Archive for: March, 2009

HFCS: the good, the bad, and the sinfully sweet

Mar 30 2009 Published by under Health Care/Medicine

Since I started grad school in physiology, I get a lot of questions from friends and family about the science that goes on in their daily lives. It's part of the reason why I decided to start blogging in the first place, to finally give people well-researched, thought-out, and long (yeah, they're usually very long) answers to their questions. I can't answer all questions, obviously, but when it comes to something I can research on Pubmed, the world is my oyster!
One of the questions I've gotten most often goes something like this: "What is high fructose corn syrup and why is it evil", or "I know high fructose corn syrup is evil, but why?" It's taken Sci a lot of time to think about answering these questions. It's not because I can't access the information, but rather because I know that, whatever I end up telling people, I'm going to get a response like "OMG! You are in the pocket of teh evil cornz industries!" or "You just hate corn! You are a horrible evil cornz haters!" The reality is that Sci is neither of these things.
But, despite possible repercussions on Sci's relationship with corn, I want to answer the question. Especially because the New York Times is bringing back the corn syrup debate. And so today, Sci will attempt to talk about High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). In an effort to check this out I did a big literature search. I was careful to choose articles from researchers that didn't receive company money as well as those that did. Citation list will be at the end.

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50 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: All you ever wanted to know about belly button lint

Mar 27 2009 Published by under Friday Weird Science

First of all, Sci loves the journal of Medical Hypotheses. Where would I BE without that journal? In a much less entertaining place is where I'd be.
Secondly, Sci loves the phrase "belly button lint". I'm not really sure why. I think it's because the phrase "belly button" is humorous regardless, and then adding the "lint" just...makes it funnier.
Finally, I love this study. Aside from being about belly button lint, and therefore hilarious, I think this study emphasizes how curious scientists are. many ways. We get hold of a question, and we just can't let it go! Often, that question is something like "why do pancreatic beta cells in the Islets of Langerhans self-destruct in type I diabetes, but alpha cells are left unharmed?", or "what are the mechanisms in the brain which bring about the symptoms of depression?" But sometimes, those questions are "why do some people have SO MUCH belly button lint?" Steinhauser, G. "The nature of navel fluff" Medical Hypotheses, 2009.

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7 responses so far

Erasing memory, one neuron at a time

Mar 26 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

And now we get to the third paper I could present for Journal Club. This one's on something that Sci doesn't really know as much about. This makes it both more exciting, and slightly more scary. But the science is elegant and the results are amazing. So it might very well be worth it.
Have you ever thought of what happens when you commit something to memory? If you're like Sci, you think of filing it away in little filing cabinets in your brain. But the way that memory encoding is actually done is still something of a mystery. We know that groups of neurons work together to serve as a physical representation of memory, otherwise known as the "memory trace". Groups of neurons acting together have been seen correlated with memories being encoded, and with the expression of memories. But we still don't know whether these disparate groups of neurons "are" memory, whether they are essential for a memory trace.
This group of researchers decided to find out whether specifically activated neurons were essential for memory learning and expression. As you might imagine, what they had to do was pretty insanely complicated, but what they found makes it very well worth it. Seriously. Complicated. My print-out of the paper (I had to print it out because I couldn't just read it, had to make notes), is COVERED IN INK. But I think I've got it, and they've got an awesome message. Now to pass it on! Han, et al. "Selective erasure of a fear memory" Science, 2009.

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23 responses so far

Am I hot or not? Who cares?

Mar 24 2009 Published by under Activism

As you may have seen in a recent post, Scienceblogs bid a fond farewell to the Intersection. When the Intersection made its big debut on Discover, they were welcomed by their bloggers. And the commenters were also welcoming. Sort of.

I'll be the first to say that Sheril is quite fetching.


Having not read any of their material, I am supremely unqualified to comment on any of their writings.
But, as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.

Oh wait, it gets better.

Okay, does anyone else think that Sheril resembles Danica McKellar (formerly of The Wonder Years, occasional correspondent on BRINK)?
mmmmmmmm........... wo-man

Now, Sci doesn't normally blog on such topics as women in science and feminism in general. I usually leave it to those who do it much better than I. But this, is got me mad (I'm not the only one). And it butts right up against one of the reasons why Sci wishes to remain anonymous.

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47 responses so far

Everything in its season

Mar 24 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

The news broke yesterday that The Intersection will be moving to Discover! I'm very excited for Chris and Sheril, but we're going to miss them a lot. 🙁 They can now be found here, but you can still access their archives here. Luckily, the internet is only a click away, and I won't have to go far to keep up with their amazing careers and killer insights into science and policy.
Still, Scienceblogs will miss you guys!!

One response so far

Watching Music Train the Brain

Mar 23 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

First, I realize that I forgot to do my list of Pros and Cons for the last Journal Club option. So here they are:

  • In the media lately, and that sort of thing tends to get a good reception
  • The first author is the head of NIDA, which tends to carry some weight


  • n=10, for a human study, it's not a BAD n, but it's not that great either.
  • The study has been interpreted as possibly more meaningful than it really is.
  • Since the study does have problems, it will be harder to give a good presentation of.

And now, on to the second option. I'm not sure how many of you may remember my previous post on music and the brain, but there are lots of hypotheses out there on how music improves certain aspects of brain function. And now, for the first time, researchers actually showed that musical training can change the way the brain develops, not just in terms of eventual function, but in its very structure. Hyde, et al. "Musical training shapes structural brain development" Journal of Neuroscience, 2009.

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9 responses so far

Lazy, Hazy, Beautiful Sunday

Mar 22 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Sci should point out that she is not a hipster snob. Merely an indie nerd. And not even a very good one. I definitely don't have my finger on the pulse of what's going on. But every so often, SciBro will send Sci some awesome music. Like this:

Today has been a beautiful, beautiful Sunday. Warm and glorious and golden. Just like that.
Unfortunately, Sci spent the whole time inside with her data. But it LOOKED really nice out. I think I need more Beirut in my life...

2 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Condom Survey Results are In!!

Mar 20 2009 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Take this as proof of just how dedicated Sci is to all of you. She spent her who day staring at a screen working up data, and then she spent the whole NIGHT doing it as well! But hey, inquiring minds wanted to know!
And so, the results of....The condom survey

First of all, I want to give Dave Munger a HUGE hug for taking over the survey on his larger-capacity survey-monkey account. Thanks to him, I got much larger samples! Large n's always make Sci happy.

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28 responses so far

Time to Get Clicking!

Mar 19 2009 Published by under Activism

First off, the survey on condom breakage is officially CLOSED. Results will be posted tomorrow. You KNOW you're curious about this one!
Secondly, A Blog Around the Clock has the latest buttons for OpenLab submissions! Please head over and vote for your favorites! Not only that, a whole boatload of submissions have ALREADY come in for OpenLab 2009! I'm including a current list below the fold. You will note that there is only ONE Neurotopia post on there. *sniff* FINE. DON'T CARE ABOUT ME. I see how it is. I'll be fine. I'll just be in my kitchen with my head in the oven...

Anyway, you can find the current stuff below the fold. If you want to relieve the guilt trip, I just gave you, submit here.
Finally, The lovely Dr. Isis...

(Hey, if you're going to introduce Dr. Isis, you must do it with hot shoes)...anyway, Dr. Isis is funding an award for undergraduate research excellence! And she's doing it through her blog. She will donate her earnings from her blog views, and the American Physiological Association will match what she earns over the next 30 days. The final award will be presented at the Experimental Biology meeting to the undergraduate woman who submits the best abstract. This is an awesome idea, but to fund it, she needs to to CLICK. Click on her blog. Do it early, and do it often! With your help, she could present an award of $1,000 to an up-and-coming, hot young science lady. Get Clickin', 'little chickens'!
And now, the current submissions to OpenLab 2009:

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4 responses so far

Is Modafinil the Next Cocaine? Probably Not

Mar 19 2009 Published by under Addiction

Ugh, I'm sorry guys, the intertubes ate the last half of my post last night. I'm not at all sure what happened. Here's what I can remember.
First of all, a quick reminder to please take my survey on condom breakage! I may have to make another survey eventually, I am now realizing a whole bunch of questions I missed. But please take it! I'm going to try my best to present the data on Friday.
So here's Sci, pondering away about what to present for her Journal Club presentation next week, when BEHOLD! Dr. Pal drops this little article right in my inbox. Right on cue, Dr. Pal. Unfortunately, I'm not the first to get to this article (shakes fist momentarily at the Corpus Callosum, but he did a good job of it, so I can't be mad), but I've got my own thoughts. So here we have the first one in a series of papers I could present for Journal Club. As a new addendum to help me make up my mind, I'll be listing the pros and cons of each paper at the end of my article coverage. And I would welcome any votes! Volkow et al. "Effects of modafinil on dopamine and dopamine transporters in the male human brain". JAMA, 2009.

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20 responses so far

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