from the world's big
An Attack of Memory?
Hustvedt has had migraines and their accompanying auras since childhood and has long been fascinated by psychoanalysis, neurology, and psychiatry. In recent years, with the explosion of research on the brain, she has become increasingly absorbed by neuroscience. Her most recent book, "The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves" (2010), is a "neurological memoir," both a personal account of Hustvedt’s experience as a patient and an exploration of the ambiguities of diagnosis through the lenses of medical history, neurology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and philosophy.
Question: What is your memory of the seizure that you\r\ndescribe in “The Shaking Woman?"\r\n\r\n
Siri Hustvedt: Well, I can't, you know, you can't tell a\r\nstory forward, only backward. So,\r\nthe event that is central to the book that I've written is a seizure episode\r\nthat happened very abruptly and suddenly. \r\nI was giving a little speech at a memorial occasion for my father; they\r\nwere planting a tree in his honor. \r\nHe was a Professor at St. Olaf College and he had died two years before\r\nthen. I stood up, felt no anxiety,\r\nvery calm. I had my index cards in\r\nfront of me for the speech. I\r\nopened my mouth, began to speak and from the neck down, my limbs, my torso,\r\neverything, I started to shudder, but not a small tremor; really huge\r\nconvulsive motions in my arms and legs. \r\nAnd I was so shocked. It\r\nwas an amazing thing to have happened. \r\nI continued giving the speech. \r\nI really didn't know what else to do. I didn't fall over. \r\nI thought I might.\r\n\r\n
And when I finished the speech, the shuddering left me. I had—my legs had turned very red,\r\nalmost blue, and I wondered what had happened. It was extraordinary.\r\n\r\n
Question: How did you explain this attack at the time, and\r\nhow do you explain it now?\r\n\r\n
Siri Hustvedt: Well you know, long before I had this\r\nseizure, I had been immersed in material about the brain and the mind,\r\nneuroscience, psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and so I decided to—first of all, I\r\nasked quite a few friends of mine who were doctors and neuroscientists, what\r\nthis could be? And nobody had a\r\nready answer. I did then diagnose\r\nmyself with conversion disorder, or hysteria. I thought, well maybe because I was talking about my dead\r\nfather, someone who I was very close to, there was an emotional trigger and it\r\nwas acted out in this way.\r\n\r\n
And the inspiration was, I was at a neuroscience lecture and\r\nbehind me was a woman and we started talking after the lecture was over and I\r\nasked her what she did, and she said, I treat mostly conversion patients. Those patients usually start with\r\nneurologists, and then the neurologists send them to me.\r\n\r\n
So, actually one day, I was back at a lecture that I go to\r\nevery month and I always sit in the same place, and this was after I had the\r\nshaking episode and it came like an illumination. I thought maybe I have had a hysterical seizure. No doctor, neurologist, psychiatrist\r\nwent along with me on that one. \r\nBut in the book, I do talk about hysteria, both in the 19th century and\r\nas it's evolved since. The\r\nsymptoms are the same, they probably have been around forever and that is\r\nsimply that a person has, for example, paralysis or a seizure, or blindness,\r\ndumbness, and it cannot be explained through say a brain tumor or a brain\r\nlesion. Something clearly\r\nneurological and then, let's give the name hysteria.\r\n\r\n
So hysteria is something that I've been interested for a\r\nvery long time. I thought I might\r\nhave it, but it seems that it's unlikely.\r\n\r\n
Question: Do you believe you suffer, or suffered, from a\r\nform of epilepsy?\r\n\r\n
Siri Hustvedt: Well, you know, epilepsy is a big thing. I mean, I have not been diagnosed with\r\nepilepsy, I did have an MRI of the brain, and they found no abnormalities in my\r\nbrain. Now, there are people with\r\nepilepsy who have completely normal MRI's too. I just think also, you know, epileptic seizures can be\r\ntriggered by emotional stress, by all kinds of things, lights. I do have migraine, that's for\r\nsure. And people who have migraine\r\nare more likely to also have epilepsy than people who don't have migraine. It's not clear. I may eventually find out exactly\r\nwhat's going on here, and I may not.\r\n\r\n
Question: Do you believe memory played a role in triggering\r\nthe seizure?\r\n\r\n
Siri Hustvedt: This is a really very good question. If memory played a role, it would have\r\nhad to have been implicit memory. \r\nNow the fascinating thing about this is all of us, certainly have lost\r\nthe first three years of our lives, we do not have explicit memories from that\r\ntime. There are all kinds of\r\nreasons for that. One is that the hippocampus, which is crucial for laying down\r\nwhat scientists call episodic memories, is not developed. So infantile amnesia, at least in part,\r\nhas to do with that. I think that\r\nthere's also a connection to language, that with language the possibility of\r\nself-reflective consciousness and keeping memories through language becomes a\r\npossible form of storytelling. I\r\nthink there are probably scientists probably interested in that. But that's really coming from other\r\nfields.\r\n\r\n
Now, the infantile—the possibility of—so there is,\r\nbecause what you can have without having any explicit memory, or memory that is\r\nleft that you could put into words, is that people can store emotional memories\r\nfrom early in their life that can be triggered. So, a simple example would be, if a child is bitten by a\r\ndog, there's a bad bite when you’re one and a half years old. That child could, as he grows up,\r\ncontinue to have a terrible fear of dogs. \r\nThey do know that early traumas in infants have a lot to do with how the\r\nwhole emotional system in the brain develops. So that temperament, that person can be much more what we\r\ncall highly strung than other people.\r\n\r\n
It is possible in my case that something was triggered by\r\nthat speech, or you know, I'm not sure. \r\nSome fear. I just—because I\r\ncan't get a hold of it, I can't find it. \r\nBut I would not rule that out.\r\n\r\n
Question: Is the “explicit vs. implicit” memory distinction\r\nthe same as Freud’s “conscious vs. unconscious”?\r\n\r\n
Siri Hustvedt: \r\nOh, absolutely. You know,\r\nit's very fascinating what's happened to -- what's happened in sort of the\r\nintellectual history of these ideas. \r\nFreud, it's very important to say, did not invent the idea of the\r\nunconscious. This goes way\r\nback. There's some people who say\r\nthat in Leibniz you can find a version of this. When Leibniz was answering Descartes and Hume, especially\r\nabout the nature of consciousness, and he says, "Well, there are things\r\nthat just are outside of our consciousness." And so Leibniz might be certainly interesting.\r\n\r\n
But in the 19th century, when Freud was a student and then\r\nlater became a physician, the unconscious was something that was\r\nacknowledged. Something like\r\nWilhelm Vunt, who was a researcher and is credited with having the first\r\npsychology lab in Germany, was convinced that many things took place that were\r\noutside of human awareness, and he was not thinking only of our hearts are\r\npumping. He meant memories, even\r\nthoughts that simply aren't—we don't have them available to us. And there was also an English\r\nnaturalist, Carpenter, in the 19th century, in the 1870’s; he had an idea\r\ncalled the "adaptive unconscious." So, this all predates Freud.\r\n\r\n
In the early 20th century with the rise of behaviorism in the\r\nUnited States. Now psychoanalysis\r\nwas going its merry way alone and developing and thinking its thoughts, but\r\nnevertheless, in the scientific community, behaviorism really got a kind of\r\nstranglehold on cognitive science and behaviorism maintained that they did not\r\nwant to talk about consciousness or unconsciousness. All that mattered was a third person point of view, looking\r\nat human behavior and we would get all the answers. In fact, as I point out in the book, there was a man, a big\r\nguy in behaviorism, rather controversial, Watson, who maintained that human\r\nbeings have no visual imagery in their minds. This seems insane to me.\r\n\r\n
Now it's thought that about 96% of us have visual imagery\r\nand there's a very tiny minority in the population, some of whom are normal,\r\nsome of whom have brain lesions, who cannot produce visual imagery.\r\n\r\n
But this internal reality of the human being was so\r\nthreatening to behaviorism that they really went very far to squash it. Even a hint of something called\r\nintrospection. You know, looking\r\nin at what's going on inside us, was anathema. So, that had a long stranglehold, I think, on a lot of\r\nscientific research that's beginning to open up now. They didn't like to talk about emotions either. But now in neuroscience and in\r\ncognitive science, there's a lot of research being done on emotion.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n
The bizarre seizure that struck the author at her father’s memorial service launched her on an exploration of neurology, psychology, and the ancient study of buried memory.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.
- Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
- "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
- In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.