Daily Archives: November 17, 2016

Are essential oils beneficial for our health?


For many months now I have been hearing about more people using essential oils in alternative to traditional medication. I have been wondering are essential oils beneficial for our health? After conducting research, I have found that citizens use essential oils as a natural alternative for medication and it can be used for anxiety, depression, acne, physical pain, insomnia, and so much more. After finding out that it is claimed to help with things such as depression or anxiety it made me wary. How can oils help with disorders? I can understand that essential oils are used as a part of aromatherapy but does it help is what I am curious about.  In the first source that it says that “there is limited scientific evidence that they actually improve people’s health or mood.” (1) That is discouraging to read. In another source, it says that one of the benefits to using essential oils in alternative to medication is that “Each plant is unique in its chemistry so essential oils are never exactly the same-this is different from pharmaceutical drugs that are synthetically reproduced to be identical every time.” (2) Since it says that essential oils are never the same I find this to be beneficial but also alarming. Medication being produced and being the same ensures that it will work for its purpose. Essential oils being different and not the same every time sounds alarming. What if it does not have the same results?  The article continues to reassure my suspicions about there being scientific evidence of essential oils being a reliable alternative to prescribed medication. In the article, it says that “it is difficult to conduct blinded studies with aromatic substances and other researchers have used alternate scents assumed to have no therapeutic properties as controls. These approaches are problematic, however, because people associate smells with past experiences. Thus, it is difficult to account for individual variation in how essential oils affect people.” (2) People are still buying essential oils and are believing it does what it says it does. If there aren’t enough blind studies and the article says that “it is difficult to get approval and funding for essential oils” (2) then should essential oils be promoted the way they are. One of the arguments for essential oils supporters is that Rene-Maurice Gattefoss, a French chemist, commonly called the father of Aromatherapy, healed himself from a burn injury using lavender oil. This cannot be believed because this is the common evidence of an antidote. This cannot be reliable evidence as there is no science or no study. This is the same thing people did when answering the question do prayers heal?essential-oils-003

Picture: northwestpharmacy.com

The studies that have been done on essential oils have not been large enough to say they really heal. There is one study that I found conducted on women students in a college but there were only 42 women in the study. The results were 60% of the women said the oils helped them. (3)  Another study tested oils on 139 rats and 4 more experiments after that were conducted to see if oils had any effect on rats and their sleeping tendency. (4) Even after reading some of the studies done on essential oils I still believe there is not enough studies to fully say essential oils solves problems such as physical pain, physical healing of wounds and disorders such as depression and anxiety.  While it says, it is rare essential oils can still “induce side effects, such as rash, asthma, headache, liver and nerve damage, as well as harm to a fetus.” (5) Some women use essential oils on their children and with the side effects I would not want my child to come into contact with the oils. While some research is there I still believe there should be more research to prove with science that it is very safe to use essential oils in alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.




  1. Nierenberg, Cari. “The Science of Essential Oils: Does Using Scents Make Sense?” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 03 Sept. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
  2. Halcon, Linda. “What Does the Research Say About Essential Oils? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing.” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
  3. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi, Taehan. “[Effects of Lavender Aromatherapy on Insomnia and Depression in Women College Students].” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2006. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
  4. Komori, Teruhisa, Takuya Matsumoto, Eishi Motomura, and Takashi Shiroyama. “The Sleep-Enhancing Effect of Valerian Inhalation and Sleep-Shortening Effect of Lemon Inhalation.” The Sleep-Enhancing Effect of Valerian Inhalation and Sleep-Shortening Effect of Lemon Inhalation. N.p., 20 July 2006. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
  5. Ehrlich, Steven D. “Aromatherapy.” University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 09 Aug. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

Bumpy Knees

I was one of the smallest kids in my grade up until high school. Over the year between my thirteenth and fourteenth birthdays, I grew about 6 inches. I slept a lot that year and had a lot of pain in my legs, especially around my knees. I played basketball and baseball and my legs hurt, especially after practices and games. The pain was so bad that year that I went to see the doctor, whose diagnosis was that I had Osgood-Schlatter Disease (OSD). The recommended therapy was to ice my knees, take over the counter pain relievers and reduce or stop sport activities. This led me to conclude that all young athletes, especially ones who have a significant growth spurt, will develop OSD.


Both Dr. Robert Osgood and Dr. Carl Schlatter described the disease, hence, the name.  According to an  article published by James R Gregory, MD, OSD is caused by persistent stress on tendons and muscles surrounding the tibial tuberosity, or the oblong part on the top of the tibia, or shinbone. As per a Mayo Clinic Publication, the disease occurs mostly in boys from the ages of thirteen to fourteen years old and girls from eleven to twelve years old and is worsened by jumping activities such as; gymnastics, running, basketball, soccer, ballet and volleyball. Basically, the pain results from the stretching of the tendons and muscles around bones growing at a faster pace, specifically around the knees. It mostly impacts the Patellar tendon which runs from the thigh and connects to the tibia. If the condition is very bad, the Patellar tendon can pull away from the tibia, called avulsion or separation, causing more bone to grow on the tibial tuberosity; resulting in a noticeable and permanent bump just below the knee cap. This bump represents the result of the body repairing itself. The disease can present itself in both knees and can last as little as weeks or up to months, as it did in my case. It does cease at the point adolescent growth stops. This is a helpful video to describe the disease.osgood-2osgood-1


A BioMechanics publication, referenced an injuries audit for youth football, which concluded that only one of twenty child athletes, aged eleven to thirteen showed signs of OSD. Another study, reported in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, stated that of 193 student athletes who participated in a survey, only 21.2% or 41 of them had shown any signs of OSD.

Another study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, was primarily conducted to assess body types of athletes to determine risk factors for OSD. The study assessed 300 knees of 150 players and established a testing group of 70 knees. One year after the initial observation, 10 knees with OSD or 14.3% were compared with the 60 without OSD to determine variabilities in muscles, weight and strength. This study concluded that methods for stretching could be taught to aid players.

While these studies reported that not all athletes were afflicted by OSD, it was not specifically stated that all the athletes had experienced extreme growth-spurts. The one interesting thing I did come across is that doctors and scientist do not know why bones grow faster than tendons and muscles in some or all adolescents. OSD represents the effects after stress to the impacted area occurs. None of the research I reviewed concluded why it happens, similar to Andrew’s 11/8/2016 lesson about the uncertainty of science.

In conclusion, the studies do show that not all young athletes suffer from Osgood-Schlatter Disease. For those that do suffer from it, the good news is that is stops once a growth spurt ends. Most young people with OSD are able to continue playing sports, however, in severe cases, it is recommended that a break be taken from activities such as jumping and running. Stretching and strengthening exercises may help relieve some of the pain while keeping the area fit. These exercises focus on the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. The bad news is that the damage is oftentimes done. My bumpy knees are a good example of that.

Picture 1 source:    https://www.google.com/search?q=pictures+of+osgood+schlatter+disease&espv=2&biw=1527&bih=836&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwijte3X8qXQAhWS14MKHd5-AsMQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=Z92PigIMCAfjXM%3A

Picture 2 source


Picture 3 source





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgo0pjVyoEw&t=109s “Video”




New Information Regarding Pluto’s Geology

Does anyone remember the year 2006? We were all in elementary school still, or maybe just beginning middle school. Iphones were just created, and nowhere near the level they are today. Star Wars had ended the year before with a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. Oh yeah, and Pluto was downgraded from a planet in our solar system by the International Astronomical Union (AIU). Becasue Pluto hasn’t “cleared out the area” surrounding it, it cannot be classified as a planet. Since then, many people have simply not cared about Pluto, especially with us looking for life in other solar systems and sending robots (and perhaps soon humans) to Mars.

However, an interesting article, maybe the first about Pluto in a long while, was published in the New York Times just yesterday. In it, it discusses some findings reported in the Journal Nature. Please note that while both of these articles are basically the same, I still would rely on the Nature journal further due to its background in science, and it going more in depth into what they found. I added both so you can see them, but we will be discussing the Nature journal from now on.

Back in 2015, the sattelite New Horizons spotted what looked to be a heart shape (pictured above as the white part) in Pluto’s equator. Until now, they didn’t have an answer as to what this was or where it came from. After researching for over a year, they came to the conclusion that this heart shaped spot on Pluto is actually an enormous ice cap (over 1,000 km across and several miles deep)! I know what you’re thinking-does this prove that life could be possible on Pluto, because with ice comes water and water comes life? Well, it’s not guaaranteed  The ice is mostly filled with nitrogen ice, making it not based off of water and no oxygen is present.

So, if this doesn’t prove life on Pluto, why is it interesting? Well, this heart shaped ice cap has most likely messed with the dwarf planet’s rotation over time. This was most likely caused by meteor impacts, which is something that shaped our planet’s existence millions of years ago. When the rotation changes, it can affect the environment in drastic ways. Because it is so vast, it moved Pluto’s rotation completely away from it’s moon, having NASA and the New York Times coin the phrase “Pluto is finding its heart”.


Here you can see “Pluto’s heart” Picture source

Likewise, this huge ice zone (what NASA named Sputnick Planitia) also affects Pluto’s atmosphere greatly. As I mentioned above, this ice sheet is made mostly of nitrogen, carbon, and methane. When Pluto warms, it goes into the atmosphere, creating a harsh environment, until it is brought back down to the surface with a new layer of frost. This is important because it’s literally changing the atmosphere of Pluto as we speak (much like how too much carbon in our atmosphere is warming our planet at a fast rate).

So, we have to be the clear about what this could mean for us as humans in the future. Not only do we more understand how Pluto’s atmosphere works, but we also can determine how Pluto is being affected by this “ice shape”, and it it’s rotation is being affected. Likewise, although it seems unlikely, scientists in the New York Times article do suggest that there may be an ocean of water underneath the surface of Pluto, not an ice sheet. If that’s the case, that could lead to the possibility of life on Pluto, although it is unlikely due to the significant low temperatures there. With us so heavily focued on life in other galaxies, it would be interesting to check Pluto out first to rule out this possiblity before moving onward. However, I think it’ll most likely be like Mars and show possible old signs of life, but nothing currently there. Still, having something to care about regarding Pluto is a pleasent changed of pace indeed.


Turn it down

My morning routine is to wake up and get ready for my earliest classes. As I take my 15 minute walk to each class I normally listen to music to bypass the time. My mood for music changes everyday and I change my playlist depending how I am feeling. Do I hear my friends calling my name? No, my music is blasting. That is the only way I roll. My room mate tells me to turn it down because she gets annoyed but my mom tells me to because it is dangerous.

Image result for listening to loud music gif

Teenagers have the same amount of hearing damage as their parents but at a much younger age, this is due to Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). A habit of listening to music at a certain level of volume can ruin your future. The noise damages your inner ear and turns into permanent hearing loss. So what is being blamed for this?  The invention of earbuds and the rising popularity of them over the past two decades.

Accused ... Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin and his band.

Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin

I am sure you have all heard a million times that listening to your music at a high volume is dangerous but I am going to stress this again. Once you loose your hearing it will not come back. The lead singer of Coldplay, Chris Martin, has been diagnosed with tinnitus. This is not a disease but it is the symptom of permanent ringing in your ears.

According to the American Osteopathic Association 1 in 5 teens have some form of hearing loss, this rate is 30% higher than it was in the 80s.

How can you prevent this?

  • switch to ear phones instead of earbuds
  • be aware of how loud your volume is; anything above 100dB (which is typical in most venues) is dangerous

Now if I researched this before taking this class I would definitely change my style of listening to music. I have come to realize that the benefit out weighs the risk. Coldplay’s singer Chris Martin only has tinnitus because he is constantly exposed to extreme conditions with his successful career in his profession. I would much rather enjoy my music loudly and have minimal chance of hearing loss than being a cautious freak. What happens in our society is that a rare occurrence happens, the media over-exaggerates this, and hysteria is caused. Mothers everywhere are telling their children to turn down their volume or to not make that face or it will be stuck like that forever. Based on evidence shown it might not be earbuds causing the hearing loss, it could be a 3rd confounding variable. For example, it could be kids who live in the city,which is a huge portion of the demographic, who happen to listen to music through earbuds, are losing hearing due to normal city background noise. Earbud volume is just a soft endpoint and cannot be the only thing blamed for the hard endpoint of hearing loss. The problem may not be from ear buds but from hanging out in loud bars, clubs, concerts, and sporting events; all habits of our american youth. Therefore, at this very moment that i am writing this post, I am blasting music through my earbuds.





Drug & The Brain

Introduction to the Human Brain

A 3-pound mass of grey and white matter controls our every move, word, and breath. This complex organ regulates every body function we undergo- from opening a lid to running a marathon, it’s all controlled by the same place. Although the human brain is the essence of our being, it is hard to understand the brain itself. It’s many mysteries get even more amplified when considering how drugs alters these necessary life-living functions.

Brain Functions with Drugs 

First , let’s go over the basic functions of the brain:

_8300594The Cerebral Cortex– This is the most developed part of the human brain. It processes most things an individual experiences by controlling their thoughts, language, and perceiving events around them. It is divided into 4 lobes: frontal lobes, parietal lobes, temporal lobes, and occipital lobes. Each of these lobes have a cortex that has a specific job but we will only need to know the basics.

The Brain Stem– This is most basic and easiest part of the brain to remember. It controls the one thing in life we need to live, breathing. It has other small jobs as well.

The Limbic System– This is a series of structures consisting of the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus. This system controls our emotions, perception of emotions, memories, and learning. It is activated by healthy activities such as being social and eating. It is also activated by drugs, which explains why drugs are mood-altering. I’ll get more into this later.

How Brain Transmits Information

Neuron– Think of neurons as relay race. There’s tons of different people with different jobs and once that job is over, they hand something to the next person indicating it’s their turn to do their job. Neurons receive the the messages that the nerve cells send from the brain.

Receptors– Think of these are the door before the message that the neurotransmitters have been carrying stop at. They attach to a receptor and this receptor is what makes the message act correctly.

How Drugs Effect the Brain

Ever wonder why drugs work so fast? It’s because they immediately attack the neurons working in our brain. The chemicals that are released from the drug gets trapped in the communication part of the brain. This interferes with how the neurons communication with each other. Since most drugs mimic the brains real chemicals, they fool the receptors and allow the drug to attach itself to a neuron. Heroine and marijuana activate these neurons because the chemicals that make them, resemble a neurotransmitter. Drugs basically trick the brain into thinking these chemicals are good for it.dopaminetransporters

After drugs make their way through the gated doors of our brain, they create this amazing sensation that spread over the body. This is because the chemicals in the drugs attack the brains rewards system. The brains reward system consists of releasing amounts of dopamine by how good a person feels. Dopamine is a chemical that is released when we feel good. With abnormally high numbers running through the veins, it makes for a strong reinforcement to do it again. Since our brain is wired to repeat things that make us feel good, these mood-high drugs become addictive. Eventually, the neurotransmitters cannot keep up with the amounts of dopamine running through the body so without these drugs the person usually becomes sad.


A study done by H. F. Fraser and G. D. Van Horn conducted a short, double blind study to see if direct addiction was satisfactory for developing a dependence on morphine and codeine- like drugs. They needed additional studies to determine the reliability of this theory to measure how dependent a person become and what compounds in certain drugs make them so addictive.


Drugs are mind-altering chemicals that could damage a person for longer than a short period of time. They effect most parts in the brain and should only be used if prescribed. The danger of prescribed drugs is a treat as well. Everything in moderation or it could be harmful to an individual.


Biology Expert, Regina Bailey. “Brain Anatomy: Cerebral Cortex.” About.com Education, 15 Aug. 2016. Web.
Tim Taylor, Anatomy and Physiology Instructor. “Brain Stem.” InnerBody. Web.
“The Limbic System – Boundless Open Textbook.” Boundless. Web.

Can we feel other’s pain?

We always hear that someone says, “ I can feel your pain” in our daily life. Is it just an expression of sympathy or is it real that people carry other’s pain as if it was their own?3747510dc0cf31810fc7aa6231fd3f27

Before I talk about this topic, I’d like to share the recent scientific news first. A new study in rodents suggest that mice feel each other’s pain. “Healthy mice living in the same room with mice experiencing pain are up to 68% more sensitive to pain themselves, regardless of their stress levels, according to the new study, which found that mice could scent when their fellows were suffering.” After the study, the researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland thought that smell might be the massager.

(If you are interested in this study, you can click the following link: Social transfer of pain in mice) Then we can get a conclusion that feeling other’s pain is not only an expression of sympathy but also a real biological phenomenon. Although it is too early to these findings to humans, there is growing evidence that people also share their pain.

Then we go back to the topic.

The way the brain perceives pain

If we would like to understand or explain that we can feel other’s pain, we should know how our brain process pain. Actually the determinants of pain are varies. In 1968, Melzack and Casey studies that the concept of pain as a perception, has sensory, motivational, and cognitive determinants. So when these three factors work, we get the sense of pain that is an adaptive process that is a warning of actual or potential injury.

With the development of brain imaging technique (such as PET or fMRI), cognitive neuroscientists found that different pains can cause some same activations in our brainpemtfj1ahzp7bdvons7catqrr4cvbatbr9wvza2nikpeagaa0weaafbo structure, so called “pain matrix”. Figure 2 outlines the regions that are generally shown to be activated in functional imaging studies of pain. Pain matrix involves the parts that process the cognition of pain like the primary sensory cortex and the parts that trigger the emotional responses of pain like anterior cingulate cortex. It is possible that due to the activity of pain matrix, we can feel other’s pain when we see they are suffered. 

Do we feel pain differently when see other’s pain?

Let’s assume that when seeing other’s pain, we would trigger our pain matrix. So can we distinguish the pain that we actually get by body damaging and the pain from seeing other’s pain? Professor Singer and other researchers in the University of Zurich had a fMRI research in 2004. Volunteers experienced a painful stimulus and compared it to that elicited when they observed a signal indicating that their loved one was receiving a similar pain stimulus.(The specific study is in this link: Empathy for Pain Involves the Affective but not Sensory Components of Pain) Then they conclude that the neural substrate for empathic experience does not involve the entire “pain matrix.” So it is obvious that “self” pain and “other” pain are different, and other’s pain always trigger only the part that cause people have emotional responses of pain in our brain but not the part means that we are actually suffered.

If we just simply conclude by one study, it is largely possible that it has file drawer problem. Then I find another study from Alessio Avenanti in Nature Neuroscience shows that people have an actual physical reaction when observing others being injured or expressing pain. So at least, we can reject the null hypothesis that there is no relationship between self feelings and other’s pain, and accept the alternative hypothesis that people can feel other’s pain.

Why we can feel other’s pain?

Empathy helps us to understand feelings and inner states of mind of others and to share experiences, needs, beliefs and goals. Humans can generally empathize with others and imagine what another person is going through. The reason we have empathy is that we have a system called “synaesthesia for pain” . In synaesthesia for pain a person not only empathy with another’s pain but experiences the observed or imagined pain as if it was their own. Mirror-touch synesthesia is one type of synaesthesia for pain.It is related to the activity of mirror neurons, according to International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, which provides a correspondence in the neural activation during the actual execution of an action and the observation of other person’s action and this system is supposed to allow several key social processes, such as understanding other persons’ intentions and behaviors, as well as self-awareness and learning through imitation. So if we observe someone suffering physical pain, the pain is “mirrored” through our sensation. Some people have an unusually strong ability to empathize with others. And children with asperger syndrome are less capable of empathy.

Lastly, there are still many theories about mirror neuron system debated. Scientist cannot get a final conclusion. Hence we need more meta-analysis, peer reviews and researches.

I think mirror-touch synesthesia (if it really exists) help people more considerate about the feelings of others, and more adaptive in the society. Feeling other’s pain is not a bad thing.

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Source1 Source2 Source3 Source4  Source 5

Why Do Cold People Shiver?

I’m sure pretty much everyone, especially here at Penn State, is familiar with the discomfort of going outside and being so cold that your body involuntarily shakes. Just thinking about such icy temperatures sends a chill down my spine. But why do we shiver? Why do our teeth chatter?

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-9-08-43-amImage Found Here

Allan Hemingway of the Department of Physiology, The Medical School, University of California at Los Angeles, California, in an APS Physiological Reviews journal, wrote an article and conducted a study about shivering. Shivering is, according to the article, a defense mechanism for when the body is endangered by cold temperatures. Our bodies are trying to protect themselves from hypothermia. It is an involuntary action that occurs with body systems and parts that people usually use intentionally, which is interesting. Oxygen intake increases when people shiver, as mentioned in another study Hemingway alludes to in the article.

Hemingway conducted a study on animals (including people) to measure their shivering in both quantitative and qualitative ways–both numerical and conceptual non-numeric ways. For example, metabolic rates were compared between neutral temperatures and exposure to cold with a shivering response. This is qualitative data.  Shivering was also measured by visual cues, mechanical methods, and EMG (Electromyograms).

The study found that shivering was different from animal to animal. For examples, rabbits with thick fur coats were much less inclined to shiver at all compared to people when exposed to severe cold. There were also different temperatures at which animals started to shiver. Rats were also most likely to not shiver, but to control and warm up their bodies in alternative ways (non shivering thermogenesis).

This study is observational and likely does not suffer from the Texas Sharpshooter Problem or the File Drawer Problem.

Teens Health suggests that the hypothalamus in our brains regulates our body temperature. It signifies when we should sweat from being too hot or shiver from being too cold. By shivering, we are converting energy stored in our bodies to heat.

According to Wouter Van Marken Litchenbelt, author of Cold Exposure–an approach to increasing energy expenditure in humans in Vol 25 Issue 4 of Science & Society of Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, obesity is caused by more caloric intake than energy expenditure. In other words–people eat entirely more than they burn off. Someone who eats a family sized bag of chips and lays on the couch in front of the TV all day is someone who probably consumes more than they work off with exercise. There have been suggestions to implement exposure to the cold to help people to expend more energy and increase their metabolic rates. People shiver when they get too cold. The subtle shaking and jerky movements that occur from shivering help people to use up energy and generate heat. An obese person who is subjected to shivering will start to use up more energy, and possibly lose some weight!

So it seems that shivering is one of the many ways our bodies are always protecting and defending themselves. It’s cool that we have so many defense mechanisms that we don’t even have to think about in order for them to happen.