Author Archive

Gene Screens for PTSD

April 22, 2012 2 comments

I read an article in Psychology Today, and was especially interested in it as it relates to my final project. The article is about a study done (the first to ever be published, in the Journal of Affective Disorders) regarding the influence of genes in PTSD. The study was done by a team of scientists from both UCLA and Duke, and their findings were that certain genes can heighten the risk, or create a greater predisposition, to getting PTSD.

But that was it. After that, I had practically no information on the conductors of the study, or really what they even found or did. So I did a little more research, and found a much more comprehensive article on It explained who the researchers were, and more importantly (to me at least) what the genes affecting PTSD were about: they are called TPH1 and TPH2, and control serotonin production (a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates mood, sleep and alertness).

So, despite from being an interesting scientific find (that is very, VERY far from being applied in the real world), I learned a little bit about questioning what you read, and doing a bit more research sometimes to find what you are really looking for.

What do you think? If you compared the two articles, what did you think the differences/similarities were? Or, if you don’t want to do that, what do you think of this study in more scientific terms – do you think it’s reliable? Useful? Is it something that should continued to be explored?

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Interacting with Online Communities

April 11, 2012 4 comments

Professor Myers recently suggested to our class that we focus more on discussing articles that pertain to our projects, and one of the scholarly articles I have read has really interested me. It’s called, “Online We are All Able Bodied: Online Psychological Sense of Community and Social Support Found Through Membership of Disability-specific Websites Promotes Well-being for People Living with a Physical Disability” by Patricia Obst and Jana Stafurik, from the Queensland University of Technology.

The article discusses, and references a lot of other studies, how physically disabled individuals who partake in an online community are able to connect with others similar to them, reducing their isolation, increasing their social network, and creating a greater sense of well-being. The title of the study sums it up really well – online, on the Internet, we are all able-bodied. Furthermore, online, we are able to easily put on a cloak of invisibility (had to make an HP reference) which many people like to ‘wear’ in an online enviornment.

I was wondering, do any of you interact with online communities? And, although most of us aren’t physically disabled, I think the same claims still stand: communicating with people online CAN reduce our feeling of social isolation, and is a much easier forum (I think at least) to talk to people without worrying about a lot of the possible superficial things that come up with communicating in person.

Do you agree? What are the benefits/disadvantages to partaking in an online community? Do you?

If you want the PDF, you can email me at 🙂

It’s a really interesting (and short) study!

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Photography and God in Science

March 28, 2012 4 comments


Originally, my post on here was going to be about an article I read on Mail Online, regarding a photograph taken by the European Observatory’s Vista telescope in Chile. There are more than 200,000 galaxies in the photograph, and it took 55 hours of exposure, five different colored filters, and over 6,000 separate exposures to create the picture. And it’s really a beautiful photo. Furthermore, it shows how advanced technologies are and it brings science to life.

My post, clearly, still is on this photograph, but I am not going where I intended to go. I wanted, at first, to talk about technology’s advancement and photography, but then I read the comments on the article. The first comment says this, “Alone? Insignificant? Feel so small? Call God through His Son Jesus Christ and you will never feel alone, insignificant or small every again.” The comment got a significant amount of backlash, with people arguing that God and Jesus have no place in science. This brought up many questions for me.

Firstly, I was thinking about what is the role of comments in blogging? Does it serve a purpose to comment things like the above?

Secondly, and this question may be too daunting to even discuss: what is the role of God in science? Does God, whether or not you believe, have a place when discussing science? Should God/religion and science be completely separate entities? Is that even possible?

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Are We Lonely When We’re Alone?

March 20, 2012 8 comments

I come from a family of introverts. That means that I know that just because one is introverted doesn’t necessarily mean that they are shy or lonely. It does, however, mean that many members of my family like to spend time alone – something that I understand very well. I like to read articles on the topic of loneliness because I often wonder if being alone means that we are lonely, even if we don’t know it. I found an interesting article recently written by one of the website’s contributors, Katharine Gammon. She reported on one John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago social psychologist who studies the biological effects of loneliness. I thought this article was well written, succinct, and informative.

Overall, Cacioppo has correlated loneliness with higher blood pressure, body inflammation, and problems regarding learning and memory. He specifically studied how loneliness affects the immune system: Cacioppo and his team studied the kinds of genes in lonely people and how they fluctuated over time. It became apparent that the genes of lonely people became inflamed over time, meaning that a lonely person’s body has let its defenses down to viral threats.

This means that our immune systems, when lonely, have to make a decision between fighting those viral threats and fighting bacterial threats. Lonely people see the world as a negative place – threatening them – therefore causing their bodies to protect against bacterial threats. If a lonely person’s body is mostly focusing on bacterial threats, that means that their body is essentially ignoring the viral threats, which can be serious illnesses such as different cancers.

The rest of the article is extremely interesting and I suggest you read it, because it discusses more biological effects of being lonely. I was skeptical at the beginning because the term “loneliness” itself was not explicitly discussed, but it was at the end – which actually made the article more interesting because, while reading it, I was forming my own definition of what loneliness is. What do you define loneliness as? What do you think of the rest of the article? Are people really lonely if they spend a lot of time alone?

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So Stressed Out

February 22, 2012 5 comments

I found an article about a topic I am sure we can all relate to: stress. I’m stressed because I just got a C on my bio test, which leads me to stress more about the next one, which means I will stress about taking good notes in class, which means I will stress about getting to class on time…and the list goes on like that. Stress is a problem for me because it unravels itself, so when I’m stressed about one thing, I am going to start being stressed about EVERYTHING. When I read an article that showed some recent statistics on the Polaris Marketing Research website, I found it interesting and wanted to share. 42% of people from ages 18-34 say they are ‘very stressed.’ 42% of people aged 18-34 also reported being more stressed this year than last year.

This got me thinking about stress – what causes it, how it manifests itself, and what we can do to prevent (or at least find the best way to cope with) stress. One of the main sources of stress for me is work. We have so much, all the time, and it feels like it never will end. I am well on my way to fully understanding just how privileged we are to go to a top university like GW, and get an education that most people won’t be able to say they received. But one component of the education debate is about homework: why do students get so much? Do we benefit from spending hours and hours each night in Gelman? Staying up doing work until 12 or 1 each night can put students into sleep debt (which we can’t make up by sleeping more later), which causes us even more stress. This isn’t only at the college level – Kindergarten-aged students have recently begun getting homework as well. Who should be getting homework? It makes sense that people from 18-34 are most stressed, and we can all relate to that especially since we are in that range as students.

So what do you do to lessen your stress about school/work? Do you stress too much? What do you stress about? Is it possible to alleviate our stress (which all of our professors encourage us to do) while we continuously get so much work? At what point does homework stop being helpful to our understanding of the material, and just become tedious?

Have a good night! 🙂

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WebMD Told Me I Have Cancer

February 13, 2012 9 comments

Hi! This is my first blog post, so I wanted to draw from personal experience to elaborate on an interesting article published last May in Psychology Today magazine. It was featured on the PT website today, and I found that very ironic considering my “near death” experience that I “had” this weekend.

Admittedly, I can be a bit of a drama queen. So this weekend, when I had a stomachache that was slightly more painful than the average ailment, I immediately thought I was having an ulcer. I called my mom and told her that I was unsure I would finish this semester alive because this ulcer would kill me. She responded, “You probably just have to go to the bathroom.” And that was the end of the conversation.

My first reaction was anger at her belittlement of my life-threatening situation. I was seriously having an ulcer…right? I went on WebMD to use their Symptom Checker, and that told me I could have anything from a common cold to pancreatic cancer. Today when I was browsing through Psychology Today, I saw the article entitled “The Dangers of Self-Diagnosis” by Dr. Srini Pillay, author of four medical books. Reading through it, I realized that I was the victim of every component of his argument. I felt like was talking to me. I, like most people (I hope), assumed I could “surmise what is going on with themselves may miss the nuances of diagnosis.” Basically, having an ulcer could be a diagnosis for my stomachache, but it is not the only option. He goes on to write that, even though we like to think that we know ourselves better than anyone else does, we always “need a mirror to see ourselves more clearly.” I was clouded by the illusion of having a serious illness, and my mom was able to show me that I most likely was not having an ulcer. Lastly, Dr. Pillay writes that, “Another danger of self-diagnosis is that you may think that there is more wrong with you than there actually is.” In my particular case, this is also true.

Here is where it gets interesting. Two years ago, my mom was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Since her diagnosis, she has been telling absolutely everyone that complains of a sleep issue that they have sleep apnea. A lot of the people that she diagnoses, however, have turned out to have sleep apnea (including my grandfather). While this is not technically “self-diagnosis,” my mom is not a doctor and can only hypothesize as to whether someone really has sleep apnea or not.

What do you think? Are you a victim of self-diagnosis? Can we diagnosis our friends and family? Should people always go see a doctor when they think something is wrong with them? What do you think about people using website to help self-diagnose?

Have a good night! 🙂

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