Author Archives: Macy Cellitti

Waking Up During Surgery

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you woke up during a surgery? What would you feel? Would you be able to hear, see, or speak? Hopefully you’ve never actually had the experience and never will, but unfortunately Carol Weihrer did while undergoing eye surgery.

Weihrer said she could hear what the surgeons were saying and felt a tugging sensation on her eye, but she couldn’t move or speak. She tried screaming and getting up off of the operating table, but she was paralyzed. Weihrer continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (Sathya para. 2).

In the largest study of its kind, researchers surveyed more than 3 million patients who received general anesthesia in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Of those 3 million, approximately one in 19,600 patients accidentally woke up during surgery (Sathya para. 6). That’s roughly 153 people. I believe the article chose to word it “one in 19,600” to make it sound larger and more impressive. Studies in the US reported a much higher rate of 1 in 1,000 patients.

However, there are variables to consider here. It’s probably safe to assume that these cases occurred during different kinds of surgeries for different patients, considering the study doesn’t state otherwise and that would assure that the data was collected diversely. Because of this, isn’t it possible that patients are more likely to wake up during certain surgeries that require a lighter dosage of anesthesia? Perhaps it’s dosages for specific surgeries that’s the problem.

Patients described a range of sensations while being conscious during surgery, including choking, paralysis, pain, hallucinations, and near-death experiences. 75% of these reported episodes lasted under five minutes. Nearly half of all patients who were conscious during surgery suffer from PTSD and depression for a long period of time afterward (Sathya para. 10).

In the US, over 21 million patients receive general anesthesia. Experts estimate that roughly 26,000 of these patients experience anesthetic awareness. Even if the new relatively low rate found in this new study were applied, at least 1,000 Americans each year would still wake up during surgery (Sathya para. 14).

That seems like too many people to me. Hopefully, now that studies have made us aware of this problem, steps can start being taken toward fixing this problem and lowering the numbers.

Works Cited

Sathya, Chethan. “‘I Couldn’t Move’: Patients Who Wake up during Surgery.”CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.


The Health Benefits of Massages

Everyone loves a good massage. The relaxing of your muscles, the slowing of your breathing, the feeling as your aching body is pressed and kneaded back into its original flexible self. So just how good are these massages for you?

Getting a massage causes your muscles to unclench, a racing heart rate to slow, heightened blood pressure to fall, and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, to drop. “Cortisol suppresses the immune response,” said Roberta Lee, MD (Dworkin-McDaniel para. 1). That means the more cortisol in your body, the weaker you immune system is. So basically, the less cortisol the better.

Based off of that information, getting massaged can even improve your immune system. “Anything that increases the relaxation response triggers the restoration of your immune response,” Lee explained (Dworkin-McDaniel para. 2). Restoring your immune response is a good thing that can keep you healthier by being able to fight off more illnesses.

Researchers conducted a study where they measured the immune function in healthy adults who got either a 45-minute Swedish massage or lighter touch massage. The massaged group had substantially more white blood cells, which can help fight viruses and other pathogens. The massaged group also had fewer types of inflammatory cytokines, which are associated with autoimmune diseases (Dworkin-McDaniel para. 3). In summary, getting massages potentially makes you healthier.

Lead study author Mark Rapaport, MD said “it’s not an unreasonable speculation” to wonder whether regular massages could actually keep you from catching a cold. However, for now, it’s too soon to tell.

Works Cited

Dworkin-McDaniel, Norine. “Touching Makes You Healthier.” CNN. Cable News Network, 05 Jan. 2011. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.

A Whole New Meaning to “Taking Your Own Advice”

We’ve seen it in TV shows, movies, and throughout life. Someone is giving advice to someone else, and partway through they have the moment of realization where what they are saying can be applied directly to their own personal problems as well. We always say we should take our own advice, but just how helpful would that be?

According to a study conducted at Stanford, it would be very helpful. Undergraduate students were asked to write letters to “at-risk” middle school students in an attempt to help them through hard times and get them to stay in school. The undergrads were instructed to share personal stories about how they too experienced difficult struggles throughout school but persevered and eventually found academic success. They were also told to emphasize the idea that natural ability is overrated – that intelligence “is not a finite endowment but rather an expandable capacity” (Barker para. 2).

You’re probably wondering if these letters actually helped the middle school students.  That’s a good question…but they were never sent. This study was conducted to see if the college students who wrote the letters had more positive experiences academically after writing them. It turns out they did.

Months after composing the letters, the writers were still reporting greater enjoyment of school than were other Stanford undergrads. Even their grade point averages were higher by a third of a point on a four-point scale.

This experimental study reminds me of hearing that if you’re really angry with someone, you should write them a heated letter explaining how you feel and then throw it away without sending it. Apparently then you’ll feel better and you won’t be as upset with that person anymore because you got all of your feelings out on paper. It’s amazing how writing letters for different purposes can make people feel better. Perhaps the next time I’m feeling down, I’ll write a letter to no one in particular and see how I feel after.

Works Cited

Barker, Eric. “11 Scientific Studies That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” The Week. N.p., 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.
Barker, Eric. “Can You Best Reach Your Own Potential by Helping Others Reach Theirs?” Barking Up The Wrong Tree. N.p., 18 Aug. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.


The More Happy Events, The Happier the Person?

Many people think that the more often positive things happen to you, the happier you are. As it turns out, that isn’t true. Happy people don’t experience a larger amount of happy life events than unhappy people. Happiness depends more on perspective, how prone you are to depression, and getting enough sleep.

Ed Diener and Martin Seligman screened over 200 undergraduates for levels of happiness. Then, they compared the upper 10% with the middle and bottom 10%, the upper being considered extremely happy. It was found that the upper 10% experienced no more positive life events than the other two groups (Barker).

These results are probably surprising for most people. It makes sense to assume that the more happy events you experience, the happier you’ll be. It’s very interesting that an observational study such as this proved the opposite.

In another study, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues asked 909 employed women to record their previous day’s experiences in detail in order to track their moods and activities. They found that most major life circumstances, including women’s household income and various features of their jobs, were correlated only minimally with their happiness (Barker).

In comparison, women’s sleep quality and proneness toward depression were good predictors of their happiness. Based off of these studies, it’s important to remember not to be too jealous when it appears that someone is experiencing many happy events in their life. It’s possible that they’re still not truly happy on the inside.

Works Cited

Barker, Eric. “11 Scientific Studies That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” The Week. N.p., 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.

Barker, Eric. “Are the Big Events in Life Most Responsible for Your Happiness?” Barking Up The Wrong Tree. N.p., 7 Apr. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.


Infidelity v. Dirty Dishes

Have you ever wondered why your sister’s dirty laundry being left on the bathroom floor can absolutely infuriate you, while your boyfriend cheating on you can somehow be rationalized in your head? No? Just me? Well, Daniel Gilbert from Harvard decided to conduct three studies on this phenomenon. Why do people bounce back more easily from tougher problems?

People mistakenly expect intense unpleasant psychological states to last longer than mild ones. This is an easy assumption to make, considering it would theoretically make sense to be more upset about a divorce over a slow elevator.

In the first study, participants mistakenly predicted that the more they initially disliked a transgressor, the longer their dislike would last. In the second study, participants predicted that their dislike for a transgressor who hurt them a lot would last longer than their dislike for a transgressor who hurt them a little, but precisely the opposite resulted. In the third study, participants predicted that their dislike for a transgressor who hurt them a lot would last longer than their dislike for a transgressor who hurt someone else a lot, but, again, precisely the opposite was the case (Barker para. 1).

These mistaken predictions can be attributed to a phenomenon known as the region-beta paradox. It is defined as “the phenomenon that people can sometimes recover more quickly from more intense emotions or pain than from less distressing experiences” (Region-beta Paradox para. 1).

We rationalize big problems, not little ones. An example given describes a wife rationalizing her husband cheating on her as men needing to try it once and get it out of their systems, while his annoying habits, such as leaving dirty dishes in the sink, are not rationalized at all (Barker para. 2).  Most people would never dismiss a family member leaving dirty dishes in the sink as “needing to get it out of their systems” or some other justification. We don’t rationalize such things, so we become more angry because in our minds there’e no excuse.

Works Cited

Barker, Eric. “11 Scientific Studies That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.” The Week. N.p., 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.

Barker, Eric. “Do We Bounce Back Quickest When Life Hurts Us the Most?”Barking Up The Wrong Tree. N.p., 11 Jan. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.

“Region-beta Paradox.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Nov. 2014. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <>.


The Science of Procrastination

I personally struggle with procrastination on a daily basis. For example, this is my first post for this blogging period. I’m not proud of it, and always feel bad while I’m doing it, so why do I still engage in this horrible habit over and over again? I decided this would be the perfect topic to research.

Experts define procrastination as “the voluntary delay of some important task that we intend to do, despite knowing that we’ll suffer as a result” (Jaffe para. 3).

One of the first studies done on procrastination was published in Psychological Science in 1997. College students were rated on a scale of procrastination.  Then, their academic performance, stress, and general health were tracked throughout the semester. Initially, those who procrastinated showed lower levels of stress, most likely because of putting off their work to engage in more pleasurable activities. However, in the end procrastinators received lower grades and reported higher amounts of stress and illness (Jaffe para. 8).

I believe this observational study shows that procrastination is not worth it. Although it may be fun at first, it’s not worth the stress and suffering at the end. However, being able to recognize that it’s a bad habit doesn’t cure someone from it. Most people who procrastinate already know it’s not the ideal method for getting work done, and yet they still do it. Another study was done to put the negative effects of procrastination into perspective and try to explain this issue.

Students were brought into a lab and were told they would be engaging in a math puzzle at the end of the session. Some students were told the task was an important test of their cognitive abilities, while others were told it was made to be meaningless and fun. Before completing the puzzle, the students had a time period where they could either prepare for the task or play games like Tetris. As a result, chronic procrastinators only delayed practicing for the puzzle when it was described as a cognitive evaluation. When it was described as fun, they behaved no differently from non-procrastinators (Jaffe para. 9).

The results of this experimental study initially surprised me. I would have assumed that the students would be more likely to procrastinate if it were a meaningless puzzle. However, after thinking about it, it makes sense. I only procrastinate important school work, never anything that appears fun or unnecessary. “The chronic procrastinator, the person who does this as a lifestyle, would rather have other people think that they lack effort than lacking ability,” says Joseph Ferrari, a professor from the study. “It’s a maladaptive lifestyle” (Jaffe para. 10).

That’s a hard pill to swallow. It appears that procrastination is way more than a bad habit. It’s a true problem in the brain. Ferrari compared it this way: Chronic procrastinators can’t be told to just get things done anymore than a depressed person can be told to cheer up.

Works Cited

Jaffe, Eric. “Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination.” Association for Psychological Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <>.


What makes yawning so contagious?

This post is about humans, but I couldn’t help uploading this picture.  Just look at the puppy, it’s so cute!  Anyway, I’ve grown up being told that yawning is contagious.  I’ve always found this to be quite interesting.  Most people are under the impression that yawning is contagious for reasons such as empathy, energy levels, or tiredness.  Well, a new study from Duke University suggests that this isn’t the case at all.

This is the most comprehensive study about contagious yawning to date.  The study involved taking 328 healthy volunteers and having them complete cognitive testing, a demographic survey, and a comprehensive questionnaire that measured empathy, energy levels, and sleepiness. Then they watched a three minute video of people yawning and recorded how many times it made them yawn (Duke Medicine para. 8). Of the 328 people studied, 222 contagiously yawned at least once, and the participants that did yawned between one and 15 times during the video (Duke Medicine para. 10).

So if it wasn’t empathy, energy levels, or tiredness, what was it that made these people contagiously yawn? Researchers found that the only independent factor that significantly influenced contagious yawning was age.  As their age increased, participants were less likely to yawn at the video (Duke Medicine para. 11).

Study author Elizabeth Cirulli, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Center for Human Genome Variation at Duke University School of Medicine, elaborates, “Age was the most important predictor of contagious yawning, and even age was not that important. The vast majority of variation in the contagious yawning response was just not explained” (Duke Medicine para. 12).

Even after conducting this extensive study, contagious yawning still largely remains a mystery to scientists.  At least now they have age as a hint or stepping stone to work off of.  It’s amazing to me that something so simple can still remain so inexplicable.

In my opinion, this experiment was well-executed.  The conductors of the study were sure to get a diverse group of volunteers.  If they had not done this, it might not have been possible to discover age as a factor.  Reverse causation was not a possibility in this experiment because the video can cause participants to yawn, but the participants’ yawning cannot do anything to the video.  If these results are incorrect and age is not a factor, it would be a false negative.

Works Cited:

Duke Medicine News and Communications. “Contagious Yawning May Not Be Linked to Empathy; Still Largely Unexplained.” Duke Medicine. N.p., 14 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

Just how bad are energy drinks?

Growing up, I never drank energy drinks because my mom would always yell at my dad for drinking 5 Hour Energy, going on and on about how bad they are for him.  Now that I’m in college, however, I’ve started drinking Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Drinks to help me stay alert enough to get my homework done on top of studying, going to class, working, and eating a meal at some point.  But every time I crack one open, I can hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head.  This made me wonder what is specifically bad about energy drinks, so I decided to do a little research and find out.

Energy drinks are sold as nutritional supplements.  Because of this, the FDA does not regulate or limit the ingredients put in these drinks.  This makes it very possible that we may not know what we are truly ingesting when we drink these products (Koelliker para. 3).  That’s a scary thought.  Even soda has a limit as to how much caffeine can be in it, and the ingredients are printed right on the can.

Many people tend to forget that caffeine is a psychoactive drug.  Too much of it can cause headaches, tremors, heart palpitations, and nausea.  At even higher levels, it can cause seizures, mania, hallucinations, and strokes (Schumaker para. 4).

Minors are especially prone to taking part in this new energy drink phenomenon.  Since they don’t (or shouldn’t) have access to alcohol or other kinds of drugs, energy drinks are a fun, cheap, and easy way to get wound up and have fun.  This is especially dangerous because “high levels of caffeine have been associated with harmful neurologic and cardiovascular effects in children, and drinks containing stimulants should never be given for hydration or as a supplement to young persons” (Koelliker para. 9).  Even The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that energy drinks should never be consumed by children or adolescents (Koelliker para. 8), and yet there’s no age limit.

Energy drink-related visits to the emergency room have nearly doubled between 2007 and 2011, and about 80% of adults in the US consume caffeine daily (Schumaker).  These startling facts should be proof enough that energy drinks are a huge problem affecting a large portion of our population.  If energy drinks were regulated like soda is, they wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous as they are.  However, until that changes, energy drinks should be something we all avoid if possible.  They have dangerous amounts of caffeine and other unknown ingredients in them, and can cause some pretty horrible side effects. I guess my mom was right, energy drinks are bad.

Works Cited:

Koelliker, Diana, MD. “Just How Bad Are Energy Drinks?” Telluride Medial Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

Schumaker, Erin. “Just How Dangerous Are Energy Drinks, Anyway?” The Huffington Post., 23 June 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <>.

Can caffeine cause anxiety?

I suffer from anxiety and depression.  These are issues that influence my life on a daily basis, so I am quite attuned to them.  I started to notice that sometimes, while I was drinking coffee, I would begin to have those tell-tale feelings of anxiety, and it made me wonder if it was the coffee triggering these attacks.  After doing a little research, I found that I am not the only one out there who suffers from this specific problem.

Coffee has been becoming more and more popular. It is now considered stylish to be walking down the street with a disposable Starbucks or Dunkin cup in our hands.  They can be found all over Instagram as proof.  Coffee shops are where people go to catch up with friends, study, have meetings, and more.  With this new societal norm in mind, researchers have become increasingly concerned with caffeine’s role in panic and other anxiety disorders.  Roland Griffiths, PhD, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine says, “People often see coffee, tea, and soft drinks simply as beverages rather than vehicles for a psychoactive drug. But caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and panic disorders.”

How, you may ask.  Caffeine works by blocking the depressant function of a chemical called adenosine.  For most people, the result is a pleasurable feeling of energy and the ability to focus (Vogin para. 7).  However, that same energy-inducing drug can cause the jitters.  In people predisposed to anxiety disorders, caffeine can trigger increased heart rate, sweaty palms, ringing ears, all leading to a full blown panic attack (Vogin para. 8).  So why does caffeine make some of us feel great and induce panic in others? People with anxiety disorders experience caffeine’s affects as signs of impending doom.  This then allows their anxiety to take over.

One study has found that, among healthy college students, moderate and high level coffee drinkers scored higher on a depression scale than low users (Murray para. 2).  Several other studies have found that caffeine intake has been positively correlated with the degree of mental illness in psychiatric patients, especially related to panic disorders and depression (Murray para. 3).

Of course, these study results could also be due to chance.  It is possible that caffeine had nothing to do with it, but my personal experience leads me to believe these results are accurate.  If these results are wrong, they are a false positive.  In class, Andrew talked about the harmful affects of sugary drinks.  It is important to remember that the caffeine in these drinks can be harmful also.

Works Cited:

Murray, Michael T. “Can Caffeine Worsen Depression And Anxiety?” MindBodyGreen. N.p., 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.
Vogin, Gary. “Brewing Trouble.” MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2014. <>.

First Blog Post

Hi everyone! My name’s Macy and I’m from Sunbury, Pennsylvania. I’m taking this course for two reasons. The first reason is because my Communications advisers put a list of the easiest science and math classes on the board the day we scheduled at NSO. Needless to say, this was one of those courses. The second reason I chose this class is because the description of the course caught my attention. It sounded like a science class I could finally enjoy, contribute to, and find interest in. I’m not currently planning on being a science major because science was never something I had a passion for or particularly enjoyed. However, I have no idea what I want to do with my life just yet, so I guess it’s not 100% off the table. Here’s a picture of me and my roommate Maria.

Shameless self-promotion! Twitter: @MacyCellitti Instagram: macycellitti