AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Brain (Page 1 of 6)

Huntington’s Unveiled: Delving into Delayed Onset and the Fun Side of Therapeutic Possibilities

Greetings, health explorers! Today, we embark on a riveting exploration into Huntington’s disease, where scientists, spearheaded by the brilliant geneticist Bob Handsaker, have unveiled a compelling clue about its delayed onset in this article

Picture this: Huntington’s disease stems from a mistakenly repeated segment in the HTT gene. Bucking the conventional belief that these repeats remain constant, the research illuminates their dynamic growth in specific brain cells over time. As these repeats breach a critical threshold, the very activity of numerous genes in the affected brain cells undergoes a dramatic transformation, ultimately leading to cell death. The tantalizing prospect arises – could preventing the expansion of these repeats be the key to halting the development of Huntington’s disease?

 But fear not! The study hints at a potential game-changer – curbing the expansion of these repeats might be the key to slamming the brakes on Huntington’s disease development.

HuntingtonLet’s summarize what the article’s main idea was. Scientists, led by geneticist Bob Handsaker, have uncovered a significant clue about the delayed onset of Huntington’s disease. The disease arises from a mistakenly repeated segment in the HTT gene. Contrary to the belief that these repeats remain constant, the research reveals their dynamic growth in specific brain cells over time. Once the repeats surpass a critical point, the activity of numerous genes in the affected brain cells changes drastically, leading to cell death. The study suggests that preventing the expansion of these repeats may offer a way to halt the development of Huntington’s disease.

But let’s not stop there – delve deeper into the intricacies.

Before we move on, let’s pause. Do you know what Huntington’s disease is? Before you move on, read this brief article on Huntington’s disease.  

Anyway, let’s continue! A study on the neurological manifestations of Huntington’s disease beckons us, offering insights into the broader impact on the brain. The article, GENETICS AND NEUROPATHOLOGY OF Huntington’s DISEASE, reveals a breakthrough in understanding Huntington’s disease, shedding light on why the fatal brain disorder takes a prolonged time to manifest and suggesting a potential strategy to halt its progression. The key finding is that in some brain cells, the repeats of a gene called HTT, responsible for Huntington’s disease, can grow to hundreds of copies over time. When the number of repeats surpasses a certain threshold, the activity of thousands of other genes in the brain cells changes drastically, leading to cell death.

ADAR Protein

This discovery is connected to this article   about CRISPR technology and its use in treating genetic disorders. The link lies in the common theme of genetic manipulation and its potential role in addressing hereditary diseases. In the case of Huntington’s disease, the research suggests that preventing the expansion of repeats in the HTT gene could stop the development of the disease. This aligns with the broader theme of genetic interventions discussed in the CRISPR article.

Moreover, the article highlights the role of MSH3, a protein involved in DNA repair, in inadvertently adding CAG sequences to the HTT gene. Lowering the levels of this protein may prevent the expansion of repeats. This mechanistic insight provides a potential target for therapeutic intervention, indicating a different approach from current strategies that focus on lowering levels of the huntingtin protein.

In AP Biology class, we covered cell signaling, where cells communicate through molecular signals to regulate various processes. Signaling pathways involve receptors, intracellular messengers, and cellular responses. The Huntington’s disease article reveals that the expansion of CAG repeats in the HTT gene leads to changes in the activity of thousands of genes in brain cells. This alteration in gene activity can be seen as a response to an abnormal signal, impacting cell function. Understanding how abnormal signals lead to cellular dysfunction is crucial to cell communication.

In conclusion, Handsaker’s research cracks the molecular intricacies of Huntington’s disease, providing a deeper understanding of its development and offering potential therapeutic routes. The connection to AP Biology principles underscores the relevance of this study in the broader context of cellular communication and genetic signaling. What are your views on this paradigm shift in Huntington’s research? How might targeting DNA instability revolutionize therapeutic strategies? Please share your thoughts, and let’s engage in a meaningful discussion on this fascinating topic.


Deep Brain Stimulation Offers Promising Results for Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

Traumatic brain injuries can have profound and lasting effects on cognitive functions, impacting memory, attention, and mood regulation. Despite the prevalence of these challenges, there has been a lack of effective therapeutic interventions. However, a recent small-scale study conducted by Nicholas Schiff and his colleagues at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City offers a glimmer of hope. The study explores the potential benefits of deep brain stimulation in treating cognitive impairment resulting from moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries.

The study focuses on the thalamus, a critical brain region acting as an early stop for sensory information. In the case of traumatic brain injuries, disconnections and cell death can occur, affecting the relay of information to the prefrontal and frontal cortexes responsible for executive function. By surgically implanting electrodes into the thalamus, the researchers sought to restore lost connections and improve cognitive function in individuals with traumatic brain injuries.

The groundbreaking success of deep brain stimulation in treating traumatic brain injuries resonates with the intricacies of cell communication, a topic in AP Biology. At the cellular level, effective communication is vital for maintaining homeostasis and responding to external stimuli. In the context of traumatic brain injuries, where neural connections are disrupted, the restoration of cognitive function through deep brain stimulation mirrors the intricate signaling pathways within cells. In both scenarios, the targeted transmission of signals plays a critical role in orchestrating responses and facilitating recovery. 

Deep brain stimulation involves the implantation of electrodes in the brain, powered by a pacemaker, to electrically stimulate targeted regions. This technique has a successful track record in treating conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and deep depression. Now, the focus has shifted to traumatic brain injuries, affecting over 5 million people in the United States alone.

Six patients, who had suffered traumatic brain injuries two to eighteen years prior, underwent surgery for electrode implantation. Targeting the central lateral nucleus of the thalamus, the researchers programmed the devices for a 12-hour on/off cycle and optimized them individually over a two-week period. The patients then underwent cognitive tests, such as the Trail Making Test.

The results were surprisingly positive, with five out of six patients showing improvement in attention and information processing. After receiving stimulation for at least three months, the patients demonstrated a significant reduction in the time it took to complete the Trail Making Test. This improvement suggests that deep brain stimulation may be a viable therapeutic option for addressing cognitive impairments caused by traumatic brain injuries.

In a separate publication, the researchers detailed the feedback from participants and their families. Patients reported improvements in everyday activities such as reading, playing video games, and watching television – tasks that had become challenging or impossible due to their injuries. Family members described the treatment as a “miracle,” with one mother expressing joy at having “got my daughter back.”

While the study has shown promising results, Nicholas Schiff plans to conduct larger trials involving more patients and for longer durations to gather more comprehensive data. The potential of deep brain stimulation in treating traumatic brain injuries raises important ethical considerations, as it not only benefits patients but also contributes to our understanding of fundamental questions about human brain function.

How do you feel about this study? How do you think this will affect the future of treating brain trauma?

The groundbreaking study on deep brain stimulation offers a ray of hope for individuals grappling with the lasting effects of traumatic brain injuries. As research advances, deep brain stimulation may emerge as a transformative therapy, offering improved quality of life and a chance for recovery for the millions affected by traumatic brain injuries.

The Other Mental Side of Covid-19

When thinking of Covid-19 most people think of a fever, cough, or lack of taste and smell. However, there is another symptom found in a recent study, a psychiatric symptom, that remains unknown to most people, yet is still quite dangerous. These aforementioned symptoms are paranoia, delusions, and suicidal thoughts, all of which were developed by teens in the midst of their Covid-19 infections. Luckily, scientists believe they were able to pinpoint the cause of these symptoms.

Scientists believe rogue antibodies, while trying to fight Covid, accidentally targeted their own brain. The antibodies were found in the patients’ cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is a clear liquid that flows in and around the hollow spaces of the brain and spinal cord. The rogue antibodies found do target brain tissue, however we can’t say for sure whether they are the direct cause of the newfound symptoms. This is due to the fact that the newly found antibodies target structures on the inside of cells, not the outside.

According to the study, Covid-19  may trigger the development of the brain targeting antibodies. The study also suggests that treatments that calm down the immune system could resolve the psychiatric symptoms. Both teens in the research underwent intravenous immunoglobulin treatment, which is utilized to reset the immune response in conditions related to autoimmunity and inflammation. Following this, the psychiatric symptoms of the teenagers either partially or completely disappeared. However, it remains a possibility that the patients might have shown improvement without any treatment, and due to the limited size of this study, this cannot be ruled out.

3 teens who were hospitalized due to Covid-19 at the researchers’ hospital were chosen for a new study. They tested positive with either a PCR or rapid antigen test. As taught in AP Biology, antigens are the foreign receptors on the surface of antibodies. Immune cells can transport a piece of the pathogen to T-cells for recognition once the pathogen is eliminated. T-cells play a role in triggering B-cells, which then produce antibodies targeted against that specific antigen. Of the 3 patients chosen, one had a history of unspecified anxiety and depression, and after being infected with Covid-19, they experienced delusion and paranoia. Another had pre existing anxiety and motor tics, and after getting Covid-19, they experienced mood shifts, aggression, and suicidal thoughts. The 3rd teen had no pre-existing condition, and after getting Covid-19 experienced insomnia, agitation, and disordered eating.

As part of the study, all 3 patients had a spinal tap which showed they all had higher than the normal amount of antibodies. However, only 2 of the patients carried Covid-19 antibodies, which created more uncertainty in the study. In conclusion, with this small a study, we can’t say for sure whether there is a causation between the antibodies and the psychiatric symptoms despite the evidence.

Based on the evidence presented, do you think there is a causation between the antibodies and they psychiatric symptoms of Covid-19 found in the teens?

Have you or anyone you know experienced these psychiatric symptoms or ones similar to those discussed in the study after getting Covid-19?(2020.05.08) Coleta De exames para Covi-19 (49870440091)

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain: Bridging Neuroscience and AP Biology

In recent years, neuroscience has unveiled exciting breakthroughs in our understanding of the human brain, revealing its intricate nature. Thanks to the National Institutes of Health’s BRAIN Initiative and the work of the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network, we are now diving deeper into the cellular makeup of the brain. This research aligns with our AP Biology lessons on cell structure. It highlights the highly organized nature of nerve cells, reinforcing the concept that cells are the fundamental building blocks of life.

Neuron Cell Body

One remarkable achievement of this research is the creation of detailed cell maps of human and nonhuman primate brains. This development aligns with our AP Biology class, where we have learned about the fundamental concept of cell structure. Cells are, indeed, the building blocks of life, and this research demonstrates how, even in the complex nervous system, all cells exhibit a specific and organized arrangement.

This exploration also highlights the intriguing similarities in the cellular and molecular properties of human and nonhuman primate brains. These shared features reflect our evolutionary history and the conserved nature of brain structure across different species. The research suggests that slight changes in gene expression during human evolution have led to adaptations in neuronal wiring and synaptic function, contributing to our remarkable ability to adapt, learn, and change.

In our recent studies on neurons, we have learned about the fascinating world of these specialized cells. Our understanding of neuron structure and function provides a foundation for comprehending the significance of the research conducted under the BRAIN Initiative. This supports that the brain’s structure is not fixed but adapts to meet the challenges it faces.
The primary goal of the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network is to create a comprehensive record of brain cells. This understanding aids in comprehension of the development and progression of brain disorders. By learning the cellular composition of the brain, we can address the challenges that arise when things go wrong, promising a brighter future in the field of brain science.

As we reflect on these intriguing connections between neuroscience and our AP Biology knowledge, it is evident that our class has equipped us with a fundamental understanding of cell structure. This knowledge has proven invaluable in making sense of groundbreaking neuroscience research. I find this as a very intriguing and exciting journey, and scientists are actively committed to understanding the brain’s remarkable adaptability, the key to its functioning and evolution. As we explore the fascinating connections between neuroscience and our AP Biology knowledge, how could this deeper understanding of the brain’s adaptability and structure impact the future of healthcare and treatments for neurological conditions? Feel free to share your views and insights!

Revealing the Potential of PF4: A Promising Molecule for Rejuvenating Aging Brains

As the global population ages, the quest to preserve cognitive function in older individuals becomes increasingly significant. New research has shed light on a promising candidate in the fight against age-related cognitive decline: platelet factor four (PF4). Studies of three separate techniques have shown that PF4 may play a pivotal role in rejuvenating aging brains, opening the door to potential breakthroughs in the treatment of cognitive decline. 

PBB Protein PF4 image

PF4 Protein

Published on August 16, three research groups reported their findings in Nature Aging, Nature, and Nature Communications. These groups independently investigated techniques to combat cognitive decline in aging individuals, and remarkably, they all found a common factor: increased levels of PF4. This protein, known as platelet factor four, was found to be associated with improved cognitive performance and enhanced biological markers of brain health.

One research group, led by neuroscientist Dena Dubal from the University of California, San Francisco, had initially been studying the hormone klotho, which is linked to longevity. Their earlier studies revealed that injecting Klotho into mice improved cognition. However, because klotho molecules are too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier, the researchers concluded that the hormone must act on the brain indirectly, possibly through a messenger.

In their pursuit to identify this intermediary, Dubal’s team injected mice with klotho and measured changes in protein levels in the animals’ blood. Surprisingly, they discovered that platelet factors, especially PF4, increased significantly.

Another team at the University of California, San Francisco, led by neuroscientist Saul Villeda, had previously demonstrated that blood plasma from young mice could rejuvenate the brains of elderly mice. They found that young plasma contained significantly higher levels of PF4 compared to older plasma. These findings led to a collaboration between these two research teams.

Tara Walker, a neuroscientist at the University of Queensland, Australia, also joined the collaboration, as her team had discovered that exercise boosts PF4 levels and delivering PF4 directly to the brains of mice stimulated the growth of new nerve cells, a process known as neurogenesis, particularly in the hippocampus, a brain region essential for memory.

But what does all this mean?

The results of these studies collectively suggest that PF4, when administered alone, can improve cognition in mice. Additionally, it enhances neurogenesis and neural connections in the hippocampus, potentially explaining the cognitive benefits observed.

Villeda’s team also found a link between PF4 and the immune system. Injecting PF4 into older mice restored their immune systems to a more youthful state, decreasing inflammatory proteins and reducing inflammation in their brains.

While the discovery of PF4’s potential is undoubtedly exciting, there are important caveats to consider. Most notably, translating findings from mice into effective and safe therapies for humans is a considerable challenge. Nevertheless, the observation that PF4 levels decline with age in both mice and humans suggests it may have relevance in the quest to alleviate age-related cognitive decline.

Furthermore, these recent studies represent significant progress, shedding light on one piece of a complex puzzle. Other molecules, like GDF11, have been linked to restorative effects, and researchers are striving to understand their roles better. Lida Katsimpardi, a neuroscientist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, highlights the need to decipher how each factor fits into the broader picture of cognitive rejuvenation.

The researchers aim to begin human trials within the next few years, but vigilance for potential side effects will be a priority. Additionally, research is essential to precisely understand the mechanisms through which PF4 operates in the body and brain, as well as its potential integration into a broader therapeutic approach.

In  AP Bio class, we’ve began to brush the surface of the topic of neurons. it’s important to grasp that neurons are the fundamental building blocks of the brain’s complex communication network. These brain cells, often referred to as nerve cells, work by transmitting electrical and chemical signals to relay information. According to our AP Bio notes, “the neuron transmits message impulses which communicate information from the environment, process information, and signal parts of the body to respond to the information -all by the flow of chemicals in and out of the plasma membrane”.  As we age, this intricate network can deteriorate, leading to cognitive decline. PF4 facilitates better communication between neurons. This protein’s potential to boost cognitive performance and stimulate the growth of new nerve cells could be the key to maintaining mental vitality as we grow older. While this is still in the early stages of research, the prospect of PF4 as a crucial piece of the cognitive health puzzle is a promising development in our understanding of the brain’s inner workings and its resilience over time. What do you think about the possibilities of PF4? 


Understanding Human Brain Cells

Cells are the basis for all living things. They provide structure and carry out functions necessary for survival. Recent studies have been conducted on the brain, examining the function of the 3,000+ cells found in the human brain. They found the brain to be extremely complex and have found the following: how brains vary among people and the similarities and differences between humans and primates. 

Animal Cell

Unique Brains

Researchers looked at 100 different cells from different brain regions and found cells called astrocytes that use their genes differently based on where they are located. For example, they can regulate blood flow, but also send mitochondria to neurons. They found staggering similarities between 75 brain cells, but they also found differences. It is widely accepted that eukaryotic cells are broken into different divisions to promote productivity. All human brain cells are similar, having an endomembrane system. The staggering similarity is that all cells will consist of a nucleus, ribosomes, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi apparatus, lysosomes, vacuoles, and mitochondria. This endomembrane system allows parts of the cell to be specialized in a specific function, increasing productivity. Being that cells have different functions, however, cells’ components vary. For example, the brain immune cells, microglia, have unique genes that they use from person to person.

Human Relationship to Primates

Researchers found that cells in the frontal cortex “didn’t differ a lot between primate brains”. While similar, human brains use genes differently from primate brains. Particularly, how cells communicate. It appears that hundreds of genes carry out “human-specific” functions. It is not yet clear as to what exactly these genes carry out. 

The evolution of man- a popular exposition of the principal points of human ontogeny and phylogene (1896) (14594999469)

These new findings are significant for the biological and neurological community, for they add more evidence towards understanding the complexity of the human brain. You may be asking why this matters if there are no definitive answers? Well, we are one step closer to finding an answer. Neuroscience is relatively new. Understanding astrocytes is vital to understanding brain malfunctions. Doctors and scientists will be able to know where the issue is occurring if they understand the anatomy and functions of the brain. Finally, deciphering the similarities and differences between the human brain and primate brain contributes to strengthening Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Given the staggering similarities, the theory seems valid. Scientists noting there are human specific genes suggest why humans are in fact different and more advanced from primates. It is important to stay patient with research for cells, for even small developments are powerful. For example, the Endosymbiont Theory is a dominant theory that also began with seemly small data and breakthroughs.

I find the make up of the human brain fascinating. It’s brilliant how we all share similar brain cells so that we can all function relatively the same. It is truly extraordinary that we all have certain cells in certain spots to conduct different functions. Did you know that simply the location of a cell impacts its entire function? Additionally, the more connections we find between our brains and primate brains, the more likely evolution seems. I am a believer in evolution due to the staggering similarities in our DNA and make up. We share 98.8% of our DNA with chimpanzees! What do you think: did we evolve from apes?

Unlock the POV of Pups: How Dogs See the World Beyond Colors.

Madsen the dog, 001

Have you ever wondered how your furry friends recognize the world around them? This question was asked by a group of scientists who recently studied how canines “see” the world not only with their eyes, but also with their nose.

For a long time, the world believed that dogs could only see the world in black and white, or that dogs could only perceive color weakly, if at all. However, this myth was debunked in 1989 by ophthalmologist Jay Neitz and his colleagues, who discovered that dogs can indeed see colors, specifically blues and yellows. They cannot perceive reds and greens, similar to color-blind human.
Assorted Red and Green Apples (deuteranope view)

The reason why dogs can’t process light as well as most human is because they only have two types of color-sensing receptors, called cones, in their retinas, similar to many mammals: cats, pigs, and raccoons. This differentiates them from humans which have three cones. In addition, most dogs have 20/75 vision, meaning that they need to be 2o feet away to see as clear as a human would from 75 feet. Their world may be somewhat blurry compared to ours.

To truly understand how dogs see the world, we must look beyond their ability to process color, as highlighted by Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere. Dogs rely on various other senses to help them “see,” or identify objects and movements around them. For example, unlike humans who have difficulty seeing in dark environments, dogs’ eyes are made to see in both daytime and nighttime. This is because of their abundance of rods, a type of photoreceptor cell in the retinas, which aids in night vision. Rods are 500-1000 times more sensitive to light than cones which allows dogs to see better in the dark. Dogs also have a unique structure in their eyes called the Tapetum Lucidum(Shown in diagram below), which acts like a mirror that reflects light back onto the retina. This enables them to see in conditions with six times less light than what human requires to see.

This is also the reason why dogs’ eyes will glow in photos in the dark, because their Tapetum Lucidum reflects the light back.

(Structure of eyes)

Mammal eye structure (tapetum lucidum)

Another significant aspect of dogs’ perception is their sense of smell, they are 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than that of an average human. Dog’s mighty sense of smell plays a crucial role in how they perceive the world, they can even pick up odors from as far as 12 miles. Another study published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience revealed a direct connection between dogs’ olfactory bulb, which processes smell, and their occipital lobe, which processes vision. This integration of sight and smell was not observed to happen on any of other animal species.

While human are good at recognizing different colors, dogs are more into their sense of smell that humans can’t appreciate. Dogs aren’t missing out on anything; they just have their own unique way of exploring the world around them.

In AP Biology, we learned about how neurons transmit signal to the brain when we touch, hear, see, and smell. When vision and smell is received by optic nerve in eyes and olfactory sensory neurons in noses, they will pass the information of the sight and smell to the brain through neurons. Neurons transmit signals simply through a flow of ions across the axon membrane, which reverses the distribution of charges of the neuron compared to when it is at rest. This is how a neuron passes a signal to another neuron, they will repeat this process until they reach the occipital lobe and olfactory bulb in the brain where the information of the sight and smell will be processed and analyzed.

As a biology student, I have always wondered about how canines, mankind’s best friend, and how other animals see the world in their perspective. It is fascinating to find out that all animals have their unique way of sensing the world and collecting information from the area around them. Their “sensing” strategy are often different from ours’s; human primarily uses vision to receive information of the world, but our neighbors on earth could be using their sense of smell, sense of hearing, and even echoing to accomplish the same goal! Let me know in the comments below if you are also curious about how other animals recognize our world or if you are interested in this topic! Share your thoughts with me! If you want further information about this post or on this topic in general, please go to for more information and further research.

Can Concussions Lead to Higher Risks of Dementia?

According to new research, repeated concussions are linked to worsen brain function in later life, including higher risks of Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease.

Concussion Anatomy

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around or twist in the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells.

A study led by the University of Oxford and the University of Exeter, published in the Journal of Neurotrauma, included data from over 15,000 participants found that people who reported three or more concussions had significantly worse cognitive function, which got worse with each concussion after that.

The researchers found that reporting even one moderate-to-severe concussion was associated with worsened attention, completion of complex tasks and processing speed capacity. Participants who reported 3 concussions, even mild concussions, throughout their lives had significantly worse attention and ability to complete complex tasks. Those who reported 4 or more mild concussions showed worsened processing speed and working memory. Each additional reported concussion was linked to progressively worse cognitive function.

According to Dr. Vanessa Raymont, senior author of the study from the University of Oxford, head injuries are a major risk factor for dementia and “this large-scale study gives the greatest detail to date on a stark finding — the more times you injure your brain in life, the worse your brain function could be as you age.”

The research indicates that people who have experienced three or more even mild episodes of concussion should be counselled on whether to continue high-risk activities.

This article relates to AP biology because when a concussion occurs this affects the body’s ability to send signal to the brain (cell signaling). Cell signaling occurs when a cell detects a signaling molecule from the outside of the cell. A signal is detected when the chemical signal (also known as a ligand) binds to a receptor protein on the surface of the cell or inside the cell. When the signaling molecule binds the receptor it changes the receptor protein in some way. This change initiates the process of transduction. Signal transduction is usually a pathway of several steps. Each relay molecule in the signal transduction pathway changes the next molecule in the pathway. Finally, the signal triggers a specific cellular response. In cell signaling the axon sends electrical impulses from the neuron travel away to be received by other neurons. After a concussion, damage to axons is much more common than damage to other parts of the cell. The axon in the brain is a long extension of the cell which transmits impulses. The axon carries electrical impulses that help communicate within the brain and between the brain. When the axon is damaged neurons cannot properly communicate, a damaged axon has more trouble sending its signals, interfering with the brain’s ability to do its job. A concussion also makes it difficult for the cells to distribute chemicals and materials to all areas of the cell, this occurs in the synapse where impulses are transmitted from one neuron to another.

COVID-19 Puts the AGE in TeenAGEr

A new study from Stanford UnBrain 090407iversity suggests that stress from the COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the brains of teenagers, resulting in their brains appearing years older than the brains of pre-pandemic teenagers. The pandemic resulted in increased anxiety and depression among teenagers, but this new research indicates that the effects may not just stop there.

Scientists know that traumatic childhood experiences can accelerate changes in brain structure. Research conducted by Katie McLaughlin, associate professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and her team led to the conclusion that adversity was connected with reduced cortical thickness. This is a sign of brain aging because as people age, their cortices naturally thin. 

Marjorie Mhoon Fair Professor of Psychology Ian Gotlib originally designed a long-term study to research the effects of depression during puberty. He had been conducting brain scans on 220 children, ages 9-13, but he was not able to continue due to COVID-19. After the pandemic, Gotlib resumed his study, and the results were shocking. Researchers discovered that the deveDiversity of youth in Oslo Norwaylopmental process of cortical thinning had been accelerated for the teenagers compared to normal brain development. According to Gotlib, “Compared to adolescents assessed before the pandemic, adolescents assessed after the pandemic shutdowns not only had more severe internalizing mental health problems, but also had reduced cortical thickness, larger hippocampal and amygdala volume, and more advanced brain age.” It remains unclear to scientists whether or not the teenager’s brain age will eventually catch up to its chronological age.

Scientists speculate that the increased anxiety, depression, and overall mental health issues teenagers are experiencing following the pandemic may be linked to cortical thinning. Researchers speculate that cortical thinning may be linked to the expression of certain patterns of genes associated with different psychiatric disorders. Additionally, from studying children who suffered childhood trauma prior to the pandemic, researchers already know that negative childhood experiences can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental illnesses. The risk of physical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, increases as well. 

Jason Chein, professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Temple University Brain Research & Imaging Center, found the research intriguing, but he cautioned against accepting the conclusion that children’s brains definitely aged faster. “It’s pretty interesting that they observed this change,” he said. “But I’m reluctant to then jump to the conclusion that what it signals to us is that somehow we’ve advanced the maturation of the brains of kids.”


AP Bio Connection 🙂

I chose this topic because I was interested in the effects of the pandemic on people in my age group. This topic connects to AP Bio because brain aging has been linked to increase stress hormones. The stress hormone corticosteroid activates an intracellular receptor which results in the changed gene expression. Due to the fact that corticosteroids activate intracellular receptors, they must be nonpolar molecules in order to enter the cell membrane. Feel free to comment down below if you enjoyed the article!!

Ballerinas Got the Brains!

A 2013 research article conducted by scientists at the Imperial College of London has dived into the ballet world and researched the brains of ballerinas. Their research led to the discovery that dancers can suppress signals of dizziness using the balance organs of the inner ear. The vestibular system, found in the inner ear, consists mainly of smaller circular canals. Each canal recognizes different motions: Up and Down, Side to side, and tilting. These canals are filled with hair and liquid which move with your body to send signals to the brain using the acoustic nerve. With this information, your brain can process balance, dizziness, and vertigo. These researchers became curious about how ballet dancers can perform multiple balanced pirouettes without feelings of dizziness. And as a dancer, I would say this is because of the technique of spotting which involves rapidly moving the head to keep one’s eyes on a fixed spot.

However, this study has proved that wrong. So, with the help of 29 ballet dancers and 20 rowers, the researchers put it to the test. Their method of testing involved putting the volunteers in a dark room and spinning them on a rotating chair. They then timed how long it took for the dizziness to stop. In addition, the researchers measure eye reflexes triggered by the vestibular organs and later completed MRI scans of the patient’s brain structure. The data they collected showed that the eye reflexes and perception of spinning lasted a shorter time with the dancers than with the rowers.

From this point, doctors wondered how they could transfer this ability to their patients. After taking an in-depth look at the dancer’s brains it was concluded that the cerebral cortex and cerebellum were the most affected. The cerebral cortex is found in the largest part of the brain and is responsible for speech, judgment, thinking and reasoning, problem-solving, emotions, learning, and the senses. While the cerebellumMajor parts of the brain, a fist-sized portion found in the back of the brain, uses neurons to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance ,and equilibrium. In the AP Biology curriculum, learning the nervous system helps in one’s understanding of transport and membranes. The nervous system sends signals across the plasma membrane of a cell to the brain. With this signal, the cerebellum and cerebral cortex can process information and signal parts of the body to move. From looking at the MRI scans, scientists discovered that the dancer’s cerebellum was smaller. Scientists believed dancers would be better off not using their vestibular system and solely relying on “highly coordinated pre-programmed movements”. Scientists believe it is not necessary for dancers to feel dizziness so, their brains adapted to suppress that feeling. As a result, the signal that goes to the cerebral cortex is reduced. So, if scientists and doctors monitor the cerebral cortex they could begin to understand how to treat patients affected by chronic dizziness.



Clearing Up COVID-19 Brain Fog

Many people who have recovered from COVID-19 still suffer long-term effects from the terrible virus. From fatigue to loss of smell, to depression and anxiety, there are a wide variety of long-term conditions caused by COVID-19. One condition especially frustrating for patients is known as “COVID-19 brain fog.

Noun confusion 2900892.svgAccording to Harvard Health, COVID-19 Brain Fog is the term used by patients to describe their feeling that their thinking is “sluggish, fuzzy, and not sharp.” Doctors can run tests on patients who feel like they are suffering from this condition; however, oftentimes the tests come back normal. Scientists have several theories regarding the cause of brain fog. For one, COVID-19 can have lingering effects not related to the brain. As I mentioned earlier, patients can suffer from various conditions, which can distract them, impairing their ability to think clearly.

Health Matters interviewed neurologists Dr. Mitchel Elkind and Dr. Alexander Merkler to learn more about COVID-19 Brain Fog. The doctors noted that patients can sustain brain damage from a stroke during their  COBrain Exercising.pngVID-19 infection, and this would be an obvious cause for cognitive differences; however, Dr. Elkind mentioned that “some people seem to have this brain fog out of proportion to their illness.” In theory, patients who had mild coronavirus symptoms should not have long-lasting cognitive effects, but the medical community is finding that they do. One possible explanation is immune system activation.

Like any virus, when the immune system releases molecules to help itself fight off SARS-CoV-2 without background.pngSARS-CoV-2, some of the molecules can affect the nervous system. Sometimes the body can overreact and start attacking normal cells, which is when we start seeing effects such as COVID-19 Brain Fog. The immune system recognizes the viral proteins, but sometimes it mistakes similar-looking proteins in the brain and ends up attacking those. Fortunately, scientists are researching possible treatments for this devastating condition. 

At Augusta University, researchers are developing a drug to treat COVID-19 Brain Fog. It has not been tested yet, but the drug is a polyphenol molecule. One polyphenol molecule, EGCG, inhibits SARS-CoV-2 from binding to host-cell receptor ACE2, thus preventing the virus from entering the host cell. Dr. Stephen Hsu, Professor of Oral Biology and Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences at Augusta believes that in combination with EGCG technology, EC16, will “yield benefits for Long-COVID relief and protection.”

AP Bio Sidenote 🙂

This connects to AP Bio through the possible treatment of brain fog. EGCG acting as an inhibitor connects to receptor-mediated endocytosis because it blocks the ligand, in this case SARS-CoV-2, from binding to ACE2 and so the cell does not accept the SARS-CoV-2.

I chose this topic because I am interested in the long-term effects COVID-19 has on individuals as well as society.

The Science Of Addiction

Overview of the brain

There are three main parts of the brain: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum controls most of our functions such as movements, thoughts, and even our senses. The cerebrum is roughly two-thirds of the brain as a whole and is divided into four lobes: the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital. These lobes control emotions, pain receptors, hearing, vision, and more. Second, the cerebellum is located right behind and a little below the cerebrum, and controls most of our motor functions. Finally, the brain stem is the smallest portion of the brain, sitting beneath the cerebrum and in front of the cerebellum. The brain stem controls both breathing and heart rate, making it just as important as the other parts of the brain regardless of its small size.

Diagram of the brain. Wellcome L0008294


Abusive drugs increase the amount of dopamine in the brain which is produced by the brain stem. Often brain activity that would often be seen from a simple social interaction or through eating food will be seen after addictive drugs are consumed, but the activity will be much more powerful and persistent, leading to the addiction. The brain recognizes the pleasure the drug may grant the user and this numbs the user, over time, to natural releases of dopamine. Further, a study conducted on mice proved that the prefrontal cortex controls social behavior and as social behavior is affected by addiction, one of the major parts of the brain is damaged by drug use.

Connection to biology

The original article articulates how drugs of abuse target circuits in the brain and affect how the reward centers are damaged by drug use. Further, the article focuses on how cortisol levels can affect how quickly a person can recover from an addiction. This is important for addiction research as recovery windows will be more accurate if doctors can test how much cortisol a person has. However, this is not nearly as important as the study of the effects drugs have on our brains. This connects to our biology class so far this year as the plants we’ve been experimenting on in the lab have been watered daily. However, if we suddenly just decided to stop watering them the plants would have the same reaction as someone who was addicted to drugs being cut off: yearning for what was taken from them. In the same way that plants depend on water, a drug addiction makes the addict depend on the drug for functionality as the person’s brain is so damaged that it can no longer produce dopamine without synthetic production through drugs.

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Neuralink: Science Fiction or Reality?

Throughout centuries of scientific discoveries, most of the human body has been discovered and fully understood. Now this would be completely true if it wasn’t for one organ in our body: the brain. The brain is a humans most complex organ, but it is something that we only understand about 10% of how it works. There is a common misconception that we only use 10% of our brain, but “it’s not that we use 10 percent of our brains, merely that we only understand about 10 percent of how it functions.” This is both scary and interesting as the organ that runs our body is hardly understood. While we only understand 10% of its function, there have still been many advancements in technology: one more notable one in the future being Elon Musks’ Neura Link          

The name Neura Link might not ring a bell, and that’s okay because it is something that if fairly new and still in somewhat of a developmental stage. For those who do not know, Neura Link is a device that “place electrodes near neurons in order to detect action potentials. Recording from many neurons allows us to decode the information represented by those cells. In the movement-related areas of the brain, for example, neurons represent intended movements. There are neurons in the brain that carry information about everything we see, feel, touch, or think.” In summary, this is a device that interprets your neurons signals, records it, decodes it, and can then represent the intended message.

All this might sound like some fancy new technology with its only purpose being to interpret what the brain is saying, and that is basically what Neura Link does. However, the implications of this can be very helpful in the world of modern treatments. One thing that is very promising about Neura Link is that the procedure is preformed by robot, so the risk of human error is out of the equation, and it can be done for cheaper than it might have been if a human doctor was preforming the surgery. They are actively trying to make it affordable for the average person that needs it. It is hypothesized that Nuera Link can help bring back motor function to paralyzed people by being an intermediary between damaged neurons. In Neura Links own words, their device could “help people who are paralyzed with spinal or brain injuries, by giving them the ability to control computerized devices with their minds. This would provide paraplegics, quadriplegics and stroke victims the liberating experience of doing things by themselves again.

One thing we have learned in this bio class this year is how there are many processes for many parts of the body. These processes (such as cellular respiration) require many resources as well as a lot of moving parts, and have to be executed very well. There are processes like these for the healing process of certain parts of the body as well. One thing, however, is that neurons and certain nerves, when damaged, can not be recovered or reproduced. There is no system in the body to heal these damaged neurons or nerves. With the absence of a system in place to recovery these damaged parts of the body, they are left there damaged. One thing that is very interesting is that many scientists have tried to find ways to repair this tissue, but Neura Link, instead of trying to repair it, is almost trying to replace it.

While the idea of placing technology inside your brain may seem a little creepy, it might just be the solution to many seemingly unsolvable issues in the body. I think that if these ambitions of the Neura Link team are met with reality (through thorough rigorous testing and safety protocols) that there should be no limit to what it can help with. Since the brain plays a pivotal roll all over the body, there is no telling what Neura Link could do decades from now.

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions: The Making and Breaking of Habits

What is a habit? A habit is “a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance“ (Merriam-Webster). With this being the second month of 2022, New Year’s Resolutions are still in many people’s minds. February is statistically the time when individuals give up on their life-changing aspirations that the new-year inspired, “virtually every study tells us that around 80% of New Year’s resolutions will get abandoned around this month” (This Is The Month When New Year’s Resolutions Fail—Here’s How To Save Them). The “new year, new me” mindset is beginning to seem a little too hard to accomplish. If we can create habits that contribute to our new year’s resolutions, maybe they won’t seem so difficult. So, how can we make these resolutions into good habits and break existing bad ones?

New Years Resolutions

Habits are created through associative learning. Essentially, as you repeat a certain behavior in the same context, it becomes an automatic response rather than a thought-out action and that is when it is a habit. When this switch happens, that behavior/action moves from the intentional mind to the habitual mind. So, if we can intentionally make certain changes as a part of a resolution, we will eventually do them without thinking and maybe accomplish a resolution! 


Now, let’s look at some interesting science involved in the study of habits! Specifically, the dorsolateral striatum. This is a part of the brain that “experiences a short burst of activity” as the brain begins to create a new habit (Revving habits up and down, new insight into how the brain forms habits). As a habit becomes stronger and harder to break, this burst also intensifies. This was proved in an MIT study where rats were taught how to run in a maze and received a sugar pellet reward at the end. As we have learned in biology, neurons are nerve cells that send and receive signals. In fact, we know all about how these signals are transmitted! In this study, using optogenetics, scientists controlled the neurons in the dorsolateral striatum with light. “A flashing blue light excites the brain cells while a flashing yellow light inhibits the cells and shuts them down” (Science Daily). As the rats were running through the maze, if the neurons were excited, they ran faster and habitually, whereas when the flashing yellow light inhibited the cells, the rats slowed down and no longer knew where to go, making wrong turn after wrong turn. Senior author of the study Kyle S. Smith said, “Our findings illustrate how habits can be controlled in a tiny time window when they are first set in motion. The strength of the brain activity in this window determines whether the full behavior becomes a habit or not”. This shows us, it is fairly easy to form habits if you continue it repeatedly as the action first begins! While this can be good or bad, with the other information you will learn in this blog post, I hope that this is encouraging! 

In a recent study rewards were also shown to help form habits. This study explored how giving individuals in India a reward for washing their hands before dinner created good hand washing habits. “The study involved 2,943 households in 105 villages in the state of West Bengal between August 2015 and March 2017. All participants had access to soap and water. Nearly 80 percent said they knew soap killed germs, but initially only 14 percent reported using soap before eating” (Small bribes may help people build healthy handwashing habits). These households were divided into groups. Those that received a reward for washing their hands before dinner did 62% of the time, whereas those who did not receive a reward only washed their hands 36% of the time. This is a big difference! “Significantly, good habits lingered even after researchers stopped giving out rewards” (Small bribes may help people build healthy handwashing habits). Rewards helped create the habit, but once the habit was formed, it was automatic and even without the reward, the habit still took place! Now you may be wondering, why is this information relevant? Well, reward yourself! If your goal is to do one pull-up everyday, give yourself a piece of chocolate every time you do it and eventually you will not need any chocolate! 

So, based on this information, how can we break bad habits? First off, go to a new environment. Due to the fact that habits form from repeated behaviors in the same context, by changing our surroundings, it is much easier to not participate in that behavior. Secondly, repeat a new, replacement behavior over and over. For example, if your goal is to eat less pears, make it a habit to reach for an apple every time you walk into the kitchen. As we know, repetition forms habits! Lastly, keep this new environment and action consistent – don’t start reaching for a banana every time you get home if you have been reaching for an apple when you walk into the kitchen. In order to form a habit it is critical to repeat a certain behavior in the same context. 

Now, we can now create good habits and break the old bad ones! With this information, make this the year that you actually follow through on your new year’s resolutions! Don’t let this month stop you. You have the knowledge and resources, get to it! New year, new you! Good luck! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!

New Years Resolution

Why Our Brain Wants Us to Adopt Routine Exercise in the New Year

In her article titled The Year in Fitness: Shorter Workouts, Greater Clarity, Longer Lives, Gretchen Reynolds outlines the many studies done that prove different ways that physical activity aids in our body’s overall health and well-being, even improving our brain power. 

Fitness news throughout 2021 revolved around the length of our workouts in connection to our health. Research has proven that short workouts are enough to improve strength in both college students and adults. This key evidence proves that in order to maintain your weight and health jAbdominal Exerciseust a few minutes of working out every day should do the trick if you don’t have enough time. On the other hand, we have learned that losing weight may be even harder than we think. Many studies have reinforced the idea that on days that we exercise we are actually burning fewer calories than when we don’t, making it harder to lose weight. Despite these findings, exercise helps us to maintain our weight and is essential in our overall health. 

Furthermore, exercise can also enhance our brain power and lend a hand to our creativity. From multiple experiments done this year scientists have found that “physical activity fortifying immune cells that help protect us against dementia; prompting the release of a hormone that improves neuron health and the ability to think (in mice); shoring up the fabric of our brains’ white matter, the stuff that connects and protects our working brain cells; and likely even adding to our creativity”. There was even a study done that showed that physically active people thought up more creative and inventive ways to use umbrellas and car tires than those who didn’t partake in as much exercise. In connection to what we have learned in AP Biology this year, the immune system protects our body against pathogens. Since physical activity strengthens our immune cells, it will in turn help our overall health and wellness in the long run, protecting us from various diseases. 

In preparation for the new year, Reynolds discusses a study that reported that those who were active had a much stronger sense of purpose in their lives. Reynolds discussed with the leading scientists of the study and found that “exercise amplified people’s purposefulness over time, while simultaneously, a sturdy sense of purpose fortified people’s willingness to exercise” creating almost a perfect symbiotic mutualism relationship towards one’s health and wellness. For me personally, exercise does just this. I find that on the days I workout I feel more productive, more efficient, and am eager to take on the rest of my day. 

Overall, taking in all of this year’s exercise research, we should prioritize exercise in the coming new year if we want to use our brains with continuing clarity and for optimSquatsal creativity in the coming years. I know that I will be continuing to prioritize working out every day, even if it is just a quick walk to start my day. My favorite workouts are strength training and walking outside. Comment below the workouts you’re going to carry into the New Year and if they have had any significant effect on your daily life, health, and brain power. 



COVID-19 Has the Ability to Attack Your Brain.

COVID-19, the virus that has been encompassing our world for the past two years, has been known to affect us in various ways. It can be deadly or merely cause patients to show cold-like symptoms. Specific symptoms that have been spiking curiosity in scientists lately relate solely to the brain; “headaches, confusion, hallucinations and delirium… depression, anxiety, and sleep problems”, and the non-medical term; brain fog. What Laura Sanders aims to answer in her article from ScienceNews is: what have scientists discovered so far that can possibly link COVID-19 to neurological problems? Can COVID-19 alone be attributed to these problems? Why or why not? 

The first step in understanding if COVID-19 really has an effect on the brain is gathering data. Scientists completed a study that reported a very alarming answer; “in the six months after an infection, one in three people had experienced a psychiatric or neurological diagnosis”. This study was published last spring and included those who had experienced mental illnesses, strokes, brain bleeds and other neurological events after six months of COVID-19 infection. The issue with this study is that the connection between COVID-19 and these events is not 100% solidified so it is still unclear whether COVID-19 itself is the cause of these problems. However, Avindra Nath, a neurologist who studies central nervous system infections at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, has been trying to find traces of the virus inside of the brain to prove this theory. Nath and his team, after failing several times to find virus in the brain, hypothesized that the virus may not be targeting the brain itself but the blood vessels inside it. They examined blood vessels of post-mortem brains of those who suffered from COVID-19 with an MRI machine so powerful it couldn’t be used on living COVID-19 patients. The MRI machine that they used allowed them to see the blood vessels in a way that they were never able to see before, due to its strength. With the machine, they were able to see that there were clots in the blood vessels, that the walls were alarmingly thick and inflamed and that some blood was leaking out of the actual blood vessels and into the post-mortem COVID-19 victims’ brains. According to Nath, “These results suggest that clots, inflamed linings, and leaks in the barriers that normally keep blood and other harmful substances out of the brain may all contribute to COVID-related brain damage”. But, like before, no solidified conclusions can be made from Nash’s study alone due to several unknowns. 

Inflammation and its effects on the human body is another concern related to COVID-19. Any inflammation in the body can cause the brain to make and use chemical signaling molecules differently. Neurotransmitters are key signaling molecules in helping nerve cells communicate and can be disrupted by inflammation. Other key communication molecules like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine can get scrambled up when there is a lot of inflammation, causing further problems. As we learned in AP Biology this year, innate cellular defenses within the body usually lead to an inflammatory response. This happens when the pathogen is able to get past the barrier defenses: our skin and mucous membranes. In the area where the pathogen enters, mast cells will release histamine and macrophages will secrete cytokines. The histamines boost blood flow in the area causing inflammation and allowing the inflammatory process to progress. The cytokines attract neutrophils which digest pathogens and dead cell debris contributing to inflammation and the completion of the innate response. Microglia are cells found in the brain that release inflammatory cytokines to amplify the inflammatory response by activating and recruiting more cells to the specific area in the brain. The microglia are the brain’s version of the body’s immune system. Now you may ask what do microglia and inflammation have to do with COVID-19? Well, in 43% of 184 COVID patients and 34 of 41 post-mortem COVID patients, active microglia was found. This means that microglia had initiated an inflammatory response within the brain as a result of SARS-COV-2 entering the body, proving that COVID causes inflammation in the brain and that it can possibly be the cause of the neurological events mentioned earlier. 

Nevertheless, there are still many unanswered questions about the virus’s effects on the brain and if we will ever know who is most susceptible to this concerning response. One important factor contributing to brain functioning that we can not forget is lockdowns. COVID-19 lockdowns have been connected to mental health disorders and according to psychiatrictimes, mentCovid-19 mental health impact in the United States July 2020al illnesses can activate inflammation in the body. This tells us that COVID-19 may create inflammation indirectly through mandated lockdowns. Another thing to note is the term ‘brain fog’ that so many patients have used, including me when I had COVID-19 last spring, is nonmedical. Though it is listed as a symptom, it can not be attributed to SARS-CoV-2 affecting our brain’s functioning until we research more thoroughly. So, for now, we can not 100% attribute COVID-19 to attacking the brain alone but we know that it has the potential to have a very alarming effect on our brains and our body as a whole.

Is Your Cellphone Trying to Kill You?

The cellphone that you use everyday, whether it is for work or your enjoyment, can harm you without you even knowing. Cellphones give off a certain type of energy called radio-frequency waves that can increase your risk of brain tumors or other tumors in the head or neck area. Cell phones are given the ability to function because of cell towers. Cell phones send and receive signals from surrounding cell towers by using radio-frequency waves. Radio-frequency waves, however, are a form of non-ionizing radiation, which means they do not have enough energy to cause cancer directly damaging the DNA inside a cell. This relates to our biology class, as we are talking about how cells work inside the body. Although radio-frequency waves do not have enough energy to break through a cell to cause damage, if they did, they would have to pass through the plasma membrane, and then reach the nucleus in order to damage DNA.

The radio-frequency waves come from the cell phone’s antenna, located in the body of a hand-held phone. The waves are strongest at the antenna and lose energy quickly as they travel away from the phone. The phone is often held against the head when a person is on a call. The closer the antenna is to someone, the greater their expected exposure to radio-frequency waves. The body tissues closest to the phone absorb more energy from the waves than tissues farther away, giving you a higher risk of a form of brain cancer than something else. The amount of energy absorbed by someone from the radio-frequency waves can be influenced by a number of things, such as the model of phone you use, or the amount of time you use your phone. However, in studies shown in the first embedded link, there has been no clear answer of the correlation between cellphones and cancer. Overall, I feel that if there was a significant finding in these studies, there would be a huge spike of cases of brain tumors or brain cancers. I believe this is not something we should be worried about, and if it were to be a problem, I feel that there would have been a solution created already.

Neurological Implications of a Dog’s Brain

In this article, the brains of dogs and their neurological capacity is explored.

Biology Letters published their results on the mechanisms of a dog’s brain.

Gregory Berns, a senior on this study stated, “Our work not only shows that dogs use a similar part of their brain to process numbers of objects as humans do — it shows that they don’t need to be trained to do it.”

In the study, an fMRI was used to scan the dogs’ brains. On these images, it was shown that the parietotemporal cortex produced a lot of contrast and response.

This system supports the ability to rapidly estimate of objects in a scene, such as the number of threats approaching or the amount of food available.

However, much of the research conducted included an intensive training of the dogs.

Berns is founder of the Dog Project which is an organization that studies the evolution of dogs. The project was to first to train dogs to voluntarily enter an fMRI scanner.

Berns states his findings, “Our results provide some of the strongest evidence yet that numerosity is a shared neural mechanism that goes back at least that far.”

Overall this study found that “new canine numerosity study suggests that a common neural mechanism has been deeply conserved across mammalian evolution.”‘

Does The Time of Day Control Memory Ability?

Researchers University of Tokyo Department of Applied Biological Chemistry have found evidence that the time of day may influence one’s forgetfulness. They were able to study this by identifying and studying a gene in mice that controls memory. 

The key to their research was making a test that differentiates between never learning information versus not remembering information. To ensure that the mice learned new information, the mice were given a new object and then given the same object later in the day. The mice were considered to have “learned” new information if they spent less time exploring the new object. 

Researchers repeated this experiment with mice that had BMAL1 and with mice that did not have BMAL1. BMAL1 is a protein that controls different genes and normally fluctuates between high and low levels. Through tests, researchers discovered that the mice without the BMAL1 (normal mice), were more forgetful when they first woke up. 

Though the researcher’s findings may indicate that humans are also more forgetful early in the morning, more research meeds to be done. Scientists are currently trying to find ways to strengthen memory through the BMAL1 pathway, that can possibly help cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. They are also curious to determine the evolutionary benefit of having less memory ability later in the day. This study can be seen as the first step towards a major scientific discovery. 

Who’s Smarter: Girls vs. Boys?

According to the legendary myth, boys are smarter in science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields due to biological deficiencies in math aptitude. Recent studies show that this is not true. A study, by Jessica Cantlon at Carnegie Mellon University, evaluates 104 young children by scanning their brain activity while watching an educational video. When the scans were compared, it showed that both groups were equally engaged while watching the videos and there was no difference in how boys and girls processed math skills. To further this study, researchers compared brain maturity in connection to skill, by using brain scans of adults who watched the same educational video. Which concluded that the brains scans in adults and children -of both genders-  were statistically equivalent. This study confirmed the idea that math activities, in both genders, take place in the intraparietal suclus, which is the area of the brain involved in processing numbers, addition and subtraction, and estimating.

So, why are mathematic and computer science fields predominantly males? Well, it could be for the held stereotype that women and girls are biologically inferior at mathematics. This conventional image could also be linked to the fact that females were prevented from pursuing higher education until the 19th century. To show this unconscious bias, an Implicit Association Test was taken by employers. This test reveals an unconscious bias by forcing you to quickly group various words together. If the word man was immediately linked to math, then an implicit bias is shown. This study unveiled the prejudice that men were twice as likely to be hired for a simple math job since, men and women employers displayed a prejudice against women for a perceived lack of mathematical skill.

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