Author Archives: Madison Danielle Starr

Why We Caught the Penn State Plague

Imagine with me if you will: hundreds of overgrown children packed into classrooms, dormitories, and bathrooms. Many of them coughing, sneezing, over-heated, and sleep-deprived. It’s a germ fest to say the least and it has a name: The Penn State Plague. It swept across the campus faster and hit harder than mono did (much to my surprise). The question is, why?

So with cold and flu being one of the most common health problems college students face, we need to know why it happens and how to stop it. Live Strong gives five reasons as to why you were probably hacking up a lung and cursing the plague. The first is the fact that you haven’t been getting enough sleep. When you sleep, your immune system is building up all it’s forces to protect you from the terrors that are the common cold and flu. More specifically, they create protective substances called cytokines and antibodies and cells that fight the infection. Without a proper amount of sleep, your body can’t do this; which means you’re more likely to get sick.

Another reason the Live Strong articles states you may have gotten sick is exposure. With hundreds of kids stuffed in one dormitory building, or God forbid more, you’re dealing with a lot of germs. Throw in the other tens of thousands of students you pass on campus, plus the bathrooms where germs grow in hot, moist environments, and you’ve got millions of germs trying to attack your immune system.

One reason the article lists as to why you may have gotten sick is substance abuse. This is a reason even I haven’t heard of before looking into the topic. Because this is State College, we’re going to focus more on alcohol and marijuana given it’s presence on campus. Drinking alcohol causes your immune system to struggle in fighting off illnesses. If you drink excessively, it can lead to long term immune deficiency.

Now while I understand that many people would fight to the death trying to get marijuana legalized, it can have a negative effect on your immune system. It can potentially increase your risk of catching diseases and bacterial infections. There are some studies that suggest THC, the drug in marijuana, reduces your immune system’s ability to fight of infections.

Now that you know a few reasons why you probably got sick, and maybe still are, here is what you can do to fix it. An article from US News

Courtesy of:

Courtesy of:

gave some interesting ways to stay healthy. The first being to not watch any dishes you have in the dormitory bathrooms. If you have been doing that, you’ve put yourself at risk for catching a rather nasty norovirus, which causes diarrhea, on top of whatever other diseases might linger in the bathroom. Also, do not go out if you are sick or go out with sick people. That is exposure to illness, which is the last thing you or anybody else needs. Get that extra sleep you need by turning in early on a Friday night. This will also let you skip out on a night of smoking and drinking. Your immune system will thank you later.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks: What They Are and Their Differences

As a person who has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, I’ve suffered from anxiety attacks for a very long time. However, I also didn’t learn the difference between an anxiety attack and a panic attack until a few years ago. Given that mental health is extremely important to me, and many other college students, I think this is some information we can all benefit from.

What typically distinct an anxiety and panic attack is that a panic attack usually comes on very suddenly, and usually subsides after ten minutes; while an anxiety is usually provoked by some sort of distress, last longer, and can happen one right after another.

Their symptoms slightly differ as well. Panic attack symptoms include: sweating, shaking, the sensation of choking, nausea, and fear of death just to name a few. Anxiety attack symptoms, while they do include panic attacks symptoms such as shaking and sweating, go on to include much more; a sense of doom, a sense of losing control, hot flashes, feeling the need to escape, and feeling separated from reality.

Now that everyone knows what an anxiety and panic attack is, it’s time to share my hypothesis. If their symptoms are different, what happens to your body during each must also be different. In an article from Medical Daily, it cites a research review of animal studies published by Dr. Jieun E Kim that link the provoking of stimulation in the amygdala to reactions similar to a human panic attack. Given that the amygdala is a small part of the brain responsible for emotional behavior; but more specifically fear and aggression. In other words, panic attacks are believed to stem from the amygdala.

Turns out, science also believes that the amygdala plays a role in anxiety attacks; at least partially. The National Institute of Mental Health

Courtest of:

Courtest of:

explains that memories with intense emotions, specifically emotions where a fear began, are stored in the amygdala. However, the hippocampus also plays a role in anxiety attacks because it processes whether an event from a memory was threatening or not.

So while symptoms between the two differ, on a neurological level, panic and anxiety attacks are actually quiet similar. However, it is important to note that psychology does separate panic and anxiety attacks into different disorder categories.

Associating Memories with Places

Have you ever passed by a place and instantly remembered something that happened there? And every time you go back there, it’s that one memory that always pops up? I have. I’ve always been curious as to what the science behind place association with memory; or if it was a thing that happened to other people.

An article by The Atlantic

Courtesy of:

Courtesy of:

states that some psychologists hypothesize that in order to lock in a memory, you have to associate that memory with a place. The act of this is called episodic memory formation. It’s taking ideas, occurrences, and so on to a place and time to remember it.

The scientists behind the study cited in the article have discovered this by using a process where they inject a virus into the brain that almost acts as a remote control for the brain. The article further goes on to show that researchers have discovered that the retrosplenial cortex, a section of the brain we know very little about, it a key component in the development of episodic memories.

Researchers have discovered this through the ‘remote control’ virus that they injected into the brains of rats for this study. As well, they discovered that they hippocampus, a part of the brain that is known for processing memories, is actually not all that important in creating episodic memories compared to the retrosplenial cortex.

So not only is associating a memory with a place very much an occurrence not only in humans but in rats, it’s an extremely complex process which science is very interested in.

Courtesy of: sivasanta-blogspot-com

Courtesy of: sivasanta-blogspot-com

My genetics are interesting to say the least. I have naturally black hair, yet my body hair is blonde. I have skin so pale my foundation is called snow, yet both my parents tan without struggle. My eyes also change six different colors: green, hazel, brown, blue, grey, and yellow. I had always attributed this to being a co-dominance gene; given each parent has color changing eyes as well. However, I never contemplated that there could be a different reason as to why.

A codominance gene is where both sets of genetics are equally as strong and neither hides the other; so in short they blend together. I was always told given that each of my parents have color changing eyes, and I got each of their colors, I had a codominance gene. Which seems logical enough.

However, an article from All About Vision gave me an answer I wasn’t too happy with. It says that human eye color is derived from three genes; which are accountable for brown, blue, and green eyes. However, colors such as grey and hazel (and of course combination color eyes) can’t fully be explained at this time. The article also said that a person’s eye color is never a mix of their parents. For example, a parent with blue eyes and a parent with green eyes won’t have a baby with a mixture of the two colors. Each parent has two sets of genes, and the child has a certain chance of getting any of the four genetic options.

The only possible explanation the article offers is pupil contractions and expansions. The pupil expands and contracts as a physical reaction to different levels of light. As well, your iris can expand as a physical reaction to certain emotions. This change in pupil size can change your eye color slightly; which explains why people often claim their eyes change color depending on what emotion they’re feeling.

Another article gives several other reasons why your eyes could appear to or do change color, as well as delving into hazel eyes a bit more. Besides the same answers of lighting and emotions, the article even mentions how you dress as a reason for a change of eye color. This would make a lot of sense given that certain eye colors are supposed to wear certain types of eye makeup and so on. This I have seen first hand with myself and several other people with hazel/multicolored eyes. Eye makeup meant for somebody with green eyes will make my eyes green, the same with blue, and so on.

The article also talks briefly about hazel eyes; which is what my license says my eye color is. Hazel eyes have always been believed to change color. They are also much more reflective than any other eye color. Which essentially means it could take on the color of something in my surroundings.

In a third article, they discuss the claim that eyes change color as you age. In short, it doesn’t. Once your eye color has fully matured, it does not not. They explain that it either has to be genetics or injury that causes change in eye color. Heterochromia, or two different colored eyes (think David Bowie or the scene from X-Men first class where Xavier hits on the blonde) are typically caused by traumatic injury. As a child, I hit my head on a ceramic tile kitchen floor and broke my nose. However, mine eyes are only sometimes two completely different colors.

Luckily there are several types of heterochromia . The one that seems to be closest to what I have is central heterochromia. Which means the outside of my iris is different from the inside. My outside is usually consistently blue or grey, with the inside seeming to change. Besides injury, heterochromia is also linked to several diseases; including diabetes, which I have.

So the conclusion? Well we have several plausible hypotheses. The answers that are most likely seems to be pupil contractions or central heterochromia; maybe even a mix of the two. However, it seems that we don’t have an exact answer.

Running V. Walking: Weight Loss

Source: Fotosearch

Source: Fotosearch

I hate running. As a curvaceous female, running is the enemy. However, thanks to my decent stamina and black lab, I’m used to going on four mile walks without any problems. Despite being in good health, I constantly hear that running is ultimately the better of the two exercises. Needless to say, this was an opportunity to find out. Note: before doing my research, I prayed there is no difference between walking and running.

In an article from the New York Times by Gretchen Reynolds, she discusses how many people typically walk or run for exercise. As well, that there are many studies that have conflicting views on which is better. However, it is revealed in her article that it truly depends on what your personal fitness goals are as to which is better. So, if your goal is to slim down, running will be better for you. Reynolds cites a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. They surveyed several thousand runners and walkers. Those who participated were asked about their weight, diet, distance they typically walked or ran, and so on both at the start of the study and several years later. Runners as a whole were thinner and maintained their figures better than walkers. The reason for this isn’t simply the amount of calories burned; because eventually you can burn as many calories walking as you can running. Reynolds cites another study, published in The Journal of Obesity, that took nine runners and ten walkers and decided to see how their exercises affected their appetites. The walkers ate around fifty calories more than they burned from exercise, while the runners ate around two hundred calories less than they burned from their exercise. The study shows that this was probably due to the runners having a much higher levels of the hormone peptide YY. This is a hormone that curbs hunger.

So long story short, if you’re trying to shed those extra pounds you’ve added on because of the creamery, or lack of self control, running is ultimately what is going to help you lose the weight.

Sources: Is It Better to Walk or Run?

Embrace the Bush

For many years, there has been a trend in female grooming that they should be as bald as a pre-pubescent tween in our more intimate area. Besides the fact that it is obviously expensive for such upkeep, science suggests it is better to keep your pubic hair versus shaving it off.

As a young woman, the idea that body hair was unhygienic was seared into my brain. However, it was the idea that female body hair was unhygienic. Males, on the other hand, could walk around with the body hair of a yeti judgement free. I began shaving and waxing at a very young age; getting rid of all the body hair that I could. This came to a very sudden stop around a year ago. I realized how much money I was spending, and as a soon to be broke college kid, I needed alternate methods. I do think I have found the perfect one: not shaving. As much anyhow. If the money I was saving from shaving less regularly wasn’t enough, I had discovered that there was indeed scientific reasons to not shave as much.

In an article written by Ellen Scott from Metro, the reasons to keep your hair as nature intended are outlined. Firstly, the hair is there to show that you are physically ready to procreate. As well, it helps against uncomfortable friction during sex. Shaving your vagina also often causes skin irritation; which include red bumps and some of the worst itching imaginable. Not to mention, it is quite risky to take a razor to such an intimate area. Most genital injuries reported in the emergency room are due to removal of pubic hair.

The most significant reason listed in the article to not shave your pubic hair is the correlation between the hair removal and an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. More specifically, the theory is that there is a correlation between the increase in removing pubic hair and an increase in gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HPV. Evidence from another article written by Jessica Winters from Thought Catalog only further reinforces this reasoning. She cited a study done by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, which stated that more than half of women who remove their pubic hair develop some sort of health problem related to it. Needless to say, I think the science behind it is telling we need to start embracing our body’s

Source: Tri Vo/Mic

Source: Tri Vo/Mic

more natural state.

Links to the articles:

Why You Need to Chill Out with the All-Nighters

I rarely sleep. I feel blessed by the lord almighty himself if I get five to seven hours of sleep. This is because I am extremely productive between the hours of seven at night and 3 in the morning. Also, I get caffeine cravings around this time and I drink the miracle that is sugar-free monster. My neurologist hates me for all of this. He has begged me for years to change my ways given how bad it is for me to have these sleep habits.

After doing a tiny bit of research, I can see why my neurologist is in despair for his favorite patient with chronic migraines and anxiety. In an article by Sarah Klein of the Huffington Post, some very typical lack-of-sleep side effects were listed: groggy, inability to focus, struggling to do typical activities at your usual speed, and the need for a nap. Some signs I wasn’t aware of were being ore emotional than usual, as well as being hungrier and even clumsy. The article also claims that to avoid this, we need to be getting seven to nine hours of sleep on a regular basis.

If those side affects of sleep deprivation weren’t bad enough to convince you to actually go to bed, it gets worse. An article by Camille Peri, published by Web M.D., illustrates even further why sleep is so essential. According to the article, it can cause health problems. Most people with insomnia experience another health condition; these include heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes just to name a few. The next point the article makes should be especially troubling to the young men reading. Sleep-deprivation lowers your sex drive. As well, men with really bad sleep apnea had extremely low levels of testosterone. In short, no sleep means no sex. Insomnia is also linked to depression and anxiety. Those diagnosed with either anxiety are depression are likely to get less than six hours of sleep a night. Finally, to those of us worried about the freshmen fifteen, not getting enough sleep contributes to weight gain. This is due to the fact that sleep deprivation lowers leptin levels; which is the chemical that makes you feel full.

I’ll stop worrying you, and myself, with the plethora of horrible things that come with sleep deprivation. Instead, let’s just get some sleep.

Links used:

Source: Huffington Post

Source: Huffington Post

I Quite Like Science, I Just Like Writing Better.

Hello! My name is Madison Starr. I’m from Northern Virginia; just outside of D.C.. I’m a freshmen and a photojournalism major. Like some other people taking this class, I had to take a science class. I’ve always really liked science, and I’ve always done pretty well. However, after having the devil for a physics teacher last year, I decided I wanted a science class that was a bit more fun. This one came highly recommended.

When I was younger, there were many different jobs I thought I wanted. Anything from a teacher, to an archaeologist, and even a stay-at-home parent. However, when I was fifteen I took a creative writing class. I actually always hated writing, and shamefully took the class to meet girls. Writing ended up becoming a great love of mine. I’ve been published for poetry and prose since I was fifteen, I started running my own website filled with my writings at sixteen, and I wrote and self-published a book at seventeen. At eighteen, I won several photography contests with what I thought were shit iPhone photos. It was then I realized photojournalism might be for me.

If any of you lovely people might be interested in reading any of my writings or seeing my photography click hereIMG_9332