AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: lagis2012

Are you feeling depressed? There’s an app for that!

Because of an increase in psychological problems, researches have developed a new way to give instant therapy to many people.  This article outlines a new therapy app for your smartphone that will becomes accesible.  This study uses an approach called  cognitive bias modification, or C.B.M.  C.B.M. seeks to break bad habits in the brain as a way to helping anxiety and depression.

One app, called Helping Hands helps many people who have problems with shyness.  These people, when presenting to an audience, focus on a face that is portraying negative thoughts instead of the people who are relaxed.  This app flashes two pictures onto the screen, one with the hostile face and one with the relaxed face. Then the faces disappear and a letter flashes onto the screen.  The letter is completely useless, it just tries to take the focus away from the hostile face toward the relaxed face.  This new research also applies to children with chronic anxiety.  The app according to studies significantly decreased the children’s anxiety problems.

But this app does not seem to work for everyone.  With all the positive reviews it has been getting, there are also negative ones.  There are definitely a few quirks to work out, but this new app could be a positive installment for the future.  Instead of needing to pay a lot of money for a therapy session or someone without access to a therapist, this could be very useful and a very positive installment in their lives.

Will you be around for the next ice age?

Recent studies in greenhouse gases indicate that NO you will not be around for the next ice age!  This is very good news.  According to the English journal, Nature Geoscience, the next ice age will probably not begin for another 1,500 years.  The gases that cause global warming are up to record highs, and even if we stopped using all gases, it will linger in our atmosphere for decades.

According to history, there have only been five ice ages on earth.  In between the ice ages are interglacial periods, of which we are in one right now.  We have been in this period for 10,000 to 15,000 years.  Researchers are unsure of how long this will last.  What researches do know is that for the current interglacial period to end, CO2 levels would have to reach 240 ppmv (parts per million by volume).  Right now, we are at 390 ppmv, making it impossible for ice sheets to form.

Scientists have been worried about the increase in global temperature.  They warn that the temperature rise should be limited to 2 degrees celsius, otherwise the planet will be put at risk.  As an advocate of sustainability and protecting the environment, I was curious to know how possible it is for the earth to plunge into its next ice age period.  I think it is safe to say, it will not be for a while.

Waking up without the alarm clock? There’s a reason!


Have you ever wondered why you wake up before your alarm clock?

This article explains how new studies show that humans do have a special biological clock that allows us to wake up in the morning. This “clock” gets our metabolism going early in the day, the signal to wake up our bodies.  The important part of this biological clock is a protein called PERIOD (PER).  This protein rises and falls in our bodies throughout a 24 hour cycle. When PER lowers at night, our heart rate slows, our blood pressure lowers, and our mental processes slow down.  Now, through studies funded by Salk’s Innovation Fund, it is found an enzyme helps raise the PER protein once again in the morning.  This enzyme, JARID1a, is required for normal cycling, including the circadian rhythm.

Have your grandparents ever wondered why they can not sleep at night as well anymore?  Findings show that as you grow older, your biological clock declines, and with it, a difficulty in sleeping.

Even diabetes has been linked to this research.  Diabetes goes in turn with the biological clock, which controls its metabolic cycles.  The conversion of fats and sugars only take place at certain times of the day.  With someone who has diabetes, this suggests that the biological clock has lost control.

Numerous times I have woken up before my alarm clock, frustrated about not getting those extra few minutes of sleep.  Now, through this study, I understand that its my bodies’ protein levels telling my metabolism to start the day.

For more information on your biological clock, click here.


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