October 2011 Archives

Extrasensory Perception


We have all watched those corny movies with aliens or humans possessing the power of ESP. Does it exist? That's for you to decide. I came across an interesting article on Discovery Health and decided to read on. Is it possible for twins to feel each others pain? People who believe in this paranormal activity would call this scenario extrasensory perception (ESP), or perception beyond the five senses. Is there evidence of ESP locked away in our brain? "ESP" was first coined by parapsychologist, Joseph Banks Rhine. It is composed of three major manifestations: the ability to read minds, ability to predict the future, and knowledge or a remote person or object. Rhine conducted studies at Duke University where students were able to predict symbols on cards they couldn't see with accuracy. He was convinced that this proved ESP's existence. However, many scientists and skeptics have had a hard time replicating the same results in their experiments which leads to the idea of experimental design flaws in Rhine's work. Trying to convince the scientific community is difficult but 3 out of 4 Americans believe in at least one paranormal belief. Princeton University's Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) conducted experiments in which subjects tried to use their minds to influence machines. Over 27 years of conducting these experiments, the observed effects were very small. They claim that mind power can influence technology, but only very slightly.
If there is a part of the brain associated with ESP, what part would it be? Parapsychologists believe that the right hemisphere is the area most associated with psychic abilities. This may be due to the fact that most tests are visual, and the right hemisphere stores nonverbal information. In 2008 a group of Harvard graduates students tested for the existence of ESP while monitoring brain activity. In the test each participant was placed in a MRI scanner and shown two photographs, while at the same time the participant's friend or family member were shown one of the photos in another room and asked to "send" that image to the participant. The participant had to choose which of the 2 photos were "sent" to them. Results published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience explained that the participant's brain would have responded differently to ESP and non-EPS stimuli. Participants didn't act differently, which resulted in no evidence of ESP existing among the participants. Still believe in ESP? If so, what am I thinking of right now? ;)

Zeta Inhibitory Peptide

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I was watching a clip on the discovery channel and was interested in learning about the drug, zeta inhibitory peptide and its relation to memory. A medical center in New York performed a study where they put lab rats in a chamber. Whenever the rats ran into a certain are in the electric chamber, they received a shock. Due to negative feedback they learned to stay away from this area. Then the researchers injected zeta inhibitory peptide (ZIP) directly into the rats brains. The effect of this drug made the rats forget what they learned which resulted in them running into the shock zone all over again. These results are important in demonstrating how memory works. This research helped to demonstrate what the molecular mechanism for storing information. The protein responsible is protein kinase m zeta. This protein can interact chemically to activate other proteins similar to it and form clusters. ZIP breaks these clusters of kinase m zeta which causes them to go away from the synapses which are clustered to store information. This is specifically targeting long-term memory but there is no specificity to which memories. This research is applicable to humans because people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder suffer from painful memories. By understanding how memories are formed, researchers will be able to produce different types of therapies to influence those mechanisms.

Video: http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/how-ongoing-stress-affect-memory


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Recently I read a paper which mentioned the disorder epilepsy; I was not too familiar with this condition so I decided to do a little research. It is estimated that 1.4-2.7 million people in the U.S. are currently suffering from this disorder. It especially affects the very young and the elderly. So what exactly is epilepsy? Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes the brain to produce sudden bursts of electrical energy. For the brain to function, there needs to be a balance between increased activity (excitation) and restraint (inhibition). When this balance is changed, a seizure may result (epilepsyadvocate.com).
Epilepsy occurs when there is significant and permanent changes in brain tissue which causes the brain to be too easily excitable. This then causes the brain to send out abnormal signals, which result in repeated, unpredictable seizures. Common causes of epilepsy includes: stroke, dementia, brain tumor, brain injury near birth, and several other causes. However, it can also be inherited. Symptoms vary from person to person but can include violent shaking and loss of alertness. Treatment for epilepsy can include medication or surgery. When medication does not help with the side effects of epilepsy after two or three anti-seizure drugs it is called "medically refractory epilepsy" (PubMed). Some surgical procedures include, removing abnormal brain cells or replacing a vagus nerve stimulator (similar to a heart pacemaker),and has helped to reduce the number seizures a person may experience. Today, there is a large quantity of research being executed. Studies are looking at: early age development of epilepsy, possible trigger points of epilepsy, drug development, and much more.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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