Author Archives: Colleen Bridget Mcshea

Can Your Thoughts Determine Your Health?

Has anyone ever said to you, “Just don’t think about it” when you’re feeling sick in some way? For some reason, not thinking about the pain, nausea, etc. that we feel almost makes it seem to go away. But does it really? Can our thoughts control how we feel physically?

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According to and article in Boston Magazine, we can think ourselves into having an illness or condition that we did not have in the first place. It is called the “nocebo effect”. Nocebo means “I will harm”, therefore, we use that term because many people expect bad things, so that is exactly what they get. There was a study done on fibromyalgia patients which gave the patients a placebo pill without them knowing and warned them of side effects they might experience. Eleven percent of the patients in the study dropped out because they said the side effects were so horrible. This is an example of just how much your mind can make your body act a certain way without you even knowing it. There was another study done that said that thinking that you’re stressed is just as bad for your health as actually being stressed. It’s almost like you are stressing about being stressed. To see just how bad this can be for you, researchers analyzed multiple studies to see the affects that thinking you are stressed has on your heart. They followed the participants around for 14 years, asking them to report whenever they felt stressed and seeing if they were later diagnosed with or died from heart disease. The study found that those with higher stress levels were almost 30 percent more likely to develop the disease.

According to this article, it can work the other way around as well. A doctor named Lissa Rankin explains that sometimes the people that work out and eat healthy are actually more unhealthy than the couch potatoes out there. When Lissa could not figure out why her patients with extremely healthy exercise and eating habits were mysteriously sick, she decided to look into it further. She asked them many questions about their home life, work life, relationships, personal feelings, etc., as well as asking them what they would change about their lives if they could. Their answers ranged from hating their jobs, to wanting a divorce, to feeling the need to make more friends, etc. Meanwhile, Lissa talks about having patients with the terribly unhealthy habits, yet have perfect health. She asked them the same questions and came to find that those patients were much more happy in every aspect of their lives. This does not mean that exercising and eating healthy does nothing for your health; it means that it is not the only thing required for good health. She told the unhealthy patients that they needed to find what they thought was at the root of their bad health and change it. Once her patients made positive changes to their lives that made them happier, their health improved immensely. Lissa even used her own life as a true example that your thoughts and attitudes can make or break your good health. After being unhappy at work for years and having several health issues in her 20’s, Lissa decided that she wasn’t going to deal with it anymore so she quit her job and moved her family to a small quiet town and addressed what was making her unhappy. Since then, she claims that all of her health issues had either greatly diminished or completely gone away.

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It seems to be true that the whole mind over matter idea may really affect your health greatly. So if your having odd symptoms that you can’t seem to get rid of, try looking deeper into every aspect of your life and just maybe, with a small fix, you could be feeling better in no time!

Here’s a video about how not to let your mind-body control.

Multiple Madness

According to this article, the earliest recorded set of twins was recorded about 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, so twins have obviously been around for a long time. But according to, the rate at which twins are born increased by 76% between the years of 1980 and 2009. The rate of other multiples, such as triplets, quadruplets, etc., has also increased greatly since 1980. There has definitely been no crazy multiple-making contraption invented… at least yet. So what is causing the rise in the amount of multiples being born?

The Perkins sextuplets - Benjamin, Allison, Levi, Leah, Andrew and Caroline - were reunited on Monday when Leah finally came home from Texas Children's Hospital, months after the April birth. Photo: Allen S.Kramer TCH

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Women used to regularly have children in their teenage years, but that has become a rarity. Women now tend to wait until their 20’s or even their 30’s to have kids. This is the first reason for an increase in multiples because according to an article by Nicholas Bakalar, as women age they tend to release more than one egg per cycle. If more than one egg is fertilized, it results in more babies. Women 30 years or older gave birth to 35 percent of 2009’s twins, which was a 20 percent increase from 1980. The higher average age of women only accounts for about one third of the rise in multiples, though. The biggest reason that the birth rate of multiples has shot up is because of fertility treatment, which is any method or procedure that increases a woman’s chances of conceiving by stimulating the ovaries and causing women to release more than one egg at a time. In vitro fertilization (IVF), a process by which a woman’s egg(s) is/are removed from her body and fertilized by sperm in a laboratory and then put back into her, is one of the most popular types of fertility treatment and according to, it has given women anywhere from an 8.8 percent to a 29.1 percent chance of conceiving multiples.

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It’s definitely not by chance that multiples have become so common today. We have science and technology to thank for all of these extra cute babies. Without the constant work and discovery in those areas, fertility treatments such as IVF would not exist today and we would not have near as many multiples.

This is how in vitro fertilization works.

What’s With All the Peanut Allergies?

I’ve always wondered why so many people seem to have a peanut allergy. According to this article by Robyn O’Brien, the number of people with a peanut allergy is four times higher than it was 13 years ago. Quite obviously, there must be something causing this immense increase. It just so happens that it may not be the actual peanuts causing the allergy, but the way they’re grown.

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Peanuts are not technically nuts; they are legumes and they grow underground in pods. Their shells are very absorbent; therefore, they take in great amounts of whatever chemicals are used in the soil on farms. Farmers stated that the peanut and cotton crops are rotated, therefore they are planted in the same soil. Cotton, they say, is given many doses of crop chemicals, including glyphosate, which is an herbicide that is used to kill weeds. The soil’s microorganisms are damaged by the glyphosate, which leads to unhealthy soil for the peanut crop. Insecticides and fungicides are then used every 8-10 days to treat the unhealthy soil of the peanut crop, but all the while, they are adding more chemicals to the crop. The USDA Pesticide Data Program not only found eight pesticides in peanut butter; they also found in it piperonyl butoxide, a component of pesticides. This chemical, which was found 30% of the time, is extremely toxic and cancer-causing. Several different amounts of aflatoxin, a harmful chemical produced by mold, have also been found in peanut butter.

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It would make a lot of sense that all these harmful chemicals could cause the body’s allergic reaction, but how can we know for sure that they are the cause? This article states that although this generation is already infested with peanut allergies, changing the way we grow peanuts now could decrease the amount of people who develop the allergy in the next generation. This could possibly lead to an answer on whether people are allergic to the peanut itself, or to the chemicals in it.

Here is a video of Robyn O’brien, the woman whose article I cited throughout this post, talking about how the global food system is affecting our health.

Why the #$%& Do We Curse When We Feel Pain!?

We’ve all experienced the horrible pain of stubbing a toe, jamming a finger, hitting a funny bone, etc. And I’m sure we all said the same thing when we experienced these things… “WHAT THE #$%&”!!!!! But do we ever wonder why we curse when we feel pain? It seems to ease the pain a little, doesn’t it? That must just be in our heads though, right? … WRONG!

A study done by Richard Stephens at Keele University in England involved 67 students dunking their hands in freezing cold water. Each student dunked their hands twice, once during which they could only call out general words and the other during which they could curse the entire time. Results found that the students felt less pain and were able to keep their hands in the water for an average of 40 seconds longer when cursing.

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How is this so, do you ask? Well, since cursing is such a common reaction to pain, researchers assume there must be some underlying cause of it. There is still much research being done, but it is thought that cursing is somehow linked to emotion. Cursing seems to activate the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotions, and that often leads to an adrenaline rush that increases heart rate and lessens sensitivity to pain. Researchers involved in the study at Keele University did, in fact, make note that the heart rate of the students increased when they cursed. Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University compares the reaction in the brain of a person cursing and a cat being sat on. He says the two display the same defensive reflex against the thing that attacked them (in this case the attacker may be a door, a hammer, a kitchen knife, etc.).

If you don’t know what an adrenaline rush is, watch this video to find out.

Stephens warns, though, that if you overuse curse words, the pain-relieving effect of them will stop to work because you will build up a tolerance. According to this article, this is because cursing activates the brain’s natural pain-relieving chemicals, just as pain-relieving drugs do. So, just like people build up a tolerance to those drugs, the same happens with cursing.

So, as Stephens suggests, curse if you get hurt. It’ll make the pain just a little more bearable!

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Why Swearing Sparingly Can Help Kill Pain

Pets – Do They Love Us?

I know I’m not the only one that has ever wondered if my pets actually love me or if they just like me because I pet them and give them food. And in addition to that, if they do really love me, is it the same kind of love I feel for them?

According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman on, yes, our pets do indeed love us. Dr. Dodman states that clinical evidence has shown that the heart rates of both dogs and cats decreased when they were in the presence of their owners. This signals a bond between an animal and its owner.

Let’s start with man’s best friend – dogs. Theresa Fisher, a journalist who writes for a website called Science.Mic, wrote an article about brain scans that were done on dogs in order to figure out what they really think about their owners. According to Fisher, these scans have not only revealed that dogs love their owners, but that they also consider them family and depend on them before they would other dogs. Fisher explains that because dogs navigate with their noses, animal cognition scientists at Emory University performed a neuroimaging study on how dogs’ brains process odor. This study provided the greatest evidence that dogs love their owners by discovering that the smell of a dog’s owner triggered the “reward center” of the dog’s brain. This makes total sense because whenever I’m at a friend’s house who has a pet and I come home smelling like the animal, my dog will sniff me up and down for 5 minutes to try and figure out why I smell so different. I’m sure I’m not the only dog owner who has experienced that. Another neuroimaging study done by researchers at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest showed that the same happy sounds triggered the auditory cortexes of both dogs and humans, proving the bond between the two. According to the study, this is why dogs know when our mood changes. Has your dog ever laid with you or licked your face when you were upset? Well, if so, now you know why. Attila Andics, a neuroscientist who was involved in the study, says that dogs look to their owners for protection much more than other animals, such as cats and horses. While these animals run away when they’re scared, dogs run straight to their owner. Andics points out another unique characteristic that dogs have that almost no other animals do; they make eye contact with their owners. I find this to be very much true because whenever I talk to my dog, she not only looks me in the eye, but often tilts her head back and forth as if she is interested in what I’m saying.


Here’s a video about 5 simple ways to tell if your dog loves you.


The next furry friends we’re going to talk about are cats. Of course, there will always be that person that says cats are evil and manipulative, but that just isn’t the case. Rafi Letzter published an article on a website called Popular Science that proves cat haters wrong. In this article, Letzter states that he called a guy named Bradshaw, who is a well-known cat and dog researcher. Letzter makes several points that prove that cats are as evil as they are made out to be. He explains that cats are very independent. Unlike dogs, if put in an unfamiliar situation, cats will explore independently. Hence the saying “curiosity killed the cat.” Cats are always curious and like to explore new things and places. He goes on to say, though, that this does not mean that your cat doesn’t love you. He uses the example of couples at a party. Some couples are attached at the hip, like a dog would be to its owner, while some couples split up the second they enter a party and do their own thing, like a cat would. Just because the couple doesn’t stay right by each other’s sides doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. The next point Letzter makes is that cats do, in fact, show affection. Many say that cats only rub up against things to rub their scent gland secretions on them and mark their territory, but if that was true, cats wouldn’t rub theirs sides against anything because there are no scent glands on their sides. Yet, cats rub their sides against us all the time. That, along with purring and cuddling or sleeping with us, Letzter says, proves that cats show affection. If your cat is anything like mine, you can’t lay in bed for two minutes without her following you into your room and plopping herself on your chest, purring away all the while. Another point Letzter makes is that unless your cat was born in the wild or on a farm, it probably isn’t the murderous predator everyone makes cats out to be. Letzter explains that hunting prey is taught by the mother cat in the first eight weeks of life, but if born from a domesticated cat, your cat will not learn or ever possess the hunting skill.


Here’s a video that shows how cats express their love for their owners.


It is safe to say that despite much skepticism, our pets usually do love us and enjoy having us around. If you can recognized any of these pet behaviors to be familiar, you know for sure your pet loves you very much!



Doggy Dreams

Have you ever noticed your dog twitching, growling, or crying in their sleep? If so, you probably assumed they were dreaming and then stopped and questioned if dogs can really dream. Well, according to Psychology Today, they can. They also state that dogs have very similar brain waves and electrical activity as humans and that evidence has shown that even animals that are not as intelligent as dogs dream, so it would be odd if dogs did not. Psychology Today also says that Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology performed a study on rats that measured their brain waves while going through a maze during the day and then measured them again while sleeping. They found that the patterns of the brain waves during both events were the same, which is consistent with the common idea that we dream about what we did that day. They state that there is evidence that dogs do the same.
In a study done to figure out the movement of dogs in their sleep, Psychology Today says that dogs did not move until they were in the stage of sleep that they would begin to dream. They also said the study inactivated the pons of some dogs, which is the part of the brain that keeps us from moving while dreaming, and the dogs began to move much more. The study also found that certain types of dogs acted out things that were specific to their breed; things they would do in real life.
Psychology Today says that if you pay close attention to your dog about twenty minutes after they fall asleep, their breathing will get shallow and you may even be able to see their eyes moving underneath their eyelids. This is them watching their dream.
So pay close attention! If you notice your dog crying or looking like they are trying to run, give them a little shake! They may be having a nightmare! (Total theory of my own.)





Pre-Workout—Helpful or Harmful?

Over the past two years or so, I’ve been hearing a lot about this thing called “pre-workout.” My guy friends from back at home are always asking each other “What pre-workout do you use?” or “How much pre-workout do you take?”. When I asked what exactly pre-workout was, they would always just say it helps you during a workout session, but I wanted to know how.

According to, a partner of the Livestrong Foundation, pre-workout is a drink laced with anywhere from 100 to 300 mg of caffeine that is supposed to give you a boost of energy and increase your blood flow in order to have a more productive workout. They also state that the amount of caffeine in pre-workout is sometimes triple the amount in a single cup of coffee. Other ingredients that they have listed are arginine and dimethylamylamine, which speeds up a person’s heart rate. These ingredients may be helpful for a workout, but do they really seem like they’re healthy for your body overall?


Picture: says that the pros of pre-workout are that it increases focus, energy, and strength, which then increases fat burning and weight loss. They also say, though, that the cons consist of high blood pressure, adrenal fatigue, heart racing, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. Aside from the bodily side effects it has, they also add that it sometimes causes people to fail drug tests, which could put their work life in jeopardy.



As you can see, there are positives and negatives to the use of pre-workout, but does one outweigh the other? It may enable you to get a better, more productive workout in, but is it worth having all those unnatural and unhealthy side effects? Is a cut and chiseled figure worth potentially harming your body on the inside? That’s up to each individual to decide on their own, but I can definitely say that there are healthier and more natural ways to get in shape such as eating clean, drinking water, and maintaining a HEALTHY workout plan!


Congenital Heart Defects – What Causes Them?

A little over four years ago, my sister-in-law gave birth to twin boys; my nephews, Cronin and Hudson. At first, all seemed well and both babies seemed to be perfectly healthy. It was not until two weeks later at a routine checkup that the doctor noticed that Hudson’s heartbeat sounded a bit irregular. The doctor told my brother and his wife to take Hudson to have an echocardiogram done. When the results came back, Hudson was diagnosed with atrial septal defect (ASD), a congenital heart defect in which there is a hole in the septal wall that separates the heart’s left and right atria. Therefore, the deoxygenated blood being pumped into the heart was mixing with the oxygenated blood being pumped out, so Hudson’s body was not receiving the amount of oxygen that it needed to function properly. It was as if he were running a marathon 24/7. Although serious, Hudson’s condition only required one open heart surgery for the time being (not to say he may not need more later in life). He received that surgery when he was one after being on medication for a year and now functions like any normal child.atrial-septal-defect

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Video explaining ASD:

According to Stanford Children’s Health, only about 1% of children whose neither parents nor siblings have a congenital heart defect (CHD) actually develop one themselves, Hudson being part of that 1%. They also said if the child’s parent or sibling does suffer from a CHD, the chances that the child will develop one increases. After having Hudson, my brother and his wife were told that the chances of having another child with a CHD were 6%. Seeing that the chances were so slim, they decided to try for another baby. They were overjoyed when they conceived my third nephew, Beckett, but when they went to find out the sex of their baby, they were shocked and distraught at the news that their baby boy was diagnosed with a CHD called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). HLHS is a CHD in which the left side of the heart is completely underdeveloped. Beckett’s condition is much more serious than Hudson’s and he had to receive a series of three open heart surgeries in order for his heart to function somewhat like a normal heart. To add to their stress, my brother and his wife were also told that the chances of having another child with a CHD have increased to 35% after Beckett’s diagnosis.


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Video explaining HLHS:

Beckett’s CHD, of course, had a higher chance of developing because of that fact that Hudson has a CHD, but what exactly caused Hudson’s condition? Stanford Children’s Health says that it is known that CHD can be caused by a chromosome abnormality, single gene defects, outside factors such as certain medicine taken by the mother during early pregnancy, or a maternal illness during pregnancy. Despite all of those potential causes, though, Stanford Children’s Health also says that the cause of most CHD’s is unknown and often just attributed to the combination of the parents’ genes along with outside factors. Both my brother and his wife have had genetic testing done to determine if that could be a cause of the defects, but everything has come back normal. Doctors do not know what exactly causes a CHD in cases like Hudson’s, where all circumstances are normal as can be, but they are researching nonstop to try and figure it out. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the research done so far has not only lengthened the lifespan of a person with a CHD, but has also improved the quality of their lives.

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Hudson (left) and Beckett (right)


Science Excitement

Hi everyone!

My name is Colleen McShea and I’m a freshman from Philadelphia (yes, ACTUALLY from northeast Philadelphia, not an hour outside of Philly!). I’m in DUS at the moment because I’m way too indecisive to choose what I would like to do for the rest of my life. Just like the rest of you, I was told to take this class because of the fact that I was never really into science. To be honest, I was never any good at it, which is why I am not planning to be a science major. The only science class I can honestly say held my interest was my anatomy/physiology class in my senior year of high school. Despite my past feelings about science, I am pretty excited about this class because I feel as if we will be taking a whole new approach to science and I’m hoping that just maybe I’ll start to enjoy the subject a little more! I hope the same happens for all of you as well! Good luck in your first semester 🙂


This is my three year old nephew, Beckett, who has just overcome his third open heart surgery! Beckett was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, also known as hlhs, which means that the left side of his heart is completely underdeveloped. His first surgery was done at just 13 hours old, the second at 5 months, and the third was done on August 17th. The surgeries reconstructed pathways and rerouted the blood to the right side of his heart so it could be pumped out to his body. Today he is a strong, happy, healthy little man! I always enjoy sharing his story because he is the strongest little boy I’ve ever met and he makes me proud to be his aunt 🙂

Last but not least, here is a video of my high school cheerleading team on ESPN after winning second in the nation in 2013.