Author Archives: Chelsea Greenberg

Seasonal-Affective Disorder and Depression

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I personally love fall weather. The cool crisp air, the stepping on crunchy leaves, and being able to wear my boots are just a few of my favorite things about fall. However, there is one thing I dislike about this time of year: how early the sun sets. When the sun has started setting while I’m still eating dinner, I just feel tired and all I want to do I crawl into bed.

This feeling is pretty common, and it’s known as seasonal-affective disorder, which is a mood disorder in which the colder weather and decreased exposure to sunlight causes people to be depressed. This can occur with all people, even those without typical depression. Luckily, there are ways to combat these depressed moods in changing seasons, the most effective way being light therapy. With light therapy, you get exposure to natural light that you are otherwise lacking due to the change of season (MayoClinic). Here is an example of one of these lights that you can use. I’ve used something similar to the example provided, a “Happy Light”, and I personally found it helpful.


In doing research about Seasonal-Affective Disorder, psychologists and scientists have found results that suggest that these “happy lights” can help people with depression year-round. In a study published by the Journal of Affective Disorders, 95 people with either bipolar depression or unipolar depression were randomized into two groups: one group that would receive bright light therapy, and a control group that did not. Initially, there was no difference between the two groups, with p=02. However, after some more time, the study found that those who received bright light therapy had improved symptoms with p=.02, and that some even achieved remission with p=.04. This study provides strong evidence that light therapy can be helpful for people with depression, however it should be noted that the participants in this study were on medication prescribed by psychiatrists during the study, so light therapy may me helpful with depression, but not on it’s own.

In a meta-analysis of clinical trials, studies that have been done on bright light therapy in regard to nonseasonal depression were collected and compared. The meta-analysis found that bright light therapy helped those with depression to relieve symptoms, with a p-value<.001. The meta-analysis also found that the best regiment for bright light therapy was for two to five weeks at the same time daily. This meta-analysis provides great evidence that not only is bright light therapy helpful for those with seasonal-affective disorder, but for those who suffer from depression year round.

All in all, I think bright light therapy, specifically “happy lights” are a useful and fairly cost-effective way to help with mood disorders, regardless of whether or not they are seasonal.

Arthritis and Exercise

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


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

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

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

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

How Long Should You Nap?

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I think we can all agree that naps are a wonderful thing. I fondly look back upon the days in which nap time was encouraged; oh how I took it for granted!  Whether accidental or on purpose, napping is a way to re-energize yourself after not getting enough sleep.


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While napping is great, I think we’ve all had those naps where you wake up and don’t know where you are, what year it is, or what your own name is. You look at the clock and five hours have gone by and you’ve missed dinner. These naps tend to do more harm than good, seeing as they make you feel groggy and less alert. So, what is the best amount of time to take a nap for to improve alertness? Well, there have been many studies done on this, especially about people who work night-shifts, so I’m going to look at some of these studies and try to come to a conclusion.

In a study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 31 adults participated in a randomized experiment. The subjects were randomized into three groups: a group that would receive a 10 minute nap during  a simulated night shift, a group that would receive a 30 minute nap, and a control group that would not get any nap. This experiment was conducted over three days. The subjects were tested for alertness at the beginning and end of their “shifts”, and before and after their naps for alertness and cognitive abilities. The study found that those who took the 30 minute naps or no naps had decreased performance on the tests for alertness, with p-values <.015 and <001, respectively, while those taking 10 minute naps had the same level of performance. The results from this study suggest that a 10 minute nap is more beneficial for staying alert. Although it is a properly designed randomized control trial, I feel if the sample size was larger it could really make the results more reliable.

This study, published by the Journal of American College Health, focused on the napping patterns of college students. It was an observational study 440 college undergrad student participants. The students were asked to report  the length of their naps, the time when they took the nap, and how often they napped per week. They also reported the quality of their nighttime sleep according to the PSQI. The study concluded that those who took naps longer than 2 hours more than three times a week had poor quality night time sleep. Obviously since this is an observational study, we cannot rule out confounding variables. In addition, the results of this study are self reported, which could result in faulty data. Despite these flaws, I still think the results demonstrate that longer naps do more harm than good for alertness.

Based off of the studies I mentioned, I think that the length of a nap meant to improve alertness should be short and should probably be between 10 and 20 minutes. It seems that power napping is the way to go to improve alertness, and that those long naps should be saved for weekends with Netflix.


Long-Term Effects of Using Antidepressants

I’ve seen many interesting posts on our site discussing depression, such as the correlation between sleep and depression, how school work can affect depression, and so on and so forth. While I think these are worthwhile topics, I am going to take a different approach to looking at depression. I am going to examine some of the long-term effects of using antidepressants, and whether these effects are harmful, beneficial, or are evened-out in the long run.

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So, what are antidepressants used for? Antidepressants, specifically SSRI’s, are prescribed to people with depression or anxiety. To simply put it, these medications help to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that many depressed and other mentally ill people lack. These SSRI’s prevent the excess re-absorption that typically occurs in depressed brains and causes people to be depressed, as seen in the picture on the left.

As with any medication, the list of potential side effects is never ending. To name a few side effects of SSRI’s, there can be insomnia, dry mouth, drowsiness, and diarrhea (Mayo Clinic). Generally, these side affects subside after the first few weeks as you regularly take the medication. But what about some of the long-term side affects? Personally, I found that after being on an SSRI for a long period of time, I didn’t feel depressed, but I didn’t feel happy either. I just felt nothing. This made me curious to see if others experienced the same feelings I did, or experienced other consequences of taking a SSRI for a long period of time.

So my hypothesis test would then be:

Null hypothesis: Long-term use of antidepressants has no effect on the antidepressant’s ability to function.

Alternative hypothesis: Long-term use of antidepressants has an effect on the antidepressant’s ability to function.

It turns out that other people experienced the same effect of taking a SSRI for a long time as I did. Harvard Health Publications states that there can be a loss of effectiveness for SSRI’S when taken for long periods of time, such as for a few months or a year. This is believed to be due to the fact that the brain develops a tolerance for the drug, so it is no longer as effective as it used to be.

In a study published the the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, people who were on SSRI’s for MDD, or Major Depressive Disorder, and considered to be relieved of their depressive symptoms, were followed for three months. The subjects of the study were interviewed frequently throughout the three months of taking SSRI’s and asked about their mental health. The results showed that the longer the people were on the medication, the more likely they were to have physical and cognitive symptoms of depression again, with a reported p-value=.0002. This supports the alternative hypothesis that long-term use of antidepressants affects SSRI’s ability to function, specifically in a negative manner.

This study suggests a negative relationship, meaning the longer you use the antidepressant, the less effective it will be. However, since the study is an observational study, it is hard to rule out confounding variables that could cause someone to be depressed, such as the loss of a family member, the loss of a job, etc.

Now there is a possibility that this issue suffers from the file-drawer problem, because if a study found that the long-term use of antidepressants does not cause a loss of effectiveness of the drug, that would support the null hypothesis and be considered boring.

Overall, I think there should be more studies done to test these hypotheses, especially because SSRI’s are being prescribed more and more. If SSRI’s become ineffective after so much time, research should be done to find more effective ways of medically treating depression.

Can Crohn’s Disease Cause Depression?

My younger sister Sarah has always been a positive and bubbly girl, but since the beginning of her life she has had many medical issues. Her doctors believed that she would never be able to walk, as she suffers from low muscle tone and Pseudohypoparathyroidism, which affects her body’s ability to absorb calcium and iron properly. She was in physical therapy from the age of 18 months to 7 years old. Besides these issues, there was something else wrong with Sarah that the doctors could not figure out for a while. Doctors thought she had Celiac Disease, and our diets instantly became gluten free. When that didn’t solve the problem, her doctor’s realized that her Celiac test resulted in a false positive. It wasn’t until the age of four that my sister was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the gastrointestinal track, and can cause many other issues, such as stunted growth, blockage of the bowel, and a weakened immune system (Crohn’s Wikipedia Page).

Sarah and one of our cats Groot *picture was taken by my sister on snapchat and sent to me*

Sarah and one of our cats Groot
*picture was taken by my sister on snapchat and sent to me*

Despite all of these issues, my sister Sarah has done remarkable things. She does well in school, is a member of a competitive dance team, and plays multiple instruments. However, recently, her Crohn’s has been flaring up, and she has had to have many iron transfusions as well as change around a lot of her medications. I feel as if this could be a stressor for anyone, but I have noticed my sister’s attitude changing. She doesn’t enjoy school, dance, or violin anymore. She tells me she comes home crying everyday and all she wants to do is watch TV. These are very telling symptoms of depression, which is not typical of my bubbly and charismatic sister. This makes me wonder: Is Crohn’s disease causing my sister to be depressed?  Well, it turns out that there have been studies done on both children and adults with Crohn’s disease to test this theory.

The direct causation relationship in this case is that Crohn’s disease causes depression. In a study funded by CCFA, 276 kids aged 9-17 with Crohn’s disease were followed for 6 months. At the beginning of the sixth months, the children were asked to report the level/severity of their Crohn’s and answer questions about their metal state, specifically about depression and anxiety. At the end of the 6 months, the children were asked to answer these same questions again. The study showed that children whose Crohn’s got better reported better mental health, and the children’s whose disease worsened had worsening mental health, with a reported p value of less than .005. This strongly suggests a correlation, but since it was an observational study with self reported answers it is hard to determine causation. I feel if this study were done with a larger amount of subjects, over a longer period of time, and the subjects reported their disease and mental health status more often over the length of the study, the results would provide stronger evidence of a direct correlation between Crohn’s and depression.

The reverse causation in this relationship would be that depression causes flare ups in one’s Crohn’s disease. In this study published by the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2,144 adults with Crohn’s disease were followed for 12 months. At the beginning of the study, the participants reported the severity of their disease as well as any mental health issues. Throughout the twelve months, the participants’ were followed and data was recorded about their flare ups, specifically hospitalizations, and their levels of depression before and after hospitalization. The study concluded that those with depression had more aggravated symptoms are were hospitalized more often, with a reported p-value less than .001. The conclusion of this study strongly supports the reverse causation relationship, however since it’s an observational study it is hard to rule out confounding variables.

Obviously, there are many confounding variables that could make someone depressed, such as family issues, a genetic predisposition, and abuse. Not to mention that depression is pretty common among people with chronic illness. Since both of the studies I mentioned are observational, any and all of these confounding variables could be at play. Let’s not forget that chance is always a possibility as well.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, I was personally surprised to find that reverse causation in this situation was more likely than I thought. However, the study that showed reverse causation only focused on adults, so it probably doesn’t apply to my 15 year old sister. However, the study done on children that showed direct causation seems applicable to my sister, seeing as she has recently had changes in medication due to flare ups and in turn her recent change in behavior.

So all in all, I think it is safe to conclude in my sister’s case, her Crohn’s flare ups are causing her to be depressed. In general, there seems to be a correlation between depression and flare ups in Crohn’s, with a reverse relationship in adults, and a direct relationship in children.

Our View of Dinosaurs is Changing

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word dinosaur? Some words would most likely be big, strong, and scaly. Well, scaly might not be the right word to describe dinosaurs based on new discoveries .

The Public is Ready to See Dinosaurs with Feathers

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Above is a comparison of a scene from the movie Jurassic World, with the top image being modified to show how these raptors could have looked with feathers (they look pretty cute if you ask me).

Previously, it was only theropod dinosaurs that were considered to have feathers, based on fossils found in China over the past twenty years. However, fossilized feathers were found in Siberia of a dinosaur called Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus (what a mouthful). This dino is not part of the theropod family, causing  Pascal Godefroit, paleontologist, to believe that all families of dinosaurs had feathers (Dan Vergano, National Geographic).

So what does this tell us about dinosaurs? According to  Stephen J. Bodio of Living Bird magazine, dinosaurs and birds are more similar than we thought. Bodio describes the respiratory systems of birds, and compares the similarity to that of dinosaurs. This respiratory system is more effective than mammals and reptiles because it allows the body to get more oxygen. This surely  benefited the dinosaurs that lived in an anoxic atmosphere (Stephen J. Bodio,

Not only is this new information really cool for artists and dinosaur enthusiasts, but this helps us to understand the link between birds and dinosaurs and it demonstrates evidence of evolution.

Another Ear Infection… Again

Yesterday I woke up and could not hear out of my one ear. I scheduled an appointment  at UHS for Tuesday, knowing that I have another ear infection… AGAIN. I even know exactly the ear infection I have every time, it’s referred to as Otitis Media.





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The above image is a comparison of a healthy eardrum to an ear infected with Otitis Media. Otitis Media is a middle ear infection typically contracted after having a cold, flu or allergies. The bacteria gets into the ear because of the clogged Eustachian tubes, and the bacteria gets trapped with liquid, creating an infection in the space behind the ear drum (WebMD). This can cause the ear drum to burst, and lead to symptoms such as hearing loss, ear ringing, headaches, and fever (personal experience and Healthline). This ear infection is common in infants, children, and the elderly (Healthline). So why do I, an 18 year old, get this kind of ear infection at least twice a year?

The problem with me (and others who are suffering from chronic ear infections) could lie within the Adenoids.

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The adenoids are located behind the tonsils. The adenoids can sometimes act as a gathering place for germs that get transferred into the Eustachian tubes, causing infection. Another problem that can occur with the adenoids is that they are too large, and that blocks the Eustachian tube, preventing proper drainage (MedicineNet). A solution for this issue is to get the adenoids removed, or an Adenoidectomy.

This seems to be a bit of a drastic solution, but personally, after being on the same antibiotics multiple times for the same ear infection, finding a permanent solution would be grand. Obviously when I go to UHS this week, they’ll probably write me an oh-so-familiar perscription of Amoxicillin and send me on my way. But maybe when I go home for break this winter, I’ll actually see an ENT (ear nose throat) doctor. For now however, I’ll continue to wonder and research why my poor ear continues to get infected.

Watching Cute Cat Videos: Procrastination or Motivation?

When I have a bad day, I typically go on social media to distract myself from whatever is going on, as most people do nowadays. After wandering on the internet for a while, I always stumble upon cute cat videos. I love watching them, and I easily become engrossed and before I know it I’ve missed dinner and the sun has set. Although I’ve completely wasted my time and avoided all my responsibilities, I genuinely feel better than I did before. It turns out I’m not the only one who does this, and in fact, Ed Mazza of Huffington Post posted an article about the correlation between watching cat videos and improvements in mood.

one of my adorable cats (photo taken by me)

one of my adorable cats (photo taken by me)

The article includes some really adorable cat videos, so I suggest you give them a watch! Mazza also mentions that watching cat videos as a form of procrastination can make the viewer feel guilty about not doing what they’re supposed to, however in most cases these videos motivated the viewer and enabled them to get their work done! The article makes reference to this study by Jessica Gall Myrick, which goes into great detail about the kinds of people who watch cat videos and how cat videos have become more popular. The author of the study, Jessica Myrik, believes there can and should be more research about the correlation between watching cat videos and improvements in mood.

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Now you may be thinking, why bother researching this correlation? In this article, Jessica Myrick, an assistant professor at Indiana University Media Center and author of the study previously mentioned,  discusses the importance of doing research on internet cat videos. Myrick believes that to better understand the impact the internet has on us a whole, that the effect that internet cat videos have on their viewers must be observed and studied as well. These videos also could become an easy and affordable medium of pet therapy (Myrick).

I personally believe that watching internet cat videos as a form of stress release is a great. It is a harmless use of the internet, and a great release of stress. The study mentioned previously even concludes that these videos promote productivity for the viewer after watching them, and generally improves their mood. I think the possibility of using these videos as a form a pet therapy is wonderful, especially for those who can’t afford a pet or who are allergic. I’m interested to see what future research will conclude about the correlation between watching cat videos and mood improvements, and in the meantime I’ll be watching more cute cat videos on instagram.


“A Science Class for People Who Don’t Like Science”

Hi! I’m Chelsea Greenberg and I am a freshman here at PSU. I am an undeclared major, and I have absolutely no clue what I want to major in. My interests are all over the place, from math to sociology to earth science and dinosaurs. Since I have no clue what I want to do, my first semester is just a bunch of gen eds of subjects I have an interest in. While scheduling my courses at orientation, I was looking for a class to fulfill a science gen ed. When I asked my adviser about this class, she said that SC200 is “a science class for people who don’t like science”. This pleased me, seeing as in my biology, chemistry, and physics classes in high school I was basically like this:


However, this class seems like it will be mentally stimulating as well as meaningful. One of the main reasons that I don’t want to be a science major is that all my life I’ve been told that I should JUST because I’m good at math. I know math and science go hand and hand, but math comes extremely easy to me while science does not. Also, I’m not really interested in physical science, my interests are in earth and the social sciences.

Here is a really interesting article about how birds are descendant from dinosaurs, and how scientists are now saying that dinosaurs had feathers.

I’m looking forward to discussing and learning about intriguing topics this semester!

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