Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The face in the coffee beans

Howdy everyone. I realize that I've been a little lax at updating this blog- I've been launching my career as a freelance science writer, and that was a giant time suck, to say the least. But now I've gotten established and I'm looking forward to blogging regularly here about the latest ED research. To get you back in the swing of things, I'm starting off with a little brain teaser.

Do you see the face in the coffee beans?

This is one of the neuropsychological tests that researchers have used at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. People with EDs, especially anorexia, are really good at finding the face in the coffee beans. They find it easy to focus on the details and ignore the bigger picture. Essentially, they embody the phrase "can't see the forest for the trees."

These tests aren't diagnostic of anorexia, but they do indicate a detail-orientation, a tendency to lose sight of the big picture (the coffee beans) and focus in on tiny little details that ultimately reveal a face. The "Where's Waldo" books are something similar. For someone with an eating disorder, they will focus on the fact that a Hass avocado has 300 calories rather than focusing on the good fats and oils in the fruit, the buttery taste of guacamole, that California burger they had at a backyard cookout. Or even the need to eat such fats to think better and have shiny, smooth hair. No, an avocado only means 300 calories. Period.

Kara Fitzpatrick at Stanford University gives a talk about the latest eating disorder neuroscience research. It's a series of 3 videos that last slightly over 20 minutes. You can easily just listen to the talk--the visuals aren't utterly crucial.

I hope you enjoy!