golo0029: October 2011 Archives

Alzheimers

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In psychology lecture we have been discussing memory. Memory is something we typically take for granted. Yet, it is possible to lose our memory. An example of a man that tragically lost his memory is Clive Wearing. Clive suffers from both anterograde and retrograde amnesia. As his wife says, he lives in the moment.

His case is very unfortunate. However, we have learned quite a deal from his case. (You can see Clive Wearing interacting with his wife in the link to the video below.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwigmktix2Y

Even though Clive's condition is relatively uncommon, memory problems afflict numerous people. For instance, Alzheimers condition is relatively widespread effecting approximately 4.5 million Americans today. In 2050 this number is expected to increase to a total of 16 million Americans. Alzheimers leads not only to "personal losses" and hardship, but provides economic hardship as well. Caring for people suffering from Alzheimers in the United States alone costs around $100 billion a year. Therefore, finding the cure/treatment to this disease will not only provide relief to those afflicted with this disease and their loved ones, but it could also eliminate a major financial burden.

After learning this, I decided to research what the University of Minnesota is doing to prevent this devastating condition. I learned that the University has a research lab led by Karen Hsia Ashe who has had made important discoveries in Alzheimers research. For example, in 1996 her lab was the birthplace of a transgenic mouse that mimicked the early stages of the disease. This mouse had both memory loss and amyloid-beta plaques , one of the hallmarks of the disease, and is now the most widely used mouse for Alzheimers research in the world.

Hopefully the research here at the University of Minnesota and around the world will help mankind tackle this terrible disease. I have seen a family member suffer from Alzheimers and hope this disease will be cured in the future. However, for now, we should learn that memories are never guranteed and that we should not take this amazing phenomenon for granted.

Why do we sleep?

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Title: Why do we sleep?

The biology of sleep is a fascinating subject. The author of the text starts the discussion of sleep with a fact stating that humans spend as much as 1/3 of their lives sleeping. As we determined in our last discussion section, unfortunately, many college students are deprived of this mysterious, yet wonderful phenomenon. However, do we really understand the long term effects of sleep deprivation? What is the significance of sleep?

We know short term effects include drowsiness, trouble concentrating, and a possibility of increased vulnerability to irritation and frustration. However, are there long term consequences? In the text it states different ideas as to why sleep is so critical. It may be for memory consolidation, important for the immune system, or merely a conservation of energy. Yet, if the purpose of sleep is to help with a basic biological function, why do we dream?

Probably one of the most mysterious yet intriguing topics is dreaming. Why do we remember some and forget others? Do they have meaning in our everyday conscious lives? Is it possible to control our dreams? Or make conclusions from them?

So far, it doesn't seem that any type of dream analysis is commonly accepted by the scientific community. Yet, there is research on dreaming. Research is being more accessible because of technology such as EEG and fMRIs. We are able to determine the electrical activity in the brain and see differences in brain waves. It has been determined that the area of the brain most active during dreaming is also the area that controls emotion. (There are still other areas of the brain associated with dreaming.) Yet, even with today's technology we have much to discover. However, the good news is that today people are less likely to make conclusions similar to ancient societies in which dreams were viewed as prophetic messages.

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