Read or click the link below to see my first live video about Art Therapy in Ashen Art and FallRisk Art!Ash's Speech"For those of you who don't know me, I used to work in research in neuroscience, and in neuroscience, we like to research our external environment. Without further ado, raise your hand if you have sweaty armpits right now? I know I do standing on this stage. Can you tell it's my first time? Ok, who here has smelly feet at the end of the day? Good. Here's a tougher question, who here has suffered from anxiety or depression at some point in time?The main point I'm trying to make right now is not to depress you, but showing that mental disorders are as commonplace as sweaty armpits and smelly feet. Some individuals are more prone to sweaty armpits because of a hot environment, or genetically they're more likely to sweat. Similarly, individuals can be more inclined to anxiety because of their temperament, or they may live in a highly stressful environment. But there is always help and coping strategies. For instance, I suffer from seasonal depression and anxiety attacks; yet, I use art therapy as a way to alleviate my symptoms and as a conduit for an internal monologue. Art therapy allows for free expression through almost any media. Similar positive results from art therapy are seen in individuals diagnosed with cancer- alleviating stress and anxiety before and after chemotherapy. In individuals with severe anxiety, the physical process of painting grounds them and removes the mind from fixation. In individuals with schizophrenia, they rate their treatment as the same as before art therapy, but there is some debate as to whether they understood the poll. But what does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. Art therapy is just a doorway to finding something you're genuinely passionate about. Something that speaks to you and is with you even after everything is stripped away."
How do I forgive myself for what I fear most? I feel my brain roll, as if to the cooler side of the pillow, ejaculating darkness to the top of its world. Like an uprooted tree, the pitch uncoils it's furls from the sodium growths. It progresses to the deepest grottoes of my mind. The infection slicks by as circles dance at my feet. Each offense, each victim, each face, each breath, each abuser, to each member - I let them all in like a sapling reaching for the sun. Waiting for someone to lift me from the shadows and I expected a fair trade. But didn't I ask for each fleeting moment to feel what I could not for myself? Didn't I make the decisions, one after another, that placed me in this corner of the world? When do I stop hiding from myself? How do I begin to forgive myself? To forgive is the act of letting go of resentment, hostility or bitterness of someone who has offended another in some way. True forgiveness is understanding responsibility and releasing one's self from guilt and rebuttal. Forgiveness is a psychological defense allowing one to be criticized without significantly affecting one's self-regard, self-efficacy, and overall health. Additionally, it will enable individuals to act and react within society's boundaries. However, there are two other versions of forgiveness corresponding to two separate personality differences.
"a willingness to abandon self-resentment in the face of one's acknowledged objective wrong, while fostering compassion, generosity and love toward oneself"
Two other forms of forgiveness fall under the umbrella term pseudo forgiveness, in which the offender does not undergo the forgiveness process in a "healthy" way. These two types are self-condemning and self- exonerating. Self-condemning individuals experience low overall self-forgiveness, high self-condemnation, and high responsibility. In such a case, the individual will consistently blame him/herself for the offense; and, instead of learning and moving on, he/she will fixate on the issues - replaying it. In this way, the individual freezes future development. This type of personality tends to have vulnerable narcissism. Vulnerable narcissism is characterized by the person seeking approval from others to establish/boost his/her own low self-esteem. Although he/she strives for other's approval, he/she is extremely sensitive to criticism. Additionally, these individuals may show vindictive and domineering behaviors in contrast to his/her need for support.
the self-forgiving and self-exonerating states didn't differ on traits like self-compassion and neuroticism
In contrast, self-exonerating individuals do not give the victim the closure, nor the understanding he/she deserves. For instance, imagine someone hurting you, then when you confront them, he/she completely ignores what you say? It feels invalidating as if your opinions don't matter. Individuals who portray this kind of trait tend to rate higher in grandiose narcissism. Grandiose narcissism can be characterized by that guy who always had an excuse for his behavior. Basically, it's a 3-year-old's reasoning of, "Well, he made me mad and wouldn't stop talking so that's why I hit him." In forgiveness, this individual rates high in end-state forgiveness, low in responsibility, and low in self-condemnation. Additionally, these individuals feel a lack of empathy towards whomever they hurt, whether accidental or premeditated (in a sense), are hypersensitive to criticism and may portray him/herself as the victim, although he/she is the perpetrator.Although both of these personality types are considered unhealthy alternatives, self-exonerating personalities may be apart of a healthy range of functioning. Both self-exonerating and self-condemning could be two ranges in interpersonal defense.
What parts of the brain does forgiveness involve?
Forgiveness involves multiple facets of the brain including the inferior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate cortex, and the posterior cingulate cortex, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. In a study observing the role of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in forgiveness, theta-burst-stimulation was used in this area during a game in which the subject was to determine whether to forgive an unfair opponent or seek revenge. The study found subjects who were faced with high conflict situations, usually when the individual had to decide whether to overlook his/her unfair opponent, look longer to make a decision with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was inhibited. However, the response pattern towards fair opponents remained unchanged, suggesting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is only involved in high-conflict situations. In other words, it steps in when we have the urge to respond poorly to an offense in a sense - the sense of satisfaction you feel when you see someone who has wronged you get hurt is inhibited. So in this case, forgiveness is somewhat of a logical choice to maintain socially acceptable responses.But, in such a case in which you are the victim, judge and the society of which sees the offense yet are unwilling to forgive? Or better explained as unable to understand where to begin, what stage do you start? Which areas of your brain condemn you?
Here it is! The Brain Misconceptions, Part II. If you read my previous post, I have been entrenched with exams and work, and I haven’t had much time to write, much less do research for this blog post. But here it is - finally! The “Crimeful Men” section took the longest to write just based on research and attempting to sort through the points I wanted to make. I was honestly caught between explaining two different disorders and a subsection of a disorder before I could really understand what I wanted to say. Since Crimeful Men is also a section comparing genders, I felt it was my responsibility to look at underlying media themes in the portrayal of women in crime and scholarly articles ranging from the late 90’s to now to try to find the most precise analysis of the subject I chose.
6. Crimeful Men
On behalf of all the men in the world, antisocial personality disorder has a 3:1 ratio of men versus women affected. Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by, “aggression towards animals and people, destruction of property, deception or stealing, impulsiveness, hostility, engagement in dangerous acts, irresponsible behavior, and an absence of remorse,” by at least 18 years of age. In addition, the individual must fulfill at least 3 of the following characteristics,
- “A failure to observe social norms which can result in legal action
- A deceitfulness including lying to and using others
- Failure to plan ahead
- An irritability and aggressiveness that escalates to physical fights
- A reckless disregard for the safety of others
- An irresponsibility such as a failure to pay debts or perform duties at work
- A lack of remorse when another person is hurt.”
Let’s be honest, sometimes we all feel numbers 3 and 7, like I tend to laugh when a little kid falls down. Although antisocial personality disorder is not the only disorder which may lead to violence, it is one of the most commonly referred to in the media, usually by the term psychopathy. Despite the fact that psychopathy is a subsection of antisocial personality disorder, it, and sociopath have recently become interchangeable in society even though the terms defining very different behaviors. Additionally, the American Psychiatric Association does not recognize the terms sociopath, and other interchangeable descriptions, as an actual medical condition to fit within the umbrella antisocial personality disorder. Now, personality disorders, in general, have a higher prevalence in women than in men; however, as I stated above, antisocial personality disorder is seen thrice more in men than in women. In the cases in which women were diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, the symptoms and signs were less apparent than in men. Though men tended to use violence more often, have a history of arrests, starting fights, and cruelty to animals women showed an array of different behaviors. This could suggest antisocial personality disorder may be just as common in women as it is in men; however, either due to biological predispositions or social expectations on how women should act, women are less likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. To expand further, there may be a difference in the ways women react to a threat in comparison to men - the “Tend and Befriend” Theory. This theory states when a female is stressed by a threat or environmental circumstances, they tend to befriend others in the community and tend to any offspring. Although this is most likely not true when it is applied to individuals with personality disorders (and is a general theory, therefore shouldn’t be applied to individual cases), it portrays a difference in sex which may have been overlooked when creating diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder. In fact, women diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder were found to be more irritable, lack remorse, and have multiple sex partners, and higher incidences of childhood trauma and neglect. However, the data is limited to individuals who are either mandated therapy or seeking therapy for their problems (typically, antisocial personality disorder is comorbid with substance abuse disorders). This leaves a large portion of individuals who do not seek help or who are antisocial but do not see fault in their actions. An additional hindrance to data research is the lack of observation in support groups differences between men and women, for example, close friends. For instance, women may talk more often about issues they are facing with their close friends versus their male counterparts. The support group may be an integral part of why there is a diagnostic difference in sex. Further research showed women with antisocial personality disorder also had higher rates of adult adverse events than men. These adverse events may have preserved or increased the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. Also, it may be a woman’s physical strength which acts as a hindrance to both defending themselves from adult abuse and encountering physical fights.
Let’s redefine this movie- the character portrayed by James McAvoy suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder. This disorder has been portrayed (and dramatized) many times in Hollywood, firstly by Sally Field playing Sybil in 1976. Dissociative Identity Disorder is less multiple personalities or beings inhabiting one mind, and more like all the personalities, or faces, not meshing completely into one unified individual. For instance, the personality you use at work is different than the personality you use around your roommates which is also very different from the personality you use around your parents. Imagine all those different “faces” you wear not meshing correctly and, instead, projecting in multiple directions and developing separately on their own. In that sense, it is similar to having multiple personalities, but in reality, it’s one’s self not creating a unified whole. Dissociative personality disorder is typically 1-3% in a population with more diagnoses in men than women. During an “episode” the affected individual may shift between completely different personality sets. The personality - separate from the “host” personality - can have separate memories, behaviors, and traits. Additionally, the host can be completely unaware of the separate personality or occurrences during the personality’s control - giving the host a sense of amnesia and lost time. Sound familiar? These are some of the same symptoms Christianity defined to “diagnose” demonic possession. Regardless, 90% of individuals suffering from this personality disorder had severe childhood trauma and almost 100% of them suffered from amnesia during one event of their life - which may have played a key role in their personality incongruence.
8. Vaccines Cause Autism
Let me take a moment to break this argument down to its bare bones since there are multiple angles to misinterpret information. Firstly, mercury derived preservatives were removed from vaccinations in 1990. Secondly, and most importantly, Andrew Wakefield, the gastroenterologist who originally published false data stating that the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination caused autism was banned from the scientific community after his findings were proven false - mainly because he lacked a control group and his findings were not reproducible in any lab setting. Here’s a historical example in which a case was made: Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss who championed hand-washing during surgery. Dr. Semmelweiss worked at a maternity clinic, trying to determine why so many mothers were dying of puerperal fever. He compared two wards of the clinics, one with doctors and their medical students and the other with midwives. He found the mother in the doctor’s clinic were five times more likely to contract and die from puerperal fever than the mothers in the midwives’ ward. Dr. Semmelweiss needed to know what was different in either case so he varied each environment. Sometimes he would vary the way the woman was laying on the bed, etc. It wasn’t until a pathologist pricked his finger and died from puerperal fever did he realize that the fever was not restricted to just the mothers in bed, that it had been transmitted from patient to doctor. What was the difference between the doctors and the midwives though? The doctors and medical students were performing autopsies on individuals who had already died from puerperal fever then going to the maternity ward and transmitting the fever to the mothers. Once doctors and medical students began washing their hands between patients, deaths decreased significantly. How does this relate to the autism debate? Dr. Semmelweiss’s procedure, although incidental, is a perfect example of cause and effect and scientific study. In contrast, Dr. Wakefield’s study did not even have a significant correlation to the data. For instance, Wakefield’s main argument was based on autistic children’s gastrointestinal sensitivity. He theorized the vaccinations induced intestinal inflammation which released encephalopathic peptides resulting in autism spectrum disorders. If this was a key ingredient to developing autism, then all autistic children should have gastrointestinal sensitivity prior to developing autism but after having the vaccinations. Based on the children’s medical records this was not found. In fact, some autistic children did not have sensitive gastrointestinal tracts both before and after autism symptoms appeared. Additionally, the same time individuals develop autism is roughly the same time they receive the vaccination. To further diminish parents’ fears, a comparison study was made in countries which did not have the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccinations. In these countries, the incidence was the same as our developed countries, if not less. Thus, based on basic scientific theory, autism is not caused by vaccinations or the mercury-based preservatives in vaccinations. If this was the case, large populations of children would be suffering from autism spectrum disorders.
9. Old Dogs Can't Learn New Tricks
The aging process has two main aspects: an inability in reestablishing homeostasis and demyelination of neurons resulting in a slowed neuronal action potential. Despite these setbacks, older individuals are still able to learn new information and maintain their quality of comprehension. Mainly through maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This has a lot to do with having a healthy circle of friends - loneliness is a leading cause for the development of physical illnesses. Additionally getting enough sleep every night, eating healthy, and exercising plenty. Essentially, enjoying your life. Sleep, exercise and keeping positive energy help with maintaining your brain; however, there is little that can be done to prevent the reduction in homeostasis. But, on the upside, there are the Tarahumara people of Mexico who run 200-mile marathons, regardless of age.
10! My Brain Made Me Do It
You are your brain and body - they are not separate but work together in equally different ways. Which means you should take care of your brain the same way you would care for your body. For instance, you wouldn’t go to sleep without brushing your teeth, right? It’s the same concept applied to your brain. It’s constantly working and making sure every aspect of the body is in order whilst dealing with your consciousness. It needs a break - you need a break- from everyday life and a good tidying through self-reflection.
Now, when I mean you are your brain that is not to give an excuse to anyone for bad behavior - if at any point in time, you’re conscious of an action being wrong or hurtful then that should be a clear sign to you that it probably is. What I mean by this is that people have the ability to change. Information is so widespread and all people have to do is click - and the answers are all there - but I think we’re just so caught up in social media and opinions of other people, news, etc. that we’re missing all this knowledge we could be gaining. With knowledge comes power, and with power comes the responsibility to make the world change for the better. First, people, including myself, should reflect on themselves, and try to find the changes they want to see within them.
Hey, guys! I have sources! If you have any questions or concerns about the data presented in this blog please write or comment and I will post/send my resources!
Short blurb on Voyage Houston's article and upcoming eventsRead More
Apart from the acrylic childhood paintings in my Granny's kitchen, I never received training for any art - whether from sketches to oil paints. I only drew what I knew and practiced. It stopped around the time my family, and I moved to Florida, around the time I moved from my Granny, the best woman I have ever known. Any drawings or doodles I kept to myself. I was not very forthcoming, to begin with as a child, and even less so since no one asked. Being raised by a mentally ill mother and absent father did not encourage creativity, much less self-esteem, especially when I did everything "wrong." It did encourage a healthy sense of depression, self-mutilation, anxiety and tiptoeing around the latest debacle. When slamming of cabinet doors started, I wanted to become invisible. Adrenalin rushed, and I transformed into a silent, ghost-maid; cleaning the house quietly and playing the "good child." If my faults were pointed out, I would gather my belongings and lay them on her dresser as penance for my "misdeeds." I didn't realize how much I was damaged until I left for college which was shortly followed by my first relationship.By my first semester of college, I had full-blown seasonal depression- like a yearly allergy to the dark, cold streets of Brooklyn. Upon my second semester, I entered an abusive relationship - I didn't know it at the time, and I thought that because it was the same love I received at home, it was the same love I deserved in college. I dated "normal" guys but somehow felt nothing (if you read some of my previous research on dopamine's role in neonatal pups during traumatic experiences with a maternal presence it will explain why). I was permanently transferring codependence from my mother to a significant other - who happened to have the same controlling, jealous, angry aspects. By April 2015, the semester I was due to graduate, I was admitted to NYU Tisch Psychiatric Ward for a suicide attempt. That past year I drank heavily, missed the majority of my classes because I could not leave my apartment, was heavily medicated on Zoloft and Klonopin, and felt I was failing my life entirely.I needed someone to accept me wholly and show they cared; however, and as corny as it sounds, I needed to accept myself. This process took the better of two years and is still in progress. Learning to make my own mistakes and the good with the bad with most people was a large part of it. I received a lot of support from a close family (not mine, of course) I met that year. I also consistently worked on Dialectical Behavior Therapy and art therapy for the emotions I could not manage. Art enabled me to transport myself away from the labyrinth in my head. Most of my work circles around human anatomy, expressing depression, panic attacks, anger, and other emotions. The collection of these works developed into Fallrisk Art - named after the wristbands given to patients upon entering the hospital.Fallrisk is an interactive art show dedicated to increasing mental illness awareness, reducing the stigma attached to mental illness and increasing funding towards research. If all goes well, and I'm not too busy with work, school, and applying for my Master's, Fallrisk Art show should take place in August 2019 with funding on Indiegogo starting January 2019. Although Fallrisk Art show is a primary goal of mine, it is not the end goal. I plan to continue a Fallrisk Art exhibition every year to promote the three primary goals stated above. Additionally, I want to incorporate my extracurricular paintings into my graduate portfolio. Please feel free to contact me for further questions and comments!
My phone dings as I pipette another sample into an Eppendorf tube. I set down the pipette and, with gloved hands, pick up my phone resting in a biohazard bag. It is a photo from father - a person and my dog, Lucy, sleeping in my bed in England. From a glance, I quickly text back asking him why my younger brother, Richie, is sleeping in my room. The following messages consisted of my father insisting the individual in the bed was me, during my stay over Winter Break, and I vehemently denied. Upon closer inspection and another cup of coffee, I realized the Richie alighted on my phone screen, sleeping in my bed was me.My mistake made me curious. Although my brother and I had the same haircut those few months and looked like siblings, how did I misrecognize my self? We all have those moments when we scare ourselves in the mirror while it's dark and we're alone after a movie or those other times when someone photographs an angle of yourself which you've never seen before. As a neuroscientist, I am fascinated by anything in the brain. As an aspiring art therapist, I'm more intrigued by how the brain develops a glitch- whether acute or chronic. The following description, and for that matter, the following blogs, will consist of scientific hypotheses and data of which relate to a neuroscience subject.When understanding recognition, most research focuses on testing other species with the mark test. In a Mark Test, the subject is to be able to perceive a red mark on his/her face by seeing it in the mirror. To be self-aware one must understand the mirror is a reflection of him/herself, therefore, using it to remove the mark. When tested on babies between 18 to 24 months, they passed the Mark Test. However, children from less developed nations did not. This increased debate on whether the Mark Test is valid for testing self-awareness. Although the test has worked on elephants, chimpanzees, and dolphins, it has also worked with pigeons as well (as a New Yorker, I detest pigeons and think they're as self-aware as amoebas in a lake). With this information in mind, the Mark Test may not be as accurate at determining self-awareness as initially thought. Additionally, previous work by Chang et al., the mark test was shown to be a test of spatial reasoning of the individual to their reflection. Although the mirror can still show self-awareness, this answer does make it plausible for self-aware individuals to fail it.Although developmental and behavioral psychology studied the Mark Test based on exterior responses, I wanted to find the internal motivations. In other words, I wanted to know the circuitry which allowed me to misrecognize myself and my reflection. Unfortunately, this is an area with a lot of missing information. As far as I could find, it was the fusiform face area which is responsible for facial recognition - thus, it should play some role in recognition. However, the following studies I will relate are based on face recognition via images using fMRI and subdural ERP measures - not Mark Test. Though it explains facial recognition in humans and primates, it does not tell how I know the reflection in the mirror is me.Subdural ERP in macaques found that 'face cells,' face-specific cells in the fusiform face area, reacted at a much higher amplitude than when shown everyday objects, such as a banana. In fact, the face-cells' reaction when viewing an everyday object was one-fifth less than viewing a face. Similarly, human fMRIs show activation of the superior temporal sulcus, the occipital face area, and the fusiform face area. It was noted that these areas were not activated during the presentation of everyday objects or body parts. In fact, the fusiform body area was activated only for the presentation of body parts. Although the tests were performed using fMRI and images, it does not explain recognizing oneself in a mirror. A study on children showed it took them a longer amount of time to recognize themselves in other media, such as films and photographs, than in a mirror. This finding is similar to results observed in Alzheimer's patients, and the patient is unable to recognize him/herself in recent photographs but able to identify her/himself in a mirror. Similarly, schizophrenia patients fail at the Mark Test and misrecognize family/friends.Overall, recognizing oneself is not as straightforward as expected. Variations in types of stimulus result in more variation in processing.Although, there have been plenty of times where I don't recognize myself in the mirror or a photograph, and I'm sure there will be more to come, every day I feel as if the me reflected isn't there. As if who I'm seeing is not me. The real me looks different, maybe more naive? Or warped, like a photo cut from many angles, then pieced back together. I do not recognize myself as the days march along, and I avoid looking into it. Some days are so chaotic and beaten that I have to look at the consequences on my face - to see how the stress dragged my mouth into a frown and purpled my eyes. When I look into the reflective pool above my sink, I wonder who the hell am I? And...Does anyone know who is looking back at them?