Author Archives: Alana Marie D'agnese

Is it true that elephants never forget?

I always admired Elephants for their beauty, strength and wisdom. They are widely known their memory, but is it true that elephants never forget?

A study was conducted to examine the hippocampus of the African elephant and compare its size and “neuroanatomical description” to the hippocampus of  other mammals and even humans. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is the center of emotion, memory, and the nervous system. To do this they took three wild male elephants betwdownload (2)een the ages of 20 and 30 and put them through an MRI. Results showed that the absolute size of the hippocampuses are relatively the same, but the volume of the elephant’s hippocampus is slightly larger than that of a human’s. However, the “individual neronal elements of the elephant’s hippocampus may be more complexly organized than other mammals, in terms of dendritic field size, branching complexity and spine numbers” (Patzke, Olaleye,Haagensen, Hof, Ihunwo, Manager, 1). It makes sense that elephants are known for their memory since, human’s also have long term memory and their hippo campuses are very similar. But, when compared to other mammals, they are idolized for their ability to remember.

An observational study, published in 2008, observed the survival rate of calves in a drought with older mothers and younger mothers. The results showed a correlations between the mother’s age and number of calf causalities; younger mother’s had a lower calf survivalAfrican elephant (Loxodonta africana) and calf walking, Masai Mara N.R, Kenya rate than older mothers. The reason for this could be that the older mothers remember what they did in the last droughts and where to find the resources. This supports that elephants have good memories.

Some anecdotal evidence that supports that elephants never forget is that they can grieve for years. According to and article on PBS, ” When an elephant walks past a place that a loved one died he or she will stop and take a silent pause that can last several minutes. While standing over the remains, the elephant may touch the bones of the dead elephant (not the bones of any other species), smelling them, turning them over and caressing the bones with their trunk” (PBS 1). It is possible that they could be reliving memories in their mind with the deceased.

The take away: There is no way to scientifically prove that memories last forever, whether it is an elephant or a human. However, these studies strongly support the notion that elephants have the ability to remember events that occurred decades go. This also explains why they feel grieve and stress so deeply. Check out this really cute video of two elephants being reunited after 20 years!


The accuracy of polygraph tests

In my last blog post I talked about how a person can detect a liar and what type of person is best at it. In this post I want to explore polygraph tests and their accuracy. For those who don’t know, a polygraph test is a machine that records the body movements of a person while the instructor asks them a number of questions. It measures heart rate, blood pressure, and activeness of the person’s sweat glands.


Null Hypothesis: Polygraph test’s  are not accurate lie detectors.

Alternative Hypothesis: Polygraph test’s are accurate lie detectors.

Even though this is a very prevalent and controversial topic, I found it hard to find accurate studies regarding the accuracy polygraphs. Polygraph tests don’t directly detect lies. The instructor draws conclusions from the responses of the body to the “Control Question Technique”. He’ll ask questions about the situation, but he’ll also ask control questions that are completely unrelated to the situation and then analyze the body reactions to each question. If a person is lying, their heart rate will increase or they will perspire more.  However, there are many third variables that can affect the test such as how the examiner asks the questions and how the suspect interprets the questions. Also a person’s anxiety about the test could affect the results.

According to Richard Wiseman, professor of the public understanding of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, testing the accuracy is difficult,”because you can’t simply ask a criminal whether he was lying or not, the only method would be to use polygraphs in cases where the true answer had already been established using other evidence. Then it would be possible to check the polygraph’s responses against reality in a high-stakes situation.If the examiner was unaware of the true answers, then that would be a proper double-blind scientific study. But there have been very few trials like that.” (Chivers 1). He also says that the test could give false-positives and wrongly accuse innocent people of lying.

Another thing that puts the validity of this test in jeopardy is the ability to cheat on it.  Since the instructor concludes a person is no lying when their stress levels are equal for both the control and crime questions. You can think scary thoughts or inflict physical pain on yourself to increase your heart rate and make yourself sweat. Taking an anti-depressant before the test can also affect the results.

To conclude: I would accept the null hypothesis and reject the alternative hypothesis.




Liar Liar

I watch a show on Netflix called Lie To Me. It’s about a man who studies facial expressions, body language and how they say things to help law enforcement tell when someone is lying. Here is the intro played before each episode. It shows that, the smallest movements could be an indicator that the person is trying to hide something. We are all guilty of lying, whether it is a white lie, a lie of omission or a lie of commission. A lie of omission is where you leave leave out important information and a lie of commission is a statement that is completely false. I want to find out how to catch a liar?  And Who is best at catching a liar?

This article on the different non-verbal signals people make when they are lying and it gives the biological explanation as to why they do it which is extremely interesting. A liar may blink more than the average person. Or they may touch their neck, that is a common psychological response for a person to do when they feel threatened. “Men tend to grasp the front of the neck and in the process stimulate the nerves such as vagus nerves and the carotid sinus. Sometimes they use a few fingers to rub the sides or the back. The gesture stimulates the area and has a calming effect. It can even reduce the heart rate.  “Women tend to cover the suprasternal notch in front of their neck. They may touch the side of the neck lightly. Sometimes this gesture is shown by touching, twisting or playing with a necklace” (Rand 1).

Some other indicators include:

  • hiding the hands
  • lifting hair off shoulders or pulling the shirt collar off your chest
  • tight lips
  • raised shoulders122199-425x283-Liar-1
  • touching the mouth
  • touching the nose
  • avoiding eye contact, unless they are a pathological liar, then they will look you straight in the eye and lie to you
  • use of word fillers: “um”
  • long pauses
  • sweating

I would assume that the best lie detectors would be the people who do it as their profession such as police, detectives and even some psychologists. However, a meta-analysis study conducted by Michael Aamondt and Heather Custer shows different results. They looked at 108 studies that had 16,537 subjects. The study looked at gender, age, experience and education. They concluded that “professional lie catchers” such as police officers, detectives, judges, and psychologists were no more accurate at detecting deception than were students and other citizens” (Aamondt, Custer 1). Lie detectors’ accuracy rate is 55.51% while students’ accuracy rate is  54.22%. What I take away from this is that lie detection is a skill that has to be studied and trained, and even after that it takes a special person to be able to read complete strangers. Since this study is looking at averages of types of people, it is saying that no groups of people are better at detecting lies than another group of people; but a specific policeman might be better at catching liars than a specific mom. Also, the theoretical situations they used when testing could not allow the subjects to identify deception.

The meta-analysis did find that people who have have the personality trait of self-monitoring are best at catching liars because they are very aware of their environment and are able to easily read others body and verbal language. Many criminals have this personality characteristic as the article stated that one study verified that criminals have more “insight than students and prison personnel regarding the cues that are the best to use when detecting deception” (Aamondt, Custer 1). This goes with the cliche saying, “it takes one to know one.”

To conclude, there are many ways to detect a liar. But you need to be careful that you aren’t accusing the man who is rubbing his nose of lying, when he actually just has allergies. It takes a special person to be able to detect a liar. If it were easy the government wouldn’t have to hire people to only question people or stare them down until they crack.

Does class time affect student performance?

Every college student I have ever talked to has advised me to not take an 8 am. As I scheduled my 8 am math course I reassure myself that it wouldn’t be that bad. My high school classes started at 7:30, so an 8:00 class would give me an extra half hour. As we are approaching the halfway mark through the semester, I can assure you, It’s THAT bad. This leads me to wonder how class time affects student productivity and what time of day is the most beneficial for learning.

The KBM journal of Science education published a study conducted by Stella K. Kantartzi1, Sherrice Allen, Khalid Lodhi, Robert L. Grier IV and My Abdelmajid Kassem to determine how study factors affect student’s performance in the different biology classes. They analyzed class time, gender, semester, absences and class difficulty. o-COLLEGE-CLASS-facebook
The results they found about class time varied. In the biology 150 class, students who attended afternoon classes recieved better grades than those who took morning ones. In the BOTN 210 class, class time had no affect on preformance, and in BIOL 330, students who took morning classes received higher grades. The results of this study suffer from the texas sharp shooter fallacy. They are looking at too many variables, making it hard to find one reason why morning or afternoon classes are better. They also talk about class difficulty and how more students might be absent for morning classes, which will obviously affect their grades. Then they go on to talk about how gender and semester affect absences. There is too much going on to draw an accurate conclusion from this study. A more accurate study would be conducted by looking at grades from morning and afternoon classes from classes of the same subject and difficulty.

A study conducted by psychologists, Serge Onyper and Pamela Thacher at St. Lawrence found some statistical data proving a correlation between class time and preformance. She concluded that “for every hour of class that you have later, you get about a .02 difference, so three hours of difference between class start times will result in a .06 diffference in grades” (Reimold 1).

The article also reviewed findings from Diamondback at the UNiversity of Maryland. They brought up an interesting point about students’ sleep schedule and alcohol consumption. Their study showed that students who have later classes, might not always get more sleep. They also have the tendency to drink more since they don’t have to wake up early. But, the drinking disrupts their sleep so are the really benefiting? Students with morning classes tend to stay in on weeknights and maintain a daily routine.
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That all being said, I don’t know one fully rested, non- sleep deprived college student. Although statistics prove that morning classes equate to better grades, every student is different. Some people love mornings while others simply can’t function academically at 8 am even with 8 hours of sleep. When scheduling classes, think about whats best for you academically, not socially. There is plenty of time to drink on the weekend!

How does birth month affect your personality?

Your astrology sign is determined by the month and day you are born in. I am a Gemini, ironically its symbol is the twin, and I have a twin brother. Each zodiac sign comes with a set of traits, people born that month usually have. As a Gemini, I am known to be creative, talkative, energetic and lighthearted. As far as horoscopes go, I do not see any science behind them. However, I do believe there is a correlation between personality traits and the month you are born in.
According to Mark Hamilton, a social scientist at the university of Connecticut, there are some trends between birth month and personality traits that can be clearly seen when observing a large group, but vary from individual to individual. A PLOS ONE study conducted in 2012 focused on whether birth month affected their mental states and if it made them more susceptible to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and recurrent depressive disorder. Researchers collected data from 57,971 patients from the English hospital episode statistics. The results showed that people born in January were seventeen percent more likely to develop schizophrenia than people born in July. Furthermore, people born in January were seventeen percent more likely to develop bipolar disorder than people born in September. Lastly, people born in may are more likely to develop recurrent depressive disorder than people born in November.

According to Lisa Winter, a study surveyed Hungarian students about their temperament and compared the results with their birth season. He found that people born in the spring are more likely to have “hyperthymic temperament” which means they have an “excessively positive disposition”. While those born in the summer are also hyperthymic, with a strong “cyclothymic temperament” meaning, they suffer frequent mood swings. “Those with autumn birthdays had drastically reduced tendency toward depressed moods compared to people born in winter. People with winter birthdays were found to be less likely to be irritable, compared to all other seasons” (winter 1).


I found it very interesting that most celebrities are born in the month of January and February. A 2013 study randomly selected a group of 100 celebrities varying from political figures, to athletes, to actors and found that the majority of them took the sign of Aquarius. To make this evidence more credible, they increased the study to 200 than 300 celebrities and received the same results each time. Aquarius, are known to be social, rebellious when they need to be, and very convincing. These characteristics describe celebrities very well.

To conclude, birth month has been scientifically proven to affect personality. Those born in the winter are usually more depressed than those born in the summer. According to Hamilton, the reason for this could be because winter pregnancies are more risky. As far as zodiac signs go, the scientific data does correlate with the traits of the signs. People born in the spring are more positive and the zodiac sign Gemini, is known to be more positive.

Should you run barefoot?

Many people complain that their feet hurt when they run. I was at the gym with my friend the other day and she said that she prefers to run barefoot. I found this very odd and am interested to learn the benefits of running barefoot if there are any. Running is a great source of exercise for it improves cardiovascular health, decreases risk of stroke, and has a positive effect on mood state; and running barefoot can do the same. As I looked more into this issue, running barefoot is not an uncommon activity. International athletes, Zola Budd-Pieterse and Abebe Bikila successfully compete barefoot and in doing so have had no negative effects on their respective times, but the question is why?

Michael Warburton, analyzed the effects of the equally divided barefoot and shod populations in haiti. He concluded injury rates in the lower extremities were significantly higher than those of the barefoot population. Although this suggests wearing shoes while running increases the chance of injury, there can be other explanations. Barefoot runners maybe too poor to seek medical attention for minor sprains. Those who wear shoes may wear them because of previous foot problems in past. Shod runners may also cover more distance than a barefoot runner, increasing chance for injury.


However Warburton did have an argument. Does running barefoot help prevent injury and go against every reason to buy a $200 running shoe? 79% of runners incur an injury annually, could running barefoot be the answer? Two types of injuries result in footwear are ankle sprains and plantar fasciitis “of inflammation of the ligament running along the sole of the foot” (Warbuton 1). Footware can increase the risk of sprains because it decreases the awareness of the foot position. This is due to the fact that the nerves in the foot do not make contact with the ground.

According to the researchers in the article “the function of the plantar fascia is to create a support system for the arch of the foot and to act as a shock absorber” (Hanson 1). runners who wear sneakers expect the sneakers to absorb the shock, therefore they run less cautiously, which weakens the planta fascia because it’s not being utilized and can lead to more direct impact with the ground. Barefoot runners on the other hand compensate for this lack of cushion, by flexing their foot and creating a softer landing. Barefoot runners also land mid-foot, distributing the pressure more equally and increasing the strength of the soft tissues of the foot.

Twice as many injuries occur in wearers of expensive running shoes than wearers of less expensive shoes. It could be reasoned that this is because less expensive shoes more embody the regular foot.

Running barefoot is also more economically efficient than running with shoes because your body uses less oxygen when you run barefoot. A study conducted test the velocity at peak oxygen consumption of men and women running barefoot on the ground and the treadmill and the oxygen levels of people running with sneakers on, on the ground and on the treadmill. “For each condition, subjects ran for 6 min at 70 % vVO 2 max pace while VO 2 , heart rate (HR), and rating of perceived exertion(RPE) were assessed” (Hanson 1). The results showed that across the two surfaces, running barefoot was 3.8% more economical than running with sneakers. Heart rate and rate of perceived exertion were significantly lower. The weight of the shoe can contribute to the oxygen use because it requires additionally energy to move mass of the shoe when you run.

All this being said, if you have foot problems, running barefoot is not the best option for you. For example, people who have diabetes have less sensitivity in their feet, making them more vulnerable to infection when barefoot. Also if you have really flat feet and a doctor recommends orthotics, you should not run barefoot. To conclude, it is all about preference and foot type. But studies have proven that barefoot running is healthier!

Do vitamin supplements work?

Ever since I was younger my mom made me take either a multivitamin or calcium  or vitamin D.  I used to take the ones that look and taste like gummy bears, but as I got older I started to take the pill versions. I’m curious to find out what ways vitamins benefit kids and if they even work at all. 07-1361-diet-vitamins-childrens-gummy-lil-critters_rdax_207x247Isn’t it just healthy to get the nutrients from fruits and vegetables?

Click here for an informational video on different vitamins.

From reading many articles on this I learned thattaking vitamins at certain ages can benefit you or hurt you. According to US news, “ One study of more than 8,000 infants found an association between early exposure to multivitamins (before 6 months) and both increased risk of asthma among black children as well as increased risk of food allergy among formula-fed children. In this cohort, there was also an increased risk of food allergy among all 3-year-olds who used multivitamins compared to their peers who didnot, regardless of how they were fed as infants.” Another study showed that kids ages 2-8 still lacked in vitamin D and calcium even after taking multivitamins. Which means they weren’t benefiting at all from them.the article explained that “many multis are heavy in B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc – nutrients that most young children obtained adequate amounts of from diet alone. But they’re light on vitamin D and calcium, which tend to be lacking from children’s diets.”

If parents are really concerned about their child’s vitamin deficiency, they must make sure the vitamin contains the right ingredients. Not all multivitamins are the same. Which is why “ it’s challenging to assess whether certain combinations of supplemental nutrients might be safer or more beneficial than others.”

Elizabeth Somer, a dietitian gives an example when a multivitamin is highly recommended. She explains that most children lack omega-3 fats that is important for brain development and improving sleep habits. This is a good time to give a child a multivitamin with omega-3 “on days s/he isn’t eatvi12ing well as an inexpensive way to fill the gaps. She also cautions that there’s a reason why they’re called supplements and not substitutes. You cannot feed your kids McDonald’s and a multivitamin and think all your bases are covered.”

Mayoclinic argues that “foods are the best source of nutrients… many common foods — including breakfast cereal, milk and orange juice — are fortified with important nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron. So your child may be getting more vitamins and minerals than you think.” However he he supports Elizabeth Somer’s by saying “A multivitamin might be helpful (to fill the gaps) for your child if he or she: has a delay in physical and developmental growth (failure to thrive), has certain chronic diseases or food allergies, or has a restrictive diet, such as a strict vegan diet. ”

The consensus is that if you are taking the right type of vitamins at the right time then they will be beneficial to your health but if not you can be hurting your body. The best thing to do before starting a vitamin regimen is talk to your doctor and see what he recommends.

Are comfort foods actually comforting?

Comfort food. Everyone has one. Mine is ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s half baked ice cream if you were wondering. I have never heard of someone saying their comfort food was carrots or spinach. I am interested to find out why comfort foods are almost always unhealthy food. What in them makes them so addicting and comforting?

According to webmd, researchers conducted an MRI study  of 12 healthy people to see what parts of the brain lit up when they were injected  with either saline solution or fatty acids through a feeding tube. They chose to use fatty acids because comfort food generally contain a  lot of them. They listened to sad music and watched sad images on the screen during the experiment. The results showed that “those who got the fatty acid blast reported feeling about half as sad as those who received the saline infusion.” This macandcheeseproved that eating food with high amounts of fatty acids react with brain to improve moods. That is why people steer towards the cookies or pizza when they feel alone.

I found it interesting that “people who are obese may have to eat more to get the same stimulation as normal-weight individuals.” I guess they have built up a tolerance for it over time, just as an alcoholic must consume more alcohol to get the same effects as a normal drinker would.

That being said, psychology plays an even bigger role in the reason behind comfort foods. Time Magazine suggests that we choose our comfort foods based on feelings of nostalgia. Jordan Trio92f6d4867461e7dd85f6c4d1a44bdea3si, assistant professor of psychology at Sewanee states, “It’s not just that ice cream, for instance, is really tasty. It’s that someone has developed a really significant meaning behind the idea of ice cream due to their relationships with others, and that’s what is triggering this effect.” yes, ice cream does taste good but we could be attributing a lot of the taste to nostalgia, so we think it tastes alot better than it actually does.

A study conducted by Traci Mann, refutes the conclusion above and conducts a study to support his theory that comfort food has little to no effect on our moods. “In a recent study, Mann and some colleagues induced a bad mood in 100 college students by making them watch clips from sad movies. They then fed half the students their favorite comfort food, while the other students ate food they enjoyed, but wouldn’t consider comfort food…all the students felt better, regardless of what they had eaten.”

Then Mann conducted another experiment, this time giving half the kids comfort foods and half the kids no food at all. IN the end both groups “felt equally better.” 

To conclude comfort foods can half a slight effect on the brain and improve mood but it is mostly all psychological.

Allergies :((

When I was younger I loved dogs. We could never have one though because my brother was allergic. When I was about seven or eight I noticed my nose would get itchy, my eyes would  water and my face would get blotchy from where my cousin’s dog licked me. I did not understand why I never reacted before and all of a sudden I couldn’t be around dogs without sneezing or coughing or itching. As my allergies got worse, my brothers seemed to get better. I was extremely upset and confused.

I am aware that allergies change and develop over time. I’ve hear of people growing in and out of them. Unfortunately I have not grown out of mine. According to Everyday Health, my allergies are caused by “an oversensitive immune system.” I am eager to learn: what causes dog allergies? Are they reversible naturally? What treatment options are there?

According to Health line, “Dogs secrete proteins that end up in their dander (dead skin), saliva, and urine. An allergic reaction occurs when a sensitive person’s immune system reacts abnormally to the usually harmless proteins.” This causes the itchy eyes, blotchy skin and coughing. I also found it interesting that I am not allergic to dog hair itself but the dust that it holds. So when people say you’re allergic to dog hair, they are actually wrong. They always suggest that I get a hypoallergenic dog. I have to explain to them that I’m still allergic. I thought I was one of the only ones that was allergic to ALL dogs.

Now I understand that there are technically no hypoallergenic dogs. According to Pet Education, “since the dander and not the hair is the problem, shedding is not that important in allergy control. Some breeds, in general, appear to have less dander and these include Poodles, Terriers and Schnauzers. As we mentioned earlier, many people are allergic to certain types or individual animals and not others.” Below is a picture of dogs categorized as hypoallergenic to most people. hypoallergenic

Ultimately pet education  suggests I get a reptile or a fish if I want to be 100 % allergy free. However, those do not classify as pets in my book.

Since there is no natural cure for my allergies, my only hope is to seek treatment options. Healthline lists some allergy medication that minimizes symptoms. The most common is benadryl, which I take every time I come in contact with dogs. A more effective form of treatment is allergy shots given by an allergist which “expose you to the animal protein (allergen) that is causing the reaction and help your body become less sensitive, reducing symptoms.” This option is recommended for dog owners who suffer from allergies and refuse to give up their pets.

The consensus is that if you are allergic to dogs try and see if there is one that you react less too, if not do not get a dog.  You can live vicariously through this cute dog video though!



Why should you be a yogi?

I recently got into doing yoga. I find it very fun and relaxing. I want to know what the physical and mental benefits of yoga are.  For those who don’t know, yoga is basically a combination of meditation and controlled breathing while holding certain poses.

According to the yoga journal,  “each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by “squeezing and soaking” areas of yoga_posescartilage that normally aren’t used.” Additionally, yoga also helps blood circulation. “Twisting poses are thought to wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses, such as Headstand, Handstand, and Shoulderstand, encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated.” This is extremely beneficial to people who have diabetes, anemia or nervous system disorders. I have Raynaud’s disease, which causes my hands and feet to get cold very easily and turn temporarily blue because of poor circulation. Since doing yoga I have notices that my hands and feet don’t get cold as easily.  

Yoga surprisingly takes a lot of strength and concentration. During my first class my body was shaking as I was trying to hold the poses. It’s like all the weight of the universe is pushing down on your body. According to Gaiam life, every time to you hold a pose you are actually gaining muscle because “most poses are held for five full breaths versus the usual one to three breaths. Muscles are challenged as the mind and body have to work together simultaneously to hold a position or continue a succession without giving up.

Yoga is known to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety, but what causes the brain to respond that way? According to Yoga International, “The limbic system (in the brain) is comprised of structures related to memory and emotion, such as the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus. A 2010 study found that subjects who meditated 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala—which is linked to fear and anxiety—and an increase of gray matter in the hippocampus, which plays a vital role in memory formation.”

A randomized study was conducted by researchers of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. They tested the gamma-aminobutyric acid levels of yoga practicers versus walkers.

According to Alpha Brain Knowledge, “GABA receptors in the brain are responsible balancing the excitatory inputs. If the excitatory input is not in balance, this can lead to anxiety, sleeping disorders, irritability, lack of focus and concentration.”

The study revealed that “the 12-week yoga intervention was associated with greater improvements in mood and anxiety than a metabolically matched walking exercise.” This is due to increase GABA levels.

To conclude the practice of yoga is extremely beneficial both mentally and physically and can act as a natural medicine for aches and emotional problems. Yoga is a fun activity in general because it allows one to challenge themselves. There is always room for growth and yoga has no age limit! Below is a picture of me doing yoga. Also click here if you want to follow a beginners yoga video. 11698694_869449269808358_8222454635401737396_n

Music: Moods and Focus

I love music and barely ever go a day without listening to it. I’ve heard that each genre of music changes your mood. I am curious to find out how exactly the brain responds to each type of music and what causes you to feel a certain way after listening to a song. I also am curious to figure out how much listening to music affects concentration. Since I listen to music while I do homework, will a certain genre help me work more effectively or is it just a big distraction all together? So I propose the question, how does listening to music affect one’s mood and concentration?

People tend to listen to EDM or fast paced music when they workout because it gives them more energy and motivates them to keep going. While depressed people tend to listen to slow alternative songs. Angry people might steer towards heavy metal or screamo, while content people listen to the latest pop songs on the top 100 itunes chart. According to best binaural beats these moods are associated with these genres because “when we listen to a rhythm our heart actually begins to synch with it. A slow heartbeat with a strong diastolic pressure tells our brain that something sad or depressing is occurring. Very fast beating is obviously related to excitement, whereas a dreamy rhythm with occasional upbeats can signify love or joy.” Further the BBB says how the heart rhythm affects the brain and causes changes in its psyche, which influences the person’s mood.

One could assume that sad people would want to listen to positive music to try and make themselves feel better. However, according to science alert , “A team of psychologists from the Free University of Berlin in Germany decided to investigate the science behind the lure of the melancholy tune by analyzing how they make us feel…the data revealed that nostalgia was the most prevalent emotion, brought out in over 76 percent of the participants, while peacefulness came in second place at 57.5 percent.” The article continues to talk about how our brain releases a chemical called prolactin to reduce the amount of grief felt. According to David Taylor, “it’s also released during basic human activities – like when we eat, when women ovulate or breastfeed and when we have sex.”

Now that I understand how the brain emotionally responds to listening to music, I researched how listening to music affects a person’s concentration to see whether or not it is beneficial for my work or detrimental. I’m sure many of you have heard of the Mozart Effect from first time moms playing classical music for their babies in hopes that it will make their children smaller. According to emed expert, “Mozart’s music and baroque music, with a 60 beats per minute beat pattern, activates the left and right brain. The simultaneous left and right brain action maximizes learning and retention of information. The information being studied activates the left brain while the music activates the right brain.” That’s great if you only listen to Mozart, but I prefer more recent songs. According to tech times, a study was conducted by researchers from wake forest and UNC Greensboro where “ young adults and placed them in an MRI scanner as they played songs that varied in genre.” The researchers asked them for their favorite songs and recorded how those songs affected their brain activity. They found that “ When the research subjects listened to a preferred or a favorite song of theirs, they were better connected to a part of the brain called the default mode network, which is tied to how humans are able to switch between thinking about what’s going on around them and their self-referential thoughts.” This proves that listening to music can infact help you concentrate better and focus on the task at hand.

However, researchers from the University of Wales Institute refute this and the Mozart Effect by stating that “Those studies are more to do with therapeutic interventions rather than performing tasks while background music is being played.” They conducted their own tests by having people recall a list of things in order while playing no music, music they liked and music they disliked and while playing a voice recording of someone saying the number three on repeat. They found that people performed best under no music or the repetitive voice recording.

It is hard to come to a consensus about whether or not listening to music while doing work is effective since different tests show different results. Personally I think that when I listen to music it turns into white noise, which is like the repetitive voice recording used in the test conducted by the researches at University of Wales. I would conclude that personally it is effective, however it depends on how each person’s brain responds to music and the type of music you are listening to.

Initial Blog Post

Hey guys! My name is Alana D’Agnese and I’m a freshman in D.U.S. here at Penn State! I’m from Westchester, NY about an hour outside New York City. I chose this course, because at orientation my adviser told me this class was perfect for people who dislike science but need to fulfill gen-eds classes.

Even though I am still undecided, I am not planning on being a science major. In high school, I always struggled with science class; whether it was physics, chemistry, or biology. I had a hard time understanding the material and lost interest very quickly. Since college is the time where I am free to explore and study topics that interest me, I want to take classes that put me on track for a major in marketing or advertising and public relations. These two majors will hopefully allow me incorporate my love for art and photography into my everyday life.

Since there’s a color run coming to Penn State soon, I thought I’d share a picture that I took when I ran one a few months ago. At the end of the race, there’s a big rave where the DJ throws out color packets with powder in them. On his count, everyone launches them up in the air and color flies everywhere. It’s insane!


Click here to see a cool video of the color run!