AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: jk1234

Why do you enjoy music?

Have you ever wondered why that new song you enjoyed hearing that new song on the radio? This recent study shows that there are four regions of our brain responsible for pleasure while listening to music. The main region is called the nucleus accumbensand is located in the “reward center” of the brain. This region is responsible for making predictions and when the prediction your brain makes is correct it releases feel-good chemicals. Along with guessing correctly pleasant surprises also cause this region to release those same chemicals. The other three regions look for patterns, compare the sounds to other sounds you have heard before, and link emotional ties within the song. This study took the brain activity of 19 people who were listening to music in an MRI machine. They were then asked whether they would like to buy the song they were listening to and there was a direct correlation between how much a person was willing to spend on a song and how much the nucleus accumbens was stimulated. This can lead to further investigation on how the brain deciphers complex sounds such as speech.

Photo taken by Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano 
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Video games make you read good.

According to a recent study, action video games have been found to improve the reading ability of dyslexic children from the ages of 7-13. The test involved taking dyslexic children and having them play 12 hours of action video games over a 2 week period. These children showed remarkably improved reading abilities that lasted for around 2 months after the video game session. The idea behind this was that in action video games there is an array of stimuli on the screen and you must learn to focus on certain points to be able to play. Similarly, when reading there are words all over the page and the kids could now focus on the section they were supposed to be reading. The same test was done but with a game that did not have constant “mayhem” and the children showed no improvements in reading ability. Psychologist Dr. Andrea Facoetti has said that these are credible results and that action video games are a legitimate way to improve the reading ability of dyslexic children. The video game they used was “Rayman Raving Rabbids”.

Photo taken by Niall Kennedy






Crystal Meth is bad for you

Breaking Bad is a show based around high school teacher Walter White. Walter was a regular chemistry teacher until one day he found out that he had inoperable lung cancer. He then turned to creating crystal meth to make money in order to support his family before he died with his former student Jesse Pinkman. It’s thrilling to watch Walter as he tries to leads the double life of a chemistry teacher with a family and a diseased drug dealer, but is definitely not something you want to try. Crystal Meth is a methamphetamine. The reason people use it is because it releases a large amount of dopamine which creates a prolonged sense of euphoria. This rush damages the dopamine receptors which eventually leads to not being able to feel pleasure at all. Chronic abuse can lead to psychotic behavior, including paranoia, insomnia, anxiety, extreme aggression, delusions and hallucinations, and even death. Other side effects include diarrhea, nausea, excessive sweating, increased blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, blood sugar levels, bronchodilation, and “meth mouth”. Meth mouth causes teeth to rapidly decay and fall out. The moral of the story is don’t do drugs.

Photo taken by Michael Allen Smith at

Jet Lag Prevention

Jet lag can be a difficult issue to deal with when traveling across time zones and no one wants to be drowsy while on their vacation. Jet Lag is caused when your circadian rhythm  is out of sync with the environment you are in. Circadian rhythm is the internal, biological clock that drive changes within most organisms. Normally, your circadian rhythm is controlled by several factors such as exercise and melatonin levels but the most prevalent factor is light exposure. Light exposure can cause phase shifts which are changes in your circadian rhythm. With this information, scientist have shown in a recent study that you can follow four simple steps to minimize jet lag:

1. Estimate when your body temperature reaches a minimum. If sleeping 7 or fewer hours per night, assume this is 2 hours before your usual wake time. If sleeping more, assume this is 3 hours before your usual wake time.

2. Determine whether you need to advance or delay your circadian rhythms. If you are flying east (to a later time zone), such as from Los Angeles to New York, you will need to phase advance. Otherwise, if you are flying west, you will need to phase delay.

3. If you need to phase advance, avoid light for 4 hours before your body temperature minimum, and seek light for 4 hours after it. Otherwise, do the opposite.

4. Shift your estimated body temperature minimum by one hour earlier per day if phase advancing, or one and a half hours later per day if phase delaying.

Photo taken by Mary Lane


Sleeping in too often?


Source: flickr
Taken by: Joi

Do you have trouble falling asleep at night or waking up in the morning? According to a recent study, you may be suffering from Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder or DSPD for short.

What is DSPD?

DSPD is a sleeping disorder that causes a shift in the circadian rhythm of your body. The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that tells your body when to wake up, fall asleep, and be hungry.

Who is most affected by DSPD?

Teenagers tend to be most affected by DSPD due to them staying up later than they did as a child but still having to get up early in the morning for school, but this can occur in adults too. DSPD causes many teenagers to be sleep deprived and leaves them tired during the day due to a shift in their sleep schedule.

What are the treatments?

DSPS is not the same as insomnia due to patients being able to have a full night’s sleep unlike insomniacs, and there are several treatments for DSPD.

Chronotherapy is a treatment where the patient slowly shifts their sleep schedule later and later until the desired sleep time is achieved. This treatment has very limited practical use due to the patient having to alter their regular day schedules to accommodate for the constantly changing sleep times.

Bright light therapy is another treatment for DSPD where a bright light or sunlight is used. One should see a sleep specialist before using this treatment due to serious side effects.

The third option for treatment is Melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone that directly affects one’s circadian rhythm. Normally, Melatonin shifts your circadian rhythm earlier so you are able to sleep at a regular time.

If your sleep schedule is interfering with your life than you should see a sleep specialist to talk to about the possibility of you having Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder.


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