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Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 2530 | Comments: 5
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Feb 28, 2012, 11:54am
Déja vu is a French term that literally means "already seen" and is reported to occur in 60-70% of people, most commonly between the ages of 15 and 25. The fact that déja vu occurs so randomly and rapidly—and in individuals without a medical condition—makes it difficult to study, and why and how the phenomenon occurs is up to much speculation. Psychoanalysts may attribute it to wishful thinking; some psychiatrists cite mismatching in the brain causing us to mistake the present for the past. Still, parapsychologists may even believe it is related to a past-life experience. So what do we know for certain about what happens during an episode of déja vu?

Some researchers speculate that déja vu occurs when there is a mismatch in the brain during its constant attempt to create whole perceptions of our world with very limited input. Think about your memory: it only takes small bits of sensory information (a familiar smell, for instance) to bring forth a very detailed recollection. Déja vu is suggested to be some sort of "mix-up" between sensory input and memory-recalling output. This vague theory, however, does not explain why the episode we experience is not necessarily from a true past event.

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Author: Psycasm | Views: 1205 | Comments: 1
Last by yannisguerra on Feb 27, 2012, 12:00pm
...and I'm back. I think.

I know it's definitely been a while between drinks but I certainly hope this will change.

Why, you may ask, what's different? Well, as of tomorrow I actually start uni again. It's my fourth year studying Psych and it's my Honours / Research year. Frankly, I'm rather excited and looking forward to actually having a purpose again. Students do not need, nor do they deserve, a 3-month holiday over the New Year. I can understand arguments for working to earn money for the rest of the year but I do not personally know anyone who actually operates like that. Fortunately, however, this big blank has ended for me and I have something to do. I swear there is a reverse Parkinson's Law - which states:

Work expands to fill the time available for it's completion.

The reverse occurs when the time available is ostensibly without purpose... which might be stated as:

The longer you have to do nothing, the less likely you are to do anything.

All the things I intended to do I haven't done. It's a little demoralizing, I suppose... but that's why I'm looking forward . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 1515 | Comments: 0
For our first Valentine's Day a few years back, my boy got me chocolate brains! Not only does he know me extremely well, but he also had it right—love originates in the brain, not the heart.

But what exactly is going on between the ears when those warm and fuzzy feeling wash over us? A new study out just in time for Chocolate Day reveals that love actually acts like an addictive drug. Hmmm, it seems that Ke$ha also got it right...

Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York examined the neural correlates of intense, long-term love using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 10 women and 7 men. fMRI measures brain activity as a function of changes in blood flow. The participants, married an average of 21 years, underwent imaging while viewing either an image of their partner's face, or a familiar acquaintance.

Compared to viewing the acquaintance, areas specifically activated when viewing their spouse included:

• Regions of the dopamine-rich reward system, including the ventral teg . . . More
Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 3918 | Comments: 2
Last by Italie on Feb 24, 2012, 9:40am
Carolyn McGraw In the center, the unmanipulated photo. With the less cute manipulated photo to the left, and the cute one to the right. . . . More
Author: Thomas Joseph | Views: 1516 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Feb 03, 2012, 3:18pm
... have only been slightly exaggerated. Life certainly has been busy lately, but I have been keeping note of some items that I definitely wanted to blog on. In particular, my efforts to go fully-electronic in my lab/office dwelling. So, I'll be back soon to blog on those efforts as well as review some of the software/apps as well as hardware that have helped me progress my lab forward. . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 3874 | Comments: 7
Last by Martin J Sallberg on Feb 15, 2013, 6:18am
Open science is a wonderful concept, but what happens when reporters start writing stories on data that has not been properly reviewed and vetted by the scientific establishment? Before this week, I had never really considered this question. Open science at its core is a wonderful utopian idea where scientists do their work in the open and publish their notebooks in real time on the web for everyone to see. The idea is that with this kind of transparency, better science will be done and scientists can collaborate more easily. Because all of the data will be on the internet and searchable, more scientists will be able to benefit from the open resource. Of course, there are numerous criticisms of open science. One being that it will be extremely easy for researchers in highly competitive fields to be scooped by competitors who have bigger labs or more resources at their disposal. However, it didn't occur to me until I saw stories popping up that open science could be abused by the media.

Almost a year ago, NASA held a press conference touting that it had found "alien" life. A group of researchers reported that they had found a bacteria (GFAJ-1) in Mono Lake that incorporated arsenic in place of phosphate in its DNA backbone. This press conference and the sub . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 3410 | Comments: 3
Last by Sharmeen Omar on Feb 01, 2012, 10:01pm
A provocative aspect of the climate change debate is the impact that temperature changes have on species. In particular, people have used the beloved and majestic polar bear, Ursus maritimus, as a mascot for the negative impact of climate change. A few years ago, it wasn't known that global warming could affect the fundamental definition of the polar bears species.

Polar bears are closely related to grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) and it has long been known that these animals can interbreed, creating a rare hybridization of the polar bear and the grizzly bear (formally called Ursus arctos horribilis and more commonly referred to as a grolar).

This hybrid, though extremely rare, has occurred in captivity and has long been storied in arctic legends. In 1864 biologist, Clinton Hart Merriam, described an animal killed at Rendezvous Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada as "buffy whitish with a golden brown muzzle". A century later, Clara Helgason remembers a bear shot by hunters on Kodiak Island during her childhood in 1943 as "a large, off-white bear with hair all over his paws".

In April 2006, Jim Martell, a sport hunter from the United States, shot a grolar near on Banks Island. Martell had paid $50,000, for an official license and a guide to hunt p . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 1782 | Comments: 2
Last by Edwin on Apr 06, 2012, 2:54am

This post has been written as a submission for a creative-type project found at

People were asked to address the question 'Is Sunshine Enough?' and at the urging of a friend I have decided to contribute.

Given that it was not strictly an 'essay' competition the narrative in this post is a little lacking. As I noted in a preface to the individuals who asked the question, I have decided to let the science speak for itself...

Is Sunshine Enough?

Is Sunshine Enough? Enough for what? Perhaps more importantly, for whom, and to what end? If we can accept that Sunshine is something that might make us tick we need to question why? And why again? Then why again, once more.

Having looked at the science, having asked why, I have to say that Sunshine is not enough. Warmth is what we need. Warmth is what makes each of us tick. Warmth is enough.

First we need to examine what we know about Sunshine, about the weathe . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 2730 | Comments: 0
But that can't be the case. Close your left eye. You can still see much of your left visual field, and you'd certainly smell any food placed under your nose. And what dog is one to walk away without finishing their food?

In fact, Barley is displaying signs of hemispatial neglect, a strange condition in which brain damage, despite normal vision, results in complete neglect of the left side of one's world. Barley had, in fact, suffered a stroke.

Hemispatial neglect most commonly occurs after injury to the right parietal lobe like, in Barley's case, stroke.

It is not as common with left parietal lobe damage—it is thought that the right hemisphere of the brain is generally more specialized for spatial memory, while the left side is better tuned for language.

The left side of a person's world is ignored, then—damage to the right side of the brain reduces the amount of neural activity that crosses over the left via the large fiber tract connecting the two halves, called the corpus collosum (right).

A number of strange symptoms can arise in a person suffering from hemispatia . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 1463 | Comments: 0
Apologies for the cheesy blog title. My brain for the past two weeks has been a whirlwind of—well, brains. I'm in a fairly intense five-week neuroanatomy class and my neurons have been abuzz with images of brain slice after brain slice—so much that transverse sections of the brainstem were beginning to resemble a pug's face. The wrinkly cerebellum was the forehead, and the pons stained darkly resembled the snout. But I digress.

Hallucinating said "pug," combined with me missing my 11-year old greyhound and best friend Patrick (above) back home and my upcoming orientation at the Harrisburg Humane Society (so excited!) prompted me to find out: what is it about pets that, simply put, makes us feel good?

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Author: Cynthia McKelvey | Views: 3648 | Comments: 0
The primary visual cortex (V1) highlighted in yellow. The bottom view is from a mid-section of the brain, the top view is from the outside. In both views, your eyes would be on the left. Source. . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 671 | Comments: 0

Sorry. Had to get that out.

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Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 7695 | Comments: 0
Last Friday I was watching 20/20 with my fiancee. Shows like 20/20 or Dateline are usually about some unsolved murder mystery that is just creepy, but TV offerings on Friday evening are slim pickings so we gave this one a shot. This episode by Chris Cuomo (son of former NYS Governor Mario Cuomo and brother of current NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo) dealt with the unexpected consequences of facilitated communication- a technique used to give autistic people a chance to communicate when they're unable to audibly. Of course it is mostly garbage, but we'll get to that.

The idea is that autisic people can't speak- at least not audibly. But give them a keyboard and they can type out ideas- in fact very well put together ideas. Most times they still need help to type, so a facilitator literally holds their hand, or wrist or arm, and helps them guide their finger to the key they're looking for. That's right, someone else "helps" autistic people type what they're trying to say.

It sounds almost miraculous. People who were previously thought to be uncommunicative all of the sudden can create thoughts and sentanc . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 605 | Comments: 0
Apparently some of the French have decided that restaurant menus should note when items have been prepared from frozen, processed and canned goods versus fresh. A very interesting, and curious concept. I'm pretty sure if something similar were proposed in the US, chain restaurants would be up in arms as so very little of their products are prepared fresh and on site. This is to keep costs down and maintain equivalent quality. But there are also very good preserved foods that come out of jars (and some cans) - sardines and olives for example. For the non-Francophones in the audience, a translation can be found here.

If you haven't heard, the FDA decided first to not regulate antibiotics use in the meat packing industry. They then reversed their position and decided to regulate an entirely small group of antibiotics used in animal agriculture. M . . . More
Author: Psycasm | Views: 11943 | Comments: 2
Last by JaySeeDub on Jan 09, 2012, 10:51am
I've been thinking about the phenomenon of Earworms lately... If you're not familiar with the term it does not refer to an exotic and horrifying parasite. It's actually a word used to describe the (personally annoying) situation where a song gets stuck in your head.

The most recent example of this, for me, was after listening to a Radiolab episode and hearing a skipping-tune about a stunt pilot who died.

// The tune itself comes on after about one minute of intro... it lasts only 10 seconds and consists of the following:

Lincoln Beachey thought it was a dream

To go up to heaven in a flying machine

The machine broke down

And down he fell

He thought he'd go to heaven, but he went to...

Repeat. Ad Nauseum.

It's short, simple and designed to be repeated. My person experience with Earworms is that the often conform to these characteristics... and in the instances when they do not I tend to extract a simple element from a more complex piece and end up repeating it. For instance I was at the theatre last night (oh yes, how cultured I am) watching Mary Poppins and . . . More
Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 5776 | Comments: 2
Last by Jordan Gaines on Jan 09, 2012, 4:47pm
If you're within the 32% of Americans that made a resolution for 2012, chances are you're still going strong. Nearly a week in, you've been faced with the temptation, the test of willpower, and likely some teasing from loved ones. And you've only got 360 days left to call your resolution a success? Easy as pie...
Experimentally (and in real life), our species has consistently demonstrated unbridled optimism in the face of adversity. We've failed for the past 20 years'-worth of New Years resolutions—but no, 2012 will definitely be the year we lose weight. Plus, we're all going to quit the jobs we despise and find a better-paying, less stressful, more rewarding job. AND win the lottery (brilliant—we'll never have to go back to work in the first place!). A study by Tali Sharot and colleagues from New York University explored exactly why we can retain this buoyancy, thanks to insights in brain imaging.
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Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 32038 | Comments: 6
Last by JaySeeDub on Jan 09, 2012, 8:44pm
Food labeling is complicated. And confusing. For one thing, there is a lot of information on there, from calorie count to ingredients to calories per gram of fat. You almost need a science degree to start to understand it. Serving size, for example, isn’t helpful. On a bag of Doritos you’ll see that the serving size is 1oz (28g), and that there are about 9 servings in a bag. Now I have a kitchen scale. I advocate the use of a kitchen scale in cooking. But I, for one, am not going to pull out the scale when I want some chips to watch the Niners in week 2 of the NFL Playoffs. I don’t sit at home on a Saturday after the Costco run measuring out individual servings of pistachios and chips and peanuts and pretzels. I have other things to do. And yes, the new labels do approximate how many Doritos make up a serving, about 12, but I’m still not going to sit there and count out 12 chips per person per serving. Friends and family will think I finally fell off the deep end and have me committed.

But one of the big puzzles about the nutritional information is how it is calculated. Calories can be done quickly. Throw the items into a bomb calorimeter and burn them. Measure the increase in temperature and calculate the kJ of energy. Then convert those kJ to kcal. 4.184kJ = . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 674 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Jan 04, 2012, 1:08pm
The jars of the stuff are everywhere. Glass jars with thick, white sauce. Alfredo with garlic. Alfredo with mushroom. Alfredo with four cheese. Alfredo with red peppers. Sun dried tomatoes. The list goes on and on. And the way we eat them is no different. One of my younger cousins will only eat pasta alfredo if there's chicken and garlic. A simple bowl of homemade pasta with white sauce? Nope. It won't be consumed by her.

The classic "Alfredo" isn't really alfredo sauce. It's a style of dressing pasta. It's just butter and cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. If you do a Google search for "alfredo recipe," you'll come up with a lot more complicated recipes. You'll also notice a common theme in those recipes - cream. In the jarred sauces and many "alfredo sauce" recipes, cream is used as both an emulsifier and a thinning agent. The fats in cream can give a weak sauce a lot of the thick, rich, luxurious mouth f . . . More
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 1094 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Jan 03, 2012, 7:54am
With 2012 officially here we're all making resolutions. I've pledged to eat breakfest out less (bagel and cream cheese is so good!) and to blog at least once a month (sorry I've been scarce!) I think now is also a great time to make some New Year's Resolutions for the lab too. Here's what I have planned, if you have some more in mind leave them in the comments!


Safety First! With the recent news out of UCLA bringing up the tradgedy a few years ago, safety is on my mind again. We had an accident a few months back in our lab too- luckily nothing nearly as bad- so it can happen to anyone. I'm taking this time to reaffrim my policy of safety goggles and gloves any time I'm in any lab or clean room. In addition, any time I'm in a wet lab I'll wear my lab coat. It doesn't matter how quick I'll be in and out, or how trivial something is, you never know when something can go wrong, and unforunately you never know what someone else in the lab is doing, or how safe they are. I also want to be more proactive and ask everyone else around me to wear the same PPE so hopefully they get in the habit too. Finally, whenever I'm doing science outreach I want to make sure I'm setting a good example to the kids, no matter how not dangerous the demonstration might be.

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Author: Jordan Gaines | Views: 2269 | Comments: 4
Last by jimbot on Dec 28, 2011, 4:44pm
Gift-giving isn't easy—particularly during the holidays, when there are so many different people for whom to buy. It's overwhelming and stressful, and people cope with the burden in different ways. Some, like myself, begin lists in September, all the while picking up hints from others and taking note, then making my purchases before Thanksgiving. Others rush to the mall the weekend before—or of—Christmas, hoping something will catch their eye or they'll snag a great deal.

At one point or another, we've all been on the receiving end of a poor or ill-fitting gift. How did you react to it? Or, more importantly, what did it mean to you in terms of your relationship with the giver? A study in recent years has explored exactly how men and women react upon receiving good and bad gifts.

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