AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: healing

The solution to hearing loss: listening to things?

When we think of hearing loss, we typically think that it’s because the person listens to too many loud things, and that they should try to give their ears a break by hearing as little as possible. However, according to researchers as Case Western Reserve, the solution to preventing deafness might be to use your ears.

Let me explain. There are tiny hairs in your ear (stereocilia) which allow you to hear by vibrating. When overly loud noise hits these hair bundles, they whip back and forth, damaging them. However, if they are constantly stimulated with gentle sound, the movement of the hair bundles actually allows them to readjust, repair, and maintain the health of the hairs of the inner ear. The researchers looked at zebrafish, whose hair bundles move back and forth constantly at amazing speeds, which reinforced the idea. In more detail, the proteins that constitute the hair bundles have a higher turnover rate when under stimulation, meaning that the proteins in your ear hairs are replaced more often, allowing the hair to repair itself. Ears not used much retain the useless broken proteins, leading to poor hearing. Ear hairs used a lot are like muscles when working out: yeah, they’re a bit torn, but they’ll be stronger when they grow back.


The research team says they haven’t proven stereocilia repair themselves, and that they still need to look into more detail for that process (link for the more academically inclined). However, the theory looks very promising.

I find it interesting that biological organisms have a tendency to heal through usage, as it almost seems counterproductive to me. I typically think of rest and recuperation when I think of healing, but apparently biology wants you to just keep on chuggin’. What other systems or things do you think we have that heal with use?


Quite simply.

To heal your hearing,

One needs to whip their hair back and forth.)

Bad day? Just sleep it off

Credit: Cami Marlowe

Have you ever had a bad day and woken up the next morning in a good mood?  This is because a recent study has shown that while dreaming at night during periods of REM sleep, the brain is in an environment where the is a low amount of stress chemicals.  The brain being in this state helps to take the strong emotion out of sad or hurtful memories. Matthew Walker, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley has said that “we feel better about the [memories] because we feel that we can cope.”

Walker wanted to figure out if he could use this logic to help people suffering from PTSD.  These peole are unable to recover from their painful experiences even after years of being away from the trigger.  Researchers have found that the overnight therapy does not work well for people with PTSD because there may be many triggers that occur during the day such as a car backfiring that bring back the emotion that was unable to be fully wiped away with sleep. It has also been found that people with PTSD and other mood disorders are not able to get a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

In order to try and help those with PTSD, Walker wanted to learn more about the curing power of dreams so he conducted a study in which 35 healthy adults were divided into two groups.  Both of the groups were shown a series of 150 pictures that were meant to evoke emotion.  While they were looking at the pictures there brain was being looked at with an MRI.  One of the groups were shown the series of pictures in the morning and then again at night without sleeping for anytime between the two viewings. The other group was shown the series of pictures at night and then again in the morning after a

full nights sleep. The results of the MRI were very interesting. The MRI showed that the people who were allowed to sleep between viewing the pictures had a much less significant emotional reaction to them the second time. The part of the brain that processes emotions was much less active which allowed the rational part of the brain to control the emotions.  While the participants slept researchers noticed that there were less stress chemicals in the brain then while they were awake.  This could mean that the emotion from seeing the images was being diminished.

So what does this mean for those suffering from PTSD? Walker found out that a type of blood pressure medicine was able to suppress the stress chemicals found in the brain. When less stress chemicals were present, the PTSD patients were able to have more REM sleep and therefore, reduce the night mares and have a better quality sleep which allowed them to begin to recover.

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