Author Archives: Brooke Lytle

Is gluten-sensitivity real?


Nowadays you can see gluten free foods everywhere you turn. They have their own isle in the grocery store, and you can hear the mom in the corner of the store raving to her friend how much better she feels after going gluten free. But if you don’t have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to damage in the small intestine from gluten, is going gluten free actually helping you?

I for one, used to be a believer that I was gluten-sensitive. I would feel worse when I would have wheat noodles or bread, and tried to avoid gluten as much as possible. But that wasn’t stopping my symptoms completely, so I turned to the doctor to see what was going on. It turns out that I have issues with lactose and fructans, and not gluten. But most people that believe that they are gluten-sensitive most likely don’t have issues with both lactose and fructose (which can be found in many products with gluten). So is gluten-sensitivity actually real? Or is it in people’s heads, and may be another problem entirely?

Peter Gibson, a professor at Monash University in Australia, originally believed that gluten intolerance was real and published research on it in 2011. But as he was looking back at his findings, he seemed uneasy with the result and decided to look a bit deeper into the subject. He did a double-blind cross-over study of 37 people that had self-reported themselves as gluten sensitive and that had IBS, but did NOT have celiac. They were then randomly put into groups that got a 2 week diet of reduced FODMAPS, and then after were put into either a high gluten diet, a low gluten diet, or a control diet (and then a washout period of 2 weeks). They looked for traces of inflammation in the bowel and whether or not the immune system was affected. 22 participants were then put into another group for 3 days to see a different diet’s effects. The conclusion was that while the FODMAP reduced diet helped all the participants, when they were put back on other diets only 8% of the people experienced any symptoms scientifically linked to gluten through analyses’. Basically, gluten didn’t do anything to the people even though they thought it did.

The study, however, could easily be flawed. First of all, there were only 37 participants, leaving the result to just be a false negative. There could have also been mistakes while the scientists were analyzing fecal matter- what exactly were they looking for? It lead me to look for another study, and the one I found was contradicting: 59 patients were looked at by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Each person, like the first study, didn’t have celiac but those gluten was causing them issues. Each day for a week each person was either given 5 grams of gluten in a pill or a placebo of rice starch. After the week, those taking the gluten pill reported intestinal pains, bloating, depression, and ulcers.

So what gives? How could they have completely different results? After all, the second study only had 59 patients, so sample size could easily influence the conclusion as well. One study must be a fluke. I decided to look deeper. Researchers studied 59 Italians who said they were gluten sensitive. Some received a small amount of rice protein everyday, while others received gluten. They then switched who was receiving what. Only 3 patients had more symptoms during the gluten phase, meaning that for the vast majority, it was all in their head.

Believe it or not, these were the only studies that were found relating to my question. So what does this leave me to believe? I turned to Dr. Stukus, an allergist at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital at Ohio State University. He believed that most of the craziness involving gluten intolerance is actually due to FODMAPs, which is a collection of molecules that is hard to digest for most people (but nobody knows about them!) As allergies to most foods are not that common, he believes that a gluten allergy (which would be considered gluten sensitivity) is rare, but still possible. Nutrionist Alice Makintosh from the Food Doctor also agreed, and said that a true allergy is rare, and that most people are probably experiencing symptoms from FODMAPs but attributing them to gluten.

While we may not have gotten a completely conclusive answer, it is safe to say that gluten sensitivity is in fact real. The kicker is that it’s not nearly as common as people think- and most people blame gluten when the real culprit is other things, or even their head.


Vitamin C and Autism


Today in Andrew’s class, I was extremely intrigued by the conversation he had with a student the year before regarding Autism and Vitamin C. While the class was mostly focused on vaccines and Vitamin C, I immediately became curious about whether or not anyone had looked into Vitamin C and Autism. See, my cousin is undiagnosed autistic, so he is not being treated currently. Maybe if Vitamin C would be able to help him, I would be able to convince his parents to have him take supplements without having them admit their child’s issue.

It turns out there has only ever been one human study on Autism and Vitamin C. Perhaps this is because scientists are focused on drugs or therapies and not supplements.  The study was conducted by Dolske in 1996. Dolske created a double-blind, placebo controlled trial that took place for a total of 30 weeks. 18 schoolchildren with autism were seperated randomly into either the group that got a Vitamin C tablet (8 grams a day) or a placebo pill. The treatment phases last 10 weeks and each child’s behavior was rated using the Ritvo-Freeman scale. It was found that those that had been taking the Vitamin C actually had less severe scores on the scale and even improved sensory motor scores. This goes together with the alternative hypothesis that Vitamin C can help lessen the symptoms of Autism, just like the student that talked to Andrew last year. But what if the kid’s story was an ancedote? The sample size in the study conducted by Dolske in 1996 is way too small to be taken as seriously reliable. While the study was conducted properly and was even a double-blind placebo study, with only 18 participants it is almost impossible to tell whether or not the conclusion Dolske reached was a false positive or actually correct.

Since the study was so small, how do you think this kid’s parents had thought to begin to put him on Vitamin C supplements? As a matter of fact, the theory behind Vitamin C is it helps with oxidative stress, which has been shown to be increased in children with Autism. Oxidative stress is when free radicals (unbalanced molecules)  try to steal an electron from a neighboring molecule. When it does, the neighboring molecule becomes a free radical and this motion happens so often in Autistic children that the brain does not know how to react and causes issue. Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant, can give electrons to free radicals and stop the chain going on, calming down the child’s central nervous system. Scientists are far away from being to prove this as a mechanism for why Vitamin C would help kids with Autism, but it seems to correlate with the fact that kids with Autism have more oxidative stress.

The only way to know for sure whether or not Vitamin C can help children with Autism is to recreate Dolske’s experiment with a much larger sample size. The study would then have to repeated again, and again, and again, until a meta-analysis can be used to determine the likelihood that this conclusion is correct or not. If I were able to conduct a perfect study for this, I would have a sample size of at least 5,000 children with Autism. The severity of autism would have to be randomized so the average severity of autism in each group would be equal. The children should be studied before they are put on either the placebo or Vitamin C, during, and then after to chart the entire affect of it. Each child could only be on Vitamin C and should not be in therapy to rule out confounding variables.

Maybe, if multiple of those studies were able to show that Vitamin C helps with Autism, there will be a much easier way to combat the ever-growing amount of children being diagnosed with Autism every year. While there is not too much proof that Vitamin C will actually help, no harm could be done by having my cousin start on taking it as a supplement. Maybe I could run my own case study and report back! Wish me luck.

Is a bad temper genetic?


While I myself am very level-headed, I know many people that can have a very quick temper, such as my sisters. Both can get very angry extremely quickly. I began to think, did they inherit something that I did not from my parents? Is there a reason that they get angrier more often and faster than me, or is it just by chance? In class we talked about how your genetics could make you predisposed to become obese more than others, so I thought maybe the same could be true regarding anger. I set out to find an answer.

To use the scientific method to figure this out, I first have to set up a null and alternative hypothesis. My null would be that anger is not inherited and genetics has no effect on anger. My alternative would be that your genetics could make you predisposed to get angrier faster than others.

The first study I looked at was conducted by Dr. Redford Williams, who is director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke. The article explained that Williams had found a small molecular variation of the serotonin transporter gene, and that copies with the long allele version of the gene had higher blood pressure and heart rates in response to stress, which are classic indicators of anger. However, I myself was a little skeptical at the claim ABC had made that this transporter gene was some type of “anger gene”. The study was done on predominately white males, which only gives a result on part of the population. If the study had been done on males and females of all races, the results could have been very different. A way to improve his study would be to randomize the population, so each person would have an equal chance of being chosen for the study.

It turns out I was not the only skeptical one of the article referring to Dr. Redford William’s study, as the next source I found was refuting it completely. Other research groups reached conclusions that contradicted William’s conclusion, and even more groups found correlations between the same gene and the tendency to become depressed, get schizophrenia, become suicidal, and more.  This led me to believe that the first source that I looked at could not be trusted. However, I wasn’t able to rule out the entire idea anger could be genetic, as the new source indicated that OTHER genes had been correlated to anger. It explained that another study had found that the enzyme COMT could influence aggression. Those that were heterozygous for the L and H allele of the gene had the lowest level of anger-related traits, while those homozygous for either had higher levels. This set me looking for other studies regarding a bad temper and genetics.

The next source found worked off the idea of aggression, which has been shown in the past to be genetic. Having a bad temper and aggression work hand in hand, but you can feel aggression and not act on it. The study, done by Thomas Denson, Carol Dobson-Sone and 3 other colleagues found that those predisposed toward aggression cannot successfully control their anger. They explained that aggression is evolutionary as those who were more aggressive in the hunter-gatherer society survived and passed down their genes. The gene correlated with aggression is the MAOA gene (helps regulate emotions), which can be high or low functioning. Two separate labs found that those with the low functioning gene were more aggressive when provoked. Also, 38 men’s brains were scanned and those with the low functioning version of the gene showed hyperactivity in the part of the brain controlling emotions, meaning they had to try harder to control their anger compared to the others. This study was the only experimental study, as they purposely made some people angry.

One more study showed that the gene DARPP-32 affects dopamine, which is linked to anger and aggression. There are 3 different versions of the gene, and those with the TT or TC versions of the gene were much more angry than those with the CC genotype. The researchers determined this by having 800 people fill out a questionnaire regarding on how they handle their anger and then had each person take a DNA test to see which version of the gene they had. Those with the TT and TC version also had less grey matter in the amygdala, which helps keep emotions in check. While this study could have skewed results because of the self-reporting, the sample size is decently large and has a mechanism for which this could work, making it a study I trust.

All the studies above talk about different genes, making the mechanism for in which anger could be genetic a little confusing. But they all are connected to emotions, making a clear case that anger is genetic to some extent. This allows us to refute our null, and tentatively accept our alternative (we’re not really sure how yet). It seems that those that are unfortunate enough to get a bad combination of all these genes are most likely more predisposed than others to be a hot head. Let’s hope you got a good combination of the genes, or you may have to work a bit harder to keep your cool!

Does how often you exercise affect grades?


At college exercise can either be at the front of your mind or the last thing you want to worry about. It’s understandable for those who don’t have time to exercise as often as they want to- classes, homework, and studying come first. But what if exercising actually helped your grades improve? I set out to find out, as I am not the person you see running to the gym every day.

My null hypothesis would be: Exercising often during the week does not affect grades at all. My alternative hypothesis would be: Exercising often during week affects grades positively.

I began my quest by checking out a few studies. What did they say?

The first study I looked at was done by Saginaw Valley State University, in which they looked at the grades and exercise habits of 266 students. They found that those who regularly exercised had higher GPA’s than those who didn’t. They, were, however a little skeptical on whether or not exercise was actually a cause of the effect of GPA. Was the exercise actually helping, or were those that did well in school just more likely to go to the gym more or keep a strict exercise regime? To combat that idea, they controlled variables such as grade point average, gender, how often people studied and even if they participated in college sports. With the controls, the conclusion still came out that those who exercised everyday had a .4 better GPA than the people who didn’t exercise.

When I looked at other studies, the results were also the same. In a study that looked at 259 3rd through 5th graders, a positive correlation was found between exercise and good grades. In a brand new study, it was found that university students that exercised for at least 20 minutes for most of the week had average grades that were 10% higher than those who didn’t exercise. Another study at Purdue also saw that out of the 1,820 students that went to the gym, those who went to the gym the most had the highest average GPA.

Curious to how exercise could possibly help improve grades, I looked at the benefits of exercise. Exercise helps increase oxygen flow to the brain (lack of oxygen lowers concentration), increase the amount of neurotransmitters, and believe it or not, can actually grow brain cells in the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory. Human studies are showing that cardio multiple times a week can lead to the production of up to 30% more cells in the hippocampus, leading to better memory (and therefore, better grades!).

This information almost had me convinced that exercise could in fact improve grades, and that this positive correlation was not due to a confounding variable such as work ethic, which was earlier discussed. But when I looked a little deeper, I found a study that showed that students that studied more than 3 hours a day were almost 4 times more likely to be involved in vigorous exercise than those who studied less than an hour a day. Also, students with GPA’s higher than 3.5 were 3 times more likely to participate in vigorous exercise than those who had under a 3.0 GPA.

So which is true? We know that the more exercise a person does, the more likely they are to have better grades, but why? Does exercise itself lead to better grades, or are they just connected through the great work ethic of individuals?

The only way to find out is to do an experiment, instead of a correlational study like those referenced above. An appropriate experiment would be to take students with a plethora of different GPAs that reported that they DO NOT currently work out  and separate them in half. Half would be required to exercise at least 4 times out of the week for at least 20 minutes (and monitored to make sure that they do!).  The other half would be the control group, and would continue on with their daily lives not working out (and they are not allowed to start working out). We would then compare each group’s new GPA with their previous GPA. If the experimental group had a higher improvement in GPA than those in the control group, it would evident that the physical benefits of exercise actually help increase your grades.

While we can’t actually do this experiment, we were still able to refute the null hypothesis and be fairly confident about the positive correlation of exercise and grades. So if you’re not exercising, I would go ahead and give it a try!

Does religious affiliation make people happier?


Each and every single one of you probably knows someone religious in one way or another. You may have noticed yourself, or just heard from another person that religious people tend to be happier. But is that actually true? Does religious affiliation make people happier, or is it just a plea from your mother to get you up Sunday morning?

A null hypothesis for this would be that religious affiliation does not affect happiness whatsoever. The alternative hypothesis for this would be that religious affiliation does make people happier.

A study done by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture found a very strong link between religious affiliation and happiness in an individual. 15,738 Americans between 18 and 60 years old were surveyed. 45% of those in the 15,738 that went to at least one religious service during the week described themselves as very happy, while just 28% of those who never went said they were very happy. Considering it is a self-reported correlational study, the study may be a little hard to trust since correlation doesn’t equal causation. Also, the fact that the study is self reported also takes away from credibility. However, the sample size is incredibly huge, increasing credibility.

To see if this study was an outlier, other studies were looked at. A researcher from Harvard, Robert Putnam, took a sample of 3,108 American adults and asked about religious activities, their social networks and their religious beliefs. A year later, they called back the same people and around 2/3 of them responded again (1,915 to be exact). The study showed that religious people were happier than religious people as well. 28% of people who went to a religious service each week were very satisfied with their lives, while only 19.6% of those people who never went were very satisfied. He also found those who began to go to religious services more often became happier between 2006 and 2007. This study also has a large sample size, but is less trustworthy as the sample could not be completely randomized (only certain kinds of people will answer surveys on the phone). In order to improve this particular study, I would have used a different media such as internet, and used a sample size that included many more people from all over the world.

While that study is less trustworthy, it still follows the hypothesis that religious affiliation makes people happier, which seems to be found consistently throughout research: This paper lists several sources that show that religious affiliation makes people happier in countries all over the world, as well as the source in a book by Arthur Brooks. It is clear that if a meta-analysis was done on all the studies regarding the subject, the vast majority would argue that religious affiliation makes people happier.

So we can reject the null hypothesis. But can we accept the alternative hypothesis? That answer is a little more shaky. In multiple studies, when those asked to report their level of happiness, they were also asked why. The answer tended to be the social relationships that were made through religious services made the people happier. Multiple researchers found this to be the case, making this a clear third confounding variable. A completely different study that looked at many different countries all over the world also found that in the countries that were more religious (such as the United States), the happiness gap between religious and non-religious people was LARGER than in less religious countries.

It is not surprising that a different factor other than faith has come up to be a confounding variable. In the study by Leibovici, in which he tried to figure out whether prayer healed (we talked about it in class), supernatural explanations had to put aside as they were not part of science. His conclusion was also unreasonable as there was no known mechanism for how prayer would work. Through more studies, the idea that social relationships is the reason religious people are happier will most likely be accepted.

I personally am not religious, but I have had the experience to see the social relationships that come about from religious affiliation and it is not hard for me to believe at all that those relationships can make people happier. Overall, it seems as though religious affiliation can make people happier (just maybe not in the way you thought!).

Does Chicken Soup actually help colds?

Bowl of clear chicken soup with noodle and vegetables

You’ve been hearing it for ages: If you don’t feel well, get yourself some chicken soup and you’ll be feeling better in no time. But is grandma telling the truth? Does chicken soup actually help you recover from a cold? In order to find out, I decided to use the scientific method and do some research.

First off, I needed to set up a null hypothesis and an alternative hypothesis to test. My null hypothesis would be: No, chicken soup does nothing to help you recover from colds. My alternative hypothesis would be that chicken soup DOES help you recover from colds.

The first study I found on the subject was done by Dr. Stephen Rennard, a researcher from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It was Rennard who found out that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease cold symptoms. He tested the ability of white blood cells to go through a filter to another side of a chamber in the presence of chicken soup as researchers think colds are cause by infections that the body responds with through inflammation (which causes white blood cells to migrate to the area). These cells can’t do much, however, and just start the production of mucus, which causes the average cold symptoms of coughs, sneezing and a headache.

Rennard found that after testing 14 different chicken soups (including homemade and canned), the white cells migrated less when in the presence of the chicken noodle soup. Since there were less white cells that migrated, there were less to cause cold like symptoms. He concluded that chicken soup did in fact help colds. But can we trust his study? It was experimental, and was conducted using many different types of chicken soups, so it is very likely that the fact that the results were NOT due to chance. However, he could not find any biological basis for why less white cells migrated in the presence of the soup. While it is highly possible that he has yet to find the biological mechanism (like with lemon juice and scurvy), it is also a little harder to accept as a fantastic source since he has no science to back up his conclusion. Still, it is convincing that chicken soup helps fight colds.

Another study done by Mount Sinai researchers also shows that chicken soup isn’t just a placebo effect, as some believe. The researchers looked at how the soup affected 15 volunteer’s air flow and mucus. The volunteers drank cold water, hot water and chicken soup. The hot liquids (soup and hot water) both helped increase the movement of mucus (which helps people feel better), but the chicken soup actually helped more than hot water, meaning that something in the chicken soup is actually helping the movement of mucus. While a biological mechanism was not found in this study either, it also supports Rennard’s idea that chicken soup helps fights colds. This study also rules out one confounding variable- the idea that heat is the reason why chicken soup helps colds (and not chicken soup itself). Reserve causation is impossible in every study, since there is no way feeling better while having a cold can cause someone to have chicken noodle soup.

To build on both researchers work, one more report found chicken soup helps the cilia of the nose move faster so they can defend against contagions. Some of the ingredients in chicken soup were sent to the laboratory to see what helpful properties were involved, as it was found that organosulfides (found in garlic/onions) along with Vitamin D help start the production of macrophage, which is an immune cell. Vitamin C also effects interferon, another immune chemical. The vitamin A in carrots also helps antibody production. While that doesn’t tell us why less white blood cells migrate over in the presence of soup, it definitely helps support the idea that chicken soup ingredients help the body fight a cold!

Personally, I have always felt better after having my mother’s “Jewish Penicillin”. I would have it religiously until my cold was gone. So along with my personal experience and all the evidence above, I would have to reject the null hypothesis that chicken soup does not help people recover from colds. While it is not completely certain how or if exactly it cures colds, it definitely affects the body.

All in all, if you end up with the Penn State plague anytime soon, I would get some chicken soup to eat!




Is it good to work out at night?


There has been much controversy on whether or not working out at night is better than working out in the morning, or it’s even healthy to do at all. Not only are there unexpected benefits to working out at night (no matter what your mom said!), it may actually be better for you in the long run.

What could possibly be good about working out at night?

To begin, exercising in the evening is prime time as your body’s temperature is at it’s peak. The testosterone in your body is also most responsive to exercise at this time. While testosterone levels are higher in the morning, there is a higher resistance to exercise-induced testosterone response is apparent in the later afternoon. In addition to that, the American College of Chest Physicians found that the function of lungs actually had a natural circadian rhythm. In a study that went over around 5 years, 4835 patients went through breathing tests at different times of the day. Results from these tests showed that airway resistance was at it’s lowest (making it easiest to breath) around the late afternoon. When it is easier to breath, it is much easier to have a successful workout!

Both of these must help boost performance tremendously, since in a study of 20 young male soccer players, all boys performed better at 5:00 in the evening versus 7:00 in the morning. Aerobic and non-aerobic activity was tested, and in each of the three tests done on the boys (the Yo-Yo, the RSA, and the Wingate test), results were significantly better at 5:00.

Likewise, in a study done at the University of Chicago, 40 adult men between the ages of 20-30 were divided into groups and were told to exercise at different times of the day. Blood samples from the men showed that cortisol and thyrotropin, both endocrine hormones, increased much more in those men who worked out in the evening. Glucose levels were also lower as well.

Some other reasons why working out in the evening is better is the fact that you have the chance to blow off steam after a long day AND the gym is a lot more empty!

All in all, working out in the evening has a LOT more benefits than maybe you believed before! Remember that next time you debate waking up to run before your 8 AM!

What happens when you fall in love?


Love- it’s a tricky topic. Everyone has felt what it is like to fall in love, or they have heard very much about it. When you fall in love, your brain tends to go a little crazy. But what is exactly happening to you? What is the science behind falling in love?

The first stage of love would be the feeling of lust, which is driven almost purely by sex hormones: testosterone and estrogen. Oddly enough, smell is involved in lust as well. People that smell different MHC (major histocompatibility complex) genes than their are more attracted to their partner, most likely as a way to broaden immunity to diseases and increase the odds of survival. During this stage, your body basically is making sure that the other person will, and can, give you pliable offspring.

Once you get past basic attraction, in the early stages of loving someone, the nerve transmitters phenylethylamine and adrenaline go into overdrive you are spend time with someone you are attracted to. This makes you extremely emotional. Serotonin also lowers, making you feel almost stressed about the time you spent with the other person. This was described as the second “stage” of love by Helen Fisher.

By the time you are really starting to fall for the other person, a whole 12 areas of your brain work together to release more hormones, including the all-too-familiar phenylethylamine and adrenaline. According to a study by Stephanie Ortigue, all of this happens in only a fifth of a second. At this time, dopamine, the happiness neurotransmitter, is released, along with oxytocin (the hormone that makes you want to cuddle and hug others). All of these feelings are so strong that they mimic the feeling of using cocaine!

A feedback loops begin to develop with your brain reward center, and can be influenced by the blood stream and nervous system. Chemical neurotransmitters are sent to different places on the body when touched, resulting in pleasure. Eventually, just anticipation will lead to the result of pleasure.

One of the last stages of love involves the release of vasopressin, which is a key hormone as it promotes long term relationships. When circulating, it creates the feeling of strong attachment, comfort, and mental connection. If you’re lucky enough to get to this stage, you’re set! You’re in love!


Who gets more jealous- boys or girls?


Jealousy: Every one of us has experienced jealousy, or knows someone that has. Boys get jealous, girls get jealous. But who gets more jealous?

To begin, let’s define exactly what jealousy is. Jealousy is an emotion that appears when someone believes their relationship with someone else is being threatened by a third party. A person can feel anything from anger to humiliation when jealous. Others are afraid they will lose their loved one.

In a study of 500 middle school aged children, it was shown that the females in the study were actually more jealous than the boys. The researchers believed this was because of “the idea that girls have higher standards of loyalty, kindness, empathy and commitment than boys” (Hoyt, 2008). Is the same thing true when kids reach adulthood?

The answer is complicated. In a study of 3,000 Swedish twins, when asked to report jealously levels on sexual infidelity and emotional infidelity  (which is when two people have intimacy and closeness that is more intimate or just as intimate as the person you are involved with), women were more jealous in both situations in general. But there was a catch- men were much more concerned about the fact of sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity, while women were the opposite! This interesting difference was found not just once, but in multiple studies of women and men while studying jealousy. Chapman University did the largest study to date on jealousy, and 54% of straight men would be more upset about sexual infidelity versus emotional infidelity compared to only 35% of straight women.

So why is this? Why do men get more jealous about sexual infidelity and women more jealous about emotional infidelity? According to a research report about sex differences in jealousy by four scientists from the University of Michigan, men are much more upset about sexual infidelity for evolutionary reasons. While women always know that they are the mother of their offspring, men are not always so sure. If a women cheats on their partner, the man will not know if his genes are being passed on, which is a instinctual goal for all humans. So, in order for males to make sure that their genes are being passed down, they are naturally more concerned about sexual infidelity of their partner.

Women, on the other hand, are much more scared of losing their partner to another woman. This is explained in the book “The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love and Sex” by David M. Buss. The commitment of a man in the past has given women a sense of security in feeling that they will always have protection, food, and help with the children. If a man gets emotionally attached to another woman, the woman loses her sense of protection and survival in her environment, as well as her resources. Since women are also taught to be nurturing and emotionally invested in relationships, a woman’s confidence about herself could be harmed through a man cheating emotionally.  Therefore, women care much more about emotional infidelity versus sexual infidelity (although women, do in fact, care about that very much as well).

So, in the end, it turns out that while women are a tad bit more jealous, they are jealous about very different things than men are. Next time you feel yourself getting jealous, you can blame it on your natural instinct to reproduce. See if that one works next time your partner says you’re too jealous!

Why do we get Brain Freeze?


Everyone knows the feeling of brain freeze. Maybe you took too big of a bite of ice cream or scarfed down that smoothie in under 30 seconds. No matter the way, something always happens: you get brain freeze. Why? What is brain freeze? And how can we stop it?

First off, let’s define brain freeze. According to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, brain freeze (scientifically known as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia) is the rapid onset of a headache that usually lasts around 15-20 seconds. It comes on after the intake of something very cold a little too quickly. Brain freeze is your brain’s way of telling you to slow down with whatever you’re eating and that bad things could happen if you keep at the pace you are at.

So why do we get brain freeze?

It turns out blood flow in the brain increases during the brain freeze. In a study done by scientist Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School, it was found that the anterior cerebral artery, which is a major supplier of oxygenated blood for the brain, dilates when the subjects drank ice water. This would lead to more blood flow to the brain, and consequently, pain. Serrador had 13 healthy adult’s brain arteries monitored through a transcranial doppler. Subjects had to raise their hand when they felt the pain of the brain freeze and again when it stopped, and it corresponded with the same times the anterior cerebral artery was dilated. Serrador concluded that the pressure from the increased blood flow was the cause of the brain freeze.

Now that we know the science behind a brain freeze, we can figure out how to stop brain freeze from occurring. Serrador’s team noted that warm water constricted the anterior cerebral artery back to normal size, and therefore stopped the brain freeze.  Using that information, scientists have been able to pinpoint some solid ways to get rid of brain freeze. Dr. Micheal Sinkin, particularly, came up with 7 ways to stop brain freeze effectively.

To stop a brain freeze, you should:

  1. Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth to warm the area
  2. Tilt your head back to help stop the flow of blood to your brain
  3. Drink a warm liquid
  4. Cover your mouth and nose with your hands and breath heavily
  5. Hold the cold object to the roof of your mouth BEFORE you swallow it
  6. Press your thumb to the roof of your mouth to warm the area (my favorite)
  7. Take small bites of whatever you are eating

So now  you’ll know whats going on and how to stop it the next time you eat your ice cream just a little too quickly. Happy eating!

Could a zombie apocolypse actually occur?


You’ve seen the movies, you’ve read the books, you’ve watched the TV shows. Zombies have become a hot topic in the past few years, leaving some with the itching question: Could this actually happen in the real world? Will I wake up one day with my best friend trying to eat away at my leg?

Fortunately enough, I was not the only one curious about my future fate. Many scientists and companies, such as Robert Kirk or, have also been interested. And through all of this research a clear answer has appeared: No, it is not feasible for a real life zombie apocalypse to occur. How Come?

First off, zombies will not be able to handle the heat of the summer and spring. As soon as the body begins to decompose, putrefaction will occur. This is when the body’s proteins begin to break down and lead to the body falling apart and organs liquifying. The bacteria used in this process loves the heat, causing dead bodies to begin to bloat because of so much heat. Warm and tropical areas will prolong this process so fast and much that eventually the zombies would essentially explode. If they are in a dry area without moisture, the zombies will begin to mummify and skin cells will dry out and fall off. Fun, right?

Secondly, biting has been shown to be a horrible way to spread a disease. While it is possible for a zombie-like virus to exist, It is not airborne, and people would not interact with those that already have been infected. Even if it did get out, the CDC would immediately put bans on travel and if needed, evacuate the area and trap all those infected in one area. These factors all make the rate of infection very slow, which can be tested through this simulation.

The rate of infection would also become nonexistent due to the amount of firearms in existence. Guns are extremely common all over the world, as well as nukes, bombs, and more. Guns are so common, in fact, that one in three people in the US own at least one firearm. This is not counting other weapons that can be used against zombies, such as knives, bats, and really anything that can bash something’s head in.

Zombies also aren’t conscious– which means they wouldn’t be smell the humans they wanted to go after. They would just be wandering blindly, since they wouldn’t be able to see or sense them. However, they wouldn’t even be able to walk since when you die, there is no blood flow to the muscles to allow them to move and no brain activity or consciousness telling the muscle to move. 

Lastly, there are way too many natural and man-made barriers that would keep zombies out. Zombies will not know not to walk over cliffs, into streams, into fences, or into the ocean. They would not be able to climb up mountains or steep hills. High ground would very easily keep all ground zombies out of the area, allowing for safe quarters for humans to eat, sleep, and kill all the zombies on the ground.

So the next time you watch the Walking Dead, remind yourself that what you’re watching, is gladly just a piece of fiction.


Introduction Post

Hi! My name is Brooke Lytle and I am from Leonardtown, Maryland. I’m a freshman here at Penn State and am planning to major in Marketing.

I chose to do this class because I like the idea of thinking critically and learning a way of learning versus just facts and equations. Also, I enjoy talking about science and topics surrounding science. It seemed like a great introductory course to get used to Penn State and I need to fulfill the GenEd Science requirements.

I am not planning to be a science major as while the field does interest me to an extent, the complexity that goes into actual science is a little too complicated and frustrating for me. Remembering and being able to perform chemical reactions is not my strong suit. Biology and Chemistry were probably the hardest and least fun classes for me in high school, so there was no way I was planning on taking those in college or majoring in it.

I am very big on PSU sports, but in particular I love penn state volleyball. Here is a link of them playing Ohio State last year!

I am also interested in joining THON. It looks absolutely amazing to do. Here is a picture of it.


Go to this website to see how to join THON!

Have a good semester!