Archive for: July, 2009

Friday Weird Science: the swimming of the sperm

Jul 31 2009 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Sci will admit that the sperm paper she picked for this week really is an excuse to use this image:

But really, sperm swimming is an important questions in terms of fertility. An ovum is only viable for about 24 hours, and a female only produces one per month. Sperm are viable for a little longer than that, but still, timing is rough. And once you get past the timing, you get into sperm getting lost, sperm swimming in circles, sperm getting stuck in the vaginal mucosa, and sperm getting to the egg only to be thwarted by the zona pellucida and corona radiata (the corona radiata is a group of cells surrounding the egg, while the zona pellucida is a tough, thick protein lattice on the outside of the egg, inside the corona radiata. Tough barriers).

So when it comes down to it, it takes more than a straight swimmer to make it to the egg. But what, exactly, does it take? Force, et al. "Membrane fluidity and lipid content of human spermatozoa selected by swim-up method". International Journal of Andrology, 2001.

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An Open Letter to the American Chemical Society

Jul 29 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Dear ACS,
You are the greatest. No really, you are. No matter what has happened to me through my years in graduate school, you, the ACS, have been by my side, sending me monthly issues of C&E News, offering to help me find jobs in the event of graduation, and never hesitating to show me the exotic place I could be going to for conferences if only I were a polymer chemist. I've gotten to go to special "seminars" which consist of a bunch of chemists sitting in a room, listing to an enologist, and then getting really, really drunk on local wines. It was a BLAST. I learned so much about tannins and grape skins. I think I picked the wrong profession.
Not only that, through all your love and care, Sci can sometimes look in the mirror, and smile brightly and say "I'm a CHEMIST!" Sometimes I almost even believe it. And then I look at my undergrad transcripts and LAUGH...
Through you, ACS, I see a brighter world. And you can only imagine how thrilled I was that you remembered our anniversary together. Every year, the ACS gives out mugs to their members, celebrating their years of service. My first year, young ACS member Sci got a Hydrogen mug, and last year was celebrated with a Helium. This year, Sci was very much looking forward to her anniversary, and the expected Lithium mug which was to come her way. Being a psychopharmacologist like she is, Lithium is an element that is near and dear to her heart and research interest.

(You can see where we are. Some day, Sci hopes to be a gold member.)
So you can imagine Sci's dismay when she received her mug and it was...cracked. In half. Two little bits of foam and loose plastic wrap do not stand up to the US Postal Service. Sci had a moment of woe, but you were there for me, ACS! You were THERE!! And when I emailed and said how sad I was and how I really LIKED Lithium, you sent me another one!!!! And it arrived today. It is lovely and pristine, and I am NOT going to let the other lab members RUN OFF WITH IT like they did with the last two. This one is special. This one is MINE.
ACS, I love how much you care.

Forever your Society minion,

8 responses so far

Dopamine: Reach out and Touch Someone

Jul 28 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

As some of you may know by now, Sci blogs a bit about dopamine. Dopamine seems pretty simple at first look (one chemical, one transporter, five receptors, how hard can it be?), but in fact, dopamine modulates a huge number of processes, particularly those related to learning and motivation. We talk a lot about dopamine being a "pleasure" molecule, and in a way it in, but it's more complicated than that. It's not just pleasure, it's motivation and reward processes, which in a way are deeper than just the pleasure you might feel at having sex or eating a pizza. Obviously dopamine can have some pretty big effects on things like, for example, motivated movement (Parkinson's), or disregulated motivational processes (drug addiction).
But what about touch? Can dopamine levels influence how you process touch, and how well you can do on a test for it?
Pleger, et al. "Influence of dopaminergically mediated reward on somatosenory decision-making" PLoS Biology, 2009.

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Look at Us!!!!

Jul 27 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Check it out you guys!
Look up!
Pretty pretty banner! All new and sparkly! We figured the old one was no good now that there are THREE neuro-nuts as opposed to one. Or two.
And this banner is all awesome, and due to the art of Irradiatus at Biochemical Soul. Check out his art! It's some pretty sweet stuff. Thanks to Irradiatus for making us look like we've come in to 2009!

7 responses so far

You might not be ready for college if...

Jul 24 2009 Published by under Academia

You attended 5 classes of your Brain and Behavior course out of an 8 week summer session that meets daily, and stop going after the first exam. Which you failed. Repeating the exact same pattern from the previous semester when you were in my class.
And then.... your MOM shows up at my class to fight your grade battles for you, without you even being aware of it.

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10 responses so far


Jul 21 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Apparently we're being upgraded tonite, from about 7pm EST to 8am the next day. Ish. Sci is going to try and schedule a post for tomorrow morning, but can make no promises if the system isn't back up. You were warned.

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Teh Tuesdai Links

Jul 21 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

This is partially a reminder to myself that August Scientiae is looking for posts. This month's is going to be at Terra Sigillata, and theme is "Summer days, driftin' away" Sci finds it completely impossible to see that phrase without completing the song in her head, and without thinking how DUMB it is that Sandy ends up smoking and has awful hair because Danny has to date somebody "cool". Grrr. But anyway, you should totally submit or write up some posts!!
Secondly, there's a great post over at FemaleScienceProfessor on women in science. I have run into comments like this myself, where a woman makes a decision, and this is seen as proving that "women shouldn't be in science". When in fact a woman, say, leaving for a better institution is GOOD for her and good for science. Great post.
And Isis has a good post on being a PI and prioritizing. Sci wishes she had gotten this kind of honest input when she was a wee grad student. It's often hard when your PI blows off 5 meetings in a row, to realize that it's not YOU, and that they have big priorities. And it doesn't stop you wanting to be their top priority. But of course, one of the consequences of working for a big name is knowing they won't always be around. And that, at any given time, you probably aren't even in the top 5 of their priority list.
Of course, you don't always need your PI breathing down your neck to motivate you. I want to take Janet's 12 reasons for writing a dissertation and put it on my wall. Might help me....get started on that.
Drugmonkey has some really good thoughts up on students blogging in the lab. This means students blogging ABOUT the lab (not blogging on random stuff in the lab when they should be doing research...coughcough...). It's some good concerns.
And in case you missed it, Ethan is shaving his head for charity. More than that, he's WAXING HIS CHEST. Way to put it all out there, Ethan. He also recommends a whole bunch of charities that he thinks are great ways to donate to help get his...head shaved. Or his chest shaved. Or whatever. He recommends heifer internationaI, a great organization dedicated to giving families in need farm animals, and thus helping them get themselves out of poverty. I'm a huge fan of this organization, and even though you may not be able to afford a...heifer...$20 will buy you a little group of chicks or ducks. Good stuff. And he also recommends Doctors without Borders! Good stuff.
And there's been an interview with Bora about Open Lab. Way to put on the pressure...I guess I better get started on that...

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SSRIs: Talkin' 'bout Prozac

Jul 20 2009 Published by under Neuroscience

I'm sure many of you have seen some of my posts on depression pharmacotherapies, the serotonin theory, and the serotonin system. But I'm still getting a lot of questions, and a lot of misconceptions about how the various drugs work. So I'm going to provide a little more information on the types of pharmacotherapies. And this time, you're also getting PICTURES!
SSRI diagram1.png
Yup. We've been here before.

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11 responses so far

Help Others, Help Ethan Shave his Head!

Jul 19 2009 Published by under Activism

I know in these rough recessional times, it's tough to give. After all, you NEED that. Nobody has any time, and for Sci, $10 is the difference between whether or not I get any produce for the week. If it weren't for the blog (yay, Doctors Without Borders!) Sci might not be able to give at all. w00t for blogging.
But now, we have some incentive. If you give either $10 or four hours of time to a charity of your choice, and there are 100 of you, Ethan will shave his head. That's right, this guy:
That's a lot of hair, and he's had it for a while. I can tell you, it's a wrench to give up that kind of hair. Sci has cut off several feet of hair several times, and won't mind telling you that the first time she did it, and 3 feet of braids flopped on the floor in front of her, she cried like a baby. The second time wasn't so hard (knowing it's going to charity makes it better), and the third time is coming up as soon as the dang stuff grows a few more inches.
So Sci supports seeing Ethan's hair go. He's donated it before, and he'll do it again! With PICTURES!!! So go donate! Do it NOW! You have to mention in the comments where you're giving it (your choice) and why.
As Sci does not have $10, she will be giving four hours of time to her MRUs Campus Kitchen next weekend. They take the extra food and components from campus food, and deliver and donate it to those in need. Sci's Uni has some very poor areas around it, and many of those who are in need of food are also suffering addictions and psychiatric disorders, for which they cannot afford help. So while Sci looks for cures, she can take some time and make them a meal or two as well.
And I don't think it'll be long before that hair goes. Keep checking back for pics!

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In which there is Controversy

Jul 17 2009 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

Sci will admit, she pretty much went all this week without opening her RSS feed. Bad Sci, Bad!!! Priorities!
And thus it turns out I missed the latest edition of the Giant's Shoulders! Sci feels like a right idiot, because it means that she posted her OWN Giant's Shoulders post two days late. Ah well, next time. But this is the one-year anniversary, and you should totally check it out!!!
Second, remember Phineas Gage? Well now, there's a face to put with a name! There is now a daguerreotype of the man himself, complete with tamping iron. Quite a handsome guy, if it weren't for the whole huge personality change that went with the brain damage...
And as you all might know, there's a massive series of debates going on about Unscientific America. Sci personally recommends the really good discussions going on over at Chad and Janet's places. Good discussions on the real point the book was trying to make. Also some good points over at DrugMonkey.
And finally, a great post over at Good Math, Bad Math. I hear you, Mark. I'm going no where near my high school reunions.
OOOH OHHHH!!!!! WAIT! SWIMMING LIZARDS!! Really! Check out the video.

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