Debunking the famous Neuromyths


Debunking the famous Neuromyths:

– Sujan Shrestha

What is Neuromyth:

Neuromyths are are the misconceptions about the brain. They are loosely based on scientific facts but are actually false. They are staggeringly prevalent among the educators and school and appear to be true and convincing in the face value.

When I was in school many of our teachers used to show our collective inferiority by saying that we only used 10% of our brain and Einstein was the only person who used 50% of his brain.  None of us doubted this myth at that moment (in our culture we don’t doubt teachers). This myth was glued in my mind for the long time untill recently to be frank. Being a psychology student its appaling that I was shadowed in this myth for a long time. Here in this article I am trying to debunk some famous neuromyths. Ready to get surprised:

We use only 10 percent of our brain:

If you think you are an useless lot of 10% brain users then there’s a good news for your self esteem. Infact we use all of our brain. Recent neuroimaging technology has conclusively destroyed this falsehood.

People are either right-brained or left-brained:

Although certain tasks are dominated by one side of the brain, most tasks require parallel input from both hemispheres. Corpus callosum connects the both sides of the brain. Unless an entire hemisphere is completely removed or damaged, no one is considered to be fully “right” or “left” brained.


Vaccines cause autism

I remember hearing this myth while learning autism from my psychology teacher. He had said in very rare cases it was found to be so. But there has been no conclusive, scientific evidence that any part of vaccine causes autism although a link was initially suspected  by some because the first symptoms emerge around the time children receive vaccinations.

Listening to classical music makes you smarter

Listening to classical music has not been shown to improve intelligence in children or adults. However, learning how to play a musical instrument has been shown to enhance cognitive skills.

Critical period of learning:

Many of us believe  that there are critical periods of learning when certain types of learning must occur. This has a grain of truth, in that children are particularly sensitive to learning at certain periods. However, we can continue to learn, and our brains can change –so called ‘plasticity’- throughout our lives. It is widely believed that 0-3 years of a child is considered to the most critical period of overall cognitive development. It is believed that most of the neural connections (synapses) are made during this period and if the external environment is not conducive to the cognitive development of a child, it will have a lasting impact. It is definitely essential for the children to be exposed with external stimulation for the cognitive development at this point of time but to consider this period is the only window for the cognitive development is a fallacy. For example if a child is not exposed with language for the extended period of time, say 1 year, it doesn’t mean that child cannot learn the language ever but  it just makes the learning more difficult. And many of us have learnt our second language after crossing 3 years.  Remember our brain is elastic beyond the limit.

Learning styles

This is the myth which most of the teachers are susceptible to it. There’s a belief that students learn better if they are taught according to their preferred learning style: auditory, kinaesthetic or visual.  Infact, there is no neuroscientific evidence for this and no evidence that learning is improved by learning styles. This is highly appealing idea. And even educational institutions have introduced the facilities as per the students learning preference. But as appealing as it sounds the truth is there is very less convincing idea to support the idea of learning styles. Actually the most effecting way of learning is not based on our preferred learning style but on the nature of the material we’re being taught. If you’ve visual learning style try learning swimming through audio-visual media. How wil you learn French with the preferred style of kinesthetics?

With help from:

(The writer is a psychology student and the founder and chief-editor of the blog psychbigyaan)

Are sociopath and psychopath the same?

psychopath and sociopath


Sujan Shrestha

Are sociopath and psychopath the same?

There’s a famous British telly series , Sherlock, in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays the leading role of Sherlock Holmes. Because of his eccentric behaviour and his passion for crime (solving them) he is labelled as a ‘psychopath’ by some of his haters to which he refutes the accusation and says instead he is ‘a high functioning sociopath’.

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Even being a psychology student I thought psychopath and sociopath to be the same untill I got the opportunity to learn that they are not. In normal life, we hear people use both the terms interchangeably. It’s confusing to discern the differences between them because both of them share some common characteristics. Even among professionals there are contradictory claims but recent DSM-V has clearly distinguished between them which has relatively put an end to the confusion.

Both psychopathy and sociopathy fall under Antisocial Personality Disorder as per DSM-V. They share common behavioural characteristics which mislead people to think that they are the same. Some determining common characteristics of psychopathy and sociopathy are as follows:

  • Failure to conform to societal norms, laws and rules
  • A disregard for the rights of others
  • Impulsive and deviant lifestyle
  • Irresponsibility and deceitfulness
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • A tendency to display violent behaviou

But not to be confused psychopaths and sociopaths have distinctive characteristics which distinctively distinguish them. Talking about sociopaths, they appear to be more nervous and disturbed. They develop antisocial behaviour because of their unfavourable environment like abusive childhood. It is difficult for them to be form relationship but not impossible but in general principle they give damn to the people around them. They are aggressive and prone to emotional outbursts. They are unable to hold steady jobs. And if they happen to commit crimes they don’t do them with a plan but rather they are the product of their spontaneous outbursts.


Now coming to psychopaths, they are completely callous, lack of empathy and feeling, grandiose feeling of self-worth. Psychopaths have very charming and charismatic personalities. It’s like of those serial killers in the movie who lure their victims with their deft of attracting others. They are very manipulative in the characters. They have a very cool and calm attitude and are meticulous. They are often very highly educated and hold steady jobs. The non-criminal psychopaths are said to be successful psychopaths as well because they lead a successful career. Psychopaths are unable to form emotional attachments. They are good in faking or mimicking emotions so well that people actually believe in them. When committing crimes, they carefully plan out every detail before committing crime and often have contingency plans in place. Their crimes will be highly organized and hardly leave any traces of their doings. It is notable that many serial killers confirm to this personality pattern which makes it very dangerous.

The cause of psychopathy is said to be genetic whereas sociopathy to be environmental. Psychopathy is related to physiological defect that results in the underdevelopment of the brain responsible for impulse control and emotions. Sociopathy, on the other hand offshoots from abusive childhood and childhood trauma.

Whether Sherlock Holmes is a ‘high functioning sociopath’ or not, it might be a matter of discussion (In my opinion he is not) but he is spot on the distinction of psychopath and sociopath. Next time if you label somebody psychopath be careful because you might be doing unfair to the person because he/she might be a sociopath.

( The writer is a great fan of the “high functioning sociopath” which many a times he has unsucessfully tried to emulate 😀 )

Can selfie tell your underlying personality?


Can selfie tell your underlying personality?

Sujan Shrestha

Human psyche is always evolving and changing. The dynamic nature of the personality makes the study and determination of the personality of person difficult. Personality is not only what is shown or manifested outside. The things which are in our unconscious and hidden inside are also the important components of personality. Sometimes we show the behaviour that is actually not us. So the observable behaviours do not necessarily sum up our personality. In today’s world it’s increasingly getting difficult to observe the behaviours of the people since facebook , twitter , instagram and like have come into the mix of personality of a person. A social network has become a new tool for psychologists to learn more about human behaviours. Hence many researches are happening in this regard.  In the world of social networking, one term ‘selfie’ has attracted a considerable attention. It has become a smashing hit and common trendz with the people. Selfie has become a global phenomenon. Once in a while everyone has taken a selfie in their life time in this century because of the wide accessibility and advancement of technology.

“Selfie” became so phenomenal that in the quick span of time Oxford Dictionary acknowledged the term in 2013 and defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.” It undoubtedly has pulled a lot of attention of psychologists. In 2014, APA (American Psychiatric Association) has classified obsessive selfie taking as “selfie disorder”. The interesting question can be what is the relation between selfie and personality of a person? Can it be anyway related to an aspect of personality?


Recently a research done by Ohio State University researchers found that men who posted more online photos of themselves than others scored higher on measures of narcissism and psychopathy. In addition, men who were more likely to edit their selfies before posting scored higher in narcissim and self-objectification.

This research clearly indicates the personality trait of over indulgence of selfie takers. If someone is obsessed with selfie, then it might be the reason that the person is narcissistic who have the feeling of superiority over others and wants constant attention and appreciation from others. And another indication could be the person is self-objectifying which points out to the tendency to view one’s body as an object based on its sexual worth. It is a very worrying condition because it can lead to depression and eating disorders. Another indication is quiet surprising as heavy selfie takers scored higher on antisocial personality trait and psychopathy which implies the person has lack of empathy and very impulsive. Those scored higher on psychopathy although indulged excessively on selfie taking but not on editing before posting. The research was mainly done on men or male samples and the scientist believes the finding more or less can be applied to female as well and the follow up study is being conducted.

Apparently the thoughtless act of posting selfies might sound a point of not much concern but selfies can tell your personality on the basis of its usage and its frequency. But it should not be considered that the selfie taking act alone itself is wrong. Actually its normal and it has posed the way of self-presentation. But the excessive indulgence can be the symptoms of above mentioned disorders. Checking facebook and instagram profile of a person can give a pretty good sense and knowledge about a person to a psychologist. It has become a remarkable tool to analyse the person’s behaviour but on the same time has posed an added challenge of dealing with new disorders as well .

After going through the article you might be little bit of suspicious of having above mentioned disorders but I ask you not to freak out because its fun to take selfies. But if its affecting your self concept and self esteem and it’s the first thing you do after you wake up and the last thing before you sleep then you might want to visit psychiatrist or psychologist.




(The writer is a psychology student and the founder and chief-editor of the blog psychbigyaan)

Time and Again – New Year Resolution

Sujan is a recent Psychology Graduate and enthusiast psychology student. His interests lies in Research and Clinical Psychology. He is also a writer and blogger. He is also responsible for editing PNN’s website and blog as Chief- Editor

Time and Again – New Year Resolution…

-Sujan Shrestha

January 1st or Baisakh 1, usually these are the days people are found to be in unusual mood of happiness and optimism. The moroseness of humdrum of life withers away and there blossoms a new man, the man with strong determination and who has belief in future.  It’s not hard to guess what I am talking about. It’s the beginning of a new year and so it happens at least twice a year for Nepalese , the fervor of New Year Resolution nonetheless grips them strongly in both the times.  All over the world, New year is not just a beginning of the same cycle of time and life but it’s thought to be the start of new epoch of life which has the spring flow of new hopes, enthusiasm and optimism.  The resolution kicks in and thus promises are made to be better in future leaving the old evils behind them . But does it work??  I don’t have any issue for people making steadfast resolution in New year day. But the simple question is why to wait for a whole year even when it can be done on anyday of a year??

But first question is why do people even have to make resolutions? Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procastination,” an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. People need motivation time and again to steer themselves and new year day provides that favorability than any other day as it has become customary thing to do by every people to make new year resolutions.  But this simple knack of making and reciting the same old verses of dos and donts every year might work against the pre-conceived notion of goodness of new year resolution.

The tendency to wait for a new year day to make resolutions is not more than a mere “cultural procrastination,” as said by Pychyll.  This alone indicates the failure to keep up the promises in coming days and indicative of repeating the same promise the next year. The atypical inclination to wait for a whole year to be ready for the change is actually resisting to change and falling back in the same old vices, and mind this time to be in more extremity. If someone is genuinely ready for the change then he/she doesn’t have to wait for a new year’s eve to  make resolutions. It’s nothing more than a lame excuse for begging the forgiveness to god and promising to be better in a very high time when everything and everyone is hemmed in the good tune mood of freshness of a new  year.
Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. This is because the attitude of people doesn’t change readily as the basic characteristic of attitude is that it is resistant to change. Making resolutions work involves changing behaviors—and in order to change a behavior, you have to change your thinking . Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking which doesn’t happen overnight. The most potential danger of new year resolution is high false and unrealistic goals and expectations likely to be set by people.  Getting laid back with a sip of beer nonchalantly stirs you up with high raised expectation and goal because the whole remaining 364 days makes you feel enough time to turn up the tide. But as this is the case that most people fail in their resolutions  in no sooner than a first week of next month, they seek the continuity in the former habits which is very damaging to one’s self esteem.

So making resolution in New Year is a very responsible task . There’s always a high chance for failure and equal is the chance of success if we channel the resolution properly in coming days. But if someone waits for a typical period of time of a year to make resolution then there is high probable chance for it to get dwindled and strengthening the former vices.

(Help sought from Psychology Today)

अनवरत यात्रा ……

अनवरत यात्रा ………

सबै मानिसहरु आफ्नो जीवनमा उज्यालो , प्रकाश र ज्योति चहान्छन् | त्यही पनि प्राय मानिसहरु जीवनको उज्यालोपनलाई अन्धकारको कालो छायाँ मिसाई जिन्दगीलाई धुम्मल्याइदिन्छन | अन्धकारमा एकछिन बस्दा हामी कति निसासिन्छौँ | एकचोटी सोचौं सारा जिन्दगी अन्धकारमा बिताउनु पर्यो भन्यो हामी हाम्रो जिवनलाई कसरी किनारा लगाउछौं ?तर त्यस्ता केहि मानिसहरु पनि छन् जो अन्धकारमा जीवनको भावबंगीलाई सुम्सुमाउछन् र अन्तर्मनको उज्यालोले जिन्दगीलाई डोर्याउछन् | किशोर थिंग त्यस्तै  कम गन्तीमा पर्ने व्येक्ति हुन् |

सेतो छडीले आफुलाई डोहोर्याउँदै हरेक दिन बिहान सबेरै कलेज आइपुग्छन किशोर थिंग | भर्खरै २१ मा लागेका किशोर कृष्ण बहादुर थिंग र बुद्ध माया थिंगको जेठो पुत्र हुन् |रसुवा घर भएको किशोर आफ्नो जिन्दगीलाई कसरी परिभाषित कसरि गर्छन  त ? आफ्नो जिन्दगीको  आरोह अवरोहको गाथा सुजन श्रेष्ठलाई अन्तरवार्ताको क्रममा यसरी पोख्छन ….

१. तपाईको द्दृष्टिबिहिनता जन्मजात हो कि अरु कारणले गर्दा हो ?

मेरो आँखा पहिले देखिन्नै कम्जोर हो | तर म सानैदेखि दृष्टिबिहीन चाही थिइनँ | कक्षा ४ सम्म म अरु जस्तै सामान्य स्कूलमा पठनपाठन गर्थेँ | त्यसपछि बिस्तारै मेरो नेत्र कम्जोर हुँदै गयो र अन्तत मैले पूर्ण रुपमा ज्योति गुमाए |

२.  तपाईं दृष्टिबिहीन भएपछी कस्ता समस्याहरुको सामना गर्नुपर्यो ?

सुरुमा त निराश र हतोत्साही भएको थिए | तर म आफैले आफ्नो समस्या स्विकार गरें | र त्योसंग लड्नको लागि म तयार भएँ | हामी जस्तो अपांगता भएको व्येक्तिहरुलाई समाजले छुटै व्यवाहार गर्छन् जुन सारै  दुखद् कुरा हो | हामी जस्ता समस्या भएका व्येक्तिहरुलाई अरु सबलाङ्गले जसरी सजिलै  सामान्य काम गर्न अप्ठ्यारो पर्छ |  पढ्नलाई गाह्रो पर्ने , अरुसंग घुलमिल हुन पनि गाह्रो पर्ने | तर सबैभन्दा ठुलो चुनौती भनेको आफ्नै मानासिकता हो | जसले आफ्नो अपांगतालाई स्विकार्दैन र त्योसंग लड्न सक्दैन भने त्यो मानिसलाई जिन्दगीलाई अघि लान गाह्रो पर्छा जस्तो मलाई लाग्छ |

३. तपाईंले आफ्नो मानसिक्तालाई मजबुत पारेमा मात्र अपांगतासंग लड्न सकिन्छ भन्नुभयो | तपाईंले  आफ्नो अपांगतालाई चाहिँ कसरि लिनुहुन्छ त ?

अब जे हुनु थियो भैहाल्यो | त्येस्मा धेरै घोत्लिन जरुरि नै छैन | म त आफ्नो अपाङ्गतामा दुख प्रकट गर्दिनँ | मैले मेरो जीवनलाई कसरी सार्थक पार्ने भन्ने कुरामा म बढी ध्यान दिन्छु | मलाई मेरो समस्या त भगवानले अरुको अगाडी म पनि गर्न सक्छु भनेर देखाउनको निम्ति अवसर प्रदान गरेको जस्तो लाग्छ| म जस्ता दृष्टिबिहीनहरुले संसारमा सबैलाई चकित पारेको तथ्य त सबैको सामु त छंदै छ  नि | यो कुराले पनि मलाई प्रेरित गर्छ |

४. तपाइले सामान्य मान्छेले गर्न सक्ने कामहरु पनि सजिलैसंग गर्न सक्नुहुन्छ ,हैन त ?

हो, म अरु जस्तो सामान्य मान्छेले जस्तै धेरै काम गर्न सक्छु | उदाहारणको लागि मैले मोबाइल चलाउछु, इन्टरनेट मज्जाले नै चलाउछु, नित्यकर्महरु पनि आफैले गर्छु, सेतो छडीले म बाटोमा हिड्न सक्छु इत्यादि |

५. तपाईको रुचिहरु चाहिँ के के कुरामा छन् ?

मलाई गीत सुन्न र गाउन औधी मन पर्छ | म खाली समयमा गीत सुन्ने र गुनगुनाउने गर्छु | इन्टरनेट  फेसबुक चलाउन पनि मन पर्छ |

६. पढाई गर्दाको चुनौती र त्यसको सामना कसरी गर्दैहुनुहुन्छ ?

कक्षामा अपाङ्गता मैत्री पढाई नहुने कारणले गर्दा अप्ठयारो हुन्छ | हामीले सुनेको भरमा सबै कुरा सम्झिनु र बुझ्नु पर्छा | कति कुराहरु आँखाले नदेखिकिन नबुझिने हुन्छन | गणित , बिज्ञान जस्ता बिषयहरुमा अरुभन्दा पढ्न गाह्रो पर्छ | हाम्रा लागि भनेर फेरी किताबहरु पनि पाइदैनन्| जाँचमा अरुले लेख्दिनुपर्ने हुन्छ | जे जस्तो भएपनि मैले पढाइलाई निरन्तरता दिईराखेको छु र भविस्यमा पनि दिनेछु| एस. एल . सी मा पनि प्रथम श्रेणीमा उत्तीर्ण गरेको हुँ | ब्रेललिपीको कारणले पनि पढाइमा धेरै सहयोग मिलेको छ |

७. भावनात्मक रुपमा तपाईलाई दृष्टिबिहीनताले असर गर्यो कि गरेन ?

हामी जस्ता अपाङ्गता भएका व्येक्तिहरुलाई भावनात्मक रुपमा सबल हुन जरुरी हुन्छ | नत्र निराशा र बिक्षिप्ताले जिन्दगी तहस नहस हुन्छ | यो कुरा हामीमा मात्र भर पर्दैन | समाजले हामी प्रति गरने व्यवहारमा पनि भर पर्छ | उनीहरुको सहयोग र आत्मियताको अति नै जरुरी पर्छ | मेरो कुरा गर्दा मलाई खासै भावनात्मक रुपमा समस्या छैन किनभने मेरो अपांगतालाई मेरो परिवारले अपनाएको छ | उहाहरुको माया र सहयोगले आज म यहाँसम्म आइपुगेको हु | उहाहरुले मलाई जहिले पनि आशा र भरोसा दिनुभयो र छुट्टै किसिमको व्यवहारहरु कहिले पनि भएनन् |  

८. परिवारको माया र सदभावना त पाउनुभयो | त्येसैगरी समाज र राज्यबाट तपाईलाई कस्तो ब्येवाहार हुन्छ त ?

समाजबाट पनि मैले धेरै सहयोग र सदभावना पाएको छु | मेरो अपाङ्गतालाई सहयोग पनि धेरै संघ संस्थाहरुले गरेका छन् | अहिले हाल म नेत्रहीन महासंघ संस्थाको सहयोगमा छु | त्यहिपनि कहिलेकाहिँ केहि गर्न नपुगेको हो कि जस्तो लाग्छ | राज्यबाट चाहिँ सोचेजस्तो सहयोग पाइएको छैन | हामी जस्ता अपाङ्गहरुको हकहित अझै सरकारको प्राथमिकतामा परेको छैन जस्तो लाग्छ | यो कुरामा चाहिँ सरकारले ध्यान दिनुपर्छ |

९. अन्तमा हाम्रा पाठकहरुलाई तपाईको भविस्येको योजानाको बारेमा केहि बताइदिनुहोस् न ?

म भाविस्येमा म जस्तै अपाङ्ग भएका व्येक्तिहरुको निमिक्त सहयोग र उनीहरुको अधिकार र सुविधाको निमिक्त लड्न चाहन्छु | मलाई संगीतमा पनि रुची छ | र सायेद यस क्षेत्रमा पनि केहि गर्न चाहन्छु |

(यो अन्तरवारता करिव ३ बर्ष अघि लिइएको थियो | )

Let’s talk about Mental Wellbeing

Let’s talk about Mental Wellbeing …

– Sujan Shrestha

It’s a good thing that people are getting gradually aware about mental health. Many articles and news reports regarding mental health have surged up in recent days. But our approach has been more a conventional one which focuses on the treatment rather than the prevention of abnormalities. I think it has become a pattern in the media discourse of mental health to depict a melancholy picture of whole country’s dysfunctional health system. We have to get out of our narrower approach of mental health and think more in a broader and holistic perspective. Whether we agree or not, mental health is not absolute objective. Therefore we must be having many alternatives than just sticking to one approach when dealing with mental health. The quote, “Prevention is better than cure”, strikes the right cord to mental wellbeing. I think little attention towards the preventive approach would not go amiss.

Mental wellbeing is the preventive approach which protects people more generally against developing mental health difficulties. Now mental wellbeing is a tricky issue because it is very comprehensive and vague in its definition. Mental wellbeing is associated with physical wellbeing. It has social, cultural, political and economic dimension which make it hard to achieve in true sense. Mental wellbeing is being more than just happy. According to Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick and a wellbeing expert, “Of course, feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing. But it is far from the whole. There is a deeper kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you.” It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experience other plethora of emotions but it is more how you can cope with you destructive emotions and prevent deviations. Resilience is the essential component of mental wellbeing.

We have to have a broader perspective as to what causes mental disorders or abnormalities. Some are genetic in nature which can only be stabilised through medicines and therapies but mostly arouse from psychosocial and cognitive malfunctions. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy changes the distortive thinking pattern while treating the patient. In more technical terms it’s a technique to undergo a change of prevailing mental schemas. Now schemas are organized pattern of thoughts or mental framework. All our interpretations, understandings, attention, logic etc. are guided by schemas. Cognitive psychologists believe due to the maladaptive schemas psychological disorders are ensued.  Now if we take the cognitive approach to the time before the development of a mental disorder it would be a big trouble saver. Mental wellbeing can be achieved if we introspect and find the faulty self-schemas and change into the one which is more adaptive and make us feel good about.

Mental wellbeing is a hot topic in developed economies and they are exploring this topic so that they can cut slash their huge burgeoning health expenses by clipping the root of the cause rather than treating the cause. It might take a long time in our country for this subject to be broached upon by the government since it’s not being able to establish more than one good mental hospital for the whole country at the present. But nonetheless it has been suggested that if we take some few basic steps on an individual level, we can keep most of the mental health problems at bay. According to National Health Service (NHS), UK, we should be focussing on five aspects of our life to achieve mental wellbeing:

1. Connect: connect with the people around you

2. Be active: Keep your mind and body engaged

3. Keep learning: Learning new skills can give you a sense of achievement and new confidence.

4. Give to others: Even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a thank you or a kind word

5. Take notice and reflect: To be more aware of the present moment, including your feelings and thoughts, your body and the world. In other words develop “mindfulness”.

Now mental wellbeing is far from prescriptive. It is just suggestive. There can be more additional points onto the points above. There’s no conclusive research as of yet to prove that mental wellbeing will definitively prevent mental illness, but this approach has been getting large acceptance in the mental health sector in the countries like the UK and Europe. Still some ambiguities persist and mental wellbeing in unfavourable environments like in war and poverty seems like a distant dream and a fairy tale. Mental wellbeing although seems catchy term it is hard to get by. But on the brighter note, if not get it at least we can try to get it.


( This article was published on Nov 3, 2014 in The Himalayan Times daily. To read the published article click the link below

published article on the broadsheet
published article on the broadsheet