Video Games: Health Boon or Bust?

Row Of Video Games

I, like most other people my age, like to play video games. I can easily lose myself for hours on end in virtual worlds. I’m not alone either; games such as Minecraft are played by millions of people of all ages all around the world. In fact, from 2016 to 2020, it is estimated that gamers collectively spent a total of more than 68 million years playing Minecraft — and that’s just a single video game out of tens of thousands played each year. While that might sound like an unimaginable amount of time to spend playing a video game, it’s not at all surprising to me. Minecraft is especially fun to me because of all the creativity that I can use to build amazing structures and environments. I even get to interact with friends online, so I can spend time in these incredible places building palaces and surreal structures with my close friends. Sometimes I even get to make new friends this way. Despite the benefits I’ve found playing video games, many people still think that video games are bad for you for numerous reasons. So, the question is: what does the research reveal? Are video games good or bad for us? 

 

Depression, Anxiety and other Psychological Issues

One of the major worries that people have concerning video games is that they can cause depression and anxiety. Numerous studies actually show this to be true. For example, an opinion piece from the Georgia State Signal points out that, 

A comprehensive study from the Journal of Health Psychology shows that gaming disorders are linked to greater levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, social problems and many other psychological-social problems.

On the other hand, Webmd cites other sources which show that video games actually distract and help people deal with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

Video games can act as distractions from pain and psychological trauma. Video games can also help 

Woman And Virtual Reality

people who are dealing with mental disorders like anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There is research supporting both arguments, so it really comes down to the individual gamer and their particular circumstances. 

 

Video Games and Violence

The argument for individual circumstances and personality is also the central factor behind the connection between video games and violence.  I’m sure there are even many readers of this article who think that video games cause violence. Video games such as Grand Theft Auto are often accused of being too violent, affecting the player’s brain in ways that lead to violent behavior in real life. Studies have shown that this is not the case. Apa.org, points out that

Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests. Violent video games have not created the generation of problem youth so often feared.

With this in mind, many will wonder: what about all of the people who got in trouble and blamed video game violence as the source of their behavior? Well, it’s more about the personality of the player rather than the game. Harvard Health says that,

Two psychologists, Dr. Patrick Markey of Villanova University and Dr. Charlotte Markey of Rutgers University, have presented evidence that some children may become more aggressive as a result of watching and playing violent video games, but that most are not affected. After reviewing the research, they concluded that the combination of three personality traits might be most likely to make an individual act and think aggressively after playing a violent video game. The three traits they identified were high neuroticism (prone to anger and depression, highly emotional, and easily upset), disagreeableness (cold, indifferent to other people), and low levels of conscientiousness (prone to acting without thinking, failing to deliver on promises, breaking rules).

Just like with loneliness and depression, games themselves are never the sole cause of problems. For example, I have personally played many violent video games, and I’m certainly not a violent person. While it might be true that violent video games can make an already violent person more violent, it does not appear to be the case that video games specifically cause violence. 

 

Playing Video GamesBottom Line: Video Games are Good for You

If video games aren’t bad for you, then are they good for you? Well, in fact, yes! Video games can benefit players in a multitude of ways, including and not limited to improvement in:

  • memory
  • spatial visualization
  • mood
  • social skills
  • perception
  • physical fitness
  • decision making
  • youthfulness
  • problem solving skills
  • curiosity

As a specific example, studies have shown that fast paced games can help you make quick decisions

Fast-paced video games like Need For Speed or Call of Duty require you to stay on your toes and make decisions quickly. These energizing action games can also improve your ability to make game-time decisions in real life.

In terms of benefit to motor function, Psychologicalscience.org says that:

Playing action-based video games may boost players’ ability to coordinate incoming visual information with their motor control, a skill critical to many real-world behaviors including driving, new research shows. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

For improvements to general psychology, Webmd explains that:

When you fail in a game or in other situations, it can be frustrating. Video games help people learn how to cope with failure and keep trying. This is an important tool for children to learn and use as they get older.

For stress relief, Verywellmind.com says that:

Really, any game that you truly enjoy can be a stress reliever. Virtually any game that you find to be truly fun can be beneficial by providing an escape from daily stress, a break from patterns of rumination, or a way to build positive feelings.

For improvements to intelligence, Webmd says that:

Video games often make you think. When you play video games, almost every part of your brain is working to help you achieve higher-level thinking. Depending on the complexity of the game, you may have to think, strategize, and analyze quickly. Playing video games works with deeper parts of your brain that improve development and critical thinking skills.

And finally for sociability, Levelskip.com says that:

Most gamers (over 70%) play video games with one or more of their friends. Gamers who play video games with friends may play either cooperatively (where two or more players work together to achieve the goal of the game)

 

The Best Video Games for You to Play

If all games are good, what are the best games? Well, I might be biased, of course, but the famous Minecraft is an amazing game to play. It can teach you how to be creative with your buildings. There are all sorts of blocks and different colors to build with. From idtech.com, they explain:

Minecraft is educational because it enhances creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, collaboration, and other life skills.

Other first person shooter games, such as Call of Duty, are also good games to play. Even though they can show blood, it makes children quickly move around so that they can get fast reflexes, as there are always enemy combatants working against you. Polygon.com says that

A growing body of research indicates that playing first-person action games, particularly shooters, improves brain function such as cognitive abilities and learning skills — changes that have real-life applications, reports Scientific American Mind.

If those games don’t interest you, there are thousands of others to choose from. CheckPoint offers numerous video gaming titles for you to try, and even splits them up by what aspect of health they are best for. Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Bound
  • Florence
  • Destiny 2
  • Hollow Knight
  • Persona 5
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Video Games and Disabled Players

Something else to consider is how video games provide an amazing outlet for disabled players to be themselves and live a life liberated from the difficulties they face in the real world. People with disabilities are usually treated very badly and are sometimes even seen as outcasts. In video games, they don’t have to be outcasts anymore! Since no one can see them, they can be themselves without worrying about being judged, allowing them to have as much fun as other players while they are playing! Disabled players actually make up a large part of the gaming community. According to Polygon.com

…20 percent of gamers have some form of disability — not including the eight percent of men who are colorblind or the 14 percent of adults who have a low reading age, and also not including the many temporary impairments, such as broken arms, sleeping babies or bumpy public transport, that most people face at one point or another… 

It is vital that disabled players are afforded numerous outlets of accessibility in games so that they continue playing the games they love and improving their health while they’re at it!

 

In Conclusion

Video games are able to help with real life functions of the human body and mind. Best of all, they invite all types of players, even those who are normally unable to participate in activities that are normally considered beneficial, like sports. Whether or not video games are good for you, we can all agree that they are fun, at the very least. So, pick up your favorite game, and go have some fun! In the meantime, I’ll be playing Minecraft. 

See you online!

Glow in the Dark Wounds

The Civil War was an extremely violent period of American history, and soldiers from both the North and South faced terrible violence and painful situations. There were many wounds and casualties during the war, some of the worst and most grotesque in all of American history. Even the lucky ones who survived had many serious wounds and injuries that continued to affect them for the rest of their lives. 

One day, during the battle of Shiloh, something extremely surprising occurred. The soldiers from the North and South were at a standstill, and they ended up sitting in mud and rain for two whole days. Even soldiers with serious, open wounds had no choice but to sit in the mud, which allowed bacteria and eventually infection to begin attacking their bodies. While normally the infections would simply lead to amputations or even death, at Shiloh, the soldiers’ wounds, filled with dirt and detritus, began to glow. . This glow was named the “Angels Glow.”

When the doctors treated them, they had never experienced anything like it. It was already strange to see glowing wounds, but what’s more, the wounds healed faster because of a bacteria called Photorhabdus Luminescens. This species of bacteria was found in parasites, plants, animals, and insects. The P. Luminescens bacteria would release bioluminescent toxins to kill other parasites and bacteria it was competing with, keeping the wounds of the soldiers cleaner and healthier since there was relatively less bacteria to infect them.  

So, why don’t we see this happening more often? While it can’t be proven exactly where this species of bacteria came from during the battle of Shiloh, researchers think that the soldiers probably got the bacteria from insects that were in the dirt of the battleground during the war. The insects may have regurgitated on the soldiers wounds, hoping to use their flesh to eat or breed. This regurgitation on the wounds may have left a scent, which possibly could have attracted the glowing bacteria. So, researchers thought that  when  the insects threw up,  the bacteria probably went into the wounds to get to the nutrients of the barf. Little did the bacteria know that this would actually lead to more rapid healing for the soldiers. 

The men who got the bacteria experienced their wounds healing a lot faster than normal, and in the dark, they would glow. They healed faster because, according to iflscience, the bacteria that was in the soldiers’ wounds fought off the bacteria that was harmful, causing them to be safe and heal quicker. 

…it’s possible that the Angels Glow reported by Civil War doctors and soldiers may have been a bacterial species simultaneously fighting off infection and preventing the rotting of wounds until doctors could arrive, all whilst glowing to demonstrate their otherworldly healing.

In 2001, the bacteria was actually isolated and discovered by a man named Bill Martin. One day, he was out in the battlefield of Shiloh and heard about the Angel’s Glow. He wanted to do research about it. His mom was a microbiologist who studied soil and he decided to find out how it helped the soldiers’ wounds. Bill and his research partners soon figured out that there were actually worms that had a very bright blue color and that bacteria living in the worms, the same Photorhabdus Lluminescens I mentioned before, could fight off other bacteria that did harm. Bill succeeded in discovering where exactly this bacteria came from, but there are still many mysteries to solve. 

The Shiloh soldiers experienced something that no one has ever experienced before. Even though BIll  found out about the worms, people still do not know the full explanation of where the worms live most often, or if they can be used in a laboratory or medical setting. Maybe in the future the glowing worms and their associated bacteria will become a specific type of medicine that people can use to help with the healing process. 

What is in the Covid Vaccines?

Army Col. Sean Dooley, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, receives a COVID-19 vaccination, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

 

For many people around the world, this has been an exceptionally frightening year. From the first indications of a new virus emerging in China, to the slow trickle of reports as it arrived in countries around the world, and finally the lockdowns, sicknesses, and deaths that became daily news as the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the globe. Many of us have lost ones we loved, our jobs, or our sanity as the days go by and our lives continue to be disrupted by this new virus. 

As the end of the year approached, two vaccines appeared that promised to help end the suffering and finally get this disease under control. But to many, this seemed like it had to be rushed. Adding to that uncertainty, the average person doesn’t have the education to understand what is in these vaccines that they were suddenly being asked to trust. Conspiracy theories abounded and distrust swelled, threatening to upend the vaccination program.

Both vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective in large trials, and have already been given to tens of millions of people! Even so, as a healthcare provider, I know the importance of what is referred to as “informed consent.” It means that it is your responsibility to educate your patient to a level where their agreeing to a treatment is based on generally knowing what is being done to them, including the risks they face by allowing that treatment to go forward. I believe that the ingredients within the two emergency approved vaccines should be readily available, and there should be a basic explanation of what those ingredients are. 

The Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19 has been scary enough; the ingredients within the vaccines don’t have to be as well. What follows is a very simplified breakdown of the ingredients within the first two vaccines to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA: the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine:

 

Simple ingredient list of both vaccines:

  • mRNA – The active ingredient
  • Lipids, a different word for fats
  • Salts
  • Sugar

 

Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a single-stranded RNA molecule that is complementary to one of the DNA strands of a gene. The mRNA is an RNA version of the gene that leaves the cell nucleus and moves to the cytoplasm where proteins are made. During protein synthesis, an organelle called a ribosome moves along the mRNA, reads its base sequence, and uses the genetic code to translate each three-base triplet, or codon, into its corresponding amino acid.
https://www.genome.gov/

Further Breakdown

  1. Messenger-RNA

The messenger ribo-nucleic acid (mRNA) is the true active ingredient of the vaccine.  Our body makes, uses, and then breaks down natural mRNA constantly in order to function. Think of it as a copied set of instructions that takes information from our DNA and brings it to the parts of our body where we make stuff (amino acids and eventually proteins) necessary for our survival. 

In the vaccine, scientists made a synthetic copy of these instructions that allow our body to temporarily produce a single part of the virus known as the spike protein, which is harmless on its own. Our bodies then develop an immunity against the coronavirus by identifying and building defenses against the virus from this single part. We then break down this synthetic message and stop producing the spike protein, but our defense against the disease remains. 

To better understand it, think of it like this: when we get the vaccine, we are giving our bodies a fax which allows us to print a mugshot of the virus, which then allows our immune system to know the enemy we are up against in precise detail. 

 

  1. Lipids (Fats) 

These are just pieces of fat that allow our cells to absorb the messenger-RNA so that they can start making the spike proteins for our body to develop immunity. Using the analogy from the previous item in our list, you can think of these fat particles as the fax number that allows the vaccine to send the mugshot to your fax machine. 

 

  1. Salts

These salts allow the vaccine to have the same level of acidity as our bodies, which keeps it from causing harm inside of us when it is injected. The reason why things like battery acid or bleach will harm us is because it doesn’t match our bodies acidity levels, which is why you should never inject either of them! 

 

  1. Sucrose (Sugar)

This is just like the plain old sugar we know and love, except it isn’t put in the vaccine to make it taste sweet. The vaccine has sugar in it to keep all the ingredients from clumping together when it is frozen. 

 

Full Ingredient Lists

**While these may seem to contain names that you don’t understand and that might frighten you, those are all just the scientific names for the fats and salts in the vaccines! For example, Dihydrogen Monoxide sounds very scary, until you realize it’s just the chemical name for water**

 

  • Pfizer-BioNTech: mRNA, lipids ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose.
  • Moderna: mRNA, lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glyceral [DMG], cholesterol and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]), tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose.

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

 

For more information, check out these links!

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/moderna-covid-19-vaccine

https://www.fda.gov/media/144638/download

https://www.fda.gov/media/144414/download#:~:text=The%20Pfizer-BioNTech%20COVID-19%20Vaccine%20includes%20the%20following%20ingredients,),%20potassium%20chloride,%20monobasic%20potassium

https://www.pfizer.com/news/hot-topics/the_facts_about_pfizer_and_biontech_s_covid_19_vaccine

https://www.modernatx.com/covid19vaccine-eua/providers/about-vaccine

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/12/09/1013538/what-are-the-ingredients-of-pfizers-covid-19-vaccine/

Cancer and the Effects of Radiation

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cancer_cells.jpg

What is Cancer?

The human body is a very intricate and complex design. Keeping it healthy is what we stride and hope for in order to live a longer life. Diseases and pathogens hurt our human body, which ultimately hurts our way of life. One of these diseases is cancer. Cancer is a very dangerous disease that threatens all human bodies. About 10 million people every year die from cancer, making it a leading cause of death. If cancer is this deadly, it’s important to learn about it and how you can get it.

Cancer starts and ends in the human cells. The disease heavily affects these cells and harms the body. In a healthy human body, human cells grow and then divide to form new cells, which is a process called mitosis and meiosis. In a body affected by cancer, however, old cells survive when they should die, and they keep dividing to create more unnecessary cells. These cells are called cancer cells, and they form together to create tumors. There are two different types of tumors: benign and malignant. Benign tumors mean the tumor cannot spread and when it is removed, it will probably not grow back. Benign tumors are easier to handle and sometimes don’t even need to be removed if they aren’t hurting the body. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, can spread to different parts of the body to form new tumors, making it harder to get rid of. 

One deadly trait of cancer is that wherever there are cells, cancer can affect it. This makes virtually every part of the body vulnerable to the disease. Depending on the type of cancer, which usually is named in the location of the body it is in, it hurts the body in different ways. For example, lung cancer blocks off part of the lung which doesn’t allow you to inhale the amount of oxygen you need. Brain cancer means a tumor forms in the brain, which can hurt different parts of the brain serving different functions for the body. In these types of cancers and hundreds of others like liver cancer or throat cancer, the tumor is a solid object in the body. In blood cancer, more commonly called leukemia, the tumor is not in a solid state. Starting in the bone marrow, when abnormal cells start growing out of control, also called white blood cells, they interrupt the function of normal blood cells. There are then different types of blood cancers, but leukemia is the most common.

Learning about cancer is important, but understanding how it functions and your chances of getting it may be even more important to you. The main reason why most people get cancer is from genetics. A person’s parents, grandparents, and further ancestors may have had genes that make them more prone to cancer, which makes it more likely for them to also develop cancer compared to other people. There is no solution to avoid genetics, but a person might be tested for any cancer genes, which gives doctors a head start on their cancer therapy. However, one way people can try to avoid cancer is by limiting their exposure to radiation.

 

 

Radiation and Cancer

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Placing_markers_on_short_face_mask.jpgRadiation of high wavelengths has been proven to cause cancer and is widely accepted science. This type of radiation, called ionizing radiation, has enough energy to damage a person’s DNA. The radiation can ultimately disassemble the atoms in the body, which causes the DNA damage in the cells. A lot of side effects can arise from this happening, with a main one being cancer. There are different ways you can be exposed to ionizing radiation. Radon, x-rays and gamma rays are all sources of ionizing radiation harmful to the body. The most likely way to be exposed to gamma rays is from accidents at nuclear power plants or when atomic weapons are made, tested, or used. X-rays like CT scans and MRIs also give out high levels of radiation, but it is very unlikely that you will develop cancer from it. Lastly, radon is a type of radiation which very often gets overlooked for the wrong reasons. Radon, which can be found in your own home as a gas, can create harmful levels of radiation, which is why it’s important to check for it in your own home. The government doesn’t recognize radon as a serious health hazard in homes currently, despite the science. Checking for radon in your home is free and a major step towards lowering the risks for cancer. Another type of radiation is UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds. This can cause skin cancer in the body, and has a simple solution of just using sunscreen and/or not tanning frequently. A type of radiation which CANNOT cause cancer is 5G cell phone towers. The radiation these towers give out is non-ionizing radiation, the same type of radiation radios and microwaves give out. There has been absolutely no evidence of cell phone towers causing cancer, nor is it even possible for this to happen since this type of radiation does not ionize atoms. 

Now, if you do get cancer, it doesn’t mean you will definitely die. Cancer is a very serious issue, but thanks to recent developments and new technologies, we know a lot more about preventing and treating it. However, there still is not one universal cure to cancer which removes it and ensures it doesn’t come back. It’s also important to remember that we all have cells which can potentially become cancerous from damaged DNA. Most of the time though, your body just kills the cell through programmed cell death, or apoptosis. There are different types of treatments based on the path you want to take. Some treatments may be to remove the entire tumor while others may be to help the body cope with the cancer. The most common procedure is surgery, which is usually used to remove as much of the tumor as possible, if not the entire thing. Chemotherapy is another option, which is the method of using drugs to kill cancer cells. And just like how it can cause cancer, radiation can also remove cancer by using high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. Many other treatments also exist, like bone marrow transplant or targeted drug therapy. Thousands of clinical trials are also taking place to find new ways to cure cancer.

The future holds many different ideas on the cure to cancer. The clinical trials taking place and new technologies scientists develop continue to help doctors in removing and preventing the development of cancer in patients. Gene therapy and gene editing are two ways which have been in clinical trials for many years. Gene therapy is the idea of guiding the body’s immune cells to directly attack the cancer cells. Gene editing is where we edit humans’ RNA to remove genes which can cause cancer. There’s a lot of research which goes into these ideas because scientists have to find new cells and genes which show potential to cause cancer. A very interesting idea is using and studying animal cells. Animals, like whales and elephants, have the same risk, or maybe even lower, than smaller animals like chihuahuas. This is odd because larger creatures tend to have bigger tumors and higher risks of dying to cancer. An animal like an elephant should be riddled with tumors across the body, but they are always cancer free. Studying elephants and other animals’ cells may give us an insight on medicine for humans.

The most important thing to remember is to seek the treatment needed if you think you might have cancer or have a genetic history of cancer. Cancer is a very deadly disease, which can turn a lot worse pretty quickly. The one good thing is that our knowledge of the disease increases every day. Maybe even one day a universal cure might be discovered. All we can do right now is educate ourselves and take all the precautions we can in the fight against cancer.

Covid-19: Building a Future

“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war… We’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic.” -Bill Gates, 2015

Unfortunately, Bill Gates was exactly right in making this statement in 2015. Coronavirus, more specifically the COVID-19 known to us, is a highly infectious respiratory virus that has caused a global pandemic. Starting in Wuhan, China, it has traveled all around the globe to our comfy homes. Everything is being affected by this virus: economy, manufacturing, production, politics, jobs, but most importantly, our health.

COVID-19 is spreading globally at an exponential rate. It appeared in a city in China called Wuhan in December 2019, and is believed to have come out of a seafood market. Patient zero has still not been identified, but we all know the quickness of this virus. To combat the virus, China quickly put a strict lockdown on the city of Wuhan on January 23. China then locked down their whole country, becoming the first country to do so, in an effort to stop this virus. Travel bans were being held in place and countries slowly started to follow China’s example. South Korea, Italy, and Iran were hit especially hard with the virus. When March finally came, the U.S. finally decided to take some measures and hold restrictions to practice social distancing. Italy surged past other countries with the highest death toll and had the highest number of cases in Europe. Sporting events, concerts, competitions were all getting canceled, including the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Finally, we get to now in May, where Wuhan has become virus-free after a 77-day lockdown, and other countries, including the U.S., have started to open up while trying to maintain social distancing. 

This coronavirus, to some people, just seems like another type of flu or cold. But the reality is, it is much more dangerous than the flu and can become even more dangerous if we don’t take the necessary precautions. The coronavirus spreads through droplets released in the air, like when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Droplets, however, fall to the ground after a few feet, which is why people need to stay 6 feet away from each other and wear masks to not retain any droplets. It can also be spread through surface transmission, making washing your hands and not touching your face out in public very important. It may be possible, however, that you may not even feel the symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you are a younger person. Or you may feel the symptoms after about 14 days of coming in contact with the virus. But, the dangerous thing about this is that you can be a carrier and not even know about it, putting other people, especially elders, at risk. The majority of deaths are coming from older age groups because of their lower level of immunity. This pandemic is similar to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, and the world and the U.S. can learn from the mistakes and successes that different cities made. During that time, Philadelphia held a World War 2 parade, meanwhile St. Louis had put its entire city on lock down. The death rate in St. Louis was about 358 per 100,000 people while Philadelphia suffered 748 deaths per 100,000.

The time when this pandemic will stop is a question every expert is trying to solve right now. Nobody knows what the future of this virus holds. A vaccine is needed to truly live without fear and go back to a normal life. The bad thing is that the vaccine isn’t expected to come sooner than 2021, so we may have to get used to this social distancing. Scientists also don’t know whether COVID is a seasonal virus or will come back every year like the flu. If it comes back in the same strand as before, people will have immunity to it, but it can also come back in different strands like the flu, wherein the vaccine is a very key role in our safety. There is not much we know right now since this virus is so new. The facts we do know are that we have to practice social distancing as much as possible to ensure the safety of ourselves and others by slowing the spread of the virus to not overrun hospitals. 

The current focus is on stopping the spread of this virus, but we need to also start planning for our economic recovery after the virus. For companies in the medical field, business is booming, but outside of this, there are many more companies on the verge of collapsing. According to Deutsche Bank, the world’s major economies have the highest debt levels in the past 150 years, excluding World War II. There has been a similar instance, far tougher than what we are going to face, better known as the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, the United States’ GDP declined by nearly 30%, over a course of 43 months. In just the first quarter of 2020, the U.S. GDP has already declined by 4.8%. If we compare these two situations, the economic recovery will be much easier. The first step in the Great Depression comeback was to cut spending by lots. The second step in the process is lowering tax rates on the middle class. This may sound absurd for the government, but it’s a quite simple analogy. The faster people are able to recuperate, the faster the economy will recover. The current global pandemic has hurt the economy in countless variations, but in the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “There are no gains, without pains.”

The COVID-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the world’s most major events. No one has seen a virus outbreak this bad since the Spanish Flu of 1918 or a worse economic crisis than the Great Depression. Even with the advanced technology we have, a virus has shown that it is much more powerful. Hopefully, this can prepare the world for what to do next time with a pandemic of this scale. The memories you are experiencing during this time aren’t something many generations will live through. Later in life, this will be what kids study in their history class or what historical fiction novels will be about. Right now, though, we need to be doing everything we can to contain this outbreak and set the world on the right track again.

 

Six Inch Screen With Potential to Save Billions

 

Nowadays, technological screens affect more lives than ever before, both physically and mentally. Some of these effects are lifelong, and cause many struggles. The two main reasons for these struggles are the type of screen, as well as the amount of time spent staring at the screen. At the present time, screens are a large part of kids’ daily routine. The effect a six-inch screen can leave on a person is astonishing.

According to an article written by the Mayo Clinic in 2018, some of the physical effects of a screen are,

Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes, watery or dry eyes, blurred or double vision, sore neck, shoulders or back, increased sensitivity to light…

Most of the negative and positive effects of a screen are related to eyes, but those related to other body parts are harmful as well. Screens not only harm one’s physical state, but their mental state as well. According to a study performed by Gaya Dowling, PhD, on 11,000 nine and ten-year olds,

MRI scans found significant differences in the brains of some children who reported using smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. Children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

This statement shows that children who use electronics from a young age are holding themselves back from optimal performance. The effects of a screen are harmful in countless ways.

Although the use of screens is growing by the second, there is a way to reduce the number of children harmed. The solution is developing an OLED screen. When I say OLED, I do not mean the basic one now being used in iPhones. When I say OLED, I mean using the basics of it and pairing it with psychological software, requiring the children a certain amount of time on educational resources after the software notices at child has been using the screen for a while. Some of the psychological sources required may be reading, solving puzzles, brainstorming, etc. The screen will also scan the user’s eyes to look for redness, twitching, watery or dry eyes, etc. If one of these effects are shown, the screen will display a warning to step away from a screen for a while. Right now, billions of people use a screen and are harmed. With this new OLED screen, the unaware billions could be saved.

Furthermore, upgraded OLED screens could greatly reduce the amount of people affected by a screen. Nowadays, most people in this highly populated world have a phone– nearly 4.68 billion according to the Statista Research Department. Most of these people probably use their phones for more than two hours, meaning they are prone to one of the effects of a screen. If even a hundredth of these users switch to the upgraded OLED screen, that’s nearly 50 million people saved. Who knows how many of those are children.

As one can see, the world needs an effective solution. The screen could monitor the time, protect the eyes, and warn the user. That covers three main categories of harm concerning screens. OLED screens are also proven to be kinder to eyes. This solution will help all ages, both mentally and physically. The upgraded OLED screens are, without a doubt, the way to go.

Brain Waves and the Future of Stress

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Johnny wakes up at 8:30 A.M.– ten minutes until his bus arrives. Oh shoot! He forgot to set his alarm last night. He quickly jumps out of his bed and instead of landing with his feet, his face becomes his landing. Great, now he needs a band-aid. He rushes into the bathroom and realizes he’s out of toothpaste. Great, now his breath will stink the rest of the day. He needs to use the toilet and then realizes he’s out of toilet paper. He then hears the bus arriving and leaving without him. Grrrrrrrr!!! 

This is stress, or at least, one of the most common forms. 

Stress is a condition proven to be very dangerous when not treated. It affects millions of people all over the world, ranging from teenagers to seniors. Stress causes many problems for these individuals, both in the physical and psychological aspects of their body. Yoga, meditation, exercise, etc. are all ways to relieve stress, but they have not been proven to work for all individuals. Also, some people don’t have enough time for these activities. However, there might be a more effective approach to this problem.

There are three different types of stress: acute, episodic, and chronic.

 

Acute Stress

Johnny is sitting in his chair, praying that the teacher does not call on him for presentations. He knows he didn’t practice enough and is frantically scrolling through his notes, jotting down as many points as he can in his mind.

“Hmmm, let us see who shall go next, “ calls out the teacher. “Johnny, why don’t you go up there.”

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anxiety.gifOh no! His worst nightmare is coming true. He slowly gets up out of his seat and walks to the podium as if it were a slow-motion movie. His heart is beating and he is thinking of all the possible scenarios of what he should say once he starts his presentation. He stands there, just wishing he could’ve had another day to prepare, despite knowing this is the same thing he would be thinking the next day. 

This well known experience is referred to as acute stress.

The one type of stress we all experience in our bodies at one time or another is acute stress. Acute stress is the short term stress which is experienced before, during or after a stressful or pressure inducing moment. For example, let’s say you are waiting in line to ride a very dangerous roller coaster. Your heart is beating much faster and you are scared and nervous. This is acute stress you are experiencing. However, after the roller coaster ride has ended, your body returns to relative homeostasis. Acute stress can be thrilling and exciting sometimes, unlike the other types of stress we will be going over. 

The effects of acute stress aren’t usually life threatening, as acute stress is only short-term stress. However, some instances of acute stress can be worse depending on the person and the experience. It is not uncommon during extremely heightened periods of acute stress (very rare for most people) to experience emotional distress, muscular problems such as back and jaw pain, and/or stomach, gut, and bowel problems like heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. You can also get problems like rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, dizziness, migraine headaches, and cold hands or feet. Keep in mind that thee extreme side effects are exactly that: the extremes. Acute stress isn’t very dangerous as it is very treatable and the more threatening effects are relatively rare. 

 

Episodic Stress

Johnny has now learned over the years that he is pretty good at giving presentations. But he is still worried every time he has to give a presentation. He is now also worried every time before a basketball game or every time he is taking a test at school. The worry and associated stress is sometimes so bad that he has this experience even when choosing what clothes to wear. Johnny doesn’t want to be like this, but he can’t help it. He always worries every day about every little thing. 

This is episodic stress. 

Episodic stress happens when a person is experiencing lots of acute stress every day. They overwhelm themselves with endless tasks and are always busy as a result of these tasks. Everything this type of person does tends to be executed in a nervous or busy manner. These people are always in a rush, which takes a toll on their minds and bodies. The other common example related to episodic stress is people who worry every day. These “worry warts,” as they’re often called, are people like Johnny who seem to worry about every task they do.

The effects of episodic stress are a little more serious than the side effects of acute stress. Some of the physical issues are persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease. The reason why episodic stress is more dangerous than acute stress is that it can take many months to treat episodic stress, unlike acute stress which can usually be resolved after only a few moments. Behavioral and emotional concerns also rise from episodic stress, such as blaming problems on other people. Those who have episodic stress also don’t like to take blame for their own problems, which can annoy others interacting with them.

 

 

Chronic Stress

Johnny is now a lot lot older. He has completed college and is now in the real world with a job, a house, and a family. His worrying has gotten a little better, but it is still there lurking in his shadow. Even though his episodic stress has gotten better, he is piled high everyday with his work, bills, kids etc. This has given him problems like eating disorders, lack of social activity, and even depression. This is the worst experience of stress Johnny has ever had, and it has become a part of his daily life.

This is chronic stress. 

Chronic stress is the worst out of all these types. This is the long-term stress which wreaks havoc on your body day in and day out. Chronic stress is usually originally caused by a major traumatic event in life. However, it can also be caused from a job overload, an unhealthy marriage or the threat of entering poverty. The worst part about chronic stress is that it stays in the person’s body and becomes a part of them to the extent that people don’t even recognize they are experiencing stress.

Chronic stress, as you probably guessed, also has the most dangerous effects out of all types of stress. The reason why it’s so bad is because it can kill you! Issues like suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke, and sometimes even cancer, rise from chronic stress. What’s even worse is that chronic stress is also the hardest to treat, as this form of stress becomes a virtually integral and familiar part of the person over time. Chronic stress wears the body down so much that hundreds of thousands of people choose suicide as a final resort to ending their stress.

So, what are we supposed to do about all the stress in the world? We cannot just let more people resort to suicide because of stress. Is stress simply unavoidable on the whole? According to recent research, the manipulation of our brain waves may hold the key to freeing ourselves of stress. 

 

 

Manipulating Brain Waves

Brain waves aren’t something normally heard in the same sentence as a solution to  stress, especially with a non-scientist. However, the relation between brain waves and stress is so great that it presents a viable method of relieving stress in both the short and long-term. There are four overarching types of brain waves: alpha, beta, delta, and theta. While each of these natural frequencies of the brain play a part in relieving or intensifying stress, we are going to talk about more specific types of waves: sound frequencies. Each organ in the body can be correlated to a specific frequency by which it functions. Using all of these frequencies, or tones, we can make a reference pitch for the whole body: A=432hz. All of this refers to a concept called quantum reflex analysis(QRA) which relieves stressors in the body by playing specific sounds needed to relieve a particular type of stress. There are QRA sessions available to help individuals deal with stress, but they are expensive and infrequently utilized. However, technology is improving everyday, broadening the availability of these sessions. 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quintephone_brainwave_regen_poster_colour.jpgThese waves can be transmitted into the body in multiple different ways. One way is by using a simple speaker to emit a constant sound frequency at 432hz, the reference pitch for the body’s functioning frequency taken as a composite of each organ’s frequency. Another way is by using a concept called bone conduction, which involves sound waves being transmitted through the skeletal tissue of different parts of the body, directly to the brain. This can take the form of a patch being applied on the arm, which will give the same experience as hearing a sound without actually hearing the sounds with your ears. These solutions allow the person to experience a QRA session without ever leaving the comfort of their home.

QRA can help society in numerous ways. One of the biggest ways is the work force. Stress is a major issue in the workplace, and studies show that stress affecting the work of employees is extremely commonplace. Businesses and the economy, in turn, are hurt from the poor work. Stress is a major factor for why employees exhibit poor working habits. And from this poor work, the employee can get fired, resulting in even more stress. It all equates to an endless cycle of stress, however, by using sound frequencies, the cycle can get cut off. Teenagers in schools can also benefit from this solution, as they are also under extreme amounts of stress. College admissions, exams, and “fitting in” all put stress on these students, causing them to show a lack of effort in their school work. Crimes can also be lowered from the reduction of stress in society. Most of the people who commit crimes are in poverty, which means they are under stress to get more money, so they turn to criminal activities. The society can be benefited in numerous ways with the reduction of stress all from sounds easily transmitted to the body.

Stress, as shown, is a widely known psychological and physical problem for all types of individuals. The most dangerous part of stress is that it can be a downward spiraling cycle in your daily life if it is not treated properly. Using brain waves to relieve stress can be very efficient as there are multiple ways to implement them, one of the most effective, easiest and cheapest being sounds heard by the ear of the individual.  

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While scrolling through the Internet, looking to find ways to relieve stress, Johnny finds this wonderful article you are reading on QRA sessions. He decides to give one a try to help relieve his stress. Johnny goes into the session and comes out as a different man. A better man. A more relieved man. He keeps going to the sessions and it has become very helpful to him in his work, family and physical life. Soon, Johnny will be able to experience a QRA session without ever leaving his home.

Minuscule Insect Solves a Global Crisis

As of right now, the world is home to 6,300 million metric tonnes of a material which is recyclable but takes up to 1000 years to decompose. If you hadn’t guessed, the material is plastic. Plastic is filling the world’s landfills at an exponential rate. However, there is a phenomenal creature that can eradicate the threat of plastic landfills: the Wax Worm Caterpillar. These caterpillars have the capability to eat through polystyrene plastic. Wax Worm Caterpillars could very well be the future of decomposing waste.

There is a fairly simple explanation to how Wax Worm Caterpillars can eat away at this world crisis. The normal diet for these caterpillars is wax from beehives. There is one characteristic in common between the wax from beehives and plastic. Both of these “foods” are made up of carbon-carbon bonds. In other words, because the caterpillars can eat wax, they also have the ability to digest plastic as well. Although plastic is far from organic, the carbon-carbon bonds allow the caterpillars to digest it. The caterpillars  not only consume the material, but the worms actually transform polyethylene into ethylene glycol. The substance, ethylene glycol, involves oxidative metabolism, which means it uses aerobic cellular respiration to energize the organism. As one can see, humans are not the only beneficiaries from wax worms eating plastic, but the caterpillars benefit as well.

The crisis of plastic waste is not domestic, it’s global, meaning all parts of the world are affected by this. As stated before, nearly 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic are in landfills, oceans, roads, etc. It is said that each caterpillar can only eat 2.2 milligrams of plastic each day, but there is a solution to this. We can modify the brains of caterpillars to be able to consume 5 grams of plastic a day by adding a chip that constantly releases ghrelin(a chemical which makes an organism hungry) and a larger stomach. If each plastic bag weighs 4.5 grams, each caterpillar can consume one plastic bag a day. Based off of the current statistics, it would take nearly 7 years for 100 worms to eat away at half of the world’s current plastic waste. This would mean the earth’s oceans could be much cleaner, as well as the landfills being many times smaller. Therefore, the modified wax worm caterpillars may have the potential to eradicate one of the global struggles.

The idea of a minuscule insect eating away at one of the World’s largest struggles looks to be a fantasy, but it has been proven true. The theory of caterpillars consuming plastic was proven in the creation of the theory. A beekeeper, Federica Bertocchini, thinks of these caterpillars as pests, as they eat away at the wax of beehives. Since these caterpillars were pests, she collected them and threw them in the trash can. The next morning, when the beekeeper went to throw out more garbage, she noticed caterpillar-sized holes in her garbage can. She looked inside, and the theory came to fruition: the caterpillars were gone. She then wanted to prove caterpillars could turn the plastic into energy, so she mashed up the wax worms from her yard into a paste. She then spread that paste over some more plastic bags. Once again, the plastic dissolved away. This proved the theory that both humans and wax worms could benefit from the consumption of plastic. This is one of the many accidental, but glorious discoveries of the 21st century.

As one can see, wax worm caterpillars are a realistic and efficient solution to a crisis which has already had harmful effects to the environment. wax worms have proven they are capable of continuing their normal routine with plastic in their diet. Wax worms have been tested on multiple occasions, and all reports came back with the one statement: wax worms are capable of performing aerobic cellular respiration with plastic as the energy source. The world needs an efficient and proactive solution; well they sure got one. Wax worm Caterpillars are the future of environmental protection.

Saving Adolescents Through Drug Testing

Nowadays, middle schoolers are more likely than ever to use drugs recreationaly. To remind you, students in middle school range from 12-14. Yes, you read that correctly. Students as young as 12 are using drugs recreationaly. This is partly because students can access drugs in ways that schools can’t prevent. Drug testing can’t prevent students from buying the drugs, but it can prevent students from using the drugs, at least on a consistent basis. While it won’t solve the problem completely, drug testing is an efficient way for schools to know if their students are using drugs.

Drug testing, also known as toxicology screening, is a way for schools to analyze just how many students are consuming illegal substances. The main substances that schools look for are alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. According to an article written in 2014 by the National Institute of Drug Abuse,

Alcohol and tobacco are the drugs most commonly abused by adolescents, followed by marijuana.

Adolescents are more likely to use these substances, in part, because they are much easier to find.

The drug tests are relatively simple, consisting of urine samples being exposed to certain substances to see the reaction. For example, when a student has cannabis in their system, to find this out, the testers would add a substance called Duquenois-Levine reagent. This substance will turn the testing solution from white to red. This is because the Duquenois-Levine reagent has a chemical reaction with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes the color of the solution to change. The process is equally simple for tobacco and alcohol as well.

Furthermore, drug testing could exponentially lower the recreational use of drugs by adolescents. In this article, written by Sober Living By the Sea (a drug abuse treatment center), the author refers to cannabis, non-prescription cough medicine, and inhalants. The article states,

About 15 percent of students report having tried these substances.  Other drugs used by smaller percentages of middle school students include Vicodin, OxyContin and other prescription drugs.

There are more than 7.2 million students in middle schools today. This means nearly 1,080,000 middle schoolers in the United States have tried or are currently using illicit substances. Drug tests can lower this number without a doubt. Even if drug tests stop 1 kid from consuming drugs, that’s a whole life that has been curbed from the negative consequences of a young and immature mind consuming mind altering substances. Toxicology screening is a viable and ready solution to adolescent drug abuse.

Some would say drug testing is not the correct path to take for middleschoolers. However, the effectiveness of drug screening has already been laid out. According to an article written in 2018 by the Food and Drug Association,

The at-home testing part of this test is fairly sensitive to the presence of drugs in the urine. This means that if drugs are present, you will usually get a preliminary (or presumptive) positive test result.

The concept of drug testing is not only beneficial to the safety of schools, but the health of students as well. If a student knows they will be drug tested, they will lay off drug use to avoid consequences, which also leads to better health overall. Drug testing has also been proven effective, which is necessary for schools. As one can see, drug tests are what will save middle school students from drug abuse.

Master Your Mind: Proven Techniques for Altering the Brain

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Source: aboutmodafinil.com

 

Who doesn’t dream of taking full control of their brain, becoming a master of their own mind? For tens of thousands of years, individuals from every culture around the world have claimed the ability to focus their thoughts and brain activity to a state of profound one-pointedness, leading to incredible mental feats, deep states of calm, and numerous enhancements to the brain’s day to day functionality. Whether these people are called gurus, yogis, spiritual masters, or even prophets, the recipe for unlocking the brain’s full potential has traditionally involved methods such as years of sensory deprivation, the use of rare and exotic entheogens, praying to a higher power, or even a mixture of all the above. However, studies have revealed that the ability to change the brain, both biologically and psychologically, is already at our fingertips. You don’t need to be a spiritual guru to start hacking and changing your brain this moment; altering your own brain is far simpler than you might think!

 

Brain Plasticity

As stated above, you can start drastically altering your brain immediately, but first, let’s talk about how and why this level of change is even possible.

The brain is highly plastic, meaning that it can change its own shape and functionality in respone to stimuli or through direct intention. This capacity for the brain to change is referred to as brain plasticity. While absolutely everyone has experienced changing over time–from child to adult–due to the natural growth and maturity of thoughts, perceptions, and intentions, brain plasticity goes above and beyond day to day changes and provides individuals the ability to radically change according to both internal and external stimuli.  In fact, in 2007, a French man was documented to be living a perfectly normal life despite missing a large portion of his original brain. Researchers analyzing the man’s brain pointed out that

…even though his remaining brain was only tiny, the neurons left over were able to still generate a theory about themselves, which means the man remained conscious of his actions.  

Incredibly, the man’s brain was capable of spontaneously altering its physical makeup to account for the difference in mass as well as the ongoing brain damage. If a person can lose 90% of their brain and still function equally well as when they had 100% of their brain, this implies that the brain is far more powerful and capable of change than any of us may realize.

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While the brain is capable of radically changing over a short period of time, it is also capable of changing on a moment to moment basis through the natural development of growing up. During development, different activities and experiences influence the brain to alter itself. Studies on middle age monkeys have shown increases in physical exercise leading to

histologically-quantified vascular volume in the cerebral cortex in parallel with improved performance on cognitive tests…. Such vascular changes likely contribute to activity-dependent differences observed…after training.

These changes indicate that an increase in exercise increased the learning rate. While the experiment revealed temporary results, the changes remained constant through regular exercise.

Similar to this development, practicing different activities can lead to ongoing brain development across various structures of the brain. As children,

most neurogenesis is complete by five months, with one important exception being cells in the hippocampus…. Once the neurons are formed, they begin to migrate along fibrous pathways formed by radial glial cells…. As cells… reach their destination the interaction of genes, maturation, and environmental influences increasingly steer them toward differentiating into a particular cell type.

This means that our cells go through many stages as they develop, so different effects on our brains at different stages of development can drastically change the resultant structure and functionality of the brain.

 

Natural Human Development and Brain Change

While humans never truly stop developing, the vast majority of our development and growth takes place when we are young, especially during puberty. As the cells in our bodies continue to develop and die off, our brains continuously develop. Because of the ongoing development of the brain, our brains are always dynamically altering themselves through improved cortical organization, which involves the cognitive processing of sensory information.  According to scientists at the Department of Neuroscience in Canada,

The cells lining the subventricular zone are stem cells that remain active throughout life. These stem cells can produce neural or glial progenitor cells that can migrate into the cerebral white or gray matter, even in adulthood…. The functional role of these cells is still controversial but their generation can be influenced by many factors including experience, drugs, hormones, and injury.

Because of the versatility of brain cells, our daily experiences can change the physical brain and how it causes our bodies to respond. Studies have shown enhanced functionality of the brain when animals were placed

…in complex environments in which there is an opportunity for animals to interact with a changing sensory and social environment and to engage in far more motor activity than regular caging…. [The results have shown] increases in brain size, cortical thickness, neuron size, dendritic branching, spine density, synapses per neuron, glial numbers and complexity, and vascular arborization.

These incredible results reveal that the brain’s ability to physically alter itself in response to internal or external stimuli exists in all brains, not just humans. In fact, the study went on to show that,

Young rats [placed] for 60 days in enriched environments, [showed] changes in overall brain weight on the order of 7–10% . This increase in brain weight reflects increases in the number of glia and blood vessels, neuron soma size, dendritic elements, and synapses.

Again, these studies reiterate the brain’s proven ability to grow, become enhanced, and even alter itself in unexpected ways relative to what the environment demands.

 

Ways You Can Personally Change Your Brain Right Now

With the brain’s capability and ability to change, along with the brain’s natural state of constantly altering itself through physical development, incredible avenues of self change are available to all people. The following provides information on some of the most accessible and economic ways to literally alter the shape, form, and functionality of the brain and its associative psychology. If you want to alter yourself and control who you are on a day to day and year to year basis, try the following:

  • Learning (school, experience, watching)
  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Breathing

 

Learn a Language

Learning a new language causes great changes in the brain. A study performed at Penn State University revealed the benefits of learning a new language by observing the creation of additional and more complex networks created by neurons. Researches of the study pointed out that in people who participated in learning a language,

…their brain networks had become better integrated, which means they’re more flexible and allows for faster and more efficient learning…those who excelled in the language lessons had more integrated networks than the brains of those who struggled, even before the experiment had begun, suggesting that they habitually sought out new things to learn and exercise their brains with.

Furthermore, this study also showed that

…language-learning participants ended up with increased density in their grey matter and that their white matter tissue had been strengthened. Grey matter is a type of neural tissue that encompasses various regions in the brain associated with muscle control, memory formation, emotions, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, and it’s white matter’s job to connect these grey matter regions together in the brain’s cerebrum, sort of like a train line for your brain.

This study showed that learning a new language can directly alter the brain to become more accustomed to learning new things. Amazingly, these effects were also shown to occur regardless of age, even in the case of an 84 year old.

 

Go Read a Book!!

Many underestimate the effects of reading, but reading can actually alter the brain significantly. The changes that reading can bring are long lasting and profound. A study published in the journal Brain Connectivity revealed the changes to the brain after simply reading a novel. The researchers pointed out that in individuals who had finished reading a novel, there was800px-Census-reading-hi

heightened connectivity…seen in the central sulcus of the brain, the primary sensory motor region of the brain. Neurons of this region have been associated with making representations of sensation for the body, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition. Just thinking about running, for instance, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

By reading a novel, the brain is able to more realistically and efficiently simulate feeling to the body, leading to more profound states of empathy. Also, our brains are able to become more active as we practice exercising our brains through reading.

 

Sit Down and Meditate!

Another easily accessible way to alter the brain is through meditation. Mediating daily, even for a short period of time, can enhance emotions and awareness. It can affect

…how personally you take things and how you interact with others. It enhances compassion, allows you to see things more clearly (including yourself) and creates a sense of calm and centeredness that is indescribable.

400px-Moggallana̞-statueRegular practice of meditation can create many changes. Another study found

…that the main nodes of the default-mode network…were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis revealed stronger coupling in experienced meditators between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (regions previously implicated in self-monitoring and cognitive control)….

The study showed that through meditation, it is possible to gain more self control.  Rebecca Gladding, a psychologist, further explains similar effects of meditating, pointing out that,

First, the strong, tightly held connection between the Me Center (specifically the unhelpful vmPFC) and the bodily sensation/fear centers begins to break down. As this connection withers, you will no longer assume that a bodily sensation or momentary feeling of fear means something is wrong with you or that you are the problem! This explains, in part, why anxiety decreases the more you meditate – it’s because the neural paths that link those upsetting sensations to the Me Center are decreasing.

The overcoming of these feelings allows us to see that they are merely transient feelings and helps us to not be affected by them. Another benefit of meditating is that it causes 

…a heftier, healthier connection…between the Assessment Center and bodily sensation/fear centers.

So, instead of unexpected behavior during sudden feelings of fear or nervousness, through meditation, people are able to remain more rational in the way they view the situation.

 

Just Breathe

The easiest and most accessible method to alter the brain is through breathing. Breathing has many beneficial effects. Not only does it have the ability to calm us down, but it can also positively affect the way we think. Studies conducted by Northwestern University show the relationship between brain activity and breathing. Researchers found that for people in general,

their brain activity appeared to fluctuate in sync with their breathing. This activity was seen in three areas of the brain: the piriform (olfactory) cortex, which processes smells; the hippocampus, which controls memory; and the amygdala, which is tied to emotional processing.

However, the researchers further discovered the effects of different types of breathing and their relation to our brains. Northwestern University reported the results, quoting neurologist Christina Zelano, stating,

One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation….When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.

By controlling our rhythm of breathing, we can alter the brain to have better memory, produce more positive emotions, and retain a more positive outlook about the future. The best part is that breathing techniques can be practiced anywhere and anytime, no matter who you are. 

 

Future Techniques to Alter the Brain

While the methods described above are accessible to anyone and everyone, there are numerous other methods of altering the brain that are only just now entering the modern technological landscape.

 

 

Brain Implants

A more recent method that we can use to alter our brains is through brain implants. In the future, by having a chip or device inserted into our brains, we can alter or boost our memories and control limbs. Current research revolves around treatment for people with trauma or for paralyzed areas of their body. In a recent study, a man who had been paralyzed in an accident was able to have his arm and hand movements restored through two brain implants. The brain implants

record brain signals created when Kochevar imagines movement of his own arm and hand. The brain-computer interface extracts information from the brain signals about what movements he intends to make, then passes the information to command the electrical stimulation system.

400px-BrainGateNot only can these implants help people gain more independence, but they can boost our memories. Scientists have tested brain implants that opened up many possibilities to improvement of memory through the devices. The New York Times explains how

The device works like a pacemaker, sending electrical pulses to aid the brain when it is struggling to store new information, but remaining quiet when it senses that the brain is functioning well. [A study reported that the devices] improved word recall by 15 percent — roughly the amount that Alzheimer’s disease steals over two and half years.

 

 

Brain Uploads

Another future possibility that could be accessible to us in the far future is brain uploads. Researchers are interested in uploading memories or personalities to a computer. Eventually this could lead to the creation of incorruptible bodies that would have the same memories and personalities as us. Already there has been a company, Nectome, that tried to preserve memories from the brain after death. MIT, which aided  Nectrome, stated that they withdrew from their contract because

Neuroscience has not sufficiently advanced to the point where we know whether any brain preservation method is powerful enough to preserve all the different kinds of biomolecules related to memory and the mind. It is also not known whether it is possible to recreate a person’s consciousness.

This is an extremely exciting possibility that could very well be the world of tomorrow if research continues, despite the pitfalls. 

 

Adding, Removing, or Altering Memories

Experiments on mice have shown that changing past memories is a possibility as well. MIT has done an experiment where they successfully change a fearful memory to a cheerful one. In the study,

Male mice were given a negative experience…and the neurons working to store that memory were labelled using ‘optogenetics’. This is a technique…installs a switch in those neurons, allowing them to be turned on by will [by a blue light].

The results of the study showed the mice to be more fearful in the room associated with their negative experiences without the simulation. However, once the mice were stimulated, they immediately felt more at ease. The researchers further predict that

…a place memory, stored in brain cells of the hippocampus, can “call up” different sets of neurons in the amygdala, invoking either good or bad emotions – and their experiments tweaked that wiring, so that the original memory produced an altered emotional response.

 

 

Genetic Manipulation

800px-DNA_Helix_CPKA genetic alteration is a method to alter our brains in the near future involving the direct manipulation of a person’s genetic code. UT Southwestern Medical Center Investigators were able to find an alteration that could enhance our brains. The researchers tested the deletion of a gene code on mice and discovered that the mice with the gene alteration

…formed more neurons over time…[and]…required much lower amounts of anti-depressants to counteract the effects of stress.

This manipulation that increases the number of brain cells enhanced the effect of antidepressants. This change can lead to decrease in the amount of necessary antidepressants for future generations. The change also had

…anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects of its own that continue over time.