Author Archives: Alexander J Pulice

Millennial Risk for Carpal Tunnel

One thing I dread ever having to experience is carpal tunnel syndrome. But considering how much us millennials use our hands everyday to type, text, and play video games, I’m concerned the risk for carpal tunnel may be higher than what it has been for previous generations.

Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a medical condition in which the median nerve in your forearm and hand gets pressured at the wrist. This causes hand numbness, dull pain and tingling, loss of grip strength, poor fine motor skills. All of those things would make life as we millennials know it very difficult, because we are so reliant on our hands to function in or day to day lives.

Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome include sex (females are more prone to it), workplace conditions, age, fitness, and hand posture. People repetitively use their hands in a way that flexes the wrist and uses poor hand posture are at a higher risk. That means poor typing posture, and holding a cell phone could easily be risk factors that lead to onset of the syndrome. Although carpal tunnel is treatable, it can require physical therapy, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, or even surgery. 

As it stands today, only 3% of women and 2% of men actually develop carpal tunnel throughout the course of their lifetime. Carpal tunnel is also a disease more often associated with older adults as opposed to younger adults. However, as millennials age their risk factor for developing the syndrome increases.

Lack of fitness and obesity lead to a higher level of risk in developing the disease. Considering that obesity rates have risen steadily over the past several decades, based on the risk factor of just obesity alone we as a generation have cause to concern over a higher percentage of people developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Although no data on the frequency of carpal tunnel among millennials has been collected yet due to carpal tunnel being a syndrome that is usually onset later in life, I think its a safe bet to expect the rates to rise from the respective rates of 3% among women and 2% among men over the next couple decades. Unfortunately, we live in a world reliant on internet connectivity via devies we need to se our hands for. That coupled with unhealthy lifestyle choices will lead to inevitable consequences down the road.


Ben Franklin Effect, Fact or Crap?

A couple weeks back in my Psych 221 class we discussed a psychological phenomenon called the Ben Franklin Effect. The way this phenomenon was described to us was as follows: Back during the time of Benjamin Franklin -who was an active member of the academic community, and who was known for being a founding father of the United States- there came a point where Ben didn’t see eye to eye with a peer whom he needed to take his side on an issue. In order to secure this person’s friendship Ben Franklin employed a technique that has now been named after him.

Instead of outright asking for his rival’s support, he decided to gain his rival’s trust by first asking him to do something for him. The idea being that if the rival agreed to do a small favor for Ben, the rival would then in his mind have to reason why would he do such a thing for someone he disagreed with. The rival would eventually come to the conclusion that he assisted Ben with his smaller favor because he liked Ben. In this case Ben Franklin asked his rival to borrow a book (and keep in mind books were a rare commodity to come by in that time period). After doing the favor of letting Ben borrow his book, his rival reasoned that the only reason he would loan such a valuable possession is because Ben was a good guy, and a suitable friend. According to the story, afterwards they were friends till their dying days

So what psychological factors play a role in the Ben Franklin effect? In social psychology an important concept is that of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is mental discomfort brought about by an event that challenges your system of beliefs. When presented with cognitive dissonance, humans use one of three methods to reduce it; this is known as dissonance theory.

When presented with dissonance humans either**:

  1. Change their attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs so that the dissonance they are feeling no longer distresses them, thus reducing it.
  2. Acquire new information that eases the dissonance. It doesn’t necessarily have to be correct information, but new information about the topic you are feeling dissonance because of can help you justify and lower the dissonance you feel
  3. Reduce the importance of the cognition they are feeling. This means that people convince themselves that the importance of their dissonance is less important than it actually is, thus lowering the dissonance they feel.

So when it comes to the Ben Franklin effect, which is asking someone a small favor in order to get them to like you, there is some basis in psychological theory that supports the method. By asking someone who doesn’t know you well to do you a favor, it creates dissonance for them, because why should they do you a favor? The hope is that they change their attitude towards you in order to reduce the dissonance they are feeling; if this is the route towards reducing dissonance that they choose, they will do the favor for you and behave positively towards you in the future.

Of course, on the flip side, if you ask someone a favor, create cognitive dissonance within them, and they refuse the favor, they will justify why they didn’t help out. This results in new attitudes forming that are negative towards you, because in order to reduce dissonance, the other person reasons that they only didn’t perform the task or favor because they don’t like you.

So basically the Ben Franklin effect does have basis in fact. Whether or not you should use it is up to you, because you may be successful, but there is potential for a drastic backfire.


** Aronson, Elliot, Timothy B. Wilson, Robin M. Akert, and Samuel R. Sommers. “Chapter 6.” Social Psychology Ninth Edition. N.p.: Pearson, n.d. N. pag. Print.

Does an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a very well known proverb. But does an apple a day actually keep the doctor away? The proverb can be traced back to Wales in the 1860s. In the 1860s doctors still believed that bloodletting was a good idea, so any medical advice from that era should be taken with a grain of salt.

I began my research on the apple a day theory by googling “does an apple a day actually keep the doctor away” and was immediately met with several articles from reputable (and some questionable) sources. But instead of reading their pre-compiled rap sheet, I decided instead to read up on the health benefits of apples. What I found has been impressive.

Apples contain many awesome things health wise! They contain a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and dietary fiber. One apple contains 10% your daily value of Vitamin C, which is great, because vitamin C helps the body fight against colds, helps maintain good oral health, serves as an antioxidant, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

There is no dispute that apples are an awesome healthy food choice, but can eating one apple a day actually reduce the necessity of doctors visits? I searched the internet again for statistical studies to see if anyone had analyzed apple eating habits to see if it reduced the number of doctors visits. The first study I found showed that eating an apple a day did not reduce the number of doctors visits, but did slightly indicate lower need for prescription medication. Unfortunately for the apple a day theory, the other study I found again confirmed that there was no statistical significance to suggest that eating an apple a day actually reduced the number of doctors visits a year.

Yet again nineteenth century medical advice has failed. But given the results of my findings, I’d still recommend that people eat apples occasionally (maybe even daily), because they do have many positive nutritional and cognitive benefits.


Is Nitrox Better Than Air?

I’ve been a certified scuba diver since the age of 12, and since then I’ve gone on over a hundred dives. Despite the incredible amount of experience I’ve logged since first getting my feet wet in 2008, I’ve never taken other scuba certification courses past my original open water training. One certification that has always interested me is the Nitrox certification. With a regular certification, a diver may only use regular compressed air tanks (meaning it’s the same air we breath on land, just compressed to 3000 psi in a scuba tank). Nitrox is a different mixture of gasses than just regular air, and from what I have been told it helps with different aspects of diving, such as being able to stay down longer, and have shorter decompression times. Considering that it requires a whole other course to gain certification to use it, I was curious whether Nitrox is better than air when it comes to diving, and whether or not it’s worth it to get certified to use it.

According to an article on, the composition of air that we breath is 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen. That means that when regular air is compressed into a scuba tank the gas composition in the tank is 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen.

Nitrox scuba tank gas composition has a higher percentage of oxygen (and therefore lower content of nitrogen) than regular air tanks. Common Nitrox gas mixtures have 32% or 34% oxygen (as opposed to the 21% found in regular air tanks.

Why does this matter? Well due to the increased atmospheric pressure levels divers encounter while underwater, divers need to be conscious of the nitrogen levels within their blood. When we inhale we breathe in a gas mixture that predominantly contains nitrogen and oxygen. The oxygen we breathe is absorbed into the bloodstream and used to fuel cell processes. The nitrogen isn’t really used by the body, and most of it is exhaled; however some of it is absorbed into the bloodstream as well in the form of nitrogen bubbles. 

If managed properly, the nitrogen levels in the blood are not dangerous, but factors such as longer dive duration, deeper dive depths increase the nitrogen levels in the blood. If a diver ascends from depth too quickly with a high nitrogen level in their blood, it could prove dangerous. The nitrogen gas bubbles can expand in the blood stream leading to a serious condition known as decompression sickness (the bends). Although it is treatable, it can be potentially fatal. T

There a few ways that decompression sickness can be prevented. The first is using dive tables or dive computers to manage time spent at depth (essentially to monitor the amount of nitrogen in the bloodstream). Shorter dives lessen the chance of increased risk. Shallower dives also allow less nitrogen to enter the bloodstream as opposed to deeper dives. If a diver plans to do multiple dives in a day, or over the course of a few days he/she must carefully manage the amount of time spent underwater, and due to increased residual nitrogen in the bloodstream, successive dives require shorter dive times.

Naui Dive Table

The concept behind Nitrox is that because it has lower levels of nitrogen, less is absorbed into the bloodstream at depth. This allows for longer dives, shorter surface time between dives, and longer successive dives. All of these things are huge benefits to a recreational scuba diver like myself, who would like to stay down as long as I can when I dive.

Although experts agree that nitrox gas mixtures shouldn’t be used at depths of over 114 ft, in my opinion the course is worth the $200 price tag given the benefits that are associated with it. For a recreational scuba diver like myself, dive trips are costly endeavors, and I’d like to be able to maximize my time spent underwater during the course of the trip, and nitrox air mixtures would help me achieve that goal.



How Important is Breakfast?

Everyone has heard the phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the deal,” but is that actually true? Throughout my entire K-12 life I was extremely spoiled when it came to breakfast. My Mom made breakfast for my sister and I every day during that time period. Not pop tarts or cereal, but actual delicious filling breakfasts like eggs, or pancakes.  

I miss those days, because ever since I’ve come to college I’ve stopped eating breakfast and just eat lunch and dinner. I don’t believe my dietary switch is that unhealthy, but just to be safe I decided to research whether or not breakfast is actually all it’s cracked up to be.

Before starting my research on the importance of breakfast I had no idea how hotly debated this topic was. Both sides of the argument have convincing scientific arguments, so I decided to be scientific myself.

The null hypothesis is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In order to reject the null hypothesis (at least on a personal level), I will base my research on three main topics: Does eating breakfast help maintain a healthy weight, does it boost energy, and does it increase mental acuity.

I started by researching the effects of breakfast on weight. The general assumption amongst people is that breakfast kick starts your metabolism, which in return helps you with maintaining a healthy weight. I looked at the results of several different scientific studies to assess the results for this one. What I’ve found is that skipping breakfast is associated with having a higher weight. However, multiple scientific studies have shown that despite there being an association, there is no hard evidence that skipping breakfast causes weight gain. A  2014 study that used 309 participants in a randomized control trial found that the decision to eat or skip breakfast had almost no effect on weight loss. So if my goal with breakfast was to lose weight, I’d be better off finding other methods to drop the pounds.

Next I researched whether or not breakfast boosted energy. The results of this search were much simpler to sift through and analyze, because it is universally accepted that food is the body’s fuel. A healthy balanced breakfast provides essential nutrients that can power the body throughout the day.  A balanced breakfast usually contains carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and other nutritious items. Breakfast is useful because the simple carbohydrates in some of the foods are quickly used by the body to provide a quick source of energy. Aside from providing a quick boost of energy, proteins, vitamins, and complex carbohydrates help to fuel the body for hours after the meal. In short, breakfast is beneficial because food does provide an energy boost.

Finally I researched whether or not eating breakfast provides a mental boost. I began by looking for scientific studies focused on academic performance, and whether eating breakfast had a positive impact of students performance. One report I found analyzed results from 19 studies in which researchers tracked the calories consumed by children and compared the calorie consumption to classroom performance. The results of the study found that there was a strong positive association between eating breakfast and positive academic performance.

Based on what I’ve found from my research, I cannot justify rejecting the null hypothesis. Although there is no strong scientific evidence that eating breakfast alone has an impact of weight loss, there also is no evidence that breakfast leads to unhealthy weight gains. Based on the fact that food is the energy source humans rely on to power daily activities, and balanced breakfast foods provide energy both quickly, and for hours after the meal I can only confirm that breakfast provides an overall energy boost. And as it comes to academic performance, studies show that there is a strong association between breakfast and positive academic performance. Although association does not mean that breakfast definitely provides an academic boost, considering the low cost and other benefits of a meal in the morning it is probably good to eat it just in case it does have a positive cognitive impact. Breakfast was my favorite meal of the day growing up, and now that I’ve done my research I’ve decided to stop skipping it from now on.


I Like Science

Hello Science 200, my name is Alex Pulice. I’m double majoring in Advertising and Psychology (which translates to “I suck at math”). I’m taking this course because I need another science course to keep on track with my degree path. When I schedule courses, a big influence of whether or not I choose a class is the quality of the professor, so naturally I read the Rate my Professor reviews for Andrew. He got a pretty good rating, so that’s why I decided to join Science 200. Apparently  I’m not the only one who reads Rate my Professor reviews, because after reading some of Andrew’s old blog posts, I stumbled across this.

I am not planning to be a science major because I already enjoy the majors I am in. I like to write and interact with people, and an Ad/Psych double major sets me up perfectly to do those things (and make a decent living after I graduate). I guess psychology could be considered a sort of science, but technically its in the liberal arts college here at Penn State. I do also love science!I-love-this-science-shit-21-Jump-Street-gif

I find it fascinating and enlightening. I’m excited about this course because it’ll give a non-science major like me a chance to discover and learn more about a subject that I do enjoy, but otherwise wouldn’t be able to pursue because of my major requirements.