Manic Monday: Harlow’s Pit of Despair, the Rape Rack and Iron Maidens


We will start off this Monday, and the first Manic Monday article, with Harlow’s Pit of Despair. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Who doesn’t love a good love story? A journey of a scientist to understand love, and what it’s all about. One such love-bug scientist is Harry Harlow.

I like to think that out of every bad situation, something good is derived from it. For example, some have argued that though the Holocuast was horrible, out of the unethical experiments the Germans did on the Jews came profound experiments on human genetics. Now I’m not here to argue the ethics of saying that, (though your thoughts would be great in the comments section). However, I am here to discuss the experimentation and the ethics behind Dr. Harry Harlow’s work on rhesus monkeys.

I will begin by saying that there is good that came out of Harlow’s experiments on the monkeys:…

View original post 2,098 more words


My new book: Norbit the Neuron Neuroscience for Kids!

I haven’t posted in a few months, but I’ve been working on other projects!

In college, I began writing a children’s neuroscience book. It’s been 5 years now that I’ve been working on this project. Now, it’s been illustrated! Or, rather, in the process of being illustrated. The illustrator is my boyfriend’s youngest sister, and she’s incredibly talented. Ridiculously so.

We started a Kickstarter campaign the new. If you’d be kind enough to check it out, and share the link, maybe even donate, that’d be wonderful.

Developmental Plasticity and the “Hard-Wired” Problem

Patrick F. Clarkin, Ph.D.

“Development is the missing link between genotype and phenotype, a place too often occupied by metaphors in the past … But a strong emphasis on the genome means that environmental influence is systematically ignored. If you begin with DNA and view development as “hard-wired,” you overlook the flexible phenotype and the causes of its variation that are the mainsprings of adaptive evolution.” (Mary Jane West-Eberhard, 2003: 89-90)

“Genes, unlike gods, are conditional. They are exquisitely good at simple if-then logic: if in a certain environment, then develop in a certain way… So here is the first moral of the tale: Don’t be frightened of genes. They are not gods; they are cogs. (Matt Ridley, 2003: 250)

Plasticity: actor Christian Bale at two points in time. Same genes, different phenotypes.Plasticity: actor Christian Bale at two points in time. Same genes, different phenotypes.

In his book The Triple Helix, Richard Lewontin told the story of the molecular biologist and Nobel laureate Sydney…

View original post 4,197 more words

Body Integrity Identity Disorder

Ever felt like cutting off your own leg? I didn’t think so.


Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), also known as Amputee Identity Disorder, is one in which the sufferer is adamant that a limb of theirs does not belong to them and needs to be amputated. There is a sort of alienation of the limb, usually a leg. The sufferer’s view of their leg is reduced to that of an object that is unrelated to the person. These individuals do not feel “whole” with four limbs, instead, they believe they are incomplete and can only become “whole” is the affected limb is amputated.


BIID may be associated with apotemnophilia, or self-demand amputation that is related to sexual arousal at the idea of one being an amputee. There may be erotization of the stump after amputation, and there may be conceptual connections to masochism and transseuxalism. Some have argued that the desire for limb amputation is related to sex reassignment of transsexualism.


The documentary Whole describes sufferers of BIID. One man named George had become so desperate to get rid of his leg that he shot it off with a shotgun. In terms of the injury, he said that he felt “absolutely transformed,” and that he’s “fine,” and doesn’t care because he has realized himself, and has “become whole.”


The disorder typically begins in childhood, and the desire to amputation becomes a life-long obsession, until amputation takes place. What is interesting is that even though BIID sufferers are adamant about their feelings, they know it is strange and shouldn’t be so. But they can’t help themselves from feeling the way they do.


The etiology of the condition is not fully known, and there is no treatment plan that professionals agree upon. The only treatment that seems effective is amputation, and there is a growing ethical concern about such a drastic treatment. Is it right to allow an individual to have a limb amputated, even though the limb the healthy? Is it ethical to deprive them of amputation if the procedure will bring the sufferer comfort and peace of mind? Some physicians believe that amputation of the healthy limb goes against their Hippocratic Oath to not do harm is possible. Clearly there is a debate centered on this issue that will be considered in the years to come.


Try this exercise: Imagine that running down the center of your body is a line. This line bisects your body into a left and a right. Now with your left hand, raise over your left eyebrow. Again with your left hand, pat your left thigh, your left shoulder, your left neck. You are able to tell all your body parts and where they lie in space because of the brain’s body map of yourself. The spatial relationships of all the parts of the body are matched in the brain, that is, the area of the brain relating to the foot is next to the ankle is next to the shin is next to the knee and so on.


Some neurologists and psychologists believe that the disorder arises when the brain is not able to provide an accurate depiction of the body. Each of us has a “body map” in our brain allowing us to know where our limbs are in space and which belong to us. The BIID sufferer’s brain is not able to do this properly and sees the limb as an offending object to be removed. Some believe that the sufferer thinks that being an amputee will bring them more attention or love, but many BIID sufferers claim that that is not the case. Many BIID sufferers will seek out, if they do not do it themselves, surgeons to perform the amputation of the limb, or even to ask for a transection of their spinal cord, to allow for paralysis.

How to be a freelance science writer*

The Raptor Lab

*according to other people

What do you do when you don’t know how to do something? Scour the internet for advice, obviously.

Over the last year, I’ve been on the hunt for good guides to freelance journalism. Now, as my freelancing career finally dawns, I figure I should exhibit some of my best findings in one place. Here they are.

Many of these links are aimed towards science writers, but most of the information still applies to any kind of journalist.

Got any sweet additions? Shoot them at me @realavivahrLast updated 11/4.

* Classic post from Ed Yong, with different science writers chiming in to share the story of how they got started .
* Advice for beginners from superstar Carl Zimmer.
* Scientific American’s Incubator wrote a monster post on how to break into the business.
* The Open Notebook has also got a guide…

View original post 481 more words