Author Archives: Jordan Nicole Presto

Night Terrors

“But Mom, she’s crazy!” shouted Jess and I at the expense of our youngest sister, Juliana. Being seven years older than her, and Jess being 5 years older than her, we seemed to gang up on her quite a lot; especially considering she had some traits that were not consistent with what we considered the average little sister should have. She would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, crying, and begging for my mom (even when she was sitting right in front of her). Juliana just seemed to look past her and continue to cry and scream out of sheer terror. But what was there to be afraid of? Jess and I just didn’t understand. The doctor later called these dramatic episodes “night terrors,” and because of these horrific dreams and outbursts that used to occur very often, Juliana is now occasionally afraid to go to sleep, in fear of experiencing one. 

Sigmund Freud believed that childhood experiences greatly influence the development of later personality traits and psychological problems in a person, and with this theory he developed psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis emphasizes unconscious conflict and past events, or early childhood traumas.  

Researching more into night terrors, according to Webmd, an estimated 1%-6% of children experience night terrors, boys and girls are equally affected, children of all races also seem to be affected equally, and it is a disorder that is usually outgrown by adolescence. They are most likely caused by stressful life events, fever, sleep deprivation, medications that affect the nervous system, or recent anesthesia given for surgery. 

Even now, years after the night terrors used to occur, Juliana still finds trouble in sleeping some nights. As she lays her head down on her pillow, she becomes nervous and afraid to fall asleep. “Who’s afraid to fall asleep?” Jess and I thought to ourselves, but looking back on Juliana’s past, it makes sense now. Having consistent night terrors and never wanting to fall asleep when she was younger affects her 7 years later, and most likely will for the rest of her life because of the early childhood traumas that she suffered through. 

Being so young and naive, Jess and I just assumed that she was crazy and that what was happening to her was one hundred percent out of the ordinary. We had no interest in trying to learn about what was actually happening within Juliana’s mind, we just told everyone she was crazy because it was a much easier (and might I add harsher) explanation. Now, although we tease her about many things, after all, that’s what big sisters are supposed to do, we avoid the topic of the terrifying night terrors she used to have as a younger child because she really couldn’t have done anything to prevent those; just like how she can’t really do anything to prevent her fear of sleeping some nights now.



Is it Actually Possible to Plant Memories in Someone? (part 2)

In my previous blog, I discussed briefly about the idea of our memories being constructive processes and how they fill in missing pieces, not necessarily with events that actually happened. I also discussed how scientists did an experiment and discovered that it was possible to plant memories in mice. However, they had to use equipment and a protein called channelrhodopsin that activates neurons when it is stimulated by light. However, there are also ways to plant false memories within gullible suspects without having to use any equipment or proteins.

Scientific American Blog features Carl Sagan, whom suggests that there are only four steps you need to follow to implant false memories in your friends. He says that implanting false memories in people is not only possible, but is actually pretty easy when attempted in the proper settings with a gullible subject. He cited examples as people who, at the urging of therapists or hypnotists, genuinely start to believe that they’d been abducted by UFO’s or falsely remember being used as a child. The distinction between memory and imagination becomes blurred for these people, and events that never actually happened become embedded into their memories as if they were real events.

The first step says Sagan, is to first select one of your friends, who is “prone to suggestion, or is easily influenced. You should most likely be acquainted with this friend for at least five years so that you have many experiences shared between the two of you.

Next, Sagan says to fabricate a memory. The false memory should have “taken place” at least a year in the past, be sort of vague, and not be something that would evoke strong feelings of emotion.

According to Scientific American, studies have shown that it’s easy to make people falsely recall small details about events, but as the fake memories grow in complexity and specificity, implantation grows progressively harder, though not impossible. After three interviews, researchers at Western Washington University succeeded in getting subjects to recall details about accidentally spilling a bowl of punch on the parents of the bride at a wedding reception. Emotions tend to make people remember events much more vividly than the average event, and this is why your target might not believe you or accept a false memory if you told him/her that thy experienced something highly emotional. However, researchers at the University of British Colombia did succeed in convincing 26% of their subjects that they had been victims of a vicious animal attack in their childhood, but the research team’s sophisticated methods probably won’t apply in a practical joke setting.

The third step that Sagan says to complete is to prepare. He says you are going to need narrative details, maybe about your friend’s outfit, what led to the event, what the setting was like, and who was there. If you have corroborators (the more the better!), your memory will be much more believable.

The last step is to set your plan in motion, according to Sagan. He says, “When you commence, be persistent. The memory may not stick right away; you’ll probably have to bring it up multiple times over a span of days or even weeks. Memory isn’t static. It’s fickle, ever changing, and easily tampered with; a patchwork quilt that can be ripped, torn, and remade. Perhaps what we actually remember is a set of memory fragments stitched onto a fabric of our own devising. If we sew cleverly enough, we have made ourselves a memorable story easy to recall.”

Is it Actually Possible to Plant Memories in Someone? (part 1)

Memories; good ones, bad ones, fun ones, sad ones. Everyone has them. Our pasts make up who we are and by giving up our precious memories, we no longer have much that distinguishes our lives from the person sitting next to us. People hold their memories extremely close to their hearts and everyone enjoys looking back on the good times, and maybe even the bad times. But what would someone say if you told them that some of their sweet memories may be in fact made up?

According to “Psychology,” by Ciccarelli White, memory is the persistence of learning over time, through active encoding, storage and retrieval of information. There are three stages of memory which include sensory memory (immediate and brief recording of sensory information), short-term memory (holds a few items for a short time), and long term memory (relatively permanent and has limitless storage). However, memory is a constructive process; therefore we filter or fill in missing pieces of information to make our recall more coherent. In other words, our memories are perceived by us in unique ways and they just consistently play over and over in our heads; some parts are bound to be added or taken away. It is close to impossible to have a near perfect recollection of exactly what happened, and this is why many countries do not allow for criminal prosecution if the only evidence is from eyewitness testimony.

It’s extremely strange that while you are reminiscing with a friend about a memory, and have a different recollection than them while you were both there, experiencing the same thing. This happens to my sisters and me all of the time. My favorite part of a memory might be something that her brain has completely left out of the story, so she simply can’t remember it. It seems to me that the older the story, the more often this happens. So is it me who has faulty memories, or her? Or is it both of us? It is close to impossible to ever be able to truly know exactly what happened without a time machine or a video camera. This is kind of scary considering some things that you think you’ve went through could very well be figments of your imagination. People tend to forget that our minds are pretty faulty when it comes to our long term memory.

In order to experiment with this idea, a study was published in Science reporting that a team of scientists found a way to plant false memories in mice. They used channelrhodopsin (a protein that activates neurons when it is stimulated by light. The cells in the hippocampus of the mice were engineered so that they would express the gene for channelrhodopsin. Whenever a gene necessary for memory formation was turned on, channelrhodoposin would be produced, and all this information was provided by Medical News Today.

On the first day of the experiment, the researchers put the mice in chamber A and allowed them to run freely, meanwhile their memory cells with channelrhodopsin, and on day two the researchers put the mice in chamber B, which was quite different from chamber A. Eventually, the mice were shocked mildly on their foot while researchers activated the memory cells from chamber A with light. When the researchers put the mice back in chamber A on day three, the mice froze with fear, even though they were never shocked there.

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) juvenile

While this blog showed that it is possible for scientists to use equipment to plant false memories in mice, the second part of the blog will discuss how to do it on people without needing to use equipment of any sort.

Is Bipolar Disorder Real?

More recently than ever, many people push society to stop using politically incorrect terms so lightly (and in wrong ways). As I walk out of the elevator of my dorm building and onto my floor, I see signs put up by my RA. The main sign reads, “WATCH WHAT YOU SAY!” and around it are smaller signs that read, “That’s so gay,” “That test just raped me,” “I failed my test, I’m retarded,” and “Ewh, that’s so ghetto!” Sitting in my psychology class as we learned about mental illness and disorders, I began to see and understand that society abuses these types of labels as well. People regularly say, “You are so psycho,” or “Wow, you’re bipolar.”

Many people throw these terms around so lightly in a jokingly manner because they don’t necessarily think that the diseases actually exist; they think the symptoms are all in the patient’s head. However, these are mental disorders are real and should not to be joked about.They are biological medical conditions that can be diagnosed and treated.

Mood disorders are disturbances in emotion and are also referred to as affective disorders. Although the range of human emotions runs deep from intense sadness and despair to extreme happiness, most people just tend to stay in between those extremes.  Stress and other factors can push someone to the edge of these extremes, which is how some mood disorders come about.

Mood disorders are either classified as “Bipolar and Related Disorders,” or “Depressive Disorders.” Major Depressive disorder is when a deeply depressed mood comes on fairly suddenly and either seems to be too severe for the circumstances or exists without any external causes for sadness. However, I wanted to focus more on Bipolar disorder; this is when a person experiences periods of mood that can range from severe depression to manic episodes (excessive excitement, energy, and elation). Someone with this disorder could possibly feel normal and have manic episodes, or they could also experience episodes of depression.

I wanted to focus on this because a long time ago, my family came to realize that one of my aunts who married into our family had Bipolar Disorder. We began noticing that sometimes she would always be around and be extremely happy to see us and extremely talkative. Other times she just wouldn’t come around or would be extremely depressed and irritable. Being so young, I didn’t understand how someone could possibly be so happy one day and so sad the next. It is then that we found out that her mother also suffers from Bipolar disorder, and later we found out that her daughter suffers from it as well.

According to “Psychology,” by Ciccarelli White, more than 65 percent of people with bipolar disorder have at least one close relative with either bipolar disorder and major depression. Twin studies have shown that if one identical twin has either major depression or bipolar disorder, the chances that the other twin will also have it are 40 to 70 percent.

According to DBSA Alliance, bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the US population age 18 and older every year. DBSA also states that although bipolar disorder is equally common in women and men, research indicates that approximately three times as many women as men experience rapid cycling, which is seen in my aunt’s family.

Although there are medications to treat bipolar disorder, however there are times when my aunt prefers not to take them. These are times that my family can easily see that she is not being herself again. DBSA says that Nearly 9 out of 10 consumers with bipolar disorder are satisfied with their current medications, although side affects remain a problem. This is why my aunt sometimes does not want to take her medications.

So next time you joke around and call someone you got into an argument with “bipolar,” make sure you rethink that title because bipolar disorder is something that some people have to live with and revolve their lives around; it is not a fun thing to have.


Genetically Modified Foods; how harmful? cont.

Proving to people that eating organic foods is much better than eating GM foods is not enough. People must be convinced to change their ways if we want to actually improve health issues. So what are the effects of eating these genetically modified foods?

Again, according to Responsible Technology, in 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine stated that, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods. 

  • Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced.
  • A skin prick allergy test shows that some people react to GM soy, but not to wild natural soy.
  • Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen.
  • GM soy also contains a new unexpected allergen, not found in wild natural soy.

Studies done on animals also suggest that:

  • GM soy drastically reduces digestive enzymes in mice, impairing digestion.
  • Mice fed Bt-toxin started having immune reactions to formerly harmless foods.
  • Rats fed GM potatoes had smaller, partially atrophied livers.
  • The livers of rats fed GM canola were 12-16% heavier.
  • GM soy altered mouse liver cells in ways that suggest a toxic insult.
  • More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks.
  • The DNA of mouse embryos functioned differently when their parents ate GM soy.
  • Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on BT cotton plants after harvest while others suffered poor health and reproductive problems.

So when will this proof be enough? It’s hard to just stop eating the foods that all American’s are accustomed to eating, but maybe it’s necessary for the good of everyone’s health. 



Genetically Modified Foods; how harmful?

As most of us live on campus, we pretty much eat whatever they’re serving in the closest dining commons. We don’t think about health or have any concern over what we’re putting into our bodies. It happens all over America; we eat before we think. 

 According to Responsible Technology, “Starting in 1996, Americans have been eating genetically modified (GM) ingredients in most processed foods. GM plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, and canola, have had foreign genes forced into their DNA. The inserted genes come from species, such as bacteria and viruses, which have never been in the human food supply. Genetic engineering transfers genes across natural species barriers. It uses imprecise laboratory techniques that bear no resemblance to natural breeding, and is based on outdated concepts of how genes and cells work. Gene insertion is done either by shooting genes from a “gene gun” into a plate of cells or by using bacteria to invade the cell with foreign DNA. The altered cell is then cloned into a plant.”

Hearing that process definitely doesn’t make me want to consume processed goods for my next meal, but then again here I am eating the same kinds of foods that I always eat. 

What many people are unaware of is that the genetic engineering process creates massive collateral damage, causing mutations in hundreds or thousands of locations throughout the plant’s DNA which reacts with the natural genes and causing behavioral changes. Even the inserted gene can be damaged or rearranged, and may create proteins that can trigger allergies or promote disease. 

So what will it take to prove to people that eating organic foods is much better than eating GM foods? 


Long term effects of “Cancer Beds”

As I jokingly made fun of my pasty white skin, my doctor laughed as she reminded me, “Pale is healthy and healthy is beautiful!” I rolled my eyes as I thought, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” I just wished I could be tanner, as many other girls my age do; but why? Society has been conditioned to believe that the tanner you are, the more beautiful you are. Because of this, many girls and women (and even men) make the decision to tan in tanning beds because they don’t have the time or right weather to tan outside. 

Although it may be nice to enjoy the sun-kissed skin for the moment, you have to wonder, what are the long term effects of laying in a “cancer bed”?

Many people are aware that any kind of exposure to UV rays can result in skin cancer. Indoor tanning is no exception to this, but there are also many other effects of long exposure to tanning beds. According to LIVE STRONG, “skin damage from allergic reactions to tanning machine treatments may be limited to a red, itchy rash, but with long exposure on sensitive skin, symptoms may become chronic. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that repeated exposure may cause thick, scaly skin.” Indoor tanning can also cause irreversible eye damage. This information comes from the FDA. This can be common because some people try to avoid facial tan irregularities by not wearing protective eye goggles, which increases the risk for eye injury greatly. It is also likely that skin damage will occur showing physical signs much sooner than those brought on by natural aging. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that harmful UVA rays disrupt your body’s collagen and elastin synthesis, causing wrinkles where collagen is depleted and leathery skin where elastin fails to repair itself. 

So is it really worth it? Is the dark skin that everyone seems to desire really worthy of being desirable?



Initial Blog Post

Hey everyone! My name is Jordan and I’m from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania! I chose to take this class because I have never been a person who enjoyed sitting in a traditional science class. Biology, chemistry and physics were absolutely not for me in high school. Therefore, when I was choosing courses for my schedule, one of my advisors, Mara Ziegler, suggested that I take this class because it would interest me in ways that the other science classes would not. I’m exploring my options within the Smeal College of Business and I’m not entirely sure which specific major I plan to pursue yet, but one thing’s for sure; I look forward to the lack of science class requirements. steelstacks-in-bethlehem-e41e924c39ea9370