Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The youth group at church is having a garage sale to raise money to go to YC so we have been hauling stuff out the back door to take up to the church. Today Grace arrived home from school and hauled a ton of stuff in the front door. We will never get this house cleaned out.
After we watched Hoarders the other night Geoff went downstairs and added a lot more to the pile to go.
Was worried about Grace driving home as there is a severe snow warning here, but she got here before the snow started accumulating on the ground. She starts work tomorrow; they told her she could work as much as she wanted at the Good Samaritan this summer. She feels she chose the right career as she gets to buy as manys scrubs as she wants.
Two more sleeps till we fly away. This weather is making me very glad we are going to where it is warm.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Support your Daughter, Sister, Aunt

For the people who have already sponsored me on the Big Bike, Thanks, for the rest of you, please consider a donation, the link is in the email I sent out. But let me know if you need me to send out a new one.

Not a lot new with me, looking forward to vacation and I find it hard to believe the time went by so quickly, only 3 more get ups!!

Allison, Sam, Grace and I went out for supper on Saturday night, to the Copper Pot Restaurant, it is just the end of my block, so very handy. Both the food and the company were great. Kind of hard to believe another school year has gone by.

On Sunday I took the train to Southgate, it was the opening weekend for the new leg of the LRT. What a good way to get around, I sure wish there were more places it went to.

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This is going to be brief because I am running out of pound coins for the internet, and because I already posted on my own blog. Anyway, I am here in Heathrow on a long, long long (10 hour) layover, waiting for my flight to Colombo. The flight here was fine - TVs in the seatbacks help an awful lot! Two movies and some TV later and the flight goes by pretty quickly. I won't be sorry to be settled in Sri Lanka though.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

April is a good month

Because it is my birthday and our anniversary.
And Easter this year.
We stayed at the Grand last night and went out for Italian. Richard had to work this morning, so we couldn't go far.
Next month we are going to Vancouver as I am going to a conference on concurrent disorders-mental illness and addiction. I am excited! We are both going- so Richard will amuse himself during the day while I confer. It's a 3 day one-so I also took off the rest of the week-so in a way is like a vacation. I am happy to learn, and find this area interesting. Conference is in the west end-at Coast hotel-right by Stanley park etc., so Richard should be able to find things to do. And the hotel will have HGTV if all else fails.
Richard has been helping Mom out lots with her yard to get ready to list. No wonder she always takes his side!
Now when you all come to visit-it will be a snap to see all of us.
Her new place has a creek running through the front yard. I have always wanted that-but am happy to have it across the street and now in the family.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mom's news

Mom called me a stick-in-the-mud because I have lived in the same house for 30 years.

What I Do

Okay, Lisa asked for a thesis synopsis but it was getting way too long for a comment, so I'm posting it here. I hope this makes sense - it's hard to explain to people.

It is pretty obvious that emotional things attract attention - if you see someone suddenly look terrified, you will pay attention to them. However, it turns out that the opposite is also true - ignoring something (taking away attention) can lead to negative emotional responses as well.

I'm looking at an effect (called inhibitory devaluation) where it turns out that ignoring something makes you later dislike it. So if you're looking for a red target and ignoring yellow distractors, when you're later asked you will rate the red target as high as something you've never seen before (for example, 3.5 on a scale from 1 to 4), but rate the yellow distractors way lower (e.g. 1.5 on the scale). This effect has consistently been found, even using faces - so when you are asked to ignore certain faces, you actually later rate them as less trustworthy even though there was nothing initially different about them!

This picture shows the target (circled) and distractor, as well as the emotional response to each.

Turns out this also works when you have to inhibit a response to something. For example, if your task is to press spacebar when you see Dave and not press when you see Harry, you will like Dave better than Harry because the initial tendency is always to press the spacebar, and you have to work hard to inhibit that response when you see Harry.

We think this is because when you ignore or inhibit something, a part of your brain called the anterior cingulate (ACC) detects a conflict. Its job is to monitor incoming info (eg. from the visual system) and detect when something doesn't seem right or there is a conflict between two responses. So it detects that you are trying to ignore or inhibit something even though your NORMAL response would be to pay attention/not inhibit the thing.

This shows the visual input coming in to the anterior cingulate, which detects a conflict and influences the parts of your brain that deal with attention.

The anterior cingulate is hooked up to the emotional parts of your brain (amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex), and it seems like this "conflict" between your normal response and what you know you should do according to the instructions you've been given is interpreted by these areas as a "bad thing" - so you get a negative emotional response. This is then stored with the representation of the image you just saw, so next time you see it, you still dislike it (but you don't know why).

This shows the above conflict detected by the anterior cingulate being translated into an emotional response

This is all totally unconscious. We think it is a side effect of how the brain organizes information. It's important to be able to code things as important (e.g. attach positive emotions) or troublesome (e.g. attach negative emotions), and the emotion system is what helps to code things and people in our environment. So if you're searching for something and ignoring everything else, attaching a negative emotional response to it helps you avoid it next time you see it.

So basically - when mom told me to "just ignore" my brothers, she was setting me up for a life of research! Attention is way more powerful than we ever knew.

ANYWAY... I am going to try using this effect with people who are addicted to drugs. They have a very, very strong emotional response to drug cues (e.g. seeing a needle or whatever). When they see drug cues, they tend to start getting cravings, which makes it hard to stay off drugs. We are wondering if we can harness this inhibitory devaluation effect to cut right through that positive response to drug cues, instead getting people to associate drug cues with disliking/negative emotions in the same way as above. If we can cut down on positive emotions to these cues, we might be able to cut down on cravings and therefore on relapse (craving is associated with increased relapse in the literature).

Sorry that was so long. I don't know if you would ever want to tell anyone about all that, but I guess you could always just say I study attention-emotion interactions and leave it at that!

Just to be complete - here are some references in case you're interested/very, very bored.
Devaluation papers:
Raymond, J. E., Fenske, M. J, & Tavassoli, N. T. (2003). Selective attention determines emotional responses to novel visual stimuli. Psychological Science, 14, 537-542.

Fenske, M. J., & Raymond, J. E. (2006). Affective influences of selective attention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15,(6), 312- 316.

Why cravings = emotional response in drug users:

Franken, I. H. A. (2003).Drug craving and addiction: integrating psychological and neuropsychopharmacological approaches. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 27(4), 563-579.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Winner's Brain

My supervisor's book is out! I haven't got a chance to read it (but am pushing for a free copy for the lab!) but it is very interesting hearing about the ins and outs of book publication, the publicity you have to do, etc. He has done 30+ radio interviews in the last few weeks and apparently CTV will be doing a TV interview at some point. Here is a link to an interview in the Globe and Mail.

I'm just glad the darn book is finally written so now he can help me write up some of my stuff!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

NOLA over Easter

It's taken me a while to post on our trip. Which was super excellent.

We stayed in a nice hotel, the Saint Marie, just off Bourbon Street. Pool, little balcony for the afternoon apertif, and very close to everything. Or everything that we did. Which was only really wandering around, shopping, eating, drinking. As well as visiting the Voodoo Cultural Centre. Or at least the gift shop. (We would have gone inside the temple, but Priestess Myriam was doing a reading for someone over the phone in there.)

We did also go to the Saint Louis Cemetery no. 1, the oldest existing cemetery where voodoo queens and musicians (as well as old french families) are buried.

I had aspirations of going on a swamp tour, or going to the 9th ward, or the aquarium or contemporary art gallery, even, but I was pretty happy to just follow Kirsten and Sue and Kathy around. Kathy took about 600 photos while we were there. Seriously.

We did leave the French Quarter and go to the Garden District (good shopping on Magazine Street) to gawk at houses. It's amazing to think that so many of those were under water. Still much renovation to be seen in that area. Also, you take a streetcar!

We also hung out at the bars on Frenchman Street; John Boutte played Saturday night and did a lovely a cappella version of Leonard Cohen's "Halleleujah." Kirsten, Kathy, and Sue met some nice southerners who said next year they should come to their place for a BBQ.

I had also hoped to eat some good pulled pork but did not. Favourite meal was probably beans, rice, and a very greasy pork chop at Coop's Place.

Although Bourbon Street has some novelty factor to it, it's generally creepy. Even if you can purchase Huge Ass Beers.

And Easter Sunday we saw two parades: one of Southern ladies, and the second of gay Southern ladies. We cheered and got mardi gras beads (no clothing was removed). Last night I watched a documentary on the making of beads in China and how workers are treated. Sob. But I will confirm there is nothing better than sitting on the curb with a gin & tonic, watching Southern Belle drag queens drive by in horse-drawn carriages, tossing you trinkets.

I put the rest of our photos on facebook -- look there to see more!


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Last Home Game of the Season

Grace and I went to see the Oilers play the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, the last home game of the season. It did not start out so well, I was craving perogies and the last time I was at Rexall Place, I saw the sign for them. When I went to the place, no perogies, I was pretty disappointed. Once the game started, the Av's scored 3 goals in a row, and I was thinking it was going from bad to worse. then the team got it all together and final score was 5 to 4 in OT for the Oilers. A good end to the home games.

Not a lot new this week, after I got back from Rocky, I woke up on Monday and thought I don't feel like going in to work so I called in and said I was not coming in, and would work on Friday instead. Luckily my manager is pretty laid back and the client had Monday off, so it was no big deal. Of course by the time that Friday came around, I did not feel like coming in then either. But things went OK, and the day really flew by.

Last couple of days have been crazy with gale force winds and snow, I sure hope it ends soon.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

I have sometimes said a quiet prayer something like this, "Thanks that Grandpa Strong decided to settle here." I was saying other words today after work while I was tramping through the yard in a snowstorm looking for the laundry that blew off the clothesline. Couldn't he have gone a bit further west, over a couple of mountain ranges, to, say, the Okanagan?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Saturday Morning in Rocky

I am sitting in the living room, the sun is shining in and life seems pretty good. Sam, Grace, Amanda (friend of Grace's) and I drove to Rocky on Thursday afternoon. A pretty uneventful trip, the best kind. Sam had to work on Thursday, so we left around 4:00, I was surprised at how little traffic there was, I guess the fact that it was spring break in Edmonton does make a difference.

Yesterday was spent reading, napping, visiting and playing spider solitaire. Grace's computer had a meltdown, so I lent her mine while she was getting hers repaired. That meant many nights of NOT playing spider and I really missed it.

I saw Tim on Thursday night but have not been over to see his house, maybe today. Geoff is making buns for dinner tomorrow, Sam and I are leaving on Sunday afternoon, since I have to work, and it sounds like Sam will be too, so Theresa has planned an early dinner. Yumm, Easter Ham, I can't wait. Geoff made hot cross buns yesterday, he has been very busy.

I love coming to Rocky, and just hanging out.

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