Biology 103

Annabella Wood's picture

Synesthesia

Synesthesia
12/7/2006
Annabella Wood
Bio Paper Three


Do you hear color? Do you see sounds? If so, does a certain sound have a certain color?
Can you taste sounds? Do you hear a sound when you touch a certain texture? If so,
chances are, you are a synesthete.

But take heart, you are not alone. Synesthesia is actually very common by some
standards. Estimates range from 1 in 100,000 (1) to 1 in 100(2) people are synesthetes.
But the fact that this range is so wide tells us that we really don’t know how many
synesthetes there are.

Courtney Malpass's picture

And the Band Palyed On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic

This semester I have learned a lot about biology, from both the book I read and the course itself. I used to think I knew everything because all I ever had to do was memorize some facts and that was the end of it. Upon entering this biology course the first thing I heard was that nothing in science, any branch of science, is absolute. How could science not be absolute? Was everything I had previously learned a lie? I had no idea what to do, so I decided to do what was instructed on the first day of class- throw out everything I learned before and start over.

As the course progressed, I found that it was much easier for me to learn everything over again with a new perspective. I did not have to be right all the time because it was even better to be wrong and then try to find out why I was wrong. But even those words, "right and wrong", held little meaning in this course. The most important thing I learned about biology from the course was that it is not about getting it right, it is about getting it less wrong.

Priscila Roney's picture

Don't Speak, Just Move: Body language as non-verbal communication

Every look, every gesture, every twitch of an eyebrow, communicates an inaudible message.  This form of communication is just as important in the understanding of how humans interpret other’s emotions and intentions as the study of verbal language. In many instances, reading the movements of the body can be a more effective and accurate form of communication than words. For example, many of us find it very helpful to give or receive directions by signaling to right and left turns with our arms. Even if for the most part, we are unaware that we are doing so. This form of non-verbal communication, which has been widely studied in social and popular psychology, is commonly known as body language. It includes posture, facial expression and gestures in a manner in which a person voluntarily or involuntarily manifests his or her aspirations. (1) 

Courtney Malpass's picture

My On-Going Battle Against Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

For the past five years of my life I have lived with a disorder by the name of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I was first diagnosed back in May 2002, after having experienced some of the symptoms for a period of six months. I was passed between four different hospitals in Philadelphia for about a year before I was finally sent to see a specialist at St. Christopher's Hospital where I got an official diagnosis. For my final paper I decided to share with my fellow classmates and friends what I have to deal with every day. What exactly is chronic fatigue syndrome? How can you tell you have CFS and not something else? Is there any cure/treatment available? As one reads this, one must keep in mind the traumatic experience a person can through for months or years before they are actually diagnosed with CFS; my personal experience was one anxiousness, hospitalization and hopelessness.

It would be easiest to start with the basics of this particular disorder. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was first recognized back in the late 1980s, 1988 to be exact, and was named the "yuppie flu" (6). It suffered a lot of grief and went through a credibility crisis because it was most common in women between the ages of 40 and 60 (6). In response to the lack of credibility it first received Dr. William Reeves, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) lead CFS scientist offered his explanation by saying: "One of the most common stereotypes was that this was a bunch of hysterical, upper-class, professional, white women" (6). It was very similar to the AIDS outbreak in the late 1970s and early 1980s when no one really paid attention to what would become one of the deadliest diseases to ever strike America; chronic fatigue syndrome is not deadly but if research were perhaps started earlier than it was, we might know more about the disorder than we do today.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects more than 1 million people in the US alone and is most commonly described as a debilitating and complex disorder characterized by profound fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may also be worsened by physical or mental activity (1). It is defined by three main criteria- severe chronic fatigue that lasts at least six consecutive months or longer, the person must currently have at least four symptoms and the symptoms cannot predate the illness (1). Some common symptoms that people with CFS have at the time of diagnosis are sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, un-refreshing sleep, substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration, multi-joint pain without swelling or redness, headaches of a new type/ pattern or severity and post exertional malaise lasting more than 24 hours (1). Every person, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic situation, is at risk for contracting this disorder, though there are certain groups that are more likely than others to get it. CFS affects women at 4x the rate of men and it is most common in people in their 40s and 50s (1). Children are also at risk but if they do acquire the disorder, then it will most likely develop during their teen years. During my freshmen year in high school I suddenly started feeling completely drained of energy and continuously lost weight without any apparent explanation; I was only 14-years-old. At first I thought it was because it was the middle of competition season for both dance and figure skating so I took a few days off to recover my strength; unfortunately my strength never recovered so it was off to the first of four hospitals for me. Some other symptoms associated with CFS are extreme weight loss, shortness of breath and dizziness, which I also had about 4months prior to my first hospital visit. My first hospitalization was because of severe dehydration and malnutrition because I was so weak I could barely feed myself, let alone stay awake for anyone else to try to feed me. This disorder can be just as disabling as lupus, congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis (1) and just like other diseases symptoms can be worsened by stress, too much exercise or lack of sleep (5).

The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is not yet known but scientists have come up with some possible causes. For the most part it is becoming commonly accepted that CFS may be related to an infection that has effects on the human immune system, most likely an infection of the viral description (5). Two main viruses have been intensively studied over the past 20 years or so but have not yielded any suggestion to a cause/effect-relationship- the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and the bacterium Chlamydia pneumonia (C-pneumonia) (5). As far as EBV goes, nothing absolutely conclusive has been found. It definitely causes mononucleosis but it has only been associated in some cases; EBV, for right now, is said to not be the main cause of CFS (5). CFS is not the same as a long-term EBV infection or long-term mononucleosis. I personally tested positive for EBV, but negatively for mononucleosis which struck my doctors as odd. The study of C-pneumonia has produced similar results. It was shown to definitely cause pneumonia and other such illnesses but since it does not show up in all cases of CFS researchers can only conclude that it is only a possible cause (5). C-pneumonia is curable so if a person with CFS also has C-pneumonia there are antibiotics that can be taken to improve the symptoms. It has been proven that candida albicans infections (yeast infections) do not cause chronic fatigue syndrome (5).

Some disorders/diseases that share similar symptoms and that may be confused with CFS are adrenal insufficiency, AIDS, fibromyalgia and thyroid, Lyme, liver and kidney disease (5). Because so many other diseases have very similar if not the same symptoms as CFS it is extremely hard to diagnose someone with CFS; all other possibilities have to be ruled out first which takes a considerable amount of time. It took about 10 months from the time I first complained of symptoms in November 2001 to when I received an official diagnosis in August 2002; I lost almost an entire year of my life because of this disease that I can never get back. The main problems with diagnosing a patient with CFS is that there are no outward physical signs and there are no official laboratory tests that can be performed (1). The most important diseases that need to be eliminated as possibilities are mononucleosis, Lyme disease, thyroid conditions and multiple sclerosis (1); all of these run in my family so my doctors wanted to be absolutely sure that I did not have them. Research conducted by the CDC has shown that less than 20% of patients that actually have chronic fatigue syndrome are officially diagnosed with it (1).

The biggest problem with diagnosing someone with chronic fatigue syndrome is the fact that it is most similar to fibromyalgia, or FM (2). Similarities include reduced blood flow in the cerebral cortex (grey covering of the brain that plays a central role in memory, attention, consciousness and perceptual awareness) and midbrain (involved in consciousness and motor function) (4), suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (controls reactions to stress and regulates the immune and digestive systems and energy usage) (4), disturbed stage 4 sleep (a deep, rhythmic sleep indicated by slow brain waves) (3) and evidence pointing to a genetic factor as a possible cause (2). There are, however, very obvious differences between the two diseases. These differences include substance P (neurotransmitter that sends pain signals) being elevated in FM and RNaseL (cellular antiviral enzyme) being elevated in CFS; CFS is has a obvious symptom of extreme fatigue whereas FM has an obvious symptom of extreme pain (2). The supposed causes of CFS and FM are extremely different what with them being flu-like or infectious illness and trauma to the body (i.e. accident, surgery or injury) respectively (2). So in retrospect, the real question here is whether or not FM and CFS are related in any way. As with all topics in science there are people on every side; some say they are two completely different illnesses while others proclaim they are different categories within the same disorder. And of course there are those that support the notion that FM and CFS are two distinct disorders with similar symptoms (2). One of the most recent pieces of research on this particular question of chronic fatigue syndrome comes from an article from September 2002 which was published in Fibromyalgia AWARE, a publication of the National Fibromyalgia Association. In this article Charles W. Lapp, MD, an expert researcher for CFS and FM stated that his recent findings found that "70% of persons with CFS met the criteria for FM and 70% of persons with FM met the criteria for CFS" (2). The article also mentioned that what you are diagnosed with may depend on who you consult; if you consult a rheumatologist you will most likely be diagnosed with FM and with an infectious disease specialist the diagnosis will most likely be CFS. Another option is to consult a family doctor or general practitioner but they will be likely to diagnose you with whichever disease they are most familiar (2). What it comes down to is that more research is needed before any specific conclusions can be made.

There is no known cure for chronic fatigue syndrome so therefore any possible medications or treatments are geared towards symptom relief and improved function (1). Some examples of treatments are pain medications and stimulants (5) and changing your lifestyle. This can include reducing stress, dietary restrictions, drug therapies to treat sleep and pain symptoms and finally, low to moderate exercise (1). I lived an very active lifestyle before I contracted CFS; it was extremely hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I would no longer be able to do everything I once did before. That meant giving up dance and figure skating competitions and cutting back on all other activities; it still bothers me to this day and most likely will for the rest of my life. As with any other illness the longer a person has CFS before and even after diagnosis, the more complicated the illness appears to be (1).

There have been very few cases where people have completely recovered from CFS with an average of 5-10% (1). Chronic fatigue syndrome affects everyone differently. Some people remain homebound while others resume their previous lifestyle but may still experience a few symptoms. I was able to somewhat get my life back after about 2 ½ years of remaining inactive and I am working even harder to become the unstoppable competitor I once was. Improvement rates are much better than the recovery rate. According to a survey taken last year in 2005, about 8-63% reported signs of improvement, with a median of 40% improving during follow-ups (1). Although these are large ranges, it gives hope to those who are only recently being diagnosed with CFS that they can possibly get better.

The most recent research in the process of being conducted focuses on a possible genetic cause for CFS. Recent results show that CFS seems to be a heterogeneous disease (6). "It's probably not just one diagnosis. We have demonstrated that there are at least 4-5 molecular profiles and groups of people that make up this complex of CFS," says Dr. Suzanne Vernon, the molecular epidemiology team leader for the CFS Research Laboratory at the CDC (6). She also says, "There are differences in the actual genetic make-up, in the DNA code, that probably results in differences in gene activity and in the manifestation of the illness itself. We've brought together a whole bunch of different types of data- genetics, gene activity, clinical information, physiological markers, ways to describe how the person is feeling- and wrap that all tighter to try to generate a molecular profile (6)." A basic summary of what scientists are now looking at in regards to the cause of CFS is the involvement of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Dr. William Reeves had this to say on the subject of the on-going research- "The HPA axis works as a physiological marker of accumulated adaptation to stress. To some extent, genetics determine how you react to these stressors, and more important, they actually determine your subsequent reaction to stress later during the life span. Our working hypothesis: the HPA axis and the brain is a plastic organ which changes its actual physical architecture depending on stresses accumulated over the lifetime (6)." Obviously these findings are relatively new and need to be replicated in order for them to be considered as good or bad science; the CDC is currently collecting more data on CFS from people in Georgia (6).

Writing this paper was fairly difficult for me because I was not sure how much information about myself I was truly willing to share with the public. However, once I began I realized that by putting my own experiences out there for everyone to read about I might actually be contributing to the on-going research for chronic fatigue syndrome. Most of the research I found for this paper were things I had heard for the past five years. I really hope someone who reads this who has chronic fatigue syndrome can know that someone else had a similar experience as the one they may be going through now. Hopefully within my lifetime, a cure or definite cause will be found and I will have more answers to my questions. If that turns out to be the case, I will most likely have new questions about the new information.

CN's picture

Macular Degeneration: Losing your Sight in the Blink of an Eye

As a people progress throughout their life and then begin to grow old, a majority of them begin to experience health problems that are attributed to their age.  One such problem that causes both physical and psychological damage to the person is the loss of their ability to see.  Macular degeneration, a disease which significantly decreases a person’s ability to see using their central vision, is one such disease.  Although there are two different and distinct types of the disease, the results are the same (6).  A person diagnosed with macular degeneration losses their central sight over a period of time.  Often times, legal blindness is an end result of the disease.  Though there have been major strides in the identification of risk factors and treatments, a definite cause is unknown and for the majority of the cases, there is no cure because there is still little know about the disease.  In addition, some of the treatments for it, such as the use of stem cells, are at the center of a raging debate (3).  Regardless of the issues surrounding the disease, something must be done because today, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55 (4). 

Moira Nadal's picture

Are All Scars Equal?

Moira Nadal

Web Paper 2

Biology 103

Fall 2006

Are All Scars Equal?

We usually do not take the time to think about scars. We may admire a distinctive one from time-to-time or try to cover up ones on our faces. We see that they are different shapes and sizes but do not always give thought as to why that it so. I never paid much attention to scars until I recently acquired one, much darker and more pronounced than any others on my body. I then wondered, apart from being much older, why were the others lighter, and either long and thin or puckered. If they are all scars why do those look like that and this new one is dark, red, sensitive and protrudes? So what are scars and why are they all different?

Ananda Triulzi's picture

Ancient Greek Color Vision

As seen through the eyes of the Ancient Greeks, color perception is a very different thing than our own color perception. Why is this, what is it about our eyes and brains that causes this difference of visual perception from person to person and culture to culture?

In his writings Homer surprises us by his use of color. His color descriptive palate was limited to metallic colors, black, white, yellowish green and purplish red, and those colors he often used oddly, leaving us with some questions as to his actual ability to see colors properly (1). He calls the sky "bronze" and the sea and sheep as the color of wine, he applies the adjective chloros (meaning green with our understanding) to honey, and a nightingale (2). Chloros is not the only color that Homer uses in this unusual way. He also uses kyanos oddly, "Hector was dragged, his kyanos hair was falling about him" (3). Here it would seem, to our understanding, that Hector's hair was blue as we associate the term kyanos with the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, in our thinking kyanos means cyan (4). But we cannot assume that Hector's hair was blue, rather, in light of the way that Homer consistently uses color adjectives, we must think about his meaning, did he indeed see honey as green, did he not see the ocean as blue, how does his perception of color reflect on himself, his people, and his world.

Ananda Triulzi's picture

Breeding Horses

Horse breeding is the process by which humans interfere in equine reproduction to produce an offspring that has certain desired qualities. Over time horse breeding has produced breed or phenotypes in horses; it has also benefited the domestic horse whose chances of a successful conception, gestation and foaling are improved by selective mating.

It is known that horses were domesticated around 4,500 BCE but the origins of horse breeding are less clear. The first documentation of horse breeding is seen in the records of the Bedouin tribes of the Middle East. Their pedigrees of Arabian horses are dated 1330 AD but it can be assumed that the breeding of these horses took place for some time before they were written down. Breeding is also known to have taken place for thousands of years in western central Asia where the Akhal-Teke was developed, and in the nomadic Mongolian steppe tribes.

Sarah Mellors's picture

Sleep: What Is It? Why Do We Need It? and How Much Is Enough?

All human beings – old, young, sick, healthy – need sleep.  Thus, everyone should have an interest in this natural phenomenon.  However, most people never question what sleep is and why they must get it.  At the ripe age of 18 years, I thought it was high time I understand why I am always craving sleep and why I feel noticeably better when I get a certain amount of it.  This paper will explore what goes on in our bodies when we’re in this ambiguous state called “sleep”, why it is necessary to function, and how much we should be getting.

Courtney Malpass's picture

The Bones Behind "Bones"

Ever watch your favorite TV show and wonder if Hollywood seriously takes into account the main subject on which the show is based? I was watching the TV show "Bones" the other night and an idea for a paper popped into my head; the show centers around the subject of forensic anthropology, its uses to the law and is based on a series of life-based novels written by forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs. But what I really want to know is whether or not Hollywood got its science right. I believe that the aspects of forensic anthropology, more specifically the subdivision of biological/physical anthropology, are not portrayed as they should be because the show chose to be focused on the drama between characters and their relationships. I decided that the best way to approach this paper was to just lay out my research and then try to draw from it whatever conclusions I possibly could.

The best place to start would be with the basic scientific subject of the show- forensic anthropology. Anthropology as a whole is comprised of three main sub-fields which are archaeology, cultural anthropology and physical anthropology (1). Forensic anthropology is a sub-discipline of the sub-field of physical anthropology and is primarily used by forensic anthropologists to better understand people around the world; the word forensic is simply referring to the application of this particular sub-field in a court of law (3). Forensic anthropologists often make huge contributions, as far as important research of the collections of human skeletal remains is concerned. The two main collection facilities in the US are the Hamann-Todd Collection located in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Terry Collection located at the Smithsonian Institution down in Washington, D.C. (3). Most people who enter this field of work are usually professors, work with an allied forensic team or work in some type of museum setting as a consultant (3). The show "Bones" focuses mainly on the possibility of a crime-fighting job as being the most common for its forensic anthropologists, but neglects to mention that the other jobs of professorship and museum consultant are more likely to be had (1). This research lends its support to my hypothesis.

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