Friday, July 15, 2011

Final project post

The World English Dictionary defines perception as "the process by which an organism detects and interprets information from the external world by means of the sensory receptors." This, of course, is just a nutshell depiction of what types of content is covered in this Perception Psychology course and does not do the class remotely enough justice! Psychology 3332 is a psychology class like none I have ever taken before. Rather than focusing solely on theory and speculation which, I have found, many psychology classes do, this one ties in an enormous amount of physiology to the themes which helps the student to understand not just what different individuals experience but why and how their bodies and senses enable them to perceive things in the manner in which they do. This course covered content which involved nearly every one of our human senses, such as visual and auditory perception as well as our cutaneous and chemical senses. More or less, it's main focus was to teach us how different parts of our body allow us to perceive differen situations. For instance, I left this course with answers to questions such as: Why are some people colorblind?, Is it possibe to reduce pain with your thoughts?, and How does a cold inhibit the ability to taste? These are all questions which I have pondered in the past and through this class I was able to form detailed answers to.

Although I genuinely found many different sections of this course highly interesting, I would have to say that my absolute favorite section of our coursework was chapter 14: The Cutaneous Senses. Specifically though, I enjoyed learning about pain and how it is not solely reliant on physical senses, but also incorporates a psychological phenomena as well. Always being under the impression that pain was a concrete, purely physical, highly uniform occurance, I was amazed to prove myself wrong! In fact, one of the things I learned through this chapter is that there are actually three different types of pain: nociceptive, which signals damage to the skin that is about to occur, inflammatory, which is caused by damaged to your body's tissue and joints, and of particular interest, neruopathic pain, which is caused by damage to the body's central nervous system. With hopes of going into the field of Occupational Therapy, this chapter really struck me in a big way by allowing me to realize and understand that pain can come from different types of areas and can be treated in very different ways. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this topic though, is the idea that it is possible to reduce pain with your thoughts. A common phrase I had always heard throughout my life is "pain is 90% mental and 10% physical." Of course, I always though this to be an inspiring fable, yet now I have come to realize that there is in fact a huge psychological aspect to pain and that by positive thinking and reinforcement we can alter our levels of pain for the better. The power of positive thinking is a truly remarkable thing, and this, paired with understanding our physical pain and how our cutaneous senses operate, we can make great strides in both our personal lives as well as in medical fields as well.

The two articles below are instances of how positive thinking can reduce pain in a number of different situations and instances:

Tying this idea of perception and pain into a common issue in not only the United States, but around the world as well, involves the ongoing abuse of pain medication. All too common of a theme in modern day society is indviduals with either illegitimate or legiitmate pain seeking pain medication from their physicians, receiving a prescription, and over time becoming highly addicted to that drug. Many times, in pain cases, drugs known as opioids are presecribed to treat some degree of pain. Although these medications are helpful in easing this discomfort, the trade off is their addicting qualities. Millions of Americans alone are addicted to these drugs and the numbers continue to rise annually. Perhaps, though the concept of thoughts being used to minimize pain is something that doctors, physicians, and therapists should be looking more closely into. Perhaps rather than prescribing such dangerously addicting medications right off the bat to patients with minor pain, other tactics, such as brain training, positive thinking and psychological therapy should be employed much more often than they currently are. By understanding how our bodies work in accordance with our brains and by paying special attention to our psychological functioning we could be saving millions of Americans lives each and every day.

above is an interesting video expalaining how the brain can control pain

above is an extremely empowering video of a young girl expressing the importance of positive thinking throughout her personal battle with cancer. Although the video is not of professional quality, it shows first hand experience with what positive thoughts can achieve and reiterates the fact that we can train our brains to maintain all types of pain.

by Lindsay Mauser

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