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Following the Crowd

April 19, 2012 2 comments

Hey guys!

            I thought this was an interesting article worth sharing with you all. According to a study conducted by Daniel Haunn, a psychologist at the Max Planck Institutes for Evolutionary Anthropology and Psycholinguistics, chimps and toddlers are more susceptible to follow the crowd, while orangutans are not. In Haun’s study, he created a box with three colored holes and displayed a treat to the animals and toddlers when a ball was dropped in a certain hole. The toddlers and animals watched four other members of their species accurately interact with the box and were then given the opportunity to explore the box for themselves. Unlike the toddlers and chimpanzees, the orangutans generally acted individually and chose random holes instead of following the trend of their species, as well as the chimpanzees and toddlers. Dr. Haun states that this reason might be due to the high amount social interaction toddlers and chimpanzees experience compared to orangutans that grow up in more isolated environments with a smaller amount of their species members present.

            I found this article interesting because it prompted me to think about what other species follow the crowd, and why humans at such a young age are prone to follow the actions of other members of their species. Although they received a treat if they put their hand in the right hole, I still found it interesting that orangutans chose to place their hand in different holes. Maybe it is a matter of intellect, or general boredom, or maybe they chose not to follow the crowd because others had already done the same thing. I am not sure, but this article made me think about “peer repeating behavior” and why the orangutans did not copy it” (NYTimes). What do you think? Do you think other species are prone to follow the pack or follow their own instincts as opposed to the majority?

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/17/science/following-the-crowd-isnt-just-for-teenagers.html?_r=1&ref=science

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Blame it on the Medication

April 19, 2012 1 comment

Hey Guys!

According to this article, adults aged 65 or older take five or more medications daily and are the largest consumers of prescription medications. However, overprescribing to elderly patients is actually producing more harm that good. Since the elderly take so many medications and oftentimes have more than one doctor, most of the times drugs are mixed that are not supposed to be mixed and stronger drugs are taken. Because of the increase of fatal side effects and serious risks of overprescribing medication to the elderly, an updated research-based guideline has been created by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and outlines three major categories. These three major categories include: drugs to avoid in elderly citizens with certain diseases, drugs to use with caution in elderly patients, and drugs to avoid in general with elderly patients. The research team based these three categories on fifty-three drugs, such as Ativan, and supplied examples of supplemental drugs that could help reduce the patient’s symptoms without risk. These guidelines created by the American Geriatrics Society should be strongly followed but physicians and doctors can deviate from the guidelines if they believe another course of action has a higher chance for survival.

            This article ultimately chronicles the life of a ninty-three year old woman and here struggles with dementia, fainting spells, dizziness, and loss of memory due to an abundance of prescription medications. Instead of prescribing elderly patients with the strongest medication available, alternatives approaches should be considered, and a reduction on the amount of medications and the combinations of medications being taken are being enforced. People need to realize that medications are oftentimes the causes of their issues, not the solutions to their problems. What do you think? Do you think the elderly are prescribed to many meds? Do you think Doctors and patients are too lenient with the amount of meds they prescribe and are prescribed? Would you take that many medications and do you believe you will ultimately take that many medications when you reach the age of sixty-five or older?

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http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/too-many-pills-for-aging-patients/

 

 

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Confusing A.D.H.D. symptoms with Sleep Deprivation

April 19, 2012 1 comment

Hi all!

According to recent studies, attention problems such as A.D.H.D. or A.D.D. might be caused due to sleep-related issues rather than an attention deficiency (hyperactivity) disorder. In a recent study conducted by researchers reporting for the Journal Pediatrics, researchers followed 11,000 British children for six years and chronicled their sleeping habits from the ages of 6 months to 6 ½ years old. After six years, the researchers concluded “the children whose sleep was affected by breathing problems like snoring, mouth breathing or apnea were 40 percent to 100 percent more likely than normal breathers to develop behavioral problems resembling A.D.H.D.” (NYTimes). Unlike adults, children with sleeping disorders or lack of sleep experience symptoms that resemble those of A.D.H.D. Children with sleeping disorders are obstinate, moody, hyper, and experience a hard time focusing or interacting with their schoolmates. Oftentimes adults mistake these symptoms for A.D.H.D. and in the hopes of counteracting these side effects, the children are prescribed A.D.H.D. medications like Ritalin, Adderall, or Concerta, which ultimately increase sleeplessness and cause insomnia. The study ultimately concluded that students who loose even a half an hour of much needed rest a night would exhibit symptoms resembling behaviors typical of A.D.H.D.

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           Doctors, parents, and teachers often presume children with hyperactive and antisocial tendencies are suffering from a disorder, but what if that presumed disorder is only a side effect of loosing too much sleep? Children and teenagers live a very hectic life and an overload of homework coupled with texting, social media sights, and other entertainment usually results in a lack of sleep. People need to realize that behaviors resembling A.D.H.D. might be due to a lack of sleep, not an attention deficiency disorder. What do you think? Do you think children these days are more likely to have an attention disorder or are simply suffering from a lack of sleep? And also, do you blame the parents or the doctors for potentially misdiagnosing the children presumed to be suffering with A.D.H.D.?

 

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/attention-problems-may-be-sleep-related/?ref=science

 

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How to Track a Pack

April 10, 2012 3 comments

While searching for articles to blog about this week, I came across an article related to wolves and how one tracks a wolf pack. As a resident of New Hampshire, I have come to appreciate the eeriness that only a howl or hoot in the middle of the night can produce and the alarm I feel whenever I hear the crunch of dry leaves or the cries of wild animals. While I admire animals, I also fear them, particularly wolves, due to their ability to maintain hidden until they wish to be found.  However, tracking these elusive creatures has become the mission of wolf-tracker Isaac Babcock due to his quest to track the Lookout pack living in the Cascade Range of mountains. By studying how wolves communicate and typical pack behavior, Babock believes he can effectively locate the Lookout pack that vanished in recent years through a human tracker device he created to mimic the cries of wolves. Babcock explains that through a combination of growls, barks, whines and howls, he will be able to entice the wolves into communicating and eventually seeking the impersonated wolf howls.

Wolves are excellent trackers and hunters by nature and the opportunity to study their habits and communication abilities will be a huge accomplishment for Babcock and his team. Babcock believes that watching the wolves in such intimate settings through video recordings has the “power to change the way the species [is] viewed.” Ultimately, by using science to create devices that mimic animal cries and other tracking methods, scientists are finding animals that don’t want to be found. Although these advances allow scientists to research and understand certain animals better, this article makes me question if more harm than good will come out of this. For example, poachers could track certain animals down easier or the imitation of animal cries could confuse the actual animals and lure them away from their legitimate pack to a fake pack. I believe that some of nature’s secrets are meant to remain hidden, and by creating machines that imitate the cry of certain animals, those secrets might be discovered. What do you think? Do you believe humans should know all the secrets of the animal kingdom or do you believe that those secrets could be used to harm rather than help creatures?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/17540978 Image

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Hello Amelia? Are you there?

March 26, 2012 2 comments

Nearly 75 years after the disappearance of the legendary pilot Amelia Earhart, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery is about to launch an expedition that could finally locate the lost pilot. The company has created an updated deep underwater vehicle to search for remains of Earhart and her plane and will primarily focus in the Pacific waters off of Nikumaroro, where they believe Earhart died after surviving a few weeks as a castaway. Immediately after her crash, the Navy concluded the most plausible explanation was that Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific near Howland Island.  

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However, current research suggests that Earhart made it past Howland Island and crashed near Nikumaroro Island instead. Archival records indicate that there was a discovery in Nikumaroro in 1940 of remains of a female skeleton at a campsite and other archaeological digs support that “there have produced artifacts that speak of an American woman of the 1930’s” (Discovery). This expedition will focus on locating Earhart’s plane and will use high-tech machines, such as a multi-beam sonar, to produce a map of the deep sea and identify specific “targets”.

The expedition will span from Honolulu to Nikumaroro Island in the Pacific Ocean and identify areas of interest through an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. One major area of interests is an object that is protruding off of a coral reef and director member, Gillespie, and his Aircraft Recovery team believe that the shape and size of the protruding object might be Earhart’s plane. Although the evidence suggested does not provide complete proof of Amelia Earhart’s discovery, it does promote hope and the belief that the legendary pilot might one day be found. What do you think? Do you think Amelia Earhart will ever be found, or do you believe what happened to Amelia will always remain a mystery?

http://news.discovery.com/history/amelia-earhart-search-resumes-120320.html 

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Beauty Sleep

March 21, 2012 1 comment

As someone who is prone to bruises and injuries, I am constantly stocking up on Advil and Tylenol from the local drug store as well as iron and vitamin K supplements. Although these medications greatly reduce the amount of time my injuries need to heal, I am still cursed with limbs that bruise easily and blood that does not clot quickly enough. Since arriving at school, I find myself constantly searching the web for tips or treatments that will help speed up my healing process. While browsing NPR the other day, a report about black bears and their ability to heal, even while hibernating, caught my attention and I immediately opened the link.

According to this article, bears have the incredible ability to reduce the healing time of their injuries while they sleep.  This study, conducted by scientists from the Universities of Minnesota, Wyoming and Minnesota, tracked 1,000 black bears over 25 years and monitored their health and behavior. While exploring findings, these scientists concluded that most injuries inflicted on the bears by hunters or bear fights occurred at the start of winter and were almost completely gone when spring arrived, after their hibernation period. Not only were the wounds the bears acquired healed surprisingly fast, there were no infections or barely any scarring among any of them. In order to confirm their remarkable healing abilities, scientists tracked the healing of small wounds on fourteen of their radio-collared black bears. Ultimately, the results concluded that between “November and March the wounds healed with minimal evidence of scarring…no signs of infection, the layers of damaged skin regrew and many of the bears even grew hair…at the site of their injuries” (BBC). Although scientists have proof that bears heal quickly, the mechanisms behind their healing abilities are unknown. Unlike humans, a bear’s body temperature drops as much of 13 degrees F during hibernation and such an extreme drop would hinder a human’s healing ability while it would dramatically increase a bear’s.

If scientists identify the incredible system behind a bears healing process, this would be a remarkable discovery for human research. With this knowledge, scientists believe they could improve “slow-healing wounds in elderly, malnourished or diabetic patients” and ultimately improve the appearance of skin imperfections and past scars. The possibility of literally waking up with better skin is incredibly appealing to most people, and if scientists are able to translate their findings from bear skin to human skin, I believe it would be a major advancement in the scientific field, particularly cosmetic field. I find it fascinating that scientists could potentially discover how to reduce healing times and increase the skin’s appearance after studying a group of radio-collared black bears in the mountains of Minnesota. What do you think? Do you think bears are the answer to solving skin imperfections? Do you approve of scientists testing and tracking the healing rates of black bears?

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/17404059

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Decoding Dogs

March 21, 2012 3 comments

http://www.npr.org/2012/03/18/148758624/domesticated-foxes-mans-new-best-friend

What if a fox could become your common household pet? How is that even possible and would you even want to have a fox in your home as a trained pet? According to NPR, a recent article called Domesticated Foxes: Man’s New Best Friend believes that foxes have the potential to join the ranks of other household pets and possibly become another one of man’s best friends. Unlike dogs and cats who are now naturally inclined to follow human commands and have had generations to perfect their household manners, the dream to train and breed domesticated foxes has only been around since 1954. A Russian geneticist by the name of Dmitry Belyaev aspired to isolate “the genes that make dogs so easy to train…and set out to do with foxes in one lifetime what took dogs thousands of years” (NPR). Belyaev created a fox farm in Siberia that currently houses around 3,000 foxes in an army barrack type layout. Some can sit, some can fetch, and some just like a good belly scratching, However, science professor Ceiridwen Terrill believes they are genetically designed to crave human contact, but “to prove true domestication, it’s really important that we see it on a large scale” (NPR). Terrill states that socialization between foxes, humans, and other household animals is key, along with intense training. Targeting the genes that make animals domesticated and locating them within foxes could one day lead to saving the fox species, but such research isn’t natural. This project has lasted over 50 years and although the conditions aren’t elaborated in the article, I imagine experimentally raised foxes endure a cramped and inevitably abusive lifestyle. After reading the headline, a domesticated fox farm made me immediately think of puppy mills or fox fur farms, both exploited and abusive. What do you think? Do you agree with Belyaev’s idea of domesticating foxes or do you believe we have enough domesticated cats and dogs in need of loving homes?

 

Also, if you are interested in this topic, there is a Discovery Channel documentary chronicling the journey of these foxes and basically explains what is being accomplished and why.

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