AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: yazzairbik1294

S U G A R !

Mmm, sugar, so yummy…

Dr. David Katz, the director at the Yale Prevention Research Center writes of the negative effects of sugar in our lives in his article “Medicine, Museums, and Spoons Full of Sugar.” It’s a fact: kids and adults are eating way too much sugar, and this excess is known to contribute to the obesity epidemic.  Obesity itself causes other complications like diabetes and other diseases.

We’ve always known that having too much sugar is a bad thing, but how does it all add up? Soda like Coke, Sprite and Fanta are regarded by some public health experts as “liquid candy.”  Soda adds tons of calories and sugar to a typical diet.  So there you have it: soda is one of the many guilty culprits in the add up of sugar.

Taken by Yasmin Kibria

That’s only part of the problem–most of the excess sugar actually comes from foods.  “A how much is too much? According to Dr. Andrew Weil, everyone has a different response to sugar.  For some it triggers modd swings, brings on a sugar rush followed by a crash, and for some, there are no noticeable effects.  Sugar tends to drive obesity, high blood pressure, and Type II diabetes in people who are genetically programmed to develop insulin resistance.

How does too much sugar lead to obesity? According to Dr. Robert Lustig, sugar causes more insulin resistance in the liver than does other foods.  The pancreas then has to release more insulin to satisfy the liver’s needs.  High insulin levels obstruct the brain from receiving signals form leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells.

But I Studied!

Night Before Test: Oh, I studied sooo much, I think I’m ready for the test tomorrow.

Right Before Test: Yes, I’m going to ace this thing!

During the Test: …..

After the Test: What the @#$%?

Taken by Yasmin Kibria

Some of us may not have the best studying techniques, but it’s not just us who tend to undermine the power of repeated studying.  A recent study by UCLA shows that “students not only underestimate the power of continual study and repetition, but that they tend to overestimate their knowledge of material.”

This was determined by performing a study using a large group of college students where they were shown a list of word pairs, and were asked to give an estimate of how well they knew the material and how well they would test if they studied the material regularly.  A a majority of the volunteers overestimated their abilities, but underestimated the fact that they’d do better if givern time and repeated exercise.

This study is also supported by current research by Nate Kornell, an assistant professor of psychology at Williams College and Robert Bjork of the University of California, Los Angeles.  In their paper they write: “To manage one’s own conditions of learning effectively requires gaining an understanding of the activities and processes that do and do not support learning.”

In psychology, this thinking about thinking is called metacognition.  Performing a similar experiment, Kornell and Bjork found again, that poeple are under confident in their learning abilities and overconfident in their memories.

Just as we’re getting ready to go to college (!!!), it’s important to note the power of studying on a regular basis.

Oh, hey there Stress -.- Here to cause some more damage?

Taken on Yasmin Kibria's laptop

It’s everywhere. Whether it be school related, family or friends related–it’s always present. It’s an integral part of our lives. We’ve always known that stress has negative effects on our lives, but according to an article written by Alice Park, who has done a fellowship at Harvard University, stress shrinks the brain and lowers our ability to cope with adversity. Yay, even more negative effects of stress!

Researchers have found that even everyday stress can be leading to changes in the brain that make us more susceptible to social and psychological disorders such as depression and addiction.

Professor Rajita Sinha of Yale University School of Medicine and director of the Yale Stress Center has found that stress can cause shrinkage in parts of the brain responsible for emotions and metabolism, even in healthy individuals. Her research has found that it it’s not indiviual traumatic events that have the most impact, but the cumulative effect of a lifetime’s worth of stress that might cause the most dramatic changes in brain volume.

After imaging the brains of one hundred healthy participants who have had stressful events in their lives showed smaller grey matter in the prefrontal cortex.  This region is responsible for self-control, emotions and physiological functions.

The prefrontal cortex is known as the “CEO of the brain.” This region is responsible for cognitive analysis and abstract though, and the moderation of acceptable behavior in social interactions.Injury to this region can affect the ability to process information and solve problems, the abilities to concentrate, remember and learn.  Damage can also lead to personality changes that lead to impulsive and socially inappropriate behavior, depression and violence.

By further analyzation, Sinha was able to distinguish how different types of stress, such as divorce, death of a loved one, or loss of a job, affect different regions of the brain.  Recent events, such as finding out of a medical diagnosis, affect emotional awareness.  When this part shrinks, we strat to lose connection with our emotions, and as a result, act inappropriately in interactions with other people.

More serious events, like life traumas, such as living with cancer, affects our mood centers which skews our ability to regulate pleasure and reward.  A shrinkage in this area is also linked to depression and other mood disorders.

Lastly, chronic stress, stress we deal with every day doesn’t affect brain volume on its own.  This type of stress erodes parts of the brain slowly and gradually.

It’s important to keep in mind that stress can build up and lead to negative results and effects on the brain.

How can we alleviate stress? There are hundreds of things you can do: yoga, exercise, making lists, etc.  It’s also important to maintain strong social and emotional relationships because others can help as well.


Finding Motivation Amongst Senioritis

It’s the time of year when senioritis really hits–second semester of senior year! Although most students have already found out about where they’ll e spending the next four years, there are some of us who are still suffering through the “wonderful” college process.

Whatever our situation may be at the moment, we all want the same thing: success. Success can be defined in hundreds of ways, but what contributes to attaining what we define as success? According the the research of Dr. Anders Ericsson, a professor from Florida State University, “motivation is the most significant predictor of success.” Whether it be in sports, music, business or education, those who succeed and become experts are usually those who put in the most hours and effort into their area of interest.

Research has shown that the longer someone is in a career, the less important innate ability, like knowledge becomes, and the more important motivation becomes. Why? “Because high motivation will ensure total preparation, which will, in turn, ensure maximum performance and results.

So why is it that some people are more motivated than others? There are asic biological forces that contribute to the existing difference, but some others seem to be a bit more abstract. There are a few major theories of motivation, one being the Drive Reduction Theory.  According to Clark Hull, humans have the internal need which motivates us to perform in certain ways. There are needs within us that drive us to act in ways to satisfy what what we want–when we’re hungry, we’re driven to eat. According to this, we’re driven to reduce drives so that we maintain a feeling of personal calmness and satisfaction.

Perhaps the most well know theory of motivation is the Humanistic Theory which states that humans are driven to achieve their maximum potential and will always try to do so unless there are obstacles in their way. According to the Hierarchy Pyramid developed by Abraham Maslow, we always strive to reach the top: the need for self actualization, or the need to realize our fullest potential, and right below that is the need for achievement, education, competence and respect. According to Maslow, no one has ever reached the absolute top of the pyramid–we all may strive for it, but no one has ever actually achieved full self-actualization. Self actualization being a complete understanding of who you are, a sense of completeness, and of being the best person you could possibly be.

So where does that leave us if we know that no one has ever reached the top of the pyramid? Well, we should strive even more to get as close as possible to the top.

What do you do if you’ve already become a victim of senioritis?

Well, believe it or not, it is possible to change!

The impact of motivation is actually quite string. It’s so important because it impacts every aspect of your efforts at change–it allows for preparation to make changes, provides patience in giving

Edited by Yasmin Kibria

yourself time for changes to actually occur, allows for perseverance in overcoming obstacles and setbacks and eventually develops a lifestyle that supports change which leads to ultimate achievement of the desired changes.

We’re not all the same, so there’s obviously different motivations that drive us to our goals. There are two parts to the “motivation matrix:” internal vs. external and positive vs. negative.

Internal-positive=challenge, desire, passion, satisfaction (Probable outcome? Successful change and fulfillment)

External-positive=recognition and appreciation from others, financial rewards. (Probable outcome? Some change, but dependent on others for continued change)

Internal-negative=fear of failure, inadequacy. (Probable outcome? SOme change, but possible relapse)

External-negative=unstable life, insufficient respect from others, fear of loss of job or relationship. (Probable outcome? some success, but very high risk of relapse)

Finding it the Motivation Within You

It means maintaining your efforts, especially in times when it’d be easy t ogive up. It includes doing everything possible to attain your goals.

There are three Ds that lead to change in motivation:

Direction: You need to know where you can go.

Decision: You need to know where you want to go.

Dedication: It’s kind of obvious.

Second semester is here…now you decide where you want to go.

If you want to read the rest of the article, feel free to do so:

Here are some more articles on the psychology of motivation:

Tylenol, the Magical Fix-It-All…Till It Kills You

Photo taken by Josh Lowensohn

We all do it. Headache? Tylenol. Arm hurts? Tylenol. Cramps? Tylenol. Headache hurts too much to bare? Hmm, I think I’ll take three pills instead of the recommended two pills. Um, last I checked, these “recommended” dosages should be enough to alleviate whatever pain or discomfort we’re feeling, and I’m pretty sure if it hurts that badly, you should go see a doctor–just a little piece of advice.  It seems to me that “popin’ pills” is just what we all do these days. Well..I’d stop. Especially id you want to live, but if you want to slowly begin killing yourself…

In an article written by Amanda Chan for the Huffington Post, it is revealed that “a new study suggests that acetaminophen can add up over several days and lead to an overdose.”  Oops. How many times have you done that? I know I have…a few too many times.

So what’s so bad about this gradual overdose? According to the study published by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, staggered overdose patterns are associated with adverse outcomes following acetaminophen overdose. Patients with this overdoes have a higher risk of developing multiorgan failure including brain or liver problems, as well as needing kidney dialysis. A study done by at the University of Pennsylvania, it was found that Acetaminophen was the most commonly reported toxic ingestion in the United States in 2005.

In a recent interview with BBC News, Dr. Kenneth Simpson, a member of the team in the Scottish Liver Transplantation Unit at the University of Edinburgh said “They haven’t taken the sort of single-moment, one-off massive overdoses taken by people who try to commit suicide, but over time the damage builds up, and the effect can be fatal.”

The National Institutes of Health reaffirm the data that overdosing on acetaminophen is one of the most common causes of poisoning around the world. In an effort to reduce the risk of unintentionally overdosing, the manufacturers of Tylenol have reduced the recommended dosage.

Basically, next you contemplate taking one too many Tylenols, think of it as an actual drug, which it is…you could potentially be killing yourself. Just a thought.

Broken Heart Syndrome?

Yes, it’s real…

"Radiology Picture of the Day"

Photo taken by Radiology Picture of the Day, Edited by Yasmin Kibria

The broken heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition brought on by stressful situations–both excessively happy or excessively sad or tragic moments.  The symptoms may be brought on by the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones.  A flood of stress hormones and adrenaline causes part of the heart to enlarge temporarily and triggers symptoms that can look like heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heart rhythm. The difference is that the factors that would normally cause heart attack, such as a blocked artery, aren’t present.

The University of Arkansas performed a study which looked at rates of “broken heart syndrome” — when a sudden shock or prolonged stress causes heart attack-like symptoms or heart failure — and found that it overwhelmingly affects women.

Dr. Abhishek Deshmukh, a cardiologist at the University of Arkansas who has treated women with broken heart syndrome, became curious about just how gender-specific the condition was.He found that, overall, women had about 7.5 times the risk of broken heart syndrome as men; in people under 55, women were at 9.5 times greater risk than men. Women over 55 were also three times more likely to suffer broken heart syndrome than younger women.

Why does this gender imbalance occur? Researchers are still working towards finding an answer, but it has been speculated that hormones come into play.

The way to mend a broken heart? Literally let it heal over time–it’ll be fine soon enough.

For further information:

Doing Nothing is Still Doing Something

If you’re like me, you hate taking medication: it’s at times completely unnecessary, and who wants the hassle of having to remember actually take the meds?  Well, I have good news for us “lazy” ones: at times when we’re sick doing nothing is actually the best medication!

Have you ever noticed that whenever we have a problem, we tend to think that it can be fixed with some type of medication? Headache? Tylenol or Advil.  Tummy hurts?  A lovely dose of the horrendously pink Pepto should do.  Sore throat? Oh it must be the early symptoms of strep throat–here’s some antibiotics.  Let’s just forget about all medications that exist today–it’d be like how cavemen lived.  They had no medications, no drugs, simply their bodies which kept them alive and healthy for most of the time.  We need to give our bodies more credit–after all, they are made to maintain homeostasis.

According to an article written my Dr. Danielle Ofri, a professor of medicine at NYU, sometimes not taking any medication to alleviate a “medical condition” is actually the best medication for our bodies.  Doctors have the tendency to prescribe medication when they find that something is “wrong” with a patient, and patients likewise want something done when something is “wrong.”  Like everything else in the world, every action a doctor makes has a reaction.  Most frequently, this reaction that occurs from the physician prescribing an additional medication is a reaction within the body of the patient.  Often, especially in elders, there are multiple doctors to one patient, as a result, prescribe multiple prescriptions which sometimes causes detrimental affects to the health of the patient because the medications react with each other and create further problems for the patient, which leads to the prescribing of even more medications.

So, rather than acting immediately, let’s just stop and think for a moment…is it perhaps better to just chill and see what happens? Uh, yeah.  There are some doctors (the super smart ones) who practice this “doing nothing,” and believe “If the patient is doing fine right now, why rock the boat?”  This method is called clinical inertia, which is generally looked down upon, but why?  Dr. Ofri wrote “doctors who tend toward inertia might actually benefit their patients by protecting them from overzealous medical intervention.”  In an article from the American Medical Association, which focused on diabetes, cholesterol and hypertension, it was found that in these three diseases, it is perceived that “lower” is better, but it was found that lower levels in sugar or pressure are associated with higher death rates.

So…what’s the lesson?  Of course not all patients are the same, but when it comes to “fixing” a “problem,” your doctor should understand that there is room to stop and think for a second.  We’re all like balances, and little illnesses act as stones put on one side of the scale creating a bit of an imbalance, and rather than balancing the scale out with medication, we should sometimes allow our bodies to do their thing and balance it out themselves.

Photo taken by Gianluca Neri



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