Author Archives: Kaylani Chang

Is Winter Making You Depressed?



During the winter, I tend to be a lot less active and unwilling to do anything than during the summer. I find myself watching countless hours of Netflix and feeling a lot less motivated than during the summer and fall. So I wonder, is there a link between the winter season and these feelings of laziness?

There is a condition known as seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder, in which a person experiences common symptoms of depression each year at the same time, usually starting in the fall and ending in the spring. Only half a million of the U.S. population actually suffers from seasonal depression, but ten to twenty percent of people will suffer from a less extreme cases.

It is also found that when people are lacking in supplements of Vitamin D, they are at greater risk for depression. Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is obviously harder to come by during from the late months of the fall to the early months of the spring.

So is the winter making me depressed? And will supplements of Vitamin D help me return to my normal state of slightly less than average motivation.

A small study of 3 subjects, all women, required that over the course of twelve weeks each person was given 32 to 38 ng/mL of Vitamin D. After their treatment they reported a significant decrease in depression when measured according to the Beck Depression Inventory.

Since this was an extremely small study can we conclude that vitamin D will reduce symptoms of depression? Definitely not. All subjects were women, so will Vitamin D have the same effect on men? Where were these women from? Certainly environment and location must have an effect on their state of depression – California is a lot sunnier in comparison to Pennsylvania, especially during the fall and winter months.

In a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies and randomized controlled trial, 31424 participants were studied. Researched found that the hazard ratio for depression was significantly higher in those with low Vitamin D levels than in those with high Vitamin D levels.

As the number of subjects studied is significantly larger than in the previous case, we can say that the representative aspect of the study is accounted for. Reverse causation can be ruled out because it is unlikely that a high risk of depression is causing low Vitamin D levels. I think we can safely assume that there is association between a person’s levels of Vitamin D and depression.

So, in these upcoming months if you’re feeling low and unmotivated, consider the fact that we aren’t getting very much sun, therefore we are subject to lower levels of Vitamin D. Try and get more Vitamin D through supplements or milk from your closest convenience store.




Are Video Games Better For You Than Carrots?



I have absolutely awful eyesight. My mom blamed it on the fact that I hate carrots so I never ate them when I was younger. But new studies have found that video games can be better for your vision than carrots. So really was I not eating enough carrots? Or was I not playing enough video games?

Researchers have found that action-based video games can improve contrast sensitivity – a vision feat that usually worsens as you get older. One study measured contrast sensitivity at several spatial levels in subjects with lots of experience with action-based video games in comparison to those who had virtually no video game experience. They found that the video game players had higher contrast sensitivity on a majority of the spatial frequencies than the non video game players.

Could the increased contrast sensitivity also be due to good genes? Both my parents have awful eyesight, so I always assumed that that was why my vision was awful. Reverse causation can definitely be ruled out as just because a person’s eyesight is sufficient does not mean they will play more video games. I am unsure of how many subjects were actually studied in this case, so there is a possibility that the sample population is not accurately representative of the population as a whole.

In another study, researchers took a group of non video game players and put them in video game “training”, where they played a video game for 50 hours over a nine-week period. Half of the subjects were assigned to an action-based video game while the other half was assigned a non-action stimulation-based video game. When measuring contrast sensitivity for both groups, researchers found that significant improvements were only found in the group that played the action-based video games.

Will these results be consistent amongst all age groups? Or are action-based video games most effective when played at a certain age. Also, we should consider other effects that video games have on children, such as the development of ADHD. Although video games have been found to improve contrast sensitivity in several studies, we must also keep in mind that other health issues can be a concern. After all, if a child is sitting in the house playing video games, he’s not outside being active.

Moral of the story, I should have eaten my carrots, but at least I wasn’t stuck inside playing video games all day, even if they can improve my eyesight.

Gym vs. Outdoors



Is working out at the gym better for you than working out outside? As college students, we dread weight gain or any sign at all that we’re getting any bigger than we used to be. If you’re like me, you’ll look for the easy way out. I’m always looking for the “quick fix” when it comes to exercising. I love working out at the gym because I find working on the machines more entertaining and effective than when I’m left to my own devices. But then, taking a run outside has its advantages too. Which one is really better?

In eleven randomized and non-randomized trials that recorded information from 833 adults, exercising outdoors showed to be the reigning champion. Researches found that working out outside in natural environments made subjects feel more refreshed, increased energy and decreased feelings of depression and anxiety.

But, did these studies actual measure the fitness of the subjects? Subjects may FEEL more refreshed, but are their bodies physically improving alongside their state of mind? And, were all subjects generally the same age or did the ages vary? Exercise amongst young adults versus those who are middle aged most certainly could vary. And how do we know how rigorous subjects are exercising in the gym? This could very from person to person. Not to mention, the environment that a person is surrounded with. If it’s freezing cold outside in Pennsylvania it’s debatable as to how happy a person would feel exercising outdoors than if it’s 72 degrees and sunny in California. Personally, I would much rather be exercising in 72 degree weather.

In comparison, a study performed on older adults found that those who exercised outside had a tendency to work out for longer periods of time. Subjects were on average around 66 years old or older. Those who worked out outside – mainly through walking – were more active than those who worked out indoors, on average spending 30 minutes more exercising.

It’s clear that this study as well cannot be applicable to the total population as it only gathered information from adults in the later years of their life. Will working out outside motivate me to work out more as opposed to working out inside? Is it strictly psychological? Scientists haven’t found any concrete evidence that working out indoors is worse for you than working out outdoors. Since actual physical fitness was not measured I don’t think we can draw any significant conclusions as to which is more advantageous.

Bottom line, if you’re looking for a short cut to that summer beach bod, working out indoors is just as effective as working out outdoors, you might just be a little happier if you’re outside. Although, your outside surroundings could affect how you feel as well.


Breast Feeding vs. Baby Formula

baby bottles


My sisters and I have to completely different body types, I’m pretty tall and curvy while they are both short and very thin. I’ve always wondered why we have such different figures, when I asked my mom she told me that it was because I was given baby formula while they were breast-fed. And now I wonder if there is a difference in how formula or breast milk affects a baby’s development.

Infants who are exclusively breastfed for six months – not having any other solids or liquids other than human milk – are less likely to become subject to gastrointestinal infection. This is found by assessing information provided by 23 independent studies from 11 developing countries. A majority of these studies found that children subject to exclusive breastfeeding have no significant difference in height, weight, or body mass index at 6.5 years of age in comparison to those who are not exclusively breastfed.

As always we must consider any underlying facts. Could the country itself be a factor in this study? It’s safe to say that the people United States has different eating habits than those in countries such as Finland or Belarus. We have access to foods other countries have difficulty finding and vise versa. Is it possible that the food of the countries women live in can have an effect on the quality of their breast milk? Also, does the amount of times that a mother feeds her child have an affect on development? Will a child who is fed 5 times a day be consuming more nutrients than those who are fed 3 times a day? These facts are not given in the study.

In comparison, a study that compared the feeding habits in siblings during infancy and how they affected their development found that the sibling who was bottle fed did better on 10 of the 11 outcomes studied. Researches took note of 3 physical measures (BMI, obesity and asthma diagnosis), 3 behavioral indicators (hyperactivity, parental attachment and behavioral compliance) as well as five outcomes used to predict academic achievement (Vocabulary Test, Reading Recognition, Math Ability, Wechsler Intelligence Scale, and scholastic competence).

This study was performed on siblings 4 to 14 years of age. Some discrepancies could be that the children aren’t fully matured yet. What if one should go through puberty slower than the other, but in the end they both end up with similar physical, behavioral, and academic attributes? And are health issues taken into account? Are they a part of the study?

Although most people will say that breast feeding is better than baby formula, we can’t be completely sure that a child will develop better if exclusively breastfed.






My little sister has ADHD. It’s not a huge deal, yeah she fidgets a lot and she rarely ever hears anything I say but she lives a normal life save for having to take a pill before she goes off to school. But ever since I was little I always wondered how she got it. Was it genetics? Was it contagious? I remember when I asked my dad when we were little and he told me, “it’s because she watched T.V. when she should have been doing her homework, maybe you’ll listen to me now.” And honestly, little 10 year old me was scared to the bone. I didn’t want to have to take a pill every morning and my mom always got irritated with my sister when she wouldn’t listen to her, I didn’t want that. Eventually I got over the fear of getting ADHD, which is absurd in all aspects, but I still wonder if watching T.V. can directly cause ADHD.

A cross sectional research study used the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to determine hyperactivity as a result of the amount of television children ages 1 to 3 watched daily. The study concluded that for the 1278 children at age 1 and the 1345 children at age 3, ten percent had attention issues at age 7. Records state, “In a logistic regression model, hours of television viewed per day at both ages 1 and 3 was associated with attention problems at age 7 (1.09 [1.03-1.15] and 1.09 [1.02 – 1.16]), respectively.”

The study concluded that exposure to television early in a child’s life is linked to hyperactivity and attention problems at age 7. I believe that to like television exposure to hyperactivity is reasonable. With video games and T.V. shows nowadays, none of the content is remotely slow moving or mentally relaxing. But, what if children are exposed to more television later in life? If a child watches a significant amount of television at age 7, but rarely watched any at the age of 1 or 3, is he still subject to the same probability of forming an attention deficit disorder?

A different study in 2007 compared television watching in a group of children with A.D.H.D. and a group of children without A.D.H.D. In this study, experts found that the environment the child was surrounded n had a big effect on the comprehension of televised stories. Researchers found that although children with A.D.H.D. could recall facts and the plot line just as well as kids without A.D.H.D. could, they had a harder time comprehending the purpose of the narrative and what was most important .

So, does television help in causing A.D.H.D.? Somewhat. Can television be the only reason some children develop A.D.H.D.? Certainly not. Although these studies were done on children at a very young age or on children who had already been diagnosed. These leaves me to wonder if children at the ages of 7 to 9 were exposed to the same amount of television as those at the ages of 1 to 3, are they likely to develop A.D.H.D. at the age of 13?


The Lags of Jet Lag

plane Choosing to go to college in Pennsylvania was one of the biggest decisions I have ever made in my whole life. Coming from California, I knew I was going to face a few challenges when I moved to the east coast. There are the obvious financial costs, homesickness, and drastic weather change, but then there are other things that I didn’t think about when moving across the country. One of the lesser, but still aggravating, problems that I have encountered over this past semester is jet lag. Exhaustion, loss of appetite, headaches, and lack of concentration are common when flying across multiple time zones. Although I love going to Penn State with all my heart (WE ARE!), jet lag can be a pain to deal with.

Many studies have been done to help frequent flyers manage symptoms of jet lag after their long flights. In a double blind, placebo controlled crossover trial; twenty volunteers were sent from New Zealand, to London and back then given a dose of melatonin or a placebo to measure the effect of melatonin on jet lag. Subjects were given 5 mg of the melatonin or placebo before and during their flight, as well as once a day for three days after their arrival. Subjects were then given a questionnaire that asked them about their fatigue and activity. The study found that symptoms of jet lag were less in those who were taking the melatonin as these subjects returned to a normal sleep pattern and regular energy levels more quickly; concluding that melatonin was affective in reducing the effects of jet lag.

Personally, I wasn’t a fan of getting melatonin to deal with my jet lag, as it was inconvenient to have to go to the nearest drug store to find a bottle of supplements. So, I researched further and found a different study that concluded that coffee could also assist in reducing the effects of jet lag.

This study used caffeine in comparison to melatonin. Twenty-seven subjects, all reservists of the US Air Force, received a 300 mg dose of slow-release caffeine, a 5 mg dose of melatonin or a placebo before, during and/or after a their trans meridian flight. Researches took saliva and urine samples from the subjects in order to test hormone rhythms during the 4 days. The study found that although melatonin works more quickly than caffeine does in ridding of jet lag, both can help to reduce it’s tiring effects.

These studies provided the sufficient amount of information I needed to figure out how to get rid of the irritating symptoms of jet lag. Although, the subjects used in these studies were traveling much farther distances than I do. Since melatonin and caffeine helped subjects who were flying across continents, then they are more than likely to assist people who are only flying across the country. Melatonin might be a healthier and more effective choice than caffeine, and the study could be considered more reliable as it was a double blind.




Sleep and the Freshmen 15

We’ve all heard of the dreaded “freshmen 15”; a combination of cafeteria food, late night munchies, and lots of partying contribute to that unwanted weight gain. But, what if there is another underlying factor?

Back home I used to get a decent amount of sleep on average about 7 to 8 hours a night. When I came to Penn State and got into the swing of things I would say I’m down to about 5 hours of sleep on a daily basis. I noticed that I wasn’t as energized in the mornings and that I was feeling sluggish more often than not, I still go to the gym regularly and even eat healthier than I used to. Yet, I could see myself getting a little bit curvier around the edges and I couldn’t help but wonder why. I learned in my psych class that lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, and so I looked further into it.

kid sleeping

On average, college students get around 6 hours of sleep when most adults need between 7 and 10 hours of sleep. This article states that children between 5 and 10 years of age are 89% more likely to be obese when they sleep less than 10 hours a night. Adults who sleep less than 5 hours a night are 55% more likely to be obese. But, don’t take this as encouragement to sleep 10+ hours a night. As much as getting too little sleep is bad for you, getting too much sleep is harmful as well. Of course, the amount of sleep you should get is subjective to each individual person, but getting too much sleep often causes constant grogginess and decreases a person’s awareness. To add, individuals who have the habit of going to sleep late and waking up late are 2.2 times more likely to be obese than those who go to sleep early and wake up early, even if they get the same amount of sleep.

This is interesting considering that the typical college experiences include a lot of late nights and early mornings during the week, as well as a lot of late nights and late mornings during the weekend. That’s a double whammy. No wonder college students are gaining weight their first couple years of college. Other consequences of sleep loss include more illness, higher anxiety, lower GPA, and decreased athletic performance. To sum it up, as much as college students might think we are young and indestructible, we need sleep as much as our parents do.


Cell Phones and a C Average


Cell phones are everywhere. Just take a look around you when you’re walking the campus streets or when you’re sitting at the Hub. I, like most college students, am guilty of a very severe cell phone addiction. As I sit here trying to spit out as many blog posts as I can while the night is young I catch myself checking my phone every 5 minutes or so. Regardless of how social I think I am, I rarely have a constant stream of notifications popping up on my phone, yet I habitually check my phone as if I’m waiting for the president to contact me at any moment on a Tuesday night. So I wonder, what effect does cell phones have on our daily lives? For this blog post in particular, what effect do they have on our grades and happiness?

A study was done at Kent State University where researchers surveyed around 500 undergraduate students, recording how much they use their cell phones on a daily basis, measuring their happiness, and retrieving their grade point averages. The study found that generally students who use their cell phone more on a daily basis have lower grades, higher anxiety, and less happiness. Considering that this is one relatively small study only considering the students from one university, we know that this information is not necessarily applicable to the student population as a whole. And measuring happiness could be subjective to that day, that week, or month whatever it may be. But it does bring forward some interesting information as to how cell phones maybe be affecting our success in school.

Cellular distractions aren’t just limited to the late hours of the night when you’re trying to type a paper due the next day, we see students using them in small classes, large lectures and everything in between. During a particularly boring lecture students are scrolling through Twitter, commenting on Facebook, and reblogging on Tumblr. It makes sense that if you’re in the back of the classroom snapchatting your friends instead of listening to your professor, your grades will be somewhat lower than they could be. Could cell phones be making students unhappy and anxious too? It seems unlikely when cell phones could be a source of happiness, getting an IPhone 6 in the mail would make me pretty happy. But, let’s say you just went on a date with a really awesome person and you think it could really go somewhere. When you parted ways last night he or she said the infamous and nerve wracking, “I’ll call you later.” Over the next week you’re checking your phone, thinking about why he/she hasn’t called you yet, maybe your phone is broken, talking to your friends about how you don’t think he/she is actually going to call. Your anxiety might be a little higher than normal. In perspective, that’s a whole week of classes that you were physically there for, but mentally your thoughts were elsewhere. How much class content do you think you would miss while freaking out over a phone call, text message, even an email for an entire week?

All in all, I think we all might be a little better off if we show a little self-discipline in respect to our cell phone usage. Of course, this is easier said than done. I’ve had my roommate hide my phone until I’m done with an assignment on several occasions. Maybe leave your cell phone in your room when you leave for class or have a friend change your passcode for the duration of an assignment. In the long run, less cell phone usage might be best.


Sleep Theories


College students anywhere and everywhere could agree that sleep is very, very important. Why? There are so many reasons as to why people like sleep, ranging anywhere from making a person feel healthy and energized, to being a route of escape from a certain reality. But from a health perspective, why do we need sleep?

Even after years and years of research scientists are still unsure of why humans need sleep to function properly on a day-to-day basis. Experiments examining what happens when people are sleep deprived, to comparing the sleep patterns of various organisms have been conducted to try and help scientists figure out why people need sleep; but still there is no confident answer.

There are several theories scientists have as to why we sleep, these include: the inactivity theory, the energy conservation theory, the restorative theory, and the brain plasticity theory. The inactivity theory goes off of an adaptive or evolutionary standpoint that animals are their quietest and engage in the most minimal amount of movement while sleeping, therefore being able to go unnoticed by predators during the night. Basically saying that sleeping is a feature humans adopted through the process of natural selection. The energy conservation theory supports that sleep helps to lower a person’s need and use of energy at times when it is most difficult to find food. Research supporting this theory would be that a person’s metabolism is lowered up to ten percent during sleep. The energy conservation theory is closely related to the inactivity theory in that both apply to more primal features and characteristics that may have been acquired through natural selection. The restorative theory says that the human body heals and refreshes itself through the body’s release of hormones and other restorative properties during the hours a person sleeps. Research has found that certain types of muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormones are only released while a person is asleep. The brain plasticity theory explains that a person’s ability to learn and adapt properly is dependent upon sleep as brain development occurs the most while a person is sleeping. Scientists have found that sleep plays a substantial role in learning and memory.

None of these theories have been proven, and as we have learned in SC200 anything is up to chance. Which of these theories do you think is the most reasonable as to why people need sleep?


First Post

Hi, my name is Kaylani Chang and I am from Orange County, California. I am doing this course because it’s not a typical science course that just requires me to regurgitate facts. I am currently in the College of Communications, majoring in advertising and I am not a science major because the abundance of science classes I’ve taken in the past fried my brain and made me want to cry. Here’s a live link. And here’s a picture: