Category Archives: personal

101 Fascinating Brain blogs

OEDB has put together a list of 101 fascinating Brain blogs and it is an excellent list with most of the usual suspects and some new ones too. The descriptions of the blogs are good and informative. The Mouse trap has been featured under Multidisciplinary blogs and I cannot agree more. The focus of this blog has been multi-disciplinary and I am by nature drawn to anything and everything that is remotely tied to brain, no matter what the discipline or the methods.

On a related note, I had thought that the mouse trap being featured in WIKIO Science top 100 was a one-off affair, but it seems that the ranking has only improved this month (the mouse trap is up at #78 this month); so thanks again to all the readers of this blog for continuing to read and link. BTW, I saw a significant drop (about 10%) in the number of RSS feed subscribers after my 26/11 and ‘Beyond revenge’ post; maybe the subscribers thought that I had decided to leave science blogging for good and thus unsubscribed; political blogging for me may lie in the future, but not for now; for now I intend to continue blogging about brains only. The Mouse Trap blog, at the least, will always remain focussed on psychology and neuroscience only. If  I do decide to blog about political matters I’ll maybe start a new blog, just like The Fool’s Quest blog which I use for poetry and literature.

26/11 and ‘Beyond revenge’

26/11 has happened and I still write about  Science and Psychology.

It has been a week of introspection in which I have been questioning myself and whether by doing science blogging I am doing my bit as a responsible human being. Perhaps I will move on. But while I’m at science blogging let me discuss the topic about which the science blogosphere has been relatively silent.

Today, I have started reading Michal McCullough’s “Beyond Revenge” and I want to discuss ideas from it. The decision to read the book at this juncture stems from the immense feelings of outrage that have been seething within and paradoxically without any overt war-mongering desires or ill-will towards the state that continue to let its soil be used for terrorist activities. Of course forgiving the citizens of that state was never an issue for the ordinary citizens do not foment violence and wars- it is the state or the alleged ‘non-state’ actors that are the real culprits; but I strangely feel a desire to forgive even them and give them a  second chance. But I cannot just forgive and forget. at least not this time. This time the world has to change to create the conditions whereby forgiveness is the norm and revenge an exception.

But let me not digress. Let me go straight to reviewing “Byond Revenge” . I have just read the introduction and the first chapter so let me share with you Mculloughs main thesis.

As per him there are three angle or truths to the revenge story:

  • Truth #1: The Desire for Revenge Is a Built-In Feature of Human Nature
  • Truth #2: The Capacity for Forgiveness Is a Built-In Feature of Human Nature
  • Truth #3: To Make the World a More Forgiving, Less Vengeful Place, Don’t Try to Change Human Nature: Change the World!

I’ve decided to the last, viz change the world, but perhaps not in exactly the same way that Michale may have intended. Let me elaborate what Michael means by the three truths:

The desire for revenge isn ’ t a disease to which certain unfortunate people fall prey. Instead, it’s a universal trait of human nature, crafted by natural selection, that exists today because it was adaptive in the ancestral environment in which the human species evolved .

I believe it is important to pause here and think over whether the perpetrators of 26/11 were themselves pathological or just normal ordinary people subjected to un-normal propaganda and state help to turn into monsters.

Its also important to acknowledge our own feelings of anger and outrage as vengeful feelings towards those who indulge in such heinous crimes; but it is heartening to note that Indians have largely turned their anger into constructive channels – towards lapses in security and towards insensitivity and callousness of politicians. It is heartening to note that the anger and revenge has not been mistakenly directed towards the citizens of a state or towards a community. I salute my fellow Indians for what they have done with their feeilngs of outrage and revenge.

Next truth Micahel elaborates as follows:

The capacity for forgiveness, like the desire for revenge, is also an intrinsic feature of human nature — crafted by natural selection — that exists today because it was adaptive in the ancestral environment in which the human species developed .

Forgiveness as per him is normally activated with friends and family; but India has always thought ‘vasyudhev kutumbkam’ or the ‘whole world is my family’. India perhaps has been an epitome of forgiveness and perhaps will rightly remain so. I’m not just talking about India as a nation-state, I am talking about India as a civilization which has a unique honor of never committing aggression or getting involved in a war unprovoked. India has absorbed all erstwhile aggressors in its fold and today everyone lives as one community- one nation- one family. No heinous acts of aggression and terror make Indians turn towards each other. The need for that forgiveness instinct to continue is perhaps the greatest today. And believe me when I say that the common Indian citizen, still has no hard feelings towards the state who’s soil is being used to foment terror on its territory.

The next truth he talks about is:

To forgive a stranger or a sworn enemy, we have to activate the same mental mechanisms that natural selection developed within the human mind to help us forgive our loved ones, friends, and close associates. To encourage more forgiveness in our communities, and on the world stage, we must create the social conditions that will activate those mechanisms .

This is what he means by changing the world. Creating conditions such that even enemies/ strangers seem like friends. Its heartening to note that partly as a result of state initiative, but largely due to initiative of non-state actors in India, like the media, we have been successful in creating a ‘world’ in which the ordinary citizen of Pakistan is not seen as an enemy. TV programs like ‘the great Indian laughter challenge’ on Star One have been able to make the ordinary Indian realize that there is much more in common that he shares with the Pakistan citizen than just a sub-continent. These non-state actors of my country, be it the film and music industry or NGOs have been working to foster stronger ties and the results are for all to see. For the first time, I do not hear war cries towards Pakistan , just a desire to eliminate the terror camps operating on foreign soil perhaps by very targeted and specific strikes. Is that asking too much? Is ensuring one’s safety and taking preventive measure condemnable and will still be viewed as punitive and vindictive action by western and Pakistani media. Only time will tell whether the non-state actors in west and Pakistan have been creating their ‘world’ as per what template.

The Science Blog Meme

A meme, that started in Nature Networks  , has slowly gained momentum and as many science bloggers have participated, I think I might as well jump in.

1. What is your blog about?
It is definitely not about catching mice, though I sometimes regret why I chose this particular name from the available zillions. My blog is solely focussed and devoted to psychology and neurosceince; within them some pet themes keep emerging; it started with a focus on cognitive maps; another is the focus on stage theories; then still another is focus on Autism and Schizophrenia as diametrically opposed on a continuum.but I take pride in the fact that most reviewers of this blog have determined this blog to be focussed diffusely on disparate subjects.

2. What will you never write about?
about my day-to-day humdrum existence as I lack the capacity to make that sound interesting. Also I like to keep the personal separate from professional as far as possible.

3. Have you ever considered leaving science?
The question is a bit odd, as I am not a working scientist and my science focus is part-time; but leaving science as a hobby/ part-time vocation seems unthinkable – perhaps if all the applied uses of science have been exhausted I may think of leaving sceince; but till the time there is much to be discovered and applied in the real world; there is no parting company.

4. What would you do instead?
Social Work (though for some reasons I don’t like the word..juts like the concept of working for the disadvantaged)/ Education and guidance—of course the assumption is that I have all the resources to enjoy my present lifestyle and only then in my free time instead of science do these things.

5. What do you think will science blogging be like in 5 years?
It should replace scince journalism even before that and might perhaps be replaced by somemore disruptive technologies. It would be more actual science and less reporting. The science would be prominent over the blogging part and both will happen collaboratively.

6. What is the most extraordinary thing that happened to you because of blogging?
In the real world, not much! In the online world, I met and befreinded many interesting, prominent and like-minded people. Overall, blogging provided me a much needed outlet for sharing all the knowledge/information that I was accumulating but finding no outlet for.

7. Did you write a blog post or comment you later regretted?
Yes, one or two blog posts I regret to have written. even today, I feel embarrassed when someone comments on them.

8. When did you first learn about science blogging?
I believe it must have been 3 years back; as soon as I learnt about that I started my own blog!!

9. What do your colleagues at work say about your blogging?
Not many at my work place read my blog or are aware of its existence; for those who are aware its more of a personal eccentricity and a freaky thing – though I have received some very positive feedback too from some; but most say it is incomprehensible and too technical for them (my workplace is not in a scientific setting/ concerned with psychology/ neuroscience)

10.Extra credit: are you able to write an entry to your blog that takes the form of a poem about your research?
I believe I am able, for I pride myself as the next big thing- an undiscovered poet/ creative writer that is just waiting for the right break; the bad part is that I maintain a dedicated creative writing blog , that is separate from my scientific blog, so have never mixed the too, so am not quite sure!!

Thats it folks! I love these memes, especially those that come without any tagging requirements!!

Not Exactly Rocket Science : the book

Some of you may be familiar with Ed Yong’s blog Not Exactly Rocket Science . He is an excellent writer and his blog postings are always well researched , readable and informative. I’m a a regular follower and can vouch for the quality of hits article length blog posts. For those of us , who like to do some off line quality reading, Ed has published his best blog posts in the form of a book that is currently available from Lulu. I encourage all of you to buy the book , either for yourself, or as a gift for a loved one: it will make for an excellent present!! While I feel happy for Ed, I wonder, if and when, can at least one of my articles appear in a book form; maybe openlab2008 is it; maybe I have to wait longer:-( Anyway, its happy to see that blog form is being recognized and I wish Ed and all prospective blogger-writers all the best!

Nominate The Mouse trap

If you like what you read here, you may like to nominate the Mouse Trap blog for either the Weblog Awards 2008 (category science) or submit one of your favorite articles from this blog  to the OpenLab 2008. The submissions links for both can be formed in the side bar on the blog, so please visit the blog (the links are not present in the RSS feeds)  and nominate the Mouse Trap or your other favorite psychology and science blogs and writings using the banners in the side navigation bar.

The Mouse Trap is in the WIKIO 100 Top Science Blogs!!

I would like to thank all the readres of this blog, especially those who have linked to my posts or commented here; as a result of their patronage the humble Mouse Trap blog has made it to the top 100 Science blogs list maintained by none other than Wikio. It is a great honor to share the same space as that of BPS research digest, Cognitive Daily, Sharp Brains, Mixing Memory and  Developing Intelligence, to name a few of my admired blogs. I note that my ranking is 93 and prone to slip from the top 100 list next time; that doesnt bother me- this recognition, even if not sustained, but for one time only, acts as  a booster to motivate and spur towards more and more quality blogging.  

Thanks again to all the readers.

Psychology of Facebook: chance to participate

Dr. B J Fogg, who teaches the Psychology of Facebook course at Stanford , has kindly written by way of a comment to an earlier post, that Mouse Trap readers who wish to know more about the project and want to participate, can join the Facebook group for that course. They keep everything updated on the group page and you can read about what they are doing and how you can participate there.
I, myself, have subscribed to the group as I being a web 2.0 enthusiast too, find the topic to be pertinent and interesting.

They also keep a blog and it is worth checking out. For example one of the recent entries shows how the facebook community is a sucker for apps titled “Share the Love”; but are put off by apps titled ‘Declare war’. Apparently web2.0 is all about sharing, caring and making love and not about making war or competing.

By the way, I have seen a trend among bloggers to have a group page on facebook regarding their blog. I’m not sure of the utility of such a page, but an opportunity to connect is always welcome. In case some of you are keen, we can start a mouse trap community on facebook.

Art and Insanity: is there risk involved in artistic creation?

William Schultz has just posted a blog entry regarding how artistic creation may have an associated risk of suicide/ depression/ psychosis and how exploring the depths of one’s psyche may lead one to the downward spiral that ends with taking one;s own life. He gives Sylvia Plath and Diane Arbus as examples and I agree with his basic premise that writers/ artists are especially vulnerable to extreme mental states as they try to explore the depths of human experience by imagining the extremes that are possible.

I ,myself, consider myself to have moderately good writing talent, and have found that when I write literature , be it poems or short stroies or novellas, the theme of the creation starts taking its hold. this is most apparent when for example I recently added a few sonnets to my epic-in-making The Fools Quest. The initial sonnets depict a person who is on a brink of new journey, somewhat facing an existential angst and in general questioning both his past and his future. now, though, I myself am very well adjusted and happy with my life as it is going, just creating in myself the protagonists mindset led to a state where I myself started feeling restless, unsatisfied and in general more eager for change and willing to rock the boat. This may seem anecdotal evidence, but there is good statistics showing prevalence of mental health disorders in artists in general and writers in particular.

I would now quote a bit from Schultz’ post (italics mine):

What’s going on here? It’s more than a little uncanny. As Wendell Berry once said: “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light. To know the dark, go dark.” Both Plath and Arbus knew the dark, but this knowing came at a massive price. The dark stayed dark. Forever. Some artists–not all–do not survive the hero’s quest. Maybe, when the moment comes, they lack the requisite “ego strength” to re-compose after the decompensation that a certain category of art requires. Or else: once they achieve genius, the question becomes: Where do I go from here? Having reached the top of the mountain, there is nothing left but the descent, and the idea of descending is simply intolerable, ultimately depressing.

I don’t know, whether my quest is a hero’s quest or a fool’s quest , but I definitely know that I have slowed down as I saw that the quest was affecting my mood. Hopefully, as the quest moves to more adventurous phases and away from the initial dilemmas , it would have more uplifting effects. Hopefully, I wont fall from the cliff like my Fool is planning to!

The Fool’s Quest

Some of you may be aware that I also perceive of me as a literary person and try my hand at writing poetry, short stories and novellas. I have recently started a new blog called The Fool’s Quest that would document my quest of coming up with novel literary pieces on a daily basis.

I strongly suggest , that though it has nothing to do with Psychology, it is bound to be a good read, so hurry up and visit that site.

My first book published!!

No, its not a Psychology/ Neuroscience book….It is a poetry book and I have self-published it , online using ‘If I were a book . com’. The poetry book titled Songs to Soothe Your Soulcontains sonnets I wrote during my college years. Maybe someone would like to psycho-analyze them!!

The site offers chance for getting published in the real world , but for that to happen readers have to read the book and rate it highly so that publishers would bother to have a look. SO my personal request to you all to go on the site, read the poems and rate as you like it!! I’ll also be adding a link to that book in my sidebar.

By the way, this is just a taste of things to come. I have written a book title “The Sculptor and the Sandman“, which is psychologically inspired and focussed on delineating the psychotic and schizophrenic experience and how that may differ from other world views like that of a rational scientist (may having ASD). So watch this space for more info on that!!