Daily Archives: October 2, 2016

Are Vaccinations Safe?

Recently, we have been discussing some very interesting topics in class. Learning about the dangers that the lack of science causes has been very eye opening. For one, it really is instilling a great appreciation for science in me. It is also very intriguing to learn about instances in the past where science (or a lack thereof) has actually killed people.

In particular, I found the thalidomide example to be particularly interesting. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see what the drug was doing to people’s genes. I found it shocking how a drug that was believed to be so useful was actually so harmful. Therefore, it got me thinking- are there any drugs out there now that we believe are good but will actually hurt us later?

During my research, I actually was reminded of the theory that some people have about vaccinations causing autism. According to an article done by the Oxford Journal, a few hypothesis exist about the connection between vaccines and autism. All the hypothesis center around the belief that the vaccines are poisonous to the body and do things such as damage organs and the central nervous system as well as effect the immune system.

The article goes on to describe a study done with eight children. After receiving a vaccination, they were monitored. Soon after the vaccination, all of the children showed signs of autism development. Further studies showed that the children’s bodies had taken proteins and moved them to the brain and bloodstream, where they did not allow normal growth and development to occur. This led to defects which then led to the development of autism. Now, many other things could have caused this effect on the children’s bodies other than the vaccination. In my opinion, genetics are a big part of health and people’s susceptibility to illness. If the children have a history of Austin runs in the child’s family, then perhaps the proteins would have made their way into the bloodstream anyway. Chance could also be largely at play; however, this study certainly gives credit to the theory that vaccinations may be dangerous.

Image result for vaccination

Another article done by the Center for Disease Control mentions that some speculate about the inclusion of thimerosal in vaccinations and the occurrence of autism. Thimerosal is a mercury compound put into vaccinations to curb the growth of different types of bacteria. Many people believe that thimerosal is the chemical in vaccines that does the most damage to the body and leads to autism. Due to recent complaints and outbursts from the public due to its possible connection, thimerosal has not been included in vaccinations for the past 15 years. Again, while many websites claim thimerosal is safe, speculation that it may cause autism still continues.

The issue about the link between vaccination and autism is still a growing issue. In this day and age of modern medicine, research still continues for prevention of autism. However, it is important to take into consideration the helpful effects that vaccinations have. They aide in the prevention of diseases that can be potentially fatal to infants and grown-ups alike. It is very important to look at both the benefits and costs of getting them.

As for the direct causation between vaccinations and autism, none has been found. Right now, the link is heavily based on speculation. There is a very good chance that chance itself is what is the confounding variable between the vaccination and autism. For now, we will just have to wait and see for harder evidence to come out before we make any further decision.

Photo Credits: https://www.sayanythingblog.com/files/2015/02/Flu-Vaccination.jpg


Birth Order May Not Mean Much

Have you ever heard that the oldest sibling is the smartest, the middle child may tend to be more rebellious and the youngest one is always searching for more attention?  Studies are showing that birth order may not effect one’s intelligence nor their personality. Coming from a family with three children this has been a talked about subject for quite some time, whether it is true or not. While some of the stereotypes hold true for us, others were the opposite. Being the youngest, I can see why we are often thought of as attention grabbers. We always try to keep up with our older siblings and want to establish our place in the family. Middle children are often assumed to be forgotten about and therefore act out more. This was so not the case for my sister, the middle child of the family, she was the angel of the bunch and could normally do no wrong in the eyes of my parents. My brother, the oldest, was the rebellious one but probably the smartest as well. He is now an oral surgeon and doing very well for himself. All of that to say, I was very curious as to if these myths were true.


A study conducted at the University of Illinois asked themselves the same question. They studied 377,000 high school students to find out if birth order had any correlation with intelligence or personality. They sorted through the 377,000 and excluded those who were only children, a twin, triplet, etc. and any who were not a credible source. This left them with 263,712 students to study. They asked their participants several questions about their family life background (i.e. who they live with), demographics and personality. In addition their intelligence in many subjects was tested. As we have learned in class, there are several different outcomes that could appear when looking at a correlational study, if the two do indeed correlate.

  1. The birth order could be causing the intelligence and personality of the student.
  2. The intelligence and personality of the student could be causing the birth order.
  3. A confounding third variable could be responsible for the correlation.
  4. It was all due to chance.

The reverse causation, number two, does not seem possible. The third variables seems probable just as a hypothesis. The study did take into consideration these factors such as the number of siblings in the family, the families socio-economic background, the age and gender of the student and family structure. They collected two sets of data, one controlling these confounding variables and another without them controlled. The results proved to be rather interesting. There really was not any large correlation between birth order and intelligence/personality. With the variables controlled, the correlation was at .02 which is a positive correlation but not anywhere close to 1. It only jumped up a tiny bit with the variables unconcealed.

A smaller version of a similar study was done at University of Wisconsin. They had a much, much smaller sample size and were looking into more how birth order can influence personality, not so much intelligence. They also studied how parents perceived their children based on their birth order. Most parents did not perceive their children any differently but it was common for them to say that if one child was extroverted, the other would be introverted. Their results were similar to the first study in that personality is not caused by birth order but rather by genetics or by the environment they were raised in.

Now that we have strong evidence that birth order does not cause a certain personality type or intelligence level, we don’t have to place ourselves in certain categories based on where we are in the lineup. If your family does follow the stereotypes, it is most likely due to chance as the correlation is so low. So just because you are the youngest child, does not mean that you can’t achieve a 4.0 G.P.A. and just because you are the middle child does not mean you have to be a rebel. We are free to be ourselves!


  1. Study #1: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656615000525 
  2. Study #2: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886913012142?np=y
  3. Picture: www.memes.com/img/394897 

Does Music Affect Our Moods Significantly?

Throughout history and culture, through all ages and races, we all listen to music of some sort. Whether to pass time while walking to class or to have something playing in the background while studying, we hear music almost every single day. We often see on Apple Music or Spotify’s curated playlists that there are playlists associated with moods. Playlists for studying, for break-ups, for parties, there seems to be a playlist for everything. My question is, is there any scientific backing that music can affect our moods significantly. As in, can we put on some Bruno Mars if we’re feeling down and get happy quicker? As I see it, there are two possible hypotheses-either music affects our moods and we likewise are affected by it (alternate hypothesis), or it does not (null hypothesis) .

Obviously, chance is always something we have to worry about, as we can never rule it out. Reverse causality (instead of music affecting our emotions, our emotions affect our music choice) is something that we usually do, but it does not explain the answer that we’re looking for: can we change mood with music. We cannot change mood by already choosing the songs associated with that mood, as that will only reinforce it. We have to pick songs associated with a different mood to see if that changes the mood in that song’s favor to test this hypothesis. Therefore, we are down to either the alternate hypothesis or the null hypothesis. I aim to find studies seeing if we are affected by music and in turn test the hypothesis that we can get happier just by listening to music associated with that mood.



How much does music affect our mood? Source

 According to this study done in the early 1990’s by the British department of psychology at the University of Keele, music does have a great impact on mood. After having 500 participants fill out a questionnaire, researchers chose 83 respondents from a wide variety of music backgrounds. Of those 83, there were 34 professional musicians, 33 amateurs, and 16 who do not perform but listen to music often. In this study, the researchers had all 83 individuals listen to music, and asked them to write down how often things happened like shivering down the spine, laughter, racing heart, sweating, and tears while listening , among others. On a 1-5 scale (5 being very often, 1 being almost never), the top three results were shivers down the spine, laughter, and tears, which were all between the 3 and 4 range. It would be very difficult to find that chance can cause laughter and tears while the participants were listening to music, but that is always a possibility.


The researchers further went to see how they responded to individual notes, which I would highly recommend reading as it is extremely interesting, but it’s not very relevant to the question at hand. Likewise, it should be noted that this was not either an experimental experiment nor an observational one. Instead, the participants were simply asked these questions, which they then wrote down for the researchers. This can be argued to make the study and it’s data less trustworthy, but there is still something to be said about the data it produced. Not only did this music cause laughter and tears/chills on a “quite often” level, these emotions would occur more often the more you listened to it. So this goes to show that something is indeed causing us to react to the music, causing happiness (laughter) or sadness (tears). The next question I have is, can we change moods just by listening to music?

After extensive research looking for the answer, I came across this Music as Therapy PDF study looking at how music affected the moods of patients about to go into surgery. Using a randomized control trial, it was revealed that music therapy greatly affected the moods of patients and even reduced how much anaesthesia they needed. They had the independent variable be the music, while the dependent variable is how the people felt after they listened to said music. There were multiple examples across the board to back up this data. Men undergoing prostate surgery felt less anxiety and had reduced blood pressure when listening to music than did those in the control group who had no music. Patients undergoing spinal surgery needed less sedative during surgery after listening to music for only 20 minutes prior.


Likewise, the same type of study done on children produced a similar result. The results actually go to show that playing music during procedures will greatly reduce stress over a control group that just had the procedure with no music. Needless to say, all of these examples provide great insight that indeed, music significantly can help moods, even in times of great stress and anxiety like surgery. That, with the previous research we talked about, gives multiple studies that show that indeed, music affect moods. That research on its own may seem spotty at best, but paired with this research it helps make the alternate hypothesis seem much more likely. This confirms the alternate hypothesis we set out to find at the beginning of the post, and it goes to show that if you’re feeling down in the near future, music can fix it rather quickly.

Finally, if you have time I suggest you watch this TED talk on how music affects moods. I think you’ll find it quite interesting

Vegetable…Not Spinach

When I was a little child, one of the worst vegetables in my mind was spinach because of the weird feeling on my teeth after I ate it. To figure out the reason cause the strange feeling on my teeth, I did some researches. Although there might be some confounding variables, one of the most important reasons is the presence of oxalic acid. Through the research, oxalic acid is a chemical which protects spinach from insects’ invading. And after it reacts with calcium, it would become a solid which cannot be dissolved in the water. This type of acid stays on people’s tongues or teeth causing the bitter feeling. However, to improve our living situation, scientists insist on discovering new types of spinach which will get rid of this weird feeling these years.


Nowadays, there are several types of spinach. One of the most common one is flat-leaf spinach which can be used in salad. Even though I do not like to eat spinach, my parents sometimes would force me to have some due to its’ benefits. First of all, it has lots of advantages for college students who need to use the laptop for studying. Staying in front of a computer for a long time is definitely bad for eyes which may lead to nearsightedness. Several vitamins like vitamin A which also existing in carrots is really good at providing enough nutrition for eyes. Vitamins also protect skin and hair from thirsty situation. And the protein with minimal calories preventing people from disease which helps people to build a strong body. Moreover, spinach is not just for younger people, but also for elder people. The iron in spinach increases the blood cell in the human body which prevents them from heart diseases. And the minerals inside also improve the function of digestion which assists people to discharge trash from body.


When there are many advantages to eat spinach, there are also a few disadvantages. For example, pesticides which prevent vegetables from insects causing the oxalic acid remaining on spinach leave. And it would be bad for our human body. However, there are several ways to avoid this situation. First, cooker can boil the spinach in water for ten seconds before cooking. Second, people can buy organic spinach which would include less oxalic acid.


Even though I did not like to eat spinach when I was a little, I start to eat it these years because it is good for my health. And also I get a good recipe to cook it which is to mix the spinach with meat sauce after boiling it. It is really delicious. And if you want to learn more about spinach, you can check more information below:Scientists Eye Benefits Spinach


  1. http://www.livescience.com/51324-spinach-nutrition.html
  2. http://www.livescience.com/56237-why-spinach-makes-teeth-feel-weird.html

Images Sources:
1. https://www.google.com/search?q=spinach&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjwppyU3rzPAhVE4CYKHQrmBogQ_AUICCgB&biw=1440&bih=755#imgrc=sBGOAOMNogF-HM%3A

2. https://www.google.com/search?q=%E8%8F%A0%E8%8F%9C%E8%82%89%E9%85%B1&biw=1440&bih=755&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwin5qOp3rzPAhXEZiYKHfIiByMQ_AUICCgB#imgrc=dYsQBIEYv4haHM%3A


Play Video Games for a Powerful Brain

America is in the midst of one of the slowest economic recoveries in its history, but that has not stopped the video game industry from exploding in recent years. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the industry generated more than $22 billion in revenues in 2014 and is growing at a pace more than four times as fast as the broader U.S. economy. Much of this revenue is driven by adolescents (12 to 17 years of age), 97 percent of whom play kids-playing-video-gamesvideo games according to a recent ABC News article. Strikingly, more than half of adolescents report playing video games on an almost daily basis.  I must admit that I was no exception to this trend. I played for at least a couple of hours a day when I fell into that age category and I likely would have played more had my mom not feared that my brain would rot. Perhaps out of pure spite I rejected the notion that gaming could be at all harmful to the mind and continued to play as often as I was allowed. I still contend that parents in fear of rotting brains need not worry, and in this post I will explore my hypothesis that playing video games actually improves cognitive functions and perhaps even grows the brain in a physical and measurable way.

Note: In this blog I will not seek to discuss the social and moral implications of the content that many of today’s popular games possess. The consequences of video game violence, drug references, sexual innuendos, etc. is a fiercely debated question that has yet to be fully answered and will not be considered in this post. 

In the course of my research, I found studies that show benefits that go beyond enhancing quick decision making and hand eye coordination. In this experiment, researchers were able to establish that playing video games with strategic elements leeds to improved strategic thinking and enhanced brain power. The experimental design was simple yet enlightening: researchers split 72 test subjects into three groups. The control group played a game called The Sims, one that requires no strategic thinking. The two experimental groups played a game called starcraftStarCraft, a real-time science fiction strategy game. One group played the game on a higher difficulty that required more complex strategic solutions to problems presented in the game. Potential confounding variables were considered by researches by taking the following measures: All of the groups had roughly the same median age and prior experience with video games. All participants were undergraduate female students. All three groups had roughly the same median score on benchmark tests of strategic thinking prior to the experiment. Each group played 40 hours of their game over a six week span. The results were measured by using a complex battery of cognitive tests to determine if the groups playing StarCraft saw an increase in brain function when compared to the Sims group. The tests showed that not only did the StarCraft groups perform better, but the benefits derived from playing seem to be proportional to the complexity of the game. In other words, the group statsplaying the more advanced version of StarCraft saw even more cognitive gains that the group playing the less complicated version. These results support the claim that video games can help to improve strategic decision making. The researchers were unable, however, to establish a firm physiological mechanism to explain their results (and to confirm my hypothesis), so I continued to research to try to find a causal link between video games and brain power…

To support my claim that video games directly improve the brain and its functions (and to explain the findings in the last study), I sought evidence to demonstrate that video games have a profound impact on the anatomical structure of the brain itself and I encountered a recent 2013 experiment that did just that. This experiment was conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Scientists there used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure any volumetric increases that might have occurred in the brains of people who played Super Mario 64 daily for 30 minutes over a two month span. They also monitored the brains of a control group whose participants did not play video games for the two month period. They concluded that playing the video game sparked neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons in neurogenesisthe brain) and an overall increase in grey matter (where nerve cells are located). Growth was detected in many important regions of the brain including the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum. According to the Mayfield Clinic, these structures are critical for such functions as hand-eye coordination, short-term memory, strategic thinking, and other cognitive functions. The researchers also noted that the ability to train specific parts of the brain with video games can have very valuable therapeutic applications that should be researched more in depth.

Based on my research, I conclude that playing video games is likely to improve many aspects of cognitive function by training the brain in a way that results in measurable volumetric increases in brain matter. I warn, however, that at present there is a lack of data to show the long-term effects of frequent video game play. It is unknown whether the initial benefits will erode quickly when one stops playing or if they will continue to benefit the player well beyond that. Despite this, I conclude with confidence that playing video games is a fun way to do your brain some good.