AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: carlybio12

selective hearing

Two scientists at the University of California, San Francisco  figured out how selective hearing works. Known as the “cocktail party effect,” people are capable of focusing on just one person speaking within a room full of people speaking.

“To understand how selective hearing works in the brain, UCSF neurosurgeon Edward Chang, MD, a faculty member in the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery and the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, and UCSF postdoctoral fellow Nima Mesgarani, PhD, worked with three patients who were undergoing brain surgery for severe epilepsy.”

They had to identify areas in the brain that disable seizures. These are found by looking at the brains activity within a couple of weeks  “with a thin sheet of up to 256 electrodes placed under the skull on the brain’s outer surface or cortex. These electrodes record activity in the temporal lobe — home to the auditory cortex.”

“The new findings show that the representation of speech in the cortex does not just reflect the entire external acoustic environment but instead just what we really want or need to hear.”

If you want to “experiment with the art of hearing,” go to



Shark Skin is Impressive!

George Lauder from Harvard University, USA, explains that the fish have long inspired human engineers, but more recently attention has focused on how the fish’s remarkable skin boosts swimming.” The Ridges called denticles that cover the shark helps it swim faster.The denticles not only increase speed, they also “improve thrust.” When sharks swim, the water goes through their furrows, reducing friction and ultimately helping them swim faster.

“The shark’s skin is so rough that contact with it can injure prey.” The coarse denticles point facing the tail so if you were to rub your hand down towards the tail it would feel smooth. Oppositely if you were to rub towards shark’s head it would feel very rough.

“Sharkskin is well adapted for moving through water at high speeds, so engineering a similar coating could be useful in making wind and water turbines run more efficiently. To do that, scientists need to understand exactly how denticles work.” A study at Harvard showed that denticles help the shark move 12% faster in comparison to a shark who does not have denticles!

Lets Cure Insomnia!

I sometimes take melatonin in order to sleep, however it does not always work. A group of researchers at the  Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) “has made a major breakthrough by unraveling the inner workings of melatonin.” This research has led to the development of UCM765, which activates activates only non-rem (deep) sleep.

There are 2 main melatonin receptors. MT1, which stimulates REM sleep and MT2 which stimulates non-REM sleep. Non- rapid eye movement sleep is a much deeper sleep.  An associate professor of psychiatry at McGill said that “specifying the role of MT2 receptors in melatonin represent a major scientific breakthrough that may designate them as a promising novel target for future treatments of insomnia. This discovery also explains the modest hypnotic effect of the over-the-counter melatonin pills, which act on both conflicting receptors.” So, the reason that UCM765 would be so effective is because it promotes deeper sleeps by stimulating more MT2, but not stimulating more MT1.

So far, the results of this study has proved effective by increasing sleep in mice and rats. This study may (hopefully) get us one step closer towards curing insomnia!


Conjoined Twins Separated!!!

Angelina and Aneglica Sabuco were so close that they were connected at the hip, literally! (Well, actually, they were connected at the chest and abdomen). On tuesday at Stanford University Children’s Hospital, the girls underwent 9 hours and over 20 doctors assisting in the surgery.

The twins had been preparing for this surgery ever since July, getting weekly sterile saltwater shots into balloons beneath their skin. This was done in order to stretch their skin and produce more skin. “Dr. Gary Hartman, lead surgeon on the case, had said keeping the girls connected carried bigger risks for their health than the separation procedure.” If the twins were to have remained connected there would have been serious risks. “If one conjoined twin dies, the other will die within hours. Muscular and skeletal deformities can also worsen with time.”  However, the surgery is also risky. Since 1950, when siamese twins are surgically separated, one twin survived at least 75% of the time.

As if the first surgery was not enough, the girls had entered the next phase, reconstruction. The second surgery involved concealing holes created by the separation. After the reconstruction the girls  “were moved to the intensive care unit, each with a scar stretching from her chest to her belly.” The mother of the girls, Ginady Sabuco, was overjoyed. She wants her twins to be able to live a normal life.


The Danger and Abundance of Counterfeit Medications

When a person makes the decision to buy medicine online, he needs to be aware of whether or not the website is Legitimate. With a large quantity of Americans buying their drugs on the internet, “estimated worldwide sales of counterfeit medicines topped $75 billion last year, up 90 percent since 2005.”  These illegal pharmacies not only take away income that would go to genuine pharmacies, but the ones that sell fake drugs (which are plenty of them), can also be putting you in real danger.

Toxins or any kinds of substances could be inside these drugs. They are not being made by people with careers in medicine, they are being made by criminals. Most of these drugs do not even contain the medicine they are labeled for, and, needless to say, the conditions these counterfeit drugs are produced in are unsanitary.  John Clark, Vice President and Chief security officer of Pfizer drug company said, “counterfeit Pfizer drugs – many from disgusting conditions like the primitive courtyard in Lima – have made their way to pharmacies and hospitals in at least 46 different countries, including England, Canada, and the United States.”

Pfitzer, an extremely large drug company with the highest income in the world, is among one of the biggest targets of drug counterfeits. In a more recently updated article, Pfizer said that Fake medicines with its name actually inscribed in the drugs have been sold in “atleast 101 countries” with numerous different types of drugs for different diseases being falsified. Similar to the pocket books sold on the streets of NYC, these drugs look good but are not real.

Even if a price looks more reasonable on the internet, it clearly may not be worth it. Make sure that the site is valid, and that it is FDA approved.Be aware if the site you order from does not require a physician’s prescription for a prescription medication, it is more than likely fake. If there is a drug you take regularly, that looks or tastes different a certain time you buy it, do not let that go unnoticed. It is important to protect yourself  from these predators and stay safe in the face of this devious danger.

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