Daily Archives: October 21, 2016

World of Warcraft: Online Education?

Video games are a touchy subject when it comes to their benefits to kids, vs. their many negative side effects. However, not all video games are made the same. It’s important to consider the different aspects that different games bring to the table, and a very good example of a game that involves everything from reading literature, to social interaction and cooperation, and even to some mental scientific processes and calculations, is World of Warcraft, the massively popular MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game).


The game, which has been around in a developing form since 2004, with a story that began in 1994, is set primarily in the world of “Azeroth.” It is home not only to the fictional residents, but also to over 11 million subscribers worldwide, as of 2008. That’s a bigger population than most U.S. cities. In a game that requires social interaction and a community investment, players are required to spend more time on the characters they create and play as in the world. For example, there is some content in the game that simply cannot be done alone with a single character’s toolkit. Instead, players must team up to take down the harder bosses within the game. For example, somebody who designs their character around being a “tank” would be the one holding the focus of the enemy and protecting their allies, including basic damage dealers that may sometimes put out more damage than they can take (thus, the benefit of having a tank), while someone designated as a “healer” would make sure the tank, or anyone else, doesn’t die. Additionally, each player in the encounter must sometimes follow mechanics such as avoiding “area of effect”, or “AoE,” damage, while also remaining in the line of sight of the healer in order to be saved from going to low on health. This sort of coordination must be done either by studying the fights yourself and applying the tactics, or by listening to and cooperating with a “raid leader” telling you what to do. Furthermore, as players become more experienced themselves, they’re able to pass on what they know to newer players. This sort of practice in leadership is also beneficial.


Aside from social benefits, studies that analyzed official World of Warcraft forum posts showed 85% of players demonstrating scientific literacy within the posts, evidenced by the interactions and discussions around endgame content. This included the use of statistics and hypotheses to make points about strategies and game mechanics. Many of these mechanics also get younger children thinking mathematically, as described by Jill Palmer, a mother who spends time with her kids playing games like World of Warcraft. In her example, she explains how her son Luke pondered the question of what would happen if a character in the game in a disease cloud could infect other characters. In other words, if a character walked into a room and infected four other characters, how quickly would the disease spread as each of those four characters infected characters that they encountered? It’s this kind of problem solving that is really not too far off from what scientists are doing in the real world, says Constance Steinkuehler, an educational researcher.


Plus, video games in general can be beneficial to us as well, as the results of another study consisting of 33 laparoscopic surgeons show that the surgeons who played video games performed their advanced procedures 27% faster than those who didn’t, and made 37% fewer errors. Additionally, more research using the WoW forums showed that, within the discussions, 86% of people utilized the community to share information in order to help figure out in-game problems, and 58% of them demonstrated the use of systematic and evaluative processes. Not only that, but World of Warcraft‘s expansive quest text and item names also contain advanced use of vocabulary that can help in school. Even if you don’t know exactly what a word means, you can make a fairly educated guess based on where you remember seeing the word. For me, off the top of my head, I remember knowing words from vocab units in high school English classes thanks to World of Warcraft, including words like malevolent, vindicator, maelstrom, and feint, among many other words.


As long as it’s regulated, gameplay and communication like that in World of Warcraft proves to be beneficial in many ways. Though, there are dangers to spending too much time in Azeroth, but it’s fair to say that many beneficial things become hazardous when done too much, with little other activity outside of the fact. That being said, when played a healthy amount in addition to regular exercise and other activities, the social and academic benefits to World of Warcraft can be a real “game changer” for some students that need the extra interactivity to focus and succeed.

World of Warcraft Video Game Succeeds in School
Can ‘World of Warcraft’ Make You Smarter?
World of Warcraft hits 11.5 million subscribers
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Student playing World of Warcraft
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The Drug Culture in the United States

As the legalization of marijuana spreads across the country, there has been more evaluation into the drug culture within the United States, specifically that which is associated with partying. There are differing levels of drugs that affect the body in various ways. For example, nobody would say that smoking pot affects you the same way taking a hit of heroin does. There is a large taboo associated with any type of carnal pleasure in the United States, possibly stemming from the puritanical roots from which our nation was founded, but in the modern generation some stigmas associated with a more “risqué” type of life are being lifted.


This begs the question, what are the effects of different drugs on the body? In other words, is experimentation OK?


Let’s build from the ground up with more approachable vices: alcohol and marijuana. Alcohol is considered a depressant and effects the brain by causing sluggishness, a difficulty in speech, and an overall impairment of the brain’s activity, according to nihseniorhealth.gov. Alcohol is ingested and broken down by the liver; whatever can’t be broken down goes straight to the brain where it effects neurotransmitters, specifically GABA, which is where the sluggishness and slowed reaction time comes from (howstuffworks.com). On the other hand, cannabis (more commonly known as pot or marijuana) is considered a hallucinogen. Commonly ingested through smoking, pot can cause an altered state of mind, sluggish movement, and can affect memory (drugabuse.gov). According to LifeHacker, the active component is THC, which affects the dopamine levels in our brains and creates the sense of happiness associated with smoking pot. Both alcohol and marijuana can cause lasting effects if they are used recklessly, but in regards to recreational use in moderation they do not seem to bring about harmful results. These are the most common recreational drugs and can sometimes be considered gateways to other, riskier drugs.

maxresdefaultWithin the partying community, the next tier of drugs includes MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), LSD, and cocaine. These are not as common as the aforementioned, but they make quite an appearance in the more hardcore nightlife scene. I’ll begin with LSD, as it’s one of the most notorious and mythical out of the three. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is in the same class as pot, being a hallucinogen. The most common effects include a distorted sense of reality, specifically affecting the senses, and increases brain activity. There are not a lot of lasting effects associated with LSD, though taking it frequently will cause a buildup of the drug and therefore increase tolerance (imperial.ac.uk). While it can’t be said that LSD is a “safe drug” due to how much it affects and distorts the senses (which can put the user in an unsafe situation), LSD has the possibility to be enjoyed in a safe situation.url

Now we’re going to shift to a drug not as many people are familiar with: MDMA. MDMA is a synthetic drug that combines some hallucinogenic and stimulant properties which primarily affects the serotonin levels in the brain, causing a great sense of happiness and euphoria by affecting the senses. The issue with this synthetic drug is its potential for damaging the serotonin production, which could impair cognitive function according to Mic Network. As opposed to some of the other drugs that have been mentioned, MDMA has the potential for lasting effects on the brain after one use and it usually takes a while to recover from.

To finish up this barrage of facts, I will be discussing cocaine, which is often lumped into the same class as heroine due to its monumental effects on the brain. It is a stimulant typically associated with the wealthy and is often snorted to achieve the desired effect. The danger is the highly addictive nature of the drug, which is higher than those previously mentioned. According to Medical Daily, cocaine typically affects the frontal cortex, specifically dopamine receptors. This creates a sense of happiness, but because cocaine is a short-lived high, the crash results in a depressive state. To achieve a similar high, more of the drug must be taken which is how overdoses occur. In fact, cocaine is one of the leading causes of non-prescription drug related overdose (businessinsider.com).


In the grand scheme of things, I could describe all the various drugs that are associated with a hardcore partying life, but nobody wants to read lists of facts for that long. But throughout constant research and interest in the subject material, any sort of drug that has an influence over the brain should be treated with caution. Some drugs are a lot more dangerous than others, but in a safe environment and with the right people and knowledge experimentation is not as devastating as many people make it out to be. It is key to be wary of signs of addiction and not to use any of the aforementioned substances as an outlet for inner turmoil on a frequent basis.










You Are What You Eat… Or Are You?

We have all heard the phrase “you are what you eat!” To me it was nothing more than a saying to get kids to eat healthy. However, I began to wonder whether or not there is some truth behind this saying. Is it true that who you are can influence what foods you like to eat? Or is it possible that the foods that a person enjoys effects their personality? Eager to find the truth behind this cliche saying, I did someimage research.
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Innssbruck, a persons appetite can directly correlate with their personality. In their experiment, 1000 people with an average age of 35 were studied to determine wether or not bitter taste preferences are associated with dark personality traits such as sadness and narcissism.

The first test took 500 participants and gave them a list of foods ranging in taste from bitter to sour to sweet. They then asked the subjects to rate the foods on a preference scale from “strongly like” to “strongly dislike”. After this the same participants took a personality test that asked them question relating to five different personality types. The second group of 500 participants took a similar test, however their food choices had only two tastes; bitter and sweet. After examining evidence from both of these experiments, the team concluded that there was a correlation between bitter taste preferences and negative personality traits.

Another study done in 2013 by Penn State professor Nadia Byrnes found that personality plays a role in a persons lust for spicy food. In this study, 184 participants ranging from 18-45 were asked questions to assess their tendency to engage in risky behavior. The participants were then separated into two groups, risk takers and non risk takers. After the test the subjects were given a spicy meal and told to rate how much they enjoyed the taste as time passed. The researchers discovered that the non risk takers tended to dislike the meal a vast majority of the time. In contrast, those who were more inclined to take risks enjoyed the spicy sensation. The team found that a persons personality can be a factor in their appetite. John E Hayes, a co author of the study, concluded that, “…It seems plausible that personabrand_voice_brand_personality_creative_imagineering1lity differences may be a major factor in this sort of (taste) exploration.”

Both of these studies examined if a persons personality has an effect on their eating preferences. They reached similar conclusions that were consistent with personality impacting appetite, however neither study provided a mechanism to explain their findings Both conclusions could be due to chance, but it is unlikely because the sample sizes are decently large. It is also entirely possible that what a person eats alters their personality. If this were the case it would be reverse causation. Another possibility is that a third variable plays a factor in shaping persons personality and taste buds. These traits could include a persons upbringing, age, background or race. Although there are some doubts surrounding these studies, I believe that it is entirely possible to say with confidence that personality correlates with a persons taste preferences. However, we learned that correlation does not always equal causation.

In summary, it is very possible that who you are can effect what you eat. Both of the studies were done well and there is a low chance that they are victim of the file drawer problem. While, “you are what you eat!” might be cliche parental advice, there could be some truth behind it.

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Concussions in Football


Much has changed across the landscape of football in the last 20 years. Take a look at the roster for each of the NFL’s 32 teams and you’ll be unable to find a single player drafted before 1995. More than 60% of the leagues teams have moved into new stadiums in that same time frame. Team practice and training facilities, weight rooms, offices, and planes have all gone digital, and even the players’ equipment is drastically more high tech than back in the 90’s. It’s seems that when a college or pro football teams notices something can be improved, whether it be their depth chart, playbook, jumbotron, or uniform color scheme, the upgrade happens quickly no matter the cost. So I ask, when nearly everything in football has been changing rapidly for decades, why are we just beginning to change the way we look at concussions?

In April of 1999, Mike Webster, a then 47 year old who played for 16 seasons in the NFL, claimed in his disability application to the NFL that his football career had caused him dementia. Two and a half years later, the NFL’s Retirement Board ruled that Webster’s football career had in fact caused him permanent brain damage, with Webster’s lawyer arguing that the ruling means the NFL should’ve known there was a clear link between football and brain damage. Just two months later the chairman of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) committee, Dr. Elliot Pellman, claimed that studies by his committee had shown that brain injuries in the NFL are uncommon and minor. In 2003, the same Dr. Pellman (who also served as the team doctor for the New York Jets) sent a Jets player back into a game minutes after being knocked out cold and even authorized his committee’s publishing of a paper in Neurosurgery where they claimed that NFL players are actually LESS susceptible to brain injury. This pattern of negligence would continue for years (and some would say still continues); it wasn’t until Allegheny (Pa) County medical examiner Dr. Bennet Omalu examined former player Mike Webster’s brain and found a connection between head injuries sustained in football and the development chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) that a potential problem was discovered.

In the years since Dr. Omalu’s discovery of CTE in Mike Webster’s brain, concussions have taken center stage amongst a laundry list of other problems in the NFL. In more than five cases of former NFL players who committed suicide since 2010, CTE was discovered in the brain of ALL of them. According to a September 2015 article published in the Atlantic [ http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/09/researchers-find-brain-damage-in-96-percent-of-former-nfl-players/406462/ ], researchers at Boston University studied the brains of 165 former football players, with experience ranging from high school, college, and the professional level. Of the studied players, an astounding 79% of them were found to traces of CTE in their brain, with 96% of the 91 former NFL players who were tested testing positive for evidence of CTE.

Despite the small test group from this study, I found it absolutely shocking to read that nearly all of the former NFL players tested had developed signs of CTE. Perhaps even more horrifying is the fact that many of these players, who had only played football up to the high school level, had evidence of CTE in their brain. 20 years ago, the NFL had no idea it had a concussion problem. 10 years later, the league was still trying to deny the same theory. Today, it’s clear that there is a significant link between playing football and developing permanent brain damage, an issue that’s no longer affecting strictly pro players. Yes, the NFL does have a concussion problem, but so does the entire sport of football, a sport that over 1,088,000 high school boys play each fall.








Should People Begin to Think About Colonizing Space?

This question has been around since space travel actually became a tangible concept in the mid-20th century. After John F. Kennedy proclaimed “We will go to the Moon”, the space race was in full swing. As time has passed, the depth of the space race has continued to increase, as the US and other countries have continued to push the “Final Frontier” and explore as much of outer space as possible. With inventions like the Mars Rover and the Hubble Telescope, exploring space has become a more realistic opportunity. But what happens in the event that Earth is no longer inhabitable? Should humans try to colonize space, and even if they tried, would they be able to?

The first place to find the answers to a question like this is NASA. The organization has already put out information for those who are looking to settle in outer space. While mostly mentioned in a joking manner, some of the information could seriously be useful if humanity were to find itself one day having to find real estate in outer space. Even if space colonization were to happen, would a different type of person have to exist to be able to survive?

Business Weekly decided to look into this issue for themselves. They remarked about how a number of scientists think human colonization will be inevitable. For this to occur without spacesuits and various other parameters that current humans would have to work around, some scientists think that humans will be forced to evolve. “These people will become an offshoot of the human tree, they will probably evolve into something else,” said Chris Impey, a professor at the University of Arizona quoted in the article. While his ideas might be a bit far-fetched, he has much more knowledge on this subject than most.

Between NASA, astronomy professors, and other speculators on the subject, the possibilities of the future are endless. Whether they involve NASA and other space travel associations across other countries, contingency planning is certainly underway. Between those who are merely speculative conspiracy theorists, and those who have extensive knowledge on the subject of Earth’s future, both might be on to something when it comes to space travel and potential space colonization.


A future Manhattan on a different planet? Link: http://bruceleeeowe.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/typical-colonization-of-moon.jpg


Dickerson, Kelly. “Moving to Mars Could Create a Whole New Breed of People.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 12 June 2015. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Globus, Al. “Space Settlement Basics.” Nasa.gov. NASA, 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Can Traumatic Experiences Affect Future Generations?

Behavioral epigenetic expressions. I’m sure you’re thinking, epige-what? Just under 25 years ago, two scientists begin to realize the impact that certain events can have on specific races/ethnicities in each generation. Moshe Szyf and Michael Meaney, both of McGill University in Canada, began to realize the idea that events like the Holocaust, atomic bombings in Japan, the Vietnam War, and many other critical events of the 20th century could impact the next generation literally in terms of DNA. While obviously these events had effects in the lives of each affected group in terms of socio-economic and political factors, Szyf and Meaney started to develop the idea that it could literally change the .1% of DNA that can be altered.

To put behavioral epigenetics in simpler terms of nature vs. nurture, it is basically the idea that the nurturing affects the nature, rather than vice versa. According to the Oxford Journals, most of the research in the field focuses on early development of organisms. “Behavioral epigenetics refers to the study of how signals from the environment trigger molecular biological changes that modify what goes on in brain cells.” (Powledge, 2011). The hardest part of conducting research in a field as big as epigenetics is navigating the human genome.

The regulation of the structure of the genome is three-dimensional of course, adding an extra layer of difficulty as to mapping out where the discrepancies are inside the DNA itself. Regulating the physical structure and the chemical adjustments that are made, they are the two most frequently utilized processes. The most important development in epigenetics began with discovering where the changes came from with the parents (Oxford).

According to Oxford, the foundation for how epigenetics would be connected to parents and their children began with Meaney studying rats and how their parents could pass down responses to stress for their children. The journal cites that the scientists were able to study the brains of the rats, and following this discovery, continued to develop their ideas, eventually coming upon the process of imprinting as they discovered how different animals can become hybrids of one another through genomic imprinting. As for the future of epigenetics? Well, the hurdles to having meaningful research in the subject are numerous, according to the author, Powledge. But as far as cell biology goes, this could very well be the next big thing in the field, especially if hybrid traits continue to unravel with humans. While epigenetics still has a ways to go, it is heading in the right direction.


Mapping out the epigenetics. Link: http://discovermagazine.com/~/media/Images/Issues/2013/May/trait-4.jpg


Hurley, Dan. “November 2016.” Discover Magazine. Discover Magazine, 25 June 2015. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Powledge, Tabitha M. “Behavioral Epigenetics: How Nurture Shapes Nature.” Behavioral Epigenetics: How Nurture Shapes Nature. Oxford University, 2011. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Does it really take 7 years to digest swallowed gum?

We’ve all heard the myth: Gum takes 7 years to pass through your body. Growing up, I’ve always been petrified of swallowing gum, having heard horror stories of kids who need to Image result for gumhave huge wads of swallowed gum surgically removed because it never digested. However, how accurate is this myth? I decided to investigate.

What is Gum, exactly?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, gum is a base that is a nonnutritive, masticatory substance made up of either synthetic or natural rubberlike materials, including plasticizing softeners, preservative antioxidizing agents, and resins. The components are often tree-derived, and gum can be traced to somewhere around 2,000 years ago in America, or a primitive form of it (FDA). Although this sounds complicated and worried, it ends up being a simple formula that is consistently delicious. However, is it dangerous for your digestive tract? Let’s investigate.

Source One

According to livescience.com, this myth is false. Gum passes right through one’s digestive system just as any other food would, as your body has every capability to break down gum’s components over the course of a few days, including oil derivatives, sweeteners, and the Image result for chewed gum stuck in digestive systemrubber or latex base, which can take slightly longer. However, the author of this study, Joseph Castro, does not recommend swallowing gum, as in some cases, children have in fact needed gum surgically removed if enough is swallowed in a short enough amount of time, causing constipation. Scary stuff… let’s take a look at another study.

Source Two

In the next case, we look at John Matson’s research in his article for the Scientific American. According to Matson, this myth is still false, as it is impossible for anything to stay in the digestive system for so long unless it was too large to physically be removed, such as something larger than a quarter. He agrees that the majority of gum’s components are easily Image result for chewed gum stuck in digestive systembroken down. However, a few are a bit more difficult than others (Matson). Although gum most likely passes through the system slower than many other foods, it will usually pass through with ease. However, Matson agrees that this doesn’t mean it is a good idea to regularly swallow gum, for the same reasons, as it has historically needed the rare but possible surgical removal if too large of an amount is present.


In conclusion, it seems as though this old tale is rather innaccurate, and gum digests relatively easily, but perhaps slower. However, it remains in one’s best interest not to frequently swallow gum, as difficulties can occasionally arise, and why not just spit it out? It’s cleaner, quicker, and easier, anyways. Just don’t stick it underneath Andrew’s desk trays!

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Got Milk? Nope, Don’t Need It


My roommate and I got in a heated argument earlier this week whether or not a young adult still needs to be drinking milk in order to stay healthy. His argument was that milk still offers important nutrients, calcium specifically, that is still needed to support the bone structure of an adult. I argued that because we are no longer growing, it is not necessary.

When I Google searched “do adults need milk”, I was overwhelmed with the amount of articles claiming that the claim “milk is the key to healthy bones” is false. In fact, many of the articles argued that milk can be more harmful to your body rather than beneficial. In Vivian Goldschmidt’s article, Debunking The Milk Mythshe claims that “the calcium from milk pulls the milk from your bones in order to level out the calcium in your digestive system”. Obviously calcium being removed from your bones is not an ideal transaction to be taking place.


I didn’t stop there with my research on whether or not adult need milk in their diet. In another article that I discovered while trying to gather more information on this topic, I discovered milk harms your body in other ways other than pulling calcium from your bones. Milk is one of the biggest sources of saturated fats. Because there is so much saturated fat in dairy products and milk, there has been a link discovered connecting Type 1 Diabetes and dairy. Type 1 Diabetes is a disease where your immune system attacks its own pancreas.

Because of the overwhelming amount of data I found arguing against drinking milk, I think it is safe to say that I won the argument. Of course, my roommate, much like family doctors and the government, refuse to accept the arguments against milk even though they are in abundance



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Do seasonal changes affect students academic success?

Going to a school like Penn State, we suffer through a lot of winter. Gross, rainy, snowy, freezing days are the norm here for 80% of the year, and yet, it seems to be a fairly fun, loving place. However, one common myth is that seasonal changes affect students academic success. I decided to investigate this, because I’m already feeling less motivated and more inclined to stay in bed rather than get up for my daily 9 am. So, do seasonal changes affect students academic success?Image result for seasonal changes affect student performance

Study One

In one study, a group of 2479 college students were analyzed to investigate how their GPAs were affected across various seasons. In this study, the GPAs of the students were collected from the fall semester and the spring semester to investigate if there was any significant changes. According to the authors, sophomore, junior, and senior students retained higher GPAs in the spring when the weather is looking up and typically nicer. In addition, most students had higher scores on tests and assignments in the spring season, leading to one potential link between seasonal changes and academic success (Besoluk and Onder). However, let’s take a look at another study to find any other evidence.

Study Two

This study won a Special Achievement Award at this year’s Environmental Protection Agency symposium held in the nation’s capital. Three Oregon high school students, sophomore Josean Perez, junior Julio Montano, and senior Jose Perez, chose to investigate whether temperature, specifically room temperature, affects student performance. Their hypothesis stted that students would be more attentive at a neutral room temperature, and the test would be conducted among ninth graders. They begun by administering a standard test to six ninth grade classes in a controlled manner (Perez, Montano, and Perez). They kept each class for 10 minutes in the room to get them used to the temperature, and then had them take the initial test. They varied the temperatures by either placing hot plates around the room or Image result for seasonal changes affect student performanceopening windows and placing ice in the sinks (Perez, Montano, and Perez). The differences between scores were insignificant in their initial results. They decided to change methods, conducting some tests in portable classrooms with AC, to more significantly vary the temperatures. Following these changes, they found the average test scores were slightly more distinct, however, overall too similar to conclude that temperature has any effect on student performance (Perez, Montano, and Perez).

Seasonal Affective Disorder

As the studies were too varied to conclude anything for sure, one possible cause here is something called Seasonal Affective Disorder. This disorder Image result for seasonal changes affect moodis apparent in the fall and winter as exposure to sunlight is minimized, and it affects between five and 13 percent of the population (udallas.edu). Apparently, this is a result of a variety of causes, including an affect on serotonin and melanon levels as well as circadian rhythm.  The symptoms include increased stress and anxiety, lower moods, irratibility, feelings of guilt, decreased energy, increased sleep, and changes in school performance, according to the University of Dallas. This could very well be an additional contributor to this trend of worsened school performance in the cold months. However, it affects only a small portion of the population.


In conclusion, the results from the few studies that have been conducted on this are not consistent enough to point strongly enough to a link between seasonal changes and student academic performance. One possibility could definitely be Seasonal Affective Disorder, but again, this is too small of an affect to be the root cause. Perhaps with more studies, we will find a stronger link.

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What happens when you loss sleep?

We have all had those nights. Stayed up to late or had to wake up extremely early. Not getting enough sleep can change your mood for the rest of the day. Have you ever wondered what happens to your brain when you loose sleep?


A study was conducted at the University of Surrey about this topic, published in  the journal Science. Within this they studied the brains performance during the day, after not getting enough sleep at night. Also, they studied the symptoms of psychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions in the brain and wax and wane in the brain, to see if they leave an effect.

Researchers did this study on 33 people, who all had sleep deprivation over a two day period. They took brain scans of each brain and compared their brain activity levels and where the brain activity was happening in the brain. One place in the brain that a lot of activity was happening was the subcortical area, with a rhythmic period following after.

The brains being studied where found a reduced amount of activity in the brain after the recovery of sleep. Also, some of the brains studied were found had a rhythmic pattern of activity. One this that researchers found was that the effects of sleep deprivation  were different to every brain being studied. This was made apparent when they were asked to preform a simple task, and all reacted different.

After looking at the brain scans taken, it showed melatonin rhythm in the brains. This acts as a circadian pacemaker, controlling sleep cycles. The responses to the circadian rhythm was different to most of the brains studied.

After this study was concluded, it can be seen that brain function is prominently influenced during its awake stages, and not when its sleep deprived. Because of the across the board, different responses to sleep deprivation in the brain, the brain mainly functions when its fully awake. Though this did not really show how the brain acts when sleep deprived, this showed researchers how the brain functions when awake. This also explained the activity of the brain and how certain symptoms effect that in the brain.

So what is the catch on this study. The brain responds differently when sleep deprived and the activity in the brain is different. So try to cuddle up, turn off the lights and get the amount of sleep recomended



Wearing socks to bed causes nightmares?

My roommate told me last night to take my socks off before bed. I looked at her and was like “What the heck? Why?” She said she read an article on twitter that said sleeping with your socks on gives you nightmares. I decided to take my socks off and went to bed, but should I have actually taken my socks off?

It has been said that warming your feet with socks can make you fall asleep faster. Wearing socks heats your cold feet and causes vasodilation, which is the dilation of the blood vessels. Researchers have found that the vasodilation tells your brain that it is ready for bedtime.

Researchers have indicated a correlation between the vasodilation and the speed of falling asleep. So why wouldn’t you want to wear socks to bed if it would make you get to bed quicker? Also, it has been found that wearing socks to bed helps regulate your body temperature while you sleep. This helps prevent night sweating and hot flashes. Wearing socks to bed can also help moisturize your feet, especially in the winter months when it gets cold and your feet get dry.


If you want to wear socks to bed, you must make sure they are the right kind of socks. An important factor in making sure your socks are benefiting your health and sleep, is ensuring that your socks are clean and fresh so that bacteria does not build up and lead to infections on your feet such as fungus. Another factor that can lead to an increase of bacteria build up is the material of the socks. Socks that are too thick, for example, can block sufficient airflow from the feet causing fungus conditions. Socks that are thin and made from natural fibers are good and can benefit your health and your sleep.

Nightmares occur during the REM sleep stage and are caused by experiences throughout your day or life. Theories have been found that other factors such as what you wear, such as socks, can cause nightmares as well. Biochemists of Australia’s University of Tasmania conducted a study where they added spicy sauces to a healthy male’s dinner plate. By adding the spicy condiments it elevated his body temperature during the first sleep cycle. It was also found that he fell asleep faster. This study is related to the idea of wearing socks to bed due to the increase in body temperature.

There are many personal anecdotes in cases where people where socks to bed and claim they have nightmares every time they do so. I personally like to sleep in socks when I am cold because it makes me warmer and feel more cozy. But after researching about this “myth” my roommate told me about, I am a bit hesitant on wearing socks to bed. Although after research, it has said it will make me fall asleep faster. I would like to see more research done on this issue.





Is laughter really the best medicine?

We’ve all seen those incredibly cheesy quotes on Facebook and Instagram that go something along the lines of “Life is better when you’re laughing” or “Laughter is the best medicine”. I remember scrolling through Twitter and seeing a fun fact that said that just smiling puts us in a good mood if we’re upset. I wanted to do some research to find out if any of this is true, especially since laughter is such an easy and free way to make ourselves feel better.


According to this article published in the Lancet Oncology Journal, laughter is a great form of therapy because it makes patients feel better, it releases endorphins in our brain, and it’s a proven, free way to recovery faster after surgery. Aaron van Dorn, the author of this study, uses laughter as a therapy for cancer patients. Cancer, something that is extremely devastating and affects millions of people, causes many people to become depressed, anxious, and even suicidal. Dorn plans on combatting this in his patients with laughter. He has a comedian come in to perform for the people in his hospital, and has noticed excellent results.

According to the Chopra Center, laughter has many great benefits to those who do it on a daily basis.

  1. Laughter reduces stress
  2. It increases resiliency in people
  3. It combats depression
  4. It decreases pain

There has even been a thing called laughter yoga, which is a practice that includes prolonged voluntary laughter!


Sources –

  1. Source 1 – Laughter study
  2. Source 2 – Chopra Center

Picture Source –

  1. Picture 1

Health benefits and Dogs

guide-dogsEvery year around finals, Penn State brings dogs onto campus to help relax the students in stressful times. You not only see this growing trend on campus, but you also see more therapy animals in public. Now a days its common to have all kinds of illness being treated with animal therapy. Everything from PTSD to Seizures can now be treated or helped by your furry friend!

PTSD is a condition known as Post Traumatic Stress disorder that leaves you feeling alone, scared or losing control of yourself. It can be caused by numerous factors but one thing is for certain, dogs and other pets can help combat the painful symptoms one might have from PTSD.

Studies show that people who own pets report having lower stress levels on the whole. Not only did the study show longitudinal examples of lowered stress level with the individuals, but it also had no age range cap. Children to older adults with Alzheimer’s were taken into account in the study which made it more credible having such a large variety and population. Not only did the study give an array of illnesses that were impacted by owning a therapy pet, but there was also links to other studies that showed higher survival rates of particular illness that were more life threatening.


funny photo credit

Some confounding variable might play a role in the researchers results such as, likelihood that particular stressors are no longer in your life, or another variable could be the degree to which your illness effected you. You could get different results based on if you asked a child about reporting better health as opposed to someone who has had a stroke.  The study does suggest that it has looked at meta-analysis since it brings up other studies, but it doesn’t go into detail as to the study repeating another study.


Doggy Love!

So why is this so important to students? The answer, Oxytocin! Oxytocin is a chemical produced in the brain that can controls how the body heals itself! So the correlation between animals and our stress levels can be lowered if we play with our pups more! So pet therapy is not only a great way to heal people who have experienced trauma but it is also a great way for people who just need a little break from exams to relax and unwind! So next time you are stressed out, why not have some snuggle time with man’s best friend?!