Extreme Biology Blog http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog Wed, 12 Oct 2011 13:30:38 +0000enhourly1http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.5Nature Scitable Bloggers Update http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/10/12/nature-scitable-bloggers-update/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/10/12/nature-scitable-bloggers-update/#commentsWed, 12 Oct 2011 13:30:38 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2483We’re busy working on our presentation for the Science Online conference in January!  We had a wonderful meeting on Columbus Day to talk about how we can improve our blogging and make our presentation at the conference different than years past.  Be sure to check out the Nature Scitable bloggers most recent posts!

Extreme Biology 2010-11 Reflections and Future http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/extreme-biology-2010-11-reflections-and-future/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/extreme-biology-2010-11-reflections-and-future/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 15:15:28 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2474

WHAT AN AWESOME YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m so proud of all your hard work this year!  I had a great time working with all of you.  As most of you already know, this is my last year of teaching biology (at least for the foreseeable future) and I’m so happy I spent my last year with your class.

What does this mean for Extreme Biology?  IT WILL CONTINUE!  I plan to regularly post updates about the Extreme Biology Nature Scitable bloggers.  Also, I would love to post GUEST BLOGS from PAST students.  So, please keep in touch.

Good luck in your future endeavors!  Let me know if you ever want help locating an internship or need any career advice.  If I can’t help you I’ll find someone who can.  You can always reach me at extremebiology @ gmail DOT com.

Best wishes,

Ms. Baker

Is Man’s Best Friend a Pessimist? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/is-mans-best-friend-a-pessimist/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/is-mans-best-friend-a-pessimist/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 14:04:56 +0000Gabrielahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2465

Menina Dede via Flickr

A study has shown that dogs, like humans, can be pessimistic. If a dog becomes especially anxious when left alone they show signs of pessimism. Like humans, dogs may look at a situation as “the glass half full” or “half empty”.  But how is this possible?

Scientists at the Academy of Bristol took two dogs and taught the dogs when a bowl was placed in one room where the bowl was filled with food; this would be the positive position.  In the other instance, the bowl was placed in another room where the bowl had no food in it; this would be the negative position. After they placed them at ambiguous locations to see the two dog’s reaction, the dogs displayed positive and negative reactions depending on the positive or negative situations.

The dogs that ran to the locations were considered optimistic because they expected a good result. The ones that were a little more hesitant were considered pessimistic. The “pessimistic” dogs were usually the ones that got very anxious when left alone, anxiety would be considered a pessimistic trait. Dog’s emotions cannot be labeled directly because these emotions cannot be told. Essentially, we can assume dogs emotions based on finds of the human emotions.

The study seemed to prove the point that dogs, like people, had different personalities and outlooks on life. Do you think if dogs can be pessimistic they can be depressed? Are there any treatments dogs can receive to cure depression? Is depression in dogs able to be passed down genetically as it is with humans?

Was this Football Tragedy Preventable? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/was-this-football-tragedy-preventable/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/was-this-football-tragedy-preventable/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 13:59:14 +0000Deirdrehttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2458

Football helmet of the late Owen Thomas; House Committee on Education via Flickr

In April of the past year, Penn State football player, Owen Thomas committed suicide in his bedroom flat. The captain’s death was a shock to everyone including doctors who had looked at his brain after his death. The doctors were worried to see signs of early Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease which has side effects similar to Alzheimer’s disease, but unlike Alzheimer’s, CTE is caused by repeated brain trauma. CTE symptoms include: headaches, dizziness, lack of insight, and poor judgment. CTE is caused by repeated concussions or blows to the head with incredible force. Research has not proven exactly how many concussions it takes for a person to get CTE, but researchers are getting closer. They have discovered that there are usually three stages when it comes to detecting CTE. The first stage includes psychotic problems. This branches off into stage two, where the individual may experience social difficulties, erratic behavior, memory loss, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The final stage happens when the brain is thoroughly affected by deterioration. Affects of stage three include more speech problems, worsening Parkinson’s symptoms, trouble swallowing, and drooping eyelids.  As you can see, CTE affects not only your body but also affects your psychotic well being. The effect of psychotic troubles can lead to sudden depression. Researchers on Owen Thomas’s case say that family members and friends had seen evident changes in the mood of Owen Thomas before he died. He had started giving up on school work and the intensity his personality had started declining. CTE was definitely a main factor in the suicide of Owen Thomas. Dr. Daniel Perl reviewed slides of Thomas’s brain tissue, and this confirmed the diagnosis of CTE.

Brain damage that causes CTE happens when an object is struck violently to the head, but does not break the skull. Although the object does not break the bone, the brain smashes into the side of your skull. This causes deterioration to different parts of the brain. As occurrences like these happen over and over, they lead to many problems, as described in the paragraph above.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a gradual disease, so it is most likely not seen until it ends tragically, like in the case of Owen Thomas. To detect CTE you would most likely assess someone’s personality. Personality swings are hard to detect and could be caused by anything; so if someone has CTE it is hard to tell that CTE is causing these symptoms. CTE is at risk for athletes involved in football, boxing, wrestling, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and skiing. To date there have been many sports related deaths involving CTE. These deaths include: 39 amateur and professional boxers, 5 football players, 1 professional wrestler, and 1 soccer player. You can have CTE without playing sports, but 90% of CTE problems are sports related.

So what is the solution to this problem? Maybe there should be routine checkups of athletes who have been affected by concussions and other head injuries. I’m not saying only professional and college level players, but also high school level sports. This disease should be more publicly known so problems related to this disease can be eliminated.

How can we make it possible for athletes at all levels to be checked for CTE? Does brain damage affect other members of the Primate family like it affects humans?

Vitamin B12 and Alzeheimer’s Disease http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/vitamin-b12-and-alzeheimers-disease/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/vitamin-b12-and-alzeheimers-disease/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 13:52:25 +0000Samanthahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2450

Euskalanato via Flickr

Recently, scientists questioned whether the vitamin B12 could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder in which a person suffers from serious memory loss. Usually, people develop this disease when they are older, and 50% of the population over 85 years old has this disease. More than 5.3 million people in the United States suffer with this brutal disease, and it is very hard for both them and their family and friends to deal with. There are many stages, or phases, of this disease, and as the years go by, the worst the disease gets.  In the beginning, people may feel that they are forgetting things or facts more often than usual. Then, people begin to forget names, and they frequently forget what they have just read or done. They also begin to misplace objects. As the disease worsens, people have great difficulty performing tasks such as paying bills, and then is goes downhill from there. Eventually, the disease gets so bad that within a few years, people may forget how to do everyday task such as brushing their teeth, combing their hair, getting dressed, eating, going to the bathroom, or walking. They also forget who their loved ones are, and that is one of the worst parts of the disease, for both the patient and their friends and family.

Alzheimer’s is caused by the decreasing number of brain cells in a person’s head. Many of these brain cells have important jobs such as learning and remembering, and when they die, part of that job is lost. There is not a treatment for this disease yet, and that is one of the reasons why it is so brutal. But, scientists recently showed in a 7 year study that the Vitamin B12 might be able to lower the risk of a person’s likelihood of getting this disease.

Vitamin B12 is very important for your body because it is needed for the formation of red blood cells, and if you don’t get enough of it in your diet, you could develop anemia. You also need Vitamin B12 to process fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and to maintain the nervous system. Vitamin B12 could be found in meat, fish, dairy, whole grain cereal or bread, egg yokes, or yeast.

In 2003, researchers took 271 Finnish people, who did not have dementia, and took blood samples from them. These people’s ages ranged from 65- 79. During this 7 year span, 17 people, about 6%, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Researchers observed each of the people’s blood samples and looked at many variables. One variable was called homocysteine. If people have high homocysteine levels in their body, it most likely means that they have something wrong with their body, and it could be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, or other medical conditions such as blood clots, hardening of the arteries, heart attacks, or strokes. Researchers also observed the amount of holotranscobalamin, which is the active part in the B12 vitamin, in the Finnish people’s bodies.

At the end of the experiment, scientists learned that for each micromolar increase in the concentration of homocysteine, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increased by 16 percent whereas each picomolar,  increase in concentration of the active form of vitamin B12 reduced risk by two percent.” Picolmolar is a measurement which is one trillionth of a mole. What this means is the more homocysteine in a person’s body, the greater the risk that person has of getting the disease. However, the more holotranscobalamin, or B12, the person has in his body, his risk of getting Alzhemier’s decreases by 2%. That shows you that B12 actually could help in preventing Alzheimer’s. Yet, scientists still need to do more tests before making a final decision and making it final that B12 could really help.

Here are some questions you could research:

How can people prevent Alzheimer’s?  Are there any other vitamins or foods that could prevent Alzheimer’s?  What factors could contribute to Alzheimer’s?  Where did Alzheimer’s get its name from?  Is there any particular region in the world where the number of people with Alzheimer’s is high?  When Was Alzheimer’s fist discovered and how?

The Biology of Music http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/the-biology-of-music/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/the-biology-of-music/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 13:44:16 +0000Noahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2439

Te55 via Flickr

Everyone loves listening to music and it’s important in our daily lives, but nobody really understands how it affects us. Many researchers do experiments to see how music affects people, and it all has to do with our brains.

A group of researchers from Duke Medical School, led by a professor named Dale Purves, did research that showed different types of music has different affects on people. Dissonance (a minor type of sound) leads to unpleasant emotion while consonant music (major, happy music) leads to pleasure. A minor chord would be the same thing as dissonance, but dissonance can also be harmonies and intervals, not just chords, and the same thing goes for consonance. It’s also been said music copies the way emotions are used in speech, so a minor chord would be sad and a major chord would be happy. An example of a minor song would be Alicia Key’s song “Fallin’”, and a major song would be Jackson 5’s song “ABC”. If you listen to these two songs you could see a difference where “ABC” is much happier and is very upbeat, while “Fallin’” is a bit sadder and is less upbeat. Speech is even said in minor and major ways, so it translates to music. Dale Purves even said “Humans prefer tone combinations that are similar to those found in speech”.

The music tones are all related to how we pronounce words. The harmonies of music are related to vowels, because the harmonic structure of a vowel’s tone is the base of the musical scales. Researches have said that the scales that most appeal to us are the ones that are most alike our series of tones that we speak. All of the notes in the musical scale can be found in all languages one way or another, which connects music and speech together. This proves how music can affect our emotions and why we like which music we do like.

There was also another study that showed most songs whether Western or Classical use the same five to seven scales in most songs, but just in different ways. And these are used because humans use the information provided from them, and one of the first things you do when you’re a baby is cry, and then taught to speak. This helps humans develop an ear for tone and in music we use our abilities and that lies in how we speak. It is much easier to use what you know and those certain scales are familiar to all of us because they are used in our daily life, not just in music.

What are the scales that are most commonly used in music? How do these scales affect us, and why do they affect us?

Update on the Extreme Biology Scitable Bloggers! http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/01/update-on-the-extreme-biology-scitable-bloggers/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/01/update-on-the-extreme-biology-scitable-bloggers/#commentsWed, 01 Jun 2011 18:26:28 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2423Here are links to the AWESOME blog posts that have been written this spring by the 9th grade students – Sabrina, Sam, Naseem, and Leyla – on their Nature Scitable blogs!  Please stop by their blogs and comment.

Sam’s Green Science

  • The Link Between Pollution and Asthma
  • The Death of Knut.  Also, Will Global Warming Cause the Extinction of Polar Bears?
  • Happy Birthday Planet Earth!
  • The March 11 Cataclysms and the effects on the people and environment of Japan
  • Evolution Right Before Our Eyes
  • Toxic Rain: The Effect of Acid Rain on the Environment
  • Garbage Dump in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean
  • What’s Your Carbon Shoe Size
  • Snow of the Century!  Could Global Warming really affect snowfall?

Naseem’s Our Science

Leyla & Sabrina’s MedSci Discoveries

Weekend Update – Kingdom Animalia http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/16/weekend-update-kingdom-animalia/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/16/weekend-update-kingdom-animalia/#commentsWed, 16 Mar 2011 14:21:42 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2415

Photo source: Dalboz17

We have two podcasts this week!  Thanks to Dawood and Gurk & Aurora, Deirdre, and Monica for their podcasts!



The Mystery of Von Hippel Lindau http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/the-mystery-of-von-hippel-lindau/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/the-mystery-of-von-hippel-lindau/#commentsThu, 10 Mar 2011 15:25:02 +0000Gabrielahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2405

After checking into the hospital, Bravo was tested thoroughly in hopes to find out what was going on inside his body. What nobody expected to find was large and small tumors in his brain. The doctors knew what was wrong, the only task now was to find out the cause of these tumors, and how to cure Bravo.

Before reading this post, please watch the video on this website.

Von Hippel Lindau, more commonly referred to as VHL, is an extremely rare genetic disorder. In fact, VHL is so rare that only 1 in 36,000 people are infected with Von Hippel Lindau.  My father is that one in 36,000 affected by VHL.  So, just what is this rare disease? And why is it called Von Hippel Lindau?

Von Hippel Lindau is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a rare genetic disease that is characterized by hemangiomas of the retina and cerebellum and often by cysts or tumors of the liver, pancreas, and kidneys and that is typically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait”. According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the most common manifestations of VHL include cysts and tumors of the retina, brain, spinal cord, kidney, pancreas and inner ear.

For patients similar to my father, tumors develop mostly in the brain. These growths, depending on location and size, can affect your every day functions. In my father’s case, loss of motor skills, muscle control, coordination, and blurred vision were all caused by the size and locations of the tumors in the brain. For other VHL patients it is very common for partial or complete loss of vision to occur, as tumors frequently develop on the retina. Headaches are another very common symptom of VHL caused by hemangioblastomas, or tumors in the central nervous system. Though they are not cancerous, hemangioblastomas can cause serious problems inside your body. In my father’s case, a loss of strength, headaches, and obscured vision quickly became a problem.

All this information may lead you to the question, is there a cure for VHL? Unfortunately, there is no one cure for Von Hippel Lindau.  Why do you think this is true? Fortunately, there are surgeons who can remove the hemangioblastomas caused by VHL, or start radiation therapy and then closely monitor progress to ensure that you are recovering well. But, just where does one find a surgeon or hospital that can care for such a rare disease? And how many surgeons or hospitals have knowledge of this disease? If you have VHL caused pheochromocytomas, something that can cause wild fluctuations in blood pressure, surgery is the most common form of treatment. Special blood pressure controlling medications is required to be taken a couple of weeks before the surgery. During this surgery, it is not uncommon for the adrenal gland, a gland that produces hormones necessary for life, to be removed. If this happens, patients must take hormone supplements for the rest of their lives. Why would doctors remove such a vital gland? Patients with tumors on the retina have a crucial time span for detection and treatment, if the tumors on the retina go undetected or untreated for too long, loss of vision is a problem a patient is likely to face. Because the retina is a highly sensitive location, surgeries are suggested over treatment to try and ensure that minimal damage will be done to the patient’s eyes and vision. What forms of treatment would there be for tumors on the retina?

As stated previously, Von Hippel Lindau is a hereditary condition; this means the children of people with this rare genetic disorder are at a high risk for inheriting VHL. What is the percent likelihood of a VHL patient’s child having VHL? VHL is a dominant gene, meaning that if your genes code for VHL, VHL will be expressed in your body. Does this mean you will have tumors in your body? No. VHL may be in your genes, but it does not have to manifest itself to the point where tumors form. Genetic testing is highly suggested for children, such as me or my sister, with parents who have Von Hippel Lindau. One form of testing would be to draw a blood sample and test for the specific strain of VHL that the parent of the child is carrying. Brain and retinal scans are also highly suggested forms of testing. For VHL positive offspring, this will allow patients to see if VHL has manifested itself in the form of tumors throughout the body.

VHL is a scary disease, but the treatment and skilled doctors make it a disease you can live with. Family support groups can play a key role in dealing with VHL, and early treatment and scanning can help to prevent serious VHL related medical issues.

Survival of the Prettiest http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/survival-of-the-prettiest/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/survival-of-the-prettiest/#commentsThu, 10 Mar 2011 15:06:56 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2388This post was originally published on November 23, 2007.  It has been slightly modified from its original format.

“I’m the aye-aye. According to scientists, my species has survived 60 million years on planet earth. I even play an important role in my ecosystem. But, right now I’m facing extinction from losing my habitat to humans. Some humans think I symbolize death and they kill me on sight, even though there is no scientific basis for this. Many think I’m too ugly to save. What do you think?”

Photo source: JLplusAL

While trying to find a good present for my two nieces I happened upon a website that sells endangered species adoption kits. I remembered several students mentioning you could adopt-a-manatee on a previous post and this website included manatees. It also included favorites such as penguins and polar bears. I immediately recognized it as a fun way to give my nieces a meaningful present.

As I moved through the list of available species, I noticed they were organized in the order of most to least popular. Tigers and pandas were at the top while anteaters and warthogs were at the bottom. The aye-aye was not even on the list.

Tiger is the Most Popular

Like the sympathy pains you feel when seeing the lonely dog at the pet store that no one seems to want, my heart went out to those animals at the bottom of the most popular list. I wanted to adopt those animals, but I didn’t think my nieces would like them as much.

Warthog is one of the Least Popular

This really got me thinking. Are we more likely to try to save animals that are attractive to us?

Better yet, what makes an animal attractive to us in the first place? Why are pandas, cheetahs, and meerkats at the top of our cute list while others are at the bottom?

Finally, with so many species on our planet facing extinction, is it biologically responsible to save only a select few?

Why don't you love me?? Photo source: Arno & Louise Wildlife