Tears and Emotion: A Mystery Unsolved?


By Rowena Kong

Why do people cry? Sadness does not seem to be the only emotion which stimulates a person to shed tears. We cry when we listen to soothing music and loving words spoken to us. We may even cry when we are extremely overjoyed. In Vingerhoets and Bylsma (2015) review of human emotional crying, the authors listed both the negative and positive antecedents of adult crying and they included defeat, powerlessness, failure, justice and altruism. Continue reading

Explaining the Emotional and Social Costs of East Asians’ Experience of Depression


By Rowena Kong

The difference in rates of depression between East Asians and North Americans has long attracted research leading to explanations for such findings. According to a summary study by Weissman et al. (1996) which analyzed the rates of major depressive disorder in different countries based on community surveys, depression’s prevalence rate in Taiwan stood low at 1.5% for every 100 people while that of Korea was a close 2.9%. Continue reading

Hidden Neuroprotective Functions: The Potential Roles of Caffeine and Acetaminophen in Delayed Progression of Parkinson’s Disease


By Rowena Kong

Tylenol and caffeine: they are too common in our everyday life and language to be ignored. When physical symptoms call for our action, we reach for the bottle of Tylenol; to satisfy our cravings, we aim for the kitchen coffee-brewer or the nearest cafe. They are effective and have always been so. But are these remedial actions just about all that acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) and caffeine can offer us? Continue reading

Against All Odds: Priceless Consciousness in the Minds of the Seemingly Deprived

Abstract design made of outlines of human head, technological and fractal elements on the subject of artificial intelligence, computer science and future technologies

By Rowena Kong

Many unfortunate and unresponsive patients might never be able to show a hint of perception of their loved-ones’ faithful support by the bedside or the sight of their tears behind hopeful smiles. As such, the very existence of these patients’ level of consciousness and the accuracy of their clinical behavioural assessments have been debatable. Medical authorities and experts have come up with the category of disorders of consciousness to include conditions that impair one’s state of awareness. “Minimally conscious state” and “persistent vegetative state” are two categorizations that have attracted particular interest due to the difficulty inherent in their identification and diagnosis (Bernat, 2006). In the case of patients in a minimally conscious state, there remains a certainty in their behavioural exhibition of sense of self and of the environment (Giacino et al., 2002). As for the persistent vegetative state, the condition is more severe and impacts one’s full range of behavioural responses to sensory stimuli in terms of their sustainability, reproducibility, purposefulness and voluntary nature (The Multi-Society Task Force on PVS, 1994). Of particular significance is the fact that the vegetative patient exhibits a total loss of awareness of the self and the environment while other autonomic bodily functions are still preserved at variable degree.

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Should You Think Twice Before Popping Another Pill of Tylenol?

Psyched_Tylenol and Social Pain_Pic1

By Rowena Kong

It would be difficult to imagine that anyone in this day and age is unfamiliar with Tylenol and its active ingredient, acetaminophen. Tylenol is the most popular over-the-counter pain-reliever drug, and it should undeniably be present at all times in our medicine cabinets. Some are even hesitant to travel without it in their handy luggage. Our lives would be ‘painful’ without its existence, as it is being the most accessible (and relatively affordable) reliever of our common suffering. For some, it can even be a necessity that enables them to lead a less tormented life. We pride ourselves in the fact that we would never be labelled as ‘addicts’ or ‘abusers’ with our frequent consumption of Tylenol. However, that naggy silent voice of conscience and a natural aversion to all things with the word ‘drug’ attached just bugs me each time I see a loved one popping the pills repeatedly, especially when they describe their aches as rather ‘mild’.

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Insomnia: Real or Imagined?


By Rowena Kong

Dear Miss Summer,

I know you must have answered this common question a number of times, but personally I just can’t seem to get rid of this problem no matter how hard I try. I’ve been losing sleep for quite some time now – spending all night mind-wandering and staring at the clock until dawn. Although my work is not so much affected at present, I deeply fear that one day this huge sleep debt might ruin my life and career. Please help!


Dear Sleep-Agonized,

I can understand your problem. In spite of it being a common and recurrent problem today, insomnia happens to each person for different reasons and to varying degrees. What matters to Tom may not trouble Harry because every person is a unique individual. To address your question, it sounds like the sleeplessness has been going on for quite a while now. Allow me to say that it is usually not an easy task to tackle a problem once it has reached its climax because it takes a longer process of retrospection and analysis of what has occurred. However, I tried to pick up on your hints and perceived that there has been much going on for you in terms of thoughts, fears, and career. A conscientious person who highly values her work accomplishments would definitely feel vulnerable upon realizing that her circadian rhythms are off. Perhaps you should start considering this area to be of relevance to your ongoing struggle. Try not to be too hard on yourself when things fall short of your expectations and standards, when the report you produced does not receive positive feedback from your supervisor, or clients fail to appreciate you going the extra mile for them. One thing you should also think about is the level of guilt you have due to this sleep loss problem. Be aware that it is not your fault that this is happening. Lastly, I would encourage you to take some time off work to enjoy the world outside and the new season, and even to do more mind-wandering in a non-stressful and health-rejuvenating way, because you deserve it. That way, you can loosen the tight bonds of schedule-consciousness, which might have played a role in your insomnia…

All the best and take care,

Miss Summer”

Alright, I confess – the above introduction is not an excerpt from a magazine advice column but was taken from a piece of fiction written by me and posted elsewhere. Nevertheless, it kindled an interest that caused me to start researching the topic of insomnia. I get the notion that the term, which describes sleep deprivation and its related problems, is so general and overused that its connotation is one of vagueness and ambiguity. When someone close to me recently complained of the problem, questions started popping up in my restless head of its causes and triggers, onset, duration; and, most of all, how the nature of her job might have exacerbated the condition.

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Recruiting for the Visual Attention/Perception Study of Men With and Without Prostate Cancer

There is a new study looking at vision and perception in prostate cancer patients. The study is a collaborative project between researchers Drs. Alan Kingstone and Richard Wassersug at UBC, and Dr. Jaime Palmer-Hague at Trinity Western University in Langley.

The study will compare the perceptual responses of men with prostate cancer to that of age-matched men without prostate cancer, and more generally, seeks to investigate the ways in which people view, understand, and interact with visual stimuli. The study is especially important for prostate cancer patients on certain drugs that might affect their mood and attention. Continue reading

Think Creative? Think People, and Culture…


By Rowena Kong

Which would you do better at: detecting similarities amongst a group of items, or brainstorming an original title for a thriller movie? Chances are, your level of performance on these two representative measures of creativity can be influenced by the social environment around you, and particularly by the behaviour and backgrounds of the people with whom you interact. One study by Ashton-James and Chartrand (2009) showed that the effect of social interaction on creativity occurred through the activation of thinking styles. The authors hypothesised that mimicry of participants’ behaviour without their awareness would induce a convergent thinking style, and that a divergent thinking style would be observed when participants were not mimicked. Indeed, the outcome revealed that the mimicry condition led to higher scores on a convergent thinking task (pattern recognition) while the non-mimicry condition produced better performance on a divergent thinking task (generation of novel product labels).

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You Are Not Sleeping Enough!


By Samantha Chong

Midterms and paper due dates haven’t all passed yet, and with finals coming up, it never seems to end. Have you been getting as much sleep as you would like since everything started? We know all too well how important it is to get enough sleep. In addition to being vital for ensuring physical and mental wellbeing, sleep also plays a role as a protective factor against various health problems and chronic illnesses (Roberts, Roberts & Xing, 2011). But let’s be truthful here – the majority of us have poor sleeping habits. As university students trying to keep up with our lives, getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night has inevitably become one of the many luxuries we cannot afford.

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While You Are Doing, I Am Feeling: The Potential of Mirror Neurons

By Rowena Kong


Since the discovery of mirror neurons about two decades ago, research into their functions to explain their existence in humans and primates have provided us with an ever richer understanding of their remarkable network system in the brain (Marshall, 2014). The mirror neuron circuitry was first observed in the premotor cortex of the macaques, and subsequently in other frontal and parietal cortical regions, particularly those responsible for perceptual and motor processes. Mirror neurons are essentially motor neurons which fire during both execution and observation of an action. The first researchers to discover this group of neurons termed them mirror neurons based on the discovery that the macaques in their study were observing actions as if they were a reflection of their own in a mirror. Thus, the pioneering discovery was followed by research on imitation and empathy in an effort to piece together the puzzle of these neurons’ existence and function(s) from theoretical and empirical standpoints.

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A Dose of Reality (TV)

By Paula Concepcion


I have to admit: I absolutely love watching TV.

If I’m not busy studying or reading or sleeping, I’m probably watching TV – catching a new episode of one of those series I’m into, or, more often than not, a new episode of one of my favorite reality TV shows.

I’ve been watching reality TV probably since I was eleven, and it all began with my family catching an episode of the third season of The Amazing Race. Since then, I’ve kept up with that show along with other shows like Survivor and America’s Next Top Model. I have also watched parts of shows like The X Factor, The Voice, and American Idol. This makes me wonder: what is it about these kinds of shows that keeps me tuning in, anticipating a new episode? Continue reading