Course Description

Science Research Program – Grades 9, 10, 11, 12


Full Year – Level H: Incoming freshman and sophomore students must apply for admission to this program in January of the prior academic year. Acceptance into the program will be based on a science teacher recommendation, a written essay, and excellent academic grades.


This is an ongoing program that is taken in conjunction with the student’s regular science course. There are several tiers to the program. During Year 1 students learn the components of scientific research including the scientific method and apply these concepts in various settings including designing and conducting an authentic science research project and communicating results by participation in at least one local science fair. Students also explore various applications of science topics through field trips, guest speakers and class projects. Advanced students (Years 2-4) select their science research topic, locate an out-of-school mentor (either in industry or at a local university) and compete in a variety of science fairs including the CT State Science Fair, Southern CT Invitational Science and Engineering Fair (SCSEF) and the CT Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (CT JSHS). Advanced students pursue their selected research in depth, perform statistical analysis and compete at a number of local and/or national science fairs and competitions. In Years 2, 3, and 4 students are grouped together in a non-traditional classroom setting and are required to meet individually outside of class with their Science Research Instructor biweekly to review individual goals and assess progress. All students participate in the culminating annual activity, Amity’s Science Symposium.


Monday, March 28, 2016

This Emotional Life Reflection

Overview: Every year, one in four adults in this country experiences a mental health issue that stands in the way of happiness. This critically-acclaimed and award-winning television series explores why. It opens a window into real lives, exploring ways to improve our social relationships, cope with emotional issues, and become more positive, resilient individuals. Hosted by Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness.  
Your assignment: Select 2 segments of the documentary that affected you most. State the emotion which is highlighted in the segment and reflect on the impact of the emotional state on the individual(s) involved. What hope does science have to assist in understanding these emotions?
(Segments included discussions on: Family, Friends, Lovers, Anger, Fear, Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, Happiness)


59 comments:

  1. Jimmy Bi

    In the episode of “This Emotional Life” titled “Facing our Fears”, individuals with fear and anger disorders were specifically targeted. The origin of such emotions were explained to be connected to the amygdala, a region of the brain responsible for triggering such emotions. One woman’s anger management issues were found to have jeopardized her own personal relationships. She explained the feeling to be a desire to fight, as an animal would for survival. She would visualize and focus on a single enemy while ignoring everything else, including the consequences of her actions. At a party one day, she started and won a fight with the organizer over a request to change the song. Howevers, all the others in the room had witnessed her outbursts, effectively terminating her relationships and ruining her life.

    Another woman’s fear of flying had limited her decisions in life. Being unable to use airplanes as a mode of transportation severely limited her own mobility. Although humans should naturally produce such responses since we aren’t suited for flight, the panic that the flight triggers is still an extremity when concerning average response to the situation. Cognitive behavioral therapy was performed on this woman by a psychologist, and she was able to board an airplane despite her anxiety. CBT was described as a method in which the individual, with help, would be able to suppress her own anxiety while in flight, and that after getting used to it, her panic would disappear or be significantly lessened. Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder were also present in the episode. One veteran had issues working at his job because the sounds had made it difficult for his PTSD. He was forced to quit his job, and even his personal relationships were affected. In the video he had scolded his daughter for making slight noises. The emotions that the individuals in the episode had felt had severely impacted their personal relationships and own happiness for the worse.

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  2. Jethin Gowda

    The most impactful part of This Emotional Life to me was the section about anger. This section resonated with me the most because I found the scientific aspects of anger and severe outward emotion to be particularly interesting, and I also empathized with the characters during this section. The section first gave the account of a young lady and her experiences when she felt anger to the point where she lashed out and attacked another person. She told us of a time when she got angry and began to kick the host of a party many times while the host grabbed her hair. The most interesting part of the story to me was not actual the events that occurred, but that she burst into tears while telling the story. This deep emotional response tells that she feels guilty about her actions, and also that the particular memory was so full of emotion that even recollecting it caused an emotional response. This is something that happens to me as well. After lashing out at a level of that severity, the extreme amount of emotion running through my body can cause feelings of sadness that are so powerful that recollecting the memory later can cause that same feeling. The other characters explained that when they feel angry, they no longer feel as though they have complete control over their body or their actions, as they emotionally feel they must do something drastic. While this is true, they may attempt to stop themselves in order to not cause a conflict. This combat of these thoughts is explained through the evolution of the human brain. The more primal parts of the brain tell the body to go through with their actions, and that fighting is necessary to resolve the anger, while the frontal cortex, the newly evolved part of the human brain attempts to resist these feelings, because through thought, it is found that not attacking and not responding to the emotions is a safer choice. This is how the feeling of combat with the mind and body occurs, making the choice to fight or not fight be very difficult.

    Another impactful part of the video was the section about fear. Fear is one of the most primal and important emotions in my opinion, as it keeps all species of animals alive through the avoiding of threats. The part about phobias was one that I found particularly interesting, as I saw that they are in fact not completely bad. The social stigma is that phobias are irritating and irrational, but the video explained that these extreme feelings of aversion to a particular thing may not be so irrational after all. Because fear is a primal emotion, is can take precedence over all other emotions, and a simple fear of a particular thing can make sense. A fear of flight, for example, can be a well-founded fear, as flying is not a normal thing for humans to do, as we are land creatures. In the video, a girl, who attends Harvard had a phobia of flight which caused her extreme emotional distress, yet the fear was able to be quelled through rational and optimistic thought. A fear of a particular animal may also be a relatively normal fear, as many animals can be dangerous predators capable of killing humans. I myself do not have an extremely obvious phobia of anything, though I can be scared of small insects. This fear may seem rather ridiculous, but I have come to a better understanding as to why I as well as many others may have this feeling. There are hundreds of thousands of insect species across the globe, and a good portion of them can be dangerous to humans. This fear of insects may therefore be not so irrational, as the ability to distinguish between dangerous insects and harmless ones is a near impossible task for a normal person. This realization is why I found the emotion of fear to be particularly interesting.

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  3. Vinnie Silverman
    One segment I found interesting in this series was the one which discussed anger. In this segment, a woman with anger problems discussed how her condition affects her daily life and interactions with people around her. Whenever something got her angry, even something small enough to be a nonissue for everyone else, that issue would snowball into a huge reaction. This involved throwing and breaking things, screaming, and otherwise having a very strong adverse emotional response. After this episode stopped, the issue that had started this is usually forgotten about all the same as anyone else. This is scientifically based in the natural human response to some sort of anger-causing stimulus, which is to become very emotional and have a strong physiological and psychological reaction. The connections between the part of the brain that causes these reactions and the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for higher-level thinking and decision making, are only one way; this makes people very easy to anger and very difficult to calm down, even after rational thought overrides whatever the person was angry about. I found this interesting because anger is something that almost everyone has in some small amount, and is seen regularly in the daily lives of many people. Despite this, very few people are aware of the scientific causes of anger problems, from mild anger experienced by most people to severe cases like the one in this program.
    Another segment I found interesting was the segment on specific fears. This segment talked about a freshman in college who had a fear of planes. She would experience anxiety whenever she thought about the experience of flying, and actually flying on a plane was unthinkable. However, in order to visit friends and family, she needed to overcome this fear. Through therapy sessions for several consecutive days, she was able to fly on a plane and make the first step towards fully overcoming her fear. This was done using therapy specifically designed for people with specific fears, where activities that produce symptoms similar to anxiety are done, such as exercise, and then the person receiving therapy learns how to calm themselves down quickly and reduce the effect of these symptoms. This is done because the brain’s fear center, the amygdala, is very good at creating fear and anxiety but is very bad at reducing these emotions when they are not useful. Thus, the person receiving therapy has to learn how to do this effectively through their prefrontal cortex. I found this interesting because therapy in the form of teaching someone how to control their emotions could have many applications with other emotional problems, and is a relatively quantitative and logical way to treat these problems.

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  4. A section that stood out to me from My Emotional Life was the one on family. There was a family with two adopted children, a boy named Alex and a girl named Nadiya. The boy was two years older than the girl. They were both adopted from an orphanage in Siberia. The boy had a social problem that the doctors could not pinpoint. He did not trust his adoptive parents and did not reciprocate love the same way his sister did. This is thought to be because he did not receive a lot of care and love when he was a small child. It has been found that children adopted from Eastern European orphanages have similar problems. It was found that love is a basic human need just like food. The children from these orphanages do not have a release of oxytocin when they are given comfort or care by their parent. This section stood out to me because I do not want any children that I have to have this problem. I want to make sure that I know what I need to do to make sure my children trust people and can relate to people.
    Another section that stood out to me was the section on anger. There was a woman who felt very angry a lot of the time. Humans have the flight or fight response that releases adrenaline to get our muscles ready to fight or flee. It takes humans a while to come out of this state of heightened response. The amygdala tries to make humans angry while the prefrontal cortex tries to turn them off. The amygdala has direct connections to the prefrontal cortex and can easily make us mad but the prefrontal cortex has no direct connections to the amygdala which means that it is not possible to control the amygdala. This women would get angry over very small things but she would stay angry for a long time. She often got into fights because of this. This section stood out to me because it reminded me that I have to be careful with my emotions and make sure they do not get out of hand.

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  5. Helen Liu

    While I was unable to watch the first episode of the PBS series “This Emotional Life,” I enjoyed the second episode: Facing Our Fears. This episode dealt with the negative emotions—anger, fear, anxiety, and depression. Obviously, we associate these emotions negatively, but what I thought was interesting science was that these negative emotions are essential for our survival. Negative emotions were developed to help evolution. We have two brains, a rational one based on the decisions the prefrontal cortex makes, but also an emotional brain controlled by the amygdala as well. One emotion I found interesting was anger. We saw the story of a woman who was unable to control her temper. She got into fights immediately over the smallest matters. To me, this emotion was the most negative because if left uncontrolled, it can lead to violence. This emotion not only hurt the individual feeling anger but also those around him/her. To combat this emotion, people need to think logically and rationally. To remember that people aren’t out to get you. This was most interesting to me because people close to me have had this problem of having a short temper and it has always frightened me most. Science can provide drugs that can reduce high blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system down. Science can connect associated areas of the physical body/symptoms and the emotion of anger.

    Another segment I found interesting was the following one about fear. A female college student developed an irrational phobia of flying and this significantly limited her life. She was unable to travel, and it seemed her fear was ungrounded. Her fear actually caused physical symptoms of anxiety simply by thinking of the aspect of flying in an airplane. I learned that cognitive psychotherapy is very effective in curing phobias. People challenge their fears head-on and change their negative thoughts to positive ones. It was interesting that logical thoughts can change physical symptoms. The brain connects our emotional brain with our rational one. Science can continue to map out the changes that happen among negative and positive thoughts.

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  6. What I found interesting in the fear segment of the documentary was the “fight-or-flight” biological response to certain threatening stimuli. It’s a process which has been evolving over millions of years in animals, allowing us to quickly assess immediate threats to our lives such as a predator approaching you or a natural disaster. The mind’s response is to either fight the threat and neutralize it, or instead remove ourselves from the situation by fleeing. This has inarguably been manipulated in the modern era of humans into something different from obviously harmful things. Persistent fears or phobias which are specific to the individual overextend the stay of the “fight-or-flight” response in humans, leading us to be constantly in that anxious state when around a specific thing such as spiders, heights, or small spaces. These things play as fossilized fears, fears which were once relevant to our evolutionary ancestors but are now irrelevant in the age of modern science and medicine. The patient in the documentary had a specific phobia pertaining to flight. She explained that it wasn’t as if she was scared of falling or crashing but she was simply scared of the thought or notion of flying itself. This persisting phobia kept her from traveling to see her family and friends and ultimately lead to her seeking professional help in the form of a therapist. This doctor helped the patient understand the roots of her fear and the consequences of the fear such as incredible anxiety to the point of crying. Eventually, the doctor accompanied the patient on a flight to help her confront the fear in a “fight” sort of situation so that she could see that flying was not as scary or unnerving as she previously thought. It also helped give her confidence in light of her fears, setting a precedent for any future phobias she may encounter.
    Another part of this documentary which was definitely intriguing was the segment about the war veteran who had acquired posttraumatic stress disorder. The disorder is a common development after an individual has experienced a very traumatic event such as sexual assault, warfare, traffic collisions, or threats on their life. The veteran in question had experienced one of his fellow brothers in arms dying right in front of him after an explosion and subsequent fire during one of their tours in the Middle East. Although he was out of the range of battle dangers back at home, loud noises and specific situations could set him on edge and aggravate his temper. This reaction to certain stimuli was not only affecting the individual but their family members around them. The wife and the children of the war veteran had to be more quiet around their husband and father, and they could usually get in conflict if he was agitated. Another patient of PTSD was a Vietnam War veteran, and he was much more severely affected. His time in the war may have been short but the scenes of destruction and slaughter played out over and over in his head for every waking moment of the rest of his life to the point where he considered suicide more than twice. This is a common effect of having contracted PTSD as the relief of death can sometimes seem better than constant nervous breaking down. Medications and psychotherapy can help the patients such as the Vietnam veteran, but they are not always completely successful.
    The patients of phobias and PTSD can still lead very difficult emotional lives, and thus, I think, deserve more of our respect and consideration when encountering them. Making people feel safe is important and should be the job of friends and family in taking care to make them seem welcome and help them assimilate back into normal emotional states.

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  7. The most impactful part of the movie, This Emotional Life, was the overall purpose where we learned about relationship and their purpose on an individual’s well-being. The movie explores the cognitive and neurological processes behind our interactions which helps explain why some relations thrive and others don’t. The movie also looks at the nature of social relationships, happiness, and negative emotions. All in all, the movie reflects our relationships and how our connections to other impact our happiness. Each personal segment in the movie reveals stories about ordinary people to better understand the importance of social connections and relationships and the most recent brain research to support their information.

    In the first episode, we meet a young boy who is adopted from an orphanage. His story looks at how his inability to form strong attachments to other people during his young childhood and how that shaped his ability to build stronger relationships in the future. The emotion highlighted in this segment was attachment. The young boy’s behavior was very separate. He was always by himself while his adopted sister would player with the parents. He seemed to be jealous of Nadia and would always try and make a scene with the parents. It was very difficult for the parents to deal with Alex. Science uses Harry Harlow’s study with the monkeys and how they showed attachments to the two artificial mothers.

    Another personal story was about two twins, Donnie and David. The emotion highlighted in this segment was feeling that they were being paid attention to by the parents. David and his father had a conversation. It was when David was very young, but the fact that his father responded to the different sounds made, it gave David a strong sense that he was being paid attention to. The scientist talks about how this kind of reciprocal interaction is very important for child development.

    Also another very memorable part of the movie was with the Harvard University student that was unable to fly because she was scared. I found this very interesting because whenever she thought about it, she felt many different negative emotions. She was slowly being cured by psychotherapy and her psychologist took her through the process of flying and actually took her on an airplane. This is really helped her in that now she says that she would be able to try to fail again and how she really like it.

    Harika Lingareddy

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  8. The segment of This Emotional Life about family really stood out to me. In this segment, the attachment process is analyzed in depth to identify what may pose difficulties in this process. In the documentary, the McCormack family is watched. They have two adopted children, Nadia and Alex. Nadia connected with the parents instantaneously while Alex was resentful of them the second they met. At first the parents believed that for however many years Alex was in the orphanage, was how many years he would need to adjust to his new family. After many year, the parents realized that wasn’t the case and they began to explore other disorders such as childhood bipolar disorder. It was later seen that Alex formed a poor attachment to his parents. This was observed by a study about the oxytocin levels in the brain and its relationship with children who grew up with their biological parents versus those who were adopted. Oxytocin is a brain chemical which helps with a formation of attachments. In the study when children were comforted by their biological parents, their oxytocin levels shot up while those who were comforted by their adoptive parents showed little to no change in oxytocin release. It is speculated that love is gratifying to have, almost like a reward and being neglected in early life makes social relationships less rewarding. Science hopes to find a way to help adopted children form better attachments.
    Another segment that stood out to me was about friends. In this section, a man by the name of Jason is presented. He is said to be lonely since he has no way of relating to other people. Doctors were not sure what it was at first until his mother later found that he had Asperger syndrome. Doctors set up a study and had Jason watch a movie and they studied his eye movements using a camera. When they later saw what he was focusing on, they discovered it was mostly insignificant objects in the background rather than the actual characters because he couldn’t relate to characters. As well as that he couldn’t identify social cues that most people identify subconsciously, so he isn’t able to identify what people mean by their words many times. It’s hard for some people with Asperger syndrome at work since they have to adapt to other people. After Jason began to block out everything that’s going on with himself and pay more attention more to others, he began to have an easier time dealing with Aspergers. Science hopes to find better more effective way to assist those with Aspergers in social settings.

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  9. Ryan Oleynik

    Amity Science Research

    Ms. Deborah Day

    March 28, 2016

    This Emotional Life Summary

    In the documentary, This Emotional Life, Professor Daniel Gilbert explores the role emotions play in our life. The first episode of the documentary, Lovers, focusses on the importance of relationships and how they affect our overall emotional well-being. The movie first studied a young boy who was adopted from a Russian orphanage. Gilbert found that due to the lack of attachment at an early age, the boy had trouble adjusting to his new parents. The documentary mentioned that for many year orphanages have been very institutional. This doesn’t allow children to develop healthy social relationships with others. In the future, science hopes to stress the importance of early childhood development to ensure that every child is able to develop meaningful social relationships with others. I thought this story was very meaningful because prior to watching this documentary I had learned about the three phases of attachment (secure attachment, insecure avoidant and insecure ambivalent) in AP Psychology. It was interesting to see these terms being used in the context of a real developmental situation.
    Episode Two of the documentary entitled, Facing Our Fears, examined the common obstacles that may impede our path to happiness. One man in the documentary described his struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The veteran recounted a moment during the Iraq War in which he assisted an Iraqi citizen who was laying on the street after a roadside bomb exploded. The veteran ran toward the citizen to assist him. As the soldier knelt by the Iraqi, he passed away in his arms. Today, the veteran struggles with the effects of PTSD daily. In the documentary, he recalled the scene with vivid detail. In the future, science hopes to understand the mental processes involved with PTSD better to aid in better treatment of those who suffer from this mental disease. I thought this story was very moving because veterans are often forgotten and this documentary highlighted the need for better treatment of veterans.
    Overall, I thought the documentary, This Emotional Life, was very interesting and moving. The documentary successfully explored the role emotions play in our life by examining personal stories of those who suffer mental diseases.

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  10. While watching This Emotional Life, many different ideas stood out to me as important and interesting. However, one scene from each episode stuck with me and I thought about it for days after seeing it. In the first episode, a highlight is Alex, a troubled youth who was adopted from a Russian orphanage. He has many problems regulating his emotions and is unable to interpret other people’s facial expressions. He does not express love or seem to be grateful for his parents’ love of him. His parents and doctors think that this is because of the lack of attention he received as an infant. In a famous study, infant monkeys were separated from their mother at birth and compared to monkeys who had been raised normally. The monkeys who had not experienced love grew up to have much more mental and emotional problems. Similarly, because of Alex’s neglect as a newborn, he exhibits symptoms of ADD and bipolar disorder, although his final diagnosis is Reactive Attachment Disorder.
    In the second episode of the series, it focuses on the emotion of fear: specifically, unreasonable, uncontrollable fear. This is called a phobia. One example of this involves a college girl whose terrible fear of flying prevents her from traveling the country and visiting her family. She chooses to see a therapist, who she hopes can help her conquer her fear. Normally, the therapist talks with his patients roughly once a week over the course of months to gradually help them overcome their phobias. The girl in question, however, elected to see the therapist for the entire day three days in a row. This rapid and intense therapy may have helped her to conquer her fear. In some of the sessions, the therapist emphasizes that the girl knows that she can fly. After the three days, the therapist and the girl board a plane together. The girl is still terrified and attempts to back out, but after consoling from the therapist she agrees to stay on the plane and it takes off. During the flight, her fear begins to slowly dissipate. When the plane lands, she is extremely happy and proud of herself for overcoming her irrational fear.

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  11. Teddy Criscuolo
    In This Emotional Life, the life and struggle of a young immigrant girl as she tries to adjust to her American life is explored in detail. In this specific segment, anger is described and scientifically explained. This young girl is self-described as an outcast and has trouble finding her place in her new home. Possibly as a result of this, she develops extreme rage. The young girl is completely normal, and normal functioning, but at the slightest annoyance she rapidly falls into a state of extreme rage. Her struggle with her problem climaxes at a house party in which she viciously attacks the host for changing the song. To understand her anger we must look at what goes on in her brain. One of the most basic human responses that serves as a direct reference to the evolution and primal days of human development is the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is something shared in almost all conscious organisms, not just humans. This response is an involuntary release of chemicals in the body by the brain when it senses danger that heightens that individual’s state of awareness and leads them to either fight, or run away, flight. It developed as a method to keep one alive when put in high stress situations such as life or death predatory encounters. Although it works perfectly as a survival tool, in human society it is not always applicable. This is what is seen in this young individual. She has some sort of disorder that causes her to fall into this fight or flight response and as is easily seen she is quick to choose the earlier off the two. Knowing this she is now well on her way to treating her problem through therapy methods such as reappraisal.
    Right after the concept of fight or flight is introduced in the show they describe the struggle of another unfortunate individual. In this case they describe the emotional life of a navy veteran named Bob. The fight or flight response and the concurring heightened state is a trait that in nature saves the individual from the danger and then afterwards goes away. But in some individuals the heightened state can randomly appear again long after the danger is gone even in times when there is absolutely no danger. This is the unfortunate life of the navy veteran. As in many war veterans, Bob was diagnosed with PTSD. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a condition that causes random triggering of the fight or flight response that usually occur in individuals who have faced an extreme traumatic experience. Bob has a bad case of PTSD but hopes to treat it through prolonged exposure therapy, medication, and time

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  12. Vince Li
    There were many interesting and impactful parts in the first and second episodes of This Emotional Life. However, of the many parts, one that stood out to me in particular in the first episode was Alex, an orphan adopted from Russia. His segment focused on relationships, and in particular, his difficulty forming them. He had problems with both regulating his emotions and relating to others. This caused issues both for him and his adopted family. Scientific advancement has determined that the cause for this is likely his neglect as a child. In a famous study, rhesus monkeys who were taken from their mothers demonstrated many social and emotional problems. Alex’s adopted sister, Nadia, was not in the Russian orphanage for as long. She did not demonstrate Alex’s issues. One of the ways of treatment is as behavioral approach to therapy. Dr. Kinney is Alex’s therapist. He tries to help Alex and his family by modeling to them how to communicate. Although Alex has improved, science has to advance much more to help him
    The second episode of the series highlighted the emotion of fear. The segment of the second episode that stuck out to me in particular was the girl with an irrational fear of flying, called a phobia. For the girl, this fear causes many troubles as it prevents her from visiting families. She underwent several therapy sessions with her therapist over three days in an attempt to solve her phobia. The therapy focused on facing her fears rather than hiding from them. However, it was not a perfect science, as despite the therapy sessions she continued to be scared when boarding the flight, and breaks down crying. She is. However, able to fly, which shows an improvement.

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  13. The award winning movie, This Emotional Life, talked about common feelings that occur throughout someone's lifetime. The two that I primarily focused on were anger and fear. These two can sometimes directly relate to each other, and they are both easily seen daily. When your emotions become distraught, multiple emotions can arise and show, but one of the most common emotions is anger. This anger could be caused because of life not going their way, when they make a mistake, or when something happens and they can't tolerate it. In the movie, it talked about a young girl with anger issues. She relieved some of them by boxing, but not all of her anger could be taken out of her system. She told us when she met her breaking point with her anger issues. One night she was out partying with her friends, but the music playing was not what she wanted. She walked over to the speaker, picked up the iPod, then changed the song to her choosing. The host of the party walked over to her and asked her why she changed the song. She simply responded that she didn't like that song. The host then changed the song back and scolded her for changing it. The girl with the anger issues then punched the guy and knocked him out. She got fixated with this person changing the song, but after that, she started crying because she knew that what she just did was horribly wrong. Consciously, after the fact, she knew that it was not the right decision, but in the moment she thought it was the correct decision. She solved this type of anger with psychotherapy. They taught her how to control her emotions better.

    Another emotion that was talked about was fear. The movie talked about a girl who couldn't go onto an airplane because she was scared of flying. This was her phobia. A phobia is a fixated fear of one specific topic. Types of fear are sometimes shown by phobias, also known as specific fears of things. Some common phobias are arachnophobia or acrophobia. These are the scientific terms for fear of spiders and fear of heights. After three long sessions of cognitive therapy, over a span of three days, this Harvard College school girl was able to conquer her fear of flying in an airplane. Cognitive therapy taught her to feel the emotions and feelings before they actually happened to her. At the therapy office, the doctor taught her feelings like being dizzy. Dizziness is a common feeling when you are trying to conquer fears. By using cognitive therapy, this girl made her first flight in an airplane in three years.

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  14. David Wang

    In the episodes of “This Emotional Life”, the section focusing specifically on fear and anger stuck out to me the most. The section on anger followed one woman who frequently had problems managing her emotions and would often pick fights or completely lose her temper. It was hinted at in the movie that this woman developed these emotional responses due to a rough childhood. Her inability to control her temper has ultimately resulted in difficulty maintaining relationships and having friends. In one instance, she picked a fight with the organizer of a party over a seemingly small choice of music. Anger is ultimately fueled by multiple chemicals released in the brain, such as adrenaline which is triggered by a fight or flight response in the body, or cortisol which heightens the senses. The amygdala controls emotions and it is up to the prefrontal-cortex to make decisions and judge a situation to control the emotions created by the amygdala, an ancient part of the brain. Because of this, emotions can be especially hard to control and may result in irrational phobias.

    Another woman’s irrational fear of flying has limited her life substantially. Though she understands that there is very little risk in flying, she can’t seem to control her fears and will experience numerous physical symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and sweating when she tries to fly. The response of fear is similar to the response of anger in that it is also triggered by the amygdala and is therefore often hard to control because of the limitations of the prefrontal-cortex. Ultimately, the girl required some rather intensive counseling based off the ideas of Freud to try and regulate her fears, and in the end she was able to overcome her fears and ride an airplane. This section resonated with me because of how it demonstrated how little control we have over our emotions. Even though this girl was a very bright Harvard student who understood there was no substantial risk in flying, she had extreme difficulty overcoming her fears and I feel like emotions can be exactly like this, hard to control and regulate. Overall, science has been able to uncover the mysteries surrounding emotions and the documentary “This Emotional Life” did a good job of displaying various stories and examples of emotions and the science behind them.

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  15. Haya Jarad

    This Emotional Life was rather eye-opening, and offered great insight into the developing field of psychology. The opening segment was perhaps the most influential. I had not realized just how primal and innate the emotion of love was. The two children adopted from Siberian orphanages were a testament to the kind of effect the amount of love received early in life can have on later social skill development. The fact that one sibling spent more time being effectively neglected in the orphanage than his sister had a huge impact on his life later. He was unable to connect with others the same way his sister could. Being ignored and not receiving the attention he craved early in life inhibited the development of many social skills, such as making eye contact, understanding social cues, and developing friendships. His sister on the other hand is highly social and talkative. She was also able to pick up activities such as playing an instrument. Her confidence also seemed to surpass his.

    Another interesting portion of the film was the section on the science of fear. One individual featured was a war veteran who had suffered immensely from nightmares after returning from war. His PTSD has affected not only him but his entire family. He mentioned that his nightmares and PTSD in general had contributed to him losing his job and relocating his family to the home of his mother in law. Also his wife was greatly impacted by his situation. She recounted the multiple occasions when he awoke in the middle of the night yelling military commands or in a state of panic. Besides the fact that seeing her husband in this state undoubtedly hurt her, it also put her under immense pressure. She could not “crack” because her husband and family were counting on her for the emotional support. She said the she must be strong for them, and give her husband the time he needs to recover.

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  16. One of the segments of “This Emotional Life” dealt with PTSD. A soldier who came back from fighting in a war was affected heavily by post-traumatic stress disorder. He continuously suffered from nightmares from his time in the war and was unable to hold down a steady job due to his mental illness. After losing his job and moving in with his mother-in-law, he tried to find more work with little success. The soldier also refused to go to psychotherapy because he didn’t want to willingly relive through his time in the war. Alternatively, another soldier who had suffered from PTSD from his time in the war had decided to go through psychotherapy and found much success. The differences between the two reflect the difficulty associated with living with a mental illness and the stigma of therapy in the eyes of both those with and without mental illnesses. With PTSD, there are not many effective drugs that can work to alleviate one’s situation. As such, therapy is one of the only methods to finding relief. The best way science can help treat PTSD is the reduction of stigma associated with therapy.

    Another one of the segments in this video was about anger. In that segment, a woman talked about her experience with feeling intense bouts of anger that heavily affected her day to day activities. At random points, she felt anger to such an extent that she got involved in a physical fight with a host of a party over him asking why she had changed a song. The anger caused her to act in ways she would not normally even think of doing so. To better treat her and those suffering from similar conditions, science has to investigate the source of emotions in the brain and the fundamental causes of the intense imbalance in emotions in certain individuals to identify areas where new medicine and treatments should focus.

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  17. Barak Davidi

    One of the most compelling segments of the This Emotional Life was the discussion of anger. The video focused on a young woman with frequent and long term anger management issues. She discussed her upbringing and the effect her father had on her condition. She describes in articulate details her exaggerated reactions to otherwise inconsequential events. For example, she discusses a casual party situation where she simply changed the music choice and got in a physical fight with the host. Her discussion of her issues and the manners in which she has attempted to deal with it shed light on the vast difficulties we all face when dealing with natural emotions. The video also focused on the evolutionary and scientific reasoning behind and utility of anger in stressful situations. And it discussed manners to calm down our otherwise overactive “fight or flight” reactions and render them applicable to nonthreatening situations. Through better understanding of the self through scientific reasoning we might be able to quell the wildfire of anger and deal with our emotions in constructive manners.

    Another fascinating segment of This Emotional Life was the discussion of phobias and overcoming them through psychological techniques. The video followed a Harvard student who had a phobia of flying that restricted her ability to visit family and caused her great distress. She met with a psychologist for a three day period where he taught her to confront her fear through simulation techniques and logical reasoning. The segment climaxed with the student and the psychologist taking a flight, and the student successfully overcoming her fear. Through sound thinking, scientific reasoning, and some courage humans are able to overcome even the most depilating and otherwise crippling fears.

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  18. The first segment that greatly affected me was fear. A specific part focused on a girl named Christina Kelly who was afraid of flying. The video showed how a cognitive behavioral therapist was able to reduce Christina’s fear of flying. He utilized systematic desensitization and encouraged Christina to confront her fearful thoughts and reappraise them. This method must be paired with exposure to the aversive stimulus. In Christina’s case, the aversive stimulus was flying. She did many exercises with her therapist, including writing down how she felt when confronted with flying. Eventually, her therapist brought her on a flight and she was able to endure the entire experience; Christina conquered her fear. This part showed how effective and life-changing cognitive behavioral therapy can be.

    The second segment that greatly affected me was also in fear, but focused on PTSD. Warren was a veteran who suffered from PTSD and did not respond to medications. As a result, PTSD had a detrimental effect on his career and life. However, he was able to turn his life around through prolonged exposure therapy. He was forced to embrace his memories until the fear diminished. Essentially, he was being taught that he did not need to be afraid of this fear any longer. This is called “New Learning.” This new form of therapy made Warren’s life exponentially better, and watching these effects unfold were very moving.

    In both of these scenarios, science gave the individuals hope for a better life. First, researchers gained an initial understanding of why people developed such problems, and, in turn, worked to solve these problems.

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  19. Lillian Zhang

    From The Emotional Life Series, I found the first segment on the emotion fear to be interesting. Fear is an interesting emotion because it’s something that you think you can’t control and it just occurs on its own yet there are ways to diminish the fear. College student, Christina Kelly had a phobia with flying. Fear from flying really changed the way she lived because she wouldn’t be able to visit her family or travel because of flying on an airplane. Christina decides to face her fear and sees a therapist for a 3 day marathon to conquer her fear of flying. Todd Farchione of Boston University helps to determine how to overcome the fear. Christina has tried to use medications but had no success but Farchione used decided the best way to overcome the fear is reappraising it and allowing it to unfold. At the end of their marathon training sessions, Christina goes on the flight and becomes more relaxed and succeeds in overcoming her fear of flying. In the therapy sessions, Farchione used a different method to understanding the fear of flying. In the past, Sigmund Freud was the first to talk about feelings in therapy sessions, also known as psychotherapy. Talking about the feelings helps the person understand their emotions more in his or her own perspective and helps to understand his or her self. Another type of therapy called psychodynamic therapy helps to develop insight. This type of new therapy helped to control and regulate the emotions and was different from trying to pinpoint the origin of the fear.

    Another segment I found interesting was on on anger. Anger is interesting because the emotion comes from an evolutionary trait we have from the fight or flight response in animals. A woman named Mary in LA had to deal with anger many times in her life. Once, she was at a party and changed the song that the owner of the house was mad about, and when Mary became very defensive about it, she physically engaged in a fight with the man. Reflecting back on the memory, she cried because she realizes it’s another emotion she thinks she is unable to control but science has come a long way to decide that is not the case. In addition to the fight or flight response, researchers have found there is a tug of war amygdala and prefrontal cortex. Although the prefrontal cortex manages the decision making, it has what researchers call “backroads” to the amygdala that controls our emotions such as love, fear, and anger. In addition, for the amygdala to signal the prefrontal cortex, there are “highways”, and makes sending emotional responses to the cortex much easier. Thus, it is difficult for the the prefrontal cortex to control and regulate our emotions. One way of combating the anger is a type of therapy that involves appraising and thinking about the event from another perspective. James Gross of Stanford studies this emotional regulation by conducting an experiment where he wired up subjects to measure the pulse and told them to think of something that makes them mad over and over again. The therapy is similar to the the one used by Christina in Fear. It involves thinking about the same situation from different perspectives. After revisiting the memories, the psychotherapy helps to understand their own emotions and potentially to control it. Science has helped us to understand better of our own emotions while also helping us to take control of toning down our fear or anger.

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  20. This Emotional Life outlined the perils of having some of the strongest emotions in life. It is equally important to understand one’s own emotions as to understand others’ emotions. Intense emotions such as betrayal,confusion, and loneliness occur when you cannot read others’ emotions because the ability to read facial cues is essential for successful relationships. Jason Ross has Asperger’s, a disease that makes it hard to determine the emotions of others, so he has had a hard time in his life making friends, connecting with his family, and keeping a job. Jason was determined, though, so science was able to help him. People without Asperger’s are able to read emotions naturally, but Jason was taught the meaning of different social cues through therapy and teaching from his mother. Jason worked with Dr. Richard Perry for social therapy. An experiment was conducted by Amy Klin to see where Jason’s eyes are focused during a movie-instead of eyes or mouths, he was looking at minute background details. Studies like this can help understand the types of cues people with Asperger’s respond better to rather than social cues. He was taught about how to look at faces and understand tones of voice. This made him able to hold a close friendship and get a job as an ultrasound doctor. His success shows hope for the ability to learn how to read emotions.
    Anger was another emotion that stood out in this series. In a way, anger blocks out the ability to read another’s intentions because the emotion of rage takes over one’s actions. Mary, a filmmaker, described her extreme anger and how it started to ruin her life. She lashed out at people for no reason and knew she had gone too far when she slapped someone at a party and got into a big fight. She felt bad about who she had become, as anger is a very regrettable emotion. Anger in animals is a helpful trigger for the fight or flight response, which aids in survival, but humans generally have no need for the heightened state of anger. Joseph Ledoux studies anger and found that the highly evolved prefrontal cortex, where higher level decisions are made, has no way to communicate with the ancient amygdala, which “turns on” anger. This makes it very hard to regulate emotions using logic. James Gross studies emotion regulation in an effort to help people gain some control of regrettable, overpowering emotions. Mary got her life back after going to therapy, when she learned to cool down her emotions by taking a breath before taking an action--taking time to think helps change emotions. There are two types of therapy that have been developed to help people understand strong emotions such as anger: psychotherapy, created by Sigmund Freud, tries to uncover the hidden reasons for strong emotions, such as traumatic incidents in childhood, and psychodynamic therapy focuses on getting insight into unconscious conflict in relationships. New forms of therapy are being developed to focus less on the causes of emotions and more on strategies to deal with them, such as taking a breath. Knowing the reason for an emotion may not be enough help if one is not provided with the tools to conquer its symptoms.

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  21. Neha Pashankar

    One of the segments that affected me greatly was the segment about PTSD. There was one man who talked about in this segment who were struggling with the effects of PTSD. One of them was Bob, a father and a husband, who would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about his experiences in the Iraq War, where he saw one of his fellow comrades died right in front of him. He lost his job due to his effects of his PTSD, and he affected his entire family with his disorder. His family ended up having to live with his mother-in-law, which was demoralizing to him as he felt he couldn’t provide for his family. Science has the power to assist in understanding these emotions greatly. There are many different solutions to PTSD, as there is not one cure. Psychiatry help and therapy sessions can help understand the origin of these traumatic experiences and can help the patient come to cope with their disorder. Understanding where PTSD affects the brain and targeting those areas with medicine treatments could also help. Also, many PTSD patients are subject to depressive or paranoia symptoms, so there may be a medicine treatments like anti-depressants or antipsychotic medicines (used for schizophrenia). I found this part especially interesting as I’m very passionate about mental disorders and love to learn more about them.

    Another segment that was extremely interesting to me was the fear segment. One college freshman at Harvard had an unexplainable fear of flying. She couldn’t explain the cause or origin of her fear, but the thought of flying made her extremely tense and anxious. This fear deterred her from flying to see friends and family, so she finally decided to treat it through therapy sessions. In these sessions, the psychologist would make her associate certain exercises with fear to help her get over it. The amygdala, a part of the brain that is used for creating fear, lacks the mechanisms to regulate fear well. By understanding the mechanisms and locations of fear regulation in the brain can help people with anxiety, phobias, and more mental illnesses. I found this segment very interesting as I find flying so trivial, but this girl was deathly afraid of it. I think it’s very fascinating how fear regulation works differently in different people. This also relates to my research at my mentor’s because receptors in the glutamatergic system are crucial to the metabolic pathway of processing and eliciting for the percept of fear.

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  22. Julia Nadelmann

    One segment of “an emotional life” that interested me was the segment on fear. One college student had been unable to return back to her home since she began school, years before because she was scared to get on a plane. Her quality of life and individual mobility had been greatly limited by her fear. After she underwent cognitive behavior therapy, she was able to fly, with a psychologist next to her on the plane. Through cognitive behavior therapy she was able to suppress her own anxiety while in flight, allowing her to become more comfortable with flying, and significantly decrease her fear. Despite the fact that there is a social stigma around fears, fears in fact are rather common and not completely irrational. For instance, when one has a fear of a particular animal, it can be partially reasonable because some animals can truly be dangerous. However, fears, which are commonly experienced by many people throughout the world, can easily be quelled through rational and optimistic thinking.
    Another segment of “an emotional life” that interested me was the segment on depression. I was interested in this segment because depression is something despite being commonly experienced, is highly misunderstood by normal individuals and stigmatized. The video showed two identical twin sisters as they began a video diary the summer before they started college. While one sister seemed to be happy and healthy, her twin suffered from clinical depression. The twin suffering from depression explained that depression is not just being sad, something that can be made better by crying, but rather depression is something that she has to cope with every single day. Depression is her constant feeling of a lack of motivation or energy, despite her desire to do things, her feelings of anxiety that can come on at any time, and her feelings of fear and disappointment about the future. Clinical depression greatly impacts how she lives her life, as there are some days where despite her desire to do things, she is unable to get out of her bed and to make herself be productive or active. Her depression is further demonstrated in her fear of the future, and of starting college. She does not know what it will be like and if she will be able to adjust to a new environment with new people, which makes her anxious and nervous. I was interested in the segment on depression, because depression is something that can affect anyone and I think that it is important that we understand depression as not just something where someone is sad, but as a legitimate mental illness.

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  23. Matthew McKenna

    The Emotional Life discussed several psychological issues that people suffer from, and talked about what these issues do and ways to combat them. The first section that I found interesting was the section on PTSD. In this section, the video focused on a few veterans who were diagnosed with the disease. One of these veterans was named Bob, and he discussed what he dealt with due to his PTSD. According to Bob, in the war he held an enemy soldier and watched the man die in his arms. Years after he left the war, he can still recall that image perfectly, and it keeps him awake at night. Aside from the image, Bob also has problems with noise. For him to be comfortable, everything has to be silent, or close to it. Any large amounts of noise bother him, and he can’t deal with it. Due to this, he has lost his job and is moving back into his mother’s house. If science can understand what parts of the brain PTSD impacts, drugs can be developed to combat the disease effectively. These drugs would make life much more tolerable for veterans of war suffering from PTSD, and for all PTSD patients in general.

    The next emotion discussed was fear. In the video, the crew followed a girl attending Harvard and talked to her about her irrational fear. The girl was named Christina, and she had an irrational fear of flying. She was terrified of planes and being in the air, and this fear was keeping her from flying home to visit with her family. Eventually, she sought the help of an expert trained to get rid of these fears in his patients, and he was able to work with Christina until she was no longer afraid of flying. By the end of her segment, she managed to get on a plane and fly home without having a panic attack or being overly anxious. In this case, science can potentially have large impact on the lives of many. If scientists manage to pinpoint the areas of the brain where the irrational fears come from, they can start to make drugs to either get rid of the fears all together or minimize their impacts.

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  24. The segment about post traumatic stress disorder was interesting to me. It was interesting to see the effect of PTSD on the lives of soldiers even after they have come home from war. One veteran was debilitated by the disorder, having a fear of public places and staying in his home all day, until he sought treatment. He seemed to be doing much better after the treatment, as he was able to revisit memories of the war without any noticeable distress. Another veteran seemed to be managing the disorder a little better, but was still having some problems in his daily life. He had lost his job and was forced to move to a different town. He also had problems with nightmares and loud noises. However, he refused to receive treatment because he did not want to revisit his memories of the war. I think this is perfectly understandable, as I would not want to think about the horrors of war any more than I needed to. Psychologists have gradually gained a better understanding of PTSD, and the most effective treatment usually consists of talk therapy instead of drugs and medication.

    The segment about fear was also interesting to me. It was surprising to see how fear could have such a large impact on a person’s life. The girl that was afraid of flying was reduced to tears at the prospect of having to take an airplane. It was interesting to see her journey in overcoming her fear and ultimately braving an entire airplane ride at the end of the segment. I could not imagine being so afraid of flying in an airplane that I would be reduced to tears, but the girl in the video was so afraid that the phobia prevented her from traveling to visit her family. I can understand being afraid of dangerous things and situations, but fear of common items is strange for me. It seems very irrational. I was impressed by the girl’s level of bravery in confronting her fears. It was also interesting to see the methods used by the therapist to help her get past her fear. Most of the time, desensitization is used in cases with phobias. The feared stimuli is gradually introduced to the patient while they are in a calm and relaxed state. As with PTSD, therapy seems to work the best for specific phobias, as there are not really any drugs that can treat them.

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  25. The Emotional Life was a video that focused on the psychological issues with humans and how they could affect their lives in general. The first psychological issue that they focused on was PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. This affected many people who have served time, and seen things that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Bob, a veteran in the Iraq war witnessed a man die in his hands. This affects him and his family. He cannot stay up during the night and I believe that he did things such as sleep walking that disturbed others around him. Also, because of this lack of sleep it was difficult for him to keep a job. This put a burden on himself and others around him because they needed to take care of him. Furthermore, he has a problem with noise levels. For example, when things are very loud he gets very agitated and stressed out. This does not help his PTSD. Hopefully in the future they could develop a remedy for PTSD. I believe that they are hoping to measure what parts of the brain are active during this time. They hope to create a drug that could help cure PTSD by focusing on the area that recalls these memories.
    The second physiological issue that they focused on was fear. They studied a girl from Harvard who had a fear of flight. This was very interesting because although it does not seem like a big deal, it affected her in such a major way. She was unable to freely return to her home and it was a hassle to go far distances since she would have to travel by car or train. Whenever she thought of flight, she would have negative emotions. They treated her with psychotherapy and finally went on a plane and flew. She now overcame her fear and said that she liked it and that she would be willing to try it again. I think that this psychotherapy is a good cure for fears, and that it is effective shown through this student.

    -Alexander Friedman

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  26. The segment from This Emotional Life about Family I found very interesting and meaningful. It described how people don’t just have inherent needs for food, water, sex, etc, but also for human attachment. Harry Harlow conducted a study of monkeys, and found that they preferred being fed by a motherly figure over a cold feeding source. He found that young monkeys have a need for “contact comfort”, which is vital for people--not just monkeys--to feel connected and camaraderie with others. With this knowledge, Mary Ainsworth found that the healthiest relationship between mother and child includes secure attachment--the child can be comforted by the mother when scared. There are proper parenting techniques that lead to this form of attachment, as all mothers strive to achieve this relationship with their child. One mother hired a professional to help develop this relationship with their child, which I found very interesting as it shows the importance of this bond (the mother did not seem to have too much extra money, but she prioritized and decided her money should go towards the development of this relationship). Another instance in the segment that showed the importance of this relationship was when we saw the boy from the Russian orphanage that could not connect with his parents or sister. It was not natural for the boy to feel empathy and concern for his mother because he did not form any secure attachments early in life. It was very clear that the boy was debilitated because his these needs for family, warmth, and connection did not form early on. Many psychologists have studied family bonds and contact comfort needs, and continuing this study gives hope for people life the Russian boy and his family. Scientists and psychologists are finding new counseling techniques that can help individuals build those bonds.

    Another memorable segment from this video was the one on PTSD. It gave glimpses into several people’s lives, some of them were better adjusted and had more control over their symptoms than others. For one man, PTSD was clearly debilitating his regular life. In a parent-teacher conference, he could not focus on what the teacher had to say about his child because he was distracted by sounds that, I assume, brought him back to the terrifying moments in war. While the teacher was not bothered by the sound, he could not stand it and attempted to stop it by demanding quietness from his children. PTSD appeared to be affecting his work life as well, as he was searching for a job in a noisy environment--clearly not an easy task for him. His wife felt like the relationship wasn’t healthy for her, showing that PTSD doesn’t just affect those in war, but also those that were affected by war. Meanwhile, another man was doing much better at the time of the video. He felt happier and healthier than ever after starting talk therapy and confronting some of the memories from his times in war. Before starting this therapy, he did many drugs and was terrified of falling asleep because of the dreams he might have to endure. The therapy was helping him greatly--it just needs to become more widespread and unstigmatized so that people like the man I mentioned before can benefit from it.

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  27. One of the segments which affected me most was the anxiety section. It talked about those who have irrational fears such as flying and discussed different methods or procedures being used to try and combat or deal with the anxiety associated with these fears. Those experiencing the fears know they are irrational, yet they still experience them and this can make the way they do certain things difficult. The student who had a fear of flying could not travel quickly and this limited her life. So it’s important to see how those experiencing the fear can combat the fear and not just the emotions associated with them, and there are a numerous amount of different therapies being developed to help with those affected with this type of anxiety and fear.
    The second segment which affected me was the family segment because it focused on the bond between children and their families. It showed that some emotions developed at birth can affect the way you still see others around you today. They followed a boy who spent time in a foster home in Russia and he developed a lack of emotional skills towards his family because of his treatment in the facility. This changed how his dynamics in society and his own family, which cause grief for his parents, as this was not what they expected parenthood to be. However, by working with a psychologist whom the boy trusts, the family hoped to receive therapy which will repair his broken emotions.

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  28. Although my class did not watch the entire “This Emotional Life” series, the parts that we did watch were extremely notable and worthwhile. Two segments particularly stood out to me: family and PTSD. In the family segment, I found it really interesting to see how positive parental encouragement affected the feelings and actions of the baby. This scientific research came about due to an observation that children in Russian orphanages that had many children under the care of one nurse had difficulty attaching to their adoptive parents. I found it heartbreaking that just because the adopted son in the film was more introversive at the orphanage than other children including his sister, he was given less attention. I particularly enjoyed seeing the test on the baby monkey in which he chose the comforting mom without food over the wire mom with food, showing that children need more than just what allows them to survive, they need what allows them to live. When this test was translated for human participants, seeing the results of the study where the young child performed with constant parental encourage was outstanding to see. All of these studies hope to help more children like the adopted ones featured in the film adjust to adopted parents and attach more easily to them.
    The second segment that really stood out to me was the PTSD segment. Before watching this film, I knew very minimal about PTSD. This video highlighted very well the harm to the patient as well as to the patient’s family. I was particularly interested in the cognitive therapy for prolonged exposure. Scientific research around PTSD has found that these memories are especially vivid because the brain remembers moments of extreme stress. The therapy hopes to relieve the stress of these memories. It was inspiring to see the veteran struggling for years with PTSD finally be able to summon the bravery necessary to go through and relive all of the horrific experiences he had already lived through once. I am currently watching the old television show, MASH, which features a hospital unit in the Korean War. One episode focused on a patient at the MASH unit who was being treated for PTSD through the prolonged exposure, a very novel treatment technique at the time. Seeing these two videos around the same time really struck me with how difficult it is to live with PTSD. But at the same time I also found it to be a little worrisome that the hope of the science behind this treatment is that they no longer find those experiences scary any more. But that makes me wonder, although I do recognize the tragedy of PTSD, if we fear those events for a reason. I think humanity as a whole should remain fearful of such war events, but individuals, with the help of this treatment, deserve to be free from the grasp these memories have over them.

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  29. I found the segment from This Emotional Life about Family very interesting and meaningful. It described how people don’t just have inherent needs for food, water, sex, etc., but also for human attachment. Harry Harlow conducted a study of monkeys, and found that they preferred being fed by a motherly figure over a cold feeding source. He found that young monkeys have a need for “contact comfort”, which is vital for people--not just monkeys--to feel connected and camaraderie with others. With this knowledge, Mary Ainsworth found that the healthiest relationship between mother and child includes secure attachment--the child can be comforted by the mother when scared. There are proper parenting techniques that lead to this form of attachment. One mother hired a professional to help develop this relationship with their child, which I found very interesting as it shows the importance of this bond (the mother did not seem to have too much extra money, but she prioritized and decided her money should go towards the development of this relationship). The boy from the Russian orphanage also exemplified the importance of this emotional bonding. Sadly, he was unable to connect with his parents or sister. It was not natural for the boy to feel empathy and concern for his mother because he did not form any secure attachments early in life. Clearly, the boy was debilitated because these needs for family, warmth, and connection did not form early on. Many psychologists have studied family bonds and contact comfort needs, and continuing this study gives hope for people life the Russian boy and his family. Scientists and psychologists are finding new counseling techniques that can help individuals build those bonds.

    Another memorable segment from this video was the one on PTSD. It gave glimpses into several people’s lives, some of them were better adjusted and had more control over their symptoms than others. For one man, PTSD was clearly debilitating his regular life. In a parent-teacher conference, he could not focus on what the teacher had to say about his child because he was distracted by sounds that, I assume, brought him back to the terrifying moments in war. While the teacher was not bothered by the sound, he could not take it and attempted to stop the sounds by demanding quietness from his children. PTSD appeared to be affecting his work life as well, as he was searching for a job in a noisy environment--clearly not an easy task for him. His wife felt like the relationship wasn’t healthy for her, showing that PTSD doesn’t just affect those in war, but also those that were affected by war. Meanwhile, another man was doing much better at the time of the video. He felt happier and healthier than ever before, after beginning to engage in talk therapy sessions and confronting some of the memories from his times in war. Before starting this therapy, he did many drugs and was terrified of falling asleep because of the dreams he might have to endure. The therapy was helping him greatly--it just needs to become more widespread and unstigmatized so that people like the man I mentioned before can benefit from it.

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  30. Katie Meehan

    In This Emotional Life, we learned about many different mental illnesses and how they impact daily life for many people. Of the many different segments, the two that affected me the most were the fear and anxiety sections.

    In the fear section, we got to see how Christina’s fear of flying inhibited her from visiting her family and friends at home. Christina visited a therapist that worked with her and helped her acknowledge her fear. She was taught that the symptoms of fear were going to occur and she needed to be prepared for it and to accept it. In the future, I hope that science will find a way to help people with their fears that do not involve medication. Different types of therapy are available for people that have strong fears, but they typically take a lot of time and effort to turn these strong fears into manageable ones. Hopefully science will find a more efficient and effective way to help people.

    In the anxiety segment, we learned about Warren, who is a war veteran and suffered from severe PTSD. His PTSD got so bad that he went into a deep depression and felt extremely hopeless and thought that his life was over. Eventually, he started cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy makes Warren relive the moments that he has nightmares about. Although it is very painful and stressful for Warren, it has dramatically improved his PTSD and he can now live a functional life.

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  31. A segment I thought was interesting as well was the PTSD segment. It focused on Bob, a veteran who took part in the Vietnam War. Like most post-war veterans, Bob also developed PTSD. He told a story of how a man had died in his arms and explained how that memory haunts him every day. In a scene where Bob and his wife go to parent-teacher conferences, his son makes a lot of noise, and immediately Bob becomes irked and tells him to stop. Bob’s post-dramatic stress disorder affects the rest of his family, especially his wife who has to put her needs aside for his. If scientists can determine which parts of the brain are creating this effect, a drug can be created to cure people of PTSD.
    Although I did not get to watch the complete series, the one segment I found to be the most interesting was the one on family. It introduced to adopted adolescents; a boy named Alex and a girl named Nadia. Growing up Nadia displayed a friendly, welcoming attitude whereas; Alex would isolate himself from others and would talk about suicide and other homicidal thoughts. The family then found out that it wasn’t too uncommon for Eastern European orphans to have such emotional problems from a professor at the University of Wisconsin. The professor explained to the family that Alex’s emotional problems were all a result of the lack of care that a child needs with its caregiver. Most of toddlers in Russian orphanages during the 1990s spent most of their time alone; as the nurses had many children to take care of and couldn’t give the care each individual needed. Alex’s emotional problems show how significant the attachment between a caregiver and child is. Nadia was provided with the care that a child needs, and as a result she became the kind, friendly girl her parents describe her to be. A weak attachment results with emotional problems similar to Alex’s. It shows that from birth, humans are programmed to connect.

    -Yusuf Ahmad

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  32. Victoria Li

    Facing Our Fears
    The section about facing our fears was one that impacted me a lot, because it showed how fear isn’t always overcome with rational thought, like I used to believe. In this segment, it is highlighted in a phobia, or irrational fear. For the Harvard college student, her fear of flights has prevented her from going to see or family or traveling to places that she wants to go. And although she constantly tells herself that there is nothing to be afraid of, she constantly remains afraid to step on a plane. To combat this fear, she underwent cognitive behavioral therapy, which works to change unhelpful thinking and behavior through acknowledging that some behaviors can’t be changed by rational thought by itself, and combine it with conditioning the behavior. This sort of therapy usually takes place over a long period of time, but she decided to undergo three intensive sessions. During this time period, the psychologist had her reenact her fear symptoms, except she was experiencing them not when she was in a situation when she wasn’t about to fly. Later, they discussed her fears of flying, confronting them, rather than avoiding them on, and then boarded an actual flight to overcome her fear by confronting it.

    Family
    This segment talks about the importance of friendship and family and the social interaction they provide. We need social interaction to develop and grow. Without it, we have limited ability to fully function in society. For Alex, who has problems interacting with others, inside and outside of his adopted family, he most likely didn’t receive the social care that he needed at the orphanage in Russia. The only contact he most likely got was from the nurses during changing or feeding time. Because of this, his emotions and social skills haven’t developed normally due to his early childhood experiences, Alex had problems adequately expressing his emotions and interacting with others. To help treat this, his parents and he go through a family therapy, where they discuss what Alex’s problems are, and how that behavior could be changed (i.e., listening to his mother whenever she tells him to tell him later). The struggle that Alex faced resonated with me because I learned how impactful first impressions can be, especially on a young child, and how the behavior that results can be very hard to change.

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  33. Anna Ryack

    While I found almost all of what I watched of “This Emotional Life” interesting, the segments that stood out to me the most were those on anger and on fear. The section on anger featured a woman named Mary. Mary struggled to control her anger, and because of that, she had trouble maintaining and forming relationships in her life. Mary’s anger outburst are linked to an instinctual “fight or flight response”, which was necessary for the survival of humans early on, but is not so applicable to issues that cause her frustration in everyday life, such as who gets to choose what song to play at a party. The “fight” response ends up sending adrenaline through Mary, making her aroused. And unfortunately, the part of the brain controlling anger, the amygdala, is only connected in a one-way path to the part of the brain that contain complex thought. Because of this, it’s extremely hard to “turn-off” anger, and reason with oneself once a response has begun.

    The emotion fear is also linked to the “fight or flight” instinct, and can have just as detrimental effects on mental health. Some people have extreme, debilitating fears known as phobias. Christina Kelly had a phobia of flying, which was causing interference in her relationship with loved ones back home, and experienced panic attacks at the thought of flying, or the act of getting on a plane. To get around this phobia, she went through a type of therapy known as Cognitive Behavior therapy, which focused on identifying and confronting feelings, then “correcting them” (and in her case this involved boarding a plane and talking through her experience). This is only one type of therapy approach out of many that can be used to help with mental health issues, and different approaches are better suited for different people in different situations.

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  34. Jake Silliman

    The television series, This Emotional Life, covers a broad range of topics that emotionally affect normal people on an everyday basis. One segment that particularly stood out to me was the section dedicated to PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, because not only did this affect Bob emotionally but also physically. When he hears a certain pitch, it actually physically hurts him and when his kids reach that pitch when they are screaming he gets upset and can’t control himself. This greatly affects his family life and makes it hard for him to truly bond with his children and his wife because he goes through the day focusing on fighting the disorder and moving past his thoughts but he can’t. One could imagine that this puts him on edge and leaves very little space for focusing on things going on in his current life. By not thinking about what caused his PTSD he is actually making no progress in overcoming this disorder. Instead, he is willing to try and combat the problem head on by undergoing prolonged exposure therapy. This type of cognitive behavioral therapy will allow him to reexperience the traumatic event and get rid of any triggers, or reminders that he has about the trauma.

    Another very interesting section of this series was the part about anger and the fight or flight response. This was intriguing because it showed the animalistic behavior in humans and how we are still connected to our early evolutionary roots. The woman with the anger management issues in this segment was affected greatly by her inability to control her emotions because this caused people in public to have a negative image of her when they saw her in this angry state. She talked about how she got into a fight at a party and was so focused on that one enemy and beating them down that she didn't realize until after the scene that she had caused. When her anger passed she looked up and saw people staring at her with this frightened look on their faces and she realized how terrible and unnecessary her actions were. Certain behavioral methods of therapy would be great for this type of issue and would help her to learn how to control her anger and express her feelings in a different way.

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  35. The love a mother feels for her new born child whom she basically just met is immediate and unconditional. From the giggles to the cries that love never wavers. Just like that the child also clings to their parents like glue. I mean, they are their only real source of food and dipper cleanings. It’s that bond that's created in parent-child relations that dictates how a child can give and receive love in their later years. However, this initial loving and caring that most babies have is absent in children given up for adoption. Many children who are either adopted or in foster care very often grow up to alienate any kind of love that friends or family try to provide and have trouble reciprocating it. One couple, the McCormack’s, adopted two children from a Siberian orphanage; however, only one developed the social skills that the other lacked. Alex McCormack, who was adopted when he was three, suffers from reactive attachment disorder – a condition that effects children whose early relationships have been severely disrupted. There are many possibilities as to why this disorder is only shown in one child and not the other. One idea is that since Alex was adopted when he was three years old while Nadia was adopted at nine months the parent-child attachment was more easily created. Another reason is that Nadia was an easier baby from the start and received attention from her caretakers, while troubling babies like Alex were less looked after. Now he has a hard time making friends and – more importantly – showing any sign of love or respect for his parents. It is the hope of those studying this field to delve deeper into the minds of those who are also suffering. Finding a method as to how they can prevent the destructive social disorders from ever emerging is the final goal. Adoption is something I’ve always known I could always turn to if natural child birth wasn’t an option for me and gaining this kind of knowledge is really important for someone in that position.

    Another interesting topic that arose in the movie “This Emotional Life” was depression. There is a massive difference between depression and sadness that many people unconsciously forget about. Someone is sad when they received a poor grade on a quiz or were insulted or even if (knock on wood) someone close to them passes. Those feelings of sorrow and heaviness will eventually pass and won’t necessarily impact their lives; however, depression is a downward spiral that effects a person and the people around them every day – it’s a psychological disorder. Kaitlyn Davies is a sufferer of clinical depression while her twin sister, Meghan Davies, is her support. The battle that Kaitlyn fights is a lack of energy, lack of motivation, and lack of focus. She feels it in her mind and her body. She doesn’t want to get up, but also, she can’t get up. She’s lost control of her thoughts and all desire to do anything that may help because…what if it doesn’t? What if none of the medications or treatments actually do anything? What’s the point, right? A study taken place in the movie was looking into how depression can affect the way someone reacts to stressful situations. A group of those who were at risk for depression and another group with those who were not tested how much of the stress hormone cortisol would be released in their saliva while partaking in a stress inducing activity. It was proven that those who were at risk for depression or have depression are more sensitive to stressful situations. Dr. Ian Gotlib found that there was a greater release of cortisol in those who have depression. It’s impossible to learn how to control that release but it is possible to learn to have a different reaction to stress: a problem solving reaction. I was draw to this topic because depression is a very common ailment that teens my age suffer with. Therefore, it hits close to home. Learning and understanding such a topic will help in the recovery of those who are in need of help.

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  36. Joseph Sugarmann
    Ms. Day — 3/28/16

    After watching various episodes of the PBS series “This Emotional Life,” the two sections that affected me most was the one about Asperger’s Syndrome and the one about happiness/intimacy. In the Asperger's Syndrome segment, Daniel Gilbert talks about just important friends are in making us happy, and how making friends is often difficult for children with Asperger’s. Talking with social psychologist John Kasiobo, they discuss how our biology is affected by our social relationships. He additionally explains how loneliness can be just as bad for one’s health as smoking or too much drinking. This struck me because it is so much easier, especially for a child, to be lonely than to be drinking in excess or smoking. We learned that something most people think of as a very minor issue can lead to very serious health and mental issues.

    Another segment that affected me emotionally was the section about happiness/intimacy. Research suggests that happiness is a combination of two main components. One is how satisfied one is with their life, and the other is how good one feels on a day-to-day basis. Although genetics play a significant role in determining one’s happiness, one has the ability to control how they feel, and they can form lifelong habits to be satisfied and and content with their life. In the segment, individuals from various backgrounds discuss some of the things we as human beings need in our life to be happy. In the segment, Elizabeth Gilbert discusses how humans naturally are uncomfortable with their emotions. While we crave connection with others, we often are repelled away, however then crave connection again and come back to whomever we just retreated from. This cycle of closeness and retreat defines one’s relationship with everyone at every moment in time. She explains how we need to separate in order to protect ourselves from the consequences of getting too close. This seemed very intuitive to me because it in essence tells us to interact with others, but not to become so dependent that we cannot protect ourselves and survive on our own.

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  37. Kevin Dardik
    I found the segment on friends, and problems making friends, to be most interesting. It centered on an adopted boy having trouble understanding the emotions of other people, and a man with autism. The boy was a Russian orphan, and stayed in the orphanage for his infancy. After being adopted, he often acted without regard for how other people felt. Because he lived in an orphanage while he was very young and needed the most care, but did not receive any real love, he was taught that other people did not care for him. Even receiving love as an older child did not change his postnatal learning. Modern science has allowed researchers to image his brain, seeing which parts were undeveloped. More importantly, therapy has helped him greatly. Though the boy cannot read emotions as well as most people, he has shown significant improvement. The autistic man has a similar problem; it is hard to identify what others are thinking and feeling. He often misses the emotional context of a situation. For example, researchers showed the man a movie containing an emotionally charged climax. However, they found that rather than focusing on each person as they speak and look around, as most people do, the man looked at whatever object which happened to look interesting at the time. Therapy has also helped him begin to understand others’ feelings.
    Next I found the segment on anger to be interesting. It centered on various people with major anger control problems. One woman in particular even resorted to violence simply because the host of the party she was attending questioned her music choice. However, this woman did not really mean to do any harm; her angry impulses and other emotions overpowered her rational thoughts. Modern psychology explains that emotions come from the hindbrain, which evolved relatively early in our development. Reasoning, however, is thought to come from the prefrontal cortex, which evolved much more recently. It therefore can be bypassed in certain circumstances, such as when our bodies perceive a need to fight violently or run away as fast as possible. Medication can help in certain situations, but anger therapy is usually most beneficial, and the woman in the video currently has much better self-control.

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  38. The three-part series This Emotional Life explores the emotional issues individuals face throughout their lives and the role the brain plays in their dispositions. Although my class was only able to watch the first two episodes, I was extremely intrigued by the insight they provided on the significance of social relationships within our lives, as well as on the importance of recognizing negative emotions and reacting appropriately to them.

    One segment that especially fascinated me was that on the debilitating effects of negative emotions – particularly fear. This portion of the series featured a compelling account from a woman whose inability to control her temper threatened her well-being as well as that of her peers. Moved to tears, she recalled a moment during which her rage over a petty occurrence impelled her to get in a physical fight with the host at a party. Her anecdote illustrated that anger is capable of jeopardizing one’s relationship with others to the extent that it can cause not only verbal assaults, but also violence. I was astounded how its impact on a single person’s life can be detrimental to the health of several. However, science has come very far in the process of understanding this emotion. Since the human brain is designed for survival, its purpose in creating negative emotions, such as anger, is to provoke a reaction that can save someone in a life-threatening situation. However, these reactions, which may be ignorant of reason and wit, are primitive to their contemporary setting – evolution has yet to catch up with the fact that humans are unlikely to fight a saber-tooth tiger within their lifetimes anymore. Science has created drugs to allow people who may struggle with anger disorders to get the support they need to develop effective management strategies. It has also recognized the value of therapy as a treatment or as an aspect of treatment, since talking to people often helps.

    Another portion on the series’ exploration of negative emotions that affected me greatly was the story of a teenager suffering from clinical depression. The presence of this disorder in her life was not merely the sadness that people without depression may face in their daily lives, but was characterized by a severe lack of motivation and energy and a loss of pleasure in typically enjoyable activities. On the eve of college, she expressed that depression not only cast feelings of disappointment on her thoughts about the future, but that it also withdrew her ability to be productive. I thought this segment was important because it raised awareness about depression as a real mental disorder that must be destigmatized. In order to combat depression, science has developed drugs, mainly SSRIs, in order to treat people who have the disorder.

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  39. PTSD; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disease commonly identified in veterans returning from active combat. PTSD prevents the afflicted from turning off their fight or flight response. They may be under a constant state of stress all the time. The two veterans in the show, suffer from vivid nightmares and even waking visions. They showed signs of insomnia and sensitivity to loud noises. Many of their symptoms lead to depression, anger, and even suicidal thoughts. Through certain therapeutic techniques doctors have been able to help sufferers of PTSD master their symptoms and retaking control of their lives. Instead of having patients bury away memories, they force them to recount their visions, and confront their problems. Hopefully further research will help us better understand the human psyche.
    Fear: Fear is the sense that oneself has been put in harm's way or is in danger. There are many different kinds of fears humans experience, and being fearful is completely normal. However, there are also a number of irrational fears that can develop in humans.One example is a young Harvard undergrad student who is afraid of flying. For no reason at all, no trauma caused by previous experiences, she is deathly afraid to fly. Scientists and therapists have developed new techniques to rid people of these irrational fears. Similar to PTSD treatments, patients are meant to confront fears not hide from them. What differs in this treatment is that these people actually have to live through their fear, whereas the patients suffering from PTSD only recounted their experiences.

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  40. Kelsey McCormack
    One of the emotions that was highlighted was fear. This emotion can cause someone to be extremely scared or anxious when it comes to doing something they are afraid of. Sometimes these emotions are justified, but other times they are unnecessary and can stop a person from doing things that they want to or that would make their life easier. Science has come up with better ways to deal with these emotions by doing research. Although sometimes physiologists will try to find the root of the fear, some psychologists are using a new method of confronting the fear and working through it. The movie showed this method being used for a girl who was afraid of flying, and helped her get through her first flight. It ended up being successful, and she was able to finally fly even though it was hard at first. New methods like these are very helpful for people with extreme phobias.
    Another emotion highlighted in the documentary was depression. This is characterized by extreme sadness and bad moods, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, and more. However, there are many ways to treat depression. There are many different medications that people can take to help, and therapy can help as well. If none of these treatments work, there are certain medical procedures that can help as well. In the video it highlighted a girl named Caitlyn who had depression, and although medication wasn’t helping her she was able to undergo a procedure that eventually helped her. By understanding the science behind depression on a deeper level, scientists can find more treatment options and help more people deal with depression.

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  41. “This Emotional Life” was very interesting. One emotion that was highlighted in the documentary was family and relationships. This segment focused on a family with an adoptive son, Alex, and an adoptive daughter. The daughter was always a happy-go-lucky, upbeat girl who was very social. On the other hand, Alex had issues connecting with other people and being as social as his sister is. Both were adopted, yet the daughter connected a lot quicker with the parents than Alex did. This segment stood out to me because Alex’s parents were so negatively affected by his situation. The parents talked about how they felt about the situation with Alex, and I felt bad for them. As a parent, having a child with a problem like this would be heartbreaking, especially if the child does not accept your help and love.
    Another emotion that was highlighted in the documentary was depression. There was a specific account of a person with depression, and the emotional state drastically affected her daily life. The specific account was of a girl’s experience coping with the emotional state. She has a twin sister. However, the twin sister didn’t get depression; the sister actually lived life happily, was very social, and participates in sports. What really interested me in this segment was listening to how the girl wanted to do the active sports that her sister was doing and go out with friends but because of depression, she physically could not. Seeing how the girl’s family was affected by her condition was another interesting part of this segment. However, it was great to see that, in the end, the girl was able to go off to college.

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  42. In the video, “the emotional life”, the 2 segments that seemingly affected me the most were fear and PTSD. Both of these dealt with penetrating the psyche of each patient that dealt with their grueling problems that limited them from any participation in their social life.
    The first segment that stood out to me dealt with problems of fear. It involved a girl from Harvard who extremely afraid of flying, which prevented her from travelling to various places. It usually is extremely hard for one to overcome these fears since they have been living with them for many years. Furthermore, it makes it difficult for her family members to do anything that involves flying to other destinations if they are the type of family who does not want to leave a member of the family behind. This type of fear involved a marathon counseling session which seemed to be very difficult for the girl, as shown by her shaking and tearing up during exercises where she had to think about flight. But finally, she went on an airplane and was able to get through a flight, not smoothly, but was a stepping stone for her in her journey to defeating this fear.
    One other segment that caught my attention was about the soldier who developed PTSD after fighting in the Vietnam war. Life became pretty tough on him as he would stay at home and not participate socially in his community. There was no one else he lived with, so that means no one to push him to recovery. He found a UPenn study where they were studying PTSD. And the treatment was different than he had expected. Instead of trying to forget the war, he was forced to picture the horrible moments during the war and relive it. The only way he would overcome the PTSD was by facing the fear itself, which would further allow him to not react the same way after he has gotten used to the repeated images of the war in his head. Facing the fear was more beneficial than trying to get rid of the memories.
    The science of the psyche is far more complex than most physical science that is focused on. The main thing that can be done for people is offering counseling sessions that can alleviate any stress, anxiety, fear that one may have. Improving these counseling techniques, however, can have a huge impact on the time it takes for one to come back to a healthy mental state, and the longevity of this new mental health.

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  43. Josh Crow
    There was an episode in the documentary called “Facing our Fears” which dealt heavily with negative emotions. The one that reverberated most with me was the section that dealt with anger. I have had many times in the past where my anger has “boiled over” as it were and I have said and done things that I would not normally do. It was always a mystery to me as to why I could not maintain control of this emotion and what caused me to act so viscerally and uncontrollably. Now thanks to the documentary I understand. The subject of the documentary was even more unhinged than I, completely incapable of mastering her emotions at all. She was unreasonable and almost anything could set her off. She would go around almost looking for a fight from everyone she met. Finally, when someone confronted her about changing the music at a party, she fully lost it and beat the guy up. Science can help us by showing why people have trouble controlling emotions such as anger: because the part of the brain that thinks and maintains control has a slow connection to the part of the brain that sends anger. Therefore, when someone gets angry, they don’t have much time to control it and therefore lose control very easily.
    The other section that reverberated with me was the one that dealt with happiness and how it relates to friends and lovers. The struggle to find others who are like us and care for us is a significant one in the lives of anyone who does not reside under a rock. Having others who care for us and like us is a very important aspect of our lives. Science has shown us that those who have trouble finding friends are much less happy and are much more likely to develop disorders, such as depression. The person on the show with mild autism was shown to have a deal of trouble finding friends and the like and as such grew increasingly more upset and angry. This makes sense to me as, due the presence of friends and a significant other, I have become much more amiable and carefree as of late, which contrasts very significantly with my darker, more brooding self who was much more prominent before due to a lack of social interaction,

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  44. Thomas Boutros
    I really enjoyed this documentary because it truly showed how things can get in the way of the true American ideal of the “pursuit of happiness.” As a creature not of this Earth and as someone who as a result does not experience these things you humans call “emotions,” this film definitely struck the dark core of my cold heart. Two sections of the film that really stuck with me were the parts on anger and depression.
    The young woman featured in the part on anger had many issues keeping her feelings contained. She would consistently find things to fight about, which were often small and petty. While I love small and petty conflicts that may arise in day-to-day life, it became clear to me very quickly that this young lady had something wrong with her. She was wholly unable to control her anger, in a way that resulted in damage to herself and to those that she loved. For example, she recounted a time where she instigated a physical altercation with a good friend over something stupid like a song choice. After she was done fighting, it became clear that she was embarrassed over what she had done, and make sure to take strides to get better and manage her anger. She definitely felt guilty, as she could not recognize the person in the mirror anymore. While psychologists would normally recommend a course of action for her to manage her anger, they would probably have to deal with this in another way. Science could introduce medication into her life to help curb the anger issues that she had been dealing with, specifically in the sympathetic nervous system, to reduce the amount of “fight or flight” encounters that she may believe that she needs to engage in.
    Another segment from the film that particularly stuck with me was the section on depression. An 18 year old girl was highlighted during the summer before she went off to college. A twin, she and her sister (who did not suffer from depression) recorded day-to-day video diaries to showcase her progression with the disorder. Depression wholly threw this young girl for a loop; as the more sociable twin, the affliction resulted in the loss of that title, and she found it very difficult to make it from day-to-day life. She became unmotivated, tired, chronically sad, and anxious. While there seemed to be no end in sight, she became informed of a new procedure that she could undergo, which actually helped her significantly. Science can offer procedures and medications to help reduce the effects of long-term depression, like deep brain stimulation, SSRIs, and other psychotherapies.

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  45. Henry Molot

    “This Emotional Life”, a television series that covered how humans were impacted by their emotions, both good and bad, made me realize how I managed my own emotions, and how science can help combat the seriousness of bad emotional states.
    There were two sections of the video that stood out to myself in particular. The first section covered the emotion of fear. In this section, a Harvard college student struggled to overcome her irrational fear surrounding flying. The anxiety that this girl experienced throughout her life surrounding this issue limited her traveling and exploration; she had never been on an airplane. However, throughout the segment the audience followed her journey through cognitive therapy sessions in which she faced her fears head on, rather than avoiding them. With her psychologist, she discussed the complex and painful emotions that she felt when thinking about flying. However, although our class did not get to finish this segment the girl eventually made it onto a plane, and took a short flight. This example of overcoming fears showed how the scientific approach of facing bad emotions head on and converting them into happy emotions could be an effective anxiety treatment method. Personally, I have a fear of spiders that is hard to overcome! This segment showed me how facing fears “head on” is a scary, yet ultimately effective way of reducing irrational fears and emotions.
    The next segment that stood out to me was the segment about depression. In this section, a girl was struggling with severe depression. She attended many sessions of therapy, and took doses upon doses of medication that usually helps to remedy depression. However, she was not improving. Eventually she had to turn to over 15 sessions of Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a last resort process used only in extremely severe cases of depression. Although she was tentative to go through with this process at first, and was scared when it didn’t seem to be working, it eventually improved her mood significantly. This section stood out to me for multiple reasons. First, this section showed how serious depression is. Many people view depression as something people are voluntarily feeling, and do not take it as seriously as other diseases. However, this section showed me how serious depression is, and how badly the people really are suffering. Depression really is more than an emotion, it’s a mental disease that can trigger some of the worst emotions humans experience: sadness, failure, and hate. However, this section also showed how a proven scientific process could solve a problem that was more ambiguous than a virus such as the flu. I was sceptical of the process at first, and was shocked to see that it worked!

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  46. Yuqi Zhou

    Science is a big part to understand the emotions. One segment of the show talks about the depression. Most people think depression is just another version of sadness, but that is not true. Depression is more than sadness, it is not manageable by the person itself. In an experiment, they found that people in depression tend to interpret face negatively than healthy people; and they tend to recognize happy face slower than healthy people. This again proves that depression is automatic and hard to control. Science helps to find that depression is not only a mental illness but also a physical illness to the brain. It was found that the area of hippocampus in the depressed patients are smaller than healthy people. The medication for depression developed by science would help to not let this damage happen, in other words, anti-depression medicine would cause growing of the new cell thus prevent the shrinking of hippocampus.
    Science also helps to understand the attachment issue between parents and children. First there is an experiment shows the importance of love and care. Researchers had baby monkey to choose a fake mom between a wire body with food and a comfortable body without food. The monkeys end up choosing the comfortable one without the food. This shows babies great needs of love and care rather than food. Furthermore, the monkeys grow up without mom later showed social and emotional problem later on. This is probably because they fail to learn to form bond or attachment with their caretaker. In another experiment the science behind this was explained. The researchers has 2 groups of 4-year-old children, one has the experience of staying in an orphanage for 16 months, and the other has always staying with their biological parents. After a session of parent-child activities, it was found that the level of oxytocin for children in the group with their biological parents shot up while the other group had no change in oxytocin level. The children was taken more care and given better love for the biological parents group thus resulting in a better attachment developed between the child and the parent. So, the emotional issue of attachment is because the low level of oxytocin. Science helps a lot in understanding emotions in life.

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  47. James He

    Specifically, the segment regarding the veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) appealed to me the most. After returning from his war experiences, he finds himself struggling to retain his sanity even in the most ordinary circumstances. Throughout the video, there were numerous clips depicting him shaking uncontrollably while sitting on the couch and watching TV. When reflecting on his condition and his experiences, he admits that he sometimes pondered the possibility of suicide, thinking that a life with perpetual suffering was worse than no life at all. Additionally, he recounts very dramatic experiences that were caused by his condition as loud noises repeatedly set him on edge. As a result, he was unable to communicate and interact with his family normally, which not only affected their family dynamic, but it also further impaired his psychological and emotional state. The emotion depicted isn’t simply fear, or a phobia of some sort; it encompasses a much more agonizing combination of sensations that can easily overwhelm his logical rationale. For more “normal” people, emotions can sometimes be suppressed to prevent them from dictating our lives entirely, but this specific veteran suffering from PTSD was simply unable to exhibit the same restraint. In order to combat such circumstances, much research has been performed on the brain and the entire process. However, the medical methodologies developed thus far, such as psychotherapy and specific medications, have not been successful entirely. Clearly, PTSD is a condition that demands more attention.

    Another segment of the video explained the emotion anger. Perhaps one of the most harmful emotions, anger can easily destroy a coherent relationship within seconds. When triggered, anger can cause humans to perform horrific actions they certainly would not even consider with a reasonable rationale. The segment detailed the experiences of one woman, who has a spectrum of anger larger than many others. Often, anger isn’t activated ordinarily as a certain degree of action is required to induce a rapid rush of anger. For this woman, even the simplest of matters can set her off on edge, damaging her regular interactions with the people around her. In many situations, she would unconsciously start to throw temper tantrums, wildly throwing things around, breaking furniture, loud screaming, and other abnormal reactions. Scientifically, a stimulus can easily trigger the emotion of anger that creates a strong reaction whether psychological or physiological. During this state, the part of the brain that regulates judgment and control, the prefrontal cortex, is unable to perform naturally, which causes the intense reactions that were depicted. Anger problems are extremely hard to mediate and will require an extensive period of treatment to remediate. Research continues to be done in order to discover more efficient methods for fixing the anger issue.

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  48. Emily Criscuolo

    This Emotional Life Reflection

    One of the most interesting stories was about the man who struggled with PTSD from the Vietnam War. He was just a teenager at the time, but he regularly experienced flashbacks for years which affected his lifestyle to the point where he couldn't function as a normal person in his community- he remained indoors and away from other human interaction. I liked this story a lot because the novel treatment he underwent helped him immensely. The way his problem was addressed was different than typical PTSD treatment. They forced him to relive the moments that caused him distress, to watch and re-watch war scenes so that he could essentially face his fears. They instilled into his mind during this draining process that the events happened, and there's nothing he can do about it now that they're over. He has to accept what happened and then move forward so that he could function as a normal participant in society. The way in which they dealt with his problem was what caught my attention. From personal experience, I feel as though the hardest part about getting over a stressful situation is to go back and deal with the problem first, so that there are no lingering feelings; otherwise, you will inevitably torture yourself with your own thoughts. Backtracking in an attempt to accept what happened is the only way to truly move on.



    The other story that stuck out to me was the story about the teenage twins. One of the girls was suffering from an extreme case of depression. She tried countless medications, and made daily entries into a video diary that depicted the horrible way of life she endured. The most notable point they focused on was how sadness is extremely different from depression. Depression isn't being upset for an hour or a day, it's a feeling of unending lack of motivation and lack of optimism to everyday aspects of life. She demonstrated how difficult it was for her to want to do things with her friends and sister, but not having the physical or emotional motivation to do so. Even her mom couldn't comprehend the severity of her situation. I like how the movie highlighted how depression is a legitimate mental illness that doesn't pass easily and takes an enormous toll on those affected as well as those close to them. As far as the scientific aspect of depression the part that stood out to me was how they tested saliva from those suffering from depression and healthy people. Those diagnosed with the illness exhibited increased levels of cortisol in their saliva. They physical differences in these participants' anatomy attests to the notion that this is in fact a disease. This needs to be reinforced in our society as demonstrated by the talk show host at the end who stated these illnesses such as Alzheimer's are controllable. The film addressed important aspects of emotional illnesses such as depression and PTSD that cause a surprising amount of individuals as well as their family and friends a fair amount of pain and how the scientific method is being utilized to better cope with these issues.

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  49. Alicia Chen
    I found the segments on PTSD and depression in This Emotional Life to be the most moving. Humans cannot just turn our stress off like animals do; we are too smart, smart enough to imagine stressful events such as our death and futures. In an experiment, two groups of students reported to their laboratory and watched a slideshow of disturbing images. One group then held their hand in cold, ice water, so they released stress hormones. The other group held their hand in lukewarm water, so they released no stress hormones. Dropping their hand in ice water should have ruined the students’ memory of the images (as it was a bad memory, they should have forgotten the memory), but, on the contrary, the group that put their hand in ice water had a better memory of the images. Emotional events leave long lasting memories on people. PTSD affects tens of thousands of soldiers and their families. The PTSD segment focused on veteran Warren King, who was affected by PTSD from his time in combat. Warren went through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of therapy wherein people face their fear and learn from experience that they will be fine. Specifically, Warren went through prolonged shock therapy, a form of CBT where he relived his memories causing his trauma (i.e., combat) over and over again until his fear diminished. Warren also watched a war movie again and again until it became easier for him to watch. After 18 sessions of this prolonged shock therapy, Warren saw a visible difference in his PTSD. The therapy may have just saved Warren’s life.

    The depression segment focused on high school graduate Caitlin. Caitlin was diagnosed with depression while her identical twin sister was not. Depression interfered with Caitlin’s entire life- the segment covered Caitlin’s summer before starting college, but instead of enjoying the summer, Caitlin was too depressed to even leave her bed most days. The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality. Depression changes the way we even see the world- researchers conducted an experiment with a group of women with a history of depression and a group of healthy women. The participants were asked to watch screens with faces that gradually got happier or sadder, and it was found that the women with a history of depression were slower to recognize happiness than the group of healthy women. People with depression unconsciously focus more on negative things compared to those without depression. Depression is truly an illness, a physical illness that impacts those depressed psychologically. Depression changes the physical structure of the brain- the hippocampuses of depressed women were smaller than the hippocampuses of nondepressed women. Antidepressants work to help with depression, as proven when it was found that people who took antidepressants did not show shrinkage of the hippocampus, preventing their depression from getting worse. After 3 weeks of taking an antidepressant, it was found that a rat had a lot of growth of new nerve cells in its hippocampus. The reason why electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a highly effective treatment for depression, even better than antidepressants, is because ECT is even more effective at stimulating cell growth than antidepressants.

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  50. Depression can have a massive impact on a person’s life. In the episode Facing Your Fears, they explore the live of two different people with depression: a young woman about to enter college and a Massachusetts senator whose brother committed suicide. For senator Bob Antonioni, he felt a need to remove himself from others or sleep excessively, which was an issue that interfered with his political life. As for the women, she constantly felt sad or unmotivated, unable to will herself to do anything and sometimes lashing out. Science has helped to find underlying causes and possible treatments. Studies show that depressed people produce higher amounts of cortisone, which actually damages the hippocampus. The longer people are depressed, the more damaged and smaller the hippocampus becomes.. However, scientists have also found that antidepressants and electroconvulsive therapy can be used to stimulate brain cell growth again.
    Post-traumatic stress disorder is another type of mental illness that can have long lasting impact on a person’s life. This disorder is especially common in veterans, even if they were only deployed for a short time. The episode tells the story of two veterans. They experienced extremely vivid, clear imagery or dreams of their traumatic experiences, felt listlessness, and have a hard time dealing with loud noises. Thier PTSD impacted their emotional life and they lost their jobs as a result. An experiment shows that cortisone causes a person to remember their experiences better. The memories and the fear then triggers the release of more cortisone, which strengths the memories, which releases more hormones, and so forth, causing a positive feedback loop with very negative side effects. Science has found a possible treatment in prolonged exposure therapy. Here, the patients are told to relive the memories and embrace them until fear of them goes down, essentially teaching the brain not to be afraid of the memories. One of the veterans didn’t take it because he didn’t feel ready, the other did, and was in the end helped by it.

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  51. “This Emotional Life” provided a lot of insight into the working of the brain and how it impacts our emotions. One section that I found to be particularly engaging was the one about depression. This is a sickness that is often misunderstood as “being sad” while in reality it’s so much more. The segment showed twin sisters that were completely different. One of them was able to go out and have fun and simply be happy. The other one was unable to do so due to the clinical depression she was suffering from. She spoke of how she wanted to do all these things that her sister was enjoying, or to simply move from her bed, but she physically couldn’t. Research has found that this occurs due to the destruction of the hypothalamus that depression causes. Anti-depressants tend to prevent these negative effects, as well as potentially cause increased growth of cells. However, they were ineffective in the case of the twin sister and so, as a last resort, she and her family turned to electric shock therapy, which ended up curing her of depression. I found this to be very powerful since it depicted an uphill battle of someone who wanted to get better. Science helped her achieve this goal because when her condition was too serious to be aided by antidepressants, she was able to turn to the shock treatment. It had been developed and now is no longer as primitive, with less treatments necessary and only minimal pain. These are important developments because if untreated, depression can significantly lower the quality of life, and having these methods to counteract it is helpful in aiding those suffering from it.
    Another section I found to be particularly interesting was the one that talked about fear. It was about a female college student that was severely limited by her extreme fear of planes. Her fear could be triggered by simply thinking about boarding a plane. This prevented her from traveling to visit family and friends, eventually leading her to seek the help of a therapist. He helped her analyze her physical response and try to realize that it’s not necessarily negative, so that if it’s provoked by her thoughts, she doesn’t fear them. This technique can later be used by her in order to combat any other fears. This is an important treatment method because fears an prevent people from living their lives to the full extent, and finding these way to deal with them can be beneficial to combating the fears people have, allowing them to have fuller, more engaging lives, unhindered by irrational fears.

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  52. This emotional life had many aspects that spoke out to me. One of the segments that really affected me was the section that spoke about the McCormack family and their two adopted kids, Nadia and Alex. They have two very different personalities. Nadia is outgoing, the life of the party, and instantly connected with her parents whereas Alex, never developed a bond with his parents. As babies, Nadia would sit with them and play, and on the other hand Alex would go off on his own. His parents tried to connect with Alex, but they had little success. Alex never reciprocated the love of his parents and always relied on himself versus others. For the longest time, babies are not able to take care of themselves. They need assistance to survive. They make bonds with their caregivers through the use of smiling and laughing, and this is called attachment. They crave attention and love. Sometimes as babies, they do not get the attention they need. For example it was shown that in some Eastern European Orphanages there are so many babies that the caregivers can only nurse a baby and change their diaper. Never being able to form bonds with the baby, or playing with them, the children learn at a very early age that they have to depend on themselves for love. This can lead to emotional detachment and problems later on in life such as what Alex is dealing with. Oxytocin is a chemical released in the brain, which is sometimes referred to as “bonding chemical”. It was suggested in a scientific paper that biological children who see their parents release much more oxytocin than children who are adopted. This idea of attachment and what happens when a human being is deprived of love really struck a chord with me.
    Another segment that affected me personally was on stress and anxiety. I know as a normal high school student, I face a lot of stress when it comes to schoolwork, college, and my future. Sometimes it starts to feel overwhelming, and all I can think is how much work I need to do and how little time I have left. According to the video, the right amount of stress that does not last too long is perfect. It adds a stimulus that makes us get work done. Without stimulation, our life would be bland, and we would not do anything, leaving our life in a constant loop of laziness. But when stress starts taking over, it can be very detrimental for the body biologically. Chronic stress is a prolonged period of anxiety in which someone thinks they have no control. It is caused by the release of corticosteroids, which are responses from the endocrine system. Chronic stress can cause many problems, such as the decrease of memory and learning due to the fact that stress starts to decrease the activity of the hippocampus in the brain. This also can lead someone to be more prone to depression. Peter Whybrow commented on how he talks to people who think that they will reach happiness by getting a certain amount of goods. Once they then get all the physical objects that are supposedly supposed to make them happy, they still haven’t reached it. Instead, in order to get those goodies they underwent a lot of stress, anxiety, depression, and have a plethora of physical complaints. By doing this, we are just, “pushing ourselves towards the physical limits of human experience”. There is a way to relieve chronic stress. By maintaining a healthy rhythm in one’s life by practicing stress management such as exercising, mindful reflection, and a social outlet, can really help. You must also not leave everything for the last day. Everyday work on something that might cause you stress. If it were easy, you wouldn’t be stressed about doing whatever was causing you anxiety.

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  53. After watching the three part series This Emotional Life, I found the section on emotions that can essentially disable people, making them vulnerable to their own actions. Such emotions that can debilitate people and prevent them from reaching happiness can spiral out of control, creating debilitating effects that can jeopardize relationships, and one’s future. One example of this was the woman in the documentary who was unable to control her anger, preventing her from forming relationships with others. Mary’s anger goes into overdrive, and nearly all of her anger moments are from a flight or fight response, an event that seems to happen abnormally often in Mary. When Mary got angry, she wouldn’t think of the consequences of her actions, but simply about how angry she was at the time. Even though Mary almost automatically reacted to fight when prompted with a fight or flight response, she always felt a sense of guilt after she fought someone, explaining the powerful ability of the brain to control the body through a surge of hormones, triggering the fight or flight response, and impairing the judgement of those who it affects. While the amygdala, one of the more primal sections of the brain turn the the sense of anger or fear on, more recently developed parts of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex attempt to control these emotions, creating a struggle for power within the brain, as a primal instinct clashes with a desire to calmly assess the situation and react accordingly. This clash between the primal instincts of the body and the more moderate sections of the brain cause the decision to fight or flee extremely difficult to analyze objectively.
    Another section that was interesting to me was the section on fear, and how it can cause irrational phobias that cannot be controlled with reasoning. A college freshman was deathly terrified of flying, even though she knew that such a fear was completely irrational. This shows how our emotions can override our ability to think rationally and objectively make decisions. Even though she knew that her fear was irrational, her phobia was able to create a physical, debilitating effect. An emotion is able to trigger physical symptoms, and prevent people from making rational decisions.

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  54. Howard Ding

    One part that I was affected by the most was the part about family. It hit on many key points about how humans feel and express compassion and how it relates to the lives we live. The video talks about how compassion can affect people’s lives in drastic ways. One example they give is with the different adopted kids in one family. The difference in characters for the kids caused the orphanage caretakers to treat them differently. This made the girl be more caressed, while her adoptive brother was left by himself without much care due to his rash nature. Because of the lack of care at the orphanage, it makes it hard for him to communicate normally with other kids and his adoptive parents. This effect can be shown in Harry Harlow’s monkey experiment where he secluded monkeys then let them choose from 2 wire “parents” (dolls) that would give them food. The monkeys chose the cloth one over the bland wire one in preference of comfort. This is similar to the adoptive kid who could not express his compassion in an understandable way and thus has a lack of friends. This provides insight to people on understanding why people may not come across as “nice”.
    Another part that affected me was the part on depression. It provided insight on the struggles that one has to face. It showed me that depression is much more than just sadness and is more so a complete disorder that can’t just be helped with compassion and how it is a true disease that can potentially need serious treatment. The people featured were a pair of twins who were seniors in high school getting ready to graduate and go to college. One twin was facing depression and worsened to the point that she could only stay home. This made me realize that depression was more than just a sadness in feelings and the twin with depression, Caitlin, easily explained it by how it goes beyond sadness and how the other effects have effects that are hard to deal with. This not only affected her life greatly, it also affected her family around her. With the lack of effectiveness from other treatments, Caitlin had to go with ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) to treat her very severe case of depression. It was only after a more than predicted amount of sessions until her case of depression was resolved. This truly showed the great effects of depression on families and individuals.

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  55. One segment that dealt with the family and attachment was one of the most memorable parts for me. In this section, the documentary talks about two adopted siblings, Alex and Nadia. The film especially focuses on Alex, who has attachment issues. He is too focused in himself and what he is doing to pay attention to the others. He has trouble taking in social cues, and also has trouble bonding with his mother. Alex’s behaviors are questioned with his experience at the orphanage. In the 90s orphanages of Russia, there was not much care, bonding, and attention. In previous study with the baby monkey showed that love and companionship is essential. In this segment, they also talked about a hormone called oxytocin. I was interested in oxytocin before, so this section was very memorable for me. Oxytocin is important in attachment, bond, and social relationships. In a study, the researchers observed the level of oxytocin in biological parent and their children and adopted children and their parents. They found that the oxytocin level in biological parent and children increased after the session with physical touch, but the oxytocin level in adopted children showed no increase. With this research, the scientists can continue and expand their research to find more relations of oxytocin and attachment, to possibly help kids like Alex.
    Another segment that affected me the most was the segment that dealt with depression. In this segment, the documentary focused on a girl named Caitlyn, who currently suffered with depression. Caitlyn says that depression is not only emotional but physical, and she tries various ways to cure her depression (eventually using ECT). For the people with depression, the memories of sadness last longer and sadness and negative aspects are noticed more. From this the scientists say that the negative thoughts and reactions are automatic for the depressed people. Scientists questioned the biological factor for depression and there was a study done about this question. In the study, the participants were asked to do a task that was “stressful” (counting backwards by 7 and repeat from the beginning if made a mistake). In the end, the researchers found that the depressed people produced more of cortisol, a stress hormone, than non-depressed participants. So, the scientists concluded that depression also had a part of biological factor, and that the depressed people had no control over it since it was partly biological. Elevated level of stress hormones can damage hippocampus, a sensitive part of human brain. In a study, they found that the hippocampus of depressed women were smaller than those of non-depressed women. Also, the longer someone had depression, the smaller the hippocampus were, and people who took antidepressant medication had no change in size. This showed the necessity of a treatment. After this section, it made me curious about the further effects of antidepressant medications, and whether the decreased size of hippocampus could be even regenerated. Then the documentary continued on about the antidepressant drugs leading to generating new cells in hippocampus. With this, I became more interested in hippocampus and what exactly is its function and the consequences of its change in size. In the end, science has hopes of helping to cure depression and understand more of the relationships of depression and brain.

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  56. Ryan McManus

    In class we recently finished watching the first two episodes in the 3 part series of, This Emotional Life. The show, hosted by Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist and writer from Harvard University, divulges into the many aspects of humanity’s mental and emotional well-being.

    While watching, This Emotional Life, two particular segments stuck out to me among the rest. The first of these two segments dealt with anxiety. Within this portion of the video, a young college student attempts to end her fear of flying which resonates so closely with me as over the past few years I too have developed a fear of flying. In order to halt both the fear and resulting anxiety the young women goes to see a psychologist (as opposed to medication) who works with her in order to eliminate a fear that would be completely irrational to most other people. Together the two do both psychological and physical exercises to replicate the feeling of anxiety (such as an increased heart rate and feeling of lost self-control). Once the feeling was present they could work on tackling it once and for all. This segment of the video really showed me how restricting fears that would seem so irrational to the majority of humans could be to the person they affect.

    The second of these two segments dealt with two veterans who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Similar to the college freshman who dealt with her anxiety through the help of a psychologist, an almost identical method of tackling PTSD can be used in very severe cases. The method involves mentally recreating a reoccurring event, analyzing it, and slowly but surely learning to accept it. Throughout the section focusing on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder the audience was able to see how paralyzing the mental illness is in both the presence and absence of such treatment. In the presence of the aforementioned treatment the first veteran saw a decrease in the recurrences of his traumatic experience (setting off an increase in overall happiness) while the veteran who did not go through with the treatment continues to have difficulty holding on to a job and living a happy day to day life. Although it may be hard to scientifically understand happiness, stress, anxiety, anger, and so on, so far the events shown in, This Emotional Life, displayed that every day society get closer to unraveling these basic yet ambiguous mysteries.

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  57. There were many segments in “The Emotional Life” that stood out to me. However, two segments that were most intriguing were about Caitlin’s depression and a woman’s anger.

    In the first segment, Caitlin, who also has a twin sister, was diagnosed with clinical depression. The sisters created a video documentary about their everyday lives. As the viewer’s we can see Caitlin is extremely depressed, while her twin sister shows no sign of depression. In this segment, depression is explained in depth and shown that it is not just sadness. It is a complex mental disorder that causes someone to lose their motivation and exhibit “sadness”. Depression affects all aspects of life and is unfortunately stigmatized in society. I found this segment interesting as it gave me more knowledge about clinical depression and how it inhibits everyday life.

    In the second segment, a woman talks about her anger issues and how it has affected her life on many occasions. In one example she gives, she tells the viewer’s how she was at a party and suddenly became anger with the host. Her anger led to harsh words and violent actions for no reason. She explains that she has these sudden “anger attacks” that take control over her body. She also continues to explain how after she has one of her anger scenes she begins to cry and reflect on her problems. Scientists and researchers are still not sure what triggers these sudden anger attacks. They believe that it stems from the pre-frontal cortex, but are still not confident in their reasoning. I found this segment especially interesting as I did not know anger could cause this much distress and problem in someone’s life. It was also interesting, but at the same time saddening, to see someone not able to explain why they get angry.

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  58. This show proved to be a very eye opening experience into the world of mental illness. It just so happens that I’m also involved in the mental illness and treatment units of psychology while we were watching the show. I found myself familiar with a lot of the terminology and concepts of the film while watching.
    The first episode was focused around anxiety, specifically a phobia that one particular young college student was dealing with. She had a serious fear of flying, a phobia that had been affecting her life for a few years making traveling very difficult for her. Through the episode we saw how her therapist slowly began to break down this fear that she had to the eventual end where they both flew in a plane, the girls first time flying in a few years. Science has played a huge role in getting this student over her phobia. Being able to diagnose the issue to begin with was a big role in being able to treat it. Furthermore, having psychiatrists, a science related job, turned out to be the deciding factor when it comes to getting the student over her fear of flying as well as helping other people with a variety of different mental illnesses to be treated and to live a more “normal” life.
    The second episode looked at two people dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This disease greatly impacted not only the people who had it, but their entire families as well creating a lot of tension. People with this illness struggle with emotions and often times have issues forming and maintaining healthy relationships. One of the veterans dealing with this disease in the film, for example, got very irritated when he heard loud noises and you can see how it impacted those around him. He yelled at his kids who were playing with some toys nearby. It was easy to see that he wasn’t trying to be mean to his kids, but his disease just had such a large impact on everything he did. Through science by means of a psychologist, these people were able to improve their quality of life and learn how to deal with their illness. Decades ago such a disease was unknown leaving people suffering with it to do just that, suffer with little to no help from those around them not because the people didn’t care, but because they didn’t know what was wrong with the sick person.

    -Levi

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  59. Courtney Greifenberger
    After watching episodes from the series, “The Emotional Life”, a few topics stood out to me. One in particular, about family, explored the importance of infant interaction with a parental figure and it’s effects on the child’s future relationships. The episode followed the McCormack Family, who had adopted two toddlers, Nadia and Alex, at a Russian orphanage. While Nadia grew up as an easy and sociable child, her brother struggled. He was unable to establish a foundational and trusting relationship with his adopted parents, leading to emotional and social struggles as he grew up. He would have emotional outbursts that lacked any empathy, ultimately affecting his family life, and ability to make friends. Scientists are lead to believe that this behavior can be attributed to his initial placement in the orphanage. Alex was deprived of an opportunity to attach, meaning that he has little to no oxytocin release when being comforted or nourished by a parent. Most infants experience an increase in oxytocin levels after parental interaction because the establishment of relationships is rewarding. But if a child, such as Alex, does not establish this early correlation, they may experience difficulty creating future relationships because their brain does not deem it beneficial. Science hopes to help children like Alex through therapeutic and medical research.
    Another segment that resonated with me was about fear. We were introduced to a young female student who had an almost debilitating phobia of flying. She completely understood that her fear was irrational, yet could not control it. However, through working with a psychiatrist, the young student was able to contain her fear to a certain extent. During intense treatment sessions prior to a plane flight the patient was asked to talk about her fear, and even simulate the motions of flying. By “practicing” her fear, the subject was able to remain calm on an actual flight. This confrontation of fears can be used to help other patients such as this to overcome their restrictive phobias.


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