Author Archives: Brittney Ann Strazza

The Truth Behind Adderall

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Adderall is commonly used and sometimes even abused on college campuses everywhere. One may not be aware of the fact that initially Adderall was more commonly used for appetite control and weight loss because the chemicals in the consumers brain that are released suppress appetite. The real question is, does it work for those who do not have ADHD? Another commonly asked question is, are students imagining they are smarter and more focused because they are convinced that is what taking Adderall does?

Adderall belongs to the drug classes of Amphetamines and Dextroamphetamines. It is a stimulant for the central nervous system. When one takes Adderall, chemicals that were previously stored in the brain are released. The chemicals that are released are serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. All of these chemicals have an effect on the consumers mood and amount of energy. Addreall is prescribed to those who suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or those who have the sleeping disorder Narcolepsy. When one takes this drug, they are shown to have an increased ability to focus and pay attention. This is helpful for students who struggle with ADHD because it is a simple solution that can help them to behave and be successful in a school environment. When being used correctly, Adderall can be one of the most beneficial things to a child or an adult who has been diagnosed with a disorder because it has the ability to allow them to conduct a normal life.

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The problem with Adderall comes when it is being abused or taken by people who do not have prescriptions. Because it is so commonly prescribed, not only is it easy for one to illegally obtain but it also isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. There is a common misconception that Adderall is safe because it is given by doctors. Just like any other drugs on college campuses, Adderall can be abused and overdosed on. Most people do not know that Adderall has a high risk potential for a consumer to become addicted.

The appeal of Adderall is quite simple. It has the ability to eliminate any distractions whether they are big or small and chemically force ones’ brain to focus. The way it is described, this drug seems to ideal for any college student that believes they need a little extra push while studying for their exams or completing an assignment. The non-medical use of Adderall is a problem that is becoming increasingly prevalent on college campuses. A study completed throughout the years of 2006-2007 reports that, “Full-time college students aged 18 to 22 were twice as likely as their counterparts who were not full-time college students to have used Adderall nonmedically in the past year.” Although many could have guessed that teenagers not in school would not be trying to get their hands on Adderall, i think it is very important to realize that there is a dependency on drugs by college students to do something as simple as studying for a test. I understand that some people truly need Adderall to focus, but in this case the students who are twice as likely to use over the non students are using the drug non medically. This means they do not have a prescription to the drug. This new found dependency on study drugs such as Adderall is something that needs to be more closely researched and ultimately controlled.

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A study was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania which tested the performance of forty seven participants on various cognitive tests. Every participant was tested on two types of pills which was either Adderall or a placebo. Of course the participants did not know which they were taking for the tests. Because the subjects were not aware of what pill they were taking, this can be seen as a blind study. The purpose of giving all of the participants pills each test was to eliminate any bias. If some people didn’t take a pill and others did, it would cause those who took the pill to work harder during the tests. Those who didn’t take a pill wouldn’t expect anything to different to happen so they could end up being unmotivated while being tested. I believe giving everyone a pill was a great way to ensure the validity of the outcome. None of the forty seven people tested were prescribed Adderall. After testing, those who took Adderall reported that they had done better on the test due to the pill even if in fact they have not. This can be due to the fact that the chemicals that Adderall causes to release in the brain puts the user in a better state of mind. So even if the Adderall has little to no effect on ones performance, their brain can be convincing them otherwise.

I agree with what the study has found. I always have believed that Adderall or the effect it has on a person is determined mainly by the way the consumer thinks it is going to effect them especially for those who are not diagnosed with ADHD. Personally, I believe that a humans’ mind is an incredibly powerful tool and undeniably has the ability to focus if one is convincing themselves that they just took a drug that was going to chemically change their brain for a period of time.

Sources:

http://www.businessinsider.com/effects-of-adderall-on-the-human-body-2012-9#it-releases-your-sense-of-euphoria–chemicals-called-serotonin-dopamine-and-adrenaline-1

http://www.self.com/life/health/2013/03/adderall-the-get-ahead-drug/

http://www.livescience.com/41013-adderall.html

http://healthland.time.com/2010/12/21/adderall-may-not-make-you-smarter-but-it-makes-you-think-you-are/

 

Oreos: Reported to be as Addicting as Cocaine

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In my eighteen years on this world, I don’t believe I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t like to eat Oreos. But to my dismay, a fairly new study claims that the very popular cookie snack can be as addicting as the drug Cocaine.

This study I am referring to was recently conducted in Connecticut College using lab rats as the subjects. The researchers tested their theory by creating a maze for the rats to utilize. On one side of the maze, the rat obtained an Oreo when it was completed. But on the opposite side, the rat was given a rice cake when it made it to the end. The amount of time that each rat spent with either the Oreo cookie or rice cake was measured and it seems almost obvious to me that the rats spent more time on the Oreo side as opposed to the bland tasting rice cake side. Perhaps, I feel this way because I have a sweet tooth. The experiment was now repeated but the rewards on both sides of the maze changed. Finishing one side of the resulted in a shot or Cocaine or Morphine. The other side concluded with a shot of saline. This time around it was observed that the lab rats spent more time on the side of the maze that ended with Cocaine/Morphine as opposed to the Saline shot. The brains of the lab rats shown more production of a protein called c-Fos which means there was an increase in cell activity in the rats’ brain. It was observed that more c-Fos was produced when the lab rat was eating an Oreo than when it was given Cocaine or Morphine.

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I would have to disagree with the conclusion that was drawn from this study and after reading various articles, I have seen I am not the only one who has some opposition. First of all, I would like to say that for me it is frightening to see headlines that claim such a popular snack is
‘as addicting’ as a hard core drug! I think that whoever is creating these headlines are clearly aiming to get a readers attention (which clearly cause me to stop and read) but at the same time, I truly believe that the correlation between addictiveness of cocaine and Oreos is a bit of a stretch. I feel as if the word addictive is being misused simply because the lab rats chose to stay near the Oreo longer than they remained near the drug. Just because they are receiving pleasure from the consumption of a cookie does not by any means guarantee an addiction. Personally, I do not believe that one can be addicted to any type of food. They may enjoy eating it and then in turn say they are ‘addicted’ but using that term in that sense isn’t at all correct. Many components combined make up a legitimate addiction and those components can be different for anyone. One thing that universally is used to characterize an addiction is the inability to think clearly. A person who has an addiction is willing to do anything they have to do in order to obtain what they need or are craving. They also do not consider negative consequences they may face due to the fact that their mind is so consumed with the object they are addicted too. I have never heard of a person committing murder or robbing a bank because they simply needed to consume an Oreo. Although I do not believe it is possible to have a legitimate harmful addiction to a certain food, I do however believe that compulsive or excessive eating can be used to cope with problems that others may seek an actual addictions to cope with. What I mean is if a girl gets broken up with by her long time boy friend, she may eat galloons of ice cream or binge eat Chinese food. Where as an alcoholic would turn to alcohol ins order to cope with the pain of a break up. To me, occasionally emotional or binge eating to deal with a problem has no comparison to a person drinking or using drugs to deal with the same problem. I would say that this study does definitely show eating Oreos is a pleasurable thing to do whether the consumer is a human or a lab rat.

A huge fault that I read about in this experiment was that during the two trials the mice either had an addictive drug such as Morphine or Saline. The other trial lead in either Oreos or rice cake. In order to complete this study and show that Oreos would have been chosen other the Morphine would have been conducting a third trial. Many are skeptical with the findings due to the fact that the lab rats never had the opportunity to chose between the two most important things in the study! Once that was pointed out to me in an article, I was very shocked. It seems almost foolish in science to compare two things that were never actually tested together. I think it is safe to say that until this study is re-modeled or until food addiction is a legitimate thing, no consumer should be fearful of a serious and intense addiction to Oreo cookies.

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2013/oct/21/oreos-addictive-cocaine

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/18/rats-find-oreos-as-addictive-as-cocaine-an-unusual-college-research-project/

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/10/16/oreos-may-be-as-addictive-as-cocaine/

http://www.livescience.com/40488-oreos-addictive-cocaine.html

 

Is Blonde Hair Linked to Other Genetic Traits?

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I’m almost positive that you have heard it said before that all blondes girls are stupid. It is a stereotype which is a stranger to none. Having lighter hair, this is something that obviously I take offense too. But there is good new, scientific studies have recently proved that such a common stereotype is nothing but a myth.

Physically speaking, a persons hair color is determined by pigments called Eumelanin and Phenomelanin. Eumelanin is the pigment which is responsible for depicting black hair. Phenomelanin is linked to red or yellow colored pigment. The colors that show are dependent on the amounts of pigment which are present and how close together the Eumelanin and Phenomelanin are placed. Genetically speaking, parents have a role in determining what color hair their offspring possesses. These types of genes are neither recessive or dominant, which explains why a child may have a different color hair than there parents do. The genes are additive which I believe can be a little confusing. Blonde or red hair, which is produced with Phenomelanin, is given to offspring as an allele gene. Not to my surprise, only European Americans are able to possess the allele which would cause someone to have blonde hair. If you are curious about how hair color is created, black hair is depicted when the Eumelanin pigment is very tightly and closely packed. To be born with red hair, one must have a large amount of loosely packed Phenomelanin. Blonde hair has the least amount of pigment which would mean the fragments are very spaced out.

A study that was conducted in Standford University, California shows that having blonde hair is completely dependent on letters in our genetic coding. A blonde posses a guanine on their twelfth chromosome rather than an adenine. The twelfth chromosome only is able to effect ones hair follicle. Which in turn means that despite the popular belief, these letters have seemingly no effect on any other genetic traits. The study that was conducted used mice as their participants because this type of genetic testing would not be ethical on human beings. The researchers were able to predict the exact genetic difference in a blonde and use that information to test their hypothesis out on the mice. Because the researchers were able to alter the color of mice fur from dark brown to blonde with the simple switch of one letter on the Kit ligand gene and everything about the mice were able to remain unchanged it can be concluded that this gene has no correlation to any other traits one may posses which includes intelligence.

I believe that this is an example of a experimental study because only one outcome was being tested and observed. The researchers genetically altered the mice and than observed the effect this change had on the color of their fur. Although I do not agree with animal testing, I believe that this study was logical and ethical to do because the researchers did not instill any harm amongst the mice. The simply altered the color of their fur.

Besides the brains that a blonde girl has, this study also debunks other stereotypes which are often targeted towards blondes. For example, all blondes have blue eyes. Because this genetic trait comes unpaired, a blonde is not guaranteed to possess blue eyes.

In conclusion, blonde hair is NOT at all linked to any other genetic trait. With that said, I think it is time to apologize to any friend who has been targeted by dumb blonde jokes because now it has been proven that simply because one has blonde hair, it does not automatically mean that they are unintelligent.

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2014/06/02/science-shatters-the-blondes-are-dumb-stereotype/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2645779/Blondes-not-dumb-Scientists-disprove-negative-stereotype-proving-hair-colour-completely-unrelated-traits.html

http://www.boston.com/life/2014/06/04/scientific-proof-that-your-dumb-blonde-jokes-are-wrong/GEngjFhBzH09S8nP5u1F8L/story.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/76290-hair-color-determined/

Exercise: Changing More Than Appearance

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One form of therapy which can be completely free is exercise. Although exercise is commonly used to increase stamina, loose weight, or gain muscle it also have other effects on our bodies which can not be physically seen.

A study was conducted that used 54 adults who ranged in ages from eighteen to thirty six. They found these adults in the surrounding colleges and communities in Hanover N.H. which is where Dartmouth College is located. None of the fifty four adults had been exercising regularly so participating in a physical activity routine was relatively new for all of them. During the first visit they took to the lab, the participants gave blood which was used by the researchers to do genetic testing. They also completed surveys which allowed researchers to gain information about their current moods and state of health. Another test was also conducted which evaluated their ability to memorize images which flashed across a computer screen. Although they may seem to be random, all of these test are actual responsible for measuring activity in various parts of the participants brain. After the tests were completed, they were randomly separated in to two groups. One of the groups exercised and the other did not. The group which was not sedentary had to walk or jog for at least a half hour for four times a week. After the four weeks had concluded the tests which were performed in the beginning of the study were then repeated. The participants who worked out dramatically increased their scores on the memory and mood tests. Those who worked out the morning of the tests were reported to have less anxiety than those who did not work out that morning. This study shows that there is definitely a link between physical activity and the strength of our brain.

I personally agree with the findings of this study. There is no question that exercise is not only good for our appearance but also our cognition. I believe that is was well conducted but some things could have been better controlled. One detail they left out of the study was the gender of the participants. Men and woman are clearly biologically different so I feel as if each gender could have been effected differently by the exercise they participated in. I also believe that another third variable which can be accounted for is that the participants were all doing cardio but they were not participating in the same exact exercise regimen. I think in order to improve this study, the researches could have chose to have the half of the participants who were exercising to do the same exercise and the same speed for the same exact duration.

Chemically speaking, science also has proof that exercise has the ability to give the participant a sense of euphoria. While exercising and moving the body, the amount of activity in ones brain increases dramatically. It also causes our heart rates to augment and this leads to our body producing the protein called BDNF. This stands for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This protein has the ability to reset ones memory neurons. When we exercise, this is why we are able to feel relaxed and as if our problems do not exist because the chemicals our bodies are creating make it seem as if they are gone. While the BDNF is being released, endorphins are also released. Endorphins are hormones produced by our bodies in order to fight stress. Endorphins have the ability to block any pain we may feel and they are often linked to causing a feeling of happiness. The emotional effects of exercising have often been compared to those of nicotine and heroin. One quick and interesting fact is that when one starts to exercise after being sedentary, the feeling of happiness is the most intense. Because the effects of exercise are similar to a drug, when you first start working out the feeling of happiness is more intense. As one begins to work out more, it takes more exercise in order for ones bodies to release high amounts of endorphins. This can be viewed in a similar way that a drug addition works. 3025957-inline-i-1-what-happens-to-our-brains-when-we-exercise-and-how-it-makes-us-happier

There are certain techniques that can be used in order to maximize the amount of endorphins that your body releases. The main one as simple as it sounds if focus. The body reeks the most benefit from ones first twenty minutes of their work out so if you are able to remain focused and motivated for simply twenty minutes a day, one is able to obtain a solid amount of endorphins which in turn leads to a more calm and happy person!

Sources:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3025957/work-smart/what-happens-to-our-brains-when-we-exercise-and-how-it-makes-us-happier

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/how-exercise-can-jog-the-memory/

http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise

http://www.brainhealth.utdallas.edu/blog_page/study-finds-aerobic-exercise-improves-memory-brain-function-and-physical-fi

Meditation: Free Stress Relief

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Mindfulness Meditation is a very popular type of self reflection and is commonly used to relieve stress. When participating in mindfulness meditation the person is asked to focus on one thing for example their breathing. The goal of this type of meditation is to be completely focused on what is happening in the present moment and to not think about any problems one may be facing. This simple act of meditating has incredible health benefits that often go un noticed.
It can be argued that the most important skill obtained from meditation is the increased ability to pay attention. In our day and age, especially as college students, we have numerous things on our minds at once. We are constantly consumed by technology, school work, having a social life, and the list goes one. People who practice meditation are able to train their brains to tune all of the nonsense out and allow their bodies to truly relax and distress. A few years ago, a study was done which observed people who meditated for five hours a day for three months. Although not many of us have time to devote so much of our daily lives to meditation, these people were able to complete tasks with a high ability to effortlessly sustain attention to what they were doing. By simply focusing on one thing for a minimum on twenty minutes a day, we each hold the ability to transform our own brains.

It has also been said that meditation before multitasking can make everything less stressful and actually go much smoother. A study that tested this was carried out by David Levy and Jacob Wobbrock who are professors at the UW Information School. For this study they chose 36-45 human resource managers and split them into three groups. One group was given eight straight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training. The second group received eight weeks of body relaxation training. The third group stated off without receiving any training. After eight weeks they received the same amount of training as the first group. The third group can be viewed as the control group. All three groups were given tests that forced them to multitask in a real world work environment before and after they received training in meditation. During the test, researchers were observing variables such as how long it took them to switch tasks, speed of which they completed the tasks, and accuracy while doing so. The results came out as expected. During multitasking, the first group had much lower levels of stress. The second group and the control group however did not. Once the control group had completed the eight weeks of training, they showed results identical to the first group.

Lower levels in stress were shown through an increased amount of time spent on each task because the participant was calmly completing the task and just giving their undivided attention to what they were doing in the moment rather than thinking about whats next.
Levy positively responded to the results by saying, “We are encouraged by these first results. While there is increasing scientific evidence that certain forms of meditation increase concentration and reduce emotional volatility and stress, until now there has been little direct evidence that meditation may impart such benefits for those in stressful, information-intensive environments.”

In my psychology class in high school we spent some time learning about meditation and I completely agree with the study. For two weeks straight in the beginning of my class my teacher played twenty minute guided meditation videos. The whole class would sit on the floor and follow the videos really trying to focus simply on inhaling and exhaling. Although this seems quite easy, in the beginning I found it incredibly difficult to channel my brain to one specific thought when so much was happening in the day. With practice though I was better able to focus my attention. After seeing how meditating for twenty minutes was able to effect me and help me to distress, I have no doubt in my mind that the people who were involved with the study were able to relax and effectively multitask.

Sources:

http://io9.com/how-meditation-changes-your-brain-and-makes-you-feel-b-470030863

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120614094118.htm

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200105/the-science-meditation

https://www.headspace.com/science

The Truth Behind Tattoos

 

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Because most of my friends are turning eighteen and no longer have to obtain parental permission to get tattoos, I have noticed an increasingly large amount of people around me deciding to get inked. This sudden interest has caused me to have some curiosity in exactly how exactly tattoos work. I always struggled to understand how tattoos are permanent when humans are constantly shedding and producing new skin.

Skin is the largest organ in the human body. It acts as protection for the muscles and bones. It also helps to sustain body temperature and allow for us to have the sense of touch. Human skin is separated into three layers. The outermost layer of skin is called the epidermis. Its purpose is to create our skin tones by producing melanin. The amount of melanin in our skin determines the color that it appears. It also is responsible for the production of new skin cells. The second layer is called the dermis. It holds tissue, sweat glands, and hair follicles. It also is the home to nerve endings which helps us to feel things. The deepest layer contains subcutaneous tissue. This layer of skin is where the fat is stored and where our body temperature is controlled. It also attaches the dermis to our muscles and bones with connecting tissue.

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Tattoos are given with a machine that is modeled after one of Thomas Edison’s engraving machines called the autographic printer. Modern tattoo machines contain a needle, a tube which feeds ink through the machine, and a motor which powers it. The needle moves at a very high frequency ranging from fifty to three thousand time per minute puncturing the skin and placing ink into the dermis. Every time the needle breaks skin, it causes a puncture which triggers the body to respond with the inflammatory process. This process is a key component of the body’s defense system. During this process, cells rush to the site of the wound and begin to repair any damage. These cells are referred to as macrophages. They consume some of the dye in the dermis as a way of stoping the inflammation. Fibroblasts soak up the rest of the die and remain in the dermis. This dye which is in the fibroblasts shows through the skin which is why tattoos can be seen. The reason that the ink is able to remain permanent is because it is placed beyond where the new skin cells are produced.

There are many health risks that are associated with tattoos that I believe often go unnoticed. First off, tattoo ink is produced with metal which can cause various skin reactions whether it be rashes or infections. Some of the most common infections that can be transmitted from a tattooing needle are Hepatitis B and C, Tuberculosis, Mycobacteria, HIV, and Syphilis. It is very important that people who are looking into getting tattooed are educated on the possible risks they are exposing themselves too. It also is important that they have open communication with their tattoo artist in order make sure they are using sterile tools. Because body art such as tattoos have been around for such a long time I feel as if the process of getting one is not taken as seriously as it should be. Being educated and truly understanding how tattoos work is a great way to change that.

Sources:

http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/skin-and-lifestyle/tattoo4.htm
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/the-real-reason-tattoos-are-permanent/374825/
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-06/fyi-what-makes-tattoos-permanent
http://www.dermadoctor.com/blog/the-science-of-tattoos/
https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/for-kids/about-skin/piercings-and-tattoos/how-piercings-and-tattooing-work
http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/skin-and-lifestyle/tattoo.htm
 

Cellphones Linked to Cancer

cell-phones-brain-cancerThere has been renewed concerns that using a cell phone can give you brain cancer.  In recent years, many studies have been carried out in order to find the link between cell phone use and brain tumors. But, it has not been successful at all. On the other hand, the International Agency for Research on Cancer which is a team of 31 scientists from 14 countries, including the United States, categorized cellphone use after reviewing peer-reviewed studies on cell phone safety. The team found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” What that means is they found some evidence of an increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer for people who use cellphones, but have not been able to draw definite conclusions for other types of cancers. Which can be both positive and negative depending on how one views it. Due to the fact that cell phones have been used by everyone for a relatively short time, it is not yet possible to completely rule out that someone can acquire cancer after long time use. “The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” said Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, ”What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones.” Scientist who try to share their negative findings about the radiation emitted from cell phones are constantly attacked by those who use cellphones routinely. They are accused of being corrupt and against the cell phone industry. It is still believed by many that the lower frequency radiation from power lines and electric appliances pose a cancer threat, despite the fact that more than thirty years of research has shown that exposure to those levels show no effects.I believe that is is simply because cellphones are used so frequently in todays world as a mean of communication even if they did pose a threat it would not discourage people from using them. Recently, the World Health Organization listed mobile phone use in the same “carcinogenic hazard” category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform and use has not been affected. Manufacturers of many popular cell phones warn people who buy their product to keep the device away from their body. Medical experts say there other ways to minimize cell phone radiation such as speaking on the phone using the speaker phone setting or texting instead of phone calls. The reason behind these recommendations is the further the phone is from the body, the less radiation is able to be absorbed.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/05/31/who.cell.phones/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/10694565/Cancer-and-nerve-damage-is-this-the-human-cost-of-an-iPhone.html
http://www.forbes.com/sites/geoffreykabat/2013/03/05/do-cell-phones-cause-brain-cancer-the-diehards-cling-desperately-to-opinion/
http://www.businessinsider.com/cell-phone-cancer-2010-11http://www.businessinsider.com/cell-phone-cancer-2010-11

Eyewitness Testimony is Unreliable

 

lineupUnfortunately for the criminal justice system, eye witnesses are mistaken far more often than people think. Every year, more than 75,000 eyewitnesses identify criminal suspects in the United States, studies suggest that as many as a third of them are wrong. Why not just get rid of eyewitness convictions you may ask? Well, if the criminal justice system can convict based on an eyewitness testimony, criminals would not have to act in fear of who could see them. An example of this is shown when a sixteen girl walking near a highway saw an old pickup truck with a camper shell. Continuing with her normal life, she didn’t think much about the van at the time. Surprisingly, a man grabbed her from behind and ripped at her clothes as she passed under the freeway overpass. As an act of self defense, she smashed her attacker in the face with a CD player and then ran away. Recovering from the hit quite quickly, her attacker was able to catch her again. This time he threw her into bushes and sexually assaulted her. As soon as she saw another car on the street, she ran to it. Luckily, the driver allowed the sixteen year old to get in the car. Although the victim was in too much shock to provide enough details for a composite sketch of the man who attacked her, she was able to recall the truck. A similar vehicle was spotted in the following days which driven by a twenty five year old construction worker from North Park. His picture was put in a photo lineup and the victim and another witness picked him out. But, recent DNA testing on the victim’s clothing cleared the man charged with the crime due to the faulty eyewitness testimony. Charges were dismissed and the man was freed from prison after serving eight brutal years.

Most matters involving eyewitness testimony depend on someones own memory. A humans memory is broken into two separate categories: implicit and explicit memory. Implicit memory stores things that one does not consciously know. For example, how to walk. Explicit memory stores things that you can explain how to do. Explicit memory splits into semantic and autobiographical types. Semantic is memory for facts. Semantic memory is more like “knowing” than like recalling. In very dramatic situations our memory as humans is blurred. One is that images in our mind’s eye are never as clear as what we actually see in real life.

Eyewitness testimony can not be trusted because memory fills in the gaps of what we saw.
Memory is a reconstruction, not an exact depiction or record. The eyewitness will often have not enough information in the memory itself, so the reconstruction must invoke pieces of information from other sources or pieces that are taken from other memories.

Another reason why human memory cannot be trusted is that memory is personal.
Human memory does not exist for the criminal justice system. It was not created so that people can retail stories for accuracy. Each witness focus on the important things they see but that is in terms of what they view as impactful to themselves.

Lastly, memory can be biased or encouraged by the way the victim is questioned. Eyewitness memories can be biased by the questions asked at the time of retrieval. Several studies have shown that the question can supply information that the eyewitness will incorporate into the answer subconsciously.

Sources:

http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/jul/06/mistaken-eyewitness-ID-wrongful-conviction/
http://news.discovery.com/human/psychology/nj-supreme-court-revises-eyewitness-id-rules.htm
http://theweek.com/article/index/221008/is-eyewitness-testimony-too-unreliable-to-trust
http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/2013/08/can_eyewitnesses_be_trusted/
http://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/eyewitnessmemory.html

Love Hurts

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Broken Heart syndrome is a type of heart problem. Cases have been reported worldwide, and the first reports of broken heart syndrome in the United States appeared not too long ago in 1998. Ever since, the condition has been seen an increasing amount, “A lot of these patients would come in the emergency room with chest pains and difficulty breathing. We found out that they actually were not having a heart attack, but their hearts were weak for some reason,” said Dr. Binh An P. Phan, a cardiologist at Loyola University Health System, “We found out that it was related to a very emotional experience that they were having that immediately preceded the episode.” For example, one recorded case of this was with a woman named Lisa Wysocky in July of 2009. The previous day she had learned that her son, Colby, had died of an overdose after struggling with a co-existing disorder his whole life. She spent that night on her bedroom floor in pain suspecting that she was having a heart attack. When she went to the hospital the next day, still struggling from symptoms, they told Lisa that she was suffering with stress cardiomyopathy. In the beginning, broken heart syndrome symptoms can appear to be very similar to symptoms of a heart attack. Most experts believe the cause has to do with a rush of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, to the heart during a dramatic event. In turn, the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrow.The term “broken heart syndrome” came about after researchers noticed that many people with the condition were grieving. “These types of events can trigger your sympathetic nervous system, which is also called your “fight or flight” mechanism,” says Peter Shapiro who is a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, “Your body unleashes a flood of chemicals, including adrenaline, he says. This sudden flood can stun your heart muscle, leaving it unable to pump properly. So even though broken heart syndrome may feel like a heart attack, it’s a very different problem that needs a different type of treatment.” There is good news though, after one experiences a heart attack, there is permanent damage done to heart muscle. Some of it may lose its life when the bold is unable to flow to it. When that tissue is dead, it’s not able to be revived allowing it to work again. When dealing with broken heart syndrome, patients go to the doctor with hear muscles that look to be very weak. The muscle is not pumping blood to the same sped or power that it regularly does but the cells in the heart are still alive. But, the heart muscle usually completely recovers with the proper care over a few weeks.  Another good thing about broken heart syndrome for those effected according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 60 percent of those who have experienced a heart attack experience a second one, while a second episode of broken heart syndrome occurs in only 10 percent of those who have been affected. What medical researchers have yet to figure out why women’s hearts tend to “break” more often than men’s.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/heart/features/broken-heart-syndrome-stress-cardiomyopathy
http://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/death-dying/die-of-broken-heart1.htm
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28756374
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-22/news/ct-x-broken-heart-syndrome-20120222_1_stress-cardiomyopathy-heart-attack-heart-syndrome
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/02/14/yes-you-can-die-from-a-broken-heart/
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/broken-heart-syndrome/

The Difference in a Liar’s Brain

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A compulsive liar can be defined as as someone who lies completely out of habit. For a compulsive liar, lying is the normal way of responding to questions coming acting almost as a reflex.  Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything and anything no matter how important the issue actually is. Telling the truth as a compulsive liar feels wrong and awkward. For the most part, compulsive liars are not very manipulative. Lying comes out of habit and is not done in order to harm anyone. Lying is a behavior which provides comfort and an escape from discomfort very similar to drugs or alcohol. Lying can become addictive and hard to stop.  For a compulsive liar, it feels safe and that is why they start to lie even more. Compulsive lying is often a symptom of a much larger personality disorder which is why it is hard to stop this behavior.

In 2005, A USC study found the first proof of structural brain abnormalities in people who lie and cheat out of habit. The study was conducted by Yaling Yang and Adrian Raine. They are both of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. A sample of on hundred and eight volunteers were taken from from Los Angeles’ temporary employment pool. After many interviews and psychological tests, they were placed into three separate categories. The first category consisted of twelve people who had a history of repeated lying. The next category consisted of 16 who exhibited signs of antisocial personality disorder but not pathological lying.
There was also a third category of twenty one normal controls.After they were categorized, the researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging to explore structural brain differences between the groups. “The liars had significantly more “white matter” and slightly less “gray matter” than those they were measured against,” Raine said.

When a human makes a moral decisions, they are using their prefrontal cortex. The liars were observed to have a 25.7 percent increase in prefrontal white matter of their brains compared to the antisocial controls and a 22 percent increase compared to the normal controls. Liars had a 14.2 percent decrease in prefrontal gray matter compared to normal controls. “When people ask normal people to make moral decisions, we see activation in the front of the brain,” Raine explained, “If these liars have a 14 percent reduction in gray matter, that means that they are less likely to care about moral issues or are less likely to be able to process moral issues. Having more gray matter would keep a check on these activities.” Brain scans of autistic people, who have difficulty telling lies, show the exact opposite profile of Yang’s and Raine’s liars: They have less white matter than other people. In autistic children, white matter doesn’t develop at a normal rate which can possibly explain as to why they have trouble telling lies. The researchers also were able to observe that there are 15 percent fewer or less gray matter in liars versus normal subjects. This study acts as a starting point for understanding the connection between lying and white matter in the brain.


Sources:

http://www.truthaboutdeception.com/lying-and-deception/confronting-a-partner/compulsive-lying/types-of-liars.html

http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/pathological_liars_brains_physically_different/
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=87922568
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8075-liars-brains-make-fibbing-come-naturally.html#.VEUr_lZH3lI
http://www.truthaboutdeception.com/lying-and-deception/confronting-a-partner/compulsive-lying/types-of-liars.html

If You Snooze, You LOSE!

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On a regular school morning, I am abruptly awoken by my alarm clock which sounds like a buzzer. No, it’s definitely not favorable, but it is the only thing that will wake me up. I am guilty of hitting the snooze button at least three or four times before I get out of bed and start getting ready for class. I even set my alarm earlier than necessary in order to allow myself time to do so. But, just recently I have learned that hitting the snooze button has the ability to make you more tired and less productive throughout the day.

There are five stages in a human’s sleep cycle. Stage one is the lightest stage of sleep. It is also referred to as the transition phase. If you allow yourself to wake up naturally, stage one would be the last stage before you fully wake up. This stage lasts between five to ten minutes and during this time, your body slows down and your muscles become relaxed. The second stage of sleep is still considered light sleep. Brain activity, heart rate, and breathing all slows down during this stage in attempt to reach a state of complete relaxation. Stage three is when you begin to enter a deep sleep. If you were to be awakened during this stage, it is incredibly difficult to wake up. One would be confused and groggy. Of the five stages of sleep, this is the one when you experience your deepest sleep of the night. Stage five this is the stage of sleep when you dream. It is also referred to as REM sleep, which stands for the rapid eye movement. During stage five, blood flow, breathing, and brain activity increases.

Maria Konnikova, a journalist with a focus on psychology, explained in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener, “The thing about snooze buttons that most of us don’t understand is that instead of giving us an extra, precious few minutes of sleep, they’re robbing us of a lot of mental clarity, every time you press it, if you happen to drift off you’re plunged back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the absolute worst point from which to wake up.” If any of you have ever wondered why Iphone snooze buttons are only about 8 minutes I am assuming that it is so our bodies do not enter stage two of the sleep cycle making it harder to wake up.

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By hitting the snooze button, we are doing many negative things to our bodies. One thing we are doing is fragmenting what extra sleep we are getting so that sleep becomes poor quality sleep. Another thing, is we are beginning a new sleep cycle that we can not finish. Robert Rosenberg, who is the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona says, “You’re throwing off your circadian cycle and that can impair your ability to feel awake during the day and sleepy at night.”

Scientists believe that this is due to a term coined as “sleep inertia”. It refers to the period between being woken and being fully awake. While the parts of the brain responsible for basic physical functioning, is able to act almost immediately, the cortical regions which are responsible for decision making and self control take longer. It can take up to two hours to get rid of sleep-inertia grogginess. Unfortunately for us, there is nothing we can do to beat sleep inertia besides getting enough sleep.

There are things we can do to prevent it though. One thing recommended is to keep phones are computer out of the bed when we are trying to fall asleep. The blue light radiated from the smart phones delay our bodies production of melatonin. If you are still having trouble getting right out of bed, it is recommended to hide your alarm clock or keep it out of reach requiring you to get out of bed in order to turn it off.

Sources:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/01/why-hitting-snooze-is-bad-for-health_n_5630707.html
http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/snoozers-are-in-fact-losers
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/why-hitting-the-snooze-button-is-bad-for-your-health-1.2472284
http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/06/health/upwave-snooze-button/
http://www.better-sleep-better-life.com/five-stages-of-sleep.html

Chewing Gum Can Help Improve Test Scores!

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The solution to many students problems may only be a stick of chewing gum away. Recent studies have shown that chewing gum right before an exam may be able to boost ones score by increasing blood flow to their brain. 

A study conducted from Saint Lawrence University tested 224 undergraduates in regards to this issue. They first divided the students into three groups.One chewed gum before and during the test, another chewed gum for five minutes before being tested and a third group didn’t chew anything. They found that a few minutes of gum chewing before testing improved a student’s performance on several of the tests. Unfortunately for us, this was only for a short period. The observed peak dropped to normal levels within 20 minutes after chewing the gum. Researcher Onyper explained, “Within the 15-to-20-minute ‘window’ of the effect, the chewing-gum group recalled 25-to-50-percent more items than the controls, which is statistically significant, but in practical terms amounts to a difference of two-to-three words.” The gum especially helped with recall and memory tasks. The researchers think that this improvement in brainpower is because the chewing warms up the brain because it is doing an activity. They have named this process and phenomenon “mastication-induced arousal.” This arousal turns the brain on just before test taking, and gets more blood flowing to the head. Chewing gum is also known to increase heart rate and blood pressure. Most people are unaware but when it increases, more blood is to the brain for a total of about fifteen to twenty minutes which is when the people being tested performed the best.It can be assumed that mild exercise probably has the same effect as chewing gum in the sense that it has the ability to get ones heart rate up.The test takers who chewed gum the entire time didn’t show much improvement at all. Actually, it may not be a good idea to chew gum while taking a test. The researchers think the extra brainpower it takes to actually chew the gum takes away from the brain’s ability to take the tests and understand what the questions are truly asking. No benefits show up in test scores when the gum is chewed before and during the test. Unfortunately, it may be true that you can’t chew gum and think productively at the same time.

On the other had, the researchers did acknowledge some flaws they had in the design of the experiment which could have caused the results to be skewed favorably for anyone wanted chewing gum to improve test scores. Because the participants were specifically asked to chew the gum, it is very possible they were thinking about it a little more than they would be normally if they were chewing gum willingly. Researcher Onyper voiced, “In real-world situations the chewing might be more unconscious, automated, in which case it would take up very little cognitive resources and probably not affect performance much.”

I am sure that more studies will be conducted on this topic. So far, it has been proven that chewing gum can possibly increase alertness, improve memory, lower anxiety, and many other positive things. I think it is incredible that such a common thing as chewing gum can do so much for a chewer.

Sources:
http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/education-nation/commentary-chewing-gum-may-improve-test-scores-n21731
http://www.livescience.com/17520-chewing-gum-test-performance.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/can-chewing-gum-before-a-test-improve-score/2012/04/02/gIQA0bGurS_blog.html
http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/12/02/can-chewing-gum-before-test-boost-grade/32126.html
http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/03/08/chew-yourself-a-better-brain/

Bad Side Effects of Drinking Diet Coke

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Diet Coke is a common choice over regular Coke due to the fact that it has zero calories, sugar and carbohydrates. A regular can of coke has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. Diet coke does contains many ingredients that can be very unhealthy if consumed in large quantities.
Diet coke can cause dehydration so it can not be turned to in order to quench thirst. Because of its high value of caffeine, it can easily cause dehydration rather than help it. It also has a very empty nutritional value. Caffeine is a diuretic. Diuretic can cause people to urinate more frequently than normal. The more Diet Coke you drink, the more you will urinate, which makes the amount of water in your body decrease. Dehydration can cause dizziness, headaches, and even sometimes death. Also, calcium is necessary for growth and because Diet Coke has such high levels of phosphate it can interfere with your calcium levels. Drinking Diet Coke daily may increase your chance of bone fracture by three to four times. Low levels of calcium can also cause Osteoporosis. People who consume artificially sweetened beverages have higher body weight which is kind of sad because people choose diet in hopes of it being healthier for them. Also, they are more likely to have Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease from drinking the artificial sweetener. The reasons aren’t clear, but it’s possible that noncaloric foods and drinks which are sweetened throw off the body’s natural metabolic responses. This is quite upsetting to me because Diet Coke is my drink of choice. After coming to Penn State I was forced to stop drinking it because Penn Start is a Pepsi campus and I personally refuse to make the switch. The best option for drinking health wise is water so it would be smart to reduce the amount of soda that you consume.
Works Cited:
Morris, Ivy. “Bad Side Effects of Drinking Diet Coke.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Sept. 2014.

Cuticle Cutting is Dangerous!

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A girls and even boys hands can be viewed as a direct depiction of their personal hygiene. Because hands are used so often throughout the day, they can be overlooked or taken for granted by everyone. Every time that a female (or male) receives a manicure at a nail salon the customers cuticles are cut without even asking but it may be time to start monitoring how frequently we allow it to be done. For those of you who do not know, the strip of skin appears at the base of each fingernail and toenail which seals where your nails connect to your body is also referred to as a cuticle. Although many of not realize, cuticles aren’t a pointless part of a finger. They help shield new keratin cells from harm and they add length to your fingernails. The cuticles are meant to keep your nails both strong and healthy. If the cuticles are not being damaged to manicures it can be very possible that they are being damaged by picking or biting them (so boys who don’t get manicures you are included in this too!). Normally, cuticles are cut in order to neaten the appearance of ones fingernail. Cutting your cuticles incorrectly can cause both inflammation and infection in which pockets of yellow pus can form around your fingernails. People who experience various infections can end up having distorted or ridged fingernails. Luckily, the infection can easily be cured by soaking your hands in certain salts. If you hate the way cuticles look a good alternative is to just push them back using the proper tools. A good time to do this to your cuticles is right after you get out of the shower because that is when the skin is soft and easy to be manipulated. Next time, make sure you question your manicurist about your cuticle care! The extra questions may pay off in the long run.

Works Cited:
Chandlier, Nathan. “HowStuffWorks “Cut Cuticles: Lots More Information”” HowStuffWorks. How Stuff Works, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

Singing: Cheap Therapy

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Singing has always been thought to be a form of self expression but it turns out that there may be even more positives that come along with letting your voice be heard. Singing is something that mostly everyone has the ability to do whether people would enjoy listening to them or not but thats not the point. Singing is a form of therapy for an individual to take on at any place or time. As the popularity of group singing grows over the years, scientists have been trying to explain why it has such a calming and soothing yet energizing effect on people. Scientists have discovered that singing not only calms ones nerves but also elevates ones spirits. When someone sings, it releases endorphins. Endorphins are also released when one exercises. Endorphins goes hand in hand with the feeling of pleasure. Another hormone that is released during singing is oxytocin which enhances feelings of trust and bonding. It also is known to alleviate anxiety and stress. Research has shown that singers have lower stress levels than people who do not sing regularly. Also, when signing in groups people tend to sync heart rates which can sometimes feel like a guided group meditation. Group singing is a lot cheaper than therapy and healthier than smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol to relieve stress or anxiety. It is a great way to get your body to release endorphins without having to work out for hours at the gym. After singing, you will one hundred percent feel better with little effort. It is the perfect form of self expression that has the ability to calm someone down and give them the ability to focus on the music they are singing. Shifting focus to something else is a great way to forget about something that has been bothering you.

Works Cited:
Horn, Stacy. “Singing Changes Your Brain | TIME.com.” Ideas Singing Changes Your Brain Comments. TIME, 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

Male Birth Control

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In 2017 the first form of male birth control will be released to the public. But contrary to popular belief, the birth control will not be available in pill form but instead injection. Vasalgel is a non-hormonal gel that is to be injected just above the testicles. It will be effective by temporarily blocking sperm flow through the males tubes. It is planned to work similarly to a vasectomy but it differs because this procedure is able to be reversed. When it’s time to undo the procedure months or even years later, a second injection flushes out the polymer wall and restores the sperm flow. In this procedure, the vas deferens is not permanently cut.
At this point, Vasagel has only been tested on baboons and rabbits. All of the results have been positive and hopefully will be similar when the injection is tested on humans next year. The goal is to make this procedure as widely available and inexpensive as possible. But, Vasalgel will not protect against STD transmission. Even with Vasalgel, males have the ability to carry HIV or other infections. Although this is a form of male birth control, it will only be effective in preventing pregnancy. Condoms are still necessary in effort to prevent the transmission of an STD. One problem that this can lead to is there is no proof of the shot so it may be possible that a woman may not trust her partner when he claims to have this procedure done.
The question is not whether it will work scientifically but instead socially. For as long as many can remember, males have only had to worry about their partners remembering to take the pill. But, as soon as Vasagel is released, the responsibility of protection will shift to both genders.
Given that it takes two to in order to conceive a child, it seems only fair that both parties be supplied with the materials to ensure sex safe and avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Works Cited:

Lakshmin, Deepa. “Male Birth Control Is Almost Here — And No, We Don’t Mean Condoms.”News. MTV, Sept.-Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Sanghani, Radhika. “Male Birth Control Could Be Here by 2017 – but Will Anyone Take It?” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Valenti, Jessica. “Male Birth Control: If You Build It, Will They Come?” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 16 Sept. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

 

 

Does Coffee Really Stunt Your Growth?

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Personally, I am an avid coffee drinker and standing at a not so tall five feet I have always been curious if the common belief that coffee can effect ones growth holds any truth. Luckily for me, there is no scientific evidence that coffee can stunt a drinkers growth. Drinking coffee is incredibly normal in American and over 50% of people over the age of eighteen drink a cup every day. As many as 30 million American adults drink specialty coffee daily. Contrary to common belief, men drink as much coffee as women do. Both genders consume an average of 1.6 cups per day. Among coffee drinkers, the average consumption in the United States is 3.2 cups of coffee per day.
The reason that coffee can be associated with growth is the misconception that coffee can cause Osteoporosis. But, coffee intake is no longer considered a significant risk factor for Osteoporosis. The previous concern was coffee’s impact on the strength of bones. Coffee can alter the amount of calcium that is absorbed from the digestive tract in a frequent drinker. This matters most when coffee intake is much more than the average and in addition to that the calcium intake is low. Even if coffee did cause Osteoporosis, having Osteoporosis does not routinely make some one effected short. Height loss is also possible without osteoporosis. The discs in ones spine contain water and as people age, they loose the water. This may cause the spine to compress which further results in height loss if enough discs are affected. Scoliosis or curvature of the spine may also result in height loss.
Another point as to why coffee does not stun growth is that most growth occurs well before most people are drinking coffee regularly. Most people have almost reached their full height by their teen years. For girls, this is usually by age 15 to 17 and for boys, it’s a few years later. But, coffee cannot undo ones growth causing a drinker to shrink.
On the plus side for drinkers, many studies have failed to find serious medical risks associated with coffee drinking. But drinking in excess can cause insomnia and an increased blood pressure. Also, obsessive coffee consumption has been associated with reduced fertility rates and even miscarriage. In addition, caffeine withdrawal commonly causes headaches and heart burn.
In conclusion, just as drinking coffee won’t make you shorter, not drinking coffee won’t make you any taller. One piece of advice that can be taken away is to drink coffee in moderation! Also, if you are drinking a lot of coffee, it would be smart to also increase your calcium intake.

Work Cited:

“Coffee Statistics.” Coffee Statistics. N.p., 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Shmerling, Robert H. “Coffee and Calcium Loss.” MSN Healthy Living. N.p., 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Shmerling, Robert H. “Harvard Medical School Commentaries: Medical Myths.” Plan for Your Health: Commentary: Can Coffee Really Stunt Your Growth? Harvard Medical School, 9 Mar. 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Hey! My name is Brittney Strazza and I am from a small town in Westchester County, New York. I hope to major in PR and go on to work in the Music Business in the city after I graduate. I am taking this class because my advisor recommended it to me as an interesting Gen Ed. AlthoughI like science, I am not majoring in it because I have no interest in pursuing a career in science.

Goodluck to everyone in the class!

 

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