves physically tapping on four points on the head and chest (related to acupoints and chakras): third eye point, under nose, under bottom lip, and on the upper chest. After about five rounds of tapping, she was able to vividly recall the event without distress. Several times throughout the treatment she laughed and asked me, “How does that work?” Follow-up sessions at one week, two weeks and two months revealed that after the initial session, distress about the event, nightmares and flashbacks no longer occurred.

During the course of treatment, other aspects of the trauma were treated, including feelings of guilt about the people who died. That distress was also resolved in one session by using NAEM and a couple related treatments.

Later in therapy, she reported that a relative molested her from age five to twelve . Using a more specifically focused treatment that includes manual muscle testing, we were able to determine which meridians were involved in order to efficiently eliminate this abuse trauma. After we treated upset connected to various memories, she reported a lingering feeling of worthlessness, including a “dirty and disgusting” feeling in the lower abdomen. We were able to eliminate this sensation and her belief about not being worthwhile as well. A follow-up, several months’ later revealed ongoing relief on all aspects treated. A couple months ago, I contacted her in regards to this talk and she told me to tell you all ‘hello.’ I’m happy to report that she is doing quite well.

THEORETICAL MUSINGS

Extensive clinical experience and experimental studies have convinced me and others that energy psychology works. The current research is covered in my 2005 edition of Energy Psychology and at my home page www.energypsych.com.

A 5-year preliminary clinical trial in Uruguay , South America compared energy psychology and cognitive-behavioral therapy plus medication (standard care) with 5,000 patients having various clinical problems. With energy psychology there was a 90% positive clinical response and a 76% complete remission of symptoms. With standard care there was a 63% positive clinical response and a 51% complete remission of symptoms. Furthermore, the average number of sessions with energy psychology was 3 with standard care it was 15.

How can we account for the therapeutic results of stimulating acupoints while attuning a psychological problem, such as trauma? What does the tapping really do?

There are many possible explanations. Placebo effectis one suggested mechanism. However, since acupoint stimulation produces highly consistent results, it would seem that placebo has little to do with it. Around 30 percent of people show improvement after given placebos and the results with energy tapping are significantly higher than that.

Another explanation is that tapping simply distracts the patient. While it is difficult to maintain complete focus on the problem while tapping, this explanation is insufficient since relief continues after the treatment has been completed.

Cognitive restructuring is also an explanation, since changes in thought and perception regularly occur with these treatments. However, it seems that the cognitive shifts occur after the negative emotion has been relieved. While a positive shift in cognition can serve to support healthy psychological functioning, energetic treatments do not directly address cognition as the lever for change.

Since acupoints are used in energy psychology, possibly neurotransmittersand endorphins play a role in the treatment effects, similar to what has been proposed with acupuncture. While it is likely that acupoint stimulation activates the central nervous system to release neurotransmitters and endorphins, this does not preclude the involvement of energetic effects. There appears to be a signaling mechanism associated with the acupuncture meridians that figures into such action.

My preferred explanation is that many aspects are involved in this treatment. While the brain, neurochemistry, unconscious and cognition are implicated in trauma and other psychological problems, these conditions are also energetic. After all, everything in our physical reality is fundamentally energy.

Trauma is energetic information, similar to the electromagnetic information adhering to audiotapes and computer hard drives. I imagine a traumatic event is like throwing stones into a pond and a trauma being the resultant splashing and ripples. Of course ponds are highly proficient at getting over trauma quickly, while humans are proficient at capturing and maintaining trauma. It is as if we are ponds that freeze at the moment of impact and the informational ripples become frozen in time. Our nervous system, cells, and energy system capture and store the trauma information. Since nature constructs complex structures from simple fractals, at the most basic level trauma, like everything else, is a field. By disrupting the field, the system smoothes out and then leaps to a higher order.

This informational field is also called a thought field and it is a physical reality. It is composed of subtle energetic markers or perturbations that are the basic cause of negative emotions. Perturbations are similar to what theoretical physicist David Bohm called active information. When the trauma thought field is attuned, these perturbations are available for treatment. Simultaneously, all of the aspects involved in trauma are activated. This includes brain structures, neurochemistry, unconscious, cognition, behaviors, energy, etc. Through energy psychology it is possible to elicit the thought field, analyze its structure, and collapse the perturbations.

Thought fields, similar to other systems, are maintained within a range of energy balance—too much or too little energy causes a loss of order. A loss of order is a loss of information. Physically tapping on acupoints disrupts the system by overloading the adhesive energetic field. The system looses its order and collapses. The pond with its informational ripples begins to thaw. The traumatic event can now be viewed calmly and the calmness is incorporated into one’s life. The memory is the same the emotional experience and meaning has changed. You view the event from a higher perspective, with neutrality or deeper positive feelings. Mindfulness prevails. The shaman declares that the soul has returned home.

Thank you for the opportunity of speaking with you today, and especially for your listening. I hope that you will find energy psychology a welcomed addition to what you already know and do. And I look forward to offering many of you additional practical information in the 3-hour workshop that follows.


Chapter 1: Approaches to Understanding Behaviour

Why does psychology take different approaches to understand behaviour?

Studying psychology over the next two years you will help you realise that psychology is everywhere. The subject is diverse and helping people with mental disorders is only one aspect of this science. Other topics include developmental psychology, sports psychology, health psychology, the psychology of human relationships and organisational psychology. (See the American Psychological Association - http://www.apa.org/action/science/index.aspx for a description of the major branches of the subject.)

Modern research has debunked (debunked = shown to be false) this popular idea that we do not make full use of our brains. See this article from Medical News Today: How much of our brain do we actually use? Brain facts and myths .

We do not replay a recording of events when we wish to recall events or information. Research demonstrates that we reconstruct the past. Our memories are not fixed recordings of our lives.

In 2012, a young girl and her friends were travelling home from school on their school bus when there was a sudden bang and one of the girls fell to the ground. The other girls turned and saw a man with a mask.

What do you think happened to the girl? Why was she attacked?

As you read the story, what image did you have of the girl and the environment? Was it in your town or another town in your country? What conclusions did you arrive at? What other information would you have liked?

This story is actually one of Malala Yousafzai.

On 9 October 2012, Malala and her friends were travelling home from school when a masked gunman boarded their bus and fired a single bullet. It passed through Malala’s head, neck and shoulder. Malala survived this attack.

In 2012, Malala Yousafzai and her friends were travelling home from school when a masked gunman boarded their bus and fired a single bullet. It passed through Malala’s head, neck and shoulder. Malala survived this attack.

Why had terrorists tried to kill her? Did the gunman object to her belief girls had the right to an education? Was her death ordered because she wrote a blog about her life in Pakistan or because she received Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize?

Malala was not intimidated, and she set up the Malala Fund to support international efforts to educate girls.

In December 2014, Malala accepted the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize it’s youngest ever winner.

Malala’s experiences – her campaign to educate girls, her attempted killing, her recovery and her later fame – raise many questions.

Can psychologists explain why she challenged powerful people who opposed her beliefs on education? Are there psychological theories about the role of family and social and cultural environments to explain her actions? Can psychologists make sense of the violent behaviour of her attacker? Did your image and impression of the way you pictured the story change? All these questions are explored in Psychology and as you study psychology over the rest of the course think back on Malala’s inspiring story.

Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes and behaviour. Compared to philosophy and physics, psychology is a relatively new subject with William Wundt credited with opening the first laboratory in 1879.

Since then, psychologists have asked questions about why people behave the way they do. Does our brain control our behaviour? How similar are we to our parents? Are we social beings who need others to live?

Psychologists use scientific methods to answer these and hundreds of other questions. They investigate people’s biology, their thoughts and their social and cultural environments. To do this they use a variety of techniques from brain imaging technologies like MRI scans to conducting experiments in laboratories, field studies, interviews and observing people as they carry on in their daily activities. Psychologists are keen observers of behaviour and skilled at asking people about their thoughts and actions. The knowledge generated can bring positive changes to people’s lives.

Psychology has come a long way since the days of Wundt. We no longer believe personality is determined by the shape of the skulls or mental illnesses can be treated by removing parts of the brain.

Human behaviour is extraordinarily complex and no one approach can explain it all. Modern psychology, therefore, takes various approaches in researching behaviour and that is reflected in the syllabus of the IB Psychology Course.

Your first major topic in the course is Approaches to Research. Understanding how psychologists generate knowledge acts as a foundation for your study of the Core and the Options. The ethical treatment of animals and humans is an important consideration.

Syllabus components

Biological approach to understanding behaviour

the relationship between the brain and behaviour (SL and HL)

hormones and pheromones and their effects on behaviour (SL and HL)

the relationship between genetics and behaviour (SL and HL)

the role of animal research in understanding human behaviour (HL only)

Cognitive approach to understanding behaviour

cognitive processing (SL and HL)

reliability of cognitive processes (SL and HL)

emotion and cognition (SL and HL)

cognitive processing in a technological (digital/modern) world (HL only)

Sociocultural approach to understanding behaviour

the individual and the group (SL and HL)

cultural origins of behaviour and cognition (SL and HL)

cultural influences on individual behaviour (SL and HL)

the influence of globalization on individual behaviour (HL only)

Relevant to all the topics are:

the contribution of research methods to understanding human behaviour

ethical considerations in investigations of human behaviour

Approaches to researching behaviour

Elements of research behaviour

Abnormal psychology

factors influencing diagnosis

etiology of abnormal psychology

Psychology of human relationships

Applicable to all three topics within the options

The integration of biological, cognitive, and sociocultural approaches to understanding behaviour

Research methods used to understand behaviour

Internal assessment

Bringing positive changes to people’s lives is the focus of the Options . SL students study Abnormal Psychology. HL students study Abnormal Psychology and the Psychology of Human Relationships.

As you can see in Tables 1.1 and 1.2 below, the approaches are studied one after the other. However, all of these approaches contribute insights into understanding behaviour and you should take a holistic perspective (holistic = emphasising the importance of the whole).

Approaches to researching behaviour

Biological approach to understanding behaviour

Cognitive approach to understanding the behaviour

Sociocultural approach to understanding behaviour

Internal Assessment and Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal Psychology and the Trial Exam

Approaches to researching behaviour

Biological approach to understanding behaviour

Cognitive approach to understanding behaviour

Cognitive approach to understanding behaviour

Sociocultural approach to understanding behaviour

Internal Assessment and Abnormal Psychology

The Psychology of Human Relationships

Psychologists use both quantitative and qualitative approaches to researching behaviour. Each approach has its advantages and limitations which must be considered when evaluating how a research study contributes to the understanding of behaviour. Asking questions, challenging assumptions and critically assessing the methods used by researchers are important skills.

An understanding of approaches to research is also important for your internal assessment task as you will be required to design, conduct, analyse, draw conclusions and evaluate your own experiment.

Only HL students will be directly assessed on the understanding of approaches to research in paper 3.

Topics of Approaches to Research Behaviour

Elements of research behaviour

Psychologists taking the Biological Approach explain behaviour by examining physiological and evolutionary causes. They look for correlations between what is going on in our bodies with what we are doing. Using brain imaging technologies, these psychologists map the brain’s structure and investigate how the brain and its billions of neural networks can change through experience. How hormones and neurotransmitters influence behaviour is another avenue of research. Other topics within this approach include how genes shape our individual lives and how evolution provides the broad contours of our journey through life. Biological psychologists have added tremendously to our understanding of people’s thoughts and actions but they acknowledge biology cannot explain all of our behaviours.

Psychologists taking a biological approach adopt research methods linked to their assumptions about how biology shapes people. As you study this approach, you will read experimental reports and case studies that investigate the brain, neurotransmitters, hormones and genes. Brain imaging technology has helped psychologists make remarkable strides in mapping the individual organs of the brain and understanding how the brain works as an integrated whole to direct behaviour. New thinking about the plasticity of the brain has overturned earlier ideas the brain was a static organ that changed little over the lifespan. Surprising new insights are emerging about the staggeringly complex ways that genes and the environment interact. Evolutionary psychologists take a broader approach to understanding behaviour by claiming many human activities evolved because they helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. Animal experimentation is also undertaken by biological scientists.


The Spinal Cord

It can be said that the spinal cord is what connects the brain to the outside world. Because of it, the brain can act. The spinal cord is like a relay station, but a very smart one. It not only routes messages to and from the brain, but it also has its own system of automatic processes, called reflexes.

The top of the spinal cord merges with the brain stem, where the basic processes of life are controlled, such as breathing and digestion. In the opposite direction, the spinal cord ends just below the ribs—contrary to what we might expect, it does not extend all the way to the base of the spine.

The spinal cord is functionally organized in 30 segments, corresponding with the vertebrae. Each segment is connected to a specific part of the body through the peripheral nervous system. Nerves branch out from the spine at each vertebra. Sensory nerves bring messages in motor nerves send messages out to the muscles and organs. Messages travel to and from the brain through every segment.

Some sensory messages are immediately acted on by the spinal cord, without any input from the brain. Withdrawal from heat and knee jerk are two examples. When a sensory message meets certain parameters, the spinal cord initiates an automatic reflex. The signal passes from the sensory nerve to a simple processing center, which initiates a motor command. Seconds are saved, because messages don’t have to go the brain, be processed, and get sent back. In matters of survival, the spinal reflexes allow the body to react extraordinarily fast.

The spinal cord is protected by bony vertebrae and cushioned in cerebrospinal fluid, but injuries still occur. When the spinal cord is damaged in a particular segment, all lower segments are cut off from the brain, causing paralysis. Therefore, the lower on the spine damage is, the fewer functions an injured individual loses.


How to Overcome Nervousness

Nervousness by itself is not considered a serious problem. Many people suffer from nervousness at some point or another - some even from irrational nervousness. Being nervous is a part of being human, and recognizing that the world does have its dangers.

But when that nervousness becomes overwhelming, never seems to go away, impacts your personal life, or is accompanied by severe physical symptoms, that's when you may need some type of treatment.


Many Systems in One

The nervous system is a network of fibers that starts in the brain and spinal cord and branches out to the rest of the body, with each branch getting progressively smaller. The nervous system can be thought of as a pine tree, with the brain and spinal cord forming the trunk and the nerve fibers forming the branches. In the human body, the trunk is called the central nervous system, or CNS, and the branches are known as the peripheral nervous system.

Central nervous system

The CNS includes the brain, which is encased in the skull, and the spinal cord, which is a long tube that extends


8 Memory

We may be top-notch learners, but if we don’t have a way to store what we’ve learned, what good is the knowledge we’ve gained?

Take a few minutes to imagine what your day might be like if you could not remember anything you had learned. You would have to figure out how to get dressed. What clothing should you wear, and how do buttons and zippers work? You would need someone to teach you how to brush your teeth and tie your shoes. Who would you ask for help with these tasks, since you wouldn’t recognize the faces of these people in your house? Wait . . . is this even your house? Uh oh, your stomach begins to rumble and you feel hungry. You’d like something to eat, but you don’t know where the food is kept or even how to prepare it. Oh dear, this is getting confusing. Maybe it would be best just go back to bed. A bed . . . what is a bed?

We have an amazing capacity for memory, but how, exactly, do we process and store information? Are there different kinds of memory, and if so, what characterizes the different types? How, exactly, do we retrieve our memories? And why do we forget? This chapter will explore these questions as we learn about memory.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the three basic functions of memory
  • Describe the three stages of memory storage
  • Describe and distinguish between procedural and declarative memory and semantic and episodic memory

Memory is an information processing system therefore, we often compare it to a computer. Memory is the set of processes used to encode, store, and retrieve information over different periods of time (Figure 8.2).

We get information into our brains through a process called encoding , which is the input of information into the memory system. Once we receive sensory information from the environment, our brains label or code it. We organize the information with other similar information and connect new concepts to existing concepts. Encoding information occurs through automatic processing and effortful processing.

If someone asks you what you ate for lunch today, more than likely you could recall this information quite easily. This is known as automatic processing , or the encoding of details like time, space, frequency, and the meaning of words. Automatic processing is usually done without any conscious awareness. Recalling the last time you studied for a test is another example of automatic processing. But what about the actual test material you studied? It probably required a lot of work and attention on your part in order to encode that information. This is known as effortful processing (Figure 8.3).

What are the most effective ways to ensure that important memories are well encoded? Even a simple sentence is easier to recall when it is meaningful (Anderson, 1984). Read the following sentences (Bransford & McCarrell, 1974), then look away and count backwards from 30 by threes to zero, and then try to write down the sentences (no peeking back at this page!).

  1. The notes were sour because the seams split.
  2. The voyage wasn’t delayed because the bottle shattered.
  3. The haystack was important because the cloth ripped.

How well did you do? By themselves, the statements that you wrote down were most likely confusing and difficult for you to recall. Now, try writing them again, using the following prompts: bagpipe, ship christening, and parachutist. Next count backwards from 40 by fours, then check yourself to see how well you recalled the sentences this time. You can see that the sentences are now much more memorable because each of the sentences was placed in context. Material is far better encoded when you make it meaningful.

There are three types of encoding. The encoding of words and their meaning is known as semantic encoding . It was first demonstrated by William Bousfield (1935) in an experiment in which he asked people to memorize words. The 60 words were actually divided into 4 categories of meaning, although the participants did not know this because the words were randomly presented. When they were asked to remember the words, they tended to recall them in categories, showing that they paid attention to the meanings of the words as they learned them.

Visual encoding is the encoding of images, and acoustic encoding is the encoding of sounds, words in particular. To see how visual encoding works, read over this list of words: car, level, dog, truth, book, value. If you were asked later to recall the words from this list, which ones do you think you’d most likely remember? You would probably have an easier time recalling the words car, dog, and book, and a more difficult time recalling the words level, truth, and value. Why is this? Because you can recall images (mental pictures) more easily than words alone. When you read the words car, dog, and book you created images of these things in your mind. These are concrete, high-imagery words. On the other hand, abstract words like level, truth, and value are low-imagery words. High-imagery words are encoded both visually and semantically (Paivio, 1986), thus building a stronger memory.

Now let’s turn our attention to acoustic encoding. You are driving in your car and a song comes on the radio that you haven’t heard in at least 10 years, but you sing along, recalling every word. In the United States, children often learn the alphabet through song, and they learn the number of days in each month through rhyme: Thirty days hath September, / April, June, and November / All the rest have thirty-one, / Save February, with twenty-eight days clear, / And twenty-nine each leap year.” These lessons are easy to remember because of acoustic encoding. We encode the sounds the words make. This is one of the reasons why much of what we teach young children is done through song, rhyme, and rhythm.

Which of the three types of encoding do you think would give you the best memory of verbal information? Some years ago, psychologists Fergus Craik and Endel Tulving (1975) conducted a series of experiments to find out. Participants were given words along with questions about them. The questions required the participants to process the words at one of the three levels. The visual processing questions included such things as asking the participants about the font of the letters. The acoustic processing questions asked the participants about the sound or rhyming of the words, and the semantic processing questions asked the participants about the meaning of the words. After participants were presented with the words and questions, they were given an unexpected recall or recognition task.

Words that had been encoded semantically were better remembered than those encoded visually or acoustically. Semantic encoding involves a deeper level of processing than the shallower visual or acoustic encoding. Craik and Tulving concluded that we process verbal information best through semantic encoding, especially if we apply what is called the self-reference effect. The self-reference effect is the tendency for an individual to have better memory for information that relates to oneself in comparison to material that has less personal relevance (Rogers, Kuiper, & Kirker, 1977). Could semantic encoding be beneficial to you as you attempt to memorize the concepts in this chapter?

Storage

Once the information has been encoded, we have to somehow retain it. Our brains take the encoded information and place it in storage. Storage is the creation of a permanent record of information.

In order for a memory to go into storage (i.e., long-term memory), it has to pass through three distinct stages: Sensory Memory , Short-Term Memory , and finally Long-Term Memory . These stages were first proposed by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin (1968). Their model of human memory (Figure 8.4), called Atkinson and Shiffrin’s model, is based on the belief that we process memories in the same way that a computer processes information.

Atkinson and Shiffrin’s model is not the only model of memory. Baddeley and Hitch (1974) proposed a working memory model in which short-term memory has different forms. In their model, storing memories in short-term memory is like opening different files on a computer and adding information. The working memory files hold a limited amount of information. The type of short-term memory (or computer file) depends on the type of information received. There are memories in visual-spatial form, as well as memories of spoken or written material, and they are stored in three short-term systems: a visuospatial sketchpad, an episodic buffer (Baddeley, 2000), and a phonological loop. According to Baddeley and Hitch, a central executive part of memory supervises or controls the flow of information to and from the three short-term systems, and the central executive is responsible for moving information into long-term memory.

Sensory Memory

In the Atkinson-Shiffrin model, stimuli from the environment are processed first in sensory memory : storage of brief sensory events, such as sights, sounds, and tastes. It is very brief storage—up to a couple of seconds. We are constantly bombarded with sensory information. We cannot absorb all of it, or even most of it. And most of it has no impact on our lives. For example, what was your professor wearing the last class period? As long as the professor was dressed appropriately, it does not really matter what she was wearing. Sensory information about sights, sounds, smells, and even textures, which we do not view as valuable information, we discard. If we view something as valuable, the information will move into our short-term memory system.

Short-Term Memory

Short-term memory (STM) is a temporary storage system that processes incoming sensory memory. The terms short-term and working memory are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same. Short-term memory is more accurately described as a component of working memory. Short-term memory takes information from sensory memory and sometimes connects that memory to something already in long-term memory. Short-term memory storage lasts 15 to 30 seconds. Think of it as the information you have displayed on your computer screen, such as a document, spreadsheet, or website. Then, information in STM goes to long-term memory (you save it to your hard drive), or it is discarded (you delete a document or close a web browser).

Rehearsal moves information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Active rehearsal is a way of attending to information to move it from short-term to long-term memory. During active rehearsal, you repeat (practice) the information to be remembered. If you repeat it enough, it may be moved into long-term memory. For example, this type of active rehearsal is the way many children learn their ABCs by singing the alphabet song. Alternatively, elaborative rehearsal is the act of linking new information you are trying to learn to existing information that you already know. For example, if you meet someone at a party and your phone is dead but you want to remember his phone number, which starts with area code 203, you might remember that your uncle Abdul lives in Connecticut and has a 203 area code. This way, when you try to remember the phone number of your new prospective friend, you will easily remember the area code. Craik and Lockhart (1972) proposed the levels of processing hypothesis that states the deeper you think about something, the better you remember it.

You may find yourself asking, “How much information can our memory handle at once?” To explore the capacity and duration of your short-term memory, have a partner read the strings of random numbers (Figure 8.5) out loud to you, beginning each string by saying, “Ready?” and ending each by saying, “Recall,” at which point you should try to write down the string of numbers from memory.

Note the longest string at which you got the series correct. For most people, the capacity will probably be close to 7 plus or minus 2. In 1956, George Miller reviewed most of the research on the capacity of short-term memory and found that people can retain between 5 and 9 items, so he reported the capacity of short-term memory was the “magic number” 7 plus or minus 2. However, more contemporary research has found working memory capacity is 4 plus or minus 1 (Cowan, 2010). Generally, recall is somewhat better for random numbers than for random letters (Jacobs, 1887) and also often slightly better for information we hear (acoustic encoding) rather than information we see (visual encoding) (Anderson, 1969).

Memory trace decay and interference are two factors that affect short-term memory retention. Peterson and Peterson (1959) investigated short-term memory using the three-letter sequences called trigrams (e.g., CLS) that had to be recalled after various time intervals between 3 and 18 seconds. Participants remembered about 80% of the trigrams after a 3-second delay, but only 10% after a delay of 18 seconds, which caused them to conclude that short-term memory decayed in 18 seconds. During decay, the memory trace becomes less activated over time, and the information is forgotten. However, Keppel and Underwood (1962) examined only the first trials of the trigram task and found that proactive interference also affected short-term memory retention. During proactive interference, previously learned information interferes with the ability to learn new information. Both memory trace decay and proactive interference affect short-term memory. Once the information reaches long-term memory, it has to be consolidated at both the synaptic level, which takes a few hours, and into the memory system, which can take weeks or longer.

Long-term Memory

Long-term memory (LTM) is the continuous storage of information. Unlike short-term memory, long-term memory storage capacity is believed to be unlimited. It encompasses all the things you can remember that happened more than just a few minutes ago. One cannot really consider long-term memory without thinking about the way it is organized. Really quickly, what is the first word that comes to mind when you hear “peanut butter”? Did you think of jelly? If you did, you probably have associated peanut butter and jelly in your mind. It is generally accepted that memories are organized in semantic (or associative) networks (Collins & Loftus, 1975). A semantic network consists of concepts, and as you may recall from what you’ve learned about memory, concepts are categories or groupings of linguistic information, images, ideas, or memories, such as life experiences. Although individual experiences and expertise can affect concept arrangement, concepts are believed to be arranged hierarchically in the mind (Anderson & Reder, 1999 Johnson & Mervis, 1997, 1998 Palmer, Jones, Hennessy, Unze, & Pick, 1989 Rosch, Mervis, Gray, Johnson, & Boyes-Braem, 1976 Tanaka & Taylor, 1991). Related concepts are linked, and the strength of the link depends on how often two concepts have been associated.

Semantic networks differ depending on personal experiences. Importantly for memory, activating any part of a semantic network also activates the concepts linked to that part to a lesser degree. The process is known as spreading activation (Collins & Loftus, 1975). If one part of a network is activated, it is easier to access the associated concepts because they are already partially activated. When you remember or recall something, you activate a concept, and the related concepts are more easily remembered because they are partially activated. However, the activations do not spread in just one direction. When you remember something, you usually have several routes to get the information you are trying to access, and the more links you have to a concept, the better your chances of remembering.

There are two types of long-term memory: explicit and implicit (Figure 8.6). Understanding the difference between explicit memory and implicit memory is important because aging, particular types of brain trauma, and certain disorders can impact explicit and implicit memory in different ways. Explicit memories are those we consciously try to remember, recall, and report. For example, if you are studying for your chemistry exam, the material you are learning will be part of your explicit memory. In keeping with the computer analogy, some information in your long-term memory would be like the information you have saved on the hard drive. It is not there on your desktop (your short-term memory), but most of the time you can pull up this information when you want it. Not all long-term memories are strong memories, and some memories can only be recalled using prompts. For example, you might easily recall a fact, such as the capital of the United States, but you might struggle to recall the name of the restaurant at which you had dinner when you visited a nearby city last summer. A prompt, such as that the restaurant was named after its owner, might help you recall the name of the restaurant. Explicit memory is sometimes referred to as declarative memory, because it can be put into words. Explicit memory is divided into episodic memory and semantic memory.

Episodic memory is information about events we have personally experienced (i.e., an episode). For instance, the memory of your last birthday is an episodic memory. Usually, episodic memory is reported as a story. The concept of episodic memory was first proposed about in the 1970s (Tulving, 1972). Since then, Tulving and others have reformulated the theory, and currently scientists believe that episodic memory is memory about happenings in particular places at particular times—the what, where, and when of an event (Tulving, 2002). It involves recollection of visual imagery as well as the feeling of familiarity (Hassabis & Maguire, 2007). Semantic memory is knowledge about words, concepts, and language-based knowledge and facts. Semantic memory is typically reported as facts. Semantic means having to do with language and knowledge about language. For example, answers to the following questions like “what is the definition of psychology” and “who was the first African American president of the United States” are stored in your semantic memory.

Implicit memories are long-term memories that are not part of our consciousness. Although implicit memories are learned outside of our awareness and cannot be consciously recalled, implicit memory is demonstrated in the performance of some task (Roediger, 1990 Schacter, 1987). Implicit memory has been studied with cognitive demand tasks, such as performance on artificial grammars (Reber, 1976), word memory (Jacoby, 1983 Jacoby & Witherspoon, 1982), and learning unspoken and unwritten contingencies and rules (Greenspoon, 1955 Giddan & Eriksen, 1959 Krieckhaus & Eriksen, 1960). Returning to the computer metaphor, implicit memories are like a program running in the background, and you are not aware of their influence. Implicit memories can influence observable behaviors as well as cognitive tasks. In either case, you usually cannot put the memory into words that adequately describe the task. There are several types of implicit memories, including procedural, priming, and emotional conditioning.

Implicit procedural memory is often studied using observable behaviors (Adams, 1957 Lacey & Smith, 1954 Lazarus & McCleary, 1951). Implicit procedural memory stores information about the way to do something, and it is the memory for skilled actions, such as brushing your teeth, riding a bicycle, or driving a car. You were probably not that good at riding a bicycle or driving a car the first time you tried, but you were much better after doing those things for a year. Your improved bicycle riding was due to learning balancing abilities. You likely thought about staying upright in the beginning, but now you just do it. Moreover, you probably are good at staying balanced, but cannot tell someone the exact way you do it. Similarly, when you first learned to drive, you probably thought about a lot of things that you just do now without much thought. When you first learned to do these tasks, someone may have told you how to do them, but everything you learned since those instructions that you cannot readily explain to someone else as the way to do it is implicit memory.

Implicit priming is another type of implicit memory (Schacter, 1992). During priming exposure to a stimulus affects the response to a later stimulus. Stimuli can vary and may include words, pictures, and other stimuli to elicit a response or increase recognition. For instance, some people really enjoy picnics. They love going into nature, spreading a blanket on the ground, and eating a delicious meal. Now, unscramble the following letters to make a word.

What word did you come up with? Chances are good that it was “plate.”

Had you read, “Some people really enjoy growing flowers. They love going outside to their garden, fertilizing their plants, and watering their flowers,” you probably would have come up with the word “petal” instead of plate.

Do you recall the earlier discussion of semantic networks? The reason people are more likely to come up with “plate” after reading about a picnic is that plate is associated (linked) with picnic. Plate was primed by activating the semantic network. Similarly, “petal” is linked to flower and is primed by flower. Priming is also the reason you probably said jelly in response to peanut butter.

Implicit emotional conditioning is the type of memory involved in classically conditioned emotion responses (Olson & Fazio, 2001). These emotional relationships cannot be reported or recalled but can be associated with different stimuli. For example, specific smells can cause specific emotional responses for some people. If there is a smell that makes you feel positive and nostalgic, and you don’t know where that response comes from, it is an implicit emotional response. Similarly, most people have a song that causes a specific emotional response. That song’s effect could be an implicit emotional memory (Yang, Xu, Du, Shi, & Fang, 2011).

EVERYDAY CONNECTION: Can You Remember Everything You Ever Did or Said?

Episodic memories are also called autobiographical memories. Let’s quickly test your autobiographical memory. What were you wearing exactly five years ago today? What did you eat for lunch on April 10, 2009? You probably find it difficult, if not impossible, to answer these questions. Can you remember every event you have experienced over the course of your life—meals, conversations, clothing choices, weather conditions, and so on? Most likely none of us could even come close to answering these questions however, American actress Marilu Henner , best known for the television show Taxi, can remember. She has an amazing and highly superior autobiographical memory (Figure 8.7).

Very few people can recall events in this way right now, fewer than 20 have been identified as having this ability, and only a few have been studied (Parker, Cahill & McGaugh 2006). And although hyperthymesia normally appears in adolescence, two children in the United States appear to have memories from well before their tenth birthdays.

So you have worked hard to encode (via effortful processing) and store some important information for your upcoming final exam. How do you get that information back out of storage when you need it? The act of getting information out of memory storage and back into conscious awareness is known as retrieval . This would be similar to finding and opening a paper you had previously saved on your computer’s hard drive. Now it’s back on your desktop, and you can work with it again. Our ability to retrieve information from long-term memory is vital to our everyday functioning. You must be able to retrieve information from memory in order to do everything from knowing how to brush your hair and teeth, to driving to work, to knowing how to perform your job once you get there.

There are three ways you can retrieve information out of your long-term memory storage system: recall, recognition, and relearning. Recall is what we most often think about when we talk about memory retrieval: it means you can access information without cues. For example, you would use recall for an essay test. Recognition happens when you identify information that you have previously learned after encountering it again. It involves a process of comparison. When you take a multiple-choice test, you are relying on recognition to help you choose the correct answer. Here is another example. Let’s say you graduated from high school 10 years ago, and you have returned to your hometown for your 10-year reunion. You may not be able to recall all of your classmates, but you recognize many of them based on their yearbook photos.

The third form of retrieval is relearning , and it’s just what it sounds like. It involves learning information that you previously learned. Whitney took Spanish in high school, but after high school she did not have the opportunity to speak Spanish. Whitney is now 31, and her company has offered her an opportunity to work in their Mexico City office. In order to prepare herself, she enrolls in a Spanish course at the local community center. She’s surprised at how quickly she’s able to pick up the language after not speaking it for 13 years this is an example of relearning.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the brain functions involved in memory
  • Recognize the roles of the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebellum

Are memories stored in just one part of the brain, or are they stored in many different parts of the brain? Karl Lashley began exploring this problem, about 100 years ago, by making lesions in the brains of animals such as rats and monkeys. He was searching for evidence of the engram : the group of neurons that serve as the “physical representation of memory” (Josselyn, 2010). First, Lashley (1950) trained rats to find their way through a maze. Then, he used the tools available at the time—in this case a soldering iron—to create lesions in the rats’ brains, specifically in the cerebral cortex. He did this because he was trying to erase the engram, or the original memory trace that the rats had of the maze.

Lashley did not find evidence of the engram, and the rats were still able to find their way through the maze, regardless of the size or location of the lesion. Based on his creation of lesions and the animals’ reaction, he formulated the equipotentiality hypothesis : if part of one area of the brain involved in memory is damaged, another part of the same area can take over that memory function (Lashley, 1950). Although Lashley’s early work did not confirm the existence of the engram, modern psychologists are making progress locating it. For example, Eric Kandel has spent decades studying the synapse and its role in controlling the flow of information through neural circuits needed to store memories (Mayford, Siegelbaum, & Kandel, 2012).

Many scientists believe that the entire brain is involved with memory. However, since Lashley’s research, other scientists have been able to look more closely at the brain and memory. They have argued that memory is located in specific parts of the brain, and specific neurons can be recognized for their involvement in forming memories. The main parts of the brain involved with memory are the amygdala, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the prefrontal cortex (Figure 8.8).

The Amygdala

First, let’s look at the role of the amygdala in memory formation. The main job of the amygdala is to regulate emotions, such as fear and aggression (Figure 8.8). The amygdala plays a part in how memories are stored because storage is influenced by stress hormones. For example, one researcher experimented with rats and the fear response (Josselyn, 2010). Using Pavlovian conditioning, a neutral tone was paired with a foot shock to the rats. This produced a fear memory in the rats. After being conditioned, each time they heard the tone, they would freeze (a defense response in rats), indicating a memory for the impending shock. Then the researchers induced cell death in neurons in the lateral amygdala, which is the specific area of the brain responsible for fear memories. They found the fear memory faded (became extinct). Because of its role in processing emotional information, the amygdala is also involved in memory consolidation: the process of transferring new learning into long-term memory. The amygdala seems to facilitate encoding memories at a deeper level when the event is emotionally arousing.

Another group of researchers also experimented with rats to learn how the hippocampus functions in memory processing (Figure 8.8). They created lesions in the hippocampi of the rats, and found that the rats demonstrated memory impairment on various tasks, such as object recognition and maze running. They concluded that the hippocampus is involved in memory, specifically normal recognition memory as well as spatial memory (when the memory tasks are like recall tests) (Clark, Zola, & Squire, 2000). Another job of the hippocampus is to project information to cortical regions that give memories meaning and connect them with other memories. It also plays a part in memory consolidation: the process of transferring new learning into long-term memory.

Injury to this area leaves us unable to process new declarative memories. One famous patient, known for years only as H. M., had both his left and right temporal lobes (hippocampi) removed in an attempt to help control the seizures he had been suffering from for years (Corkin, Amaral, González, Johnson, & Hyman, 1997). As a result, his declarative memory was significantly affected, and he could not form new semantic knowledge. He lost the ability to form new memories, yet he could still remember information and events that had occurred prior to the surgery.

The Cerebellum and Prefrontal Cortex

Although the hippocampus seems to be more of a processing area for explicit memories, you could still lose it and be able to create implicit memories (procedural memory, motor learning, and classical conditioning), thanks to your cerebellum (Figure 8.8). For example, one classical conditioning experiment is to accustom subjects to blink when they are given a puff of air to the eyes. When researchers damaged the cerebellums of rabbits, they discovered that the rabbits were not able to learn the conditioned eye-blink response (Steinmetz, 1999 Green & Woodruff-Pak, 2000).

Other researchers have used brain scans, including positron emission tomography (PET) scans, to learn how people process and retain information. From these studies, it seems the prefrontal cortex is involved. In one study, participants had to complete two different tasks: either looking for the letter a in words (considered a perceptual task) or categorizing a noun as either living or non-living (considered a semantic task) (Kapur et al., 1994). Participants were then asked which words they had previously seen. Recall was much better for the semantic task than for the perceptual task. According to PET scans, there was much more activation in the left inferior prefrontal cortex in the semantic task. In another study, encoding was associated with left frontal activity, while retrieval of information was associated with the right frontal region (Craik et al., 1999).

Neurotransmitters

There also appear to be specific neurotransmitters involved with the process of memory, such as epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine (Myhrer, 2003). There continues to be discussion and debate among researchers as to which neurotransmitter plays which specific role (Blockland, 1996). Although we don’t yet know which role each neurotransmitter plays in memory, we do know that communication among neurons via neurotransmitters is critical for developing new memories. Repeated activity by neurons leads to increased neurotransmitters in the synapses and more efficient and more synaptic connections. This is how memory consolidation occurs.

It is also believed that strong emotions trigger the formation of strong memories, and weaker emotional experiences form weaker memories this is called arousal theory (Christianson, 1992). For example, strong emotional experiences can trigger the release of neurotransmitters, as well as hormones, which strengthen memory therefore, our memory for an emotional event is usually better than our memory for a non-emotional event. When humans and animals are stressed, the brain secretes more of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which helps them remember the stressful event (McGaugh, 2003). This is clearly evidenced by what is known as the flashbulb memory phenomenon.

A flashbulb memory is an exceptionally clear recollection of an important event (Figure 8.9). Where were you when you first heard about the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Most likely you can remember where you were and what you were doing. In fact, a Pew Research Center (2011) survey found that for those Americans who were age 8 or older at the time of the event, 97% can recall the moment they learned of this event, even a decade after it happened.


Can information be lost while traveling through neurotransmitters? - Psychology

We point out that neuronal excitability is due exclusively to cation influx.

We argue that excitability is a brief disturbance of the normally alkaline cytoplasm.

The transient loss of cellular homeostasis underlies the ‘sentience’ of neurons.

All of metazoan psychology is a direct consequence of excitable cell activity.

The field of ‘consciousness studies’ should be built upon modern neurophysiology.

Unlike the nonexcitable cell membranes that are ubiquitous in all domains of life, excitable membranes are found almost exclusively in animal organisms (Protozoa and Metazoa). Their transient permeability to ion flow makes possible the rapid detection of, and response to, external stimuli, and results in the phenomena that most clearly distinguish fauna from flora: perception, cognition, and motor activity. Interestingly, all known forms of membrane excitability are a consequence of one unique mechanism: the influx of positively charged ions into the normally alkaline cytoplasm. Here, we suggest that the sudden reversal of the membrane potential during the sensory potential and the action potential is an electrostatic disturbance of homeostasis that is the necessary first step in the processes of ‘sentience’ and ‘irritability’.


The Spinal Cord

It can be said that the spinal cord is what connects the brain to the outside world. Because of it, the brain can act. The spinal cord is like a relay station, but a very smart one. It not only routes messages to and from the brain, but it also has its own system of automatic processes, called reflexes.

The top of the spinal cord merges with the brain stem, where the basic processes of life are controlled, such as breathing and digestion. In the opposite direction, the spinal cord ends just below the ribs—contrary to what we might expect, it does not extend all the way to the base of the spine.

The spinal cord is functionally organized in 30 segments, corresponding with the vertebrae. Each segment is connected to a specific part of the body through the peripheral nervous system. Nerves branch out from the spine at each vertebra. Sensory nerves bring messages in motor nerves send messages out to the muscles and organs. Messages travel to and from the brain through every segment.

Some sensory messages are immediately acted on by the spinal cord, without any input from the brain. Withdrawal from heat and knee jerk are two examples. When a sensory message meets certain parameters, the spinal cord initiates an automatic reflex. The signal passes from the sensory nerve to a simple processing center, which initiates a motor command. Seconds are saved, because messages don’t have to go the brain, be processed, and get sent back. In matters of survival, the spinal reflexes allow the body to react extraordinarily fast.

The spinal cord is protected by bony vertebrae and cushioned in cerebrospinal fluid, but injuries still occur. When the spinal cord is damaged in a particular segment, all lower segments are cut off from the brain, causing paralysis. Therefore, the lower on the spine damage is, the fewer functions an injured individual loses.


Many Systems in One

The nervous system is a network of fibers that starts in the brain and spinal cord and branches out to the rest of the body, with each branch getting progressively smaller. The nervous system can be thought of as a pine tree, with the brain and spinal cord forming the trunk and the nerve fibers forming the branches. In the human body, the trunk is called the central nervous system, or CNS, and the branches are known as the peripheral nervous system.

Central nervous system

The CNS includes the brain, which is encased in the skull, and the spinal cord, which is a long tube that extends


8 Memory

We may be top-notch learners, but if we don’t have a way to store what we’ve learned, what good is the knowledge we’ve gained?

Take a few minutes to imagine what your day might be like if you could not remember anything you had learned. You would have to figure out how to get dressed. What clothing should you wear, and how do buttons and zippers work? You would need someone to teach you how to brush your teeth and tie your shoes. Who would you ask for help with these tasks, since you wouldn’t recognize the faces of these people in your house? Wait . . . is this even your house? Uh oh, your stomach begins to rumble and you feel hungry. You’d like something to eat, but you don’t know where the food is kept or even how to prepare it. Oh dear, this is getting confusing. Maybe it would be best just go back to bed. A bed . . . what is a bed?

We have an amazing capacity for memory, but how, exactly, do we process and store information? Are there different kinds of memory, and if so, what characterizes the different types? How, exactly, do we retrieve our memories? And why do we forget? This chapter will explore these questions as we learn about memory.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the three basic functions of memory
  • Describe the three stages of memory storage
  • Describe and distinguish between procedural and declarative memory and semantic and episodic memory

Memory is an information processing system therefore, we often compare it to a computer. Memory is the set of processes used to encode, store, and retrieve information over different periods of time (Figure 8.2).

We get information into our brains through a process called encoding , which is the input of information into the memory system. Once we receive sensory information from the environment, our brains label or code it. We organize the information with other similar information and connect new concepts to existing concepts. Encoding information occurs through automatic processing and effortful processing.

If someone asks you what you ate for lunch today, more than likely you could recall this information quite easily. This is known as automatic processing , or the encoding of details like time, space, frequency, and the meaning of words. Automatic processing is usually done without any conscious awareness. Recalling the last time you studied for a test is another example of automatic processing. But what about the actual test material you studied? It probably required a lot of work and attention on your part in order to encode that information. This is known as effortful processing (Figure 8.3).

What are the most effective ways to ensure that important memories are well encoded? Even a simple sentence is easier to recall when it is meaningful (Anderson, 1984). Read the following sentences (Bransford & McCarrell, 1974), then look away and count backwards from 30 by threes to zero, and then try to write down the sentences (no peeking back at this page!).

  1. The notes were sour because the seams split.
  2. The voyage wasn’t delayed because the bottle shattered.
  3. The haystack was important because the cloth ripped.

How well did you do? By themselves, the statements that you wrote down were most likely confusing and difficult for you to recall. Now, try writing them again, using the following prompts: bagpipe, ship christening, and parachutist. Next count backwards from 40 by fours, then check yourself to see how well you recalled the sentences this time. You can see that the sentences are now much more memorable because each of the sentences was placed in context. Material is far better encoded when you make it meaningful.

There are three types of encoding. The encoding of words and their meaning is known as semantic encoding . It was first demonstrated by William Bousfield (1935) in an experiment in which he asked people to memorize words. The 60 words were actually divided into 4 categories of meaning, although the participants did not know this because the words were randomly presented. When they were asked to remember the words, they tended to recall them in categories, showing that they paid attention to the meanings of the words as they learned them.

Visual encoding is the encoding of images, and acoustic encoding is the encoding of sounds, words in particular. To see how visual encoding works, read over this list of words: car, level, dog, truth, book, value. If you were asked later to recall the words from this list, which ones do you think you’d most likely remember? You would probably have an easier time recalling the words car, dog, and book, and a more difficult time recalling the words level, truth, and value. Why is this? Because you can recall images (mental pictures) more easily than words alone. When you read the words car, dog, and book you created images of these things in your mind. These are concrete, high-imagery words. On the other hand, abstract words like level, truth, and value are low-imagery words. High-imagery words are encoded both visually and semantically (Paivio, 1986), thus building a stronger memory.

Now let’s turn our attention to acoustic encoding. You are driving in your car and a song comes on the radio that you haven’t heard in at least 10 years, but you sing along, recalling every word. In the United States, children often learn the alphabet through song, and they learn the number of days in each month through rhyme: Thirty days hath September, / April, June, and November / All the rest have thirty-one, / Save February, with twenty-eight days clear, / And twenty-nine each leap year.” These lessons are easy to remember because of acoustic encoding. We encode the sounds the words make. This is one of the reasons why much of what we teach young children is done through song, rhyme, and rhythm.

Which of the three types of encoding do you think would give you the best memory of verbal information? Some years ago, psychologists Fergus Craik and Endel Tulving (1975) conducted a series of experiments to find out. Participants were given words along with questions about them. The questions required the participants to process the words at one of the three levels. The visual processing questions included such things as asking the participants about the font of the letters. The acoustic processing questions asked the participants about the sound or rhyming of the words, and the semantic processing questions asked the participants about the meaning of the words. After participants were presented with the words and questions, they were given an unexpected recall or recognition task.

Words that had been encoded semantically were better remembered than those encoded visually or acoustically. Semantic encoding involves a deeper level of processing than the shallower visual or acoustic encoding. Craik and Tulving concluded that we process verbal information best through semantic encoding, especially if we apply what is called the self-reference effect. The self-reference effect is the tendency for an individual to have better memory for information that relates to oneself in comparison to material that has less personal relevance (Rogers, Kuiper, & Kirker, 1977). Could semantic encoding be beneficial to you as you attempt to memorize the concepts in this chapter?

Storage

Once the information has been encoded, we have to somehow retain it. Our brains take the encoded information and place it in storage. Storage is the creation of a permanent record of information.

In order for a memory to go into storage (i.e., long-term memory), it has to pass through three distinct stages: Sensory Memory , Short-Term Memory , and finally Long-Term Memory . These stages were first proposed by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin (1968). Their model of human memory (Figure 8.4), called Atkinson and Shiffrin’s model, is based on the belief that we process memories in the same way that a computer processes information.

Atkinson and Shiffrin’s model is not the only model of memory. Baddeley and Hitch (1974) proposed a working memory model in which short-term memory has different forms. In their model, storing memories in short-term memory is like opening different files on a computer and adding information. The working memory files hold a limited amount of information. The type of short-term memory (or computer file) depends on the type of information received. There are memories in visual-spatial form, as well as memories of spoken or written material, and they are stored in three short-term systems: a visuospatial sketchpad, an episodic buffer (Baddeley, 2000), and a phonological loop. According to Baddeley and Hitch, a central executive part of memory supervises or controls the flow of information to and from the three short-term systems, and the central executive is responsible for moving information into long-term memory.

Sensory Memory

In the Atkinson-Shiffrin model, stimuli from the environment are processed first in sensory memory : storage of brief sensory events, such as sights, sounds, and tastes. It is very brief storage—up to a couple of seconds. We are constantly bombarded with sensory information. We cannot absorb all of it, or even most of it. And most of it has no impact on our lives. For example, what was your professor wearing the last class period? As long as the professor was dressed appropriately, it does not really matter what she was wearing. Sensory information about sights, sounds, smells, and even textures, which we do not view as valuable information, we discard. If we view something as valuable, the information will move into our short-term memory system.

Short-Term Memory

Short-term memory (STM) is a temporary storage system that processes incoming sensory memory. The terms short-term and working memory are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same. Short-term memory is more accurately described as a component of working memory. Short-term memory takes information from sensory memory and sometimes connects that memory to something already in long-term memory. Short-term memory storage lasts 15 to 30 seconds. Think of it as the information you have displayed on your computer screen, such as a document, spreadsheet, or website. Then, information in STM goes to long-term memory (you save it to your hard drive), or it is discarded (you delete a document or close a web browser).

Rehearsal moves information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Active rehearsal is a way of attending to information to move it from short-term to long-term memory. During active rehearsal, you repeat (practice) the information to be remembered. If you repeat it enough, it may be moved into long-term memory. For example, this type of active rehearsal is the way many children learn their ABCs by singing the alphabet song. Alternatively, elaborative rehearsal is the act of linking new information you are trying to learn to existing information that you already know. For example, if you meet someone at a party and your phone is dead but you want to remember his phone number, which starts with area code 203, you might remember that your uncle Abdul lives in Connecticut and has a 203 area code. This way, when you try to remember the phone number of your new prospective friend, you will easily remember the area code. Craik and Lockhart (1972) proposed the levels of processing hypothesis that states the deeper you think about something, the better you remember it.

You may find yourself asking, “How much information can our memory handle at once?” To explore the capacity and duration of your short-term memory, have a partner read the strings of random numbers (Figure 8.5) out loud to you, beginning each string by saying, “Ready?” and ending each by saying, “Recall,” at which point you should try to write down the string of numbers from memory.

Note the longest string at which you got the series correct. For most people, the capacity will probably be close to 7 plus or minus 2. In 1956, George Miller reviewed most of the research on the capacity of short-term memory and found that people can retain between 5 and 9 items, so he reported the capacity of short-term memory was the “magic number” 7 plus or minus 2. However, more contemporary research has found working memory capacity is 4 plus or minus 1 (Cowan, 2010). Generally, recall is somewhat better for random numbers than for random letters (Jacobs, 1887) and also often slightly better for information we hear (acoustic encoding) rather than information we see (visual encoding) (Anderson, 1969).

Memory trace decay and interference are two factors that affect short-term memory retention. Peterson and Peterson (1959) investigated short-term memory using the three-letter sequences called trigrams (e.g., CLS) that had to be recalled after various time intervals between 3 and 18 seconds. Participants remembered about 80% of the trigrams after a 3-second delay, but only 10% after a delay of 18 seconds, which caused them to conclude that short-term memory decayed in 18 seconds. During decay, the memory trace becomes less activated over time, and the information is forgotten. However, Keppel and Underwood (1962) examined only the first trials of the trigram task and found that proactive interference also affected short-term memory retention. During proactive interference, previously learned information interferes with the ability to learn new information. Both memory trace decay and proactive interference affect short-term memory. Once the information reaches long-term memory, it has to be consolidated at both the synaptic level, which takes a few hours, and into the memory system, which can take weeks or longer.

Long-term Memory

Long-term memory (LTM) is the continuous storage of information. Unlike short-term memory, long-term memory storage capacity is believed to be unlimited. It encompasses all the things you can remember that happened more than just a few minutes ago. One cannot really consider long-term memory without thinking about the way it is organized. Really quickly, what is the first word that comes to mind when you hear “peanut butter”? Did you think of jelly? If you did, you probably have associated peanut butter and jelly in your mind. It is generally accepted that memories are organized in semantic (or associative) networks (Collins & Loftus, 1975). A semantic network consists of concepts, and as you may recall from what you’ve learned about memory, concepts are categories or groupings of linguistic information, images, ideas, or memories, such as life experiences. Although individual experiences and expertise can affect concept arrangement, concepts are believed to be arranged hierarchically in the mind (Anderson & Reder, 1999 Johnson & Mervis, 1997, 1998 Palmer, Jones, Hennessy, Unze, & Pick, 1989 Rosch, Mervis, Gray, Johnson, & Boyes-Braem, 1976 Tanaka & Taylor, 1991). Related concepts are linked, and the strength of the link depends on how often two concepts have been associated.

Semantic networks differ depending on personal experiences. Importantly for memory, activating any part of a semantic network also activates the concepts linked to that part to a lesser degree. The process is known as spreading activation (Collins & Loftus, 1975). If one part of a network is activated, it is easier to access the associated concepts because they are already partially activated. When you remember or recall something, you activate a concept, and the related concepts are more easily remembered because they are partially activated. However, the activations do not spread in just one direction. When you remember something, you usually have several routes to get the information you are trying to access, and the more links you have to a concept, the better your chances of remembering.

There are two types of long-term memory: explicit and implicit (Figure 8.6). Understanding the difference between explicit memory and implicit memory is important because aging, particular types of brain trauma, and certain disorders can impact explicit and implicit memory in different ways. Explicit memories are those we consciously try to remember, recall, and report. For example, if you are studying for your chemistry exam, the material you are learning will be part of your explicit memory. In keeping with the computer analogy, some information in your long-term memory would be like the information you have saved on the hard drive. It is not there on your desktop (your short-term memory), but most of the time you can pull up this information when you want it. Not all long-term memories are strong memories, and some memories can only be recalled using prompts. For example, you might easily recall a fact, such as the capital of the United States, but you might struggle to recall the name of the restaurant at which you had dinner when you visited a nearby city last summer. A prompt, such as that the restaurant was named after its owner, might help you recall the name of the restaurant. Explicit memory is sometimes referred to as declarative memory, because it can be put into words. Explicit memory is divided into episodic memory and semantic memory.

Episodic memory is information about events we have personally experienced (i.e., an episode). For instance, the memory of your last birthday is an episodic memory. Usually, episodic memory is reported as a story. The concept of episodic memory was first proposed about in the 1970s (Tulving, 1972). Since then, Tulving and others have reformulated the theory, and currently scientists believe that episodic memory is memory about happenings in particular places at particular times—the what, where, and when of an event (Tulving, 2002). It involves recollection of visual imagery as well as the feeling of familiarity (Hassabis & Maguire, 2007). Semantic memory is knowledge about words, concepts, and language-based knowledge and facts. Semantic memory is typically reported as facts. Semantic means having to do with language and knowledge about language. For example, answers to the following questions like “what is the definition of psychology” and “who was the first African American president of the United States” are stored in your semantic memory.

Implicit memories are long-term memories that are not part of our consciousness. Although implicit memories are learned outside of our awareness and cannot be consciously recalled, implicit memory is demonstrated in the performance of some task (Roediger, 1990 Schacter, 1987). Implicit memory has been studied with cognitive demand tasks, such as performance on artificial grammars (Reber, 1976), word memory (Jacoby, 1983 Jacoby & Witherspoon, 1982), and learning unspoken and unwritten contingencies and rules (Greenspoon, 1955 Giddan & Eriksen, 1959 Krieckhaus & Eriksen, 1960). Returning to the computer metaphor, implicit memories are like a program running in the background, and you are not aware of their influence. Implicit memories can influence observable behaviors as well as cognitive tasks. In either case, you usually cannot put the memory into words that adequately describe the task. There are several types of implicit memories, including procedural, priming, and emotional conditioning.

Implicit procedural memory is often studied using observable behaviors (Adams, 1957 Lacey & Smith, 1954 Lazarus & McCleary, 1951). Implicit procedural memory stores information about the way to do something, and it is the memory for skilled actions, such as brushing your teeth, riding a bicycle, or driving a car. You were probably not that good at riding a bicycle or driving a car the first time you tried, but you were much better after doing those things for a year. Your improved bicycle riding was due to learning balancing abilities. You likely thought about staying upright in the beginning, but now you just do it. Moreover, you probably are good at staying balanced, but cannot tell someone the exact way you do it. Similarly, when you first learned to drive, you probably thought about a lot of things that you just do now without much thought. When you first learned to do these tasks, someone may have told you how to do them, but everything you learned since those instructions that you cannot readily explain to someone else as the way to do it is implicit memory.

Implicit priming is another type of implicit memory (Schacter, 1992). During priming exposure to a stimulus affects the response to a later stimulus. Stimuli can vary and may include words, pictures, and other stimuli to elicit a response or increase recognition. For instance, some people really enjoy picnics. They love going into nature, spreading a blanket on the ground, and eating a delicious meal. Now, unscramble the following letters to make a word.

What word did you come up with? Chances are good that it was “plate.”

Had you read, “Some people really enjoy growing flowers. They love going outside to their garden, fertilizing their plants, and watering their flowers,” you probably would have come up with the word “petal” instead of plate.

Do you recall the earlier discussion of semantic networks? The reason people are more likely to come up with “plate” after reading about a picnic is that plate is associated (linked) with picnic. Plate was primed by activating the semantic network. Similarly, “petal” is linked to flower and is primed by flower. Priming is also the reason you probably said jelly in response to peanut butter.

Implicit emotional conditioning is the type of memory involved in classically conditioned emotion responses (Olson & Fazio, 2001). These emotional relationships cannot be reported or recalled but can be associated with different stimuli. For example, specific smells can cause specific emotional responses for some people. If there is a smell that makes you feel positive and nostalgic, and you don’t know where that response comes from, it is an implicit emotional response. Similarly, most people have a song that causes a specific emotional response. That song’s effect could be an implicit emotional memory (Yang, Xu, Du, Shi, & Fang, 2011).

EVERYDAY CONNECTION: Can You Remember Everything You Ever Did or Said?

Episodic memories are also called autobiographical memories. Let’s quickly test your autobiographical memory. What were you wearing exactly five years ago today? What did you eat for lunch on April 10, 2009? You probably find it difficult, if not impossible, to answer these questions. Can you remember every event you have experienced over the course of your life—meals, conversations, clothing choices, weather conditions, and so on? Most likely none of us could even come close to answering these questions however, American actress Marilu Henner , best known for the television show Taxi, can remember. She has an amazing and highly superior autobiographical memory (Figure 8.7).

Very few people can recall events in this way right now, fewer than 20 have been identified as having this ability, and only a few have been studied (Parker, Cahill & McGaugh 2006). And although hyperthymesia normally appears in adolescence, two children in the United States appear to have memories from well before their tenth birthdays.

So you have worked hard to encode (via effortful processing) and store some important information for your upcoming final exam. How do you get that information back out of storage when you need it? The act of getting information out of memory storage and back into conscious awareness is known as retrieval . This would be similar to finding and opening a paper you had previously saved on your computer’s hard drive. Now it’s back on your desktop, and you can work with it again. Our ability to retrieve information from long-term memory is vital to our everyday functioning. You must be able to retrieve information from memory in order to do everything from knowing how to brush your hair and teeth, to driving to work, to knowing how to perform your job once you get there.

There are three ways you can retrieve information out of your long-term memory storage system: recall, recognition, and relearning. Recall is what we most often think about when we talk about memory retrieval: it means you can access information without cues. For example, you would use recall for an essay test. Recognition happens when you identify information that you have previously learned after encountering it again. It involves a process of comparison. When you take a multiple-choice test, you are relying on recognition to help you choose the correct answer. Here is another example. Let’s say you graduated from high school 10 years ago, and you have returned to your hometown for your 10-year reunion. You may not be able to recall all of your classmates, but you recognize many of them based on their yearbook photos.

The third form of retrieval is relearning , and it’s just what it sounds like. It involves learning information that you previously learned. Whitney took Spanish in high school, but after high school she did not have the opportunity to speak Spanish. Whitney is now 31, and her company has offered her an opportunity to work in their Mexico City office. In order to prepare herself, she enrolls in a Spanish course at the local community center. She’s surprised at how quickly she’s able to pick up the language after not speaking it for 13 years this is an example of relearning.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the brain functions involved in memory
  • Recognize the roles of the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebellum

Are memories stored in just one part of the brain, or are they stored in many different parts of the brain? Karl Lashley began exploring this problem, about 100 years ago, by making lesions in the brains of animals such as rats and monkeys. He was searching for evidence of the engram : the group of neurons that serve as the “physical representation of memory” (Josselyn, 2010). First, Lashley (1950) trained rats to find their way through a maze. Then, he used the tools available at the time—in this case a soldering iron—to create lesions in the rats’ brains, specifically in the cerebral cortex. He did this because he was trying to erase the engram, or the original memory trace that the rats had of the maze.

Lashley did not find evidence of the engram, and the rats were still able to find their way through the maze, regardless of the size or location of the lesion. Based on his creation of lesions and the animals’ reaction, he formulated the equipotentiality hypothesis : if part of one area of the brain involved in memory is damaged, another part of the same area can take over that memory function (Lashley, 1950). Although Lashley’s early work did not confirm the existence of the engram, modern psychologists are making progress locating it. For example, Eric Kandel has spent decades studying the synapse and its role in controlling the flow of information through neural circuits needed to store memories (Mayford, Siegelbaum, & Kandel, 2012).

Many scientists believe that the entire brain is involved with memory. However, since Lashley’s research, other scientists have been able to look more closely at the brain and memory. They have argued that memory is located in specific parts of the brain, and specific neurons can be recognized for their involvement in forming memories. The main parts of the brain involved with memory are the amygdala, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the prefrontal cortex (Figure 8.8).

The Amygdala

First, let’s look at the role of the amygdala in memory formation. The main job of the amygdala is to regulate emotions, such as fear and aggression (Figure 8.8). The amygdala plays a part in how memories are stored because storage is influenced by stress hormones. For example, one researcher experimented with rats and the fear response (Josselyn, 2010). Using Pavlovian conditioning, a neutral tone was paired with a foot shock to the rats. This produced a fear memory in the rats. After being conditioned, each time they heard the tone, they would freeze (a defense response in rats), indicating a memory for the impending shock. Then the researchers induced cell death in neurons in the lateral amygdala, which is the specific area of the brain responsible for fear memories. They found the fear memory faded (became extinct). Because of its role in processing emotional information, the amygdala is also involved in memory consolidation: the process of transferring new learning into long-term memory. The amygdala seems to facilitate encoding memories at a deeper level when the event is emotionally arousing.

Another group of researchers also experimented with rats to learn how the hippocampus functions in memory processing (Figure 8.8). They created lesions in the hippocampi of the rats, and found that the rats demonstrated memory impairment on various tasks, such as object recognition and maze running. They concluded that the hippocampus is involved in memory, specifically normal recognition memory as well as spatial memory (when the memory tasks are like recall tests) (Clark, Zola, & Squire, 2000). Another job of the hippocampus is to project information to cortical regions that give memories meaning and connect them with other memories. It also plays a part in memory consolidation: the process of transferring new learning into long-term memory.

Injury to this area leaves us unable to process new declarative memories. One famous patient, known for years only as H. M., had both his left and right temporal lobes (hippocampi) removed in an attempt to help control the seizures he had been suffering from for years (Corkin, Amaral, González, Johnson, & Hyman, 1997). As a result, his declarative memory was significantly affected, and he could not form new semantic knowledge. He lost the ability to form new memories, yet he could still remember information and events that had occurred prior to the surgery.

The Cerebellum and Prefrontal Cortex

Although the hippocampus seems to be more of a processing area for explicit memories, you could still lose it and be able to create implicit memories (procedural memory, motor learning, and classical conditioning), thanks to your cerebellum (Figure 8.8). For example, one classical conditioning experiment is to accustom subjects to blink when they are given a puff of air to the eyes. When researchers damaged the cerebellums of rabbits, they discovered that the rabbits were not able to learn the conditioned eye-blink response (Steinmetz, 1999 Green & Woodruff-Pak, 2000).

Other researchers have used brain scans, including positron emission tomography (PET) scans, to learn how people process and retain information. From these studies, it seems the prefrontal cortex is involved. In one study, participants had to complete two different tasks: either looking for the letter a in words (considered a perceptual task) or categorizing a noun as either living or non-living (considered a semantic task) (Kapur et al., 1994). Participants were then asked which words they had previously seen. Recall was much better for the semantic task than for the perceptual task. According to PET scans, there was much more activation in the left inferior prefrontal cortex in the semantic task. In another study, encoding was associated with left frontal activity, while retrieval of information was associated with the right frontal region (Craik et al., 1999).

Neurotransmitters

There also appear to be specific neurotransmitters involved with the process of memory, such as epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine (Myhrer, 2003). There continues to be discussion and debate among researchers as to which neurotransmitter plays which specific role (Blockland, 1996). Although we don’t yet know which role each neurotransmitter plays in memory, we do know that communication among neurons via neurotransmitters is critical for developing new memories. Repeated activity by neurons leads to increased neurotransmitters in the synapses and more efficient and more synaptic connections. This is how memory consolidation occurs.

It is also believed that strong emotions trigger the formation of strong memories, and weaker emotional experiences form weaker memories this is called arousal theory (Christianson, 1992). For example, strong emotional experiences can trigger the release of neurotransmitters, as well as hormones, which strengthen memory therefore, our memory for an emotional event is usually better than our memory for a non-emotional event. When humans and animals are stressed, the brain secretes more of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which helps them remember the stressful event (McGaugh, 2003). This is clearly evidenced by what is known as the flashbulb memory phenomenon.

A flashbulb memory is an exceptionally clear recollection of an important event (Figure 8.9). Where were you when you first heard about the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Most likely you can remember where you were and what you were doing. In fact, a Pew Research Center (2011) survey found that for those Americans who were age 8 or older at the time of the event, 97% can recall the moment they learned of this event, even a decade after it happened.


Energy Psychology and the Resolution of Trauma

I am excited to speak with you today at this 5th International Congress for System Constellations and I’m also most happy to meet Mr. Bert Hellinger here. Knowing that Mr. Hellinger will turn 80 on December 16th, I would like to wish him an early happy 80th birthday. Also I want to thank the chairman of the IAG, Mr. Heinrich Breuer, for inviting me to this wonderful event.

Although I shall discuss some history, theory and methods of energy psychology, first I want to talk about something of great importance to individuals, families and the whole world. Of course, I’m referring to traumatic events and trauma, which is far too prevalent on our planet.

While I usually begin talks with a joke or humorous metaphor, it is difficult to find anything hilarious or even slightly humorous about trauma. Trauma is the antithesis of humor and consists of distress and agony. However, I can say with authority that while they are related, the traumatic event, the memory and the trauma are distinct. After a trauma has been resolved, meaning the distress is removed, actually the trauma is gone and all that remains is a memory. While it would be surreal and demonic to look back on most traumatic events with a grin from ear-to-ear, to experience relief, serenity and a degree of interest about the event after the traumatic stress has been eliminated, is not uncommon. Also, for those of us who have gone through trauma, an experience like this can often lead to deeper understanding and positive transformation.

GRIEF TRAUMA

I am no stranger to trauma and I am sure that all of you are well acquainted with it. For me, trauma began at a young age. While I do not remember the proverbial birth trauma, I do recall many painful medical treatments and some well-deserved spankings. However, when I was eleven my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she died of lymphoma at forty-three I was twelve. The cancer spread throughout her body. I watched as the mother that I loved and knew to be passionate and vibrant, wither away. She suffered immensely and I suffered with her. You see, in those days, cancer patients mostly remained at home with insufficient pain medication to the end, which meant intense pain. I saw and heard her suffering. My father confided in me that she was going to die a year before she did and he told me to keep it a secret. I recall the strong electrical charge—the bolt of lightening—surge through my body when he told me she was going to die.

Although she wasn’t supposed to know, I’m sure that she did. But she kept the secret too we didn’t talk about it. As a child, I frequently cried myself to sleep and prayed that she would be cured or at least wouldn’t suffer so much. As a good Catholic boy, I even tried to relieve her pain by placing a holy scapular at various locations of her pain. She told me that it helped, but the pain traveled throughout her body. There was no keeping up with it. I felt dejected, helpless and hopeless, and I was convinced that my effort was not helping, even though in some ways it was. I believe that she found some solace in my attempts and even some pain relief. Of course, my three brothers and my sister were tormented by her death and dying also. Our father’s heartbreak was the greatest of all, although we couldn’t understand that at the time.

For me, my mother’s illness and death were both agonizing and numbing. And these traumas interfered with my relationships for some time. I had complex grief and I tried to cope by not thinking about it and sometimes by emotional reliving, but ultimately none of this helped. Really I don’t think it occurred to me that my grief could be eliminated by anything other than the passage of time. Yet time was not healing these wounds and I had to wait three decades for relief through other means. Amazingly, each resolution took only but a few minutes and in some ways it was instantaneous. During this talk, I intend to discuss how trauma sufferers can be helped quickly, and in the workshop that follows we shall go into greater detail about this approach that I call energy psychology.

PHYSICAL INJURY TRAUMA

Another significant trauma occurred when I was twenty-one. I just graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , where I majored in the three P’s: philosophy, psychology and parties. The day after graduation, I had an automobile accident that nearly claimed my life. It was early June 1968, and I was driving my red Volkswagen Bug to the university’s student union to meet friends when a car much larger than mine—I believe it was a Chevy—ripped off my driver’s door. It sent me flying through the air, in what seemed to be slow motion, into some wooden steps that my body broke, bounced over a banister, slid along a side walk and rolled over before I came to an abrupt stop. Immediately, I tried to get up, and at that moment I could feel that I was bleeding inside. I rolled over and looked up at the sky, terrified that I was going to die. I shouted, “No! I’m not going to die! I refuse! I’m not ready.” I believe that affirmation and determination was a key to my survival.

I had many injuries, including a ruptured spleen. I underwent surgery, received 6 pints of blood (that’s 2.84 liters), and my life hung in the balance for several days. I was in the Intensive Care Unit for the first four days and in the hospital for ten days altogether. Over the next two months, I recovered at home. During that time, I also had surgery for thyroid cancer. Even though my physical condition improved quickly after the surgeries, I continued to experience psychological trauma for many years: fear when I was driving, anxiety, flashbacks and frequent episodes of panic with the feeling that I was going to die. [Do you get a sense that family loyalty might have been involved?]

I resolved that trauma over a period of time by learning to relax my hold on the steering wheel while driving and by riding out a severe panic attack one evening about ten years after the accident. Back then, I had many panic attacks and I became especially disgusted with this one, since it continued for over two hours. For some highly rational and defiant reason, I tried to intensify it. I closed my eyes and tried to go into the panic—into the abyss so to speak. With defiance, I spoke to the panic, “Come on and get me!”

The curious result was the opposite the panic instantly vanished. I had come face-to-face with my fear, stared it straight in the eye, did not waver, and the panic fled. I think I might have scared it away. About a week later, another panic attack started and again I tried to go into it. And again, it disappeared. I searched for any inkling of it in my body, but it was gone. I’m pretty sure that I scared that one away too. The satisfaction I felt about this serendipitous discovery! From then on, I no longer lived in dread of panic. If a twinge of anxiety occurred, I faced it, observed it, and it would vanish. I also knew that I could not use this approach to outwit panic, since the panic would surely know. I had to truly want to immerse myself in it, no matter what. I had to be for real. With this, my confidence grew and I came to understand the sources of my panic. Partly it was about a blind spot in my consciousness—something that I concluded while I was flying out of my car in June 1968. I had forgotten this. As I hit the sidewalk, I had the rather detached thought, “Am I going to die now or after I stop sliding?” It was not a matter of IF I was going to die dying was assumed. It was just a matter of how soon. When I stopped sliding along the sidewalk, my demise was inevitable at any moment. The panic always carried with it the sense that I was going to die now and I had to fight to stay alive. While it was good to decide not to die at the time of the accident, somehow I took this out of context. In a sense the accident and dying were ever present, or nearly so. Traumatic stress is created the moment we say “no” to the present moment and the flow of life energy is blocked. The ancient Chinese called it stagnant chi. Eventually I understood that panic—that strong electrical charge—was also connected to my mother’s death and dying. [Again, do you get a sense that family loyalty might have been involved?] To some, resolution of a trauma can be a long drawn out process, but when an effective method is applied, very little time is needed. We shall discuss more about effective methods, but first some reflections on the phenomenon of trauma.

WHAT IS TRAUMA?

Trauma is so prevalent that we might revise Buddha’s dictum about life being suffering and say that life is suffering because of trauma. Trauma, however, is not only about awful events, but about the attachment in the aftermath of the events. It is attachment at many levels that accounts for trauma.

While there is a conscious attachment to the memory and its meaning, trauma is also an unconscious attachment so that what fuels trauma is not so much what we remember as what we have misplaced in consciousness. In this view, trauma is about being blind to information and not coming to terms with it. Another way of understanding “coming to terms with” is to thoroughly process the event—recover the lost information and understand it from a wider perspective, a higher level of consciousness about it. Given this understanding, one approach involves an archeological expedition to uncover the lost data so that the unfinished business can be finished. As powerful as such an approach may be, many become people traumatized during the attempt to uncover and review. So trauma can build on trauma. This emotional upset has been described as abreaction in some circles, which is distinct from the original term. However, I have come to learn that reprocessing is not always sufficient and not always necessary if we address the fundamental cause of trauma. While reprocessing can often lead us to the fundamental cause, going directly to the fundamental cause is frequently more efficient. Nonetheless, there is value in many methods and as a psychologist who also practices couples therapy I would recommend a wedding rather than a divorce.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TRAUMA

Surely, memory is involved with trauma, although it is implicate rather than explicate memory that matters most. There are many aspects to consider when we examine trauma. Let’s take a brief excursion.

Trauma has many highly visible features. We can paint its landscape with a fine brush or a broad one. With a fine brush, we can talk about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders and many other diagnoses described in ICD-10 and DSM IV. PTSD is trauma in its most obvious form. There’s the traumatic event, the fear, and the helplessness. The event, itself, is bad enough although the aftermath, what we rightly call traumatic stress, is what torments. That torment includes any number of symptoms such as intrusive recollections, distressing dreams, flashbacks, avoidance, emotional numbing, splitting, and much more.

These are the conditions and the symptoms of obvious trauma and it can be singular or complex. However, when we use a broad brush, there are less obvious traumas that can have a major impact. Most psychological, societal and even physical problems are rooted in trauma. Also, the individual’s resources and perception are essential to the impact of the event. Some obvious traumatic events are tolerated well by some people and other seemingly inconsequential events are highly damaging to others.

THEORIES AND TREATMENT OF TRAUMA

There are many theories about trauma, each looking at a different slice. To the cognitive therapist, trauma is attachment to distressing memories and thoughts. The goal is to reframe one’s thoughts in a more rational direction or at least to become aware of one’s ability to dismiss thought. Consistent with this is the knowledge that you are the thinker.

To the behaviorist, trauma is conditioning attachment and extinction is the goal. Treatments have involved exposure, either flooding or gradual exposure. Frequently, this process itself can be traumatizing if the therapist or client is uncomfortable with strong emotion.

This brings us to the systemic aspects of trauma and treatment. Trauma is often intertwined with relationships that cause, perpetuate or enable the person to remain a trauma victim. The solution becomes one of shifting the relationship in a healthy direction, away from an unhealthy attachment or entanglement. Of course, the therapist’s interaction with the client is imperative also.

The neuroscientist sees trauma as attachment involving sympathetic nervous system activation, including hypervigilance of the amygdala in the limbic system. And there is also the disabling of the hippocampus, the brain structure implicated in our knowing that an event is past. Thus, trauma becomes ever present, not completed in time. The goal is to calm the amygdala and allow the hippocampus to record the event as finished.

To the chemist, trauma is chemical attachment and traumatic stress correlates with elevated levels of cortisol, glutamate, adrenalin lower levels of GABA and serotonin. The goal is chemical balance, maybe via medication.

To the body worker, trauma may be attached to the muscles, and the goal becomes one of awareness and release through massage and movement.

Trauma is also an ego attachment that interferes with one’s spiritual connection and true Self.

The shaman says that the soul leaves the body during a traumatic event and soul retrieval is needed. The shaman reportedly travels to under or upper worlds to escort the soul back to the body.

ENERGY AND BIOENERGY

And consistent with all of this, trauma it is an energetic attachment—an energetic block or imbalance, a disturbed and perturbed vibration of energy, a resonating energy field that goes on and on within the traumatized person and resonated outward to others.

If we consider Albert Einstein’s formula E=mc², we find that matter and energy are interconvertible—that matter is fundamentally frozen energy. Quantum physics has suggested that energy and consciousness are interrelated and that energy behaves in ways that are consistent with choice. Also, taking measurements of subatomic particles—observing them that is—affects what we can measure, such that subject and object cease to be valid distinctions. Several experimental tests of Bell ’s Theorem have compellingly demonstrated that related photons traveling away from each other are able to communicate in an instant, regardless of distance. They remain non-locally connected. Since photons travel at great speed, this finding is astronomical. It has been estimated that two related photons could be separated by half the distance of the universe, and still communication would be instantaneous. Connection and communication exceed the limits imposed by speed, distance and time. While the cosmos is local, it is also imbued with a heavy dose of nonlocality. Since everything was compressed into the cosmic fireball big bang, everything remains connected.

Matter and energy are not so different they are only different forms of the same reality. Thus, the unconscious, conscious cognitions, chemistry, brain, muscles, etc. are energy in distinct forms. Superstring theory holds that even quarks, the fundamental particles that constitute electrons and protons, are really vibrating strings of energy. And I believe that consciousness and spirit are intimately involved with energy.

Of course, even our bodies are composed of vibrating little strings of energy. Fritz-Albert Popp found that cells emit photons and that there is a difference between the frequencies of healthy and unhealthy cells. Perhaps this is the biological equivalent of a fiber optic communication network carrying subtle energies and information throughout our cells and outward to others. Will humans eventually learn to communicate great distances without having to pay Internet servers and telephone companies? And what will be the economic implications?

Once an energetic configuration or field is established, it has a proclivity to replicate itself. This is essentially about memory and form. In this respect, Carl Jung discussed archetypes, which are informational and influential fields not limited by space and time. In similar and distinct ways, Rupert Sheldrake discusses formative causation, morphic resonance and morphogenetic fields, this accounting for the forms of the inanimate, animate and even behavior. In the 1970’s, Harold Saxon Burr discussed Life fields (L-Fields), which he detected around rocks, trees, salamanders and humans. Life fields account for form. And this is perhaps why our bodies maintain their forms even though all of the atoms are recycled every four to seven years. It is suggested here that what holds the material body together is an energy field. Of course, as the years go on gravity does take its toll.

These findings have a 7,000-year history that goes back to India, where it was believed or discovered that the body has a life force, prana, and this energy is evident in chakras and auras. Five thousand years ago in China , a meridians system of chi (equivalent to prana) was described and acupuncture was developed as a way of regulating chi and thus health. Incidentally, chi can be translated as energy, influence, power, mind and spirit. Also in the 1970’s, research by Robert O. Becker and Maria Reichmanis revealed a lower electrical resistance at many acupoints, suggesting that meridians and acupoints are electrical. And in the 1980’s, researchers Pierre de Vernejoul and Jacques Darras injected radioactive technetium in specific kidney meridian acupoints on 330 patients and observed how the isotopes traveled the meridian. This and other research offers support for a bodily energy system that has electromagnetic qualities, including light, sound and subtle electrical current. Concerning the value of such a finding, the world’s largest study on acupuncture (GerAc), which is being conducted here in Germany, found that acupuncture at acupoints and acupoint locations was superior to standard medical treatment for certain pain conditions.

ENERGY PSYCHOLOGY

Trauma involves traumatic events, perception, neurology, chemistry, information, energy, consciousness, and spirit. If the structure of the trauma energy field can be substantially altered or collapsed, the trauma can be eliminated. And this appears to be exactly what we do when applying energy psychology.

Energy psychology’s more recent history dates back to the early 1960s, when Dr. George Goodheart, a chiropractor from Detroit , Michigan founded applied kinesiology. This approach employs manual muscle testing and holistic concepts to address physical problems. Goodheart pioneered therapy loca liz ation, which involves touching specific bodily locations (reflexes and such) while applying manual muscle testing. To the satisfaction of him and his patients, this approach provides the needed information to correct some otherwise intractable problems. Goodheart has explored a variety of therapeutic options including spinal and cranial adjustments, encouraging lymphatic flow, nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, flower essences, stimulating acupoints, and more.

Following Goodheart, others explored applied kinesiology to treat psychological problems. Goodheart discovered a connection among specific muscles, reflexes, and meridians while, psychiatrist John Diamond and others found correlations with emotions. Along these lines psychologist Roger J. Callahan developed a treatment method, which involves attuning psychological problems such as phobias and traumas and then physically tapping on specific acupoints. Besides many psychotherapeutic approaches, I had the opportunity to study the work of Goodheart, John Thie (founder of Touch for Health), Callahan, Diamond, and others. Like many of you, I explored many approaches to find better ways to help myself and others. In time I developed an integrative energy psychology approach, which I call energy diagnostic and treatment methods (EDxTM).

When I first encountered energetic approaches, I was skeptical. The idea of treating a psychological problem by tapping on the body was foreign to me. Of course, I knew about Reichian therapy and Rolfing, since one of my graduate professors used to undergo Rolfing sessions regularly and return to class after the weekend black and blue, rather beaten up. At the time that seemed odd to me. Also, I heard about a group therapy approach in the early 1970’s, which involved tickling group members who were not being honest. That seemed hilariously odd to me too. Also I knew about acupuncture, but I thought that was only relevant to physical problems.

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try. I used to have fear of heights and I eliminated this problem within a few minutes. The same applied to trauma. All I had to do was physically tap on specific acupoints while recalling the memory or being in a situation that caused emotional distress. Of course, at first I thought this was simply distraction. However, when the fear of heights did not return and when the memories forever ceased to be distressing, the distraction theory was immediately disqualified. A better explanation was needed, and we’ve touched on that somewhat already.

The essential features involve attuning the problem—thinking about it—and then stimulating the body in specific ways, such as by tapping on acupoints. Although I overcame panic by staying present, observing the panic and trying to intensify it, for some odd reason most of my clients were unable or reluctant to do that. But tapping somehow makes it easier and clients usually report that they feel calm and relaxed. Yet the results are not limited to relaxation there is also a shift in understanding and consciousness. After treating trauma in this way, people often shift out of ego attachment and became more philosophical and spiritual about what happened to them. “It doesn’t bother me any more. Oh, it’s just something that happened. I don’t know why it bothered me for so long. I feel more relaxed now, more at peace. The anger and resentment are gone.” These are the comments we hear regularly from people who were previously tormented by trauma.
ENERGY PSYCHOLOGY TREATMENT FOR TRAUMA

We have treated thousands of trauma suffers successfully with energy psychology. Let me tell you briefly about one patient that I treated in this way. Amanda, a 19-year-old female university student, was referred to me because of PTSD after an automobile accident in 1999. The driver in the other car crossed over the medial strip and struck her vehicle head-on, killing both of his passengers and himself. Amanda was pinned under the dashboard for several hours while a rescue team struggled to cut her out of the crushed car. She had multiple injuries and was in the hospital and then a rehabilitation center for several months. I saw her a year after the accident. She was having frequent nightmares, flashbacks, panic, anxiety, guilt feelings and she was also abusing alcohol.

Initially, we focused on her memory of being pinned under the dashboard. After she thought about it and rated the distress as a 9 on a 0-10 scale, I asked her to dismiss the memory from mind while following the Negative Affect Erasing Method (NAEM), a technique I developed many years ago. NAEM involves physically tapping on four points on the head and chest (related to acupoints and chakras): third eye point, under nose, under bottom lip, and on the upper chest. After about five rounds of tapping, she was able to vividly recall the event without distress. Several times throughout the treatment she laughed and asked me, “How does that work?” Follow-up sessions at one week, two weeks and two months revealed that after the initial session, distress about the event, nightmares and flashbacks no longer occurred.

During the course of treatment, other aspects of the trauma were treated, including feelings of guilt about the people who died. That distress was also resolved in one session by using NAEM and a couple related treatments.

Later in therapy, she reported that a relative molested her from age five to twelve . Using a more specifically focused treatment that includes manual muscle testing, we were able to determine which meridians were involved in order to efficiently eliminate this abuse trauma. After we treated upset connected to various memories, she reported a lingering feeling of worthlessness, including a “dirty and disgusting” feeling in the lower abdomen. We were able to eliminate this sensation and her belief about not being worthwhile as well. A follow-up, several months’ later revealed ongoing relief on all aspects treated. A couple months ago, I contacted her in regards to this talk and she told me to tell you all ‘hello.’ I’m happy to report that she is doing quite well.

THEORETICAL MUSINGS

Extensive clinical experience and experimental studies have convinced me and others that energy psychology works. The current research is covered in my 2005 edition of Energy Psychology and at my home page www.energypsych.com.

A 5-year preliminary clinical trial in Uruguay , South America compared energy psychology and cognitive-behavioral therapy plus medication (standard care) with 5,000 patients having various clinical problems. With energy psychology there was a 90% positive clinical response and a 76% complete remission of symptoms. With standard care there was a 63% positive clinical response and a 51% complete remission of symptoms. Furthermore, the average number of sessions with energy psychology was 3 with standard care it was 15.

How can we account for the therapeutic results of stimulating acupoints while attuning a psychological problem, such as trauma? What does the tapping really do?

There are many possible explanations. Placebo effectis one suggested mechanism. However, since acupoint stimulation produces highly consistent results, it would seem that placebo has little to do with it. Around 30 percent of people show improvement after given placebos and the results with energy tapping are significantly higher than that.

Another explanation is that tapping simply distracts the patient. While it is difficult to maintain complete focus on the problem while tapping, this explanation is insufficient since relief continues after the treatment has been completed.

Cognitive restructuring is also an explanation, since changes in thought and perception regularly occur with these treatments. However, it seems that the cognitive shifts occur after the negative emotion has been relieved. While a positive shift in cognition can serve to support healthy psychological functioning, energetic treatments do not directly address cognition as the lever for change.

Since acupoints are used in energy psychology, possibly neurotransmittersand endorphins play a role in the treatment effects, similar to what has been proposed with acupuncture. While it is likely that acupoint stimulation activates the central nervous system to release neurotransmitters and endorphins, this does not preclude the involvement of energetic effects. There appears to be a signaling mechanism associated with the acupuncture meridians that figures into such action.

My preferred explanation is that many aspects are involved in this treatment. While the brain, neurochemistry, unconscious and cognition are implicated in trauma and other psychological problems, these conditions are also energetic. After all, everything in our physical reality is fundamentally energy.

Trauma is energetic information, similar to the electromagnetic information adhering to audiotapes and computer hard drives. I imagine a traumatic event is like throwing stones into a pond and a trauma being the resultant splashing and ripples. Of course ponds are highly proficient at getting over trauma quickly, while humans are proficient at capturing and maintaining trauma. It is as if we are ponds that freeze at the moment of impact and the informational ripples become frozen in time. Our nervous system, cells, and energy system capture and store the trauma information. Since nature constructs complex structures from simple fractals, at the most basic level trauma, like everything else, is a field. By disrupting the field, the system smoothes out and then leaps to a higher order.

This informational field is also called a thought field and it is a physical reality. It is composed of subtle energetic markers or perturbations that are the basic cause of negative emotions. Perturbations are similar to what theoretical physicist David Bohm called active information. When the trauma thought field is attuned, these perturbations are available for treatment. Simultaneously, all of the aspects involved in trauma are activated. This includes brain structures, neurochemistry, unconscious, cognition, behaviors, energy, etc. Through energy psychology it is possible to elicit the thought field, analyze its structure, and collapse the perturbations.

Thought fields, similar to other systems, are maintained within a range of energy balance—too much or too little energy causes a loss of order. A loss of order is a loss of information. Physically tapping on acupoints disrupts the system by overloading the adhesive energetic field. The system looses its order and collapses. The pond with its informational ripples begins to thaw. The traumatic event can now be viewed calmly and the calmness is incorporated into one’s life. The memory is the same the emotional experience and meaning has changed. You view the event from a higher perspective, with neutrality or deeper positive feelings. Mindfulness prevails. The shaman declares that the soul has returned home.

Thank you for the opportunity of speaking with you today, and especially for your listening. I hope that you will find energy psychology a welcomed addition to what you already know and do. And I look forward to offering many of you additional practical information in the 3-hour workshop that follows.


Neuroscience For Kids

Communication of information between neurons is accomplished by movement of chemicals across a small gap called the synapse. Chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are released from one neuron at the presynaptic nerve terminal. Neurotransmitters then cross the synapse where they may be accepted by the next neuron at a specialized site called a receptor. The action that follows activation of a receptor site may be either depolarization (an excitatory postsynaptic potential) or hyperpolarization (an inhibitory postsynaptic potential). A depolarization makes it MORE likely that an action potential will fire a hyperpolarization makes it LESS likely that an action potential will fire.

Discovery of Neurotransmitters

In 1921, an Austrian scientist named Otto Loewi discovered the first neurotransmitter. In his experiment (which came to him in a dream), he used two frog hearts. One heart (heart #1) was still connected to the vagus nerve. Heart #1 was placed in a chamber that was filled with saline. This chamber was connected to a second chamber that contained heart #2. So, fluid from chamber #1 was allowed to flow into chamber #2. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve (which was attached to heart #1) caused heart #1 to slow down. Loewi also observed that after a delay, heart #2 also slowed down. From this experiment, Loewi hypothesized that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve released a chemical into the fluid of chamber #1 that flowed into chamber #2. He called this chemical "Vagusstoff". We now know this chemical as the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

Otto Loewi's Experiment

Neurotransmitter Criteria

Neuroscientists have set up a few guidelines or criteria to prove that a chemical is really a neurotransmitter. Not all of the neurotransmitters that you have heard about may actually meet every one of these criteria.

The chemical must be produced within a neuron.
The chemical must be found within a neuron.
When a neuron is stimulated (depolarized), a neuron must release the chemical.
When a chemical is released, it must act on a post-synaptic receptor and cause a biological effect.
After a chemical is released, it must be inactivated. Inactivation can be through a reuptake mechanism or by an enzyme that stops the action of the chemical.
If the chemical is applied on the post-synaptic membrane, it should have the same effect as when it is released by a neuron.

Neurotransmitter Types

There are many types of chemicals that act as neurotransmitter substances. Below is a list of some of them.

Small Molecule Neurotransmitter Substances

Amino Acids

Neuroactive Peptides - partial list only!

bradykinin beta-endorphin bombesin calcitonin
cholecystokinin enkephalin dynorphin insulin
gastrin substance P neurotensin glucagon
secretin somatostatin motilin vasopressin
oxytocin prolactin thyrotropin angiotensin II
sleep peptides galanin neuropeptide Y thyrotropin-releasing hormone
gonadotropnin-releasing hormone growth hormone-releasing hormone luteinizing hormone vasoactive intestinal peptide

Soluble Gases

Synthesis of Neurotransmitters

Acetylcholine is found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Choline is taken up by the neuron. When the enzyme called choline acetyltransferase is present, choline combines with acetyl coenzyme A (CoA) to produce acetylcholine.

Dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine are a group of neurotransmitters called "catecholamines". Norepinephrine is also called "noradrenalin" and epinephrine is also called "adrenalin". Each of these neurotransmitters is produced in a step-by-step fashion by a different enzyme.

Transport and Release of Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are made in the cell body of the neuron and then transported down the axon to the axon terminal. Molecules of neurotransmitters are stored in small "packages" called vesicles (see the picture on the right). Neurotransmitters are released from the axon terminal when their vesicles "fuse" with the membrane of the axon terminal, spilling the neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft.

Unlike other neurotransmitters, nitric oxide (NO) is not stored in synaptic vesicles. Rather, NO is released soon after it is produced and diffuses out of the neuron. NO then enters another cell where it activates enzymes for the production of "second messengers."

Receptor Binding

Neurotransmitters will bind only to specific receptors on the postsynaptic membrane that recognize them.

Inactivation of Neurotransmitters

The action of neurotransmitters can be stopped by four different mechanisms:


The Psychology Of Resting Bitch Face Syndrome And What You Can Do About it

Resting Bitch Face, or RBF for short, is an increasingly rife cultural advent describing a facial expression, or lack thereof, conveying a particular mix of irritation, judgment, or boredom. One journalist wrote of her own face:

“Essentially, someone displaying RBF might not be the kind of person you’d be inclined to ask for directions.”

As a psychologist, I became interested in the phenomenon when several clients cited RBF as the cause of symptoms. For example, Paolo* a 20-something gay man who’d long suffered depression and low self-esteem, said:

“I’m told all the time something about my face looks unapproachable. People judge me off the bat, thinking I’m judging them.”

I liked Paolo, but he was convinced this aspect of him caused the friendship dramas he often encountered. Worse, he believed these judgments were insurmountable, saying, “I can’t very well get a face transplant,” contributing to his helplessness.

In 2016, researchers studied the phenomenon using software that detects micro-emotions and found neutral faces identified as having RBF showed four times more contempt than other, genuinely neutral, faces. This showed as a subtle raising of lip corners and tightening around the eyes, which researchers concluded must similarly be registered by the brain. They suggested future research should examine why some people have RBF, what it means in terms of a person’s psychology, and why people react so badly to it.

In particular, it’s unclear whether contemporary RBF reflects an accurate perception of undue passive aggression or simply unfair judgements of people whose face we take issue with.

Indeed, sufferers themselves don’t experience feeling contemptuous, and some quick Googling reveals most self-identified RBF-ers plead innocent, asking for a reprieve.

It can also be argued that increased rates of RBF among women indicate the phenomenon is more likely a learned artifact of social norms than anything depicting a true underlying emotional state.

Much evidence suggests there’s more expectation for women to get along with others, and as a woman I definitely notice the pressure to constantly smile. It makes others uncomfortable when you don’t. And I feel resentful toward this ― faking a smile takes effort and makes me feel disingenuous.

However, as tempting as a free pass from smile duty may sound, we shouldn’t petition to free the bitch-face-ees or mount a pro-poker-face movement just yet. While artificial smiling is a learned habit, spontaneous smiling is an essential biological reflex we share with babies and other primates that engages a different set of facial muscles to faking with an important psychological function.

A major discovery informing psychological practice in recent years is Porges’ Polyvagal Theory, which explains our nervous system has three hierarchical defensive systems. Down the phylogenetic tree, animals rely solely on “fight, flight, or freeze,” but during our evolution, the Social Engagement System (SES) took over as the most adaptive means for responding to threat.

The SES is regulated by the vagal brake, a nerve that runs from the brain and relays information throughout the body. It detects cues from others’ voice and expression to establish it’s okay to put the brakes on a fight-or-flight response to stress, because we have support, blocking cortisol and releasing hormones and neurotransmitters that put the body into a state of relaxation and restoration.

If you’ve ever had someone not smile back at you, you’ve experienced what it’s like when your vagal break goes offline and primitive stress reactions kick in. You either start wondering if you’ve done something wrong, marvel at their rudeness, or withdraw, deciding it’s all just a little too hard. This is why people have such beef with RBF.

I can hear bitch face enthusiasts rallying as I type. “Harden up,” they might say, “I’m no one’s walking-talking valium.”

I’m sympathetic to this time and opportunities are too often wasted for fear of offending. However, making pleasing facial expressions isn’t just about placating others’ tender egos. The vagus activates through feedback it receives from the muscles of the face, head, ear, and throat, meaning for our own vagal brake to function, our face needs to be moving.

During a healthy exchange, mirror neurons enable us to feel what another feels by simulating it in our own body. Cues like rhythmic voice and positive facial affect create a positive feedback loop, and through a process called neuroception, the body literally thinks, “I’m smiling, so I must be safe,” and the positive visceral response of the SES is activated.

If our face isn’t inclined toward putting the old gym gear on, we lose tone in muscles of the middle ear and throat (leading to poor voice intonation and recognition), and face (creating a flat, unresponsive, mean-looking appearance). This reduces our ability to connect with others and experience positive emotions.

Accordingly, micro-expressions of contempt likely arise from people in our face we just can’t read or enjoy. In line with this, many personal accounts of RBF describe it as a feature of social anxiety.

People suffering psychiatric disorders often have SES impairments, though facial muscles can be out of practice from varying degrees of trauma, neglect, or having a depressed or anxious parent. The internet culture of screen-to-screen interactions is also a likely culprit for the RBF epidemic. And don’t get me started on Botox.

But fear not: like any muscle, the SES can be toned. And unlike false promises of triceps or glutes, developing a hardworking face may actually elicit the positive emotions and favorable reaction from others you desire. In fact, renowned psychiatrist Bessel Van De Kolk suggested the best treatment for many depressed or anxious people would be acting classes, for this reason.

Anything that exercises the head, throat, or ears will increase vagal tone. Pranayama yoga, OM chanting, and playing wind or rhythmic instruments are great regular activities.

To target RBF, practice relaxing the eyes and mouth. Front and back jaw movements, not necessary for chewing, are specifically social. Practice gently gliding your jaw forwards and backward, slowly increasing speed and fluidity of the movement.

This helped Paolo better activate a neuroception of safety in interactions, which eliminated both concerns about RBF and the defensive cutting remarks he had a habit of making in the name of humor, of which he was previously not conscious, and were likely the primary cause of friendship dramas affecting his self-esteem.

If you’re wondering where you sit on the RBF scale, the company behind the FaceReader software have invited people to upload a photo and “Test If I Have Resting Bitch Face.”

* Names and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality.


How to Overcome Nervousness

Nervousness by itself is not considered a serious problem. Many people suffer from nervousness at some point or another - some even from irrational nervousness. Being nervous is a part of being human, and recognizing that the world does have its dangers.

But when that nervousness becomes overwhelming, never seems to go away, impacts your personal life, or is accompanied by severe physical symptoms, that's when you may need some type of treatment.


Chapter 1: Approaches to Understanding Behaviour

Why does psychology take different approaches to understand behaviour?

Studying psychology over the next two years you will help you realise that psychology is everywhere. The subject is diverse and helping people with mental disorders is only one aspect of this science. Other topics include developmental psychology, sports psychology, health psychology, the psychology of human relationships and organisational psychology. (See the American Psychological Association - http://www.apa.org/action/science/index.aspx for a description of the major branches of the subject.)

Modern research has debunked (debunked = shown to be false) this popular idea that we do not make full use of our brains. See this article from Medical News Today: How much of our brain do we actually use? Brain facts and myths .

We do not replay a recording of events when we wish to recall events or information. Research demonstrates that we reconstruct the past. Our memories are not fixed recordings of our lives.

In 2012, a young girl and her friends were travelling home from school on their school bus when there was a sudden bang and one of the girls fell to the ground. The other girls turned and saw a man with a mask.

What do you think happened to the girl? Why was she attacked?

As you read the story, what image did you have of the girl and the environment? Was it in your town or another town in your country? What conclusions did you arrive at? What other information would you have liked?

This story is actually one of Malala Yousafzai.

On 9 October 2012, Malala and her friends were travelling home from school when a masked gunman boarded their bus and fired a single bullet. It passed through Malala’s head, neck and shoulder. Malala survived this attack.

In 2012, Malala Yousafzai and her friends were travelling home from school when a masked gunman boarded their bus and fired a single bullet. It passed through Malala’s head, neck and shoulder. Malala survived this attack.

Why had terrorists tried to kill her? Did the gunman object to her belief girls had the right to an education? Was her death ordered because she wrote a blog about her life in Pakistan or because she received Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize?

Malala was not intimidated, and she set up the Malala Fund to support international efforts to educate girls.

In December 2014, Malala accepted the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize it’s youngest ever winner.

Malala’s experiences – her campaign to educate girls, her attempted killing, her recovery and her later fame – raise many questions.

Can psychologists explain why she challenged powerful people who opposed her beliefs on education? Are there psychological theories about the role of family and social and cultural environments to explain her actions? Can psychologists make sense of the violent behaviour of her attacker? Did your image and impression of the way you pictured the story change? All these questions are explored in Psychology and as you study psychology over the rest of the course think back on Malala’s inspiring story.

Psychology is the scientific study of mental processes and behaviour. Compared to philosophy and physics, psychology is a relatively new subject with William Wundt credited with opening the first laboratory in 1879.

Since then, psychologists have asked questions about why people behave the way they do. Does our brain control our behaviour? How similar are we to our parents? Are we social beings who need others to live?

Psychologists use scientific methods to answer these and hundreds of other questions. They investigate people’s biology, their thoughts and their social and cultural environments. To do this they use a variety of techniques from brain imaging technologies like MRI scans to conducting experiments in laboratories, field studies, interviews and observing people as they carry on in their daily activities. Psychologists are keen observers of behaviour and skilled at asking people about their thoughts and actions. The knowledge generated can bring positive changes to people’s lives.

Psychology has come a long way since the days of Wundt. We no longer believe personality is determined by the shape of the skulls or mental illnesses can be treated by removing parts of the brain.

Human behaviour is extraordinarily complex and no one approach can explain it all. Modern psychology, therefore, takes various approaches in researching behaviour and that is reflected in the syllabus of the IB Psychology Course.

Your first major topic in the course is Approaches to Research. Understanding how psychologists generate knowledge acts as a foundation for your study of the Core and the Options. The ethical treatment of animals and humans is an important consideration.

Syllabus components

Biological approach to understanding behaviour

the relationship between the brain and behaviour (SL and HL)

hormones and pheromones and their effects on behaviour (SL and HL)

the relationship between genetics and behaviour (SL and HL)

the role of animal research in understanding human behaviour (HL only)

Cognitive approach to understanding behaviour

cognitive processing (SL and HL)

reliability of cognitive processes (SL and HL)

emotion and cognition (SL and HL)

cognitive processing in a technological (digital/modern) world (HL only)

Sociocultural approach to understanding behaviour

the individual and the group (SL and HL)

cultural origins of behaviour and cognition (SL and HL)

cultural influences on individual behaviour (SL and HL)

the influence of globalization on individual behaviour (HL only)

Relevant to all the topics are:

the contribution of research methods to understanding human behaviour

ethical considerations in investigations of human behaviour

Approaches to researching behaviour

Elements of research behaviour

Abnormal psychology

factors influencing diagnosis

etiology of abnormal psychology

Psychology of human relationships

Applicable to all three topics within the options

The integration of biological, cognitive, and sociocultural approaches to understanding behaviour

Research methods used to understand behaviour

Internal assessment

Bringing positive changes to people’s lives is the focus of the Options . SL students study Abnormal Psychology. HL students study Abnormal Psychology and the Psychology of Human Relationships.

As you can see in Tables 1.1 and 1.2 below, the approaches are studied one after the other. However, all of these approaches contribute insights into understanding behaviour and you should take a holistic perspective (holistic = emphasising the importance of the whole).

Approaches to researching behaviour

Biological approach to understanding behaviour

Cognitive approach to understanding the behaviour

Sociocultural approach to understanding behaviour

Internal Assessment and Abnormal Psychology

Abnormal Psychology and the Trial Exam

Approaches to researching behaviour

Biological approach to understanding behaviour

Cognitive approach to understanding behaviour

Cognitive approach to understanding behaviour

Sociocultural approach to understanding behaviour

Internal Assessment and Abnormal Psychology

The Psychology of Human Relationships

Psychologists use both quantitative and qualitative approaches to researching behaviour. Each approach has its advantages and limitations which must be considered when evaluating how a research study contributes to the understanding of behaviour. Asking questions, challenging assumptions and critically assessing the methods used by researchers are important skills.

An understanding of approaches to research is also important for your internal assessment task as you will be required to design, conduct, analyse, draw conclusions and evaluate your own experiment.

Only HL students will be directly assessed on the understanding of approaches to research in paper 3.

Topics of Approaches to Research Behaviour

Elements of research behaviour

Psychologists taking the Biological Approach explain behaviour by examining physiological and evolutionary causes. They look for correlations between what is going on in our bodies with what we are doing. Using brain imaging technologies, these psychologists map the brain’s structure and investigate how the brain and its billions of neural networks can change through experience. How hormones and neurotransmitters influence behaviour is another avenue of research. Other topics within this approach include how genes shape our individual lives and how evolution provides the broad contours of our journey through life. Biological psychologists have added tremendously to our understanding of people’s thoughts and actions but they acknowledge biology cannot explain all of our behaviours.

Psychologists taking a biological approach adopt research methods linked to their assumptions about how biology shapes people. As you study this approach, you will read experimental reports and case studies that investigate the brain, neurotransmitters, hormones and genes. Brain imaging technology has helped psychologists make remarkable strides in mapping the individual organs of the brain and understanding how the brain works as an integrated whole to direct behaviour. New thinking about the plasticity of the brain has overturned earlier ideas the brain was a static organ that changed little over the lifespan. Surprising new insights are emerging about the staggeringly complex ways that genes and the environment interact. Evolutionary psychologists take a broader approach to understanding behaviour by claiming many human activities evolved because they helped our ancestors survive and reproduce. Animal experimentation is also undertaken by biological scientists.