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Tuesday, January 31st 2012

Case Studies

Case studies are for many of us the most fun we can have with education. That is in large part undoubtedly due to the happy fact that case studies pull us off our bums and into offices, zoos, hospitals, jungles or wherever else our particular brand of research may take us. Not sure this is true? Check out these crazy case studies from the British Psychological Society:

People with synesthesia experience odd sensations that make it seem as though their neural wires are crossed. A certain word might always evoke the same particular taste or a letter or numeral might call to mind a particular color. However, an emerging view among experts is that synesthesia is grounded in concepts, not crossed senses. By this account, it's certain ideas, regardless of which sense perceives them, that trigger a particular concurrent experience. Researchers believe this because case studies of two synesthetes who experience different swimming strokes, whether performing them, watching them or merely thinking about them, as always being a certain color.

On the other hand, if that case study doesn’t blow you away, how about these case studies:

Most of us are familiar with the developmental stammering that begins in childhood. However, recent case studies are showing us that stammering can also have a sudden onset, triggered by illness or injury to the brain. Far rarer still are case studies where a person with a pre-existing, developmental stammer suffers from brain injury or disease and is subsequently cured. A team in Birmingham has reported such a patient and are aware of only two prior adult cases in the literature – ever!

Still in the realm of psychological case studies is the woman whose memory was erased each night! Psychologists have documented a clinical first - the case of an amnesic woman whose memory for new material is erased each night when she goes to sleep. Referred to as case FL, the 48-year-old woman developed symptoms after she hit her head in a car accident in 2005. Brain scans and neurological exams revealed no signs of brain damage, suggesting the woman is exhibiting what's known as psychogenic or functional amnesia - that is, symptoms in the absence of any detectable organic cause – just imagine writing your research about this case study!

Not everyone is into psychology so let’s leave the lab and head out into the wild where gay bird behavior is studied, Scientists have found more than 130 bird species that engage in some sort of same-sex activity — and the males in some of those species, such as penguins and graylag geese, occasionally form long-term sexual relationships with each other. That presents a puzzle for some evolutionary biologists, because same-sex relationships would seem to reduce the birds' chances of reproductive success. Because of this, gay birds are quite a research topic

In fact, Geoff MacFarlane, a biologist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, reviewed case studies of 93 bird species and suggested that there was a relationship between the rearing of chicks (male and female!) and same-sex mating. Male homosexual behavior would be likelier if the females of the species took care of the young birds. "Homosexual behavior is more likely to be maintained and not be selected against than if you are a sex that cares a lot for offspring and only has one or few reproductivepartners," MacFarlane said.

So there aren’t enough pages to fill with the number of case studies that are truly are weird and wonderful. But hey, maybe next time you’re slogging through the more tedious aspects of your studies you can be cheered in knowing there may be some awesome research around the corner.