November 2011 Archives

Food coma?

Tryptophan.
Everyone knows that you get sleepy after you eat a thanksgiving dinner. But why? Is it because of the high levels of typrophan, an amino acid used in other cases as a sleep inducer? No. The levels of tryptophan are too low in the thanksgiving turkey in order to produce a coma-like state that we are all so fond of after our meal on the important thursday of November, according to a Los Angeles TImes Article. In face, they claim that eating a turkey would put more tryptophan in your system and that the real reason for the sleepy state is the overload in carbohydrates.

In the video, they state that on average, a person consumers more calories in one thanksgiving meal than they would normal consume over an entire day. I find this statement very interesting, but when I think about it, I believe it to be true. I guess I will definitely have to be aware when I drive 2 and a half hours after dinner tomorrow.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/11/thanksgiving-busting-the-tryptophan-myth-wide-open.html

22q13

22q13, or the Phelan-McDermid syndrome, is a deletion syndrome that results in a lag in developmental behavior. My cousin has this deletion. It is a new deletion that has only been found due to a advancement in technology, particularly Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Until now it has been diagnosed as basic autism seeing as individuals who have this deletion suffer from a lack of eye contact and some social communication deficiencies. However other symptoms such as habitual chewing and certain body and facial features have allowed doctors to be able to diagnose more and more individuals correctly, but many still require multiple DNA inspections in order to find the problem.

Most of these things I already knew. What I did not know is that many of the 22q13 deletion patients suffer from lack of perspiration and that, for some reason, these children are prone to ear infections. I also did not know (seeing as my cousin Kit is the only person I know with 22q13) that many of Kit's features are a result of this deletion. For example, his gorgeously-long eyelashes and large hands. I also did not know that there is varying degrees. I figured that with a deletion of a chromosome, the individuals would express the same basic symptoms at about the same levels. However, this is not true and some are much more advanced and communicate more than others.

Lots of research still needs to be done to determine the cause, whether genetic or environmental, and perhaps ways to implement early developmental programs to encourage an increase in communication and coordination. It is known, though, that a unbalanced translocation on the 22 genes or the parents lead to an increased chance of 22q13 developing in their children.

http://www.orpha.net/data/patho/GB/uk-22q13.pdf

Adult Neurogenesis

When we are fetuses, are huge number of neurons are produced. They then migrate, differentiate, and some die. Up until recently scientists thought that the neurons that we were born with were the only ones that we would ever get. However, new evidence shows that this is not the case. In fact, thousands of new cells are produced in the hippocampus daily, but they soon die. Since the hippocampus is related to learning and memory, it is safe to assume that these neurons are produced as a result of learning or memorizing something. Studies on mice show that this is the case. The mice that had learned more retained more of their neurons.

They also found that exercise had a factor in whether or not the new neurons survived. The scientists researched further and found that a mood-elevating chemical that is present during physical activity, beta-endorphin, could be the reason for this. Mice who were allowed to exercise kept more of their hippocampal neurons, but mice who had beta-endorphin inhibited and were allowed to exercise did not show an increase in the retention of their neurons. It was also found that perhaps stress had the opposite affect, and decreased the chance that the new neurons would survive.

This is very big for the science community. If we can pinpoint this mechanism it can be used to treat retrograde brain diseases such as Alzheimers and stroke. Also, it poses the question of whether or not there are other areas of the brain that can possibly regenerate themselves, or could regenerate themselves with some help. Some say that there is muscle memory, I would like to know whether or not these new neurons have anything to do with that and if the new neurons were still located in the hippocampus or in the connections between the hippocampus and the motor cortex or other areas.

http://www.sfn.org/index.aspx?pagename=brainbriefings_adult_neurogenesis

The Amygdala Hijack

The Amygdala is the control center for our fight or flight responses. When we are in a dangerous situation our body releases adrenaline, shuts off our digestion, and heightens our senses. This response has been programed in the human brain for millennial. However, the prefrontal cortex, or the thinking part of our brain is at war with our amygdala.

The Amygdala Hijack is considered to happen in any situation when our emotions take over our intelligent thinking. This includes outbreaks of anger. In present society we are less likely to get frightened by a saber tooth tiger and more likely to get into a bar fight, or feel road rage. A threat to our ego and threat to our physical being is all the same to our amygdala. This happens because it sends out hormones that basically override our prefrontal cortex, which can happen is a second, and we act on instinct and not on rational thoughts. Often times when people look back on Amygdala hijacks they feel guilt and understand that their actions were often irrational.The second video notes that our amygdala narrows down the option so that only one seems like the rational one.

There are also articles that tell one how to train themselves in order to stop the complete over taking of the amygdala. I almost see that as something that you wouldn't want to do. Yes, the amygdala's actions aren't always adaptive for current situations, but people still run into bears, or other people with knives and not having that response could be dangerous. If you stop to think about what the problem is while someone is drowning you might not jump into the pool fast enough. Also, there has to be something in the brain that tells us road rage isn't a life or death situation or else there would be fights breaking out on the street everyday.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0VOgGPUtRI&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM3cXZ7CFls

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