vikxx029: October 2011 Archives

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Upon searching the web for an interesting topic to write this blog about, I found a humorous parody of the song "Memory" from the well known musical, "Cats." This video features a talented cabaret singer, Pam Peterson, as she spoofs on the slightly comical challenges of growing old. The song focuses on Pam's "senior moments" as she refers to them. Although the video's main purpose is to entertain the audience, the video contains a few scientific truths that deal with the aging brain.
The most repeated challenge that Pam depicts is the difficulty with remembering things. For example she sings phrases like , "What did I walk in this room for? What was that man's name? What was the question?" These are all common questions asked by the typical aging adult. As we discussed in class (also supported in a mental health article), the aging brain experiences several changes. The change most associated with memory loss is the weakening of the hippocampus. This creates a problem in both the retrieval and formation of memories because the hippocampus plays such a crucial role in directing information from the short-term memory to the long term. Without the hippocampus at full strength, memories can essentially be erased or tossed out. Pam continues in the song to sing, "I remember the old days. I was sharper back then." Very true when considering the science of the deteriorating hippocampus!
Not only does the hippocampus play a role in the aging memory, but other factors do as well. These factors include a decreased level of certain proteins and nutrients in the brain responsible for brain cell stimulation/survival and decreased blood flow throughout the brain. Unfortunately, once these processes begin, they are pretty much irreversible. So when Pam pleads, "If I eat fish and do crosswords everyday, will he brain cells grow back again?," the answer is an unfortunate no.
However, there is good news for those experiencing some of the misfortunes of aging. Although, different aspects of both short and long-term memory may not be as sharp as they once were, aging contributes to both an increased semantic memory and an increased procedural memory!

In discussion this past week, we talked about the phenomenon of sleep in human beings and to what extent our bodies need the correct amount of sleep. In our class, each individual was given a sleep deprivation assessment and it was discovered that a vast majority of us were indeed sleep deprived.
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This is no surprise as many articles give undeniable statistics about the increased sleep deprivation of college students (Ex. Sleepless at Sanford.) In fact, many people suffer from sleep deprivation either with a medical cause or without one. However, after stumbling upon an ABC news broadcast entitled "Medical Mystery: Sleeping Beauty Syndrome," I was reminded that sleep disorders don't only occur due to lack of sleep but also due to an overload of sleep as well.
The video depicts the extremely rare and unbelievable case of Kleine-Levin Syndrome. This disorder can be referred to as "Sleeping Beauty Disorder" because the patients it affects are forced into a deep sleep for many hours at a time-as much as 22! The neurological disorder arises from the body's inability to meet basic needs. In the case of this disorder, the basic necessity is sleep. The ABC video follows a girl who has been suffering from Kleine-Levin Syndrome for four of the twelve years of her life. For the past year, she has been asleep almost consistently getting up for only a few hours at a time. In those few hours she is lethargic and confused. As one can imagine, dealing with this syndrome has been both hard on her and hard on her parents. In fact, the ABC staff refers to the family's home as "silent" and "like a coffin". The video gives an interesting perspective on ways in which scientists are working in order to find a cure for this heart-breaking disaster. Check it out!

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