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Welcoming the One Millionth Reader

I know its a bit premature (the blog visit count on my blog is only about 99,8000 yet and it will take another 2-3 days to hit that milestone) but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the ~1 million readers who have thought it worthwhile to visit my blog at least once. You know who who you are: thanks to the Moms and the Grandmoms (those readers who were the only ones to visit it in the early days) and thanks also to the Siblings and Cousins (those blogs which encouraged, accepted and sometimes generated a healthy sibling competition of sorts in the early days?).

Maker Faire 2008, San Mateo - a life size vers...

Maker Faire 2008, San Mateo – a life size version of the Mouse Trap board game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My blog is ~12.5 years old, finishing the tween years and preparing to enter adolescence (if I may anthropomorphise it….I don’t really know if in the species called blogs, teenage begins at 13 years or whether a 13 year old is already an ageing blog on the verge of retirement/ death?), and I have mixed feelings about it.

To begin with, the following lines from an old popular TV commercial sensitizing people against gender discrimination comes to mind:

‘Ka maine kokh sahi na jani?’

English translation: ‘Did I not give birth to the right child?’

As some of you may know The Mouse Trap has not been able to generate much discussion (only 45 comments as per WP.com stats and 1313 comments as per WP dashboard, most of which are my own scoop.it backlink comments), is a relatively ‘Quiet’/ introverted child (only 540 posts in ~12.5 years), and may even be a specially abled/ differently abled child (it may have missed its developmental milestones like getting a one million hits in the first five years itself:-) ), but I am more than satisfied with my baby. It bears repeating that each child is unique and special, and that I am a proud parent.

The only regret I have is whether I have spent enough time with my child? Did I read enough stuff, reflect on it, and then take careful time out to craft a good post? I know that my blog can never live up to the extraverted ideals – of posting daily, of taking care of SEO etc to ensure enough stimulation (visibility/ interaction) etc, but I am also doubtful whether I really worked that hard to make content the king. Did I not start taking my blog (and its readers) for granted? Did other commitments, like curating content on scoop.it or other social media, not take away from the time I could have spent with the Mouse Trap?

Also, am I expecting too much from my child, and that too, too early? I had decided to put ads on The Mouse Trap earlier this year, and the revenue I get from that is still not able to cover expenses for hosting The Mouse Trap on fast servers (so that the readers can have a good experience), so are my expectations unrealistic? Should I wait till young adulthood before expecting The Mouse Trap to be able to sustain itself?

But then when I look at shining examples of other young adults out there (like Brain Pickings or Wait But why?) who are walking upright, I know that the Mouse Trap could also walk one day on its own feet. The hope lives on!

PS: Thanks, last but not the least, to my baby (The Mouse Trap) which is a bundle of joy. Like all parents, I take great solace in your potential and warmth, whenever feeling down or in a low mood. Reading older posts brings back memories of joy and thinking about your future fills me with excitement and vigor. Long Live The Mouse Trap.

Labels, Mental Health and my Split Blog Disorder

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 08:  Nobel Prize win...

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 08: Nobel Prize winner Sir John Gurdon talks to reporters on October 8, 2012 in London, England. Sir John and Shinya Yamanaka from Japan have both been awarded the Nobel prize for medicine or physiology for their work as pioneers of stem cell research. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

I have a post over at Psychology Today about Labeling and its deleterious effects. That did lead to some heated discussions on Facebook, so be sure to add your voice to the discussion by commenting on the post.

The way I have framed the above issues, I’m sure you know by now, which way my sympathies lie. To make it explicit, I do not like labelling children / adult who have slightly differently wired brains, or who are temporarily thrown off-track due to acute stressors and circumstances beyond their control, with mental disease/illness labels – I believe the stigmatisation that accompanies such a labelling does more harm than good. This does not mean labelling per se is bad- we do need to label differences amongst us, both to harness properly the special abilities that such a diverse population presents, and to help them overcome whatever shortcomings they have by providing adequate and tailored societal support to accommodate such differences. Labelling becomes bad and counterproductive when the label is seen as permanent and innate (even a ‘gifted’ label is counterproductive if such giftedness is seen as innate and non-malleable), and has a negative, stigmatising and disability connotation.

Read the rest at the source; the last point needs elaboration. Just as labeling someone as Gifted may have negative effects, labeling someone as stupid or incapable also has long lasting negative effects. My TOI blog post touches on how Sir John Gurdon faced such a situation and came out victorious.

What are the chances that you would overcome such negative feedback, not be irrevocably scarred by such negativity, but instead show a high degree of resilience and positive attitude and take that as a challenge rather than a setback; and finally become not only a successful scientist, but also receive the highest honour in your field- a Nobel Prize? If that seems too good to be true, take heart. Sir John Gurdon, who received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for 2012 has actually lived that life. However, while most of us may wither into nothingness after getting so much negative early feedback; he took that as a challenge – he got that report framed and put above his desk in the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge (the only piece of accomplishment he ever got framed!) – And decided to prove his teacher wrong.

This brings me to announcing my brand new blog at Times Of India, which would be targeted more towards the layman, and also have a contemporary and Indian touch. My first post, on the occasion of world Mental Health day, questioned the exclusive focus on disease and illness to the detriment of a focus on health and positive aspects.

Consider again the widely available public knowledge that some children, having a particular genetic vulnerability (one form of Serotonin transporter gene), if abused as children, have a greater likelihood of getting depressed when they grow up. How many of us, also know of the recent Orchid and Dandelion hypothesis, whereby the genetic vulnerability is more of a heightened sensitivity to environment, whereby the same vulnerable children, if abused, can become depressed; but if provided a nurturing and supportive environment, can paradoxically be more resilient and resistant to stressors than those not having that gene variant. However, as the discourse on protective and resilient factors is lacking, the spotlight continues to shine on seeing such children as ‘at-risk’, rather than seeing them as resilient, if provided the right early start. These orchid children, requiring exquisite early care, to bloom fully, continue to be seen as liabilities rather than assets to be proud of.

And that finally brings me to my Split Blog Disorder. I think I owe a post listing all my various blogs. If you are reading this you are already aware of The Mouse Trap.

My other psychology themed blog is at Psychology Today, called The Fundamental Four.

I use my The Creativity Post blog The Muses and The Furies to focus exclusively on creativity and intelligence and also their relationship to insanity.

I have started blogging for Times Of India, and Mind Cafe focuses on topics of general interest with a psychological angle.

Some people would have noticed that I proclaim myself as ‘Programmer, poet, philosopher !’; a couple of my poetry blogs include The Fools Quest and Songs to Soothe Your Soul.

Apart from this I have a Tumblr blog Flotsam and Jetsam, where i typically post quotes that I find interesting.

Not to leave out, I curate a lot of content on scoop.it and would recommend highly you take a look/subscribe.

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Encephalon #79: the year-end edition!

encaphalon

Answer this honestly:

1. Do you feel preoccupied with the encephalon (think about previous editions or anticipate next edition)?

2. Do you feel the need to read the encephalon with increasing number of contributions in order to achieve satisfaction?

3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop reading encephalon?

4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop reading encephalon?

5. Do you end up reading encephalon longer than originally intended?

6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant blog posts, twitter conversations , web surfing opportunity because of the encephalon?

7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the encephalon?

8. Do you use the enecpahlon as a way of escaping from research or of relieving a writers block (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression (over not being able to write/contribute)?

Answering “yes” to five or more questions may mean you suffer from encephalon addiction over a six month period and when not better accounted for by a manic episode or internet addiction. Contact Sandeep Gautam to get institutionalized:-) The formal diagnostic guidelines coming soon to a DSM-V near you!

internet addiction

The stage for the year end edition is set by this post from the Neurcortic that asks and concludes in the negative that whether internet addiction shrinks the brain? The writeup nicely sums up the divergent views on internet addiction from those of Kimberly Young at one end to Vaughan Bell of Mind Hacks fame at the other. No points for guessing where my or Neurocritic’s sympathy lies:-)

Now that you have read my ill-styled post till here, I am sure you love to inflict pain on yourself- else why bother continue reading. Perhaps you are masochistic; or perhaps you are not- you are just a borderline who doesn’t feel any pain-whether real or imagined.  the second contribution from Neurocritic looks at recent research that found low activation in pain perception and assessment regions of the brain for borderline subjects, who typically self-injure, while they were imaging themselves under self-injury condition.

Do you like reading encepahlon (a light and sweet candy to your eyes I am sure) or the regular mouse trap posts (some spinach that is hard to eat and takes longer to digest) . Does you decision as to whether to prefer candy in childhood, affect your life outcomes like how violent you may turn out in adulthood?  this is the question BrainBlogger grapples with in this post that looks at why sugar and spice is not always nice and children eating a lot of candy can become violent later on. One reason could be lack of ability to make wise delayed gratification decisions just like in the marshmallow study.

encaphalon

Ok. now for some cool experimentation.stop and take a deep breath.  Some of you Imagine  reading the encephalon. Others go ahead and read it.   now look at encephalon logo. some of you look at  it twice. some thrice. now tell me, and the answer from all of you should be in the affirmative,- as to whether you read the encephalon or just imagined reading it. In a study very similar to this, but spread over weeks, it was found that when imagining an activity and subsequently(after a week or so)  being presented with pictures showing the completion of the activity, the subjects were more likely to confound , at a later date, that they had actually indulged in the activity and not just imagined it. such is the power of words and this is amply highlighted by NeuroNarrative coverage of the same in which he also extends this to everyday settings including eye-witness testimonies.

Just like images are so important, words too are- they can literally break your heart.  The second contribution from NeuroNarrative looks at how a predominance of emotional words as opposed to cognitive words in a couples’ arguments can signify heart risks, risks of diabetes etc. via the stress hormones mechanism.  That reminds me,  that to unbreak your heart (a la Toni Braxton), perhaps we also need a study of how compassionate and empathetic words used in conversations can literally heal the heart and raise immunity etc.

Talking about enhancing cognitive fitness, how can one but miss the leaders in the field – the SharpBrains. This time SharpBrains lists other leaders and 10 innovations ranging from computerized CBT to ‘cognitive shops’ that are defining the field and raising hopes for the ageing population.I am sure reading encephaoln on a regular basis is another sufficiently demanding and cognitive fitness enhancing innovation that Mo had originally come up with, that I have mentioned Neurophilosophy in this encephalon (despite no submissions) by the founding father.

Does the idea of a tongue -in cheek encephalon resonate with you? Does it set your brain neurons and circuits and systems all in synchrony, resonating with each other- if so you may also like this post by Modern Dragons, that argues that neural resonance and neuroacoustics may be the one holy grail principle of neuroscience that people may have overlooked and that might explain everything.

Talking about grand unifying theories, I cannot but help self plug my post on the recent Crespi et al findings that vindicated my grand theory of Autism and Psychosis as opposites on a continuum. The post itself is a shameless chest thumping and self-congratulating piece of basking in reflected glory. If you are still not convinced that I eat , breathe and drink the autism-psychosis theory, watch this devidutt patnaik TED talk (my second contribution) and see how craftily I can relate almost anything to my pet theory:-)

That is it folks. 2009 is gone and we will see a brand new, non-addictive version of encepahlon in 2010 soon. Till then keep reading and reading this edition -its not just sweet and good for your ageing brains, its nicely worded , has good pictures and is the perfect place for contemplating grand unifying theories, even if they cause you discomfort- I know all of you are borderlines and either love or are insensitive to this self inflicted pain!

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Encephalon-79: Call for submissions

encaphalonThe Mouse Trap will be hosting Encephalon, the premier brain and mind carnival for all things related to psychology/neuosceince on 7th December i.e. upcoming Monday. Do send in your submissions to encephalon[DOT]host[AT]gmail[DOT]com or directly to me using contact form/mail to editor[AT]the-mouse-trap[DOT]com.

Looking forward to your rocking submissions to make a memorable 2009 year-end encephalon carnival that takes a retrospective look at the year gone by!

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Top 10 Psychology blogs for the Curious Minds

I feel honored to have been asked by blogs.com to compile a list of top 10 psychology blogs for the curious minds. Any list , such as this, is necessarily subjective and being limited in nature, cannot do justice to all the other psychology blogs that I equally love and follow on a regular basis or other interesting blogs, which I am perhaps not aware of. 

The top 10 blogs are presented in an alphabetical order and reflect those that I find most interesting, insightful or fun to read.  Hopefully the mouse trap community would concur and benefit from following these blogs as well. Do check out the list and by the way of comments to this post,  add some other blogs that you think are equally interesting and catering to the curious amongst us.

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