Neuroscience Blog

Brain - Neuroscience Research Team.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Off topic - opinions about a faculty system

Posted by brain - research neuroscience group

An excellent interview made by Dr. MIRELA RADULESCU with prof. Leon Zagrean, the head of the physiology department at "Carol Davila" university ,is published in Romanian here. The professor spoked about his opinions regarding the research process in Romania - and in many aspects he is very right and in some aspects he is very very right. But, when asked about students...the nuances appeared. He said that the students "are learning less and pretend high scores at the exams" Sometimes it happens to be true. The majority are somewhere at the middle and some students are very good, we tend to say. It is about Gauss curve, we say. If we talk about the general level...are students motivated?! or encouraged?! or rewarded?! Also the professor said that" there are too many students, and the admission exam is not as good as it was". About the high number of of the principle of the laboratory the proffers is leading is that "every one can come in, only those who are good it will stay". So..the problem with the big number....hmmm.....About the admission exam - the problem is a total disaster. In the communist period and many years after (till 5 years ago) the admission system was based only on 1 manual, witch was learned BY HEART (it is not a joke) by high school graduates. Then, about 100 questions at the admission were from this book. Better memory, better result. Nothing else. Just learning BY HEART 200 PAGES. Now, from many "alternative" manuals of human anatomy and physiology for high school, and many manuals of organic chemistry, one for anatomy and one for chemistry are selected. The high school students are learning by-heart this two manuals, and they will give a test and...nothing else. So, the problem is not the exam is too easy (is the same as 30 years ago). Nothing else matters - just memory. What are you thinking, what are your abilities, your passion and devotion for this area are not evaluated. The professor didn't spoke about this. Maybe this is why students aren't learning too much - many of them are here because at the arts universities you must have talent & knowledge, at math & physics you must have the proper skills and at medicine you only have to learn by heart 200 pages. At the BIG universities, things are different: HARVARD:
Selection Factors

Admission to Harvard Medical School is very selective. We seek students of integrity and maturity who have concern for others, leadership potential and an aptitude for working with people.
The Committee on Admissions evaluates applications based on several factors, including:
* Academic Records
* Applicant's essay
* Medical College Admission Test scores
* Extracurricular activities
* Summer Occupations
* Life experiences
* Experience in the health field, including research or community work
* Letters of evaluation
Candidates are selected on the basis of the following considerations:
* Undergraduate record.
* Medical College Admissions Test Scores.
* Letters of Recommendation.
* Graduate Record, where applicable.
* Life Experiences (research, volunteerism, etc).
* Interview(s) by member of the Admissions Committee.
All applications are considered carefully on their individual merits and tutors consider academic achievements, predicted grades, candidates' personal statements and academic references as well as any written work or written test that may be required as part of the application. Candidates who feel that they under-performed at GCSE may be able to compensate for this by demonstrating clear upward progression at AS-level as well as in predicted or achieved A-level scores. You may wish to refer to this in your personal statement.

Is there any difference in the admission system? hmmm...

also "they are determining a low level even for well prepared students' - i sincerely don't understand this affirmations, it is about the exams, or about the teaching level? Also, in the opinion of the professor, the high number of students who are paying for their studies is too big. I have in mind that , at the BIG universities, all the students are paying. Only in Romania and other countries, faculty is payed by the government. Why my parents or your sister have to pay for others to study? For paying the teacher - it is ok, but paying for others.....hmmm and we have a liberal government :))) :))) Also, he mentioned that the fees - 1000 E/year are too low. I saw some days ago some fees at London 1500, 2500E, Amsterdam univ. - 900E, Paris 1200E, Berlin 1100E, Bruxelles - 900E. To remind you that the average salary is 240 E/month for a university graduate with 15 years of experience!?!!. Or the scholarship for excellence is 58E/month, except the summer vacation and Christmas holiday when it is not given?! So, i wander, from where this high costs in Romania? Are we paying too much for the electricity?, or for the salaries or for the laboratories :))) :))) (i just mentioned it above). So?

Anyway, the professor mentioned twice the good students, which is good.
Paul T.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Autism -Between Science and Every Day Living

Posted by brain - research neuroscience group

In a post on Dr. Michael Merzenich's blog, a debate was born regarding the attitude toward autism. An emotional approach and a clear scientific point of view seems to be like the cat and the mouse. We (in some posts), Claudiu in others and Dan in other comments sustain
a somehow the scientific opinion on this "other way of being". The initial post was about video/computer game addiction and autism. Of course, this manner -scientifical - was criticised by those with high functional autism or by some parents. Dan, told about those who disagree with the scientific point of view that "it is unclear what you are trying to do, and your comments appear to arise from your emotion and psychology rather than from a coherent conceptual scheme that has a productive intellectual purpose." All the comments that wore based more on observations or on research were considered full of lack of empathy for those with autism. But why this reaction from those who have autism or from parents??. The fact that a researcher, a neurologist or a psychiatrist or some medical students etc are giving their time searching for the mechanism of this disease isn't a clue of their interest and passion for the condition of those with autism? isn't this the biggest proof of emotion - doing something, not just speaking about autism driven by emotions?! Also, Dan, (a very intelligent person in our opinion) sad "Again I do think what underlies each of your remarks is a rival conception of autism, one that is fundamentally different than the typical scientific/medical conception that stems from the DSM criteria." Your remarks appear to me as superficial aspects of this larger conception, and without providing a simple discussion of your rival conception, your comments appear as superficial, often unclear, and arising from emotion (including those with autism who have posted here), and as such, as I’ve noticed above, lack explanation, are disorganized, unclear, personally oriented, etc. This is the nature of emotional arguments."
Of course a scientific approach sometime seems to be cold, or it supresses the sensation of partnership and sometimes don'tleave space for too much talk in a "positive regard". Claudiu was saying that sometimes a scientific discussion (even an internet one) can be misinterpreted if the asistance is composed by ill people (especially when is about mental disorders ex: depression, autism etc). Sometimes they think that they are judged as good or bad. so....; But he was asking to - what about the right for a clear information access, which they are asking for many, many times.
More, it is interesting (especially for those who are searching the human mind) what's with this
opinion. In general, when a patient finds out that he has a disease, he has some mental stages in relation with the disease: denyal, anger......acceptance. All of this targeting the adherence and the good mood/ stress/ depression of a patient. where is situated an autistic when he builds a parallel opinion on his suffering?! (this question is apliable to the parent too). So, as Dan was saying "each of your remarks (opposite to scientific results) is a rival conception of autism, one that is fundamentally different than the typical scientific/medical conception that stems from the DSM criteria."
We are asking where this attitude can be placed : denyal by building a 'soft" vision about autism, or it is the acceptance which was reached by making a different opinion for living , after seeing (and accepting) the medical opinion. Something like... ok with the medicine, i agree, but this seems warmer.....Is the adherence affected?
Brain - neuroscience research team

If you are talking in medical - research terms - are you categorised as cold blooded?! but patients and the general opinion are asking for research result...... so....... it may be something like 'where and with who are you talking to'. It is possible to be linked to the self esteem of the patient in case of the autism, but if you are talking with a patient with some bacterial infection about what's happening in his body his self esteem will be hurt? So, autism means team work...
but this team sometimes is not made in practice by the patient, researchers, parents and physician (whatever is his speciality). I belive there are some stages: at a young age, the parents are going to hospitals with theis young children, then a behavioraly programme is initiate in parallel with the hospital survey. so, there is no denyal here, and all the medical oppinions are accepted. Futher, the child is growing, and he is a high functional autistic person. Here comes the switch...medical opinions are considered a stigmata, and the reality becomes another - "a special way of beeing". Is this a return to denyal or acceptance? Of course, to reload the example with the patient suffering from an infection - after everything is ok, he doesn't want to be seen as a carrier of a bacteria, but is the same in autism?! The special programs for autism are preparing people with this suffering for this oppinion switch, or they are considering it?!

Here are some comments by me on autism and computer game addiction (which were the start of this interesting debate):
1) "It is a world of “full control”, where a child can have the control, and the interaction with other characters from the game will not have any consequences on him (on the child) . The “interaction” between his game character (or army, etc etc) - in fact his virtual representation in his mind - and the other characters from the game is not harmful, and if an inconvenience appears (as sometime in the real world happens) it will not require a cognitive effort, a push on “reset” button is enough. In the real world - No! The character is his representation (sometimes children say : he shoot me! or what a jump I made ” but he reffers to him, even though the event belongs to the virtual character). It is about full control with no consequence, and due to the fat that a child finds himself in a character, for a moment he reach more self -esteem because of the properties of the virtual character. For a child with autism: emotions are less present (or expressed) - and a game will not require an emotional approach (as the care for a pet, or the emotions involved in the relation with the parents). A game will not require from him to express a gentle touch. A parent does. The level of aggresion is higher in many children with autism - the level of agression is higher in games, in books or in a social interaction event - No. It seems that they have a problem in complex stimuli perception: a game will provide clear defined character (by face structure for example of by the whole morphology - a monster/a witch/a human) with clear intentions - real children colleagues - not quite. Or, in a game, a group of personages have the same design, so they will be treated as a whole, a real word situation means different responses based on different characters which must be indentified (and the face is a complex stimulus, but alike (similar ) with 10 or 15 around him at a moment)."

2) just some few articles, with a scientific aproach:

Carolien Rieffe et al 2006
Michael L. Spezio et al 2006
lisabeth Hill et al 2006
David Hessl et al 2006
D. Ben Shalom et al 2006
Sandy Vickerstaff et al 2005
Anne-Marie Daoust et al 2007
Eve Müller1 et al 2006
Rieffe C et al 2000
Rieffe, Carolien 2000
and also read about depression in autism - and the effect of the depression
” Findings suggest that children with autism have difficulties identifying their own emotions and less developed emotion concepts ”

Poustka F. 2007
Montes G, Halterman JS., 2007
Jensen PS et al 2007
Lindsay RL et al 2006
Brune CW et al 2006
Reinblatt SP et al 2006
McKee SA et al 2007
Dominick KC, et al 2007

also there many, many, many other GREAT scientists who are interested in this field…i cite here just the ones I read recently. All of them sustain a scientific approach, that sometimes is interpreted as "hurting the liberty of living', as someone said.
So, scientific world - autistic persons - in a debate? ethics,dedication, passion, action, emotions, "politicaly correct", cold blooded, supportive or just business?!?!
C.B; L.S.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good News about

Posted by brain - research neuroscience group

from Art Space - reviewing sites since 1999. for web site design, creativity and ease of navigation.

Not a month yet of, and things are working very good due to team and due to your interest!

Neuroscience Research Team

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Neuroscience Poster Design

Posted by brain - research neuroscience group

A neuroscience poster is not a page from a scientific journal.

Below are some good examples of a poster. They are aligned to the right side of the page. Posters aligned to the left side of the page (also they have an orange, oblique text in the right upper corner) are bad examples of a poster!!!
design: team & neuroscience blog team


A poster is made to present your work in a crowed room, with people with a coffe
in one hand, talking already to a colleague.

I'll not discuss here about the text editing, or how to be concise when saying something in a scientific poster. In a discussion with a neuroscientist a few days ago (and also a year ago), this topic was debated. He said to me that a poster must be simple, with a few colors, titles highlighted by blue (or other color) border. Images & text must be separated and this two components must have separate areas in the poster. Doesn't look to you as an old, dusty highschool uniforme? I'll name this "the old and dusty school poster".
I said to him that i disagree because the images and the text must form a "solid" body, and the appearance of the poster must be visualisated as a whole. Also, it must be interesting, it has to borrow something from the media prints. This happens because it must be seen by the audience, before reading the text. Also, it must be attractive: a beatiful & interesting poster + an interesting research = full succes. "The old and dusty school poster" may contain an interesting work, but after seeing 50 or 150 poster in the same graphical manner will forget it if you aren't very interested in the subject. A good poster, an interested public, a nice reserch work = they will remember it!!! and because of the poster appereance (a nice and interesting one) the discussion about your research will have a better starting point. (of course, if you don't find a "mad dog" who just looooooooves the "the old and dusty school poster").

A good poster talks about your work and about you. A good layout means respect for the public. (imagine a masterpiece in music played by a very bored violonist or by a bad guitar player - how would you feel? think about the ticket you payed! this is the same with a boring design). A white background has no effect, a good and interesting background may talk about you work from 20 metres, a distance where no title or text or image can speak. If the images and the text are composing "a story" about your research, the public will remember "the story" easier than they will remember a text in a border or the image in the left corner. A smart graphical layout will make a good impression about your work and about you. A blue polygon
and a pale image will never have this effect. A research work, combined with a smart layout will stimulate other scientists to interact, a table-based design will be nothing more than a table-based design. A good design will talk about your creativity (you are a scientist, you create!) and a square text, a square table and a square image will say nothing about your open-mindness. You don't have drawing skills? Or you don't have any idea about how the poster should look like? Ask a designer, or a colleague, or a student to help you! In fact, you don't know how to make a suite, but you want to look good at the conference, so you buy it! What good for a nice suite if the poster looks boring.

Some critics may say that a "trendy" poster will distract the public's attention from the text or the idea. This is, in our oppinion, a great dissrespect for the poster viewers. We never believed that a graphyc element can distract so bad a researcher(is he a child?! is he suffering from a mental ilness?) !!!! But, because we alwais consider our audience at least as smart as us, a good looking poster will not have decorative ellements just to have it. A good poster has
decorative ellements that fit the idea of the research presented in the poster. They do not distract, they underline the idea! Some critics may say that the message will not be clear any more if the poster doesn't have the "the old and dusty school poster" look. Who said tha unattractive means clear?! Some critics may say that a simple design will enhance your work with more credibility, but who said that the lack of preocupation for the ideea you want to transmit means a good atitude. Flavourless means the lack of interest, not a scientific atitude!
Some critics may say that you are loosing the content for the look. But we think that the content determines the look. So, a good looking poster will not have less information than a boring one. It is very probable that in a boring poster you will find a boring research told by a bored researcher.

Our poster conception ideas:

The introduction, methods, results, conclusions, discussions, citations, acknowledgments, must be put in an easy to follow order. The main idea must be illustrated as a central point.
The background must have elements to enhance the main idea of the research work.
The separation of the areas must be done by graphical elements and gradients that sustain
the idea of the research. Borders have nothing to do with the idea of the poster, because all the areas in a poster are talking about the same research, so why borders? Images that sustain the research work or results must be highlighted not by using heavy contrast with the background, but by using the whole design of the poster, so all the ellements must be put in order to highlight this images. Monochromatic or bichromatic posters look cold, threechromatic are annoying. Gradients are beautiful!

You are telling about your work and about you! Make it alive, you scientist!

ps: fro those who still belive that "the old and dusty school poster" is good, look here! Two posters published by Nature Neuroscience Reviews (one of them design. Kirsten Lee, designer).

Neuroscience Bucharest Blog Team.