Well, here I am.
Where, you ask?
Well, I’m not really sure, either. Existentially, I mean.
Geographically, I am on the move, too. The London chapter of my life is coming to a close. I got the keys to my new place last week, and spent the most part of a week sleeping alone on an inflatable mattress. It’s made it really sink in that everything is changing.
I have been finding this whole “finish full time education, move house, start work” thing more stressful and emotionally challenging than I ever could have predicted. Maybe it’s because it’s the unknown. Maybe because it’s all at once. Maybe because I’ve never been good at growth, or change, or being out of my comfort zone. Maybe because, whilst I’ve been offered bank/part time roles at four different organisations, not one of those have started formal training, or told me when I’ll start. But I know part of it is that I’ve never been out of full-time education for more than 6 months at a go, I’ve never lived alone (even if this is going to be for 2 months, at most), and I’ve never ever lived this far away from my whole family. Yes, Ben’s family live close, and they are great, and supportive, and better than being completely in the wilderness, but they are still that: potential in-laws. Not my parents, my brothers, my… you get the idea.
I relish the freedom of all this. But I’d relish it all the more if it was a bit more certain.
August 22, 2011 | Categories: Britain, car, debate, family, jobs, London, mental illness, philosophy, sociable, Suffolk, university | Tags: comfort zone, complaining, debate, dissatisfaction, dissertation, education, excitement, family, humans, inflatable mattress, London, me me me, mental illness, optimism, philosophy, rant, sociable, time, UEL, university | 2 Comments »
Dissertation hell. OK, I say hell – it’s not that terrible. I could probably have made it a bit easier on myself by starting work in earnest a bit earlier in the year, but what’s done is done and I might as well just have a long hard slog now.
If you’ve read previous blog posts, then you will be aware that I’m writing my dissertation about a rare brain disorder called prosopagnosia – prosopagnosia is an inability to recognise people’s faces. I’ve been designing a battery of tests to test the extent of my patient’s deficits, including some face recognition tests, but also some voice and semantics tests, to see if her recognition problems run further than faces.
Designing the famous faces tests were fairly straight forward – google image search is a wonderful thing, and I am a dab-hand with photoshop (for cutting out the oval of the face – not for warping anything!). The only thing I struggled with there was actually just thinking up the names of enough famous people. I am useless with names.
The semantics test was a little harder, although almost done – for that, the same problem applies, in that I’ve had to think up the names of 48 of each politicians, musicians, actors and sports personalities.
Finally, voice recognition. This is proving a real pain in the neck. Firstly, audio manipulation is not my “bag” – if anyone knows of a simple way to cut out a snippet of a sound clip, please let me know.
The second problem with finding suitable sound clips is the content of those clips – if I wanted the participant to identify a clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking, I would want them to identify him by his VOICE, not by what he’s saying – it might well be that they know his films well, and could recognise the quote “I’ll be back”, but not necessarily by his own unique voice. So I have to be careful of the content of the clip – if I have a clip of Gordon Brown talking about the financial crisis, the participant might deduce “politics – Scottish male speaker – must be Brown”. That’s not the skill I’m looking to identify.
But on the bright side, once my tests are designed, the fun begins (ha ha). I can start running tests – I have one case study to test, and then I need preferably 10 age-matched female controls. In case you’re keen to help me with my research, you need to be between 37-47, female, white British and able to meet me in London for testing some time over the next couple of weeks. No time wasters
Then the write-up begins, then I submit the draft for marking, then the re-write, then (hopefully!!) I graduate and then…? Then, ladies and gentleman, I likely have a nervous breakdown. Ha ha.
I’ll keep you posted.
June 6, 2011 | Categories: brain, debate, London, mental illness, music, neuroscience, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: debate, dissertation, excitement, humans, I love, London, me me me, mental illness, neuropsychology, neuroscience, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, sociable, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
I’m free! Had my last exam yesterday, and now all that stands between me and MSc-dom is a lengthy research project. But that’s fine. That’ll be fine.
Sorry about the lack of post yesterday (and you might want to get used to the idea of a post every other day, or so, rather than every single day: things are only set to get busier). But obviously, I was cramming in the morning, and drinking in the evening.
Well, not strictly true. I shared a few drinks with classmates (and my supervisor – he definitely is a social creature) after the exam and then headed back home to… the Streatham knitting group. Arguably, it was a very subdued way to celebrate exams-over, but I don’t care. I love knitting. And the people in that group are super lovely.
But yes. Research now. It’s going to be a shockingly short 10 weeks…
June 1, 2011 | Categories: books, brain, Britain, holiday, London, Psychology, sociable, university | Tags: debate, dissertation, excitement, funny, humans, I love, London, me me me, new, optimism, psychology, sociable, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
I hate deadlines. This is the time of year where lots of people I know are stressing about coursework, essay deadlines, dissertations, and final exams.
I am no different. Luckily my dissertation is not due for several months yet, but that doesn’t mean I’m not busy – I have a project deadline next week, and seen exam questions to plan, as well as general revision for my finals. Oh, and did I mention I have to have a game plan for what lies after my MSc? Hmm. I have a few things in mind, but nothing certain yet, so you’ll have to wait on that front.
Yes, I do have Brian Cox on my wall.
Don’t panic, folks – we’ve been working hard for this, and there’s no point losing your head. If you’ve been attending lectures and doing at least SOME reading, then it only takes a bit of knucking down now to make it all pay off.
Set yourself a revision timetable if you’re crap at “finding the time” – that way you’ll have no excuse.
Remember to take breaks – there is no point studying solidly and making yourself miserable.
At the same time, remember when to say “no” – you can’t drop everything every time a friend rings you up and invites you for a drink. This is especially true of your friends who are NOT in full time education – they may have forgotten how important these next few months are for you. Remind them that this studiousness is only temporary, and you’ll catch up another time! It’s not the end of the world.
And finally: it’ll be over soon! Your hard work WILL pay off, I swear. You’ll feel good once it’s all over.
If you’re worried about exams, or are suffering with study stress, take a peek at TheSite.org – they offer some simply and practical advice about looking after yourself over the exam season.
May 3, 2011 | Categories: books, brain, debate, jobs, London, neuroscience, philosophy, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: complaining, debate, dissertation, humans, London, me me me, neuropsychology, neuroscience, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, sociable, UEL, university | 2 Comments »
At the moment, I am designing various person recognition tests for my dissertation. I’ve almost finished designing a “familiar faces” test (with 20 highly familiar faces, 20 faces of low familiarity, and 20 complete strangers to the participant). And then, it’ll be the harder job of producing a voice recognition test – they’ll have to be famous voices, but not saying something obviously attributable to them (i.e. no Arnie saying “I’ll be back”).
Image from the Sun
This all links in with my research into prosopagnosia and other person recognition deficits.
Fancy testing your own facial recognition skills? This is a pretty neat website.
Sorry to be brief – lots of work to crack on with!
OK, first of the series of Synaesthesia Conference lectures that I’ll be writing up. Today, I’ll be talking about a four year study conducted by Julia Simner (of University of Edinburgh) and her team. In their study, Simner and her colleagues looked at grapheme-colour synaesthesia, comparing the experiences of English synaesthetes (which are hugely studied) to the experiences of Chinese synaesthetes (who are barely studied at all).
Where to start? Some general factoids about grapheme-colour synaesthesia. About 1% of the population are estimated to have it. This phenomena is where letters and numbers illicit a colour experience in the synaesthete. These experiences follow non-random rules – the same letters seem to always illicit the same colour experience, like “A” always being green, for example.
As for words, many synaesthetes find that whole words are coloured as a whole, rather than each individual letter being coloured. The way words are coloured seems to vary in three main ways:
- Some synaesthetes simply see each letter coloured individually (as per their own internal consistencies) – for example, “CAT” would be seen as BLUE-GREEN-RED (or whatever)
- Some synaesthetes find words are coloured by their initial letter – e.g. “CAT” would be BLUE, as “C” is blue for them
- Some synaesthetes have their words coloured by their initial vowel – again, “CAT” would be GREEN, as the initial vowel is usually green
There are two main theories as to what influences the colours of different letters and words. One is the semantic influence – this is where the unconscious meaning pinned to words and therefore letters determines what colour the letters will be. For example, we might associate “D” with dogs (A is for apple, B is for bird… I’m sure you were taught the alphabet in a similar fashion). Well, dogs are brown (usually), so maybe this is why some synaesthetes experience D as being brown.
The other theory is the frequency effect – more common letters are more common colours. For example, A is often red or green, whereas X is often something exotic like purple or gold. This isn’t too much of a surprise, either.
Hmm, what next…? Maybe a bit of info about Chinese languages (assume we’re talking about Mandarin throughout, but the rules probably cross over to Cantonese). Bear with me – my knowledge of Chinese is not great.
Chinese languages are ideographic (well, almost. We won’t get into that argument here) - they don’t have alphabets, so no letter units. They consist of word unit characters. There are two phonetic spelling systems (Pinyin and Bopomo), which Chinese children may be taught, in order to help them to speak the language before learning to write the script (which is intensely complicated). Pinyin uses a combination of Westernised spellings (for pronunciation) and a number (that indicates tone – Chinese languages are tonal, which means, depending how you say a word, it can have multiple meanings. Phew.)
Simner and her team wondered if this Pinyin system could function in a similar way to English in terms of its effects on synaesthetes – does the initial “letter” (or sound) or vowel sound effect the overall consistency in colour experience?
Well, yes and no. Their study showed that if native Chinese speakers were given the Pinyin phonetic spelling of a word character, they would experience the colours in a consistent manner similar to English synaesthetes – words beginning with a “y” sound would all be green, etc. etc. However, if they were given just traditional Chinese characters to look at (with no Pinyin) these consistencies did not carry over. Hmm. Back to square one.
Chinese script itself is made up of morphemes called “radicals”. Each character contains a semantic radical (which conveys meaning) and a phonetic radical (which tells you how the word should be pronounced). These radicals can be on either side of the character, and again, location affects meaning (I think you’re beginning to understand why Chinese script is so hard to learn…)
So, does the semantic or phonetic radical colour the character overall? Or do neither of them do this?
Simner and her colleagues found three variables – hue, saturation and brightness of colour experience. It seems that Chinese synaesthetes have a more subtle colour experience than Western synaesthetes – the radical on the left accounts for the hue, the semantic radical accounts for saturation, and the radical on the right for brightness. Weird.
The frequency effect occurs in Chinese, too – common characters (and radicals) are more common colours.
And that… is about all that I can compute. If you want to know more, please head on over to Julia Simner‘s profile page on Edinburgh Uni’s website, and feel free to send her your questions!
March 31, 2011 | Categories: brain, Britain, debate, London, mental illness, neuroscience, philosophy, Psychology, science, Scotland, sociable, statistics, university | Tags: art, biology, debate, dissertation, excitement, humans, I love, London, mental illness, neuropsychology, neuroscience, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, shiny, sociable, UEL, university | 2 Comments »
Yesterday saw the first day of the annual UK Synaesthesia Association‘s conference, this year hosted by UEL. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend today’s half of the conference (and my Sunday didn’t go to plan anyway, but that’s another story). However, I intend to give you a taster of what I experienced yesterday.
As a foreword: I won’t go into the details of the various talks here. I intend to write up the main ideas of my favourite talks over the next few days, so look out for those. This post is more intended to impart a general overview of the atmosphere of the conference.
Well, to start with: synaesthesia. I’ve done a brief overview of this fascinating neurological anomaly before, but just as a refresher:
Synaesthesia is estimated to affect about 2% of the population. It comes in many different forms, all of them mind bloggling. Synaesthetes have a notoriously hard time explaining or describing their experience of the world to others. And yet, despite all this, there is very limited research done into synaesthesia.
Maybe, simply, because it’s not a problem. It’s really, really interesting, but it needs no cure. In fact, I have had many synaesthetes say to me that they can’t imagine living without it.
Synaesthesia is a crossing of the senses. The most commonly known types are grapheme-colour synaesthesia and sound-colour synaesthesia. To explain: grapheme colour synaesthesia is usually where an individual will experience a certain colour whenever they see a certain colour, letter or word. Read more about it here.
The UKSA conference gave the opportunity for people with an interest in synaesthesia (many of them synaesthetes themselves) to discuss research and network. Throughout the day, poster presentations (summarising studies) were on display in a downstairs room at UEL (pictured above), and a series of talks were given throughout the day. The talks I attended ranged from the very “sciencey” to the more phenomenological discussion of synaesthesia in art.
I can’t speak for others, but I think synaesthesia draws me because it is a wonderfully romantic idea – some unique individuals can see music in colour, taste colour, experience sounds as textured. This is beyond metaphor: this is a very real experience. And it’s not trained association: it’s very much automatic, internally consistent and unconsciously processed.
As always, if you reading this and it sounds familiar, please let me know – I’d love to hear about your own experiences.
March 27, 2011 | Categories: art, brain, Britain, debate, London, music, neuroscience, philosophy, Psychology, sociable, statistics, university | Tags: art, biology, debate, dissertation, excitement, humans, I love, London, music, neuropsychology, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, research, science, shiny, sociable, study, synaesthesia, UEL, UKSA, university | 1 Comment »
Yesterday, the University of East London had the pleasure of welcoming Ed Hubbard from Vanderbilt University, USA to give a talk about synaesthesia. It was a free public lecture, lasting about 90 minutes, and we had a pretty great turn out.
The lecture signalled the start of the annual UK Synaesthesia Association conference (this year hosted by UEL) – whilst the conference is still open to the public, they need to be paying public, so this free lecture was a bit more accessible to armchair psychologists.
Here’s the blurb from the talk:
What do David Hockney, Richard Feynman, Nabokov, Messiaen and Stevie Wonder all have in common? They all experience synaesthesia, a “union of the senses”.
For some synaesthetes, listening to a piece of music may also cause them to see specific colours while for others letters or numbers are always tinged a certain colour. Although synaesthesia has been known about for over 100 years, interest in synaesthesia has undergone resurgence in the past decade. This talk will discuss recent research, showing what synaesthetes already know: synaesthesia is real, and synaesthetes are neither telling stories, nor are they “crazy.”
More information about synaesthesia can be found here: www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/research/synaesthesia
I really enjoyed Ed’s talk – he’s a great speaker, and was very obviously passionate about his area of research. He’s also keen to get all you American synaesthetes involved with his research, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with him: edhubbard [at] gmail [dot] com
More about synaesthesia to follow tomorrow, as I am, at this moment in time, at the conference. Need to rush off now – lectures to attend. Exciting stuff!
March 26, 2011 | Categories: art, brain, Britain, debate, London, music, neuroscience, philosophy, Psychology, science, sociable, statistics, university | Tags: art, biology, debate, dissertation, excitement, funny, humans, I love, London, me me me, neuropsychology, neuroscience, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, shiny, sociable, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
Wow! What a night!
Brain Awareness Day 2011 was a roaring success. I had a bit of a rough night’s sleep on Tuesday evening, sweating over the impending event, thinking about all the things that could go wrong. But you know what? I needn’t have worried. It all ran seamlessly. The organisations all arrived, they set up beautiful stalls, my committee and my volunteer stewards were all WONDERFUL and waaaaay more calm than I was.
We had an audience of over 300. I was thrilled, as was Ash. The last time he ran this event (two years ago) it was to an audience of about 200.
We began with Ash’s lecture – a whistlestop tour of the brain, and the history of brain research. Cognitive neuropsychology is the love of Ash’s life, and his enthusiasm for the stuff came over wonderfully. We started off with the basic FAQ style fun facts (the brain is 77% water, it weighs only 2.5% of our total body weight but uses 20% of our body’s energy while we’re at rest). Next came a potted history of brain research – from a brief mention in a 3000BC papyrus scroll, through to a sudden flurry of activity at the end of the 19th century.
But the most interesting parts of Ash’s lecture came towards the end, when he discussed brain damage, and subsequent neurological research (i.e. his area of interest). The effects of brain damage can completely alter people’s lives – and this introduction lead us wonderfully into the drinks reception and info stalls.
Downstairs, two rooms had been beautifully set up with promotional materials for our various organisations and charities, as well as drinks and nibbles to keep everyone going. We had wonderful charities turn up: SANE, Encephalitis Society, Epilepsy Action, the Epilepsy Society, UKABIF and Headway East London. We also had some promotional material sent through by the Stroke Association and Mind to put on display and some great goodies from the Dana Foundation to give away – which were much loved by all!
This session allowed members of the public to find out more about the charities, and possibly offer their support by way of donations, or even volunteering. I know from my friends at SANE that they had a great number of people sign up to receive more info about volunteering - so a brilliant night for all those involved.
Finally, we had a great panel discussion, lead by Ash, with three of his study participants (and friends). All three have suffered some form of brain damage (with two of them surviving herpes simplex encephalitis, and one surviving a massive brain hemorrhage), which has completely changed their lives. Whereas Ash’s lecture gave us a clean cut text-book definition of prosopagnosia (or face blindness), here we had a chance to hear firsthand the life experiences of people with severe facial recognition problems. They related beautifully how their experiences had changed their lives, but how it had also changed their outlooks – it made them realise not that life is cruel (described as the “why me, why me” mentally by one of our guests), but more made them be grateful that they were alive. That you have “one life – live it”. An important message for everyone.
All in all, a fantastic, enlightening, thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Now, if you don’t mind, I have some sleep to catch up on…
Did you come to Brain Awareness Day at UEL? What did you think? Please share you thoughts, and photos if you have any! We’d love to hear your feedback.
March 17, 2011 | Categories: brain, charity, debate, London, mental illness, neuroscience, philosophy, photography, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: brain, debate, dissertation, excitement, humans, I love, London, me me me, mental illness, neuropsychology, neuroscience, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, sociable, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
OK, so you know about the Brain Awareness Day at UEL now.
But that is not all I have to share with you, oh no.
UEL will also be hosting a public lecture about synaesthesia this month! You remember synaesthesia – the phenomenon of sense-crossing? I’ve talked about it before, you know… Plus, there’s heaps of info available on the UEL synaesthesia research lab webpage.
Friday 25th March 2011 6pm
Synaesthesia as a window into human nature
by Edward Hubbard
Venue: CC1.01, Stratford Campus
Oh look, a pretty poster!
So, I hope as many of you can make it as possible. It’s set to be a really interesting event (if any of you have ever read any Ramachandran or Sacks before, you’ll know how intriguing synaesthesia is!)
March 4, 2011 | Categories: art, books, brain, debate, London, neuroscience, philosophy, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: art, colour, cross-modal, debate, excitement, humans, I love, lecture, London, neuropsychology, neuroscience, optimism, psychology, research, science, shiny, sociable, synaesthesia, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
Ooh, look, shiny official Brain Awareness Day poster!
February 14, 2011 | Categories: brain, jobs, London, mental illness, neuroscience, philosophy, Psychology, university | Tags: biology, brain, debate, dissertation, excitement, humans, I love, London, mental illness, neuropsychology, neuroscience, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, shiny, UEL, university | 3 Comments »
As part of International Brain Awareness Week (14-20th March 2011), my supervisor Dr Ashok Jansari will be hosting a Brain Awareness Day at the School of Psychology at our UEL Stratford campus. My part in all this is quite exciting – I get to be his personal assistant in the proceedings. Which means I am figuratively representing the event online!
Well, what’s involved? The event will start with a public lecture entitled ‘The Life of Brian (the Brain)’, giving a tour of the history of our understanding of the brain. This will begin with the first written documentation of the word ‘brain’ in a 3000 year old Egyptian papyrus and move towards how modern neuropsychologists are beginning to unravel the mysteries of an organ that is more complex than the most advanced computer known to man. By using examples from his own work, Dr Jansari will demonstrate how we can understand the devastating consequences of some forms of brain damage but also about the preserved abilities following trauma.
This information can then be used to help understand how the healthy brain functions and then this information can be used to develop rehabilitation to help the lives of the patients. For example, David cannot recognise any faces (including his wife’s), but can tell you what whether someone is happy or sad and whose vision is good enough to look at a football shirt and tell you which premiership team it belongs to. Then there is Nicola, who is so profoundly amnesic that she makes the hero of the classic film Memento look like he has a good memory! However, by capitalising on unconscious forms of memory, Dr Jansari’s team taught Nicola to use a complex Palm Top electronic device to remember to take her medication – despite this remarkable learning, each time she saw the Palm Top, she claimed never to have used it before.
After the public lecture, there will be a reception between 7 and 8pm with information displays by organisations that work with individuals with brain-related issues (e.g. Headway and the Encephalitis Society), posters about research at the School of Psychology and even models of the brain that the audience can take apart. The evening will conclude with Dr Jansari chairing a panel discussion about ‘living with brain damage’ where two of his research patients will discuss both what it means to live with this terrible life-changing event but also that it certainly is not the end of the world…..
Dr Jansari’s Brain Awareness Day’s have been really popular in the past – you don’t need to be an academic to get something out of this. If you are simply just interested in brains and what they do (and who wouldn’t be?!) then come to Stratford and enjoy an evening of exploration.
If you fancy coming along, it’s FREE and open to all – Wednesday 16th of March, 6-9pm, at UEL’s Stratford Campus
You can also find Brain Awareness Day listed on the Dana Foundation’s website.
February 7, 2011 | Categories: brain, Britain, charity, debate, jobs, London, mental illness, neuroscience, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: biology, brain, debate, dissertation, excitement, humans, London, mental illness, neuropsychology, neuroscience, psychology, science, sociable, UEL, university | 3 Comments »
I’m freeeeee! Well, for now, anyway. My January exams are over!
And to celebrate, I met Ben and his workmate Kasia for lunch on Tuesday (after my final exam). We met up at the Boat House Café in Regents Park
I was at the café last Friday, too, when I had a slightly overpriced, but very lovely, bowl of pumpkin and orange soup, with toasted rye bread on the side.
Then, on Tuesday, I pushed the boat out – for just a couple of pounds more, I got myself a large pizza, freshly made (or should I say, freshly assembled? They had the base there, but that looked handmade. But the ingredients were fresh) and ready for me in less than 15 minutes. At under £7, it was utterly fantastic, and the first meat (i.e. not fish) I’d had in a fortnight. I had ham, onions, peppers, olives, mushrooms and capers. Sadly, they had no anchovies (my no. 1 favourite pizza topping), but it was still awesome.
In fact, it was so awesome, I ate 5 slices before I even remembered to take a photo of it for you lot.
I let Ben have the other 3 slices.
And oh yes: look! it comes in a pizza box, so if you can’t finish it all, you can just walk with it, without having to awkwardly ask for a doggy bag.
Nom nom nom. I love pizza. I also love tea and chocolate cake, so I had that too. Woops. (I’ve lost 7lbs since the start of the diet, a week and a half ago. Yay!)
The Boat House café isn’t really for a special meal out, but it does make for a relaxing spot for a light lunch whilst you’re out in Regents Park. Especially lovely when it’s sunny (as it was on Tuesday). Wait for the summer, and you can even hire a pedalo for the lake. Hurrah for London!
Image credits: the café from http://www.flickr.com/photos/catdonnelly/240492521/ ; the others are mine.
January 20, 2011 | Categories: food, London, sociable, statistics, university | Tags: cafe, cake, food, fox, I love, lake, London, optimism, pizza, Regents Park, sociable, tea, UEL, university | 2 Comments »
OK, at time of writing, I am taking a very short break from furiously revising for a research methods exam. It’s my last exam, so I’ll be working hard for this one.
Bearing that in mind, I have not much to offer you today except this photo of a squirrel, taken with my phone, in Regent’s Park last Friday.
Normal service will be resumed shortly; watch this space.
January 18, 2011 | Categories: art, brain, London, mental illness, photography, Psychology, university | Tags: animals, art, complaining, dissatisfaction, London, mental illness, optimism, philosophy, photography, psychology, Regents Park, revision, squirrel, study, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
Ever feel like there is just too damn much going on, and your head feels like it’ll pop? I get it every now and then. I’ll be going along just fine, making plans, keeping busy, meeting people, doing things – LOTS of things – and then suddenly, out of the blue, I’ll feel the overwhelming sense of dread, that I Can’t Cope.
At the moment, I’m blaming the exams that I’m currently sitting. Yesterday was the first, and a lot better than I was expecting (on Monday night, I was – for some reason – convinced that all the questions were going to be on topics I hadn’t revised. This nearly led to meltdown) but I still have two more to go, and they will be harder.
I am slowly learning how to deal with mental meltdown, but it is certainly an ongoing thing. I think the best thing you can do when faced with the overwhelming threat of failure/embarrassment/painful reality is to take some time out, to step back and get some perspective, and most importantly, do something that reminds you how to have fun. This is what I like to call my Mental Floss (oh, aren’t I witty?).
You see, this is where my New Year’s Resolution #7 comes in – to forgive myself. You know what? You don’t need to be doing something practical and productive 24/7. It is OK to take some “you time” to muck about for the sheer hell of it.
From now on, when I feel the pressure mounting up, I’ll be on here, drafting a Mental Floss post: I’ll be naming 5 different things that are keeping me grounded at the moment: some ways that I’m keeping my mental health in good shape.
So, without further delay:
1) My Wii. As a New Year’s gift to myself, I finally got a Wii, and Wii Fit Plus to go with it. Yes, that is my Body Test result for yesterday, and yes, I do currently weigh in at a mighty 12 stone. I don’t regret it – the festive binge felt amazing, and I do love food. However, I am well aware that I am not in the healthiest of places right now, and as a long-time supporter of the British Heart Foundation, this is not good and it’s not right. Before you start: yes I KNOW Wii Fit doesn’t really come close to proper exercise, but the yoga and muscle exercises I find really focussing and relaxing. And that’s why it’s Mental Floss.
2) Talking of supporting charities, I can’t wait to get back to SANE on Thursday – I haven’t been in to volunteer for a couple of weeks now (due to holiday), and I’ve really missed it. They do wonderful work, and it’s really life-affirming to know that I’m a part of it. That’s there brand new website, by the way – went live only yesterday.
3) My dear, dear books. Whilst I haven’t yet finished reading my first book of 2011, I’ve been reading bits and pieces where and when I can. Obviously, my priority reading is revision for exams, but it’s nice to escape with a non-curriculum book once in a while…
4) The Oatmeal. Discovered this the other day, and it has been making me chuckle heartily. Very similar to Hyperbole and a Half (in terms of whimsical drawing style vs. cynical text), which certainly tickles my funny bone.
5) Staying indoors. It may be no surprise to you (or maybe it is?) that I’m a bit sociophobic. I love to leave the house when it means going for a walk in the countryside, but when it means enduring the bustle of thousands of London strangers, most days I’d just rather not. And at the moment, I have no reason (aside from exams) to leave the house. That is just dandy by me. I know it’s unhealthy in the long term, but for a few days, I think it’s fine to keep your own company.
January 12, 2011 | Categories: books, brain, charity, debate, exercise, food, holiday, London, mental illness, music, neuroscience, philosophy, Psychology, sociable, university | Tags: books, debate, exercise, food, gluttony, holiday, humans, London, me me me, Mental Floss, mental illness, neuropsychology, neuroscience, new, optimism, philosophy, psychology, sadness, shiny, sociable, UEL, university | 2 Comments »
I made it. This is officially my 100th blog post. I have managed to blog every day since mid-September, and nearly all my posts have been useful or interesting (yes? No?)
This has come at a perfect time as well, because today I need to concentrate all my efforts on finishing a lab report that I have barely started – so I thought today’s post could be a good excuse to do a bit of a round up of the last few months. And share some pretty pictures, yay!
Well, on the topic of my lab report: the most obvious milestone for me in the last few months has been starting my Psychology MSc. Since then, it has been non-stop – most of it fun, a lot of it stressful but all of it fascinating.
Unfortunately, starting my MSc has meant that I’ve had to leave some things behind, such as my beloved Horniman museum, but I still get a chance to go back and visit. And of course, there are little reminders of the Horniman all around me…
I haven’t lost all my fun though: I still sing quite frequently, and even got a couple of double bass concerts in this season (although one had to be cancelled last week due to snow). I managed to go clubbing once or twice, did a lot of cooking and baking, and had several wonderful meals out (including finally trying out Time&Space for Ben’s birthday).
I have to interrupt myself briefly, just to say that doing this round up is making me realise that I have actually been quite busy over the last few months, which is reassuring and also quite emotional. Ignore me.
I have been to visit friends, I have had friends come to stay with me, I have been to soooo many extra-curricular lectures, and had wonderful cultural days out. I even had a silly day out sledding with Ben when the snow hit.
In amongst all the shenannagins of having my brain scanned but not zapped, all the cocktails and the pottery painting, and even my first trek to IKEA via public transport, I have still managed to sit back and relax.
I have read a huge amount (by my usual standards) of books this year (so far! I aim to read a few more before 2010 is out) – 37 is the count so far, and that’s excluding all the text books and journal articles I’ve had to read for uni. I’ve dabbled with Kesey, Banks, Parker, a very special seagull, and then a whole bunch of NON-fiction (madness!) – Music from Sacks and Levitin, Language with Pinker, Neuropsych with Broks and a mammoth book on depression.
I’ve been busy, you’ve been busy – we’ve all been busy bunnies. Maybe it’s time to chill out and enjoy the holiday season? I have a wedding to go to this weekend (my eldest brother got married in August, and now it’s my other brother’s turn!), and that pretty much heralds the time for festivities. I best get this lab report out of the way, then…
Thanks for indulging me – it’s been a fun 100 posts. Here’s to many more!
December 9, 2010 | Categories: art, books, brain, clubbing, crafts, English Arts Chorale, food, holiday, Horniman, London, mental illness, museum, music, neuroscience, philosophy, photography, Psychology, Royal Institution, science, sociable, university | Tags: art, books, Christmas, crafts, excitement, food, fox, funny, holiday, I love, London, me me me, mental illness, museum, music, optimism, philosophy, psychology, recipe, reflection, science, shiny, sociable, tea, UEL, university | 5 Comments »
Most of us recognise people we’ve seen before. We recognise our friends, our family, our enemies, famous faces like politicians and musicians, we recognise the different characters in TV shows and films. Yes, we all have those days when we’re useless at recognising people, and some of us (like Tallulah from Bugsy Malone) are fine with faces, it’s just names we have a problem with. But how confusing would like be if every face we saw was a new face to us: if people we’d met before, or known for years, had an unrecognisable face?
This isn’t science fiction: this is prosopagnosia, or “face blindness”. Prosopagnosia is not new: it’s been researched for many years (some reports go back as far as the 19th century, with case studies from Hughlings Jackson and Charcot), but there has been a surge in studies in recent years.
Usually, prosopagnosia has been observed in people who have had some form of acute brain damage (from localised head injuries such as a bullet wound, or from a virus such as encephalitis), which results in this loss of face recognition. However, a developmental version of the condition has recently been discovered: people who are born without an ability to recognise faces. A recent article that was brought to my attention relates what appears to be this latter form of prosopagnosia.
Prosopagnosia even got a bit of prime-time publicity on BBC’s The One Show when my supervisor (Dr Jansari) talked about David, with whom he works, who suffers from profound face blindness. He simply does not recognise faces at all, no matter how many times he’s seen it before. He has no problems recognising other things, and frequently uses these other cues to recognise people: he can recognise people by their hairstyle, clothes or (once they start talking) their voice. This suggests something that many cognitive psychologists have suspected for a long time: faces are special.
So where do I fit in to all of this? Well, it’s the subject of my dissertation. I know, I know, I previously talked at length about synaesthesia, and that is still a huge interest for me (in fact, I’ve been recruiting synaesthetes for the UEL research team, and I will hopefully be involved in the research process as an extra curricular activity). However, having discussed it with Dr Jansari, we decided the face recognition study would have a greater value for me as an aspiring clinician.
And here we are. On Monday, I met the lady (SE) with whom I shall be working over the next year. It was a purely a meet-and-greet, a discussion over a cup of tea. I’m glad that I’m working with her, as she is lovely, and very enthusiastic about the study. SE is particularly interesting, because she can recognise faces that she has known for a long time (at least 6 months), but won’t recognise people out of context (i.e. if she saw a work colleague in town, she wouldn’t recognise them). However, she did recognise someone as “Mr Angry” – she had never met this man, but had seen his photo in an article about him in a newspaper. So what is it that makes her recognise some faces and not others? Well, hopefully my study can cast some light on the subject. We’ll have to wait and see.
November 25, 2010 | Categories: brain, London, neuroscience, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: brain damage, dissertation, encephalitis, excitement, face blindness, face recognition, humans, neuropsychology, neuroscience, prosopagnosia, psychology, recognition, science, sociable, UEL, university | 10 Comments »
Phew. OK, my first lab report of the semester is away, out of my hands, done.
It was a tricky one to churn out: not because it was difficult to write, but because I have been rather busy. From Cambridge to Hastings, I have been running around a lot the last few weeks. But no matter – that’s what laptops are for, right?
I love my laptop. It means I can work pretty much everywhere. I have a little HP number (with a missing Alt key, but it’s still my baby). I hear stories of people’s laptops (particularly Macs) breaking down, but I have always used HP and they have never failed me (touch wood!)
I’ve been writing on the tube, in cafés, in museums, in bed. I tend to get a lot of work done “on the run” – I’m sure a lot of students do, even if it’s “just” reading. I always have a book in my bag.
Recently, I’ve adopted the bed for doing work at home, because my desk in the living room is simply too close to the kitchen, and I find myself procrastinating. So, I prop myself up with four pillows, and arm myself with a cup of tea, and get a lot done.
Outside the house, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time at the Wellcome Collection, sitting in their café/restaurant. Not only do they have free wifi, but their caterers, Peyton and Byrne, produce delicious, wholesome food. I finally tried one of their Mainly Frosting cupcakes the other day…. Yum.
But where is your favourite place to get work done? Where do you usually study? What’s the WEIRDEST place you’ve set up in to get your work done? Maybe I’m not the only one who writes lab reports in museums!
Image credits: I took it. ME. MY cake.
November 18, 2010 | Categories: books, brain, food, London, Psychology, science, university, Wellcome Collection | Tags: books, cafe, cake, cupcake, dissertation, food, gluttony, lab, laptop, London, museum, psychology, report, tea, UEL, underground, university | 5 Comments »
Sorry chaps – a bit of a slow news day today. Maybe it’s because I haven’t actually done much for the past two days except studying and house work (and teasing the rats).
So, maybe I should share with you interesting things I’m looking forward to in the next few months? Would that be dull? Too bad, that’s what I’m doing.
OK, first things first: today is Ben’s birthday! Hurray Happy birthday, Mr. Fox.
Hurrah I love this man.
I’m not going to tell you what I have planned for his birthday, because that will ruin tomorrow’s blog post. Needless to say, it involves the Royal Institution.
Next up comes Halloween. I’m not hugely in to Halloween, but when I was invited by Vin (with the big house) to a Murder Mystery party, how on earth could I say no? Again, I won’t divulge too much, because that will probably be Sunday’s post… Ahha.
Ongoing are the weekly ICN seminars – these are every Monday at UCL’s ICN building, Queen Square (nearest tube: Russell Square). They’re free and open to the public (a great incentive for Miserly Student) and, whilst quite heavy going, they are incredibly diverse and interesting.
I plan next week to go to the Natural History Museum’s wildlife photographer of the year exhibition with Angharad next Thursday – I didn’t go to last years, but I did browse the winning images online. I regret not going. So, I don’t intend to feel the same regret again. It’s on from 22 October 2010 – 11 March 2011, 10.00 – 17.50 daily, and tickets are: Adult £9, Family £24 (up to 2 adults and up to 3 children), child and concessions £4.50. It is of course free to Members, Patrons and children aged 3 and under.
Very, very importantly: the EAC’s Cambridge concert!! Last week I blogged about our successful Dorking concert, but we’re taking the same programme to St John’s College, Cambridge. The important differences: we will have a full orchestra rather than simply organ, and there are going to be some incredibly important people in the audience. Fingers crossed, but this is going to be a very important concert for us. Fancy coming? PLEASE do. You won’t regret it, I swear.
I do have other concerts coming up, but they are in Sussex, with my double bass I haven’t played poor old bassey for a while, so it will be really lovely to playing again. The concerts I’m playing at are all around the south coast.
- On the 13th November I will be in Hastings, St. Mary-in-the-Castle, for the Hastings Philharmonic Choir’s “Splendour of Baroque” concert
- On the 20th November I will be in Worthing with Boundstone College for their Autumn concert (I haven’t received final details on this yet, so unfortunately can’t link you to anything)
- On the 3rd December, I will be at Roedean School in Brighton for their gala concert – a special of “spooky” classics apparently!
Somewhere in there, I plan to make my way to the Wellcome collection for a day out, to the Freud museum, and a trip back to the Science Museum to see their temporary exhibition all about psychoanalysis. As far as the Wellcome Collection is concerned, I have been browsing through their events calender, and whilst I want to see EVERYTHING, I have had to concede defeat and admit that isn’t possible. However, I will be taking in some of the events, including Describing the Drug Experience (yes, I already have a ticket). Another talk I have already booked for is The Brain of the Future, a BPS hosted lecture given by Baroness Susan Greenfield on 8th November. I imagine tickets for this are already sold out, but if you’re interested, it’s always worth inquiring!
Which brings us hurtling into December. December is going to be busy. It’s busy enough with the whole Christmas thing, but then it’s also my Mum’s big 6-0 and the younger of my two brothers is getting married. Eek. Where did 2010 go?
October 29, 2010 | Categories: English Arts Chorale, London, mental illness, museum, music, philosophy, Psychology, rats, Royal Institution, science, sociable, Sussex, university | Tags: dissertation, excitement, holiday, I love, London, me me me, mental illness, mum, museum, music, neuropsychology, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, shiny, sociable, Sussex, tea, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
Well, who’s been a busy little bunny? That’s right: ME
Where have I been?
What do you mean, it looks like a clinic? Well it’s not. It’s the Clinical Neuroscience Centre! Oh yes.
I have been at the British Neuropsychological Society (BNS)’s autumn conference. Dr Ashok Jansari is the BNS’s new treasurer, and he was looking for some assistants to help him man the registration desk. I leapt at the chance: we would be getting free entry to the conference, and Ash would take us along to the Wednesday evening drinks reception, to meet leaders in the field of neuropsychology. In the space of a week, everything would become Very Real.
On Wednesday morning, I braved rush-hour on the tube, and made my way nervously to Queens Square (nearest tube: Russell Square): I had already visited Queens Square on Monday to see a UCL ICN talk, so luckily I knew were I was going. Grabbing a coffee from the local Pret, I headed on in the the Centre, and down the stairs to the lecture hall foyer.
Ash wasn’t there yet, but the lovely Dana Samson (from Brussels) received me and my fellow UEL volunteer assistants – we’d be manning the desk in the foyer, signing people in a taking money where necessary. Soon, Ash’s American research assistant arrived, with member name badges, and bags of energy. And last of all, Ash turned up! A little flustered (he is still fighting off a lingering cough) but ready to face the crowds.
We set up – we were each given a member list to keep track of who was and wasn’t a member (and therefore who needed to pay for the day – members can come to the conferences for free). At this point, I got stupidly excited: on the list were Prof Elizabeth Warrington, Prof Alan Baddeley, and Dr Paul Broks. Unfortunately, no sign of Baddeley or Broks over the two days of the conference, but Warrington did come on both days, and made us all feel quite giddy with the geeky equivalent of star-stuck.
As there were a handful of us helping out on the desk, as well as some assistant psychologists from UCLH, we were able to take it in turns sitting in on the conference’s lectures. I would give comments on all the lectures I saw, but this post would end up being obscenely long. Instead, I will comment on just one, which I felt was probably my favourite of all (not just because I found it the most realistically applicable research, but it was the one which I fully “got” – a lot of the talks did contain information that passed me by without introducing itself).
So, “Neural Correlates Of The Urge For Action”, presented by Stephen Jackson. Maybe it’s worth giving the abstract, as presented in the programme -
Objectives: Our objective was to investigate the neural correlates of the urges that may precede some forms of action. A number of psychiatric and neurological disorders, particularly those with a neurodevelopmental origin (e.g., ADHD, OCD, Tourette Syndrome), are characterised by the presence of unwanted and involuntary thoughts and actions that are difficult to suppress. Individuals with Tourette syndrome perceive a relatively constant demand to suppress their tics in social situations and while involuntary suppression of tics is possible, many individuals report that it can be uncomfortable and stressful to suppress tics and that the urge to tic becomes uncontrollable after a period of suppression. This suggests that tics may be executed to remove the unpleasant sensations associated with the urge to tic.
Methods: We used quantitative meta-analytical techniques, along with new investigations using ultra high field functional MRI, to examine the neural correlates of urges that precede action in both healthy individuals and those with Tourette syndrome. We also carried out functional connectivity analyses on our new data to investigate the patterns of inter-connectivity between brain areas identified in the meta-analyses.
Results: Our data indicate that a network of brain areas including: cingulate cortex, insular cortex, and several thalamic nuclei are particularly involved in the urges associated with involuntary action.
Conclusions: These results are discussed with reference to the suggestion that the insular cortex plays a key role in body representation, and that the anterior insular cortex (AIC) in particular is important for the conscious representation of subjective feelings through the integration of the body’s visceral states with emotional signals.
The difficulty suppressing urges is not restricted to those suffering with tics, such as the TS, OCD and ADHD cases discussed: as Jackson pointed out, we all suffer with unwanted yawn urges, and suppressing yawns does not make the urge to yawn go away. During the questions at the end of the talk, I asked if Jackson had performed any similar studies into the urge the scratch an itch: my mum used to tell me that if you ignore an itch, the urge to scratch it will go away by itself, but if it bears any relation to yawning urges, then my mum was simply wrong (YES! Victory). As with cases of chicken pox, psoriasis etc. where scratching the itch only makes things worse (spreading infection, exacerbating inflammation), it would be interesting to know what causes this urge to scratch, and if there is any therapeutic application for Jackson’s research: to get rid of that itch without scratching.
I hope that’s given you food for thought: I wish I could comment further, but my brain is pretty fried for thinking solidly, quite out of my depth, for two entire days.
For me, the highlight of the conference was being able to talk to leaders in my future field (argh, what a frightening though), and being Ash’s assistant gave me this amazing opportunity. It meant I had to skip an evening of lectures, but as I can catch up with studies in my own time, but can’t relive the BNS drinks-reception experience, I think it was quite a fair trade off. All of the other volunteer assistants decided to go to the lectures, which pretty much left me traipsing along behind Ash like a lovestruck nerd all evening. At the end of the talks, we reconvened just down the road in National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery’s Old Boardroom, for drinks and further neuro-chat.
I was able to talk at leisure with fellow post-grad students, Ewan (from Orkney) and his colleague Simona (from Germany), as we sipped the gloriously free wine. However, as we relaxed in to things, we broke out of our safe circle, and took the plunge, talking to our elder, better, wiser heroes. I managed to corner Dr Jamie Ward, a synaesthesia researcher from the University of Sussex (whose book, The Frog Who Croaked Blue, has been on my Amazing wishlist for quite a while now), to talk about cross-modal technology, as well as discussing ecological validity with Ash. I tried not to plague Ash with questions, but it was tricky – he’s knowledgeable AND charismatic, so easy to talk to.
After a couple of hours steady wine quaffing, Ash was trying to corral people in the direction of dinner – he had invited anyone who had the rest of the evening free to join him for a meal and further chat. He asked me if I was coming. I could have cried with glee. I calmly and coolly replied “oh sure, absolutely”. Inside I was squealing.
And then… Well, that’s for tomorrow’s blog post. After all, a restaurant experience deserves a post all its own.
Oh, and I’m now an Associate Member of the BNS. What a delightful mix of exciting and utterly terrifying.
I’ll be keeping this. Forever. Eeeee.
October 22, 2010 | Categories: debate, food, jobs, London, mental illness, philosophy, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: BNS, books, dissertation, excitement, food, funny, I love, jobs, London, me me me, mental illness, music, neuropsychology, new, optimism, philosophy, psychology, science, shiny, sociable, tea, UEL, university | 1 Comment »
Synaesthesia. What does this word mean to you? You may never have heard it before. You might have an inkling of what it means. You might be a synaesthete yourself.
Synaesthesia is (typically) Greek – it pretty much means “mixing of the senses”. There are many types, because we have many senses, and they can be mixed in a variety of different ways. The most common kinds are colour-grapheme synaesthesia and colour-auditory synaesthesia. Fairly self explanatory, but to clarify: colour-grapheme synaesthesia is when printed letters or numbers cause the synaesthete to experience particular colours (well, see above!) and colour-auditory synaesthesia is linked to music, voices or “noise” producing an experience of colours. The colours experienced are internally consistent: if a synaesthete experiences a middle C as blue, it is ALWAYS blue. If a sharp rap on the table is experienced as a flash of white light, then this will always be the case. That is not to say that all synaesthetes experience middle C as blue or a knock on wood as white flashbombs, but those are some examples.
Various neurobiological theories exist, trying to explain synaesthesia. The most popular is that synaesthetes have unusual, cross-sensory connections in the cerebral cortex, which have been “improperly pruned” during development of the nervous system. It’s difficult to know for sure, but what is certain is that these vivid, cross-sensory experiences are very real, and for more people than you might expect.
What advantage might it hold for synaesthetes? Well, a lot of incredibly creative people have utilised their quirk to their advantage: for example, the physicist Richard Feynman reported seeing equations in colour, which no doubt helped him to visualise his work (and may well have helped him win that Nobel prize!!). Kandinsky on the other hand claimed to be a colour-auditory synaesthete: he used music to illicit colourful tones in his minds eye, and utilised this as part of his artistic process, creating “visual symphonies“.
So what? It’s an interesting quirk, but why research it? It doesn’t seem to cause any harm, so why should neuropsychologists (including me, a mere student) be interested in studying it?
And here in lies the big question. What can what we know about synaesthesia help science in any way? Yes, it’s really interesting, but does it have any practical applications? This, according to Dr Jansari (with whom I had a meeting yesterday) is the big So What? We need to be able to answer that, in order to make a study out of it actually worth doing.
One possibility is that artificial synaesthesia (i.e. helped by computers) could be utilised by people with sensory deprivations, to help them experience the world in a more holistic way. Sounds impossible? Might not be – the intriguing Steve Mann (also known as Mann as Cyborg) started an experiment in the 1980s (using his weird and wonderful wearable computers) to map senses to other senses (synaesthetic synaesthesia, if you like) – such as experience sights as sounds, and so forth. This has made very slow progress (or at least seems to – Mann’s own website is a bit of a shambles and it is very hard to get any information on him), but you may have, in the past couple of years, about a gadget that allows blind or visually impaired people “taste sight”. The concept is phenomenally weird, but most reports I’ve read have said that it is actually pretty effective.
So there might be a point to researching synaesthesia, after all, beyond my natural British obsession with the weird.
So, are you a musical synaesthete? Do you see colours or shapes when you hear music? Or do you know anyone who is? I would love to hear from you!
- The UEL Synaesthesia Research Team
- The neuropsychology of synaesthesia
- Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia
- The Synaesthesia Battery
October 14, 2010 | Categories: art, books, London, music, Psychology, science, university | Tags: art, dissertation, excitement, I love, London, music, neuropsychology, new, optimism, psychology, science, Stratford, synaesthesia, tea, UEL, university | 3 Comments »
I need to share with you the contents of last night’s fortune cookies:
Right, well now that we have those two tokens of optimism in mind: I officially enrolled today! Yes, yesterday’s induction was just a bit of show and tell – today was the proper enrolment shizzle. Today, I got my student ID and all that jazz.
I had my first ever ride on the DLR – from Bank all the way to Cyprus (the station, not the island). DLR is neat in the sense that you have a nice view of the city, but it does throw you around quite a lot. I can’t say it felt all that safe.
Advantages of UEL Docklands over Stratford campus? Cyprus is a dedicated station for UEL. So you step off the DLR and… There is UEL. UEL Docklands campus itself is pretty impressive -
Unlike Stratford (which is set mostly in a gorgeous, old-fashioned building), Docklands is quite modern. And, despite warnings from Dr Jansari yesterday that enrolment would be lengthy and horribly busy, the actual enrolment process was slick, quick and painless. The staff were really organised and helpful, sporting the latest technology to see them through (namely iPads – I’m not an Apple user myself, but they seemed to do the job). Within five minutes of arriving, I had my own student ID card (woo! The photo actually turned out all right this time!) and UEL Progress card. Having taken over an hour to get to Docklands (remember, I am based in Lambeth), and expecting enrolment to take ages, I was left a bit dazed and not really knowing what to do with myself.
I wandered aimlessly for 30 minutes around a campus that I would probably never see again. I got a free T-mobile goodie bag. In my goodie bag there were T-mobile branded post-its (like I don’t have enough bloody stationary…), a free bag of microwave popcorn (woo!) and, most importantly, word FRIDGE MAGNETS!! I immediately tossed the ones that actually said “T-mobile” on them (pointless advertising on my fridge? I think not), and added the rest to my collection of poetry fridge magnets. My fridge now looks like this:
You do need to get your own word magnets. You can amuse yourself FOREVER.
And so forth.
Anyway, after getting my free toys, I got bored and headed home (reading Pinker’s “The Language Instinct” all the way home – and hearing Black English Vernacular in action as I passed through Brixton, innit). When I got home, I penned the email I promised to Dr Jansari regarding my dissertation, basically BEGGING him to be my supervisor. Well, he responded within minutes. He was incredibly positive, and has suggested we arrange a meeting to discuss ideas. He also asked lots of questions about my first degree etc., which I take to be a good sign.
Man, I kiss ass GOOD.
Right, I’m going back to my goliath pint of tea, and getting on with business. SHIT, I’M DOING A MASTERS.
(Lovingly hand painted by Ben. See? I told you we’d done the pottery painting thing before)
September 23, 2010 | Categories: London, Psychology, university | Tags: dissertation, Docklands, excitement, fortune cookie, London, me me me, new, psychology, tea, UEL, university | Leave A Comment »
Let me get something straight first: I was expecting Stratford to be an absolute dump. Ben used to work over that side of London, and on hearing my uni was based there, exclaimed that it was a “shithole”. However, according to classmates, it’s been vastly revived over the last few years, and is much better than it used to be. I don’t know what it used to be like, but I really quite liked it. Plus UEL’s campus there is spiffing.
So what met me first as I found my way out of Stratford station?
And there’s a Nando’s not too far away. Hurrah! At least I have somewhere to crawl and refuel after a gruelling 6 hours of lectures on a Wednesday evening.
After some wandering around and getting vaguely lost (don’t worry – I always do this. UEL isn’t really THAT hard to find. I am just useless) I finally found the Stratford campus. Unfortunately it’s having restoration work done on it at the moment, so you can’t really see it fully, but it is a LOVELY building.
Our induction was led by the lovely Dr Ashok Jansari (who I had been dying to meet – a little bit like the geeky celeb moment I had at RIGB’s Ramachandran lecture). He gave us a general overview of the course and the campus, as well as talking us through some of his own research (in response to questions about dissertations). He was then kind enough to provide us with a light lunch (French bread, crisps, cheese and the like), during which I managed to corner him and generally kiss-arse. I explained how HE is the reason I came to UEL, and I’m really interested in long-term amnesia so wouldn’t it be lovely if I could do my dissertation with you as my supervisor don’t you think that would be a good idea Iloveyou? He looked a little bit afraid, but he did talk to me a bit, and ask me my name, so that can’t be bad, right?
We also had the chance to meet the charming Ian Wells, who will be teaching our Research Methods module. Having just completed (and passed! I got the email today! Hurrah) PY1026C (research methods 1) at London Met, I hope to have a fairly decent head start on the basics, so perhaps I won’t be completely in the dark for this one. We shall see! As for our other module this semester (Cognitive Psychology & Psychobiology) I’m hoping sheer enthusiasm will see me through.
As for the dissertation question? I’m not sure yet. I would love to have Dr Jansari as my supervisor, but I worry that my main interests lie just outside of his current research projects. Nevertheless, I intend to pen him a polite and concisely worded email about my ideas and preferences for a dissertation topic.
We also had a talk from the Psychology library specialist, and then a final Q&A session, but by this time (5pm) we were all thoroughly dazed, and needed to get on down the pub. So we did.
I only stayed for the one drink (an organic cherry beer that I haven’t tried before) but had a nice chat with a fellow Philosophy graduate. Mostly we talked about shooting hookers on GTA4 (ahem) but honestly? I think we were all a bit “psyched out” for the day.
I did the sensible thing and left around 5:30 – unfortunately, I failed to realise (too late!) that this is one of the busiest travel times in London. I was crammed up against strangers in a sweaty tin can, underground, all the way home.
Upon arriving home, I made the silly decision to start my new exercise regime! I have been meaning to do this for ages, but I had a serious reality check when I made the fatal mistake of popping myself on the scales when I was at my mum’s this weekend. I’ve decided to start gently, in the hope that this might trick me into thinking it’s manageable and therefore encouraging me to “keep it up”. I did 20 minutes on the rowing machine, beat up the punch bag a bit and then 30 very painful sit ups. It’s a start, eh?
Unfortunately, I undid all of my hard work by taking Ben to Happy Inn (a Chinese buffet situated in Wing Yip, Croydon) to celebrate… Our two year anniversary!! That’s right folks. We’ve put up with each for two whole years, without killing each other or anything Seriously though, it’s been wonderful, but I’ll save you all the soppy stuff, and just post a pretty picture instead:
September 23, 2010 | Categories: exercise, London, Psychology, science, sociable, university | Tags: excitement, exercise, London, me me me, new, optimism, psychology, science, sociable, Stratford, UEL, university | 3 Comments »