Author Archives: Hannah Gluck

Can running help repair the brain?

The brain is a very complex structure that helps us carry out simple tasks everyday. It controls everything from your thoughts and emotions to your childhood memories. The brain is really an amazing structure and when damaged serious effects can occur. Brain damage is a very serious thing and if the situation is severe enough the damage done may be irreversible. At this point most people just have to learn to live with this damage but after this promising study that was done by researchers at the University of Ottawa maybe that will change.

This study done with lab rats found that a specific molecule, called VGF, triggered by running may help repair certain types of brain damage.

Null Hypothesis: Running does nothing to repair brain damage.

Hypothesis: Running produces VGF that repairs brain damage.

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This study was done in the Ottawa hospital and was initially observed while studying mice that were genetically modified to have a smaller cerebellum. Unfortunately, these mice were only living for an average of 25-40 days while an average mice’s life is around 1-2 years. The researchers found that if the mice were given the chance to run on a wheel they seemed to live significantly longer. Their life expectancy went from 25-45 days all the way up to 12 months. They also noticed that the running mice developed better balance but if exercise was stopped these positive effects would begin to fade and their life expectancy would go back down.

How is this happening?

After observing the differences in these two mice’s brains the researches found that the running mice gained more of their cerebellum back than the mice in the control group. This change is due to the molecule VGF that is released during exercise. To make sure it was the VGF causing the effect the researchers injected VGF into the bloodstream of the mice that did not run and noticed the damaged cells become stronger.


The results found seem to be leaning away from the null hypothesis and towards the positive hypothesis, but nothing can be proven at this point. Although the results from this study look very promising, there is still a lot more that needs to be done with this research. The results found were only from one isolated experimental study and could be due to a number of factors. In this case reverse causation can be ruled out but third variables cannot. There are many possible variables that could have created this outcome. Another possibility that cannot be looked over is the chance that the results are a false positive. False positives are possible in every study and must be considered before drawing a conclusion. Overall there definitely needs to be more studies done on this recent find. Although the results look good we cannot jump to conclusions or be biased in any way, these tests were only done on mice and could have a different effect on humans.

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Does drinking milk actually make your bones stronger?

Everyone has heard the saying that drinking milk will make your bones grow stronger and i’m sure that your parents encouraged this too. But is this actually true? Can drinking milk do more harm then good? This is a very popular study topic and there are actaully many researches that have found that there is no association between drinking milk and having fewer bone fractures. I found this to be very interesting, considering I have been told this my whole life, so I decided to look further into this.

Null Hypothesis: Milk does not effect a child’s growth or bone strength

Hypothesis: Milk helps kids grow and develop strong bones


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Where does this saying come from?

This belief has been around for years now, your bones need calcium and milk can provide that for them. The main ingredient in bones is obviously calcium and if your body does not get enough calcium from your diet then it starts to pull calcium from your bones. This is why many doctors recommend a steady income of calcium per day to prevent  this from happening.

Recent studies questioning this…

Recently a lot of researchers have began looking in to this and have began to question this commonly known “fact”.  Researchers have developed an “acid-ash” hypothesis that says milk leaves an acid residue in your body and in order to balance this your body pulls alkaline minerals from your bones, such as calcium. So instead of giving the bones calcium the milk is actaully taking calcium away. Other researchers have compared bone fractures to the countries that consume the most dairy. They found that the countries that consumed more dairy (aka their bones should be stronger) had more bone fractures than the others that consumed less. In another study done at James Madison University looked at kids ages 5-11 so see if milk had an effect on their height. They noticed that the consumption of milk had no impact on height and came to the conclusion that milk is not a contributing factor in children’s growth.


Researchers have found themselves siding with the null hypothesis in this debate. Although there seems to be a lot of data strongly debunking the fact that milk helps kids grow and develop strong bones, that doesn’t mean all kids should stop drinking milk. There are many things that could have gone wrong in these studies and third variables could be effecting the data. The results from these studies could also just be due to a false positive. We cant know for sure but more studies should definitely be done before drawing conclusions. In the meantime don’t stop drinking milk because of these results. Although is may not help a child grow or develop strong bones, you still need your daily intake of calcium to be healthy. On top of that milk has a lot of other benefits, milk is a good source of potassium and is also very good for your teeth.

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Are Cancer Trials Ethical?

This is a very personal topic to me because I myself watched my dad suffer from the awful disease that is cancer. No matter who are I’m sure that in some way shape or form you too were effected by this disease too. Its been around for hundreds of years now yet there is still no cure. Chemotherapy is used many times to attack the source but is not always successful. When the chemo doesn’t work there are few other options. Sometimes at this point patients are put in a clinical trial with the hopes that there will be a successful outcome. Although there seems to be a ongoing debate about whether or not these trials are ethical. After doing a lot of research I have concluded that these clinical trials are necessary, although some may disagree.

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Side 1: The problems arises with the control group, aka the patients that are receiving the placebo. This means that the experimental group is receiving the drug that could potentially cure their cancer while the control group is not. Many people will say that this is simply unethical. How can you give one group of people a drug that could cure them and just simply let the others ones suffer? This is a hard question to address. The researchers are not doing any of this with bad intentions. Their goal simply is to cure all these people that are suffering but it cant all be done at once and this is often times hard for people to hear.

Side 2: On the other hand, many people see these trials as necessary step in the process of finding a cure. A study was done in 2000 to determine the attitude of people towards these types of trials. The study was set up with a questionnaire before, during, and after they participated in a clinical trial. The results found that the majority of these people said that the testing of clinical methods is very much necessary. Without these kinds of studies that give us hard data to look at how are we ever supposed to cure cancer?

In my opinion, I agree with side 2. Although it may be hard to think about putting a loved one in these trials in the end I believe they are doing it for the greater good. All intentions are good ones and the trials are done to help us get closer to the day that we can say we have cured cancer. I believe these trials are a necessary step in that process and if you happen to agree with side 1 then you do not have to participate. It is a difficult topic to discuss and everyone has their own side but overall I believe everything being done in these trials are getting us a step closer to ultimately finding the cure.

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Should Athletes be Allowed to Use Performance Enhancing Drugs?

We all know that athletes get shamed on for using performance enchaining drug such as steroids or other hormones and we have all seen this happen to many of our favorite athletes. Should we really be worried about drugs though? Now a days technology is improving an athletes performance just as drugs would, so should this equipment be banned?  It turns out there are two sides to this debate. If all this technology can be used to enhance a player why can’t drugs be used? Lets take a look at both sides…

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Against Drugs Use:

Most people are opposed to the use of drugs in sports because they say that it creates an “unfair” advantage. All the other athletes worked hard to get to where they are today and they think that the people who use drugs cheated their way there. Besides for that, there are also many negative health risks that come along with these drugs. The athletes are only seeing the short term advantages it has for them but long term effects include irritability, depression, and suicidal thoughts and with a lot of abuse comes liver, kidney, and heart failure. Overall the use of drugs in sports only leads to a downward spiral.

For Drug Use:

For the people who are for drug use in sports they say that competition is unfair to begin with and its not the drugs that are creating the advantages. If drugs are unfair then coaching and training should be unfair too. All the new technology and equipment being using today is having a bigger impact on the athletes performance than anything else. They both produce the same effect so why are these techniques not banned? As far as health goes they say that people take risks everyday and taking these drugs is a risk the athletes choose to take. For example we don’t forbid people from smoking but we know it has negative effects. The same situation applies here and these people say that the choice should be up to the athlete.

Both sides to this debate put up a good argument but in the end I think it all comes down to health. Currently in the olympics today all performance enhancing drugs are banned with the attempt to create an even playing field. Although with all the new technology and training equipment available today an even playing field is way out of the question. At this point whoever has the best technology available for them has a clear advantage. So how is this advantage different from the advantage that an athlete would get from drugs.

When it comes down to it I believe that non-harmful performance enhancing drugs should be allowed in the Olympic games. They produce the same effect as the high end training equipment used today and if they are not banned then neither should drugs. Although I don’t believe harmful drugs should be used in the games because an athletes health is very important and they should not jeopardize that for a few good races. Overall I personally think non harmful drug should be legal in the games but in the end I think the choice is up to the athletes themselves.


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Should I Trust My Gut?

Growing up our teachers, friends, and family always gave the same advice when it came down to making decisions. Trust your gut. But is this actually true. I can name many times when I have gone with my gut and been horribly mistaken. So why does everyone still say this? Does it actually work?

There are actually two sides to this debate. There are many scholarly written articles about trusting your intuition that defend this case but there are also many that question this. After reading into it I personally do not believe in “trusting your gut.” It really depends on the situation but if I am taking a test, I do not think the best thing to do is to go with my first answer.

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A study done in 2012 on the human decision processes said that gut intuitions are due to lack of awareness. When you know less about the situation you are in, going with your gut may not be the best decision. In this case you are more likely to be wrong. For example, if you were taking a test and were unsure of an answer, so you went with your first choice you may want to rethink this. Your intuition has a very good chance of being wrong. If you reread the question and look at it again and you see a different answer the chances are that one is the correct one. This is because the one you chose initially was due to your lack of awareness. After looking further into the question you now understand it more which will lead you towards the right answer. A different study from 1994 came to this conclusion after observing many students. They found that students are more likely to change their answer from a wrong to a right answer than a right to a wrong answer. Basically, the students who changed their answers tended to receive the better test score.

On the other hand in a 2011 study, researchers hooked up participants to a heart monitor and monitored their heart rate as they played a card game. They found that the winners of the game were the ones who listened to their heart rate, aka the ones that followed their gut. They say that intuition is an automatic process based off of beliefs, experiences, and memories. Trusting your gut does not require any deep thinking. In this article, they also describe your intuition (your gut feeling) as a sixth sense that we mistakenly we glance over. They say this sense gives us the ability to organize chunks of information in a given time and make a educated decision from that.

Overall, I think whether or not to trust your gut comes down to the situation that you are in. If you are being rushed and don’t have time to make a reasonable decision, going with your gut might be the right thing. But based on these two articles personally I do not believe in trusting your gut. I agree with the first study that gut decisions are based off of lack of awareness and cause people to make a random and impulsive decisions.

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The fear of clowns

Clowns have been around for a long time as entertainment for little kids at birthday parties and other events. Kids find them amusing, but why are many adults afraid of them? What is it about clowns specifically that causes so many people to fear them? Heres the science behind it.

Why makes people afraid of clowns?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM), the unrational fear of clowns is described as coulrophobia. It is the the unknown aspect of clowns that seems to scare people the most. You never know what they are going to do next or what they have up their sleeve. Their unpredictability of clowns is what people tend to fear. Because of this many people seem to connect then with the supernatural. Another theory is that people fear them because you never know who they truly are. They hide behind makeup, costumes, wigs, and and more and this seems to cause a sense of panic.

The science behind it

Psychologists say that the tricks that the clowns play cause a rush of emotions that many people seem to find overwhelming. They don’t like the fact that they cant wrap their head around what is happening and they do not like the feeling it causes them. On top of all of that, the recent horror movies that have come out depicting clowns as creepy killers has not helped their image. These movies turned the clowns exaggerated smile into a haunting and diabolic one. If you’re interested to see what the top 10 scariest clown movies are then click here!


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The fear of clowns, coulrophobia, can also most times be linked to anxiety. When people are exposed to clowns in a negative way they seem to have a anxiety response. Although therapists say this is very common, experiencing fear when you see a clown only a few times a year does not mean you need help.

How to treat coulrophobia

Therapists use a strategy called exposure therapy. With this technique you slowly and gradually introduce the patient to whatever it is they fear. Hopefully by the end of this process they will be able to face their fear and get over it. With treating coulrophobia, they might start with just showing the patient a photo of a clown and by the end of the treatment they should be able to watch scary clown movies and not experience a large anxiety response. Therapists have found this to be a very useful technique and is used to cure many different phobias.

Overall, the fear of clowns is not an uncommon one and if you think you may suffer from this there are ways to get help. Its not an irrational fear that only you may have its actually very common and reasonable. I definitely dont have coulrophobia myself but I find clowns a little unsettling with me. Its just the unknown aspect of them that seems a little creepy to me. For now ill just do my best to stay away from them 🙂

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Is your toothpaste effecting your metabolism?

Ever since you were young you have gotten it drilled in your head that you must brush your teeth everyday, twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night. Yes, this is very important and highly recommend but are you using the right brand of toothpaste?

BJK315 Boy brushing teeth in bathroom

BJK315 Boy brushing teeth in bathroom

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What is wrong with Colgate?

One of the best selling toothpastes in the world today, Colgate, uses an ingredient called triclosan. This is used as a pesticide and in a study it showed that when animals were exposed to this, their thyroid hormones lowered. Thyroid hormones effect a lot of things in your body including your metabolic rate, digestive function, muscle control, and more. After looking into this researchers believe that triclosan can lead to antibiotic-resistant superbugs.


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Why is it still being used?

Although this ingredient does seem to have a negative effect, there are many positive benefits that come along with it as well. Triclosan removes plaque and helps prevent many gum diseases a lot faster than the common fluoride. The negative effects of triclosan have only been seen in small studies so the FDA has not yet done extensive research on it. This means that Colgate will continue to use it until the FDA says no more. But, the FDA also has to power to say whether the benefits outweigh the negative effects. We are still waiting to here if more research has been done on this.

What has Colgates response been to this?

Soon after this was was hypothesized, Colgate came out with their own statement on this. They claim that the triclosan ingredient is safe and has been approved by the FDA. They believe that the further studies being done will only confirm the safeties and effectiveness of their toothpaste. They will continue to call themselves the #1 trusted choice.

Should I switch my toothpaste?

Similar to what we mentioned in class with the turning off the lights study, I don’t think it is that difficult to go out any buy new toothpaste. I mean if switching your toothpaste is really going to effect you negatively its not necesary. But its such a simple task that can avoid a some negative consequences. If you talk to a dentist, they will recommend you a toothpaste made with fluoride because it does a very good job with removing plaque and doesn’t come along with these negative effects. Personally I have always used Crest and I have loved it, so I would recommend switching over to that if you want. Again its up to you but, its not a hard switch so it is recommended.

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Promising New Alzheimers Drug?

At a very young age in my life I watched my grandmother suffer from Alzheimers, so a breakthrough this big is very near to my heart. Alzheimers is a form of dementia and it is a progressive mental deterioration. This disease is ranked sixth as the leading cause of death in the United States. The main symptoms that go along with this are memory loss and confusion but also include to mood swings, depression, and eventually the lost of ability to combine muscle movements. By the end of someones fight with Alzheimers they lose the ability to preform simple tasks.

What goes on in the brain?

Scientists have observed that the damage to the brain starts a decade or more before symptoms begin to show. During this time they may not experience any symptoms, but toxic changes are occurring. Abnormal deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain. Then the healthy neurons stop functioning, lose connections, and then die off. This process begins in the hippocampus, where memories are formed. As it grows, more and more parts of the brain are infected until the damage is significant and brain tissue has shrunk.

Is there hope?

Larger clinical studies are currently being done because although promising, this drug has only been tested on 165 people and results could change in a larger group. The results from this first study show that an antibody called aducanumab can reduce amyloid in the brain. Amyloid-beta are the proteins that form in the brain of people with Alzheimers. When this drug is delivered by an intravenous injection, the aducanumab antibodies destroy the Amyloid-beta plaques. The more of the drug administrated the more Amyloid-beta plaques were being destroyed.


This picture shows the brain scans of a few of the 165 people in the trial. These scans show the reduction of the red, Amyloid-beta, when people were administered the antibody. Compare to the placebo.

What does all this mean?

Although proven that this drug can reduce the Amyloid-beta plaques in the brain, the next question is whether or not the drug can preserve thinking and memory skills. This study was not designed to test this, although the ones who took the drug showed less decline on these tests while the participants that received the placebo showed more decline.

Also, during the trial 27 of the patients had a reaction to the drug known as ARIA. There are no side effects to this although it can cause headaches or more serious trouble in some people. This reaction was more common at higher doses.


This research trial was definitely a step in the right direction but there are still a few kinks to work out before this drug can go on the market. First, they need to continue this research in a much larger clinical trial. 165 people is promising but beneficial effects could disappear in a larger group. After this they need to conduct a experiment to test the participants thinking and memory skills before and after the trial. This will tell us for sure whether or not the drug can preserve these skills. Finally, scientist need to find the most effective dose with the fewest side effects to perfect the drug. This research is very promising and i’m interested to see where it goes.



Science can’t be that bad

Hi everyone! My name is Hannah Gluck and I am a freshman here at Penn State but I am originally from Connecticut. Im am currently in the Division of Undergraduate Studies but I am interested in switching into the communications school. Ive chosen this route because science has never been one of my strong subjects. I have learned that memorizing chemical formulas or equations is not my thing, which is why I chose this science class over other ones. I am interested in the science in the contemporary media and the science in our daily lives. Looking at the class schedule I see a few topics that interest me and I am excited to learn about.


^^^ That’s what I look like when people ask me to memorize formulas or equations.  That being said some sciencey things that don’t involve equations do interest me. Space is one of those things. Sometimes it scares me when people talk about how small we are in perspective and how we basically mean nothing but it does amaze me. Last year I watched Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos documentary on space and it really played weird tricks on my mind but for some reason I couldn’t stop watching. So HERE are some cool space facts that I found interesting.