By: Sadie Steffens, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
Source: PDPics (Pixabay)
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way.
Second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death, many of us have friends or loved ones who have suffered from cancer. News reports with big claims about novel cancer treatments give us hope, and we have a strong desire to eradicate the disease. We want to believe that a cure is imminent, possibly even in our own lifetime.
Although we don’t discuss it much as a society, cancer affects more than our emotions. We are all paying the financial costs of cancer, costs that are escalating so quickly that they will soon be unsustainable. I’m talking about the cost of cancer drugs.
By: Lina Jamis, 2nd year student in the Anatomy Graduate Program
A virtual reality headset. Source: Maurizio Pesce (Flickr)
The promise of virtual reality has always been an enticing one—slip on this headset and escape to a new place, without ever stepping foot outside of the room.
It’s an experience so unusual, and yet so familiar, as it hijacks our own senses to provide the qualities we might find in reality, but within the confines of the mind. Not only can virtual reality (VR) serve as a powerful medium for gaming and storytelling, but it may ultimately give us further insight into sensorimotor neuroscience and how to use this knowledge to create visually convincing worlds.
Why is tanning dangerous? How does color perception differ between men and women? How do our brains filter out unimportant information, like the sound of the air conditioner whirring?
These are just a few of our students’ most recent posts that inspired this year’s award theme. In celebration of the blog’s 2nd birthday (today!), we’re thrilled to announce the 2nd Annual Lions Talk Science Blog Award.
This year’s theme is: how science impacts our daily lives.
- Your blog post must adhere to the theme. Your topic does not need to be related to your own research.
- The target audience for your blog should be the local Hershey community; assume a high school education or less, and keep the piece a reasonable length (400-600 words).
- Submissions are due on Monday, May 18. Please e-mail your entries in Word format to Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu with the subject line “Blog Award Submission.” If you have not previously submitted to the blog, please also include an image of yourself and a short bio for our Contributors page.
Prizes and certificates will be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners in the amount of $50, $25, or $10 to the Penn State bookstore or Starbucks (your choice).
Our panel of judges includes:
- Dr. Michael Verderame, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies
- Dr. Kirsteen Browning, Associate Professor of Neural and Behavioral Sciences
- Kathy Simon, Director of Graduate Student Affairs
- Kristin Smith, Director of Admissions, Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
- Jordan Gaines Lewis, Lions Talk Science Editor-in-Chief
Please contact Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu with any questions. Note: at this time, the contest is only open to Penn State College of Medicine graduate students. Whether you’ve written for us in the past or just discovered our blog, we welcome all students to consider submitting!
By: Ross Keller, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
Do you use tanning beds? Image: Gerlach (Pixabay)
Summer will be here soon, and after being stuck inside all winter, it will be welcomed with open arms.
But as we plan trips to beaches and lakes around the country, a lot of us (including myself) will look at our pale arms and legs and think of ways to get that bronze glow to go along with the summer sun.
Millions of people will soon be soaking up the sun’s rays or purchasing a tanning membership in an effort to achieve a sun-kissed look, but take heed: there is one big reason to rethink lying in the sun or under the lamps of a tanning bed.
There are misconceptions that one way of tanning is less damaging than the other—some circles claim natural sunlight is good for your skin, while others believe the artificial lights of the tanning beds are actually better than sunlight.
In reality, both are dangerous, and the danger lies in the increased risk of developing skin cancer.
By: Andrew Huhn, 4th year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program
Image: Adam from UK (Wikimedia Commons)
Americans are abusing prescription painkillers at an alarming rate.
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid analgesics – that’s enough for every adult in the U.S. to have their own bottle of pills, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Opioid analgesics are a class of drug that includes Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin; it’s quite likely that you or a family member has been prescribed one of these after having surgery.
In addition to providing pain relief, opioid analgesics also activate the brain’s reward system, making it easy to become addicted. Given their similar mechanism of action, prescription opioid use can lead to heroin use. After all, heroin has become significantly less expensive and doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription.
While the current heroin boom is getting a lot of press, prescription opiate addiction gets little attention even though it leads to more overdose deaths per year than heroin and cocaine combined.
But can you fix an addiction to pills…with a pill?
By: Sadie Steffens, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
Luke Jones (Flickr)
The paint color in our master bathroom has been a source of debate since we bought our house. While I am certain that the color is firmly in the purple part of the spectrum, my husband insists that the paint is blue. Period.
Visiting friends have often been asked to weigh in on this debate, and the outcome is fascinatingly similar every time. When asking couples to cast their votes, men instantly declare the color to be blue. Women, on the other hand, typically pause before suggesting something like “periwinkle” or “lavender blue.”
This phenomenon has been played out between men and women time and time again—from selecting clothing to disagreeing at the paint store about whether one hue of blue looks more purple than another. Although you may be tempted to write off this difference as a consequence of cultural conditioning, the true root is physiological.
Everybody in this post has something in common.
After 12 years of primary and secondary school and 4 years of undergraduate education, we all decided that we weren’t done yet.
But why? As it turns out, the graduate students of Penn State College of Medicine have very diverse, inspirational reasons for choosing to continue their education and biomedical research careers. Take a look:
By: Jordan Gaines Lewis, 4th year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program
Gamblers beware. Nadavspi (Wikimedia Commons)
My brief experience in a casino was pretty typical, I’d say.
Flashing lights. The faint smell of booze. Not much chatter among patrons. The sounds of dice rolling, machines buzzing, and coins clanking. The same butts inhabiting the same stools for hours on end. Everything you see on TV or in the movies is fairly accurate, to my untrained eye.
But one thing I didn’t notice in either the movies or real life, likely due in part to the gaudy décor, was the abundance of defibrillators lining the walls.
While nearly as common as water fountains and restrooms in public spaces like schools, malls, and airports, automated external defibrillators (AEDs) have more recently taken up residence in a place that probably needs it most of all: the casino.
By: Caitlin Millett, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program
Image credit: CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay
Humans are highly social creatures. Our brains have evolved to allow us to survive and thrive in complex social environments. Accordingly, the behaviors and emotions that help us navigate our social sphere are entrenched in networks of neurons within our brains.
Social motivations, such as the desire to be a member of a group or to compete with others, are among the most basic human drives. In fact, our brains are able to assess “in-group” (us) and “out-group” (them) membership within a fraction of a second. This ability, once necessary for our survival, has largely become a detriment to society.
Understanding the neural network controlling these impulses, and those that temper them, may shed light on how to resolve social injustices that plague our world.
By: Daniel Hass, 2nd year PhD candidate in the Neuroscience Graduate Program
Can you pay attention to the movie, or do you just hear people chomping on popcorn? Image credit: hashi photo (Wikimedia Commons)
At any given moment, we are constantly bombarded by signals from at least four of the five senses.
The visual system is constantly processing our surroundings. The auditory system is stimulated by all of the many miniscule sounds that compose our environment. We’re taking in all the smells around us at any given moment, and we’re constantly feeling the clothes on our skin. Even within one sensory system, there is an enormous amount of data that gets processed.
With this onslaught of input, how do we manage to not go completely insane? The key is that we pay attention to only a small proportion of that information and throw much of it away. This process is known as selective filtering or selective attention, and most people do it all the time. Image watching a movie at a theater; if you’re quite focused on the film, you’re probably not noticing the sound of squeaking seats, crunchy popcorn, or even the air conditioning whirring through the vents.
Although there are several regions of the brain involved in each sensation, the part of the brain involved in selective filtering is where all of these senses intersect.