Daily Archives: October 19, 2016

Health benefits of having pets !

Pretty much everyone I know has or had some type of pet in their life, even if it was a fish that died within a couple of days. Whenever I see my dog it increases my happiness and puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day. Not only do pets make people happy, they are scientifically proven increase health by keeping them in the home or having them around.

According to an article from the Harvard Medical School , having animals around such as cats or dogs provokes a calming feeling in humans. These animals are so attached to their owners and their loyalty makes us feel more calm which then reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress. Other health benefits provided by Harvard include the point of how certain pets force owners to exercise. Some dogs need to be walked daily, so the owner gets exercise in by walking their pet.

A study done at the Virginia Commonwealth University decided to test if there was a difference between people who took their dog to work, people who had a dog and did not bring it to work, and people who did not have a dog at all. With 550 people working at the company, around 30 dogs would come to the company during the day. They were testing the different stress levels, and did this by taking a sample of the saliva. At the beginning of the day the different groups of people did not test much different for their stress levels. But throughout the day the researchers found that the group of people who brought their dogs to work had their levels of stress decrease significantly. Workers who did not have dogs’ level of stress went up during the course of the day. Surprisingly, the group of people who had dogs but left them at home showed the biggest increase of stress. Overall, the pets in the office caused the amount of work to go up and many people were found to be enjoying their days in the office. This study proved again what Harvard described about how pets can decrease stress which then leads to health benefits.

As a dog lover as well as dog owner, I am happy to hear that not only is my pet making me happy, he is helping my heart.




Is laughter good for your health?

Just a hilarious guy.

I was watching a horror movie the other night, and naturally I started laughing. I laugh a lot, sometimes when it’s appropriate, often when it’s not. It often feels therapeutic to laugh. Laughter relieves stress and allows us to cope with life’s horrors. So, I wondered, from a medical standpoint, if laughter was actually beneficial. Does laughter actually make you healthier by helping your body fight disease and cope with illness? I decided to take a look at a few studies to find out.


The conductor of the single blind study.

The first study was small. It focused on 37 patients suffering from breast cancer who were being treated with radiotherapy. In this single-blind control study, 19 patients were placed in a control group, while the remaining 18 were treated with laughter therapy in addition to radiotherapy. The hypothesis being tested was that laughter therapy would reduce the radiation dermatitis that plagued those suffering from breast cancer. The results rejected the null, accepting that laughter therapy reduced the incidence of grades 3 and 2 radiation dermatitis, but not 1 and 0. It also concluded that while more people in the experimental group experienced less severe pain, the results were not statistically significant. The researchers insisted that more research needed to be done to confirm their results that laughter therapy was effective.


A visual representation of Data.

I agreed with this conclusion. The study is small. It’s not enough data to decisively conclude anything meaningful, but it does point in the right direction. Laughter, in one form or another, may be a valid form of treatment for something as terrible as breast cancer, at least in a way. I’m also not shocked that laughter would need to work in tangent with “real” medicine to yield results. I’d be surprised if any study found laughter alone could cure cancer, or any other disease, alone. As this study pointed out I’d need more data to come to a satisfying answer.

To find my satisfying answer, I turned to a meta-analysis. Using narrative synthesis, researchers searched Medline (which contains papers published since 1946) and Embase (which contains papers published since 1974) for papers regarding the effects of laughter in humans. They divided the results into two categories: positive and negative effects. They found laughter relieved stress, reduced depression and anxiety, improved lung function, and reduced risk of myocardial infarction. It also caused some serious problems like cardiac ruptures, abdominal hernias, asthma attacks, headaches, jaw dislocation, and interlobular emphysema. The study also found that laughter can be caused by conditions like epilepsy, strokes, and multiple sclerosis. In all I found this analysis to be very informative.


Laughter: not always good.

A lot the results are common sense. Laughter, on a basic level, is quickly forcing air out of your mouth and nose. Improvements in lung function, increases in asthma attacks, and jaw dislocation all make logical sense given what laughter is. I was satisfied with the research done by this studied and found it to be informative. When I set out to learn more about the effects of laughter, I hadn’t considered the possible negative consequences. All I had considered is laughter would simply not help us get better. Based on the results of the first study, I’d say that helping us get better is well within the realm of possibility, but in looking at the results of this analysis, I must conclude that laughter can be as helpful as it is harmful. Like a drug, laughter can be dangerous. For small gains in lung function and reduced anxiety, there are cardiac ruptures and jaw dislocation. Indeed, I have concluded that laughter is a medicine with many positive side effects, but also many negative ones. It is a medicine, but laughter is far from the best medicine.




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Bath Vs. Shower

Like everyone, transitioning from the comfort of your home to a much smaller, more compact dorm room is quite drastic. Being away from home makes you appreciate the smaller things that we often overlooked in our daily lives before we were living in dorms. This past weekend I had the opportunity to go home. The two things I was looking forward to the most were sleeping in my bed and taking a shower without slippers on. After being on a bus for four hours in order to get back to my home in New Jersey, I felt tired and dirty. The first thing I wanted to do when I got home was bathe. I went to my bathroom and stared at the shower and bath tub. Due to my four hour adventure back home on public transportation I knew I wanted to be as clean as possible. Then it dawned on me, Which actually gets you more clean, a shower or bath? My null hypothesis for this specific topic would be that there is no distinct difference between the cleanliness of baths and showers. The alternative hypothesis would be that there is indeed one cleaning method that is more effective than the other.


I first wanted to investigate bathtubs and how many germs they might have lurking in them. In my opinion it seems like bathtubs would have more germs in them because you are essentially just sitting in your own filth. Dr. Elizabeth Scott recently conducted a study that compared bathtubs and garbage cans. From her study she found staphylococcus bacteria in both the bathtubs and garbage cans she tested. I had no previous knowledge of what staphylococcus bacteria is so I had to look it up. Staphylococcus or staph, is a collection of bacteria buildup that can cause various diseases. From her research Dr. Scott was able to determine that 26% of the bathtubs tested had staphylococcus in them while only 6% of garbage cans had the bacteria. It is tough to think that the place where you go to get clean is more bacteria infested than the place you throw away waste. I tried to make sense of this study and thought of a few ways why bathtubs might be more dirty than clean. Perhaps it is because once you enter into the bathtub and begin to clean off your body, germs, bacteria, and dead skin cells go into the water that you are sitting in. Bacteria needs moisture to grow so a bathtub which is a damp place, is the perfect habitat for it. Some lurking variables in Dr.Scott’s research may be how old the bathtub is, how often it gets cleaned, type of cleaner used, and possibly depending how dirty the owner of the tub is. Lurking variables for the garbage cans could have to do with what type of waste was thrown out into it. I wonder if the study was more specific how different the data would be.  

Next I wanted to look at showers. It seems like the obvious choice for getting a better clean because you are not sitting in what you are washing off of your body. The only way I can see a shower as a potential danger for bacteria is from the showerhead. In a 2009 study done by Norman R. Pace, a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder he and his research team wanted to take a close look at showerheads and possible germs they may harbor. The study group consisted of 45 different showerheads from cities all around the U.S. Swabs were taken from each showerhead and then tested for bacteria. The study concluded that bacteria and microorganisms were indeed present in showerheads. Some are small enough to go into our airways while other can cling onto you. Pace says the only people who need to alter their bathing routine are those with immune system or lung problems. A better option for people with those problems would be to take a bath instead.

To revisit my question, Which actually gets you more clean, a shower or bath? Based off of both studies, taking a shower is the best way to get yourself as clean as possible and stay more germ free as opposed to baths. 


Doheny, Kathleen. “Bacteria May Lurk on Your Showerhead.” WebMD. Ed. Louise Chang, MD. WebMD, 14 Sept. 2009. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.


“Soap Up! The 12 Germiest Places in Your Life.” TODAY.com. TODAY, 12 Nov. 2008. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.


Stöppler, MD Melissa Conrad. “Staph Infection Symptoms, Causes, Pictures & Treatment.” MedicineNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.


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“I’m so stressed that I’m tearing my hair out”

A common colloquial phrase known to college students drowning in studies and stressed out adults suffocated by work alike is “I’m so stressed that I’m tearing my hair out” or other related phrases. Why do we associate seemingly unbearable stress with pulling our own hair out? I mean, there are a million different ways to relieve anger or stress, (some popular favorites include screaming into a pillow or even partying the infuriation away), but why is the most popular level of extreme stress expressed by saying you want to pull your own hair out?

Source : http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-zuwmTyb6fuk/Ue-mXZKZP2I/AAAAAAAAAWw/6SQB_5OUE5A/s1600/stressedout_000012685215XSmall_540x405.png

After falling into a deep, dark hole on the internet, I discovered that hair pulling due to anxiety or stress is actually a diagnosed medical disorder. It actually affects a large portion of Americans daily. The disorder is called trichotillomania. The disorder causes people to pull their hair out from their scalp and eyebrows as well as their eyelashes. Over two million people living in the United States are currently coping with this disorder in their daily lives. The trichotillomania disorder most definitely suffers from the file drawer problem. It seems to hold little importance in the medical community despite the large numbers of people affected by the disorder.

Source : https://paradigmmalibu.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/a20ad6f2dafb4278e152e50b01ee1e8f.jpg

Because of the file drawer problem that research revolving trichotillomania faces, the studies done on the disorder usually revolve around what exactly causes it. In a study published by the British Journal of Psychology, an experiment was performed on nineteen healthy subjects and eighteen that were suffering from trichotillomania. The purpose of the study was to see which part of the brain exactly was affected by the disorder and how. The null hypothesis of this study was to assume that trichotillomania had no relation at all to a functioning brain.

With the healthy participants being used as the control group and the patients dealing with trichotillomania being utilized as the experimental group, the study pushed to find imbalances of grey and white matter in different regions of the people’s brains. After a series of tests were done investigating the presence of grey and white matter within the subjects’ brains, it was found that the experimental group had an unproportionately large amount of gray matter distributed in their brains. The grey matter was found to be extremely dense in the frontal lobe and differing parts of the brain that control motor functions, planning, voluntary actions, and coping with differing emotions.

Source : http://cdn.autodidacts.io/img/autodidacts/bb3/brain-white-matter-grey-matter-cross-section.jpg

The presence of this grey matter in these differing parts of the brain of the study group living with trichotillomania disproves the null hypothesis of the study. It is clear from the study that this grey matter present within the patient’s brains clearly triggers their habitual and incessant hair pulling. Conclusions derived from the study affirm that the action of pulling one’s hair out is a body focused repetitive behavior. The people suffering from trichotillomania pulling their hair out is similar to the way that people who deal with OCD must wash their hands constantly. From the parts of the brain that this grey matter affects, its clear that the people who deal with this disorder utilize pulling their hair out to cope with their emotions. Therefore, the disorder is essentially involuntary, and exists as a coping mechanism for the people that suffer from it to deal with their emotions, whether that be stress, anger, anxiety, etc.

So it seems that someone can be stressed enough to pull their own hair out. Whether trichotillomania is the root of the idiom or not, it is clear that the disease, for the amount of people it affects daily, requires more attention in the medical and scientific world.

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Why do I sweat so much?

I was in the gym today and I had just started my workout when I started to sweat profusely. This is something I am used to because I have been known to sweat a lot during physical activity. I never understood why, but I knew it was gross and I didn’t like it.I always wondered if something was  wrong with me. I was always curious about why I sweat so much but I never put in the time to actually research and find out why. Well, luckily this class gives me the opportunity to.


I have heard that sweat is a vital bodily function. I am not sure what exactly my body is secreting, but I know whatever is happening is good for me. According to Web MD, sweating actually keeps your body temperature in check. When I read this, it made complete sense to me. I just recovered from being very sick. I had high fevers for five days straight. When I would take medicine, it would cause me to sweat. Knowing what I know now about sweating, my body was trying to regulate it’s temperature and get it back to normal. The same article also states that your sweating varies depending on what type of activity you are doing. This makes sense, because obviously you are going to sweat more when you’re working out than when you are just walking to class. A article I came across in my research, stated that any amount of sweat is normal for the most part. They compared it to height, saying there is an average height but there are always people that are shorter and taller than the average. What happens most of the time is I go to exercise and I am dripping sweat after a few minutes and my friends aren’t. Their body may react differently to physical situations like that, and that is why they sweat less than I do.

I knew that the amount I sweat was normal because every piece of information I came across talked about hyperhidrosis. According to the article, Why do I sweat more than everyone else?, hyperhidrosis is an extreme amount of sweating. For example, you could just be sitting at your desk working on homework and you start to sweat profusely for no reason. The article says there are many causes of this such as genetics, a different disease, or it could be caused by medication or medical conditions. I know that diabetics are more prone to sweating. My godfather has insulin that he has to take and that causes him to sweat in certain parts of his body uncontrollably. My mother also had to take steroids when she fractured her ankle, and the steroids caused her to sweat constantly throughout the day.

Overall, I can comfortably say that my sweating is not something out of the norm. I sweat more than the average person but that does not mean there is something wrong with me. If I were to be sweating all the time, even when I am not doing any physical activity, then their might be a problem. In that case it may be because of medication or other medical issues. I don’t think I have much to worry about, I just have to shower a little more often.



Dangers of Contacts

Most people with impaired eyesight don’t think twice about contact lenses or glasses considering its necessary in order for them to see, but are there more dangers to contacts than meets the eye?

The creation of contacts dates all the way back to 1508 when Leonardo De Vinci discovered that looking through water altered vision. Then one hundred years later René Descartes tried filling glass tubes with water and putting them in “contact” with the eyes, which is where the term contact lenses came from. IT wasn’t until the 1920s that Dr.s began creating lenses that formed to the eyes shape. Then in 1948 Kevin Touhy accidentally created the corneal lenses we know today. Over the years contacts have gotten thinner and more functional, but are the improvements sanitary?


According to the FDA, there are slight risks and serious risks to wearing contacts. Some of the slight risks include eye infections, pink eye, eye irritation, and corneal abrasion. On the other hand, a more serious risk to wearing contacts are corneal ulcers, which can lead to blindness. I learned through the FDA all the ways I’m exposing myself to further infection due to contacts such as swimming with them in and “topping off” the solution in my contact case instead of rinsing it out and replacing the solution.

A study done by the NYU Medical Center noticed over 5,000 different types of bacteria in the eyes of contact wearers and non contact wearers, but the bacteria found in the contact wearers was similar to bacteria found on the skin. The four types of bacteria that were three times more common in contact wearers were Methylobacterium, Lactobacillus, Acinetobacter, and Pseudomas. It’s obvious that this bacteria is more common in contact lenses wearers due to the fact that they are placing contact lenses that are more easily exposed to bacteria in their eye every day.


What I learned from this study is that the only way to decrease your risk of infection if you wear contacts is to either wear the contacts that are replaced daily or be extra careful and sanitary when dealing with contacts. Especially because a lot of contacts are stored in the bathroom over night there is much more of a risk for bad bacteria in your eyes if you wear contacts.

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Can you make your migraines disappear?

onAccording to migraine.com, 13% of all American people suffer from migraine headaches – a genetic disorder that causes headaches which are much more painful than the average headache. One of these people is my mom; she regularly complains of splitting headaches that force her to rest up for a certain period of time. Fortunately for my mom and the millions of others that suffer from migraines in this country, a specific diet can help stop your body from having migraines.

As said in a recent blog post by researchgate.net, a ketogenic diet can make migraine patients’ headaches stop altogether. The diet, which was originally created to treat children suffering from epilepsy, tricks the body into thinking that it’s starving. A person who is on a ketogenic diet consumes a significantly smaller amount of carbs and a larger amount of fats than the average person, and this causes the fat metabolism to make “ketone bodies”. The new surplus in fat cells caused by the diet is used to make the ketone bodies; these bodies essentially replace carbs and do their jobs in the absence of carbohydrates. Each individual body acts just like a normal carbohydrate, but they produce more energy than normal glucose cells. As a result, the rest of the body is much more efficient than normal, which reduces stress, and therefore, migraines.

Dr. Cherubino Di Lorenzo, an Italian professor at Sapienza University of Rome, conducted and wrote a report on his study of suppressing migraines. He took 25 migraine-suffering patients to study, but seven of them did not meet the entry requirements he set for the study (i.e. their migraines weren’t bad enough to require this rigorous of treatment). The 18 remaining subjects, who ranged from the ages of 19 to 54, all were put on ketogenic diets for one month. After this month, all of them showed significant improvement in their frequency and severity of migraine attacks. The p-value of this study was found to be less than 1%, so the results were probably not found due to chance. Since Di Lorenzo’s findings matched his hypothesis that the test subjects’ conditions would improve, the results are neither a false positive nor a false negative.

These results are extremely encouraging for those who suffer from migraines in the United States and all around the world. While migraine headaches are genetic and there is no way of preventing yourself from getting them, the fact that something as simple as a diet can almost immediately stop the mind-numbing (no pun intended) pain caused by migraines is a great find and will surely help thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States and in the world. On a personal note, these results are very encouraging for me and my mom. Since migraines are genetically inherited, there’s a chance that I or either of my two siblings suffer from migraines in the future; the fact that they can be “prevented” is fantastic news for everyone in my family.

Does Gatorade hydrate you better than water?

Primarily when you turn on any type of sporting event, you will see the participants drinking one of two things. More times than not, the participant will either be drinking water or gatorade. Gatorade is a popular sports drink that was first introduced over fifty years ago. It was created for the University of Florida football team in an effort to help the players combat from the sweltering heat of the “Sunshine state” (Gatorade). Gatorade offers some upsides and downsides of consumption due to the many ingredients it adds. As a person who has played sports his whole life, and has consumed both hundreds of times during games and practices. I wanted to explore which drink is actually more beneficial for an athlete during competition, Gatorade or water?

The case for water: When participating in sports, or any physical activity you can never go wrong with drinking water. Water is essential for us to live, so obviously it helps the body during physical activity. One con of drinking gatorade is because of the sugars, flavors and ingredients that are added into the drink there are many excess calories included in the drink. According to my fitness pal, a twenty ounce cool blue flavored gatorade contains 150 calories (Fitness). This increased amount of calories can cause some weight gain over time. Drinking water before exercise is beneficial to be able to maintain solid hydration throughout the duration of the activity. Water is also best used in situations where you are exercising at a light or moderate rate (Fit Day). This is because you do not have to replenish what you are losing at a rapid pace, and can still be hydrated without the sodium and potassium that Gatorade contains.

The case for gatorade: As stated earlier gatorade does have a good amount of calories which is a downside. However, what is contained in those calories are ingredients and benefits that cannot be seen while hydrating with water. Gatorade reaches the bloodstream of an athlete quicker due to the use of dissolved minerals and carbohydrates in the making of the drink (Active). Because of this, gatorade is most effective in high pressure, hyperactive athletic situations. This way an athlete who needs a quick rush of hydration and replenishment can get it quicker through Gatorade, and continue on with the activity. Some examples of this type of activity would be a football or basketball game, where the athlete needs to continue on with the game which is going on at a rapid pace. Gatorade also replenishes what our body loses during physical activity. Your body loses electrolytes from sweating during physical activity; this could lead to dehydration and fatigue. To combat this, the drink contains electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, these ingredients help your body with basic functions of muscles and nerves, as well as regulating body temperature (News).

Overall, both drinks give athletes different benefits. For water, long term it is healthier due to the fact that there are no calories in water. If you are working out at a light to moderate rate, your best bet is to drink water. This is also true before and after physical activity, as it will give you a base hydration you can carry with you into the activity. As stated earlier however, Gatorade is necessary in high pressure, hyperactive activity. This way you can quickly replenish all that you lose, and continue on without missing a beat.


How much can fans impact the game?

Penn State football’s annual white out game is coming this weekend against Ohio State. Typically this is one of if not the loudest, most looked forward to games on the schedule. This year is no different with Ohio State coming in undefeated and ranked second in the country. Penn State is known for having one of the best crowds in the country, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstriet went as far to say that we own “The best student section in the country” (Land). Beaver stadium will without a doubt be loud on Saturday night. It has always been thought of that home fans can impact the game, to what extent is this true if at all?

Football: There are two ways to look at this question, take football for example. You have to separate how the home crowd may affect a team before and after the play. For example, how many false starts and pre snap penalties a team suffers could have a direct link to the amount of noise the opposing crowd may be making. In addition to penalties, a loud crowd may cause the opposing team to call a time out, which could haunt them later in the game when they may need one. This video here shows how the crowd can effect a game pre snap in a football game. During the play, the home team has a distinct advantage as well. According to an article, and graphic produced by SBnation.com, throughout a five year period in inter-conference college football games these stats were complied. The home team outscored their opponent by 3.3 points per game, committed .4 less penalties per game, and averaged .22 more yards per play than the opposing team. This is a lot if you factor in how many games were surveyed, and how many plays are in each game. Even home teams field goal kickers made their kicks at a two percent higher rate than they would on the road (SBnation). Since 1990, thirty one of thirty two NFL teams have a higher winning percentage at home as opposed to on the road (Sporting charts). Crowd noise is a key component of a teams home field advantage, and it’s no coincidence that these stats show staggering numbers that favor home teams.

Basketball: The effects of crowd noise, and home field advantage extend beyond just football. In basketball the effects of crowd noise are seen most in free throw shooting. In Penn State’s conference the Big Ten, 13 of the 14 teams see their opponents make free throws at a lower rate than they do at home. Similar results are seen in other conferences such as the Pac 12, and the Big 12 where only one team has their opponents make their free throws at a higher rate than they do at home (NY Times). These numbers can be attributed to loud crowd noise at away arenas, and sometimes obscure tactics such as this example at Duke. Another alarming stat is that out of 351 college basketball teams, only thirteen have a losing record in their current home arena (RPI). Both of these stats show the effects of crowds in basketball as well.

Overall, crowds play a role in sporting events, small or big you can’t deny the stats. Any little advantage you can give your home team may swing the game one way or the other. This is why I will be cheering loud as I can Saturday night for the Nittany Lions against Ohio State.

Practice Tests: The Secret to Success



I remember towards the beginning of the year we had to take the plagiarism test an earn a perfect score on it in order to have a chance of passing the class. We were all a little upset with the fact that once we took the test we were not given the right answers and had to take it several times to achieve 100%. He said that there was logic behind his decision in not giving us the right answers—that the more we take the test and practice the material, the more we will think about it, and the more we will learn it and remember it in the long run. Well, according to several studies, Andrew was completely correct.

A study published in Science by Karpicke and Blunt sought to experiment on the hypothesis that practicing retrieval of the information (such as taking practice tests on the information) is the best way to learn science material and remember it in the long-term.



The Experiment

The experiment was an observational study of 80 students split in four different groups, learning a given science text different ways. Group 1 studied the given text in one period. Group 2 studied the text in two periods. Group 3 studied for a period of time and then created a concept map. Group 4 studied for a period of time and then took a recall test. When each group was done studying they took a short answer test consisting of verbatim (recall) questions and inference questions.

The Results

Out of the four groups, group 4, who studied for a period of time and then took a recall test produced the best results overall on the test, earning the best scores on the verbatim questions and inference questions. Group 2, who did a repeated study of the material, earned the best scores on the metacognitive predictions. In contrast, out of all of the groups, group 4 did the worse on the metacognitive predictions.



 The Findings:

The results of this experiment support the hypothesis that practicing retrieval of the information is the best way to learn science material and remember it in the long-term as there was a correlation between the number of correct answers on a test and using the practice test method of studying. Although the material that was being learned was science text, these findings might be able to be extrapolated to texts of other subjective courses such as math and languages.

Another study by researchers at Kent State University conducted a similar experiment and got the same outcomes as the one mentioned above. Their findings concluded that summarizing and highlighting the text, studying keywords, using imagery and rereading do not, in fact, help students study and learn the information. Practice tests of the material proved to increase the students’ grades.

Although there is no found mechanism of why practice tests work as the best way for studying, it would make the most sense that they improve test scores because we are better able to retain the information and we can better consolidate the information in our brains.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve used the website Quizlet, which lets you create virtual flashcards and study them in different ways, including practice tests. I use this website for all of my classes that test subjectively and always feel like I learn the material much better than if I reread my textbooks or notes. It’s also great if you’re slow at writing out flashcards by hand.

So the next time you have the choice between rereading your textbook and making flashcards, choose the one that is proven to work!



Does cramming actually help you learn?

Most classes that I’ve taken, the tests that are memory-based. If you cram for a test, you can generally do well. I took an Art History class freshmen year. For the exams, we had to memorize over 40 buildings, their architects, when they were built, and why they were significant. On every exam, I crammed the night before every test, and I ended up with an A- in the class. Do you think I remember any of those architects or dates? No, of course not!  I have found that cramming is not an option in this class. Either you understand the material or you don’t, There are no random dates your have to name off, just concepts to understand.  Cramming may help you get through a test but is it beneficial to your learning? NO. Cramming is not beneficial because it affects our sleeping habits, it does not utilize our long  term memory, and it promotes a habit of procrastination.


Exhausted Student Falling Asleep While Cramming — Image by © Randy Faris/Corbis

Sleep seems to be just a suggestion when it comes to college students. Before my final reviews, I will go 3 days straight with only 8 hours of sleep total. I know this is very unhealthy for me, but also expected with demanding major such as Architecture. My professor even tells us to pull all-nighters even when I’ve already been working in studio for 8 hours. Cramming before an exam often means that you choose studying over sleep. There are studies that show sleep is actually more important to your academic success than extra studying. UCLA did an observational study on with 500 high school students. They asked the students to keep track of their sleep and their academic performance for a short 2 weeks.  The results of the study showed the students that chose to studying over sleep did worse academically than those that did not. 


Memory is also very important when it comes to learning. I learned a lot about memory in my Psychology 101 class my freshmen year. The memory process consists of  your initial sensory memory. You encode information from there into your working memory (also known as the short-term memory). From there, you encode important information into your long term memory. Your long term memory is where you can store and retrieve memories. According to that class Forgetting is when you can’t retrieve information because of encoding failures or retrieval failures. Our working memory can only hold 5-9 things at a time. This does not leave room for all the information that you try to fit in your head in one night. This often leads to retrieval failures during the exam and definitely does not help with the encoding process into your long term memory. This is we are told by our professors to review our notes every week instead of waiting until the exam comes. Study habits like chunking and mnemonics devices are also good study habits because they help our brain encode and retrieve better.  

We’ve all be told (by Andrew) that procrastination is bad. I am ashamed to admit that I’m really bad when it comes to procrastinating. I plan out everything that I do, but I plan it to the last minute. If you are cramming for a test the night before, you have been procrastinating. Cramming is bad because it promotes the habit of procrastination. An observational study done on over 700 students showed that the closer the deadline was when the students turned their assignment in, the worse their grade was. The study also showed that there was no significant difference in the grading before the 24 hour mark. Since this was an observational study, we can argument that the findings could be do to a third variable such as, smarter people turn in their stuff earlier. Even if that is the case, handing your work in earlier may not be that hard to manage but the outcome seems to be very beneficial.

These observations and information about how the brain works supports my claim that cramming is bad for your learning. Sleep is more important than cramming, our memory system doesn’t support cramming, and our procrastinating tendencies promotes cramming, yet affects us negatively in the end. So how come so many college students do it? That is a question for another blog post.

Colonizing Mars

I’m always fascinated by space and anything about space. So many questions run through my head, one being will we ever become muliplanetary meaning living on multiple planets. I hope it comes true through my lifetime because well…that would be so cool. With this question in mind, I decided to see which planet we would try to colonize first. Answer…Mars. Apparently Obama announced that its planned by the mid 2030’s, NASA’s plan is set to send humans to Mars. Its all fun in talk but is it actually going to happen…humans colonizing and living on Mars? This is something I decided to find out.

Manned_mission_to_Mars_(artist's_concept)The first step to be able to colonize Mars is getting there first. Getting to Mars isn’t like getting to the moon, it’s a lot farther away. This will require bigger spacecrafts in order to get there because you still have the trip back to Earth to think about. Reading the article Sending Humans to Mars, author Tia Ghose writes that you can either create one large spacecraft or develop a smaller one that would have modules that could be launched into orbit allowing the spacecraft to be assembled in space. With larger spacecraft means larger rockets. Tia Ghose actually reports that NASA will be conducting a second test of the world’s largest rocket, part of the SLS, in 2021.

The second step will be landing in Mars. If all goes well in the process of step one, then landing comes next. A problem is coming up with a way to stop such a larger spacecraft. SpaceX saysspacex-rocket that high speed crafts should be able to decelerate with a term called retro-propulsion, basically saying firing engines while attempting to land. Since it takes about six to nine months to get out to Mars, there is likely a plan set up for long term habitation. Finally, start building. Being on the Martian surface, people can’t live in their space suits the whole time. A type of livable habitat will need to be put in place.

Obviously this isn’t that easy. Many problems will arise, the first being money. Billions and billions and billions of dollars would have to be poured in to first get this to work. Now with actual problems come with the design of the rockets. It will take many years to test rockets and their landing techniques to ensure a safe trip to the Red Planet. Going to and being on Mars, the people will have to deal with different types of radiation. The first radiation is solar proton events, aka solar flares, and the next is galactic cosmic radiation. (A great article about this radiation can be found here)

I know its not that easy to get to Mars. After reading all different types of articles, it does seem like it is possible with the technology we have to get and stay there for a little bit. This is something that I really hope happens in my lifetime because it will easily be the best achievement anyone has ever made. It will lead to many discoveries that will explain Mars and even Earth a little bit better.

Check out this cool video about the SpaceX exploration to Mars.

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Do cellphones cause cancer?

At this point cellphones are basically part of human anatomy. Like the hand, they are vital in how we interact with our world. We use them to talk to each other, browse the internet, pay our taxes, pay our bills, send emails, pay for our groceries, they are an important tool in our daily lives. Most of us would feel naked without them, but could they be hurting us? I’m assuming probably not, but I decided to investigate.


This phone won’t just give you cancer.

There are actually numerous studies on the topic of cellphones causing cancer or other bodily harm. Of course, recently cellphones have become a threat of the explosive variety. In fact that particular phone may be banned on airplanes due to its harmful defect. But, the average everyday cellphone could also be a threat. For how, we turn to the American Cancer Society.

On the American Cancer Society’s website there is a brief explanation of how cellphones work and how they may be potentially harmful. Essentially, cellphones send and receive signals from cell towers using radiofrequency waves. These RF waves fall on the electromagnetic spectrum (as do microwaves, x-rays, and visible light) somewhere around radio waves and microwaves.  A far cry from gamma radiation, they are not harmful enough to damage our DNA, nor do they generate enough heat to burn our tissues (which would work similarly to microwaves). None of this is cause for alarm. However, this is not was has people worried.

Most studies focus not on the potential for RF waves to harm our DNA, but rather the potential that RF could cause or aid in the growth of cancerous tumors. For example, a 2013

File Photo of a man who was exposed to near lethal amounts of gamma radiation.

study tested the hypothesis that cellphone usage contributes to the development of brain cancer. This was tested with a population study of Taiwan where cellphone usage rates are higher than any other country. Researchers took data from the National Communications Commission to determine the number of cellphone users, and data from the National Cancer Registry to determine the incidence and fatality rate of malignant neoplasm (tumors) in the brain. They looked at a ten year period (2000-2009) and concluded that the high user rate had no statistically significant effect on the mortality rate and therefore accepted the null hypothesis.

A similar 2016 study looked at data from the Swedish Cancer Registry, focusing on the incidence of thyroid cancer from 1970-2013, and concluded that there was an increase in the percentage of thyroid cancer and that said increase cannot solely be accounted for by better diagnostic technology. The study itself does not allow for conclusions regarding causality, but it does postulate that exposure to ionizing radiation should be further studied.

Both of these studies mention the World Health Organization’s recent 2011 decision that radiofrequency radiation, like that found in cellphones, is possibly carcinogenic to humans. All of this information is interesting because, as we discussed in class, we are not yet sure if cellphones, or more specifically their RF waves, can cause cancer, tumors, or ill health. Cellphone exposure, like cigarettes, have not been studied, or simply existed long enough, for us to be completely sure of their long term effects on our health. The studies I found have similar parameters. They analyze similar data, one from Taiwan, one from Sweden, and come to different conclusions. Overall I found the results interesting for several reasons.


For those of you (like me) who don’t know what carcinogens are.

First, neither study, nor any study I could find, focus on the effects of being near microwaves. Perhaps, since they became a commonly accepted household appliance, which exposes us to similar levels of electromagnetic waves, we may have been effected in some way. Obviously, we use cellphones more often, and we don’t put our bodies up against the microwaves, but it’s still an interesting question. Second, following that train of thought, we do not spend that much time with our phones up to our heads. My phone spends most of its time in my pocket or in my hands. Why then has their not been a study done to determine if cellphones cause an increase in cervical or testicular cancer? I feel the results of these studies are inconclusive because, as the second study says, they need to do more research into the effect of this type of radiation.

My last thoughts are that I personally do not believe we currently have enough evidence to suggest that cellphone use, or any small exposure to similar wavelengths, will cause us colossal harm. Putting away your cellphone from time to time is still probably going to be beneficial regardless. Lastly, on the electromagnetic spectrum, visible light is closer to known harmful wavelengths, so why is that not possibly harmful?






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Why is the Right Side, the Right Side?

In the US, about 90% of the population is right handed. This is a common trend throughout history. This article is a tough read, but is very informative on the history of handedness. How can this be with something so simple as a dominant hand? The numbers are staggering in the right side’s advantage. What causes such a big difference though?

This photo is from https://marriottmag.files.wordpress.com

Many believe that it has to do with our brain and genes, but just a quick look at those numbers on this chart seems to suggest that there is something else that may be effecting these numbers. How come the percentage of right handed people is almost 100% in those Asian countries. I decided to ask my roommate, if he knew why this was because he and his family are originally from Vietnam. He explained to me how in there culture people have believed that there is something wrong with left handed people. His mother was originally left handed, but she was made to use her right hand, and now she can write with both hands. This article agrees with his claims, but this can’t account for such a widespread gap. Or can it?

This photo is from http://ww2.kqed.org

It could be possible that we are genetically made up to more likely be a righty vs. a lefty. How can this be? Is it possible that being left handed is a recessive trait for this gene? This can’t be completely true because that means that, if a left handed person has a kid with another lefty, then their kid must be left handed. Dr. Gupta explains how this isn’t true, and in fact they still would only have a 26% chance of having a left handed child. This isn’t the only proposal that has to deal with genes. Other ideas aren’t quite as simple especially for people not interested in science. Simply put, some researchers believe that we can get 1 of 2 genes. The one gene causes us to be right handed and the other gene causes us to have a 50% chance at being right handed. This could explain the disparity in the number of right handed people vs. left handed people.

The bottom line is that we don’t know why there are so many more right handed people than left handed people. There are many theories to explain it, but they are not proven. I personally believe that it is a combination of these theories that makes such a huge disparity between left handed and right handed people.

Fun fact:

Throughout this blog you can see the pattern of most humans being right handed, but in the National Hockey League (NHL) almost two thirds of the league shoots with their left hand. This doesn’t make sense since 90% of the population is right handed. This is because in Canada most coaches teach kids to use their less dominant hand, so they will be able to be a better all around player. Approximately half the NHL is Canadian. Many other countries are starting to adopt this theory too, so we may see these numbers rise.

This photo is from http://www.thehockeyman.com

Do Video Games Make People Sexist?

Ever since their creation, video games have gotten a bad rap. The media has accused them of everything from not being art to causing real-life violence. It’s amazing to see  the amount of controversy caused by an industry that has surpassed even movies in terms of profits, becoming America’s most popular form of entertainment.

Recently, in the wake of more widespread awareness to political correctness, video games have been accused of forming sexist behaviors in their players. The basis for these claims comes from the stereotypical portrayal of women in video games. These animated women typically are constituted by their flat characterizations and exaggerated features, most notably their breasts and behinds, both of which are usually enlarged to a size much greater than what is considered realistic. Examples of these types of women are all over the medium, from Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider franchise to Cortana of the Halo franchise, pictured below.


Advocates of the theory that video games are conducive to sexist behaviors in their players, like the researchers who performed this study, believe that games with these types of female characters reinforce a possible lack of empathy in their players, in that they do not empathize with the female stereotypes in the games, which then translates to a lack of empathy for women in real life.

This study was conducted by using 154 Italian high school students, who signed themselves up voluntarily. They were randomly split in to 3 separate groups, one of which was told to play Grand Theft Auto, another played Half-Life, while the third played either a pinball game or a puzzle game, each for 25 minutes. The idea behind choosing these games was that GTA was both violent and sexual in nature, while Half-Life was violent but not sexual, and the third group’s games were neither violent nor sexual, which meant that group was essentially the control. The participants were not told ahead of time what the researchers were testing for, so it was a blind trial.

The null hypothesis for this study would be that playing violent and sexual video games do not cause a lack of empathy towards women, while the alternative hypothesis would be that playing violent and sexual video games does in fact cause a lack of empathy towards women.

After playing these games, the researchers asked participants several questions about what they had just done, as well as about masculinity and attitudes towards women. They were given statements that they were supposed to rank on a scale of 1 to 7 how much they agreed with them.


They were also shown this picture and were asked to rate on the same scale how much they believed the woman depicted was suffering. When the results came back, it was found that the people who had played Grand Theft Auto had much less empathy for both the women in the games that they played, and also the women pictured based on an average of their scores from 1-7 for each question. Based on the results the researchers involved in this study rejected the null hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis.

Another study was recently conducted in which participants were found over a phone survey of 50,000+ people who were at least 14 years old. The survey asked them about how often they played video games. Of those surveyed, 12,587 said they played frequently. From those 12,000+ respondents, 4,500 were chosen randomly to participate in the first wave of the study, and an additional 902 were chosen to participate in the third wave of the study, which was the only other wave to ask questions about the roles of each gender.

This study would seemingly have a similar null and alternative hypothesis to the previous one. Although whereas the first study was measuring participants empathy towards women, this one was measuring the more nebulous “sexist attitudes” of the participants. With that in mind, this study’s null hypothesis would be that frequently playing video games does not cause players to develop sexist attitudes, while the alternative hypothesis would be that it does.


Like the previous study, participants were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements on gender, this time on a scale from 1-5. The results of this study seems to indicate that the frequent playing of video games, does not cause player to have sexist attitudes. This was consistent in both males and females.

The two studies, while measuring slightly different things, seem to support diametrically opposing conclusions.  Why could this be? Well, for one thing, the results of either study could be due to confounding variables such as the attitudes of the participant’s friends and family prior to their participation. For another reason, it is important to look at the design of the studies.

The first study, while it has a smaller sample size, chose to go about it’s procedure in a more experimental manner, having participants all play the same games for the same amount of time, rather than just asking how often they played video games. Their questioning seemed to be more in depth and more varied as well, and their research question more focused.

The second study has a much larger sample size than the first one, to its credit, but it seems far more limited in its reach. It is an observational study, which gives researchers a little bit less control, and it also measures a less specific problem, which could lead to some inaccuracy. Additionally, as the surveys were conducted over the phone, the study admits to abbreviating their scales to make answering the questions easier. So while both studies have some flaws, I believe that the second study to be better conducted.

Keep in mind though, that the second study was not necessarily measuring if the games made the players more sexist, but rather if they lessened their empathy towards women. Both studies could use some meta-analysis to check for problems such as the Texas Sharpshooter problem, but for now, it would seem that video games are at least partially guilty of one of the many charges leveled against them.

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Accusation of being not art source

Accusation of Violence Source

Study One Source

Study Two Source

Flipping the Switch

Imagine if there was a switch in your brain that could shut down your ability to control impulses and self-control. A recent study published in Science Advances has found evidence of just that. Since the temporoparietal junction of our brains allows us to view things from the perspectives of others, including the perspective of ourselves down the line. This is the portion of our brain http://www.fromtheleftfield.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/self-control-gif.gifthat allows us to regulate the impulse to better ourselves in the present at a cost to ourselves in the future. This function is tied to the decisions we make in the present, if we are not able to see how decisions will effect ourselves in the future it is unlikely we will make rational decisions.

The study was carried out by Alexander Soutschek and his team, in a controlled study. They attempted to interrupt the temporarparietal junction with transcranial magnetic stimulation for 40 seconds followed by a 30 minute task. The control group received the same transcranial magnetic stimulation in a different area of the brain so as not to skew the results. Participants of both the control and test group were asked to choose between the instant gratification of a monetary reward the amount of which was uncertain or the longterm benefit of receiving a larger, guaranteed reward within three to eighteen months.  They were then asked to view a series of red dots from the perspective of an avatar. This series of questions tested not only the participants’ ability to make well-informed choices by taking on the perspective of others but also by taking on the perspectives of themselves down the line. The team was able to reject the null hypothesis when participants failed to use perspective to make good decisions.

92338-homer-simpson-brain-meme-u4qy I began reading the article I found it to be a really interesting discovery. However, I couldn’t figure out what good it could do for society as a whole until the conclusion. An article in Scientific American,  pointed out the potential benefits of this discovery on addiction.  If addicts are unable to view their lives in the future, having gotten clean, it is unlikely they will feel the compulsion to quit as they lack the motivation to do so.

If you are interested in learning more about the temporoparietal junction of the brain, as I was, check out this video, to find out how this area of the brain can effect moral decisions.

Why am I wearing shorts in October?

Shorts in October could have been a long stretch 30 years ago but, this is very possible for this October and the following years to come. Looking up the weather for this past week I was absolutely shocked when I read that it would be a high of 80 degrees. The weather for this week started around 80 degrees and is going to drop to 48 degrees on Saturday. This is not normal for the fall season. The recent heat wave that has struck the United States has raised concern. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about 80 degree weather in October but I am just confused what is causing this. Is this “global warming” and the effect it is having on our country?


This Picture is from the Climate Prediction Center showing the above average temperatures for the United States for October 2016.

In an article that I’ve read on iopscience.org , climate scientists are convinced that humans are causing this climate change. The article contains a consensus of scientists on the fact that humans are causing this global warming. The studies in this experiment have taken various steps to conclude the analysis of multiple climate scientists. Two scientists cited in the article, Shwed and Bearman, analyzed over 9,342 articles on global warming. Their conclusion rejected the claim of an inconclusive study on the science of global warming and did not find the quantitative data that was needed to make a numerical consensus value. However it did find the same level of consensus that proves smoking causes cancer. The conclusion of the consensus was that it does not matter if the consensus has a 90% rate of agreement or a 100% rate of agreement if the data is overwhelmingly convincing. In this case the data convinces the audience and the scientists that climate change is caused by human actions based on the scientific findings of various climate scientists.

This October has been the first time that the entire United States is experiencing an increase in the temperatures for this fall season. In an article on USA Today , it was confirmed by Dan Collins, a meteorologist, that these warm temperatures will last for a duration of 3 months. He also claimed that one of the reasons for these unusual climate changes can be blamed on the increase in the ocean temperature surrounding the U.S. In this article, meteorologists blame this heat crisis on blocking patterns which allow heat pressure to rise. Something that causes these blocking patterns are the icebergs melting in different regions of the world. This is another global warming crisis that is directly affecting the temperature seen in our country. With the increase in global warming most meteorologists predict that the temperatures will only rise from here and that it is due to the destructive human activity.

Many people deny that climate change even exists. But, with these recent increases in temperature I believe that this is clearly an indication of some sort of climate change.



iopscience.org : http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002/meta

USA Today Article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2016/07/25/entire-usa-heat-wave-warm-forecast/87528944/

Picture : http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2016/07/25/entire-usa-heat-wave-warm-forecast/87528944/

Screen Time Before Bed

The other night after binge watching hours of The Office on Netflix, I noticed that not only was I more exhausted than I usually am at the end of a school day, but it also seemed more difficult for me to fall asleep. Additionally, even though I got the same amount of hours of sleep that I normally do, it seemed a lot more difficult for me to wake up in the morning and stay alert.
Over the years, technology has become a bigger and bigger aspect of our daily lives, but is it doing more harm to us than good?


More than three quarters of the United States population admits to watching Tv or using some type of electronic device within the hour before they go to sleep(https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/annual-sleep-america-poll-exploring-connections-communications-technology-use-).
The blue light emitted from technology is one of the main reasons that watching TV before bed is not one of the best ideas in order to get a good nights sleep. Blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, which is typically triggered by the circadian rhythm, or the body’s natural clock. Since the circadian clock operates and secretes hormones according to whichever light the body is exposed to, the more blue light the body is exposed to, the more the body is going to think it has to stay awake and the production of melatonin will be suppressed.

Since it takes so long to fall asleep after looking at blue light for a long period of time, it makes sense that someone would be more tired the next day even if they got the same amount of hours of sleep that they usually do. Forcing yourself to fall asleep before your body clock is prepared to disrupts the circadian cycle. This disruption of the circadian cycle causes the body to get less deep sleep than it usually does because the usual amount of melatonin secreted before bed ends up being secreted much later in your sleep.

According to multiple studies done at Harvard Medical School, the blue light from electronics may be doing more than altering the bodies circadian rhythm. Some of the health risks that may be caused by this issue are diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Although the study only included ten people, all of the subjects were placed in the same situations. The shift in their circadian rhythms caused them to have an increase in their blood sugar levels, which is a cause for diabetes.

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Why am I always sick?


There is a probably good chance you are asking yourself the same question right now. As I am currently getting over my first sickness of the year, I thought I’d see if there is a reason I get sick every time I come back to school. Even though I know the drinking and lack of sleep doesn’t help, there must be other factors playing into me always being sick. After browsing the internet for a little, I found a couple good reasons.

Daily Herald Blog

Daily Herald Blog

Lack of or No Sleep

When you don’t get your recommended eight hours of sleep per night, your body is more susceptible to getting sick. I know from personal experience that I stay up later when I am at school than when I am at home. Things such as having a ton of school work to do or just staying up to late with your friends cause you to lose sleep. It is definitely easy to lose sleep at college and the more you do it, the more likely you are to get sick says the Daily Collegian Online. Getting those eight hours of sleep plays a big part in staying healthy.

Huffington Post

Huffington Post


With almost 100,000 kids here at Penn State, you come in contact with a lot of people. This means that you are more likely to come across germs or viruses than you usually are. Living in a small college dorm or apartment doesn’t help either. Most college students live in small areas and usually have roommates who can also be sick. I know that when one of my roommates gets sick, I usually end getting sick soon after. The classrooms at school can also play a part in college students getting sick. So many kids going in and out of classrooms makes it easy for germs to spread.

What You Eat

I’m sure everyone has heard of the Freshman 15. When you come to college and don’t have the luxury of a fully stocked fridge, it is easy to decide upon fast food rather than a healthy alternative. I know that I don’t eat as well when I am at school because I am usually being rushed when I choose what I am going to eat. Fast food can sometimes seem like the best option even though it isn’t healthy. By eating unhealthy foods, you put yourself at a higher risk of getting sick.

Think Stock

Think Stock

The Stress

Everyone in college seems to be at least a little stressed out. That big exam, paper or deciding what you want to do in the future can make it hard. Stress can cause you to do things you normally don’t do, get depressed, irritable or give you headache says the University of Wisconsin Platteville. College is hard and the stress that comes with it doesn’t help your immune system.


Another thing that is prevalent in college students is excess drinking. The CDC found that about 80 percent of college students drink alcohol. It also found that another 20 percent binge drink 3 or more times every two weeks. Excess drinking can harm your bodies immune system in two ways according to Dr. Sears. The first is causing a nutritional deficiency. Alcohol deprives your body of important nutrients. It can also hurt your bodies ability to make white blood cells, which kill germs.


Everett Collection


So it seems that it wasn’t just the lack of sleep and drinking that has been causing me to get sick. With so many different reasons of why we get sick at college, it seems almost impossible to escape it. According to CollegeView, eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, relaxing and trying to avoid stress, exercising and good hygiene are some ways to avoid getting sick. I plan on trying a couple of these strategies and I bet some other people could benefit from them too. On that note, stay healthy everyone and don’t let the Penn State plague get the best of you.


The Reasons College Kids Get Sick. (2015). LIVESTRONG.COM. Retrieved 19 October 2016, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/209706-the-reasons-college-kids-get-sick/

How to Avoid Getting Sick on Campus. (2016). Collegeview.com. Retrieved 19 October 2016, from http://www.collegeview.com/articles/article/living-strong-how-to-prevent-and-treat-common-campus-sickness

G, M. (2013). 4 Habits that Weaken the Immune System | Ask Dr Sears® | The Trusted Resource for Parents. Ask Dr Sears® | The Trusted Resource for Parents. Retrieved 19 October 2016, from http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/family-nutrition/foods-to-boost-immunity/4-habits-weaken-immune-system


Do Our Dreams Have Meaning?

Whenever I have a dream and wake up remembering it I wonder if what I had a dream about has any meaning. I have always heard that certain dreams you have relate to something happening in your life. But, is this really true? Is there any way to prove that dreams have meaning?


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About Sleep

When doing research about this topic I learned some information about sleep in general. According to this New York Times article When doing research scientists break sleep down into two different phases, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non REM sleep. Dreams happen during REM sleep. REM sleep is when your eyes move all around while you sleep and you body is basically paralyzed. You don’t move around basically at all during this phase of sleeping. We know we dream during this REM phase of sleep because when surveyed 80% of people woken up during REM say they are in the middle of a dream.

Meaning Behind Dreams?

In the same article it talks about how neuroscientists essentially say dreams are mental gibberish and don’t have any secret meaning or significance. This assertion has caused a lot of dispute because many different types of therapies believe that dreams are significant. Different types of psychologists that think dreams hold psychoanalytical meaning interpret the significance in different ways. For example freudian psychologists think that what you dream are your impulses that are bad that your brain is trying to pass off as dreams. Research of neurologists strongly goes against beliefs like the ways of Freudian psychology. According to this  article dreams are fundamentally something biological. You have them to get rid of the pieces of information that are not of use to your brain. Dreams are essentially like you have a bunch of random trains of thoughts. In the New York Times article a doctor explains how dreams are bits and pieces of what happened during your day that are being added into your corresponding past memories. From what I can gather many doctors and researchers have different ways of explaining why dreams happen to us and what they mean. There are contrasting views between neurologists and some psychologists on whether dreams actually mean anything or if they are simply a biological practice. I’m curious to see if there are any discoveries that will be made in the future to tell us more about our dreams.


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Why isn’t there enough information on brain freeze?

Picture this: it is a hot summer day and you decide to get ice cream. Since it is   hot you try and eat the ice cream quickly but then all you feel is a sudden rush of pain in your head causing you to stop eating the ice cream. Have you ever wondered why does this happen? I do too and I decided to do some research on it. According to a journal article on the website medical news today where it explains brain freeze happens when something cold such as ice cream hits the roof of the mouth. The scientists from Harvard wanted to investigate and see why does brain freeze happen and they conducted an experiment to find out. The experiment included 13 adults and all they had to do was drink cold water with a straw.  The scientists found that “the sensation of brain freeze appears to be caused by a dramatic and sudden increase in blood flow through the brain’s anterior cerebral artery. As soon as the artery constricted, the brain-freeze pain sensation wore off.” (Norqvist) I did not know this. As someone who is not a scientist my presumption of the cause of brain freeze was when your brain can feel the coldness.  I acknowledge that there experiment only included a small number of adults and did not have a group drink the water without a straw. It would be better if there were a larger experiment to conduct the experiment to see if the scientist’s results are correct. The results cannot be held accountable as correct because it was not a large enough experiment and it only did one thing with the group not thinking of any other variables. I did not find any other experiment that tested for brain freeze so I cannot say or believe this to be true. My question is what would Andrew think of this? would he agree with the scientists from Harvard or would he want a larger experiment? It captures my attention that there is not much scientific data for something such as getting a brain freeze. I acknowledge there is someone else that has blogged about this but I have different questions.

Nordqvist, Joseph. “Brain Freeze: What Is It? Scientists Explain.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 04 June 2015. Web. 05 Oct. 2016.

Singing in the Shower can lead to Happiness

There are classic movie scenes of singing in the shower, Spotify playlists literally called “Songs to Sing in the Shower” and, references to the action all the time in conversations, but are there any benefits of it other than it being super fun? Answer: Yes!

According to Music.Mic, a website that looks into music and science alike, singing in the shower can improve immune systems as well as sleep cycles. Since these people are singingImage result for singing in the shower more, it allows the body to
stretch its muscles to the fullest extent, as well as relax more at night.

The fad of singing in the shower is taking over the media, so there must be some more benefits, I thought.  Singing releases endorphins, which are chemicals that make the body feel good. So while you sing in the shower, your body is getting clean, as well as getting emotionally more positive. In an Australian study done in 2008, it was found that choral singing actually was the most beneficial to ones health, but I think shower singing is cooler. Image result for singing in the shower easy a

Additionally, improved heart health has been linked to singing in the shower, since a release of Cortisol happens, which decreases stress. So the more people sing, the more they release this chemical, and the more heart health they will have. According to Siecne: How Stuff Works, singing can be considered aerobic, since it helps bring oxygen to the brain, which will keep spirits up as well as boost circulation through the blood stream.

Image result for singing in the shower quotesFrom what we have learned in class, there could be a null hypothesis: singing in the shower doesn’t effect a person’s health at all or an alternative hypothesis: that singing in the show will effect a person’s health for better or for worse. I have not found an experiment, however I don’t think it would be to hard to find out that singing in the shower is good for you, since all the psychological reasons line up.

singing in the shower song

Arthritis and Exercise

Image result for arthritis

image source: http://openwetware.org/wiki/Arthritis_and_rheumatic_diseases

Earlier today, my mom and I were video-chatting just to keep in touch, as we usually do. She mentioned to me that she went on a 5 mile walk today and that she was tired. I was confused when she said she went on a walk, because my mom typically goes on runs. When I asked her about it, she explained that she is developing osteoarthritis  in her knees, and that he doctor recommended that she avoids running for a while until they decide on further action for treating it.


This confused me, seeing as how on every commercial (example here) I’ve seen advertising medicine for arthritis, they say the phrase “a body that’s in motion stays in motion”, or something like that. Of course, this is only an anecdote, so I am going to look at some studies done on arthritis to see if exercise does relieve symptoms, and then I’m going to examine what the best type of exercise is for people with arthritis.

In a meta-analysis published by the French Society of Rheumatology, doctors gathered as much of the existing data about people with arthritis and the effect that exercise had on them as possible. In their meta-analysis of the large amount of data, they concluded that exercise has a plethora of benefits for those suffering from arthritis. Of these benefits there is improved mood, a better range of motion, and even a deceleration of the progression of arthritis. Based off of this meta-analysis, I think the commercials catch phrase was accurate: Arthritis patients that exercise lessen the severity of their symptoms. So now that it’s been established that exercise does relieve symptoms of arthritis, what kind of exercise is the best for arthritis patients?

Image result for yoga

image source: http://www.yogajournal.com/

An experimental study published by the Journal of Rheumatology may actually help to answer my question. In this experiment, 75 adults with arthritis were randomly assigned to participate in yoga classes, or be put on a “wait-list” (control group) for eight weeks. Both groups were evaluated before, during, and after the trial and examined for improvements in their arthritis. The study found that those who were assigned to the yoga had an increase in their flexibility, their ability to balance, as well as general physical and psychological improvements in health, with a reported p-value<.05.  This experiment seems very reliable, seeing as it is a randomized control trial. My only complaint is that the study was done with mostly women, so yoga many have a different impact on men with arthritis, so I feel if there was a more men in this study the results would be even better.

So here’s what I’ve learned: Exercise is good for arthritis patients, and aerobic exercises, such as yoga, are extremely beneficial for those with arthritis. I’m no doctor, so I won’t tell my mom to start running again, but maybe I’ll suggest that she should try to do some low intensity yoga until she hears more from her doctor.

Are there any Health Benefits to Drinking Coffee?

That’s right. Yet another coffee blog. But this time, I want to talk about what no one in this class has explored: whether or not DRINKING COFFEE is GOOD FOR YOU. I became interested in this topic after realizing how much coffee I’d been drinking lately. While part of me thought, “This is definitely very bad for my health,” my optimistic self hoped: “Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe there ARE benefits to this habit.” A thought that was born out of sheer despair, but perhaps has some validity to it.

Are there health advantages to drinking coffee?

I’m going to attempt to answer this highly enticing question: are there any health benefits to drinking coffee? (In a previous blog, I discussed the negative impacts of caffeine consumption. For argument’s sake, I am going to focus primarily on any potential benefits). The null hypothesis would be: there are no health benefits to drinking coffee. And the alternative hypothesis: drinking coffee has health benefits. Let’s take a closer look at some data.

So what is the benefit to drinking ground beans? Coffee is used primarily as a stimulant or energy booster. It can help college students focus during class, and it can fuel your muscles through a workout or simply walking to and from lectures. Obviously, coffee provides very valuable short-term benefits, but can it actually fortify your health?


Mean coffee consumption in NHS, NHS 2, AND HPFS over follow up period

Mean coffee consumption in NHS, NHS 2, AND HPFS over follow up period

While coffee hasn’t been shown to give users physical benefits (e.g. stronger muscles, better hair, more handsome, etc.), it has been “associated with lower risk of total mortality,” according to the results of one study. A team of researchers conducted a longitudinal, observational study beginning in 1984. Subjects were examined in 3 groups NHS (Nurses’ Health Study), HPFS (Health Professionals Follow-up Study), and NHS 2. They self-reported the amount of total coffee consumption, both caffeinated and decaffeinated. Results came back from 200,000 men and women throughout their lifetime. After 4,690,072 “person-years” of tracking the subjects, over 19,000 women and over 12,000 men died.

The researchers found that, although the relationship between coffee consumption and mortality was non-linear, consuming between 1 and 5 cups of coffee was associated with a lower risk of mortality. To that end, neurological diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and suicide displayed noteworthy inverse relationships with coffee consumption. In other words, the more coffee subjects drank, the less likely they were to commit suicide. The study, entitled Association of Coffee Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Three Large Prospective Cohorts,” also listed other diseases inversely associated with coffee consumption including liver cancer, lethal prostate cancer, and type 2 diabetes. 

So although coffee won’t give you superpowers, drinking these liquified beans might be in the best interest of your health. And while the study was rather inconclusive, researchers have reason to speculate that drinking more coffee could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because of the inverse relationship between coffee consumption and aforementioned diseases (p-value: 0.022), we can effectively reject the null hypothesis, that any benefits from coffee drinking is due to chance.

I expected there to be tangible health benefits from my research, but the results of the study were sufficient for my curiosity. According to this study, coffee drinkers have been shown to be less susceptible to certain diseases. My recommendation: drinking between 1-5 cups of coffee per day is ok (2 seems reasonable), but don’t expect your spidey senses to start tingling.

old coffee graphic: http://cimbaliuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/is-coffee-healthy.jpg

fat spidey: http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/f7/f7a1ddf5abcc4bd46c4965e33e3cd8f7c85015eee0135a5576769b51c8fe51bb.jpg

study used: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2015/11/10/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.017341.abstract

Sleep Talk

I am one of those people who others look weirdly at after a sleep over. Why is what you want to know I’m sure. The reason being because I sometimes tend to talk in my sleep. I don’t know what I say in sleep; so when people have told me that I’ve talked in my sleep. I always hope I haven’t said anything embarrassing; or said something that I shouldn’t have.

I’ve always wondered how is talking in our sleep even possible?

This phenomenon of sleep talking as everyone calls it has a name and its somniloquy.  livescience.com say that somniloquy may happen when we are in either REM and NON-REM sleep period. When sleep talking happens during REM sleep which is usually the stage when we dream.  Your mouth and vocal cords are off while you sleep right?. Hear this What happens when we talk in our sleep is that our vocal cords turn on for quickly for a little bit and we say words from our character in our dream.

People look at you like you’re from another planet or something when they hear you talking in your sleep. I’m just trying to sleep why are you listening to me while I’m sleeping is the real question? but for now we’re going to stick to our original question.

Based on research  it has been found that sleep talking happens in certain areas of the brain. These areas are the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain; and it mostly happens in the left hemisphere of the brain.

The interesting thing is that sleep talking can happen at any point of the night and no matter what sleep period we’re in. Shelby Harris of Psychology today says in her story that, In the beginning of the night our sleep is heavier so what we say can’t be understood very well. As the night goes on our sleep becomes lighter and what we say in our sleep can be better understood, but what we say in our sleep isn’t going to endanger anyone.

Sleep talking isn’t something to worry about, it doesn’t cause harm to anyone. People don’t think sleeping and talking should be happening at the same time, so they might be concerned. Don’t be alarmed; know that it isn’t the real you that is talking it is the you in your dreams.

Sites: http://www.livescience.com/33794-people-talk-sleep.html



Images: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/sleep-talking.html