Author Archives: Raegan S Pechar

Depression and Gender

Growing up, the stressed and pressures of life really had an impact on a lot of my friends. Many times, they set such high expectations for themselves and beat themselves up if they couldn’t attain their goals. Some of my friends from high school suffered (and still do) from depression. It was heartbreaking to watch the people I adored most lose the light inside themselves. Depression is a terrifying thought, and it is often not understood by many people, including me. However, something I did notice, was that the majority of my friends suffering from depression were girls. That got me thinking – are women more prone to depression than men?

Feeling blue

Feeling blue


According to Christina M Mulé in this article , hormones play a significant role in why women are more susceptible to depression than men. Often, many women suffer from depression in their transition through menopause, which could be widely influenced by hormonal changes, but also something as merely as not feeling “womanly” enough. A lot of this could also be left likely to genetic transmission, but there is no concrete evidence biologically speaking, merely theories.


This article continues, more interestingly, into how depression plays a role in adolescence, showing that girls are more susceptible to depression at a very young age. The article explains that this could be a factor of puberty, vulnerability, or even stress.

The Study

Ge. and Conger conducted a longitudinal study of 451 families of adolescents. Their hypothesis was that girls will have higher levels of depression than boys on average. In the study, they paid of visit to each family, asking a series of questions to the entire family based upon life events, characteristics, etc.

  • Null hypothesis: there is so significance between genders and depression
  • Confounding Variables: Family history of depression
  • Chance: Possible

The Results

The researchers found that early displays of depression in children carry on throughout their entire adolescence, and that the early stresses of life often impact girls than boys. The results of the study was consistent with the hypothesis proposed, and the researchers even found these early signs of gender difference in depression carries through the rest of life. Though the results could potentially be a false positive, or even up to chance, it’s highly unlikely because several other studies are consistent with these findings as well.

Differences Between Men and Women

Further exploring depression and gender, Cari Nierenberg discusses ways in which depression differs between men and women:

  1. Women are more likely to dwindle on the actual feeling of depression (aka the emotion) – whereas men are more likely to act out in ways such as alcohol or substance abuse.
  2. Women are more prone to reacting to stressful life events, resulting in their depression. Whether it be divorce, loss of a loved one, or work stress, it can really have a huge impact on women. Women are also more likely to turn to eating disorders when depressed, making these two go hand in hand.
  3. Men are more inclined to hide their symptoms. I believe this has something to do about being “manly” – men don’t want to be seen as weak, so they will cover up their depression because they don’t want to seem vulnerable. Men are also more likely to take their own lives.



Depression is a matter that researchers will continue studying for years to come, because I don’t think anyone really gets fully understands it, and there is no concrete consensus from any study, just hypothetical theories. So, if you know someone battling depression – just be there. Try to educate yourself as much as possible so you can wholeheartedly support them, even if you are unfamiliar.



Mulé, Christina M. “Why Women Are More Susceptible to Depression: An Explanation for Gender Differences.” Why Women Are More Susceptible to Depression. N.p., Mar. 2004. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Nierenberg, Cari. “7 Ways Depression Differs in Men and Women.” LiveScience. Purch, 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Are Tanning Beds Worth It?

Unfortunately, I am guilty of conforming to the pressures of tanning memberships. Growing up, my dad had always been extremely adamant about skin care and avoiding tanning salons at all costs – no,  I did not listen. However, despite the fact that I did not listen to his advice, I still remained curious about the repercussions of my prom tanning memberships. So, as much as it pains me to face the facts, here’s some info I uncovered:

The Study

Richard P. GallagherJohn J. Spinelli and Tim K. Lee gathered and created a meta-analysis of 10 applicable case studies from 1984-2004. They evaluated the outcomes of the studies of subjects who have used tanning beds or sunlamps, compared to subjects that have never been exposed. 

Hypothesis/Causation: Subjects that have been exposed to tannings beds will have an increased risk of melanoma

Null Hypothesis: Subjects exposed to tanning beds will have no correlation to risk of melanoma

Reverse Causation: Subjects with melanoma will have an increased exposure to tanning beds

Third Confounding Variables: Family health history

The Results

After careful evaluation, researchers found that the meta-analysis suggests a significant correlation between tanning bed/lamp exposure and risk of melanoma – supporting the hypothesis. Because this study was in fact, a meta-analysis, it makes it unlikely that the results were a false positive.

comodynes usa

comodynes usa

Other Facts

After finding the (anticipated) results of the smaller scale meta-analysis, I stumbled across some various other stats and percentages from the Melanoma Research Foundation to let reality sink in a little deeper:

  • 90% of melanoma cases are likely to be caused by UV radiation.
  • If you are under the age of 30, using a tanning bed increases your chance of developing melanoma by 75 percent.
  • Tanning salons and tanning bed companies typically brand their product to offer customers a way of getting Vitamin D through artificial tanning – however, most beds typically emit UVA Radiation, not UVB (the vitamin D source).


Tanning as a Behavioral Addiction?

Each year after buying a tanning package, I found myself literally craving to go to the tanning salon after school – seeking the warmth, and really just those couple of minutes of solidarity. Well, I’m not alone – in fact, researchers have actually been studying artificial tanning as a behavioral addiction. In this study, researchers reviewed addiction to tanning in association with substance abuse / anxiety and depression.

The Study

In this study of 421 college students, subjects voluntarily filled out questionnaires: CAGE, used for alcohol abuse, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used for substance abuse. 229 of the the 421 students said they had artificially tanned before. I feel as though in this study there could have been multiple third confounding variables (like tanning frequency or even family health history and if that could play a role in addictive personalities), and in order to provide more developed results, I think the test group should have been far larger. Out of those 229, 30.6% met the criteria for CAGE, and 39.3% met the criteria of the Diagnostic of Mental Disorders. To me, I read that as 1/3 of subjects actually tested to be addicted to tanning – how crazy is that?!


Though most of us are already painfully pale for the season, a typical logical student at Penn State should review these facts and studies and see the risks are far greater than any benefit, aside from golden skin.


“Why Is Tanning Dangerous?” Melanoma Research Foundation. N.p., 2016. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Gallagher, Richard, John Spinelli, and Tim Lee. “Tanning Beds, Sunlamps, and Risk of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma.” Tanning Beds, Sunlamps, and Risk of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma | Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. N.p., Mar. 2005. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Mosher, PhD Catherine E. “Addiction to Indoor TanningRelation to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Use.” Addiction to Indoor TanningRelation to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Use | Depressive Disorders | JAMA Dermatology | The JAMA Network. N.p., 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

The Science of Doodling

Looking through my high school notebooks, I found the margins crowded with various doodles. From flowers, to shading of boxes, almost every single page of notes had some sort of drawing. I brought this to the attention of my mom, who proceeded to show me her notebooks – also filled with an abundance of doodles. She told me that it always helped her to focus in lectures if she drew in the margins. My teachers, on the other hand, had mixed emotions about my dependency on doodling. Most didn’t mind – but the ones who did, got really bent out of shape about it, saying it was a distraction to learning the material in their class (sad). So, I want to dig deeper and see if doodling is advantageous or not.


The Study

Thankfully, Jackie Andrade published this study supporting the hypothesis that doodling is advantageous and helps you pay more attention. In the study, 40 subjects were randomized and split into two groups and listened to a 2 minute voice recording: one group was told to shade shapes throughout the duration of the tape, the other just sat there merely listening.

The Hypothesis: The doodling subjects will have demonstrate a higher rate of remembering the tape

Null Hypothesis: Doodling will have zero impact of remembrance of voicemail

Causation: Doodling enables subjects to more accurately pay attention

Reverse Causation: Subjects that pay attention tend to doodle more

Third Confounding Variables: Individuals attention span (ADHD/ADD/etc)


The Results

After listening to the tape, the subjects had to regurgitate what they remembered from the past 2 minutes. Out of 16 facts, the doodlers on average remembered 7.5 pieces compared to the 5.8 of non-doodlers. From this study, doodlers were 29% more likely to retain the information than non. Meaning the hypothesis was supported. Could this be linked to daydreaming? Often times in class if I do NOT doodle, I find myself daydreamer for the entire duration of lecture, but doodling helps me refrain from doing so.


On the contrary…

Though I cheered inside reading Andrade’s conclusion on the benefits of doodling, not all research supports her hypothesis. In fact, Elaine Chan found that doodling had a negative impact on visual recalling, which is logical because if subjects are doodling and trying to recall visuals, the attention may be split- but at least the research doesn’t suffer from file drawer problem!



Though it is not concrete enough evidence to advocate for doodling during lectures, it could definitely benefit if you struggle from daydreaming, like myself! Mind though, focusing too much on doodling rather than your professor could actually negatively impact you in the long run. So, if you decide to try doodling next lecture, try letting it be subconscious rather than your main focus. Happy Doodling!



Cloud, John. “Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention.” Time. Time Inc., 2009. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Hughes, Charlotte, and Scott Asakawa. “Keep Calm and Doodle On.” PBS. PBS, 28 July 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.


Milk: Friend or Foe?

After our Thanksgiving dinner, my family and I were sitting around the kitchen table talking. My elderly grandmother expressed her recent health concerns, explains that her bones are growing to be very weak. She then continued to say: “Maybe my bones are weak because I did not drink enough milk growing up.” This statement got me thinking – could my grandmother’s deteriorating bones stem from not drinking enough milk growing up?


To my surprise, there has recently been a widespread of debunking the myth of milk: drink milk to build strong bones. In fact, according to Vivian Goldschmidt, drinking milk can actually make you lose calcium from your body. In fact, animal milk actually acidifies the body, and in order to neutralize the acidity, you need calcium – the same calcium that you should be intaking from the milk you are drinking. So, essentially, drinking milk can actually lead to a calcium deficiency. Who would have guessed?

Digging deeper…

Amongst a plethora of nutritional articles, I came across a study by Roland L Weinsier and Carlos L Krumdieck studying all dairy foods and their affect on bone health.

The study

I believe this examination would actually classify as a meta-analysis, because it examines the outcomes of forty-six studies on the effects of dairy (11 out of 46 had 2 outcomes – so 57 outcomes total to review). Weinsier and Krumdieck reviewed the impact of dairy in relation to age, sex, and ethnic identities.

  • Causation:
    • Dairy intake promotes bone growth
  • Reverse Causation:
    • Bone growth sparks dairy intake
  • Third Confounding Variables:
    • Dietary Restrictions
    • Other health concerns (body mass, physical activity, alcohol consumption, etc)


The Results

After reviewing the randomized controlled trials, longitudinal studies, and case studies, the researchers found the 53% showed a insignificant effect. However, 42% showed a favorable effect. Dairy intake seemed to be most beneficial for white women over the age of 30, men and ethnic groups were underrepresented. Though, researchers admit to a definite influence of third variables as listed above. Leaving it difficult to come to a clear consensus, unfortunately.


Other options

Though implementing dairy into your diet does display some benefit, a logical person may refrain from mass quantity. Luckily, the Harvard School of Public Health offers some various other options to building strong bones:

  1. Go for veggies! Green vegetables such as broccoli and leafy greens (kale) are often rich in calcium and can do wonders for your body.
  2. Vitamin D is also a good source to make up for lack of calcium in your diet.
  3. Exercise has a huge influence on your bones. If you stay active and utilize your cardio, your bones will grow to be stronger on their own.
  4. Retinol (vitamin A) can actually weaken your bones – avoid a surplus in your diet.
  5. Bone growth is vital in adolescents, it’s important to ensure kids maintain a balanced diet and exercise routine.



Growing up, I had never been a fan of milk or any diary products in particular (I know I’m weird). So I was always slightly concerned that I was not getting adequate nutrition in my daily diet. However, after the studies, and the latest research on milk’s influence on the body, I am more confident that my bones are in fact, just fine with my current exercise routine and leafy green diet.



Goldschmidt, MA Vivian. “Debunking The Milk Myth: Why Milk Is Bad For You And Your Bones.” Debunking The Milk Myth: Why Milk Is Bad For You And Your Bones. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Roland L Weinsier. “Roland L Weinsier.” Dairy Foods and Bone Health: Examination of the Evidence. N.p., 2000. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

“Calcium and Milk.” The Nutrition Source. N.p., 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

The Mozart Effect

Music is known to positively impact our brains in various other ways – in 7th grade I went to sleep listening to Jazz music every night believing it would make me smarter – I’m not kidding. Growing up, I’ve always wondered if listening to music positively or negatively impacted our brain functions.  So, I decided to dig deeper, and thus, I found the Mozart effect.



The Mozart Effect was proposed in 1993 by Rauscher et al, suggesting that listening to Mozart prior to testing increased reasoning ability in college students.

The Original Study

In this study, Frances Rauscher, Katherine Ky, and Gordon Shaw assigned 36 University of California Irvine students to one of three different groups: one listened to Mozart K488, another listened to a relaxation tape, and the third spent their time in silence. Each group underwent their testing for 10 minutes.

Hypothesis: The presence of music will impact the student’s cognitive performance.

Causation: Listening to Mozart will increase students testing on spacial IQ

Reverse Causation: Increased spacial IQ will lead students to listen to Mozart

  • Not applicable – reverse causation ruled out

Confounding Third Variables:

  • How were groups allotted? Randomly? Could certain students already be inclined to perform better or were they somewhat even academically speaking?
  • The subjects were also only tested on a single cognitive task, this could have an impact on the results if they had been asked to perform a different test.


The Results

Following the 10 minutes, each group underwent a spacial IQ test. In this test, subjects had to mentally unfold a piece of paper and pick out which final shape the paper would be. The study found that students who had listened to Mozart tested abut 8-9 point increase, opposed to the students in the other two groups.

Simple, right? Now we can conclude that maybe we should listen to Mozart before a test or a study session. Ah, but not so fast. Though the researchers’ findings DID support their hypothesis, they received a bit of scrutiny from the outside world. Several studies have provided various outcomes, meaning the results could potentially be a false positive.


The Meta-Analysis

Luckily for us, the Mozart Effect has become a widespread topic in the scientific world. Typically once a study become widespread, the opportunity for a meta-analysis comes forth. Christopher Chabris published a meta-analysis of 16 different studies with different conclusions of the Mozart Effect. Finding that in the grand scheme of things, listening to Mozart may not increase reasoning or intelligence in every aspect, though it definitely could have an impact on spacial tasks. This essentially would explain why subjects seemed to have an easier time with the mental paper unfolding, however, if tested on different stimulations, the results did not always support the hypothesis.

My Conclusion

After finding this research, I do not think I will resort to Mozart in belief that it will be the definite solution to my academic problems, but it may boost my cognitive abilities in minor ways – so why not put it on in the background. 🙂



Jenkins, J. S. “The Mozart Effect.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The Royal Society of Medicine, Apr. 2001. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Lerch, Donna. “The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look.” The Mozart Effect: A Closer Look. N.p., 2000. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Chabris, Christopher. “Prelude or Requiem for the /`Mozart Effect … – Nature.” Nature. N.p., 26 Aug. 1999. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.



Boys go to Jupiter…

We all know the say… “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupid-er”. Only kidding. However, this topic did spark an interest in me: how do the brains of women and men differ? Do we remember things differently? Are women more inclined with their short term memory than men? Is THAT why you guys are always forgetting things we tell you, or do you just not listen? Honestly, it might be a little bit of both. Nonetheless, I decided to investigate the male and female brains further.

House of Hoxshore

House of Hoxshore

The study

The first study I looked into was focused on evaluating the correlation between multitasking and short term memory in male and female college students. This study merely evaluated 6 subjects: 3 men and 3 women in college. Prior to tests, the subjects underwent a pre-questionnaire. Following the questionnaire, the subjects entered a virtual spherical room with pictures designed specifically for the study. They allotted approximately 60 seconds for each subject, recording the tour, as well as pinpointing specific pictures the subjects focused in on. After the tour, the subject underwent a post questionnaire, asking them specific questions regarding the tour. For example, the subjects had to identify which wall they saw specific photos on. The goal of this experiment was to analyze male and female recollection, how it compares and how it differs, and ultimately to support or refute the hypothesis.

Hypothesis: Female subjects would test better on the post tour questionnaire, indicating their short term memory is stronger than male subjects.

The results

After the study, the authors concluded that females scores were drastically better than males. This means that during the post tour questionnaire, the females were successfully able to indicate the photos in relation to the virtual room. Out of 12 photos in various locations, the male subjects tended to accurately place 2-4 of the pictures in the room. While the females recalled 5-9 successfully. Based off of the numbers, the authors supported their hypothesis: female subjects tested higher than male subjects. This could potentially lead to the assumption that females possess stronger short term memory traits than males. Though the results of the study supported the hypothesis, a study with merely 6 subjects is often hard to view as accurate when speaking of percentages. In this study specifically, the females tested 40% higher than the males. A study with a larger subject group may decrease the percentage gap.



How men and women differ

It’s simple: men and women are wired differently, point blank. Ragini Verma, a radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study in which they tested the brains of 400 male subjects and 500 female (ages 8-22). By scanning the brains, they found some pretty notable results: female brains tended to be most connected between left and right hemispheres, triggering the social and emotional tendencies of women we are all used to. On the other hand, the male brain connections focused more so in the back of the brain, which is the action and perception – also known as the manly man tendencies.

To break it down further, I came across a Masters of Healthcare blog titled “10 Big Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Brains”. Up until this point, most articles shared on the brain differences were filled with complex wording and terms I couldn’t even pronounce. So luckily, Amber Hensley broke it down in a way I could understand. Here were a couple of her points:

  • Human interactions: this correlates with Verma’s findings between hemispheres. Women tend to thrive more with interaction – emotion, empathy, comfort. They are also more intuitive with body language, and nonverbal relationships. This means that women are better suited for nonverbal communication and comforting, whereas men tell it like it is. Black or white, and expect people to all do the same. I mean, how many times are women secretly upset at men, but will deny being mad, and so the man accepts that she’s not mad and moves on; except, the woman is upset, and he’s about to have an earful. Women are in touch with their emotions and feelings (most of the time), whereas men want to see a problem, and physically fix it.
  • Stress reactions: in a previous blog of mine I evaluated the term “fight or flight”, which is essentially a chemical reaction in your body that tells you to fight, or to flee. Men generally possess the “fight or flight” reaction. Women, on the other hand, “tend and befriend” (term credited to psychologist, Shelley E. Taylor). In stressful situations, women are wired to nurture, to comfort, and to congregate in groups.
  • Pain: this one is super interesting – men and women are even wired to handle pain differently. Women often require more morphine than men to reduce pain, this is found to be because women perceive pain much more intensely than men. On top of that, though not very surprising, men are less likely to vocalize their pain, which explains how they can get sacked so hard playing football, and just walk it off without a tear. Me? I cry when I get a shot. According to Hensley, the amygdala is the portion of the brain in which interprets pain. When men experience pain, the right side (connected with external uses) is active, whereas women activate their left side (connected with internal uses). Weird, huh?


All in all, men and women are drastically different in regards to the brain. Women may have better short term memory, but that does not make them the winners here (sorry, ladies). It’s sort of funny how it’s a balancing act – what women lack, men possess, and vice versa. The various studies shed light on several concepts highlighting the differences, making it easier to understand. So ladies, next time you’re mad at a male for not understand why you’re upset, don’t blame him, his brain was not physically wired that way, be patient and he will figure it out eventually. And men, when a woman tells you “nothing is wrong”, you better believe something is wrong. Go buy some flowers.



“Short Term Memory Based on Gender – Clemson University.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Grant, Bob. “Male and Female Brains Wired Differently | The Scientist …” The Scientist. N.p., 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Hensley, Amber. “10 Big Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Brains …” Masters of Healthcare. N.p., 16 June 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.


How important is body language?

Body language says everything. It’s how you hold yourself in an interview, or while talking to a friend. Body language can suggest that you’re confident, approachable, integrable, and sometimes can effect how you process information (aka learning ability). I decided to dig deeper into this matter, and investigate just how important body language is in life.

Wright Angle Marketing

Wright Angle Marketing

The study (part 1)

In a study conducted at Stanford University, professor Jeremy Bailensen and doctoral student Andrew Stevenson Won strived to unveil whether or not body language and posture played a role in learning information. They took 100 subjects and had a “teacher” attempt to teach them a topic in 5 minutes, recording the entire exchange at 30 frames per second. They repeated the process 50 times, and had the subjects take an exam after the lesson.

Hypothesis: Subjects with more movement would be more distracted.


Bailensen reported that subjects with excessive movement in the upper body tended to test poorly on the exam. However, they said that this is little evidence to actual prove or disprove a hypothesis – too many potential third variables! The subjects could have been sick, or had an itch, or were just bored in general. The professor also explained that if the teacher had a lot of distracting movements (i.e. pacing, excessive hand motions), the subjects tended to test lower as well.

The study (part 2)

The second study (conducted by the same authors) focuses more along the lines of body language and creativity. They took 104 people (52 pairs), and asked them to brainstorm ideas to improve conserving water and/or reducing water energy use. Note: they had learned the facts of this matter prior to the testing. In this study, they focused on two things: how many viable (aka – not like “stop drinking water”) ideas the partners could come up with and how their body body movements synchronized throughout the testing.


The authors came to their conclusion by evaluating word count (how many ideas were formulated) and precise angles of their body parts and limbs. They found that the partners with the most viable ideas, tended to have more synchronized body movements as they communicated.

My thoughts

Though well conducted by credible researchers, the study itself I believe has some flaws. I think a lot of the results make sense logically, but there could have been plenty of third variables that they skipped over. For instance, in the first study, were the subjects being examined random? Did they have a history of ADHD or ADD that could have played a role in their focus on the lesson? In the second study, it’s a bit confusing to understand the correlation between word count and body language, especially because correlation does not equal causation. Meaning, just because they have synchronized body movements, does not necessarily mean it allowed them to communicate ideas easier. However, in both studies, the authors DID acknowledge margin of error, as they intend on continuing their research to find more concrete answers.

Big Fish Presentations

Big Fish Presentations

Digging deeper into body language

Body language is a huge part of human interaction. Employers look at body language in job interviews, your peers assess whether or not you’re approachable through your body language, and from this study, it can even impact your learning / creative abilities. Another aspect I’d like to explore is body language and lying. Recently I watched the Netflix original “Amanda Knox”, which is about a study abroad student that got caught up with this horrific murder. The evidence was shaky, but prosecutors based a lot of their judgements off of her eyes, and her body language in interviews. This got me thinking about how professionals are trained to study body language during interrogation, and how a lot of times your body says more than your mouth ever could, without realizing.

I found an article published by Vanessa Van Edwards, a behavioral specialist, explaining tips to spot a liar solely through body language:

  1. Baseline – meaning know your subject under comfortable circumstances, when they aren’t being questioned, and when they aren’t having to lie. This will show you their natural body language, and give you a base to start at.
  2. Hotspot – this is when you notice a sudden difference from the baseline. Many times it will be involuntary, but something will change in your subject that differs from their natural body language. Edwards shared two specific indicators to look out for: opposite nodding and one sided shoulder shrug. Opposite nodding is when someone says “yes” but their head ever so slightly shakes no, or vice versa. One sided shoulder shrug is that people may slightly shrug one side of their shoulder when telling a lie, it may be so small and so discrete, but you could catch it. Both of these indicators may seem insignificant, and the subject may not even know they’re doing it.
  3. Clusters – Edwards says not to jump to conclusions if you see one difference from the baseline behaviors, it’s when you begin seeing 3+ to start being worried, and even address it.


Body language is a part of who we are as humans. It can say more words than we can ever physically speak. That’s why it’s such a hot topic to study by researchers, because while our brain is so focused on one thing, body language is often overlooked. So, be more aware. Better body language could get you a job, or make you new friends, make you smarter or more creative, or even be able to detect a lie if you know what to look for!


“Scientists at Stanford Identify Body Language Tied to …” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Stevenson Won, Andrew, Jeremy N. Bailenson, Suzanne C. Stathatos, and Wenqing Dai. “Automatically Detected Nonverbal Behavior Predicts Creativity in Collaborating Dyads.” N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Edwards, Vanessa Van. “Do You Know When Someone Is Lying to You? – Science of People.” Science of People. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.


Why does my stomach growl all the freakin’ time?

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a dead silent classroom, focusing on the exam, when suddenly you hear this loud and unsettling roar coming from your stomach. Really? You do this now? I think to myself.  Though I’ve always despised bodily noises in general, they’re natural and a commonality in all of us. But what makes our stomachs growl? That’s what I’m here to investigate today.

TV Tropes

TV Tropes

What I found

To my surprise, there were a lot of articles and/or professionals reporting on this matter, so I’m glad I’m not the only one hung up on stomach growls (though I’m sure I could utilize my time for more important matters)!  Also, to my surprise, just because your stomach is growling does not necessarily mean it’s seeking food. Let’s dig a little deeper.

How your systems works

Mark A. W. Andrews, a professor of physiology at Lake Eerie College, breaks it down for us: Basically, the rumbling stems from interactions between the stomach and small intestines as they break down and process a mix of food, gas, and liquid, this concept is known as “borborygmi”. These interactions go on constantly, they just tend to be more noticeable once there is a lack of food.  The muscle cells in the stomach and small intestines actually work in a small rhythm, 3 and 12 times per minute, to be exact.

So why is my stomach making noise?

According to Sonia Gulati, the interrupting growls can stem from numerous reasons, not just hunger. For instance, being as your digestive system is working 24/7, most of the time it is still digesting from your previous meal(s). Muscle contractions called peristalsis move the food along, turning everything into what’s called chyme. However, the grumbling doesn’t just come from digestion; by merely breathing, gas gets into our system and is also a contributor. Another factor could be incomplete digestion, meaning foods like lactose, gluten, etc., may not be able to be digested properly, leading to an influx of noise in your tummy. Lastly, the obvious, hunger. Basically, hormones in your body tell your brain, “hey, it’s lunch time!”, which releases gastric juices and muscle contractions in the stomach. This is often the loudest roar because your stomach is empty, so the grumbles echo and cause the classroom disruption.

Meme Center

Meme Center

Is there anything I can do?

Dr. Michael Kessler released an article noting the tips and tricks of avoid overactive stomach rumbles. He suggest drinking more water and eating a healthier diet. Diet can have a huge influence on your digestive system. He suggest eating meals with more fiber, and eating smaller meals more frequently, so your tummy is constantly full and busy digesting. Also, he advises to get a good night’s sleep – who knew sleep could even play a factor in your digestive system?! He suggests other remedies like physical activity, stress management, and good hygiene. So, though they won’t “cure” your stomach growling, it may assuage the discomfort for the time being.


To sum it up, you’re stuck with your overactive stomach growls for life, sorry about that. However, now you know that just because your stomach is growling, doesn’t mean you’re hungry! You can also give Dr. Kessler’s tips a try to try and limit the embarrassing moments in a quiet classroom. If I had to offer a piece of my own advice, I’d say keep a couple of small snacks on you at all times! I have a stash of granola bars at the bottom of my bag at all times in case of hunger emergencies (like in class).




“Why Does Your Stomach Growl When You Are Hungry …” Scientific American. N.p., 21 Jan. 2002. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Gulati, Sonia. “Borborygmi: What Causes Those Stomach Noises?” Symptonfind. N.p., 27 June 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Kessler, Michael. “8 Natural Remedies for Stomach Gurgling.” Doctors Health Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.



Can breakfast boost your IQ?

We’ve all heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Personally, breakfast has always been my least favorite meal of the day – I dislike eggs, cereal, bagels (for the most part), and fruit only fills me up for so long. So, after years of them drilling the importance of breakfast into my head, I decided to actually investigate the research behind it.




The hypothesis is that eating breakfast positively effects cognitive performance. However, chance is always still a factor to be discussed, as well as null hypothesis (or that there is no correlation between eating breakfast and brain performance).

Science Fair Projects

Science Fair Projects

About the study

This is a widely known and studied concept, so the studies you come across are endless. I stumbled upon a study conducted by David P. Wyon , National Institutional of Occupations Health, Denmark, and colleagues. In this experimental study, they focused primarily on the energy intake at breakfast, meaning plentiful breakfasts would impact the children’s energy performance during the school day.

How the study was conducted

To start, Wyon and colleagues reached out to parents of 10 year-olds across five schools, asking if they would change their child’s breakfast routine for a period of 4 days. After responses, they sent out breakfasts to 195 families; however, the breakfast varied in energy (high or low). The breakfasts were randomly assigned to the children throughout the duration of the experiment. The children then underwent performance tests, to see how the energy at breakfast effects their performance throughout the rest of the day. Side note: teachers conducting the tests were blind to the procedure details (aka which children had been given what breakfast).

The results

Children that received 20% more energy packed in her breakfasts than recommended tested drastically better physically and creatively, contrary to the children in which received breakfasts which 10% less energy recommended. The children receiving the higher energy breakfasts also reported less issues (i.e. fatigue, hunger, etc.).

Other Studies

I also came across one conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. In this study, they looked at the correlation between eating breakfast and IQ scores. In this study, they took 1,269 six year-olds in China, and compared children who ate breakfast regularly vs those who did not. Those who did not eat breakfast scores 4.6 points lower on IQ tests than those who did. Granted, these are 6 year olds we’re talking about here, so there could be a ton of third confounding variables that the study did not explore. However, the point of experimenting on 6 year-olds, was because childhood is a crucial period to learn habitual routines. These routines learned at a young age can carry into teenage years and even into adulthood, and can have other implications along the way. So maybe if my mom had force fed me breakfast as a child I’d have a higher IQ now… Thanks, mom. 

What can we do with this information?

In the studies above, each result demonstrates the importance of a hearty breakfast in the morning. However, chance could still play a factor in these studies; however, many experiments have come to similar conclusions, making it very unlikely.  So, nothing new or fascinating here in this blog post. Sorry to disappoint, the doctors were right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I guess I have to start liking eggs now.

Memes Happen

Memes Happen


Wyon, David P., Lillemor Abrahamsson, Marja Jartelius, and Red J. Fletcher. “An Experimental Study of the Effects of Energy Intake at …” Taylor & Francis Online. N.p., 6 July 2009. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. “Can breakfast make kids smarter?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 February 2013. <>.









Fight or Flight?

Fear is a funny concept, and how our bodies process fear is a concept I’ve always pondered. What makes us instinctively step forward to fight, or to run in the opposite direction? What is it that makes me so afraid of spiders? Was I born with that fear trait or was it learned by my brain over the years?


The Theory

The “fight or flight” theory, also known as the acute stress response, was initially proposed by Walter Cannon, a Physiology professor at Harvard University, in 1915. Cannon was studying mice when he found his laboratory animals experienced change in their stomachs when afraid. This led him to further investigate the matter. His studies found that when threatened, the nervous systems partnered with the adrenaline in his animals, activating an instinctive nature to  either fight, or to flee.

How It Works (Scientifically)

So, in order to trigger this instinct, the hypothalamus (a portion of the brain), interacts with 2 separate systems in the body: the adrenaline system and the nervous system (as said above). The nervous system is your body’s active movements, and reactions; whereas, the adrenaline system sits within your bloodlines. So, when faced with fear, your body’s nervous system immediately kicks in, relaxing the muscles and activating two parts of adrenaline: epinephrine and norepinephrine. Together, these two heighten your blood pressure and muscle contractions. At the same time, your brain also releases CRF into your body, in which activates up to 30 hormones (yes, 30). All of these factors are active contributors to how you instinctively react to a tense situation.

Science How Stuff Works

Science How Stuff Works

According to Cannon, your body may react to this in various ways:

  • Heart Racing
  • Sweating
  • Heavy breathing
  • Bladder relaxation
  • Altered / compromised vision
  • Dry mouth


Why do we fear?

To me, it seems that every specie on this planet possesses some attribute of fear, and reacts to it differently. For instance, many animals run in the presence of humans because well, we are bigger (to many), and typically the predator. However, if you happen to cross the wrong animal (i.e. a mama), she might attack you in fear of her offspring being in danger. So, it’s pretty interesting to realize that every specie experiences the “fight or flight” theory.

Can we learn to fear?

A question I proposed earlier was whether or not I was born to naturally fear spiders, or if I had learned to fear them throughout experiences in my life. Well, a study conducted by John Watson, they tested an infant (Little Albert) and his fear for white rats. In this study, though perhaps not the most ethical, they conditioned the child to associate the rat with fear. They achieved this by playing a loud startling noise every time Little Albert reached to play with a rat. The conclusion of this testing found that not only did the infant become terrified of the rats, but he also went on to fear other things resembling rats throughout his childhood.

I think in many ways we are all influenced by fear. For instance, as a child my mom was bitten by two dogs: a pit bull and a husky. They dogs jumped the fence and latched onto her face, leaving her bloody, frightened, and needing surgery. To this day, my mom refuses to acknowledge those breeds of dogs. Though she knows not all dogs have similar temperaments, she still gets uneasy around a pit bull or a husky. Something similar happened to me as a child, though it was my arm, and I still love any kind of dog that crosses my path, I don’t think I will ever be conditioned to fear dogs, haha.


All in all, fear is a natural part of being alive. Whether you fear spiders or clowns, your body goes through the same reactions chemically as any other specie on this planet. You cannot predict how you will instinctively react until you are faced with fear, and that’s what is so interesting. Though we all experience the same chemical reactions in our brains, adrenaline, and bloodstreams, how our bodies cope with the stress of a frightening situation is always different. So stop being afraid to fear, you are human, embrace it.


Julia Layton “How Fear Works” 13 September 2005. <> 21 October 2016

“Epinephrine and Norepinephrine – Boundless.” Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

Brown, Theodore M., and Elizabeth Fee. “Walter Bradford Cannon.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., Oct. 2002. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

“Walter Cannon: Stress & Fight or Flight Theories – Video …” Study. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

The Benefits of Napping

The Benefits of Napping

If you’re anything like me, napping is your guilty pleasure. Especially as a college student it’s quite common to have a wacky sleep schedule due to papers and assignments, and probably mostly because of procrastination. Whether it’s between classes or before tackling my hours of homework, I have always found that I need a solid power nap before conquering my to-do list. I have always believed that my reliance on naps was a vice; however, after some research, I have found some very interesting benefits of napping:

ASAPScience released “The Scientific Power of Naps” on their YouTube channel back in 2012. The video is only 2 minutes, but discusses why it is sometimes beneficial to stop fighting our urges to sleep, because in fact, power naps can often have a really positive effect on our brains and bodies. The video discusses the main stages of sleep: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and Rapid Eye Movement (REM for short). The video then goes further, explaining that by sleeping 10-30 minutes, you’ll reach Stages 1 and 2. By napping for just 30 minutes could in turn help you become more productive, improve memory and creativeness, and the obvious, relieve your tiredness! If you decide to nap longer than 30 minutes, you may experience sleep inertia, essentially meaning you probably won’t feel relieved and awake, but instead long for more sleep.

Watch the video here:

The general consensus that I’ve found is there are few qualms with napping, despite my initial thoughts. WebMD supports napping as well, probably because it can help with stress and heart disease. Jennifer Soong, throws out a couple helpful tips when napping:

  • It may be beneficial to create a “nap schedule” rather than just randomly resting when you get tired. Write it down in your planner!
  • Similar to ASAPScience, keep it around 30 minutes! Sleep inertia is your enemy if you’re trying to be post-nap productive.
  • Ensure your area is a dark, calm setting. You don’t want to be tossing and turning because it’s bright! graciously enlightened me on some companies that have nap rooms in their offices. Some of these companies are Ben and Jerry’s, Zappos, Nike, Huffington Post NYC, Google, and even NASA. Hello, future employers! Sign me up!

Relaxation Room at Google

Relaxation Room at Google

Sleep pod at Google

Sleep pod at Google








Science.. No Thanks

Hey everyone!

My name is Raegan Pechar and I’m a freshman from Bethlehem, PA. I am in the College of Communications and majoring (hopefully, but probably subject to change) in digital and print journalism. I’ve despised science classes since I could remember, except one time in the third grade we dissected owl pellets.. that was pretty cool. Other than that, I really struggled with my science classes much more than my other courses because I just couldn’t understand without hours of cramming and memorizing equations and formulas. I took AP Physics my junior year and let me tell ya, worst decision ever (though I can tell you what e=mc2 is).  My English courses focused on digging deep into the material, and consisted of understanding the subject, rather than testing well. I’ve always loved that.

I stumbled upon this course thanks to orientation and the help of my academic advisor. I explained to her my loathing of science and that I could not possibly bear another semester of regurgitating formulas. I truly did not know what to expect when entering the class, considering a friend of mine took a dinosaur gen-ed her freshman year here at PSU and still swears that to this day was one of the hardest courses she’s ever taken (she transferred to Cornell her sophomore year). The topics of discussion on the syllabus are extremely intriguing, and I really value that the course is molded from what we are interested in exploring.

In other news, it’s been a little over a week since I left from home and my mom has already adopted a kitten as my replacement (I was an only child). She calls him Leo the Lion.



Also, if you happened to miss Beyonce’s performance at the VMA’s… I am doing you a favor by linking this.

If you’re not a Yonce fan (your loss), here’s an article on 20 big questions in science.