Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Agnosia - A Short Overview


To understand what agnosia is, we must first understand what gnosia is. Gnosia, according to the dictionary is the perceptive faculty enabling one to recognize the form and the nature of the persons and things.

So agnosia is a loss of ability to recognize different things like: objects, persons, sounds, shapes, and even smells. However, the sense organ is not defective and there is also no significant memory loss involved. The whole thing is actually associated with brain injury and neurological illness, mostly occipitotemporal border (a part of the ventral stream). 

Agnosia will usually result from strokes, dementia, head injury, brain infection, but it can also be hereditary. There are some forms of agnosia that are genetic, for example dyslexia.

There are many types of agnosia which can be divided into 4 groups:

1- Auditory agnosia

This form of agnosia manifests in the inability to recognize or differentiate between sounds, but it has no connection with the hearing organ. There are three main types of auditory agnosia:

Classical auditory agnosia – the person cannot process environmental sounds such as animal noises or industrial noises.
Interpretative or receptive agnosia – the inability to understand music, it is also called amusia.
Linguistic agnosia – the people cannot comprehend words but they are capable of speech and they usually understand through sign language and reading books. However, when they are spoken to, they cannot find meaning in the sounds associated with the words.

2 - Tactile agnosia

This form of agnosia is manifested through an inability to recognize objects when touching, with the eyes closed. They are usually linked to injuries of the parietal lobe and the supramarginal gyrus.
Primary: The patients often cannot recognize the material used for the object or recognize the form and dimension of the object.
Secondary: the patients can recognize all of the above but they cannot recognize the object.

3 – Visual agnosia

The person cannot “see” objects although their sense organ is not injured. There are different types of visual agnosia:
-         objects
-         images
-         spatial
-         graphic symbols
-         associative
-     prosopagnosia or face blindness
-     blind sight

If you’ve read The man who mistook his wife with a hat by Oliver Sacks you will recognize visual agnosia.  

4- Body image agnosia

The person who suffers from this type of agnosia will lose their perception, recognition and representation of the existence of his body. This can be a total body image agnosia or a partial one.
-         asomatognosia – the person cannot recognize parts of their body
-         autotopagnosia - inability to localize and orient different parts of the body (it is linked to the parietal lobe of the left cerebral hemisphere)
-         finger agnosia – inability to distinguish the fingers on the hand (present in lesions of the dominant parietal lobe and a component of Gerstmann syndrome) 

Further reading:

PS: I wrote a guest post here so check that out too and I also got a blogging award :D which is great. Thanks Wan!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Glial Cells/Neuroglia

This is another post for those of you trying to study the nervous system.


What are Glial cells and why are they important?

Glial cells also called neuroglia are non-neuronal cells that maintain homeostasis, form myelin and provide support and protection for the brain’s neurons.
There are two types:

Microglia – protect the neurons of the central nervous system. They are capable of phagocytosis (meaning they are phagocyte). They are found in all regions of the brain and spinal cords. Their main role is to multiply when the brain is damaged. 
 – contains 4 different types of cells from the central nervous system:
  1. astrocytes
  2. oligodendrocyts
  3. ependymal
  4. radial glia
-         contain 3 types of cells from the peripheral nervous system

- they have a very important role in the central nervous system
- are star shaped
- they are the most numerous cells in the central nervous system
- they can be found at the exterior of the brain and spinal cord
-they give biochemical support of endothelial cells that form the blood-brain barrier
-during brain damage or radiation they are the first affected cells

-         their main function is to form and maintain myelin

      Schwann Cells
-         they have a similar function to oligodentrocytes
-         their main function is to produce myelin
-         between two cells there is a gap which formes the node of Ranvier
-         their role is also to regenerate destroyed neurons (the broken part of the axon is destroyed and the one from the cell body forms a structure that will be the next axon)

     Satellite cells:
-surround neurons in sensory, sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglia

The main function of neuroglia or glial cell is to repair injuries of the central nervous system. Some will occupy the space left by injured neurons, like astrocytes while others will help repair the neuron, like oligodendrocytes. Schwann cells help the nerve regenerate. So you can see that all these cells have a very important role in neuronal organization. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Elizabeth I - Obsession With Beauty

Queen Elizabeth I was without doubt a powerful woman. However, she seemed to be a little too obsessed about how she looked like, especially how people perceived her. She wore a lot of makeup and because lead was often used in makeup in those times her face was not in its best shape. It is known that all of her portraits contained symbolic items and she is often portrayed with elements that show purity and goodness, such as pearls or moons. 

Apparently she was looking for a painter to portray her with timeless beauty so that others can copy it for future paintings. 
This is the main reason why almost all her last paintings look pretty much the same. She had a lot of reasons to hide the way she looked as it was very important to be seen beautiful, powerful and young. Unfortunately she suffered from smallpox in 1562 which only made her face more scarred. She was covering that with lead makeup which only made things worse. She also had black teeth thanks to the big amount of sugar eaten in those days. It seems that even her speech was difficult to understand because of her missing teeth. Her hair was also beginning to thin so she had to wear a big red wig. Her nose was hooked and this can also be seen in her portraits so it was probably worse in reality. 

Although her beauty when she was young cannot be disputed, this is how she looked during her last years of her life, contrary to all the portraits done in that period. It is thought that this portrait was painted in 1580 by Joost de Hondt. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

7 Random Facts - Episode 1

1 Given a group of 23 people there is a 50% chance that two people in the group have the same birthday. 

2 Vikings used ravens to navigate. They knew that ravens were seeking their pray on land instead of water, so they used that as a tracking device for land.

3 People with obsessive compulsive behavior show a low cognitive inhibition value in tests.

4 An ancient Egypt cure for blindness was made of honey with mashed pig eyes. Everything was poured into the patient’s ear.

5 In Medieval England there was something called ordeal by water. If you were convicted, you were thrown into water; if you floated, you were guilty of the crime you were accused of.

6 The left side/right side dominance of the brain (and different types of thinking linked to them) is actually a myth. It is one of the most popular psychology myths in the world along with the myth that we only use 10% of our brain. If you don’t believe me, read this and this.

7 There is a big common misconception that you have to wait 24 hours before declaring a missing person. This was made popular by movies but it’s not true in all cases. If there is evidence of abuse or there is something unusual about the fact that the person is missing, the police should be noticed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Irrationality, boredom, bananas and awakening

What happened this week? I read this interesting article. Yes, Dan Ariely I am completely obsessed with you! I found an interesting research that shows how feelings of boredom can both strengthen solidarity within your in-group and heighten hostility toward outsiders.  I found this gorgeous lady and read about bananas. I also had some awakening and watched a random funny video

I'll leave you guys with this video of a chocolate bunny being melted. 

This was a sad and unproductive week. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Great painters: 6 impressive paintings by John Everett Millais

These are the most beautiful paintings of Sir John Everett Millais (8 june 1829- 13 august 1896) in my humble opinion, of course. He was an English painter, illustrator and a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge (1852) 

This beautiful painting depicts two lovers separated by their religious views. The girl is trying to get her lover wear a white armband as a referring to the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre when French Protestants escaped the city by wearing white armbands.

5 Autumn Leaves (1856)

This painting depicts four girls collecting fallen leaves in a garden and trying to make a bonfire. 

4 Isabella (1849) 
This painting portrais Isabella from John Keats’s poem Isabella, or the Pot of Basil describing the moment at which Isabella’s brothers realize that she is in love with Lorenzo and plan to kill him.

This amazing painting depicts two beggar girls, one of whom is a blind musician. A lot of critics have interpreted this picture to be an allegory of the senses because of the contrasting experience both sisters seem to have. The blind sister feels the warmth of the sun on her face and touches the grass while the sighted sister looks at a beautiful double rainbow on the sky.

2  Cherry Ripe (1879) 

A graphic depiction of the Cherry Ripe song showing a girl who sells cherries. The song has the following refrain:
Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,
Ripe I cry,
Full and fair ones
Come and buy.
Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,
Ripe I cry,
Full and fair ones
Come and buy.

Ophelia (1851-52) 

This is probably one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen. It depicts Ophelia, the character from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, singing before she drowns in a river in Denmark. The artist used model Elizabeth Siddal who spent hours in a bathtub during winter. Apparently she almost died of hypothermia when the oil lamps under the tub went out. She caught a severe cold and was sick for a long time. I will ask you to click the photo and zoom on the girl’s face to see how realistic this painting is. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Epilepsy - a short overview

Epilepsy is a deterioration of the nervous system that produces sudden and intense seizures. These seizures are caused by abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain.  It is a common chronic neurological disorder and it seems that about 50 million people worldwide have it. During these seizures speaking and sight are impaired and sometimes the person is not even conscious. People who suffer from epilepsy have regular seizures that occur during their life; unfortunately, without a correct treatment, they become more severe and more frequent. Even people who take the treatment correctly may suffer from seizures during their life.

However, one mustn’t consider that all people with seizures suffer from epilepsy. Sometimes seizures can be the result of a certain traumatism or another disease. Epilepsy’s causes are mostly unknown although there are a few factors people should consider. Also, they should remember that it often starts during childhood or after the age of 60.

There are two types of seizures involved in epilepsy – localized seizures or distributed (generalized seizures). Partial seizures are also divided into two types of seizures: a simple partial seizure or a complex partial seizure. The simple partial seizure happens without affecting the consciousness while the complex partial seizure will affect it.
Localized seizures are characterized by abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in a certain part of the brain and they can generalize and affect the whole body creating a secondary generalization. They all involve loss of consciousness and they are divided according to their effect on the body in: absence, clonic, myoclonic, tonic-clonic, tonic and atonic seizures.

Risk factors that may lead to epilepsy:
-         having somebody in your family with epilepsy
-         a serious brain traumatism (fracture or a profound cerebral lesion with the loss of consciousness or amnesia)
-         cerebral tumor
-         encephalitis or meningitis
-         lead poisoning
-         Alzheimer’s disease

There are a few types of epilepsy that can cause seizures:

Benign centrotemporal lobe epilepsy of childhood or benign Rolandic epilepsy
        occurs in children between the ages of 3 and 13 years;
        simple, partial and often nocturnal seizures in brief episodes;

Benign occipital epilepsy of childhood
-         occurs in children with ages between 3 and 5 with late onset between 7 and 10 years;
-         convulsions involving one half of the body or hemiconvulsions

Temporal lobe epilepsy
-         the most common epilepsy of adults
-         seizures begin in late childhood and adolescence and they are complex partial seizures preceded by aura  

West syndrome
-         infantile spasm
-         onset between three months and 2 years with the most common cause to be tuberous sclerosis

Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy 
-occurs between ages 8 and 20 with myoclonic jerks and tonic-clonic seizures but also some absence seizures.

The diagnosis of epilepsy is made using an Electroencephalography (EEG)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Diogenes the Cynic - madness or genius?

Cynicism was a school of Greek philosophy based on Socrates’ principles to pursue truth without wealth or power. They promoted a simple life and rejected the social and religious values of civilization. The independence they promoted was different than Aristotle’s view on what a human being meant. For them, the human being was not social or political.  

An interesting character linked to cynicism was Diogenes the Cynic, also known as Diogenes of Sinope. He was a very controversial figure of his time but unfortunately he left no writings. What’s interesting about him was the fact that he used his behavior to criticize the society’s values because he believed that virtue should be shown in action not theory. When he came in Athens he needed no house so he took a pithos as shelter. He did so after watching a mouse and he concluded that man can adapt to any circumstance.

Diogenes is also very famous because he used to carry a lamp in the daytime while telling people that he was looking for a human being.  He also had a bit of an altercation with Alexander the Great. Apparently Alexander was very happy to meet the philosopher and when he asked him if he needed a favor, Diogenes replied “Stand out of my sunlight”. Another episode that involves them is when Alexander found the philosopher looking at a pile of bones with great interest. When asked what he was doing Diogenes said that he was searching for the bones of Alexander’s father but he could not distinguish them from those of a slave.  
It seems that Alexander the Great’s admiration for the philosopher is what kept the philosopher alive despite his public mockery. 

He was also famous for sabotaging Plato’s lectures and there’s even a funny story about this. Plato considered that man was a “featherless biped” so Diogenes took a chicken plucked its feathers and brought it to Plato’s Academy saying “Behold! I have brought you a man”. 

He also made fun of people’s obsession with death and proper burying by saying that he wishes (when he is dead) to be left outside the city walls to be eaten by animals. When asked if he doesn’t mind that, he replied that they should also give him a stick to chase the animals away. Again, he was asked how he will be able to chase them away if he is not aware because he is dead; he ultimately replied with a question saying why would he be worried about what happens to him after death if he is not aware.

Diogenes is probably one of my favorite philosophers. He practiced what he preach, he was funny, and he was fearless. Was he mad? I don't know but I bet he had a lot of fun. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

10 Reasons Why I Feel Old At 24...

I don’t know if it’s just me but I really feel old. However, I don’t find my age being the problem I don’t believe somebody is old at my age, but everything around me makes me feel constantly old. I felt slightly old at 23 but 24 is really making me feel depressed.

1 – The media portrays a lot of young people - The first reason why I feel old is the fact that all the ads in the magazines seem to portray these beautiful 19-20 year old women with the skin of a 9 year old. I’m never going to be 19, 20 or 9 year old anytime soon so I feel kind of ancient.Apparently nowadays being 10 is the new 17 which makes it really hard for me to cope with the reality of my age. 

2- People are getting married around me - A lot of people my age are starting to get married which again makes me think that I am pretty old. A lot of my ex school/high school/college acquaintances are already married, some of them even have kids so that makes it a little hard for me to actually believe that I am still young and fresh and I can do whatever I want….which brings me to my next point.

3 – I can’t do whatever I want – I’ve been hearing myself a lot lately saying “Oh, I’m too old to do this”, “This is not appropriate for my age” which again makes the life at 24 even more miserable.

4 – Everybody is younger – more than 60% of the people I meet are younger than me and I really hate that. I hate you young people!!!! Just kidding, but seriously, am I in the wrong circles? Even if I hang out with older people I feel old, because, you know, I hang out with older people! People my age are too busy getting married so….I’m doomed. 

5- Critical – I often find myself criticizing the young generation which makes me sound like grandparents trying to cope with the idea of gay marriage. The young generation is annoying, they have so much time to waste I really hate them.

6 – I don’t have time to play videogames - I remember staying in my room for days and just play videogames until I felt like my eyes were bleeding. Now, I have deadlines, I have to sleep, I can’t just play videogames all day.

7 – I don’t live with my parents anymore – This is both positive and negative but whenever I go home I remember how good it is to have absolutely no responsibilities. I love to not care about my rent, my bills, whoever rings at the door, shopping, etc.

8 – I have a lot of old people type of conversations – if you are like me you know what I’m talking about. The type of conversations with a friend that start with “Have you seen the gas prices lately?” and end up with “I don’t know what’s happening to this country, it used to be much better in the past”. Same applies for other topics like: today’s young people, today’s music, today’s movies, etc. I often find myself and my friend discussing about stuff like this and how things are not how they used to.

9 – I don’t enjoy being crazy anymore – I don’t really want to go wild, drink all night, get male strippers and have fun with my girlfriends until we pass out near the bed. I’d rather watch a movie and drink some wine or read a book. I’m even starting to hate loud music. I always get hysterical when my flat mate listens to loud music and what’s sad about it is the fact that I use the same words as my grandma “Turn that music down, what are the neighbors going to think??? Listening to music at 3 am in the morning is not appropriate!!!” and then I walk away feeling him giving me that “u crazy woman!” look. Hmm, apparently I am crazy but not young and fun crazy, old crazy woman crazy.

10 – I can’t be myself. This works both ways, I can’t have the old woman habits that I mentioned earlier but I can’t be crazy either. Society has this thing and it makes you feel bad for being anything. There are a few exceptions, like being a famous star or the CEO of a major company. Well, I can’t be a famous star because I’m too old and I’m also too young to be a CEO. Anyway, it’s this demand to be something when you reach a certain age that makes me furious. How people start judging you because you are not like they want you to be. Some will judge you for being to immature while others will be annoyed by the fact that you seem too mature for your age. And I get both these reactions, which makes me confused.

I guess the society wants me to feel old, this way I’ll settle. I am not allowed to be crazy at this age, I can’t be wild, everything I am allowed to do is focus on my job; also, I have to buy new things all the time to keep the economy smooth. Society wants you to be old, but you have to look young so that you can inspire other young people to be old.  

PS: When I will be 34 I will look at this post, smile and say "Oh 24 year old me, how silly you were!"

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Neuron Learning Map

Along with this post and this post, you will be able to learn about the neuron easily with this map. Click on the map to make it bigger. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Neuron - Part 3 - Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are endogenous chemicals that transmit signals from a neuron to a target cell across a synapse.

There are many ways you can classify neurotransmitters. The easiest way to remember them is by dividing them into two groups: excitatory and inhibitory. Excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate the brain while inhibitory neurotransmitters create balance when excitatory neurotransmitters are overactive. 

They can also be divided into small molecule neurotransmitters and neuropeptide neurotransmitters. Small molecule neurotransmitters are more rapid and they are involved in the central nervous system prompt feedback like sensorial and motor signals.

  • Acetylcholine
  • Dopamine
  • Noradrenaline
  • Serotonin
  • Histamine
  • GABA
  • Glycine
  • Glutamate
  • Aspartate

Neuropeptide Neurotransmitters

  • Corticotropin releasing hormone
  • Corticotropin ACTH
  • Beta-endrophin
  • Substance P
  • Neurotensin
  • Somatostatin
  • Bradykinin
  • Vasopressin
  • Angiotensin II

I’ll just talk about a few of these neurotransmitters but I’ll give links to some resources if you want more.

Serotonin or 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) plays an important role in a range of brain functions. It is derived from tryptophan and it is primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract, platelets and the central nervous system. 
Low serotonin levels lead to insomnia, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, obesity, eating disorders, chronic pain, migraines and alcohol abuse. Also, negative thoughts correlated with low self esteem or obsessive thoughts and behaviors could be symptoms of low serotonin levels. 
On the other hand, high serotonin levels could lead to Serotonin syndrome which has the following symptoms: hypomania, hallucinations, shivering, sweating, nausea, tremor, etc. 
More about serotonin syndrome here

Noradrenalin or norepinephrine has a double role: as a neurotransmitter and as a hormone. It is synthesized from dopamine. The release of noradrenaline increases the level of excitatory activity in the brain and the noradrenergic pathways are involved in the control of attention and arousal functions. Along with epinephrine it underlines the fight or flight response which directly increases the heart rate, increases blood flow to skeletal muscle and releases glucose from energy stores.

Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter that has important roles in behaviour and cognition, movement, motivation, sleep, mood, attention, memory, and even learning. It helps us with our motivation and our desire to get tasks done. ADD/ADHD or even caffeine are stimulants that help us focus more by manipulating dopamine levels.

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter in the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. It is very important for proper functioning of the nervous system and muscle functioning. 

If you would like to read more, check out this amazing website.

Here’s a cool video about neurotransmitters:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Neuron - Part 1 and 2

The Neuron - Part I - Introduction 

I want to make a few posts that will help psychology students or other people interested in the brain and how it works. These are just basic so don't expect them to be extremely detailed because they are only meant for beginners (like me); also, they are not meant for learning brain surgery :) When I will finish the neuron series I will also post a map that will help you even more with your recap.

The neuron is the core component of the nervous system. It is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits the information through chemical and electrical signaling. It is formed of a cell body and protoplasmic processes that extend from that cell body.
There are three types of neuron: unipolar, bipolar, and multipolar.

Unipolar neurons (sensory neurons which conduct impulses into the central nervous system) have one process from the cell body which splits into longer processes. They are found in the spinal ganglia and cranial nerves.

Bipolar neurons (also sensory neurons) have two processes: one axon and one dentrite. For example, bipolar neurons are found in the retina of the eye, the ganglia of the vestibulocochlear nerve and bipolar cells that transmit motor signals to control muscles. 

Multipolar neurons have multi processes and they have many dentrites and a single axon. Their function is motor or as associations (they conduct impulses and permit communications between neurons in the central nervous system)

The cell body contains
-         the nucleus (with nuclear envelope containing chromatin, nucleolus, nucleoplasm, ribosomes and nuclear pore)
-         cytoplasm (a thick liquid between cell membrane holding all the cell’s internal sub structures which are called organelles) which contains mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, lysosome, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, vacuole, vesicle and cytoskeleton.
-         cell membrane

The protoplasmatic processes have dentrites and axons. Dentrites are short and transport the impulses to the cell body.
Axons have varied length to a few nanometers to 1 meter (like the axons of the sciatic nerve); they make contact with other cells like other neurons, but also muscles or gland cells through synapses.
There are two types of axons:
-         myelinated axons and unmyelinated axons
Myelin is a dielectric material composed of 40 % water; however the dry mass is about 70-85% lipids and 15%-30% proteins. If the myelin layer is think the transport is faster.  

Axons contain two types of axoplasmic transport:
-         anterograde transport (from the cell body to the synapse)
-         retrograde transport (sends chemical messages and endocytosis products  headed to endolysosomes from the axon back to the cell) is practically the way toxins and vitamins are transported to the central nervous system 

Neuron Part 2 – Synapses

A synapse is a junction that permits a neuron to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another cell. 

Two neurons are connected through a synapse. The synaptic cleft is what separates the presynaptic neuron and the postsynaptic oneSynthesized neurotransmitters are sent in the synaptic cleft and this produces feedback at a postsynaptic level. When there is an action potential at the synaptic terminal (a bulb at the end of an axon in which neurotransmitter molecules are stored and released), it releases neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft. The receptors in the membrane or the cell body of the postsynaptic neuron receive the neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft.

The axon terminal contains synaptic vesicles (about 39.5 nanometers) that play an important role for propagating nerve impulses between neurons and are constantly recreated by the cell. 

In most synapses the presynaptic part is located on the axon but there are some presynaptic parts located on a dendrite or soma.
There are many types of synapses and here you can see them grouped into 5 types:

Excitatory Ion Channel Synapses – synapses with neurorecepters that are sodium channels.
Inhibitory Ion Channel Synapses – synapses with neuroreceptors with chloride channels/ typical neurotransmitters are glucine or GABA
Non Channel Synapses – neuroreceptors that are not channels but are membrane- bound enzymes
Neuromuscular Junctions – synapses formed between motor neurons and muscle cells
Electrical Synapses – the membranes of the two cells actually touch and share proteins in these synapses so the action potential passes directly from one membrane to the next (can only be found in the heart and eye)

Tomorrow we'll learn about neurotransmitters and I will post the final recap map.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Oatmeal, marketing, headaches, depression, cheese, etc.

So, I decided I'll do a post each week about everything I liked and discovered during that week, just to share with you guys (the...3 readers of my blog) some of the stuff I find cool. Anyway, so this week I discovered I learned why dating a unicorn is cool, stuff about minor differences, and how to use a semicolon. It's a very funny website, check it out!

I've also read about the 5 biggest disasters in the history of marketing ideas and a very interesting article on Dan Ariely's blog about what makes us seek justice. Other great reads were about this guy's parents (loved it), but I also learned how to cure a headache without medication, how to make grog, and how to eat cheese like an expert (with green apple, strawberries, and pears)

I discovered this great lady who inspires me, this amazing dude that manages to make my imagination flow like I'm on LSD with his beautiful writings, this great talented guy who creates stunning portraits, and this guy who writes beautifully about books and depression. I also want to mention the life thinker, he has a lot of interesting stuff.

PS: yeah I almost forgot that I discovered this beautiful lady on YouTube with an amazing voice

Saturday, August 13, 2011

10 Biggest Statues In The World - Part 1

I don’t know about you but I am afraid of statues. Seriously, big humanoid statues creep me out. Sure, I wouldn’t be scared of an enormous statue of Hello Kitty, but when it looks like a human, it definitely scares me. Those are perhaps some childhood issues that went unresolved. Anyway, here are some of the world’s biggest statues.

1. Spring Temple Buddha - This one is actually the biggest statue in the world and it’s about 153 meters. It’s located in Lushan County, Henan, China. You have to climb 365 stairs to reach it, representing the days in a year. The road is also divided into 12 parts. The plans for this statue were announced soon after the blowing up of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan, an act condemned by China

2. Laykyun Setkyar is the second tallest statue in the world. It has 116 meters and it’s located in the village of Khatakan Taung, near Monywa, Myanmar.  It even has its own facebook page. LoL
This very colorful statue (statues?) was completed on February 21, 2008.

This one has a backdoor...literally...

3. Ushiku Daibutsu located in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan has 120 meters and it contains a nice museum inside. It was built to commemorate the birth of Shinran (a Japanese Buddhist monk ), founder of the True Pure Land School of Buddhism or Jōdo Shinshū, the most widely practiced branch of Buddhism in Japan.

4. Nanshan Haishang Guanyin and Emperors Yan and Huang  (yes, there are two statues on the 4th place, I don’t find it fair for the other statues to let China take all the places) 

Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya is another statue from China (they definitely love making statues apparently). This statue represents Avalokiteśvara, which is a bodhisattva that embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. It is 108 meters high and it took 6 years to build. It is situated in the province Hainan, China.

Emperors Yan and Huang statues are 106 meters high and they depict the Chinese emperors, Yan Di and Huag Di. Their construction laster 20 years and the statues are located in Zhengzhou, Henan province, People’s Republic of China.

5. Sendai Daikannon is on 5th place. It has 100 meters and depicts the the Japanese Buddhist Bodhisattva Kannon.

6. Again, China is on the 6th place with the Guishan Guanyin of the Thousand Hands and Eyes, made out of bronze, 99 meters high. Located in Weishan, Changsha, Hunan, People's Republic of China.

People find this statue ugly but I think is nice, a little big but nice. It was voted the tenth ugliest building in the world by Virtual Tourist and it was included on the world’s ugliest statues by Foreign Policy. It’s made of bronze, steel and cooper and it’s about 98 meters high. 
I still can’t find something wrong with this statue; yeah, it’s big but it’s quite impressive and nice. Well, perhaps the color is not that amazing.

8. Great Buddha of Thailand – yep, another Buddha, but this one comes from Thailand. A 92 meters high and 63 meters wide, this statue is the tallest in Thailand and the ninth tallest in the world.

 Again, we have China with another impressive statue of Buddha, which is located in  WuxiJiangsu Province, People's Republic of China
It is 88 meters high and it’s made of bronze.

10. Kannon in Ashibetsu in Japan is the last one in the first part of my article. This beautiful white statue symbolizes the Buddhist deity Kannon. We talked about Kannon it’s the same as the one on entry 5.  
Kannon is a bodhisattva that is associated with compassion and it’s also known as Guanyin. 

All photos taken from unless specified otherwise. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fashion History and Makeup Series: Aztec Makeup

The Aztecs were a population in central Mexico and dominated parts of Mesoamerica in centuries 14, 15, and 16. Like all the other cultures, makeup was used to improve people's beauty. 
Although women had a natural brown complexion, they would paint their face yellow because it was more fashionable. Yellow earth or a substance made from crushed insects was used to achieve that color. They also used axin which was a yellow ointment made from boiled wings of certain (timbre tree flies) flies as a lipbalm to protect against skin dryness.

Courtesans had their own style and Sahagun describes them as having yellow faces, colored with bitumen or yellow ochre. They wore their hair short (the length was to their noses) and they dyed it with indigo to make it shiny. Also they stained their teeth with a substance made from cochineal insects because it was seen as a beautiful feature on a a woman. However, concubines were the only women allowed to wear makeup because it was seen as indecent by the rest of the people. When it came to hair, most women wore their hair long and straight. 

The common women of Tenochtitlan were more reluctant when it came to makeup; there’s a part in the Chronicles that contains the instructions a father gives to his daughter concerning her appearance. He tells her never to paint her face, because makeup is used by shameless women. However, she should always wash herself and her clothes to be loved by her husband. 
The mouth was seen as indecent and drawing attention to it was only a practice done by prostitutes and concubines, so lipstick was out of the question for most women. 

The Aztec idea of masculine beauty is also described by Sahagun: “slender like a reed; long and thin like a stout cane; well-built; not of overfed body, not corpulent, and neither very small nor exceedingly tall. ”  
Face hair was not pleasant and mothers were careful to apply hot cloths on their sons faces and plucked their hair with tweezers.

As I mentioned earlier, cleaning was an important part of their culture and unlike Europeans who preferred to use perfumes for their body odor, they took baths every day. However, floral perfumes were used and some women even wore flowers around their necks for their pleasant smell. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Alzheimer's Disease - A Short Overview


Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that begins at around 55 years old with symptoms that develop slowly, sometimes unnoticeable. It is characterized by progressive cognitive deterioration, leading to an impairment of memory, reasoning, language and perception. It seems that the chance of having Alzheimer’s disease increases after the age of 70 and will affect half of the people over the age of 85. 

Sometimes it can start with psychotic disorders, hallucinations, delirium, and even a chronic depression. 

At the beginning, a few symptoms can be observed, such as mild memory loss, small personality changes and a tendency to withdraw from social interaction. These may be seen as normal for an older person and they won’t draw other’s attention. As things evolve, the person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will have problems with figures, numbers, severe memory problems, and will eventually become more agitated and irritated. Other social problems can occur, like the inability to dress appropriately or recognizing close relatives. When the disease becomes more severe, the patient will become confused and disoriented. Their focused attention is affected, they have problems with spatial and temporal orientation, and their ability to store and recall memories is greatly damaged(although most of the patients will find it easy to recall old memories). In the latest stage, patients will lose the ability to care for themselves because the disease evolves in a profound state of dementia and they ultimately die from problems that occur in severely deteriorated states of health.
Auguste Deter -
 First described case with Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer’s disease usually evolves between two and five years, sometimes in 10 years. Because of its diffuse cerebral lesions, Alzheimer’s disease is a typical case of progressive and global deterioration of the Central Nervous System.

Causes: the causes for Alzheimer’s disease are unknown but scientists have pointed out a few risk factors such as: advancing age, having a relative with Alzheimer's disease, head trauma, etc.

The disease manifests in two ways:   with deposits of the protein beta-amyloid  that accumulate in the spaces between nerve cells or  deposits of the protein TAU that accumulate inside of nerve cells 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fashion History and Makeup Series: Ancient Greece Makeup

Ancient Greece had its own idea of beauty and there were fashion trends respected by women and men in those times.

It seems there was a problem with makeup in ancient Greece and many thought that women were a bit too interested in it. The poet Eubulus described how women were wearing so much makeup it was hard for them to go out in the sun because the sweat would smear it off.

Makeup was a practice only for those who were wealthy and what most women tried to achieve was a pale face. The rich women tried to stay indoors more, other women were using makeup to achieve a lighter complexion. White lead was mixed with water and applied on their face, neck, shoulders and arms to create a smooth pale skin. Red lipstick was also in fashion and it was made from seaweed or crushed mulberries. They also used dark eye shadow and eyeliner made from soot. Red cheeks were not forgotten either and most women even draw red designs on their cheeks for a more interesting look.

They also used dark powder for their eyebrows and it seems that connected eyebrows were very fashionable back then. A natural face mask they used was made from olive oil and honey, which moisturized and gave a great glow to their face.

Perfume was also very important in Ancient Greece and it also brought the attention of Egypt. People from Egypt were appalled by the fact that Greeks were using perfume for more sexual reasons, to become more desirable while they mostly used it for medicinal and religious purposes. Kyphi was one of the reasons of this dispute because Greeks seemed to use it as an aphrodisiac while Egyptians considered it sacred.

Philosophers like Socrates were not very fond of makeup or perfumes, believing that the former would conceal the smell of slaves making it hard for people to recognize them.