Daily Archives: October 13, 2016

Should We Still Use Body Mass Index?

Body Mass Index (BMI) dates back to before the civil war. It was created by a man named Adolphe Quetelet. It was originally called the Quetelet Index, until it was later named BMI in 1972 by Ancel Keys. BMI is used to determine if a person is underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. It isn’t very difficult to calculate a BMI. It can be found by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. This is a big reason why it is so widely used. Anyone can calculate their own BMI after a couple measurements.


This photo came from https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/3c/f0/22/3cf022212f3dd6c629e8dcbc932e4924.jpg

What can be wrong with it then? Actually, there are a couple things wrong with it. One of the biggest issues with BMI is that it doesn’t account for muscle in people. Athletes tend to have high BMI’s because they are usually very muscular, which causes them to weigh a lot more. An athlete that is muscular and has a high BMI obviously isn’t obese. NFL running back Adrian Peterson is listed at 6’1″ tall and weighs 220lbs. At that stature, his BMI would be about 29, which is considered overweight and on the brink of obesity. This is obviously a flaw with BMI. On the left side is a picture of him, and I don’t think many people would think he is overweight or anywhere near obese.

A similar problem is that if a man and woman both have the same BMI, odds are that the woman will have more body fat than the man. This is just because of the way the 2 genders are. Older people tend to have more body fat than younger people too.

BMI also has an issue as a whole. It isn’t so much the way you calculate it, but the issue is what it is used for. BMI was originally meant to be used for a group of people such as a population. Obviously, there are still flaws in that, because it still doesn’t account for muscle mass, age, or gender as previously stated. Now it has transitioned into being used on an individual basis where it doesn’t work as well. Although, a population’s BMI might not be 100% correct either it could lead someone in the right direction.

Why do people still use BMI then, if it is so obviously flawed? It is still used all the time because of its simplicity and the lack of alternative methods. There are alternative methods to BMI, but they are usually costly or not practical. As fallacious as BMI seems it is said to be correct about 80% of the time. This is a very good percentage for something so easy to calculate. BMI is an even better predictor when it comes to the extremes. If someone has a very low BMI, the odds are that they will be skinny.

Although not perfect, BMI is still a valuable tool for people to use. It shouldn’t be seen as law, but it can be used in a lot of instances. It still works for populations since that is what is was originally created for. Someone who is educated on BMI can productively use it.

You can check your BMI without doing any math or without any knowledge of the metric system.


Twin Telepathy

My younger two sisters (9 years old) happen to be twins. About two years ago, one of the twins suffered from a case of appendicitis. Unfortunately, the doctors were unable to diagnose the illness in its early stages, which resulted in my sister staying in the hospital for much longer than needed. During the entire ordeal, my whole family experienced tremendous pain and just wanted her to recover quickly and completely. While my sister was in the hospital, her twin felt “incomplete”. Since they spent almost every waking moment together, she no longer had a friend attached to the hip. After a couple of weeks of my sister’s absence, her twin began throwing more tantrums and had trouble falling asleep at night. My whole family wondered if it had anything to do with my other sister being sick and spending time in the hospital. We were almost convinced that she actually felt the physical pain that her twin was enduring. This concept of “twin telepathy” has always intrigued me, especially since I have a personal connection towards the subject. Is there scientific evidence behind the theory that twins can simultaneously experience pain? Is “twin telepathy” scientifically possible?


According to Live Science, twins have a special bond because they are so emotionally and physically attached to one another, especially after birth. There is certainly a psychological connection between twins, who have a tendency to think similarly or mirror the actions of one another. However, this could be easily related to any other pair of siblings. The theory of twin telepathy dates back to the 1800s, where an anecdote describes two brothers that were once conjoined at birth experiencing the same feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations as adults. However, just like this narrative describes, the support behind the theory of twin telepathy is primarily anecdotal. There is not concrete scientific evidence that supports the idea that twins are able to physically feel the sensations that the other one is feeling. It is more likely that shared DNA prompts similar traits, which can be said about all siblings. Like we have discussed in class, anecdotal evidence is not the strongest evidence in the science field and allows for weak inference rather than conclusive results. We cannot rely on anecdotal evidence because it is open to bias and can easily reflect the results of an individuals’ experience. Additionally, there is always the possibility that chance is involved.

One study in England tested the possibility of ESP (extra sensory perception) between twins. In the test, one twin was told to pick a number or draw the first thing that came to mind. The other twin was to say what their twin picked or drew. This test was also applied to non-twin siblings. The results of the study found that the twins were almost twice as likely to get the answer right, compared to the non-twin siblings that were able to predict what their sibling picked or drew. However, it is important to note that neither the non-twin siblings nor the twin siblings scored above the experiment’s chance expectation of 25%.

Null hypothesis: the twin siblings will not score higher than the non-twin siblings in the thought concordance test (same scores)

Alternative hypothesis: the twin siblings will score higher than the non-twin siblings in the thought concordance test

Based on the results of the study, scientists were unable to reject the null hypothesis that the twin siblings will not score higher than the non-twin siblings in the thought concordance test. The probability of a false positive, or scientists saying that the twin siblings scored higher than the non-twin siblings when really there was no difference in scores, would be 5%.


One of the most intriguing aspects of the twin telepathy theory that allows for investigation is the “supernatural”. Similar to what we have discussed in class, the supernatural attracts scientists because it calls for an explanation. Since there are countless anecdotes, noted experiences of possible “twin telepathy” and instances where twin siblings have been able to sense each other’s pain in the most extreme of situations, scientists are willing to investigate and attempt to deduce causality.

ABC  debunks many of the twin telepathy theories. The idea that twins can sense each other’s pain and read minds is FICTION. The greatest reasoning behind why twins claim that they can physically feel each other’s emotions is due to the psychological bond that they share. Although they are still siblings, the connection they share may be stronger because they have shared a womb. But let’s be real, what connection is stronger than one created by the womb?

Picture link

Picture link

Can Crohn’s Disease Cause Depression?

My younger sister Sarah has always been a positive and bubbly girl, but since the beginning of her life she has had many medical issues. Her doctors believed that she would never be able to walk, as she suffers from low muscle tone and Pseudohypoparathyroidism, which affects her body’s ability to absorb calcium and iron properly. She was in physical therapy from the age of 18 months to 7 years old. Besides these issues, there was something else wrong with Sarah that the doctors could not figure out for a while. Doctors thought she had Celiac Disease, and our diets instantly became gluten free. When that didn’t solve the problem, her doctor’s realized that her Celiac test resulted in a false positive. It wasn’t until the age of four that my sister was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the gastrointestinal track, and can cause many other issues, such as stunted growth, blockage of the bowel, and a weakened immune system (Crohn’s Wikipedia Page).

Sarah and one of our cats Groot *picture was taken by my sister on snapchat and sent to me*

Sarah and one of our cats Groot
*picture was taken by my sister on snapchat and sent to me*

Despite all of these issues, my sister Sarah has done remarkable things. She does well in school, is a member of a competitive dance team, and plays multiple instruments. However, recently, her Crohn’s has been flaring up, and she has had to have many iron transfusions as well as change around a lot of her medications. I feel as if this could be a stressor for anyone, but I have noticed my sister’s attitude changing. She doesn’t enjoy school, dance, or violin anymore. She tells me she comes home crying everyday and all she wants to do is watch TV. These are very telling symptoms of depression, which is not typical of my bubbly and charismatic sister. This makes me wonder: Is Crohn’s disease causing my sister to be depressed?  Well, it turns out that there have been studies done on both children and adults with Crohn’s disease to test this theory.

The direct causation relationship in this case is that Crohn’s disease causes depression. In a study funded by CCFA, 276 kids aged 9-17 with Crohn’s disease were followed for 6 months. At the beginning of the sixth months, the children were asked to report the level/severity of their Crohn’s and answer questions about their metal state, specifically about depression and anxiety. At the end of the 6 months, the children were asked to answer these same questions again. The study showed that children whose Crohn’s got better reported better mental health, and the children’s whose disease worsened had worsening mental health, with a reported p value of less than .005. This strongly suggests a correlation, but since it was an observational study with self reported answers it is hard to determine causation. I feel if this study were done with a larger amount of subjects, over a longer period of time, and the subjects reported their disease and mental health status more often over the length of the study, the results would provide stronger evidence of a direct correlation between Crohn’s and depression.

The reverse causation in this relationship would be that depression causes flare ups in one’s Crohn’s disease. In this study published by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2,144 adults with Crohn’s disease were followed for 12 months. At the beginning of the study, the participants reported the severity of their disease as well as any mental health issues. Throughout the twelve months, the participants’ were followed and data was recorded about their flare ups, specifically hospitalizations, and their levels of depression before and after hospitalization. The study concluded that those with depression had more aggravated symptoms are were hospitalized more often, with a reported p-value less than .001. The conclusion of this study strongly supports the reverse causation relationship, however since it’s an observational study it is hard to rule out confounding variables.

Obviously, there are many confounding variables that could make someone depressed, such as family issues, a genetic predisposition, and abuse. Not to mention that depression is pretty common among people with chronic illness. Since both of the studies I mentioned are observational, any and all of these confounding variables could be at play. Let’s not forget that chance is always a possibility as well.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, I was personally surprised to find that reverse causation in this situation was more likely than I thought. However, the study that showed reverse causation only focused on adults, so it probably doesn’t apply to my 15 year old sister. However, the study done on children that showed direct causation seems applicable to my sister, seeing as she has recently had changes in medication due to flare ups and in turn her recent change in behavior.

So all in all, I think it is safe to conclude in my sister’s case, her Crohn’s flare ups are causing her to be depressed. In general, there seems to be a correlation between depression and flare ups in Crohn’s, with a reverse relationship in adults, and a direct relationship in children.

Meaning behind Dreaming

The last dream I had involved me waking up with half of my hair chopped off. I was absolutely mortified and remember crying for hours (in my dream), and hoping it REALLY was just a dream. Luckily for me, I woke up and discovered that my hair was still on my head- untouched.  Although I am not a hair fanatic, I am very fond of my long hair and would be incredibly upset if anything happened to it. When I had this dream, I was surprised because it was very unlike me to dream about something as superficial as losing my hair. However, I am not in control of what I dream, and it was likely that my subconscious was trying to tell me something. I have always wondered if dreams have underlying meanings and are actually reflections of what is happening in our brain and subconscious. When I had the dream that my hair was practically gone, I felt that it represented my current stressed-out state in my everyday life. Bombarded with exams and an almost unmanageable schedule, it might be my subconscious telling me that I am really “losing it”. Can dreams really tell us things about ourselves? Or is it all just apart of our crazy imagination?

According to The Huffington Post , dreams have a variety of different meanings. One of the most common dreams that people have is one in which they are being chased or followed. This represents a base anxiety that an individual may be experiencing in their life. They may feel pressured to do something or feel “chased” by responsibilities, obligations, and deadlines. Another common dream involves elements of water, which can reflect the current state of an individual’s life or mentality. If the water is turbulent, there may be chaos running admist. On the contrary, if the water  is calm, it may be a sign of solitude and acceptance. Vehicles and airplanes in dreams can signal the start of something new or a milestone being reached. They represent the different pathways that life can take, whether it be somewhere new or back to the past. Dreaming of school or a classroom environment can be a direct signal towards the past; “learning a lesson”. People who have already finished schooling may dream more about classrooms and school because it is an indication of the past.


In a study reported by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , social psychologists at Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University conducted a study to see how people viewed their dreams in the United States, South Korea, and India. The % of people who believed that their dreams were accurate reflections of their subconscious were as follows:

United States: 56%

South Korea: 65%

India: 74%

Next, another study was conducted to test to see if dreams really did have an effect on the decisions that people made. The study consisted of 182 individuals, who were asked which of the following scenarios would prompt them to change their flights: imagining their plane crashing in mid-air, hearing that an airplane crashed along the route of your flight, the government announcing a national threat that could potentially be serious, or having a dream that your plane crashed. The majority of the individuals said that the scenario that would most prompt them to change their flight plans was dreaming that their plane crashed. In their minds, they trusted their subconscious more (telling them that it was a bad idea/gut feeling). This particular study would be an observational study, because the participants were simply asked a survey question. There was no independent or dependent variables, and no control was assigned. However, the conclusion of the study has relevance towards the idea that dreaming does have an affect on people’s decision making and how they perceive their lives.


The interpretations of dreams date back to the theories of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud , who had two different intepretations of dreams. Freud believed that all dreams could eventually be connected to sex, while Jung argued that dreams were direct reflections of the individuals’ subconscious trying to highlight a certain part of their life that needed attention or had significant meaning. According to them, dreams are another way the brain attempts to find solutions and answers.


Dreams are most likely to happen during our REM sleep, which is when our bodies go on “auto pilot” and our brain experiences the most activity, according to ABC Science. REM sleep, which is an acronym for rapid eye movement sleep, is responsible for the most intense and visually realistic dreaming. The dreams that take place during REM sleep are more likely to be remembered because the brain waves are moving rapidly, along with overall brain activity. On the contrary, non-REM sleep allows for slower brain waves that may result in slow-paced dreams. These dreams are harder to remember because the brain waves are moving slower and there is less activity in the cortex.

Dream Stop lists the 7 categories that most dreams fall under. If you’ve had a strange dream lately, check out the link to see if there’s a hidden meaning behind it.  The next time you dream, take note of what you’re dreaming about. Then check out Dream Cloud , which is a dream dictionary that contains the meanings behind your craziest dreams.  Happy Dreaming!

Picture link

Picture link

Picture link


Sleep and Gender—Are Guys More Likely to Get a Better Night Sleep?

When I’m home from college, I notice very different sleep patterns when it comes to my mom and dad. For example, my mom will wake up to the slightest sound. She wears earplugs to sleep, has a white-noise machine, and shuts her bedroom door at night. She usually kicks my dad out of the room after about twenty minutes because of his incessant snoring. Meanwhile,snoring my dad moves into our guest bedroom and is able to fall asleep with all five of my cats clawing at his feet. When I came across an article relating gender to sleep cycles, I couldn’t help but think about my parents and wonder if they were a prime example of this phenomenon.

For example, women are twice as prone to insomnia than men. Could this be due to chance, or could gender be a factor?

In this case, the null hypothesis is that gender is not correlated with sleep cycles. The alternative hypothesis is that gender is correlated with sleep cycles.

Dr. Bovin of McGill University attempted to prove the alternative hypothesis through an experiment with 26 participants (15 men and 11 women). Bovin hypothesized that the body clocks of men and women affect sleep and attentiveness. The 11 women were studied during two stages of their menstrual cycle. This is because the research team believe that menstrual activity affects biological rhythms and therefore sleep cycles. They found no exhibition of sleep problems in both sexes. Their study solely found that women wake up more tired and are less alert at night. They did not find a correlation, nor a mechanism to support the alternative hypothesis.

I’m including this study in my blog for a different reason than I usually do. While I usually incorporate studies to help support the alternative hypothesis that I am researching, I included this study as an example that failed to do what I had hoped. This study only includes 26 people, which is far too small of a group to conclude anything about the alternative hypothesis even if substantial results had been found. On top of that, I think the researchers definitely should’ve had an equal number of men and women, because the number difference automatically jumped out at me.

Further in my research, I found a slightly more substantial study focusing on the circadian rhythms of men and women. A study done by Harvard University Biological Science specialist Jean Duffy and her team found that women’s body heats and melatonin levels are set to an earlier time in comparison to men. In this study, the scientists focused in on 57 women and 105 men. I still disagree with the difference in gender numbers, but the study did have interesting results. After studying sleep cycles for a month, they found that, on average, women had noticeably shorter intrinsic circadian cycles than men, which could be the reason for the fact that women tend to wake up earlier and have more cases of insomnia than men. Overall, they found that women’s circadian clocks are typically set to an earlier time than their male counterparts, and that their rhythms are also shorter. Still, the scientists even claim themselves in the article that they did not find a mechanism as a result of their studies. While you don’t need to find a mechanism to see significant correlations in science, the study still doesn’t prove much at all about sleep cycles in men versus women, in my opinion.

My final thoughts:

Although scientists are actively trying to prove the alternative hypothesis, their results aren’t convincing. None of the data found strikes me as groundbreaking, but I do think they have a tiny start in proving something significant. They would be better off focusing on a very large group of men and women with an equal number of both genders. They also would have to repeat the process many times to prove that women and men truly have different sleep patterns. In conclusion, I do not believe that my mom’s and dad’s different sleep patterns have anything to do with their genders. The null hypothesis stands…for now!


Psychology Today

McGill Study

PNAS.org Study

Pic found here


Does Fish Oil Cause Prostate Cancer?


Courtesy of www.huffpost.com

Every morning I wake up and take two 1250mg Omega-3 fish oil pills. It is a habit that was formed through the insistence by my mother, who deeply cares about my well being. Consuming fish oil is commonly seen as a positive action and is thought to benefit one’s health in a number of ways including lowering triglyceride levels, decreasing heart disease risk, and easing symptoms of other various disorders and diseases (Web MD).  Whenever I take any supplement to my diet I want to be sure that it is beneficial to my health. There has been some confusion recently over some possible negative health effects that fish oil supplements could impose upon the body. I wanted to look at some of those ideas and hopefully debunk these possibilities. One possible health effect being studied is the potential positive correlation between Omega-3 fatty acids, and an increased risk of prostate cancer in men. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil capsules. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a subdivision of the Oxford University Press conducted a study observing plasma phospholipid fatty acid intake and prostate cancer risk.

When thinking about causality, we assume that fish oil capsules could be increasing someone’s risk of developing cancer, but is there a possibility that the risk of cancer is causing someone to take fish oil capsules? What if people susceptible to prostate cancer take fish oil because they think it will decrease their risks of developing the disease? Because of this, it does not appear that we can rule out reverse causality. The study accounted for a handful of possible confounding variables including age, race, education, BMI, smoking status, alcohol consumption, etc.. Hopefully by accounting for those variables, the study has more accurate results.


Courtesy of www.usnews.com

The conclusion of the study found that there is a link between high blood concentrations of  LCω3PUFA (ω3 polyunsaturated fatty acid) and increased risk of prostate cancer.The P-value was less than .05, so the results of the study were deemed statistically significant. Now we need to decide whether this study has discovered something or if it is simply a Type 1 error. We have a five percent chance that the conclusion reached is a Type 1 error (false positive).

The group of researchers at the Journal of the National Cancer Institute did not clearly present a mechanism for the possibility that fish oil causes prostate cancer. However, mechanisms do not always need to be known to prove that a correlation is causal.

It is evident that more research needs to be done to draw a stronger inference on whether this supplement could cause prostate cancer. If future studies find similar results, the likelihood of correlation between the two will increase exponentially.

For myself, I will most likely continue to take fish oil capsules daily due to the many benefits I believe it has for my health. If you do take fish oil capsules, I recommend you keep your eyes open for new studies that are likely to emerge in the future. If you are a male with a known family history of prostate cancer, you might want to cut back on fish oil consumption until we understand its effects better.

Works Cited:

“Fish Oil Uses and Side Effects.” Web MD, www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-993-fish%20oil.aspx?activeingredientid=993&.

“Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2013. SIRS Discoverer, jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/09/jnci.djt174.full. Accessed 14 Oct. 2016.

Does Stress Cause Sickness?

Just like everyone on campus right now, not only am I stressed out, but also I am sick. I noticed that within the past week I have been more stressed out due to exams or quizzes and that my cold has been getting worse and worse as well. From this, I began to wonder if stress can cause you to get sick.


Stress can have many effects on the body, emotionally and physically. Emotionally stress can cause you to avoid others, have low self esteem and have difficulty relaxing. Physically stress can cause you to have headaches, upset stomach and experience colds or infections. From this article, it is easy to see that stress can cause you to get sick. When we are sick we go through most of these symptoms and we never seem to connect the two together because we blame it on everyone else by saying “my roommate is sick” or “everyone on campus is sick.” It is hard to deny it because everyone on campus has some type of illness right now.


According to Dr. Mercola, stress can deteriorate your immune system, thus making it easier for you to get sick. From a study at Carnegie Mellon University, researchers were able to determine that chronic stress makes your immune system less sensitive to a hormone called cortisol, making your body more susceptible to cold and flu viruses. Cortisol is a stress releasing hormone in your body that allows your body to fight or flee the stress you are feeling. Emotional stressors can lead to coughing, sneezing, and other cold like symptoms.


However that is not the only thing  that can lead you to get sick. A deficiency in Vitamin D, can make you get sick as well. You can catch colds from another person and by touching infected objects, such as towels, doorknobs and  phones. These things explain why we get colds at points in life when we are not stressed out. Sometimes it could just be our allergies that are making us sick.

From this video we can see how stress can affect our bodies. We can go into psychogenic fever. This is when your body temperature heats up your muscles in case you need to flee in a stressful situation. The video also talks about cortisol and what happens if it stops  working. When cortisol tops working, inflammation begins making us susceptible to heart disease, obesity, and it makes us experience things like anxiety or depression. Too much stress can also lead to the destruction of your DNA. Telomeres are on the tips of your DNA making your DNA stay together so when they replicate they get smaller and smaller until the point where they are no longer there. As the video continues it tell you how to combat stress effectively and the best way is to be socially connected. I agree with this video because I notice that if I express my stress with my family or friends they can help get through whatever I need help going through. In the long run, if you get stressed out talk to someone to make things a little better, you never know that could save you from getting a cold.


Home Alone Picture is from here.

The sick puppy picture I got from here.

The healthy life picture is from here.

I got the video from here.

Why does new born baby cry?

I know new born baby would cry a lot. Even they cry, they look so cute and lovely. But I never think about why the baby would cry soon after they born. Sometimes, people just think maybe they just come to the world and not familiar with the world, and they don’t know what is going on, then they feel nervous about the situation. Or, maybe it is they just feel pain, unhappy or fear to leave their ‘old home’-mom’s body. Is the actual situation like this?crying-aby-with-hands-on-head

Last year, my older sister got married. Soon she has a cute baby. I waited at the hospital, while my sister gave birth. Soon, my nephew comes to the world. He is the most active and adorable baby I ever see. But he was always cried; I start to worry about him. But my sister seems happy, and she said that neonatal infants cry the sign that the baby is healthy. I don’t understand why this could mean the baby is healthy; I ask my sister, she didn’t know why and she just said people and doctors said that.

When I go back to home, I start to search why neonatal infants would cry and why that means the baby is healthy.

I did lots of research, and the consequence made me know more about newborn infants. According to George Malcolm Morley research, the babies don’t breathe in their mom’s womb, and their lung is air free. After birth, as the stimulation of cold air the infant’s breath themselves, to breathe oxygen and discharge carbon dioxide. This process makes their chest cavity bigger and opens their pulmonary lobe,  which makes the air go through infants body easier. When air comes to infants body, the chest cavity gets smaller and push out the air that just breathed in. When air be pushed out, the air shock the vocal cords which caused the vibration of vocal cords. This vibration will make a sound seems like infants are crying.

The babies cry shows their body are healthy and well worked. The louder babies cry, the more health their body are. Because babies cry is a hard process for them to do, it will need 80 percents muscles to make you cry; also it can means they can breathe their own, same as cry, breathe is a very hard process. This video shows how complex human’s Respiratory System are. If infants can cry which means their Respiratory System is working well, and this, of course, is a symbol of healthy. respiratory_system

That explain why we know when the newborn infant doesn’t cry; the nurses will try everything to make he/she cry. If a newborn baby doesn’t cry which may because the amniotic fluid in their lung is not discharged, the nurses will try everything to put amniotic fluid out and make infants cry. But if it still doesn’t work or the infant cry slightly, it may represent that the baby has some congenital diseases. More seriously would lead to the death. Here is the video shows the baby doesn’t cry, and nurse have tried everything to make him cry but it seems doesn’t work. Unfortunately, Unfortunately, the Lord took him New Year’s day of 2010.

Newborn baby cry means he/she is healthy and organization well worked. As I list information here, it clearly shows that what people will fell happy if their babies cry after birth, and why they nervous if the baby doesn’t cry.

Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

All around the country, marijuana is used by hundreds. Whether it be the legal use, illegal use, or for medicinal use, people will do whatever it takes to get their marijuana fix. For as long as I can remember, marijuana has been described as a gateway drug.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19: Dave Warden, a bud tender at Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, displays various types of marijuana available to patients on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines today for federal prosecutors in states where the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed under state law. Federal prosecutors will no longer trump the state with raids on the southern California dispensaries as they had been doing, but Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley recently began a crackdown campaign that will include raids against the facilities. Cooley maintains that virtually all marijuana dispensaries are in violation of the law because they profit from their product. The city of LA has been slow to come to agreement on how to regulate its 800 to 1,000 dispensaries. Californians voted to allow sick people with referrals from doctors to consume cannabis with the passage of state ballot Proposition 215 in 1996 and a total of 14 states now allow the medicinal use of marijuana. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

I remember sitting in D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) class as an elementary school student and listening to the teachers talk about how dangerous marijuana use can be when it comes to using other drugs. This would mean that when you start using marijuana you become more susceptible to trying other, new kinds of drugs. Although I am not a drug user, this topic is still very interesting to me. I wonder if there is any kind of link between smoking marijuana and using other drugs. I wonder if what the D.A.R.E. teachers had told me was actually backed by science all along.

Null and Alternate Hypotheses

In order to break down this issue, scientists must first test the hypothesis that marijuana is indeed a gateway drug to other drug use. There is a correlation between marijuana and the use of other drugs. In their studies, scientists are trying to reject the null hypothesis which states that there is nothing going on except chance, meaning marijuana use would not lead to a further desire to try other drugs. They are also testing to see if there are any alternate hypotheses that come into play at all. An alternate hypothesis would state that something is definitely occurring, which would mean that there are facts that link marijuana and the desire to try other drugs.


In a study found here, an observational trial was conducted which followed 1265 people throughout a period of 14-25 years and measured their frequency of drug use, then compared it to the number of other drugs that the people reported they used during the test period. The results that they uncovered were consistent with the hypothesis because frequent users of marijuana were more likely to use other illegal drugs. However, although this evidence supported the hypothesis, scientists were unable to find a clear mechanism to which the frequent use of marijuana caused the use of other drugs. Although this study was partially successful because it was able to find evidence which supported the alternate hypothesis, I feel that it could be improved. Scientists could take into consideration the third variables which could affect other drug use such as heavy alcohol consumption which is known to cause risky behavior. Also, instead of having people self-report drug use, I think it would be better to have them come in for monthly drug tests. This way, scientists can know for a fact which drugs people are and are not using. Although this method would be expensive, I think it is the only clear way to differentiate between what people say they are doing and what they are actually doing.

Ethically speaking, an experimental trial, in this case, needs to be ruled out. Scientists can’t just go around letting people smoke weed and then measure what other kinds of drugs they use. This would not only affect the health of the participants, it would cause an issue with the law as well because many of these drugs being tested for are illegal.

True gateway drug?

Although marijuana is popularly believed to be a gateway drug, scientists have actually been able to determine that the true gateway drug is alcohol through other studies. imrs-phpA study conducted a poll between 2835 12th grade students from around America to determine which was the first substance used which then led to trying other substances. Between alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, results showed that alcohol is the most commonly used first substance prior to any other substance use. Scientists were also able to discover that the earlier kids began to drink alcohol, the more likely they would be willing to try other illegal substances. Although this is another self-reported study, based on these facts, alcohol is a more impactful gateway drug, not marijuana.
This study can be easily improved by increasing the sample size. 2835 12th graders is a very small number compared to the 3.5 million expected to graduate between 2016-2017. With a larger sample size and more studies, it reduces the possibility of the results being due to chance.

Just like the previous experiment, ethically, this would never work in an experimental trial. Scientists could never give alcohol to 12th graders and then track what other kinds of drugs they try. Not only is this morally wrong, it is also against the law.

Final thoughts

What we can take away from these studies is that although many believe that the true gateway drug is marijuana, correlational evidence actually shows that it is alcohol.  These findings were able to accept the null hypothesis because the studies prove that although there is a link between marijuana use and use of other drugs, there is no true mechanism in order to prove this. Many cases have been solved where a solution is found before the mechanism like Andrew described with scurvy and lemons. Also, like the prayer study we went over in class, the null hypothesis either can be true or it can be a false positive. Scientist’s conclusion that alcohol is the true gateway drug rejects a popular belief that many people had cemented in their minds. Although these observations and findings are still correlational, I still believe them to be true because most people try drinking alcohol before anything else. If you are not trying to get into any other kinds of drugs, it is a good practice to stay away from alcohol at a young age as studies prove it can lead to further drug use.63_chart01 I guess the D.A.R.E officers weren’t entirely wrong when they said that marijuana is a gateway drug, but there is no true mechanism allowing this to be deemed true or correct. In my own opinion, I feel that if you can exhibit self-control, you shouldn’t have any kind of substance abuse issues.

Additional sources:




Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

As of 2014, it was reported that one in every sixty-eight children is affected by autism in America. Because this disease affects so many American children, there is a high budget for research in order to become more informed on the disease as well as find possible links to its cause and determine solutions to the problem. One of the more commonly associated thoughts with autism is whether or not vaccinations have any correlation to the development of the disease. Because of this, many studies are conducted to see whether this link between vaccinations and autism has any merit. Thanks to the research conducted by scientists, vaccinations and autism are correlated in some ways. However, we know from class that correlation does not always equal causation, so more in-depth studies need to be conducted in order to find out whether or not this could be a possibility.

This issue makes me wonder if vaccinations have a direct relationship to causing autism. In that case, people should stop getting vaccinations altogether.

Little baby girl gets an injection

Third confounding variables also need to be taken into consideration because maybe something like the metals in needles used to administer the vaccinations is actually causing the autism. As Andrew has stated in class, “chance is lurking everywhere,” so we can never count that out. In this case, reverse causation would be ruled out because there is no logical way that autism could be the thing causing you to receive vaccinations because of the passage of time.


In a study conducted in 2011, scientists administered an experiment where they tested eight commonly given vaccines to adults and children to see if they had any cause in the development of autism. They were able to conclude that these eight vaccinations were very safe aside from the extremely rare cases. This experiment could be morally wrong if it was administered another way. If scientists and doctors went around vaccinating people with multiple medications and seeing if they develop autism, they could get themselves into a lot of trouble. Just like we discussed in class, in a situation where a doctor wants to operate an experimental treatment, consent needs to be provided.

Another case-control study examined the amount of the ingredients found in vaccines given during the first two years of life which help the body to produce disease-fighting antibodies (antigens) and compared it to the levels found in children with and without autism. The null hypothesis, in this case, would state that there is no difference between the levels of disease-fighting antibodies in children with or without autism except chance. 6a00d8357f3f2969e2019affaed29f970dThe alternate hypothesis would state that there is a palpable difference seen between the levels of these antigens in children with or without autism. With a control group of 752 children without autism and 256 with autism, this study was relatively small compared to a large number of children who suffer from autism.

To improve this study, I feel that researchers could a study of a larger scale of children to help reinforce the data that was discovered. The results, however, showed that the level of antigens was equal in children with or without autism. Thanks to some of these studies, scientists are able to conclude and reassure people that the vaccines do not actually cause autism.

Although parents and scientists alike continue to develop new hypotheses linking autism and vaccinations, science continually disproved them with thorough examinations of these theories. The most commonly proposed hypotheses can be read about here as well as the results of the many experiments conducted to disprove these hypotheses. As long as children continue to develop autism, parents and doctors will also continue to develop theories on why this occurs. Thanks to the rigorous experiments conducted in many labs around the world, autism being caused by vaccinations should be taken off the list of concerns because there is valid proof found which disproves the hypotheses.

Final thoughts

What we can take away from all of this is that parents shouldn’t worry about vaccinating their young children. With all of the information and evidence science has given us, there is no need for concern. d85606a1cf068cde44e972430cdd20adDoctors and researchers do the very best that they can to make sure they are keeping a patients or parents best interests in mind while they are doing their job. Thankfully, there is science to back up their notions and disprove the fact that vaccinations may cause autism.

Additional sources:




Does skipping breakfast cause weight gain?

For as long as I can remember, I have always been told by my mother to eat breakfast because “it’s the most important meal of the day.” And for the most part, when living at home, I always did eat breakfast.

Sunny cheerful breakfast

Now that I am in college, things are different. Sometimes, I just don’t have time for breakfast, so I skip it. Other times, I wake up so late that I’m actually eating my first meal at lunchtime (12-2.) Because of the saying, I have always wondered if it really is that important to your health to always eat breakfast.

Upon researching this, I uncovered that scientists have discovered a link between not eating breakfast and gaining weight.fitness-facts-and-motivation-do-not-skip-breakfast I wondered if there is a direct relationship between not eating breakfast and gaining weight. This also leaves open the possible of reverse causation because maybe weight gain is causing you to not eat breakfast. The results being due to chance is always an option as well as third variables which affect both weight gain and whether or not you eat breakfast. An example of a confounding variable, in this case, could be a lack of time or maybe no food available for consumption.


While trying to discover if there is any mechanism for the hypothesis, I discovered a study which examined the effect of eating breakfast on humans. Body weight was one of the topics reviewed. Scientists were able to find out that breakfast eaters generally consumed more calories daily than people who skip breakfast. However, the people who ate breakfast were seen to be less likely to be overweight than their opposite, the breakfast skipper. Scientists didn’t stop at this one study, though. Because of the continued association between skipping breakfast and gaining weight, a meta-analysis was conducted to see if a mechanism linking the two factors could be uncovered. Nineteen observational studies were conducted with over 90,000 participants providing the data. Researchers were able to find a positive link between skipping breakfast and gaining weight. Although they were still not able to discover a mechanism that explained this, eating breakfast was still encouraged because of its vast other benefits unrelated to body weight. I like the fact that this study was conducted with over 90,000 participants. This gives the data some real weight in my opinion. If you discover a trend when looking at a control group of 90,000 there is a high likelihood of correlation.

Additional studies were conducted to test the possibility of reverse causation being the cause of weight gain due to skipping breakfast. A few were able to conclude that overweight children are most likely to skip breakfast. There is a problem with these findings, however, because researchers were not able to differentiate what occurred first: becoming overweight or skipping breakfast. Further studies were conducted to see how this problem could be avoided to not skew the data. Researchers conducted a longitudinal study where 14,000 boys and girls from all around the country were given a questionnaire and to report their BMI at the beginning of each year dating from 1996 to 1999. The results continued to complicate the equation. Children who were deemed overweight from the beginning of the study and skipped breakfast were seen to lose body fat in some cases. However, when looking into the normal weight children who skipped breakfast, some cases of weight gain were noticed. Scientists continued to encourage eating breakfast because of its ability to help maintain a healthy diet and provide energy to the consumer.

Final thoughts

What we can take away from this information is that although there are some cases where skipping breakfast has caused weight gain, there is no mechanism or decisive evidence that proves this to always be true. Breakfast is deemed “the most important meal of the day” because of other factors such as improved energy and focus, not because of whether you will gain weight from eating it or not. The benefits of breakfast are well known and many are being proven to be true, so eating it can only be an advantage to you. Skipping breakfast may or may not lead to weight gain, but it also won’t allow you to have the energy and focus that breakfast eaters possess. From now on, I will try to continue to eat breakfast whenever I can because I not only enjoy it, but it is able to provide things beneficial to my wellbeing… especially if it looks like this. breakfast-02

Does living close to power lines cause cancer?

I remember a time in my life not all that long ago when my parents were searching for a new house for my family. They looked long and hard for the perfect house. Then they stumbled across it. The house had everything they wanted but the surrounding property possessed a feature that they didn’t desire. Behind this house was a set of power lines. Although these power lines were blocked by trees and not an eyesore, my parents were concerned about them for a greater reason. The realtor had informed them that these lines were thought to have a link to cancer in children. pylon-power-line-compensationAt the time, when I heard this I didn’t believe it in the slightest way. Being a narrow-minded twelve-year-old, all I wanted was for my parents to pull the trigger on the nice house with the big pool. Now that I am a little older and wiser, the thought of these power lines causing cancer is an interesting topic to me. Upon further thought, I was able to raise a few questions about if there actually is a causal link between power lines and cancer in children.

The first being whether or not living in close proximity to powerlines is directly causal to cancer in young children. 

Another would be whether or not living close to power lines is reversely causal to cancer, but there is no logical way for cancer to cause living closely to power lines. 

This leaves only an independent third variable such as geographic location, and chance to prove this theory to be true.

Studies to further investigate this hypothesis

In order to investigate this further, I happened upon a study found here which describes a trial that was conducted in 1979 and uncovered a correlation between high-voltage power lines and leukemia in children. ca_v_emfThe study compared cancer rate of children who lived in close proximity to power lines to others who lived in houses, not near power lines. Researchers went out into the areas where power lines were present and measured the amount of radiation being emitted at different points throughout the day, then compared them to already known levels which were linked to cancer. Although no concrete results were discovered, it seemed to them that children who spent their whole childhood in close proximity to these power lines were most at risk. Then in 1995, the evidence was reviewed and there was no mechanism found which the magnetic fields generated by powerlines had any role in the development of cancer in children. The review of the evidence was able to rule out chance due to a high sample size. However, researchers did warn that residential magnetic field exposure and leukemia in children were regularly associated. These results only added to the question of whether or not there was any merit behind the theory that exposure to the magnetic fields given off by high voltage power lines does in fact cause cancer.radiation-from-powerlines-safe In 2002, another study was conducted and put the theory of power lines causing cancer to rest. There was no evidence found that supported the link between power lines and any form of cancer in children or adults or anything. Scientists didn’t give up, though. In 2013, one of the most recent studies to date came to the conclusion that there is no association between close proximity to powerlines any the development of any form of cancer thanks to review of previous evidence as well as further experiments conducted.

Final thoughts

Now that there is experimental evidence supporting the fact that cancer and close proximity to power lines have no effect on your health, you shouldn’t worry if you are planning on purchasing or living in a house near these lines. The alternate hypotheses which states power lines do cause cancer was rejected because the null hypothesis which states that power lines do not cause cancer was proven to be true thanks to the study from 2013. Although power lines may be ugly and an eyesore, there is no mechanism or link between the two variables. Having this evidence, I now wonder if my parents knew this at the time I would be living in a different house than the one I do today.

Do study drugs allow you to get better grades?

When midterm and final exams approach, college students will look for anything to try to help them prepare for these very important tests to the best of their abilities. Some turn to coffee and late nights spent at the library. Others start studying weeks in advance. However, while those methods are natural, another increasingly popular method some students turn to is prescription medicines to try to enhance their studying habits. 111434-pills-walbridge-01Although it is illegal to sell these pills, just as it would be illegal to sell crack or cocaine, students turn to their friends who are “lucky enough” to obtain a prescription for Adderall, Vyvanse, or Ritalin. These pills are prescribed to people who suffer from ADHD to try to help them focus better and maintain their focus for hours on end. While some people will take these pills to get high, many college students who have no need for these pills are taking them to study for hours on end. asset-11
In a poll performed in 2008, over 81% of the 1800 students involved thought that the use of these medications was only “slightly dangerous” to “not dangerous at all.” This self-reporting study shows that the number of students who are saying yes to these drugs is already large, and will only continue to grow. The way students are using these pills to enhance brain functions raises a few questions in my head:

Is the use of ADHD medication directly correlated to better grades?

Are better grades and ADHD medication use reversely correlated where receiving good grades is causing more medication use?

Or, is a third variable involved that could affect both ADHD medication use and better grades. An example of this could be anything from a longer attention span to more energy available for school work, which would affect both the grades received and the use of ADHD medication. Maybe the ADHD medication is allowing you to focus more easily on your studies which then leads to higher marks on exams.

Because of the time, reverse causation, in this case, would be ruled out because you would have already received your grades before you tried an ADHD medication, so it would be physically impossible for good grades to be reversely correlated to the use of these medicines.

There is a possibility that using ADHD medication could, in turn, lead to higher grades on tests but experiments need to be conducted in order to prove or disprove this hypothesis.


In a study conducted here, researchers have found evidence that should make students think twice before taking these drugs. Contrary to popular belief amongst students, scientists discovered that these drugs will not improve your grades regardless of whether you have ADHD or not. Studies show that the GPA’s of users are typically lower than nonusers. This proves that the academically superior don’t even need to turn to these so-called “study drugs” to obtain their high marks in their classes. study-drugs-like-adderall-do-they-work-300x177Another fact is that the users of these drugs also tend to be users of other drugs or alcohol. This can lead to poor study habits because of desire to do other things rather than study.

Another observational study conducted found that out of the 1,811 undergraduate students polled from a public university, 34% said they had used ADHD medication without a prescription. study-drug-statsAlthough this study proves that the use of ADHD medication is indeed a problem, it is relatively small sample size compared to the 20.5 million enrolled in colleges during 2016. The problem that I have with this current study is that the sample size should be increased for more accurate results and the data collected was from one university only. This flaw leaves open the possibility that the usage of ADHD medication without a prescription at this one school may be larger or smaller than at all other schools. With a larger sample size and polling data from undergrads at multiple different campuses, the results can be more accurate and cover a broader spectrum of students with different study habits.

This issue is a tough one to test experimentally amongst scientists. For scientists to perform a randomized control trial, they would have to give these study drugs to members of the control group and then test their exam taking capabilities compared to members of the group who did not take these drugs. It would be considered unethical to perform an experiment like this. Although a trial like this would be able to provide excellent insight into whether or not study drugs actually work, scientists have yet to find an ethical way to perform study where a patient’s health is not hanging in the balance. For now, they will have to settle on using self-reported data to try to find a mechanism for these drugs to impact performance.

Final thoughts

The things that can be taken away from this study are although it is a popular belief that these study drugs can improve performance on test and quizzes, there is no evidence to prove it. There is in fact evidence that disproves this theory as presented in the article listed above. Although there is no mechanism describing why study drug users tend to have lower GPA’s than non-users, it would probably be in your best interest to put down the Adderall or its substitute, and hit the books hard like a normal student would. Along with the fact that there is no proven benefit for non-prescribed users, there are also various health risks associated with the use of ADHD medication. Heart disease, high blood pressure, and seizure are some of the many side effects and dangers of using these drugs. Because of these risks, the benefits of using drugs like Adderal to study do not outweigh the potential dangers which can occur.  An old saying states that “there is no substitute for hard work,” and these findings help prove that to be true.

How Beneficial Is Drinking Coffee In the Morning?

It doesn’t matter if I got a good nights sleep or went to bed at three am, when I wake up I have to have my cup of coffee. Now throughout high school a lot of my friends would tease me because every morning before classes would start I would show up with my 32 ounce Tervis full of coffee. They’d often say I’m dependent on it. I started to question the benefits of coffee, and if I’d be worse of without it. Well like many other questions that have resonated within me, I believe science has already answered this.

After reading this page, I learned a lot about what is actually in coffee. I never took a second to realize that this wonderful cup of liquid was made out of anything else but happiness. A regular eight ounce cup of coffee has up to five calories, no fat or carbs, .2 milligrams of vitamin B2 roboflavin ( living organisms get most of their energy from reactions with this vitamin (cite). Coffee also has .6 milligrams of pantothenic acid, which is used for a variety of things, mainly pairing with other B Vitamins to prevent illness. There are 116 milligrams of potassium in coffee, we all know this is helpful in preventing cramps. Finally, in an eight ounce cup of coffee, there are about 95 Milligrams of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant drug, which means it increases alertness, attention, and most of all energy.

The following abstract describes how coffee is beneficial to an individual. Not only does coffee provide a boost of energy, it increases dopamine in the brain. So, scientifically speaking, coffee has the ability to bring happiness. The vitamin in coffee called niacin can also treat the niacin deficiency known as pellagra disease. A study could easily be conducted providing information supporting that coffee improves health. It would be an experimental double blind placebo trial tested on college students. The control group would not drink coffee at all. The first experimental group would drink one cup of coffee daily, while the second group would drink two or more cups daily.  I’m having trouble thinking of how health may be measured in the average college student. Perhaps academic performance can provide an explanation. I believe those who drink coffee in moderation would have a better academic performance, and that drinking coffee would be beneficial to health.

Does SpongeBob “absorb” some of younger viewers’ brains?

It’s not unusual to hear about parents who never let their kids watch SpongeBob SquarePants when they were younger, in many cases due to the commonly held belief that watching SpongeBob can lower your IQ, or be detrimental to the brains of young children in other ways. But how much of that is actually true?


study conducted by the University of Virginia took 60 4-year-olds and split them into 3 groups of 20. Each group was assigned a different task for 9 minutes. The first group watched a 9-minute clip of SpongeBob, the second, a clip of the same length from the children’s show Caillou, and the third simply had 9 minutes to doodle with crayons and markers. The contrast between the TV shows in the study involved great differences in pace and action, with changes of the camera and/or scene approximately every 11 seconds in SpongeBob, and every 34 seconds in Caillou. After the 9 minutes were up, the 4-year-olds were given tasks that involved learning, such as doing the opposite action of what they’re told to do (for example, touching their head when told to touch their toes), as well as being tested on the ability to recite a string of digits in reverse. The results of the tests showed that children in both of the other categories performed better in every category than the children who watched SpongeBob.


But this doesn’t mean what many people assume it to mean. While the first assumption of many is to conclude that watching SpongeBob simply makes kids “dumber”, it’s important to note that that’s not what the study measured. The study measured the show’s effect on attention span, and the results show that SpongeBob is taxing on the minds of children, which fatigues their brains and causes problems focusing on other tasks. In fact, representative of Nickelodeon, David Bittler told ABC news that he thought the methodology of the study was questionable, stating that the subjects of the study were not an accurate representation of the intended audience for SpongeBob, and were in fact two years younger than the specified target demographic. Another problem with this particular study was explained by Jane Gould, former Senior Vice President of Consumer Insights at Nickelodeon, in a video interview (2:43 in the video on ABC News), stating that SpongeBob is designed to entertain, rather than educate, where as the other show used to compare in the study, Caillou, is both designed for that purpose, and for the age demographic used in the study. Additionally, Bittler accused the study of not using enough diversity in the studies, and both Bittler and Gould said that not enough subjects were used.


So does SpongeBob have an effect on young viewers’ brains? Yes. Does it make young viewers “dumber”? Well, not exactly. Or at least, it has yet to be proven to. The fast paced clips and action in SpongeBob stimulate the children, with the aim to entertain them. While it doesn’t educate kids, it’s important to understand that that’s not it’s aim. The fatigue to the minds of kids is not dangerous on it’s own. While attention spans are shown to be shorter after watching SpongeBob, it can be explained without suggesting any detrimental long term effects.

Research sources:
NewScientist report
ABC News interview

Image Sources:
Title and Characters
Cast of Characters
SpongeBob and Patrick (Cropped Edit)

Video Sources:
ABC News interview


I was a cheerleader in high school and for one of my practices, instead of doing gymnastics to warm up, my team did yoga. Afterwards, we all felt extremely relaxed and stretched out. My senior year of high school, my psychology went to weekly yoga classes and always told my class how much more relaxed and stress free he felt afterwards. The combination of these two things made me start to wonder, what are the health benefits of yoga. Yeah you are meditating, stretching, and relaxing, but does yoga doing anything long term for you or is it basically just an average workout?

Image result for yoga

This article talks about an experiment that was conducted to see how well yoga improved your physical and mental well-being. When you do yoga your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and your sympathetic nervous system are provoked by a stressor. This causes changes in your physiologic, behavioral, and psychological effects as a release of cortisol and catecholamines. This causes energy to engage with the stressor through “fight or “flight” syndrome. When this cycle is repeated enough times, over time it can reduce many types of diseases. Such as obesity, diabetes, depression, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders. Yoga can also slow down your heart rate, your salivary cortisol, blood glucose, and plasma rennin levels. The article also states that yoga is proven to relieve the side effects that stress has on the body.

(Image Source:Yoga Class)

This is another article I looked at that talks about the different types of yoga and how they are each beneficial in their own way. Some types are more intense than others, some use props, some are even done in extremely warm temperatures. Yoga tones your body while relaxing you at the same time. This article also talks about practicing yoga with a medical condition, but they also talk about practicing yoga if you have arthritis since yoga does not add any extra pressure to your joints, instead it helps you relax. They also mention that practicing yoga while pregnant can be a great way to stay in shape (with the approval of your doctor).

This article was written by an osteopathic physician who also practices yoga. Some of the psychical benefits you can get from doing yoga are:

  • flexibility
  • Muscles become more toned and stronger
  • Breathing, stamina, endurance
  • Weight loss

Image result for yogaThose are just a few physical benefits that they have listed. Practicing yoga regularly can also make you more alert and able to concentrate better. Being more aware of your body can also help you avoid future physical complications.

All in all I think yoga is a very beneficial workout. Now, I’m not saying that all other workouts should no longer be practiced, but yoga definitely has more benefits for your mental and physical well being.

(Image Source: Yoga Mats)

Are Standardized Tests Actually Important?

In high school, I was never a good test taker. When it came to the SATs, anxiety would overcome my body, I would be frozen and unable to complete the test. However, after seeking a tutor/ advisor in hopes to squander this fear of tests, I soon realized many people have this fear as well.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-2-07-51-pmAs I got older, my hatred for these standardized tests have grown. I grew up with a dad who was never a good test taker, went to 2 years of college and yet, he now is one of the most successful entrepreneurs. He has always instilled in me that education is very important, however it is also about your people skills, persistence, and networking skills. I couldn’t agree with this more and I found that a lot of other people also agreed. But, I couldn’t understand why these tests still held so much weight. There’s so much pressure to do well on one test. One test filled with useless knowledge. All of this inspired me to beg the question: Are Standardized Tests Actually Important?


Upon researching, I came across this article from 2000, I know that was long ago, but it mentions points that are relevant. I think that all of these facts are something to consider and I personally agree with these facts because I’ve witnessed it. 


In another article highlighting the education system world rankings, the U.S. comes in at #29 out of 76.


After reading about the top ranking countries such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Finland, it seems that their common thread of success is teaching kids to work hard through project based learning and outside of the classroom experience. Finland, for example, teaches their children through shorter schools day which enables them to learn real-life education and learn beyond the classroom. This seems to working for the top countries, so maybe the U.S. will soon take the hint…

Although this blog is primarily analyzing standardized test scores I thought I’d share this intriguing and thought-provoking video. screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-2-24-19-pmI know it is lengthy, however it is worth the watch.




All this aside, I understand that we need a baseline tests because there are too many people in the world striving for the same goal, however they are not the most important. I think the takeaway for this blog post would be that a healthy concern for your education and grades is important, but to realize that tests aren’t everything and sometimes people skills can take you farther than scores.

That being said, I stand by my philosophy of “It’s not about the grades you make it’s about the hands you shake.”


Is High-Stake Testing Helping Us or Hurting Us?

Getting to this time in the semester, we’re all stressing out about these huge exams that are worth 20, 25, or even 30% of our entire grade. The more percentage the exam counts for our grade, the more we stress out. That’s a natural response over something that everyone in college and people who will hire us afterward is focused on, high GPA and test scores. The question I constantly ask myself is this high-state testing helping push us to our very best potential, or is it causing more stress and having us focus on testing more than if we actually learn and apply the subject to the rest of our lives? This something education is supposed to be all about, but has it lost its way?

Looking at this from the perspective of science, we have to have a hypothesis that we can test. The null hypothesis is that testing does not affect us, something we know not to be true. For better or worse, testing will always affect us in one way or another. So, we’re left with two alternate hypotheses:

Either testing makes us worse off than before, which we can test with things like stress levels, performance on the tests, and differences in how countries handle testing. We’ll call this alternate hypothesis #1.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


Testing makes us better off than before, which we can test with our nationwide performances on test scores, achievement gains since implementation, or how it compares to old test scores before we changed our testing policies. We’ll call this alternate hypothesis #2.

Background: Before we get into the study, which was done by Brian Jacobs in 2002, I first want to go through the previous studies that Jacobs went through in order to find correlation with his studies. The first thing that should be mentioned is the majority of exams that are measured in studies like this focus on high school graduation exams. This makes sense, considering that these are both high-stakes for the students (getting a good grade on this might help them get into college) and also will have a higher pool of students over the college level. Interestingly, Jacobs found studies that have a positive association (Bishop 1998, Frederisksen 1994, Neill 1998, Winfield, 1990), but also found a study that had no increase in achievement (Jacob 2001). So, basically, he found conflicting studies that can mean either of our alternate hypotheses is indeed correct. There were about 8-12 other studies that Jacobs looked at before conducting his own research, but this too proved to be a mixed bag. Just like Andrew often has said to us in class, science and studies just don’t seem to agree with each other and make things easy. The question is, which studies are wrong and which are right?


Before we get into the study, I wanted to share this video about the testing standards Jacobs studied, and why many view it as a failure.

The Procedure: In 1996, high-stakes assessment was implemented in Chicago. This focused on having students be accountable for learning, mostly by stopping the “social promotion” practice, which basically means that students would advance to the next grade, no matter what. If the students fail to perform to Chicago’s new standards in math and reading, they have kept back another grade until the standards are met and were put into 6 weeks of mandatory summer school. Looking for first-time test takers, Jacobs looked to see if their scores increased over time in this low-income, mostly African American environment to see if it helped in any way. The independent variable in this scenario is the new test policies, while the dependent variable is the reading, science, math, and social studies scores that the kids receive in these new tests.

The Results: This was quickly met with problems, however. Third graders who took the test failed to meet the criteria almost half of the time. On top of that, six and eighth graders failed 33% of the time. Obviously, Jacobs has focused on an observational study on this point. Unless you could convince a school board that you want to have some kids tested more high-stakes than some others, it would be incredibly difficult to have an experimental study. So, Jacobs is doing the best he can; looking at a low-income, low-grade area and seeing how high-stake assessment is doing.

Obviously, looking at the data above, it’s not doing well. When 33% of your upper-level students and 50% of you lower level students fail to meet the standards, there are two possibilities. Either the standards are too high and cannot be met, or you haven’t been teaching these kids right for years prior. Either way, it shows our educational system is incredibly flawed. However, something drastic happened in regards to math and reading scores. Beginning in 1993, test scores in math began to steadily increase each year. However, this may not be due strictly to the implementation of the new policy, but rather the changing of teaching to prepare students for the testing. Either way, it does seem to have increased both math and reading scores steadily. By the year 2000, math scores increased by 0.3 deviations higher than it’s 1993 counterpart.

More interestingly, low-achieving students (the ones used for the data above) may have done better in math and reading, but fell farther behind in science and social studies. This raises the question, did they really increase with high-stake assessment, or did they shift the focus to math and reading because it looked better for the school district (and thus would get them more money)?

So, in conclusion, the answer isn’t as cut-and-dry and we may have hoped. We ‘ve seen this a lot in class, with studies like the prayer hypothesis that didn’t affect mortality rate but did help them get out sooner (although that was later debunked). Although test scores did increase greatly in math and reading, it went down in science and social studies. Likewise, students had to take summer school between 33-50% of the time in order to advance to the next great because standards have not been met. The question is, did the scores increase because students worked harder with tougher standards, or did the administration just shift focus towards math and reading to get better test scores, and more money ,for their school?

If we had to choose between alternate hypothesis #1 or alternate hypothesis #2 and didn’t choose to put it in a file drawer, we’d have to go with #2 due to it increasing math and reading scores significantly. You can argue that the decrease in scores in social studies and science is temporary, and will increase over time as more focus is put back into those subjects after math and reading increases. Likewise, students not meeting standards increasing may be due to the change in standards taking an adjustment. Therefore, I would take this conclusion with a grain of salt. However, the increase in test scores show that these standards may be due to a bunch of different reasons, but it did increase test scores, which is exactly what it was meant for.

Why Vinyl?

I have a growing collection of vinyl records. Three things make me love the collection and make me want to add to it: The cover art is cool, it is the true sign that you appreciate an artists work, and, for some reason, it sounds better to me.

For most of my infatuation with vinyl, I figured I was just tricking myself into believing that it sounded better. The argument had been made by many so I figured that it could be a proper justification for the steep price of records.vinyl

However, the argument may have some truth to it.

The argument that vinyl is better than digital audio starts with the origin of the music. When someone streams something on Spotify, the music has gone from the artist to the digital audio recording system, compressed so it can stream without taking up too much storage, and to the listener. According to a report from the Oregonian’s David Greenwald, the vinyl sound follows a much more pure transformation from artist to listener. The sound travels from the artist to the physical tape recording, to the record making device (shown in this video), to the record, to the listener. This process involves no compression and mirrors the exact depth and pitch that the original artist intended.

According to Correy Binns of Popular Science, compressed audio in the form of an MP3 file can take away almost 90% of the sound from the original recording. This is because the digital download strips the music of its subtleties. Binns goes on to explain that this process occurs because of advanced machines that see what sounds the human ear requires to hear the song. The rest of the recording is deemed unnecessary and cut from the original piece to save storage.

vinyl-record-playerAlthough, it can be hard to differentiate between the two unless you are a true audiophile. Here is a recording a DMX song played on MP3 and record. Try to see if you can differentiate between the two.

The previous test is anecdotal because a well-developed study with sizable data of how people perceive the music has not been sufficiently performed. All in all, it’s a matter of preference. It may be hard to tell the difference, but listening to vinyl is the equivalent of eating organic, non-processed foods: You may not feel very different, but you know it’s better for you.

Side note: Here is a great microscopic view of what the grooves of the record look like, as well as the movement of the needle (plot twist/spoiler: the needle primarily moves side to side to create the sound).

Sources: hyperlinked in the text.

Food and Dreams

One of my friends in this class wrote a blog entry about the effects that different types of cheese can have on your dreams. I thought this topic was so interesting because I had never heard of anyone eating a certain type of cheese and having an outrageous dream. She told me that different types of cheese could make you feel like you are on different kinds of drugs in your dreams, which I thought was extremely interesting. This got me thinking, can any type of food affect your dreams?

Image result for peanut butter and jellyThe first article I came across listed different types of foods and how they affect your dreams. The first food the article listed was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The article says this type of food promotes happy dreams because of the high amount of carbohydrates and sugar. Sugary foods are good because our brains require a lot of sugar. The amount of protein from the peanut butter and the carbohydrates from the bread, when combined help boost the amount of serotonin produced in your body. The article lists a couple other types of food including cheese. They did not go into much depth with it, besides explaining that numerous studies have been conducted in which people would eat cheese and monitor the type of dreams they had.

(Image Source: PB&J)

I decided to search for another article that instead of focusing on how certain foods aid your sleep, I wanted to find out how certain foods affected your dreams. I found this article
 that talks about a man having consistent nightmares, sleep apnea, and a snoring problem. The man was Image result for chocolate involved in a serious car accident about 10 years before this experiment took place, which could have had an effect on the results. After this accident, was when the man started developing these bad sleeping habits. The man and his wife also mentioned that chocolate was something they ate frequently. Chocolate, when consumed before sleeping, can cause someone to have more vivid and enhanced dreams. This article talks about the psychoactive effects that chocolate has on the brain. In this article, it states that milk and cheese can cause you to have happier and more relaxed dreams. They also go on to quote Dr. Lori Shemek who states that the effect food has on dreams can change depending on the person having the dream. Your dreams are altered due to the digestion process, what phase of sleep you are currently in, and even the setting you are currently sleeping in. Dr. Lori Shemek also states that you should stay away from eating larger meals before you go to sleep, because if your body is having a harder time digesting the food, it could cause you to have nightmares and even disturb your sleep cycles.

(Image Source:Chocolate)

Eating foods containing excessive amounts of fat could also influence your dreams. Going off of what I said earlier about your body having a harder time digesting foods can cause nightmares, that is what happens when you eat foods containing a lot of fat.

This article does not just talk about what you are eating before you sleep, but when you are eating before you go to sleep. When you eat right before you go to sleep your body temperature increases and so does your metabolism. The combination of these two things could enhance your sleep, especially during the REM phase.

I didn’t realize so many different foods, or the amount of food you are consuming before you go to sleep, could affect your dreams. If I were to research this topic into more depth I would probably focus on one type of food: Chocolate, cheese, spicy food, or carbs, and study the effects of those foods individually rather than as a group.

Is Peanut Butter Good For You?

At college my go to snack is is peanut butter. On my sandwich, in my oatmeal, or just a plain spoonful of peanut butter, it makes an appearance in at least 2 out of 3 of my meals a day. As a matter of fact, I am eating peanut butter and apples as I type this. Realizing what a large role peanut butter played in my diet, I began to question is this much peanut butter good for you?


Peanut butter has many benefits. Considered a “healthy fat,” peanut butter contains a variety of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. One serving of peanut butter is considered 2 tablespoons adding up to 188 calories. This one serving of peanut butter is “heart-healthy,” containing about 8 grams of a monounsaturated fat that can decrease risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health diseases. Selenium and vitamin B-3, also found in significant amounts in peanut butter, are good for energy production and fat metabolism.

Peanut butter contains around 8 grams of protein. It is a quick and tasty source of protein and when paired with milk or bread, the amount of amino acids are increased bumping up the protein intake to around 28 grams. The higher amounts of fiber and protein in peanut butter fill you up faster and keep you feeling full for longer. This is good for dieting when restricting your food intake because it won’t leave you hungry and looking for something else to eat.

All these benefits are convincing me that I should keep eating peanut butter all day every day. But the amount of calories raised a concern. Peanut butter has a pretty high calorie count. Two tablespoons equaling around 200 calories can easily take up about 10% of a persons’s daily calorie intake and begin to increase weight gain.

When I discovered the high number of calories in peanut butter, I wondered if every brand of peanut butter is the same. I found that there are so many brands that produce and sell peanut butter. Heres a fun article that I found ranking the top 36 peanut butters (my personal favorite peanut butter & co ranked at #12). Each peanut butter had around 180-200 calories, with the exceptions of a few types that had a different flavoring or an added mix of jelly in the jar. The nutrition facts vary for each brand of peanut butter. To create a different flavored peanut butter more sugars and carbohydrates are added. To make a low fat peanut butter, sugar or trans fat is added to make up for the cut out fat. And of course there are the organic peanut butter brands. Although those may have less of a particular ingredient, they have a higher susceptibility to toxic mold growth, fungus, and pesticides on their peanuts because it is less processed.

So is peanut butter good or bad for you? Based on the pros and cons that I found, I came to the conclusion that peanut butter is good for you in moderation. When choosing your peanut butter it is good to be aware of the nutrition facts and ingredients. It is each individuals choice what they decide they want to fill their body with and its important to know all the positive and negative aspects of a particular food or brand of food to make healthy choices regarding your daily diet.


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6 Reasons You Should NEVER Eat Peanut Butter!





Is Lack of Sleep Causing Depression in College Students?

Not getting enough of sleep is one of the most difficult life changes we face when coming to college. Pulling all-nighters (sometimes with the help of energy drinks and coffee) has become a staple of college culture. It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything completed, and staying up late becomes the only option to combat the large workload being placed upon us. Obviously not getting enough of sleep has physical consequences, such as waking up tired the next morning, but what about psychological consequences? Does sleep deprivation affect our mental health?

There was a study conducted in 2010 that tried to come

to a conclusion of whether or not lack of sleep had a relationship with depression or depressive-like symptoms. Questionnaires were sent to 1,100 (18-22-year-old) student mailboxes at a women’s college with questions that asked about their sleeping habits. This is an observational study because the scientists are not changing the lifestyles of the students, they are merely asking questions about their sleep schedules. Examples of some of the questions found on this two-page questionnaire were the students’  bedtimes, consumption of caffeine, time they wake up, and if they experience sleepiness during the daytime. Levels of depression were based on the CES-D and HAM-D scales.

They found that the women who went to bed at 2:00 a.m. or later showed depression tendency scores higher than those of the women who reported bedtimes before 2:00 a.m. The scientists also discovered that those students who consumed an average of two cups of coffee or more a day, tended to fall asleep at 2:00 a.m. or later. The mechanism behind this is that coffee contains caffeine and that can make you less tired, causing your bedtimes to be prolonged. Alcohol and tobacco products (confounding variables) were also reported to affect sleeping patterns through disrupting sleep and/or oversleeping. Lack of sleep, the scientists found, shows a positive correlation with melancholic depressive symptoms. Chronic sleep disruptions are a sign of melancholic depression, and so it is not surprising that students who went to bed at 2:00 a.m. or later showed higher levels of this disease.

Reverse causation is possible here because those that suffer from depression can have a lack of sleep due of feelings of anxiety or distress. Confounding variables such as type of major, workload, and social pressures could also create sleeping patterns that result in higher levels of depression. It would be valuable to know what the cut-off for the amount of sleep a person should get each night so that they lower the risk of having this disease. Also, this study only analyzes the habits of women and it would be interesting to compare results from a co-ed or male focused study to see if there is any variance. Although correlation does not equal causation, this study (despite its smaller size), does show that there seems to be a strong correlation between lack of sleep and signs of depression. After reviewing this study, I will be more mindful about my sleeping patterns and avoid habitually going to bed at 2:00 a.m. or later.




Genetics and Anxiety

Anxiety has always played a big part in my life.  Sometimes casting a showdown of doubt and fear over daily living, while other times getting me motivated to start a task or stay away from bad situations.  Definitely downsides and upsides.  Some anxiety is normal, but when it starts to take over is where the problems occur.  Some big questions for me have always been where does anxiety come from?  Why are some people seemingly immune to worried-ness while others overthink and get upset about even the most trivial things or decisions?  A correlation relating to those specific questions that I personally have observed is that it seems anxiety and related mental disorders seem to plague members of the same family, whether immediate, relatives, or ancestors.  My own family definitely struggles with this, with my Grandmom jokingly saying it is those good old “Italian Genes.”  As funny as it sounds, this statement brings up a very interesting question.  Does anxiety relate back to genetics or are there third variables such as environment that we have to take into consideration other than blaming genetic makeup alone?


This has certainly been a question for scientists interested in psychology and the way it relates to brain function and genes.  To try to uncover this question, scientists began to look a little more deeply into the human brain, specifically the neurons and fatty acids.  They found that people with a certain gene have less FAAH. About 20% of people. (According to Heather Salerno, Cornell Writer) FAAH is a fatty acid that technically regulates happiness and I will explain how.  This fatty acid is responsible for bringing down levels of Anandamide in the brain.  Now this is where the neurons come in.  Neurons are the way for the brain to transmit information.  The neurotransmitter Anandamide is the one responsible for the transfer of happiness and joy.  If the people with the special gene have less FAAH, there will not be as much regulation of the Anandamide neuron resulting in more happiness, joy and relaxation information meaning less anxiety.  With more of the FAAH, scientists tested that people had an easier time forgetting negative behaviors or thoughts resulting in anxiety.



A team from Cornell University headed by Dr. Lee and Dr. Casey tested this theory in two very interesting experiments on both mice and humans.  For the mice, they mutated the genes of some of the mice to give them the gene leading to less FAAH and more of the Anandamide.  The mice were now put through tests with noise and mazes. The noise test related a shock to a loud noise.  When the shock was removed, the mice with the new gene seemed to get over their fear much faster than the ones who did not receive it.  They also seemed to be less frightened in the maze, not standing by the walls like the control group.  The humans showed the same results in a similar noise test in which a loud bang was associated with a picture and then the noise was removed.  P-values came out to 0.0007 and 0.01, strongly suggesting this was not due to chance.


Do these tests by the Cornell researchers prove the special gene and less FAAH means anxiety is directly related to genetics alone?  Certainty not.  Many other factors and third variables need to be considered including environment which also plays a huge part.  These other factors need to be thought about before coming to a compete conclusion and claiming this study says it all.  The study also importantly noted that these tests showed a decrease in anxiety-like behavior because measuring anxiety alone would be almost impossible.  More studies and trials would give a stronger link to the relationship of anxiety and genetics but this is a great start.  Meta-analyses would greatly lower the p-value that this was due to chance even though it was already low. However, these trials give a great insight into the role that genetics plays and might even be able to help develop better relief for patients.

For someone who deals with anxiety it was interesting to learn about how it happens on the brain level. It gave me more explanation on why it seems anxiety runs in a families based on my earlier observation and what my Grandmom had said. Although it does not prove any sort of link, the Cornell study strongly suggests correlation, and maybe in time more similar trials, will dig even deeper to this panicky disorder.

Ways to reduce anxiety:



Study outlined in Neuropharmacology on Science Direct

Weill Cornell Medical College

Scientific American

Photo Credit:



Babies with Tay Sachs –Overload of sadness!

I watched an interesting video for another class the other day, titled cracking the code of silence. In the first part of this video there was a highlight of families dealing with the discovery of their child having Tay Sachs disease. As I was watching this video, I became overwhelmed with sadness. They were so young, so much life ahead of them, yet they were offered a death sentence with this disease. So then I began to wonder how many more babies have this disease in the U.S. How many parents are merely biting time while their offspring, their children, are dying, feeling hopeless. What I remember from several genetic disease lessons is that Tay Sachs disease is a deathly genetic disease resulting from the production of too little of of an enzyme necessary for the removal of excess lipid buildup in the brain tissue. This in turn is expressed in the individual by severe brain damage, enlargement of the head, convulsions, blindness, deafness then eventual death. Tay Sachs is a homozygous recessive disease (it isn’t represented by the dominant traits), where carriers (heterozygous individuals) are not affected.


A baby who died of Tay Sachs.

By doing Additional research I discovered that each year about 16 cases of Tay Sachs are diagnosed. In the video I shared above, both the parents were carriers of the disease. This is results in: 50% chance that their child will be a carrier, but not have the disease, or 25% chance that their child will not be a carrier and not have the disease, or 25% chance that their child will have the disease. Unfortunately in their case, both his child and his twin brother’s child had the disease. I learned through the video that a baby with classic Tay-Sachs starts to develop normally in the first few months of life. Signs and symptoms of the disease usually appear by about 6 months (like the babies in the documentary), when the baby slowly stops smiling, crawling, turning over and reaching out. The father mentioned that his baby stopped laughing and that’s when he knew that it was getting worse really quickly.


Debrielle; a Chicago child who was living with Tay Sachs. Evidence that the Jewish disease, now affects other ethnic groups.

As time passes, steadily, the baby loses skills and develops other dire health problems, including: Breathing problems, hearing, intellectual disabilities (problems with how the brain works that can cause a person to have trouble or delays in physical development, learning, communicating, taking care of himself or getting along with others. Paralysis (this is when you can’t feel or move one or more parts of your body. Seizures (his is when the whole body or parts of the body move without control). I can’t even imagine watching your baby go through that. What we knew, and come to accept about Tay Sachs, is that there is no cure for this disease, but that medicines and healthy eating can help manage them. That the only proactive action to avoid having a baby with Tay-Sachs is to get you and your partner genetically tested (such as prenatal test).

After reading this heartbreaking essay written by a mom (Emily Rapp)  whose child has Tay Sachs disease (“Notes from a Dragon Mom”) I was determined to see what more was being done to find a cure. That’s when I came upon this experimental treatment that launched from the on-going Tay-Sachs Gene Therapy (TSGT) Consortium that raised the question about the ethics of science, such as what we discussed in class. For the first time, since the late 19th century, researchers from around the world including at the University of Massachusetts Medi

Emily Rapp with her son, who had Tay Sachs. Posted in her 2011 Essay.

Emily Rapp with her son, who had Tay Sachs, published in her 2011 Essay.

cal School, Harvard University, Cambridge University, Boston College as well as Auburn University, believed that there could be a way to alter the devastating reality that is Tay Sachs. They, along with the help of other professionals (at Massachusetts General hospital) planned to launch a new gene therapy treatment that involved up to 12 children with Tay Sachs disease. This clinical trial (study) involved the deep implantation of engineered viruses in the brain, that would turn the brain’s cells essentially into ‘micro-factories’ that could produce the crucial enzyme that is missing from those diagnosed with this disease. This was all very exciting and the line of desperate parents to sign their newly diagnosed children up was long. But here comes the problem of ethics.

  1. There’s absolutely NO guarantee that this trial would lead to anything other than failure. Positive results were only shown in feline cats; they possessed the similar enzyme loss, yet when they underwent the gene infusion were able to live months longer than the cats that didn’t (from 4 months to 18 months, some living till 2 years old). But we know from other scientific experiments that what works in another species wont necessarily work in humans. Is it ethical to then get the hopes up of these families to then present no results, or worse yet, if the trial were to lead to the sudden death of these newborns?
  2. Gene therapy has led to unplanned deaths in the past (around the 90s); when infusion of viruses (used as vectors -carrying cancer or etc.) caused a deadly immune reaction to a patient in 1999. The uncertainty is very high and the subjects are very young.
  3. The biggest ethical question is who who is allowed to be enrolled and who will be denied? Patient enrollment is a huge challenge becasue quite often researchers are playing God (not literally so to speak, since most of these choices are based on scientific preferences and health of patients). This experiment, unlike the one we discussed in class isn’t a randomized control, double blind placebo trial. As scientist/doctors must know the patient’s specific medical history, and it’s effect, to know the gene therapy’s effects on health. In this case, researchers such as Dr. Florian Eichler of Mass. General, believed that the earlier on in the disease the patient was, the better their chances at success in the trial. Even with this said, there is still something ethically unsettling about denying a newborn baby potential treatment of an otherwise fatal disease.

We discussed in class that breakthroughs happen in only 17% of trials because humans are somewhat shockingly bad at discovery. However, science is as we know a way of escaping that lousy intuition of ours. Since we cannot predict with accuracy when harm vs. good will be done, so we need evidence-based approaches. All in all, in 2016 the trials are still underway, so all we can do is hope that this gene therapy falls in that 17% of breakthroughs.


Tattoos: More Than Meets the Eye

Tattoos, simple right? The needle punctures the skin, the ink is on the needle, and then you have a tattoo. To my surprise marking your skin forever isn’t that simple.

Before starting this post I would like to clarify that this isn’t saying that tattoos are good or bad or anything about the morality of the process, but simply how the process physically goes. It is the research that I did before getting my own tattoo and something that I feel is interesting given how many young adults do already have tattoos or plan to get them one day. With that said, first we will look at how the needle makes the tattoos permanent, along with the benefits and downsides of having a tattoo.


How tattooing works?

First, lets go over the actual needle used for a tattooing, these are not the same as needles used for a shot or an IV. Unlike medical needles, tattooing needles are not injecting the ink into our skin. They are actually more similar to paintbrushes, holding the ink in between each needle. Depending on the look each person is going for, a needle can have 3 to 25 different ends on it, according to Guia Marie Del Prado from Business Insider.

Once the needle is dipped in in ink it is ready to puncture our skin. During this process capillary action is what matters, once the skin is punctured the body goes into repair mode. This means that the body will do what it can to repair the broken skin, therefore fibroblasts, dermal cells, and macrophages will be distributed to heal the wound. The way that tattoos become permanent is due to the macrophages that don’t make it out of the dermis. So basically a tattoo is just a bunch of trapped cells that were invaded by a foreign body, the ink.




Getting tattoos now-a-days are almost a social norm amongst individuals from within our generation and it is a trend becoming more and more accepted in the world. With about 45 million Americans with at least one tattoo, there must be some upsides to having a one, right? Of course! Getting a tattoo can be very addicting! The whole process of getting a tattoo is very exciting as a whole! Everything from picking the artist, color schemes, design, location, and style are just a few things to name that all go into getting a tattoo, and that is even before the inking begins! Once all the above have been decided and settled upon, it is time for the actual tattooing to begin.

As the adrenaline rushes your body just as you hear the intimidating sound of a needle moving up and down at immense rates, you more than likely start to panic a little bit because you have no idea what kind of pain you are about to endure. Each person has a different pain tolerance, therefore tattoos won’t feel the same for everyone. Below is a picture of the sensitivity levels of different parts of the body.  Explained here, we see how adrenaline dulls the pain. This is applicable when getting a tattoo, epinephrine levels are high in our body therefore dulling the pain. Of course this is different for everyone and can change due to third variables. These third variables can be things such as location, pain tolerance, and the amount of fat on the person.



This gives some of us an extraordinary sense of euphoria creating rush in which can be addicting to most. According to statisticbrain.com, about 32% of people are addicted to getting inked. Not to mention the unbelievable way you feel once the tattoo is complete. Your self image is raised substantially once your tattoo is completed, and this is backed with a stat of almost 31% of people saying they feel sexier after getting it. You become so proud of yourself for going through it all and want nothing more than to show it off so almost everyone can see it, and ask what it means. The science behind this actually makes a lot of since. Tattoo addiction is more psychological than it is physical. Here we see the ways that physiological, psychological, and social attributes contribute to the euphoric feeling after getting a tattoo. Not to mention, it is an unbelievable conversation starter for those who are afraid to talk to that cute guy or girl they have been eye balling at the party. It will get the two of you talking and might give you an idea of who he or she may be!

That leads me into my next pro to getting a tattoo. Many people get tattoos with meaning. Something significant that happened to them, or is a tribute to someone that has made an impact on their life. For example, I have a tattoo of coordinates for Millinocket, Maine because that is where I used to spend majority of my summers as a child. It is also where I shared some of the best times and experiences of my life with some of the best people. Another example is one of my best friend’s tattoos. He has a tattoo of his step father’s name on his forearm with the year of his birth and the year of his death. Obviously, this is an honorable tribute to him and means something to him. The point I am trying to make is that a tattoo can represent more than just art on your body. Most tattoos have a story behind them that mean something to them. It allows for people to properly honor those things that truly matter to them. Others may get tattoos that represent their heritage or their culture. An example of this are the tribal tattoos we see from the islands of the pacific. They usually have a lot of shading and intricate patterns throughout which usually represent something of their family history. This allows for them to bring pride and honor to their family name or tribe.



This may sound crazy, but tattoos actually can have negative effects to them other than the typical “bad boy” reputation. It may be possible for some tattoo ink to contain metal particles, this allows for the tattoo to prevent a person from undergoing a few certain procedures. This study, discusses the possibility of how some inks may cause the tattoo to burn during an MRI. The Smithsonian states that the MRI has a very high output of magnetic energy so the metal in the tattoo can begin with a tingling sensation, then turning into a burn.

The second example is here. Apple has confirmed that the frequencies of the apple watch can be messed with by tattoos on the wrist. The darker the tattoo the more it messed with the signal of the watches. Personally, I find this to be crazy. Who would have thought??

Of course with the use of needles, comes the risk of infection, or transmitted diseases by improper use and technique of the artist. You are essentially scarring your skin and without proper care, it can lead to many unwanted complications. It is important to know and trust your artist otherwise you may end up with a nasty infection! Here is a link to an article on how to properly care for your tattoo and allow it to heal properly without complications.

To Conclude

Tattoos simply are not for everyone. That is fine, they don’t have to be. However, I hope after reading this blog post you can walk away with a better understanding of tattoos and why people who do have them, get them! I also hope I have been adequate in providing the help necessary to those people who may be on the fence about getting one, and helping them in making a definitive decision on whether or not it is right for them. Just remember that tattoos allow for self expression and gives the people around you a little insight on who you might be without even saying a single word! The pain is only temporary, and depending on where you get it, it might not even hurt at all! In the end a little bit of pain may be worth the end result.


Guia Marie Del Prado. Bussiness Insider. “Here’s what’s really happening when you get a tattoo”. June 2015. Link

Rose Eveleth. Smithsonian.com. “Some Tattoo Inks Can Burn You During an MRI”. March 2014. Link