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ISSUE 2<br />

2017 - 2018<br />

Out of This World<br />

Learn about the vastness of our universe<br />

Academic Enhancers<br />

Looking into the path of modern students<br />

Cyrano<br />

Combining smell with sound<br />

Halotherapy<br />

Being Salty Has<br />

Health Benefits

A ship in port is safe,<br />

but that is not what<br />

ships are for.<br />

Sail out to sea and do new things.<br />

- Grace Hopper -

Dear Readers,<br />

It is our pleasure to welcome and share with you our conversations<br />

within the domains of science, technology, engineering, math, and many other<br />

subjects that will induce your curiosity, creativity, and innovation. We are<br />

thrilled to introduce you to a world filled with wonder, awe, and excitement<br />

that can be understood and read by anyone, no matter where your interests<br />

may lie!<br />

Two years ago, we met as five passionate students with a similar goal<br />

to share the art and phenomenon that the STEM fields have to offer. Our<br />

shared goal became an idea. This idea then transformed into the media platform<br />

that you hold in your hands today: STEMTalk Magazine. Finally, our goal<br />

became a mission: to expose and inform UConn students and faculty of news,<br />

opinions, research, and opportunities within STEM. STEMTalk serves as not<br />

only a place to discuss the STEM fields, but also as an opportunity to display<br />

the outstanding artistic and journalistic talents of the UConn community.<br />

We would like to extend our appreciation to our entire staff for making<br />

this vision a reality. Without the encouraging advice, hard work, and constructive<br />

criticism our members, this magazine would not be what it is today.<br />

We would like to thank our head graphic designer, Shemona Singh, for her<br />

beautiful work in taking words and transforming it into an art. We hope that<br />

this magazine leaves a legacy, begins conversations, and continues for many<br />

generations to come.<br />

To our readers, we hope that the content of our magazine invites you<br />

to think beyond what is taught in your courses, ask questions, and institute<br />

the courage to find answers to those questions yourself. We hope that you<br />

enjoy exploring our second publication and we look forward to hearing any<br />

questions, inquiries, or comments either through our Facebook page (UConn<br />

STEMTalk) or our email, uconnstemtalk@gmail.com !


Scientist of the Semester<br />

Alif Albiruni<br />

Inside view on Dr. Han’s lab on cyber-physical systems<br />

and its relation to robotics, Alzheimer’s disease<br />

rehabilitation, and everyday life<br />

Being Salty Has Health Benefits<br />

Susanne Walczyk<br />

Digging deeper into the world of halotherapy, a<br />

method of using salt to treat conditions<br />

How do Head Injuries Affect Difficulties<br />

in Communication?<br />

Erin Beckett<br />

What happens to your brain when you<br />

suffer from a concussion?<br />

How Primitive Are We?<br />

Jenny Weiss<br />

Are we really a unique, highly evolved “human” species,<br />

far from primitive Neanderthals, or are we more alike than<br />

previously thought?<br />

Got Drugs?<br />

Neuropsychopharmacology does!<br />

Greta Johnson<br />

Do you know what happens in your body when you<br />

take a drug?<br />

Video Game Concepts in Our World<br />

Camille Kresel<br />

Explore the STEM concepts in Overwatch,<br />

Bioshock, and The Last of Us<br />

A Taste of Our Ecosystem<br />

Nathalia Hernandez<br />

How do we thrive when the ecosystem around us is<br />

suffering a slow & painful death?<br />

Mind-Body Practices Proves Benefits for<br />

Breast Cancer Patients<br />

Emma Atkinson<br />

How does yoga, reiki, and meditation affect one’s<br />

health?<br />

7<br />

8<br />

9<br />

12<br />

15<br />

17<br />

22<br />

24<br />

27<br />

Silver Lining<br />

28 Sayeeda Peerzade<br />

Explore the Lee lab use of rabies virus to target tumors<br />

Benefits of Bilingual Brains<br />

32 Allison Tozzi<br />

How does bilingualism affect language acquisition?<br />

Academic Enhancers are on the Rise for<br />

College Students<br />

35 Julia Colliton<br />

Psychological and physiological consequences of<br />

recreational drugs, focused on academic enhancers<br />

A Musician’s Mind and the Alternate<br />

Uses of Music<br />

41 Shivani Dave<br />

Listening to music affects brain structure and creativity:<br />

a look on music therapy<br />

44<br />

46<br />

54<br />

Out of This World!<br />

Heather Lewis<br />

Do you ever wonder just how big our universe is?<br />

Check out the hubble telescope for some answers!<br />

Reading People like an Open Book<br />

Sarah Lukas<br />

How researchers are linking the shape of your brain to<br />

your personality<br />

The “ Pre- Med Mentality” & How to Cure it<br />

Matthew Lin<br />

Opinion: Is the pressurized culture of current<br />

pre-med students actually hurting our chances<br />

of being a better physician?<br />

Start Sniffing!<br />

51 Delaney Meyer<br />

Can scientists pair scent and music to enhance mood?<br />

Explore the Cyrano!<br />


17<br />

27<br />

41<br />

15<br />


STAFF<br />

Feny<br />

Rasania<br />

President<br />


Divya<br />

Ganugapati<br />

Vice President<br />

Sanjanaa<br />

Sushanth<br />

Secretary<br />

Lysette<br />

Johnson<br />

Treasurer<br />

Shemona<br />

Singh<br />

Layout Manager<br />

Shivani<br />

Patel<br />

Photographer<br />


Susanne Walczyk<br />

Nathalia Hernandez<br />

Heather Lewis<br />

Delaney Meyer<br />

Sarah Lukas<br />

Julia Colliton<br />

Camille Kresel<br />

Shivani Dave<br />

Erin Beckett<br />

Emma Atkinson<br />

Allison Tozzi<br />

Alif Albiruni<br />

Sayeda Peerzade<br />

Greta Johnson<br />

Matthew Lin<br />


Shemona Singh<br />

Apoorva Kulkarni<br />

Adrienne Nguyen<br />

Divya Ganugapati<br />

Sanjanaa Sushanth<br />


Anna Tobiasz<br />

Anna Montenegro<br />

Saadiya Dalal<br />


Sayeda Najamussahar<br />


w<br />

Scientist of the Semester:<br />

DR. SONG HAN<br />

Written By: Alif Albiruni | Designed By: Shemona Singh<br />

Suppose there is a city of the future<br />

where everything is connected, and intelligent systems are<br />

implemented into the society for the greater good. In this city,<br />

servers gather data by counting cars and commuters, as well<br />

as utilizing wireless signals and sensors. This information is<br />

integrated by powerful algorithms to optimize solutions from<br />

train lines to disaster management. At their greatest potential,<br />

Cyber – Physical Systems can impact society in many ways<br />

by using past knowledge to achieve desired outcomes.<br />

One researcher in this field, Dr. Song Han,<br />

currently teaches at the University of Connecticut. He<br />

received his Bachelorʼs degree in Computer Science<br />

from Nanjing University in China in 2003, and a<br />

Masterʼs Degree from the University of Hong Kong in<br />

2006. After that, Dr. Han earned his Ph.D. from the<br />

University of Texas recently in 2012, where he wrote<br />

his thesis on Cyber-Physical Systems.<br />

His dedication to research is recognized by<br />

the sponsorship of institutions including the National<br />

Science Foundation, Texas Instruments, and<br />

Microsoft. He regularly attends conferences to give<br />

lectures on the work that he does, as well as learn<br />

from other professors about their research and<br />

their methods of approaching real-world problems.<br />

Consequently, this also meant that I needed to find a<br />

way to arrange a time to meet with him! Fortunately,<br />

I had the amazing opportunity to interview him in the<br />

Spring of 2017.<br />

I found him to be very welcoming as we<br />

made our introductions. As I heard him talking, I<br />

could sense a character that I was inspired to learn<br />

from and aspiring to be.<br />

What Dr. Han particularly focuses on is the<br />

development of Cyber – Physical Systems. These systems<br />

network all the sensors within the environment<br />

to one or more computers. These sensors give feedback<br />

to detect changes from any of these sensors to<br />

respond with effective decisions.<br />

One might ask, in what ways are these systems<br />

currently applied? On one hand, manufacturing<br />

companies optimize their productivity by measuring<br />

factors such as temperature and machine performance<br />

while queueing orders by dates and<br />

importance. Yet Cyber – Physical Systems can also<br />

be applied to robotics. Intelligent robots can be understood<br />

as systems that are dependent on external<br />

information to act on their own will.<br />

Currently, Dr. Han is receiving sponsorship<br />

from Microsoft and Amazon to develop a large<br />

process control application to run on Microsoft Edge.<br />

This application will collect sensory data to be analyzed<br />

on a Data Analytical platform.<br />

In addition, he is also jointly working with<br />

other faculty from UConn, the City University of<br />

Hong Kong, and the Baptist University of Hong Kong<br />

to develop SmartMind, aimed to help rehabilitate<br />

patients with Alzheimerʼs and help them maintain a<br />

healthy lifestyle. Using Kinect to monitor patientsʼ<br />

movements, SmartMind uses knowledge of the the<br />

relationships between daily activities and key household<br />

objects, such as sitting down to eat breakfast<br />

at a dinner table. It also establishes reminders for<br />

the patient to do things throughout the day such as<br />

to walk around or to take medication. If a patient<br />

falls down and is injured, for example, SmartMind<br />

will call for medical assistance. SmartMind pinpoints<br />

these emergencies with extreme accuracy by<br />

networking the Kinect with other sensory devices<br />

throughout the household.<br />

Dr. Han looks forward to continuing his research<br />

in the future. As part of this process, he looks<br />

for aspiring student researchers of many different academic<br />

backgrounds and technical experience. With<br />

the guidance of their professor, his students analyze<br />

real-world constraints to solve abstract problems as<br />

part of their research as they pursue their doctorate<br />


Being Salty Has<br />

Health Benefits<br />

Written by: Susanne Walczyk<br />

Designed by: Adrienne Nguyen<br />

Would you prefer table salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt, or no salt? There are choices even when it comes<br />

to salt. We like to have options, and some provide benefits over others. Known as the 'Salt of the Earth' we<br />

usually have an affinity for this mineral, some in more way than others. It is said that complaining or "being<br />

salty" is healthy because we let our negative emotions out instead of harboring them within. Being salty in<br />

nature or not being shy with the salt shaker/grinder on food can be good for the health. Not all salts are<br />

created equal, so let's look at some of the differences. Table salt is typically iodized; iodine is mixed in to<br />

supplement the diet as it is needed for the production of thyroid hormones. Those that prefer sea salt often<br />

acquire iodine from seafood or sea vegetables. Sea salt comes from, well, you guessed it, but as you may also be<br />

aware, the sea is becoming increasingly polluted. Now if you are thinking, “who cares about the options, I am<br />

just going to go salt-less.”, even if that were feasible in this society full of fillers it is actually more deleterious to<br />

your health to avoid salt altogether. "While salt-induced hypertension is typically blamed as a cause of heart<br />

disease, a low salt intake is associated with higher mortality from cardiovascular events" states Chris Kresser,<br />

citing a 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Kresser, 2011). Being salty is heart<br />

healthy as sodium helps in regulating blood volume and pressure. Himalayan salt arguably provides the most<br />

benefits when it comes to food-grade salts. This salt is not chemically processed or refined, leaving all 84<br />

minerals within its pink-tinted crystals. These naturally occurring minerals are also found in our bodies, and<br />

they are replenished by consuming Himalayan salt. It may be ingested, applied topically such as in a bath, or<br />

inhaled from an inhaler or salt lamp. Its versatility provides for its many benefits, ranging from detoxification,<br />

reducing muscle cramps, allergies (as an antihistamine) and sinus issues, to balancing pH, hormones, blood<br />

pressure and sugar, and it can even help improve energy and weight loss. Pharmaceutical companies often<br />

proffer these benefits, but at the cost of various side effects.<br />

Alternative medicines might be looked as ineffective, but in the long-run natural remedies can be<br />

more sustainable with fewer drawbacks. The only salt for Tom Brady is Himalayan salt, and going on 40, he still<br />

sets records and has youthful good looks (Lee, 2017). They say "you are what you eat" because the body uses<br />

what it consumes to sustain itself and make new cells. Food can literally be poison or medicine, so it's good to<br />

question which salt or snack is being ingested. Himalayan salt lamps, inhalers , and neti pots can help clear up<br />

sinus ailments during the cold and allergy seasons. Treatment with salt is called halotherapy, and interestingly,<br />

the prefix "halo" refers to salt in Greek. An amazing form of this therapy is speleotherapy, which utilizes the ion<br />

rich air in salt caves or mines to treat respiratory conditions. Salt caves are not a foreign rarity, and can be<br />

found in this very state. The Saltana Cave in Ridgefield, Connecticut welcomes sightseers and individuals<br />

looking to benefit from salt therapy. We learn new things every day, like being salty can be therapeutic.<br />

Being salty is heart healthy<br />

as sodium helps in regulating<br />

blood volume and pressure

Most people have a friend who has suffered<br />

multiple head injuries. They might have played a<br />

contact sport in high school or worked in a job<br />

where there is a high risk of injury. Usually, we do<br />

not think too much more about it than that.<br />

Concussions feel like a normal part of growing up,<br />

and it almost seems odd if someone hasn’t ever<br />

gotten one. In fact, the University of Pittsburgh<br />

Brain and Spine Injury Program reported that “in<br />

the United States, the annual incidence of sportsrelated<br />

concussion is estimated at 300,000”(5).<br />

This number is staggering, and explains why<br />

concussions seem like such a commonplace in<br />

our society. However, what is not often discussed<br />

is the ramifications of this high incidence. In<br />

recent years, brain injuries have become<br />

increasingly prevalent in the media. In 2015, a<br />

high-profile court case against the National<br />

Football League (NFL) caught the attention of the<br />

nation.<br />

Over 5,000 former football players sued the NFL on<br />

the grounds that repeated head injuries during<br />

their careers were the cause of more severe<br />

conditions that developed later on in their lives.<br />

Many players were suffering from degenerative<br />

neurological conditions such as amyotrophic<br />

lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease.<br />

Others suffered from chronic depression and<br />

some even committed suicide. The players<br />

asserted that the NFL downplayed the<br />

consequences of repeated concussions. They<br />

ended up winning the case, settling for up to $5<br />

million per player. This case highlights a gravely<br />

concerning attitude that most people have<br />

towards head injuries: that they are ‘no big deal’<br />

and that, beyond a few months of recovery, have<br />

no further implications. However, this is simply<br />

not the case. Mounting evidence from multiple<br />

longitudinal studies of athletes indicate that<br />

repeated head injuries can lead to dysarthria (a<br />

disorder that affects the muscles of the tongue,<br />

jaw, and face) and apraxia (a disorder in which<br />

the patient’s word comprehension is intact, but<br />

formulation is halted in some capacity). Reports<br />

also indicate that repeated concussions lead to<br />

life-long depression (Guskiewicz et al) and can<br />

contribute to onset of ALS and Parkinson’s<br />

disease (Bazarian et al).<br />

When your head collides with something or is<br />

struck with enough force, the brain immediately<br />

activates its protective damage-control<br />

mechanisms. Firstly, the skull provides an<br />

incredibly hard external layer. This can help<br />

prevent an open head injury, in which the skull is<br />

punctured completely (by a piece of shrapnel, or<br />

say, a railroad spike). However, this boney shell<br />

around the brain can sometimes be<br />

counterproductive, as a significant impact could<br />

cause the cortical surface to collide with the<br />

inside of the skull, possibly resulting in lesions,<br />

swelling, and internal bleeding. The meninges,<br />

three layers of protective tissue of the brain,<br />

begin to essentially bruise. If the impact is great<br />

enough, this could potentially cause even more<br />

widespread damage to the neurons, which is seen<br />

most commonly in Traumatic Brain Injuries.<br />

Concussions tend to be less severe, but certainly<br />

result in some degree of damage.

What about Neuroplasticity?<br />

Most people have heard about the concept of neuroplasticity as is applies to language learning and<br />

general human development. The basic idea is that the brain has the capacity to recover and<br />

reorganize after injury. This capacity is vital to the continual functioning of our brain, and aids in<br />

recovery of cerebral function following anything from a concussion to the complete surgical removal<br />

of an entire cerebral hemisphere. Our brain’s ability to carry on is truly astounding, and numerous<br />

studies have been conducted in this area of neuroscience. However, this reorganizational capacity<br />

can only go so far, especially in instances of repeated damage. Although the brain can specialize other<br />

neurons to “pick up” functions that other neurons can no longer perform following damage, once<br />

significant cell death has occurred, the neurons cannot regenerate and those areas are permanently<br />

damaged.<br />

What does it look like when someone<br />

has suffered from repeated head<br />

injuries?<br />

The clinical presentations of someone who has<br />

suffered repeated head injuries varies. It largely<br />

depends on the sight of damage in the brain. Most<br />

frequently, head injuries involve damage to the frontal<br />

or temporal lobes. These are hugely important regions<br />

of the brain that are responsible for several higherorder<br />

functions. The frontal lobe mediates personality,<br />

executive functioning, problem solving, and shortterm<br />

memory. All of these aspects are crucial in<br />

effective communication. Someone who has suffered<br />

repeated neuronal damage to this lobe will have<br />

trouble formulating coherent ideas. They might<br />

struggle to come up with words, forget what they are<br />

trying to say, and spend a lot of time getting their<br />

ideas out. This can be frustrating for both the speaker<br />

and the listener, and requires a great deal of patience<br />

from all parties during communication. Damage to<br />

this region could also affect the musculature of<br />

speech, leading to dysarthria and potentially other<br />

neurodegenerative disorders (such as Parkinson’s<br />

disease and ALS). In this case, prosody- the rhythm of<br />

speech, so to speak- is affected. The individual might<br />

have slow, slurred speech that is difficult to<br />

understand. They might pronounce things incorrectly<br />

as a result of not being able to properly coordinate the<br />

muscles of their jaw and tongue. Repeated<br />

concussions that result in significant damage to the<br />

temporal lobe severely affects communication, as this<br />

region houses the primary cortical areas for<br />

processing speech and language. Damage here could<br />

result in difficulty with verbal expression and/or the<br />

ability to understand speech.<br />

Why should you care?<br />

For these reasons, any kind of head injury should<br />

not be taken lightly, whether it is a minor<br />

concussion or a full-blown TBI. If the brain is<br />

damaged, its plasticity can only go so far.<br />

Repeated damage and cell necrosis will make it<br />

even harder for the brain to recover, especially<br />

for those who are reaching the end of<br />

adolescence and nearing the end of their brain’s<br />

development. While the immediate effects of<br />

repeated brain damage might not be as obvious<br />

as the tremors associated with Parkinson’s<br />

disease or the dysfunction of muscle<br />

coordination in cerebral palsy, they can still have<br />

a huge impact on the everyday life of those<br />

affected. Not being able to make quick decisions,<br />

struggling to remember basic information, and<br />

having to adapt to changing situations are all<br />

characteristic symptoms of individuals who have<br />

suffered multiple head injuries. But these are all<br />

easily written off as the individual being<br />

“forgetful”, “lazy”, or “slow”. It is time for us to<br />

look at the real consequences of repeated head<br />

injury and take them seriously.<br />

N O M A D I C | 2 4

HOW<br />


ARE WE?<br />

Are we really a unique, highly evolved “human”<br />

species, far from primitive Neanderthals, or are<br />

we more alike than previously thought? As much<br />

as 2.6% of modern human DNA was contributed<br />

by Neanderthals, our closest extinct relative. Utilizing<br />

modern genomic sequencing techniques<br />

allows us to trace human evolution and pinpoint<br />

when the “primitive cavemen” turned into “modern”<br />

humans.<br />

Written By: Jenny Weiss | Designed By: Shemona Singh<br />


Homo erectus<br />

migrated into East<br />

and West Asia<br />


Genus Australopithecus<br />

appeared on African<br />

savannahs<br />


Group of early “proto-human”<br />

species<br />

emerged<br />


The first hominids<br />

appeared in Africa

Around 7 million years ago,<br />

the first hominids (a group including humans<br />

and their extinct ancestors or relatives) appeared<br />

in Africa, having diverged from ancestral<br />

primates. Ardipithecus , a group of early<br />

“proto-human” species that lived around 5<br />

million years ago, reflected characteristics<br />

of both primates and humans, combining<br />

tree-climbing with elements of upright walking.<br />

The genus Australopithecus , (of which<br />

the famous “Lucy” specimen belongs), appeared<br />

on African savannahs between 4 and<br />

2.5 million years ago.<br />

These species pioneered bipedalism,<br />

allowing for the development of more advanced<br />

brains and behaviors. After the extinction<br />

of the Ardipithecus and Australopithecus<br />

groups, the genus Homo appeared in<br />

Africa. Large brains, fully bipedal movement,<br />

stone tool-making, and complex social groups<br />

allowed this genus to thrive and evolve into<br />

increasingly human-like species. Homo erectus<br />

, the first hunter-gatherer, migrated into<br />

East and West Asia between 1.8 million and<br />

143,000 years ago. Homo heidelbergensis<br />

hunted large prey with spears, and built sturdy<br />

shelters. This was also the first species that distinctly<br />

utilized fire for survival in cold environments.<br />

Three distinct species evolved from<br />

Homo heidelbergensis : Homo neanderthalensis<br />

, Homo sapiens, and a third mysterious<br />

group known as the “Denisovans”. Homo<br />

neanderthalensis and the Denisovans moved<br />

throughout Eurasia, while Homo sapiens<br />

remained in Africa. Homo neanderthalensis<br />

emerged in Europe and moved through Asia<br />

between 400,000 and 40,000 years ago, and<br />

was highly social and incredibly proficient in<br />

hunting large prey. Short, sturdy bodies and<br />

thick bones helped with retaining heat in cold<br />

regions, and allowed for powerful movement.<br />

They mastered the use of weapons<br />

and tools, made clothing, shelters, and ornamental<br />

objects, and practiced complex<br />

burials. Homo sapiens appeared in Africa<br />

200,000 years ago, emerging at roughly the<br />

same time that Homo erectus and Homo<br />

heidelbergensis disappeared. Agile, smarter,<br />

dexterous, socially sophisticated, and well<br />

adapted for running, Homo sapiens quickly<br />

flourished as other species slowly disappeared.<br />

Around 70,000 years ago, groups of<br />

Homo sapiens moved from Africa into Europe<br />

and Asia (and eventually spread to Australia<br />

and the Americas). The overlap between<br />

Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens<br />

often led to intense competition, interbreeding<br />

and possible warfare, and contributed to<br />

the decline and eventual extinction of Homo<br />

neanderthalensis.<br />

Early humans, thousands<br />

of years ago<br />

Neanderthal DNA is extracted from<br />

ancient bone fragments often found in burial<br />

sites located in caves and mountain regions<br />

throughout Eurasia. Of the discovered fragments,<br />

genetic information is scarce, due<br />

to protein degradation over time. Because<br />

of this, only two separate Neanderthal individuals<br />

have been found with completely<br />

intact genomes. However, the DNA that has<br />

been found reflects fascinating interactions<br />

between humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans.<br />

DNA quenced from Neanderthal individuals<br />

found in Siberia, Croatia, and Spain have<br />

suggested multiple waves of interspecies<br />

breeding. Researchers from the Max Planck<br />

Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in<br />

Leipzig, Germany proposed the following<br />

theory based on genetic evidence; Homo<br />

sapiens emerged in Africa 200,000 years ago,<br />

with some groups moving into Eurasia. One<br />

expanding group mated with Homo Neanderthalensis<br />

from Middle Eastern regions

around 125,000 years ago. Although this<br />

specific lineage went extinct, their mixed DNA<br />

survived in other Neanderthals who traveled<br />

across Eurasia, eventually settling in Siberia.<br />

During this time, more Homo sapiens moved<br />

from Africa 60,000 to 50,000 years ago, and<br />

interbred again with these dispersed Neanderthal<br />

groups. Humans traveling East also<br />

briefly mixed with Denisovans in Asia. In short,<br />

modern humans interbred three times with<br />

non-human relatives, contributing non-human<br />

DNA to the modern human genome.<br />

“Short, sturdy bodies and<br />

thick bones allowed for<br />

powerful movement. “<br />

DNA evidence indicates that during the<br />

tenuous time Homo neanderthalensis and<br />

Homo sapiens coexisted throughout Europe<br />

and Asia, interbreeding occurred between<br />

the species. While outright warfare between<br />

the two groups could explain the extinction<br />

of Homo neanderthalensis , interbreeding<br />

suggests that dwindling populations became<br />

absorbed into Homo sapiens . Modern DNA<br />

sequencing techniques have revealed that<br />

1.8% to 2.6% of modern human DNA in individuals<br />

of Eurasian descent comes from<br />

Neanderthals. People of African descent carry<br />

significantly less Neanderthal DNA, since<br />

African populations and Neanderthals occupied<br />

geographically separate regions, making<br />

contact unlikely.<br />

pathogens encountered during movement<br />

into Europe and Asia. By interbreeding,<br />

genetic resistance that Neanderthals accumulated<br />

over hundreds of years could be<br />

transferred into human populations. Not surprisingly,<br />

the majority of Neanderthal-based<br />

genes are found in regions of DNA that code<br />

for immune response to pathogens. Increased<br />

blood clotting may also stem from Homo neanderthalensis<br />

, which could have helped with<br />

recovery from injuries while hunting. Lighter<br />

skin (resulting from reduced concentration<br />

of the pigment melanin) allows for increased<br />

absorption of sunlight and higher rates of<br />

vitamin D synthesis, a useful trait in regions far<br />

from the equator where periods of daylight<br />

are shorter and less intense. Neanderthal DNA<br />

sequences contain mutations in melanin production<br />

similar to humans, suggesting that as<br />

humans developed unique mutations, Neanderthal<br />

influences would have strengthened<br />

their prevalence in interbreeding populations.<br />

Although we are genetically different<br />

from Homo neanderthalensis , interaction<br />

between our species may have resulted in<br />

better adapted offspring with beneficial variations<br />

in immune function, skin pigmentation,<br />

and LDL cholesterol accumulation. By tracing<br />

our origins through interactions with other<br />

human-like species, we can better understand<br />

what makes us “human”, and how we are essentially<br />

“cavemen” in digital times.<br />

We can learn a great deal<br />

from studying our past<br />

Best adapted for cold weather climates,<br />

Neanderthals may have contributed genes<br />

that significantly improved early humans’<br />

chances of survival. Neanderthal genetic variants<br />

that promote the buildup of LDL cholesterol<br />

(the “bad” cholesterol, which can lead to<br />

heart attacks) may have helped fat accumulation<br />

that insulates human bodies in cold, harsh<br />

climates they encountered during expansion<br />

from Africa. for immune response to pathogens.<br />

Another vital contribution to the human<br />

genome was immune resistance to new

Got<br />

Drugs?<br />

Neuropsychopharmacology<br />

Does!<br />

Written by: Greta Johnson<br />

Designed by: Apoorva Kulkarni<br />

?I took a pill in Ibiza? sang Mike Posner<br />

(2015). Well, depending on what pill Posner<br />

took, the action of the pill could vary! Perhaps<br />

it inhibits enzymatic inactivation of a neurotransmitter,<br />

like marijuana, or perhaps it was a<br />

neurotransmitter release stimulator, like<br />

methamphetamine, or maybe it stimulated the<br />

synthesis of dopamine, such as L-DOPA. Who<br />

knows? Regardless, the mechanism of action<br />

of drugs is fascinating. There is a class at<br />

UConn offered solely about drugs and their<br />

effects on behavior, appropriately named<br />

?Drugs and Behavior?, and all the information<br />

in this article is from materials presented in<br />

that class by Dr. John Salamone.<br />

What exactly is a drug? A drug is any<br />

form of ingestion/injection that can induce<br />

some sort of side effect, whether it be physiological<br />

and/or psychological; it usually ends up<br />

being both. The study of drugs and behavior is<br />

called ?neuropsychopharmacology.?<br />

There are various neurotransmitters in<br />

the brain that communicate with other neurons<br />

in the brain. Neurotransmitter release in<br />

cells are triggered by a phenomenon called<br />

?action potentials? and action potentials are<br />

the electrical signals in a cell. Drugs usually<br />

impact the brain by acting on various parts of<br />

chemical neurotransmission. There are five<br />

stages of chemical neurotransmission, synthesis,<br />

storage, release, postsynaptic effect, and<br />

inactivation.<br />

Many drugs act on synthesis of neurotransmitters.<br />

An example of a drug that acts<br />

on neurotransmitter synthesis is a drug called<br />

?L-DOPA.? L-DOPA is a precursor for the syn-<br />

Mike Posner (2015). I Took a Pill in Ibiza. On At Night, Alone [CD]. United States: Island. (2014).

thesis of dopamine. Dopamine is depleted in<br />

patients with Parkinson?s, and L-DOPA can be<br />

given to them for alleviation of their Parkinson?s<br />

symptoms. Another drug that stimulates<br />

synthesis of neurotransmitters is a drug called<br />

?alpha- methyl dopa?, which is used for treatment<br />

of high blood pressure.<br />

Before neurotransmitters are released,<br />

they need to be stored. Many antipsychotic<br />

drugs are used to treat schizophrenia, and<br />

they work by blocking transporters that take<br />

drugs to be stored. Since they block storage,<br />

they deplete the postsynaptic receptor of<br />

neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine,<br />

epinephrine, and serotonin.<br />

Neurotransmitters being released, as<br />

already mentioned, are triggered by an action<br />

potential. Action potentials allow calcium to<br />

enter the terminal, and this influx of calcium<br />

induces effect of neurotransmitters. ADHD<br />

drugs, like methylphenidate (Ritalin), and amphetamines<br />

actually work by releasing<br />

dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, or<br />

serotonin into the synapse: they have a lot of<br />

potential to be abused.<br />

Postsynaptic effect has a huge impact on an<br />

individual. Basically, postsynaptic effect receptor<br />

activation is linked to metabotropic<br />

channels, meaning it leads to secondary pathways.<br />

It can essentially lead to ?long term<br />

changes in gene expression in a neuron? (Salamone,<br />

2016), in which case, a lot of things<br />

could change in an individual. Alcohol and<br />

marijuana are examples of drugs that affect<br />

postsynaptic effect.<br />

Inactivation of neurotransmitters is<br />

done by enzymes that break down the neurotransmitter<br />

into smaller substances that are<br />

then recycled. An example of a drug that inhibits<br />

inactivation of neurotransmitters is<br />

Cognex, a drug used to treat Alzheimer?s disease.<br />

A few other common examples of drugs<br />

that block inactivation are cocaine, various<br />

amphetamines, and Prozac (an<br />

antidepressant).<br />

The action of the drugs obviously goes<br />

much deeper than this, this is barely skimming<br />

the surface. It is a very fascinating subject, as<br />

there are various types of drugs, various effects<br />

and side effects, and various diseases to<br />

treat with a simple concoction. As for neuropsychopharmacology,<br />

the possibilities are<br />

endless.<br />

Salamone, J. (2016).Drugs and Behavior First Half 2017 SPRING for POSTING.[PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from lms.uconn.edu

V I D E O G A M E<br />

C O N C E P T S I N O U R<br />

W O R L D :<br />



AND THE<br />

LAST OF US<br />

B y : C a m i l l e K r e s e l<br />

D e s i g n e d b y : S a n j a n a a S u s h a n t h

A Taste of our<br />

Written by: Nathalia Hernandez<br />

Designed by: Apoorva Kulkarni<br />

Ecosystem<br />

How are we expected to thrive when the<br />

ecosystem around us is suffering a slow and<br />

painful death? The organisms around us are<br />

modifying and so we, too, need to open our eyes,<br />

and alter alongside the earth. This is one of several<br />

issues that the human population is facing and<br />

should be aware of.<br />

One of which you may have already noticed here in<br />

the Northeast: there have been warmer days this<br />

past winter season than actual snow days. In<br />

addition, sea levels are rising especially in the<br />

Northeast due to increased global warming<br />

emissions in larger cities. Though we may enjoy the<br />

warm weather in the middle of winter, it can<br />

reduce crop yield in the agricultural business,<br />

increase rainfall and flooding, and put a strain on<br />

human health through air pollution. RGGI (Regional<br />

Greenhouse Gas Initiative) is taking action and<br />

trying to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide<br />

emissions in the Northeast, and should not<br />

be overlooked simply because college<br />

students in the Northeast enjoy 70 degree<br />

weather while walking to class. Although we<br />

may enjoy walking to class in sunny weather,<br />

we should also understand that food<br />

availability, air conditions, and rising sea<br />

levels are critical issues that cannot be<br />


The Great Barrier Reef is only one of the many<br />

ecological victims of our drastic climate change. Over<br />

25 million years old, this reef in Queensland,<br />

Australia is slowly depleting before our eyes.<br />

However, it is not too late. There are several actions<br />

we can take to revive and protect this coral reef<br />

ecosystem that tourists love to snorkel in. More than<br />

just a tourist attraction, The Great Barrier Reef is a<br />

home to ?134 species of sharks and rays, six of the<br />

world's seven species of threatened marine turtles,<br />

and more than 30 species of marine mammals,<br />

including the vulnerable dugong?(World Wildlife,<br />

Date). Unfortunately, the destruction of this<br />

beautiful coral reef is caused by nearby garbage<br />

disposals, bleaching, fishing, and emission of fossil<br />

fuels that threaten both the flora and fauna of this<br />

diverse ecosystem; however, it is not dead yet, and<br />

there are programs enacted to try to recover this<br />

important ecosystem.<br />

Some well known endangered animals include the blade horned chameleon, pacific bluefin tuna,<br />

bumblebees, american eel, kaputar pink slug, and the chinese cobra. Also, the amur leopard is<br />

endangered with only about 35 species left in the wild. The decrease in numbers for such<br />

animals can be caused by factors such as habitat loss, illegal poaching and hunting, and climate<br />

change. Each of these species are being watched over by organization such as U.S. Fish and<br />

Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund, and many more. Monitoring and placing laws to stop<br />

poaching and other forms of ecological destruction serves a critical role in the preservation and<br />

protection of species on this Earth.<br />

These are just some topics that are up to further discussion in our environmental ecosystem,<br />

but there are a plethora of more issues. The human society should use the power of the media<br />

to express the need for the care of Earth. The reality is that organisms are dying at the hands of<br />

mankind, and our eyes should be opened. We must serve as advocates for animals because they<br />

have no voice or influence on our political climate. As humans, we should live mindful of the fact<br />

that we share this planet with thousands of organisms that deserve our respect and kindness.

Mind-Body<br />

Practices<br />

Proves Benefits For Breast<br />

Cancer Patients<br />

Written by: Emma Atkinson<br />

Designed by: Divya Ganugapati

The year 2016 saw approximately 246,660<br />

new cases of breast cancer, with an<br />

estimated 40,450 deaths during the same<br />

year, which accounted for 6.8 % of all cancerrelated<br />

deaths in the United States1. In<br />

accordance with these results, the S.E.E.R<br />

Research group, funded by the National<br />

Cancer institute, published a study of the<br />

number of new breast cancer cases and<br />

deaths per every 100,000 females, years later<br />

in 2016. Results of this study are illustrated in<br />

Figure 1. This figure reveals that although the<br />

cancer-related deaths have decreased over<br />

the past 20 years, this decline is small enough<br />

that it can almost be considered negligible in<br />

nature. In parallel, the graph of the new cases<br />

show to have a very unstable relationship,<br />

and proves to have no improvement or<br />

decline in the amount of breast cancer cases<br />

being discovered each year.<br />

Regardless of these troubling statistics, there is<br />

still one positive that can be derived from these<br />

numbers, and that is the tiny ratio of deaths to<br />

new cases being diagnosed. Out of all new<br />

cases diagnosed in 2016, only 16.4 percent<br />

resulted in loss of life. The state of the art<br />

technology and cutting edge research is a<br />

trademark of the entirety of the current decade,<br />

and has enable researchers, scientists, and<br />

medical professionals, globally, to produce<br />

thousands of studies, pharmaceutical remedies,<br />

and new treatment methods that has helped to<br />

keep this percentage, constant and miniscule.<br />

The reality we have come to face in the field of<br />

oncology is as simple as this: There may not be<br />

a set treatment, but people are being diagnosed,<br />

people are surviving and people are recovering,<br />

all enabled by our immense advances in<br />

modern medicine and the research that this<br />

institution is built on. Nonetheless, these<br />

technological milestones cannot defend and<br />

protect against all detriments of a breast cancer<br />

diagnosis.<br />

Figure 1. The study published in 2016 by the S.E.E.R<br />

Research group, presented the number of breast cancer<br />

diagnoses and cancer deaths per 100,000 US females.<br />

Although modern research, technologies and<br />

advancements have helped to dramatically<br />

increase life span, quality of life, and survival rates<br />

amongst those diagnosed with breast cancer, it<br />

has proven much harder to treat and eventually<br />

prevent other biological and psychosocial<br />

symptoms and side effects one may contract<br />

during an ordeal as such. One of the most<br />

common and prevalent side effects amongst<br />

women undergoing treatment for breast cancer<br />

is high blood pressure (hypertension), since it has<br />

been known to interrupt the treatment of the<br />

cancer. (REF). According to Dr. Benjamin<br />

Sussman of the CTCA of Philadelphia, “High<br />

blood pressure can be a common side effect of<br />

cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy and<br />

targeted therapies…some chemotherapy agents<br />

are worse offenders than others, such as<br />

angiogenesis inhibitors, alkylating agents and<br />

immunosuppressant drugs after stem cell<br />

transplantation.” Additionally, some hormone<br />

therapies (e.g., Arimidex®, Aromasin®) can cause<br />

high blood pressure” (Sussman 2001). The multifaceted<br />

nature of this condition proves not only<br />

hard to treat, but hard to maintain in times like<br />

these. In cases of women with breast cancer, a<br />

concoction of the essential prescriptions,<br />

treatments, and the stress and anxiety that is<br />

correlated with this illness, there is a multitude of<br />

factors and perpetrators that could be used to<br />

explain the increase in blood pressure.

Amidst findings as inconclusive and troubling as<br />

these, it is undeniable that there needs to be an<br />

alternative treatment method found for the high<br />

reactivity and instability of breast cancer<br />

treatment drugs. Nonetheless, there has been<br />

increasing interest and attention being called to<br />

the use of Mindfulness Stress-Based Reduction<br />

Programs (MBSR’s) as a solution to this problem.<br />

MBSR’s, such as yoga, reiki, and meditation have<br />

been historically known to have a plethora of<br />

benefits, such as increasing blood flow to the body,<br />

decreasing blood pressure and stress levels, and<br />

combat states of depression and anxiety. Since<br />

these practices<br />

have been known<br />

to relieve<br />

symptoms such as<br />

blood pressure and<br />

high stress<br />

these practices have been known to relieve<br />

symptoms such as high blood pressure and<br />

height stress levels, there is a growing body of<br />

evidence that is forming, supporting the<br />

potential connection between MBSR’s and<br />

positive mental health and physiological<br />

outcomes in breast cancer patients and<br />

survivors. In support of this idea, many authors<br />

currently publishing papers on the subject, are<br />

open encouraging and inviting further research<br />

and studies to help gain momentum, credibility<br />

and recognition for this ground-breaking new<br />

treatment. There is therefore, an increased<br />

need to systematically review this literature in<br />

order to better inform future interventions and<br />

outreach programs in clinical settings aimed at<br />

improving recovery outcomes and treatment<br />

for breast cancer patients and survivors. In<br />

response to these invitations by other<br />

established authors, the proposed study looks<br />

to extend on the research being done currently,<br />

by using a systematic review and a metaanalysis<br />

to explore the potential benefits of<br />

using MBSR’s to facilitate, and treat patients<br />

with breast cancer.

OUT OF<br />


Written By: Heather Lewis | Designed By: Shemona Singh<br />

Do you ever wonder just how big our universe is?<br />

Think about it. Knowing what is out there is only<br />

limited by the technology that we have now<br />

and the light years that have reached the farthest<br />

distance. Our universe is also constantly<br />

expanding. And how do we know this?! Math<br />

and science! Each and every year we are discovering<br />

more and more of what surrounds<br />

our planet. Just last year, scientists at NASA<br />

found that an asteroid had made its way into<br />

the Earthʼs orbit, practically mimicking a second<br />

moon. However, it is significantly smaller than<br />

our moon and our satellites orbiting the Earth,<br />

so it is not predicted that we will be able to land<br />

on it anytime soon. Another discovery that has<br />

been made in the past year is<br />

that there are over ten<br />

times more galaxies<br />

than previously<br />

estimated.<br />

With the<br />

“What else<br />

is out there?”<br />

Hubble telescope, astronomers found that what<br />

we previously thought were large galaxies actually<br />

were made up of many smaller galaxies.<br />

It is thought that over 90% of our universe is yet<br />

to be discovered.<br />

Additionally, scientists have viewed what appears<br />

to be plumes of water erupting from one<br />

of Jupiterʼs moons, Europa, through the Hubble<br />

telescope. These plumes would provide an easy<br />

accessway to Europaʼs ocean, which is thought<br />

to hold twice as much water as Earthʼs oceans.<br />

The ocean is located below miles of ice so this<br />

form of access will allow scientists to sample the<br />

ocean water more easily, and test for the potential<br />

to hold life. NASA is hoping to get a satellite<br />

to orbit Europa by 2020.<br />

What if our universe is actually just a circle with<br />

a black hole in the middle and the only way we<br />

can see the other side is to travel around it? It<br />

would be like a universe donut! This would be<br />

due to an abundance of dark matter, which is<br />

matter that has the ability to bend light. However,<br />

it has not been confirmed that dark matter<br />

exists due to its complexity. But there is evidence<br />

of a particle consisting of very similar characteristics<br />

to those of dark matter. What else is out<br />

there? Aliens? Water?<br />

The past year has led to many discoveries,<br />

although many of them are only predictions<br />

for now. Who knows, maybe this year those<br />

predictions will be proven true.

SILVER<br />

LINING<br />

W R I T T E N B Y : S A Y E D A N A J A M U S S A H A R P E E R Z A D E<br />

D E S I G N E D B Y : D I V Y A G A N U G A P A T I

The rabies virus, infamous for killing beloved Old Yeller, is deadly because of its<br />

dangerously efficient method of attacking the central nervous system and the brain.<br />

As scary as the rabies virus is, it is admirable because it is one of the few that is able<br />

to penetrate the fortified blood brain barrier. The Lee lab saw this deadly<br />

mechanism as a silver lining. They used nanogold particles to mimic the shape of<br />

the rabies virus in order to bypass the blood brain barrier and target tumors.<br />

The blood brain barrier is one of the biggest obstacles for neurological treatments.<br />

The same mechanism meant to protect the precious brain serves as one of the<br />

biggest obstacles for medical treatments. Around “98% of small molecules as well as<br />

colloidal-sized particles are restricted from entry into the brain”. This is one of the<br />

biggest obstacles physicians face when trying to treat brain tumors. When faced<br />

with such a daunting challenge, the Lee Lab turned to naturally occurring breaches<br />

of the BBB. That is when they came across the silver lining of rabies. The rabies<br />

virus has many proteins that surround its outer body but one specific protein, the<br />

rabies virus glycoprotein (RVG), allows the virus to use neural pathways, travel to<br />

the CNS, and cross the blood brain barrier. Thus, they decided to create a<br />

nanoparticle that would be coated with RVG which would allow it to pass through<br />

the BBB and target brain tumors.<br />

Now that they knew what the outside of the nano particle should be, they had to<br />

figure out what the inside material should be. The material needed to be inorganic,<br />

flexible, and unique photothermal properties. An inorganic substance was needed so<br />

that it would be inert and would not react with the other biomaterials in the body. In<br />

regards to structure, there are many factors that influence the uptake and<br />

biodistribution of nanoparticles inside the body like charge, shape, size, etc.<br />

However, “particle shape is considered to be one of the most powerful tools for<br />

enhancing nanoparticle internalization”. Thus, flexibility was important because<br />

different shapes and configurations of the nanoparticles needed to be tested. The<br />

material of choice also had to have photothermal properties because the plan was to<br />

have the nanoparticle pass the BBB and then use a laser to activate the nanoparticles<br />

only in the region of the brain tumor. This was crucial because, in theory, when the<br />

nanoparticles are released into the bloodstream, they are going to be found

throughout the body and the brain. Thus, the nanoparticles either had to be made so<br />

that they targeted just the tumor or they had to be made so that they could be<br />

anywhere but would only activate when in the tumor region. The latter would be<br />

much easier because it is often hard to differentiate between a tumor cell and a<br />

regular cell using proteins. Thus, having unique photothermal properties would<br />

allow the nanoparticle to overheat when target with a laser and burn the tumor<br />

tissue around it.<br />

The material that best fitted the job<br />

description was gold. Gold is a flexible<br />

inorganic metal that is inert and nontoxic.<br />

Gold also has unique photothermal<br />

properties. It has a very high rate of<br />

absorption: ~105 times conventional dyes. In<br />

addition to having high absorption which<br />

allows for better imaging, gold can increase<br />

from a range of 10 oC to 1000 oC. This<br />

property is important because it needs to be<br />

able to heat up enough to kill the tumor cells<br />

surrounding it. Luckily, some studies show<br />

that tumor cells are more susceptible to damage due to heat than regular cells.It is<br />

also generates a strong the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) when in<br />

presence of near infrared light (NIR) which is a bunch of fancy words for allows for<br />

better imaging when certain wavelengths of light interact with it. This allows for<br />

better data analysis and tracking of what the nanogold rods are doing in the brain.<br />

Even better, gold has a strong LSPR in the “wavelength range of 700–950 nm<br />

(maximally 1200 nm), which is the best spectral region for imaging and therapy due<br />

to the so-called “water window” of all aqueous tissues”. It is important to note that<br />

this ideal wavelength is only possible when the gold is molded into rods and not<br />

spheres. This ends up being ideal because they are trying to mimic rabies virus<br />

which is “bullet-like shape with one rounded end and one planar end”. It is also very<br />

helpful that the absorption range of gold can be adjusted by changing the aspect<br />

ratio of the gold rods which will allows room for experimentation to find the shape<br />

that can heat up the most and be efficiently internalized. After trying different<br />

aspect ratios, it was experimentally determined that the optimal ratio for the rods<br />

was 2.34 (~120 nm in length and ~50 nm in width) which is very similar to that of the<br />

rabies virus. This shape combined with the RVG protein coating allowed the gold

nanorods to mimic the rabies virus. Experimentally, it was shown that gold<br />

nanorods that had the RVG protein coating and the specific aspect ratio were more<br />

present in spinal and brain cells than regular gold nanorods.<br />

Now that the ideal structure was determined, the theory was put to the test. Male<br />

mice were injected with N2a cells - tumor cells. The N2a cells were injected outside<br />

the brain and inside the brain. This means that some were injected onto the right<br />

dorsal side of the mouse and some were injected into the striatum of the brain. This<br />

was done in order to test for the effectiveness of the RVG treated gold nanorods on<br />

general tumor cells and then specifically on tumor cells in the brain. Next, some<br />

mice were injected with plain gold nanorods while others were injected with RVG<br />

gold nanorods. Finally, the tumor cells were irradiated with an 808 nm laser. It is<br />

important to note that the laser itself did not cause any damage to the skin or induce<br />

any tumor suppression.<br />

The results were very promising. The results showed that RVG treated gold<br />

nanorods were able to greatly decrease the size of tumors that were present on the<br />

side flank of the mice (not in the brain) when compared to the using regular gold<br />

nanorods or saline. In fact, a couple of the mice had tumors that completely went<br />

away and minimal skin damage, due to the treatment, was healed within thirteen<br />

days. After seeing preliminary success outside the brain, the real test was<br />

conducted. It was the moment of truth. We knew that the RVG gold nanorods can<br />

greatly decrease tumors however, would they be able to overcome the abominable<br />

BBB and have an impact on the tumor cells?

Benefits of<br />

Written by: Allison Tozzi<br />

Designed by: Apoorva Kulkarni<br />

Bilingual Br ains<br />

Hablo varios idiomas. Je parle plusieurs langues. Ich spreche mehrere Sprachen.<br />

Parlo più lingue.<br />

I speak multiple languages. If you were able to read two or more of the previous<br />

sentences, you would be able to consider yourself multilingual. This concept is<br />

seen in every corner of the world, with over 50% of the Earth?s population<br />

exhibiting this characteristic (Grosjean, 2012). There?s a big push for<br />

monolingual people to learn an additional language (or two), but not for the<br />

reasons you may think. Besides making a person appear more intelligent and well-versed,<br />

multilingualism has major benefits on the brain and its overall health. Studies have compared brain<br />

activity of monolingual and multilingual participants, and the results found that brains that spend<br />

time deciphering two or more languages have physiological bonuses, not just societal. Brains busy<br />

with constantly interchanging languages on a daily basis seem better off academically, socially, and<br />

cognitively.<br />


Children that grow up learning two languages at the same time often confuse<br />

the two, which ultimately is a detriment to their cognitive abilities.<br />


It is proven that bilingualism does not do damage one?s cognitive abilities, but<br />

rather strengthens them. Switching between languages strengthens the<br />

brain?s flexibility in thinking and executive control.


The academic problems some children of<br />

immigrant families in the United States<br />

face are due to learning disabilities, since<br />

they can understand English enough to<br />

get by.<br />


Learning disabilities and differences in<br />

languages are two completely separate<br />

things. Sure, it would be hard for anyone<br />

to be immersed in an English-speaking<br />

classroom when he or she only speaks<br />

French, but this doesn?t mean a disability<br />

is present.<br />

Multilinguals are known for exhibiting a phenomenon called<br />

code switching. This is when people switch between languages<br />

within sentences when they are speaking. This ?switching?has<br />

been proven to enhance executive control, meaning one?s ability<br />

to plan and execute tasks (Bialystok,et al, 2012). Studies have<br />

found that even in situations where strictly only one language<br />

was required, the brain was constantly referencing the other<br />

language. Where things can go awry is when attention comes<br />

into play. Monolingual speakers only have one ?database?to<br />

reference in linguistic processing, but bilinguals have two<br />

continually competing with each other, which can complicate<br />

problem solving and decision making. ?This may be the most<br />

difficult of all the selection challenges because it is possible for<br />

both languages to satisfy a wide range of criteria for the intended<br />

utterance, the only difference being determined by the social<br />

context,?(Bialystok, 2012). Despite this minor setback,<br />

multilinguals have outperformed monolinguals in many areas<br />

and tasks from early childhood to late adulthood.<br />

For many young multilingual speakers, they acquire<br />

one language at home and the other through education<br />

at school. In contrast, there is a big population of<br />

monolingual children being taught a second language in<br />

a bilingual setting. There are cognitive, social,<br />

emotional, health, familial, and educational benefits that<br />

come along with learning multiple languages at an early<br />

age. It has been found that bilinguals have increased<br />

protection against memory loss, Alzheimer?s Disease,<br />

and dementia, while also exhibiting decreased levels of<br />

anxiety and poor self-esteem (Benson). Bilingual<br />

education also brings in cultural and societal factors,<br />

like whether or not parents want their children to be<br />

learning Hindi, Spanish, or Chinese. Immigrant parents<br />

who are deeply rooted in their native culture may be<br />

thrilled about their children continuing to speak their<br />

native and first language, while, on the other hand,<br />

some parents may prioritize assimilation for their<br />

children and make them only speak English. These<br />

factors, aside from possible health benefits of<br />

multilingualism, can be just as important or more<br />

important for people making major life changes that<br />

will affect their culture, family, and education in the<br />

future.<br />


Bilingual education has been proved to slow the<br />

learning process in students.<br />


This just isn?t the case. Lytle makes a comparison<br />

between solving math problems and the ways bilinguals<br />

take advantage of their two languages. ?? you have to<br />

think about different ways you might solve a problem,<br />

in the same way if you?re growing up in a bilingual<br />

household you need to think of different words? if you<br />

can?t activate a word in one language, you need to think<br />

of a different way to describe the word,? (Benson).


Like other systems in our bodies,<br />

there is a finite window of time<br />

during childhood where we are most<br />

susceptible to lingual input, thus<br />

making it the prime time to learn<br />

language (Arnold).<br />

FACT<br />

FACT<br />

This phenomenon is called a critical<br />

period. It occurs in language<br />

acquisition, eyesight, hearing, motor<br />

function, and many other systems in<br />

the human body.<br />


The amount of time a person takes<br />

to learn a language is directly<br />

related to exposure to that<br />

language.<br />


Yes, exposure helps, but learning a<br />

language and being able to speak it<br />

well is dependent on when you start<br />

and the amount of ?comprehensible<br />

input? we receive (Center for<br />

Second Language Research).<br />

The true definition of multilingualism, by Webster?s, is ?using or<br />

able to use several languages especially with equal fluency.?(FACT)<br />

- The key here is ?with equal fluency.? I am a native English<br />

speaker, who learned Spanish starting in seventh grade and is<br />

now minoring in it here at UConn. I have been studying Spanish<br />

and speaking it for eight or so years now, and I consider myself<br />

nowhere near fluent. Fluent means knowing every word for<br />

everything as my senior year high school Spanish teacher<br />

explained when he pointed to the comfy desk chair wheels and<br />

asked me what I would call that in Spanish.<br />

This year, I have been fortunate enough to work in a research lab<br />

on campus that combines two of my passions: speech and<br />

Spanish. I have been working with Dr. Adrián García-Sierra and<br />

our lab team in analyzing data on monolingual and bilingual<br />

speakers and differences in their speech perception and<br />

production. We look at how babies with bilingual parents perceive<br />

both languages and how they can detect differences between<br />

them. We interpreted a set of graphs (figure 1) showing that<br />

bilingual speakers of Spanish and English at 30 months produce<br />

more words (combined in both languages) than monolingual<br />

English speakers of the same age. These two graphs work in<br />

tandem to depict how bilingual brains generally learn more words<br />

(around 750 by 30 months) than solely English speakers (around<br />

600 words). Yes, this is a combined amount between English and<br />

Spanish in this case, but it is pretty impressive for a young toddler<br />

to be able to differentiate between the phonemic, morphological,<br />

grammatical, and semantic differences (and also the difficulties<br />

associated with parents?accents). Our lab is one of many around<br />

the world that focuses on language acquisition and bilingualism in<br />

this way, and we are just scraping the surface of our<br />

understanding of the brain and its endless capabilities.<br />

References<br />

Bialystok, E. (2011). Reshaping the Mind:<br />

The Benefits of Bilingualism.Canadian<br />

Journal of Experimental Psychology =<br />

Revue Canadienne de Psychologie<br />

Experimentale,65(4), 229?235.<br />

http://doi.org/10.1037/a0025406<br />

Arnold, Shanti. (n.d).Common Myths<br />

About Bilingualism.Myths about<br />

Bilingualism, Multilingual Societies, and<br />

Language Rights. Hawai?i: Hawai'i Council<br />

for Second Language Research.<br />

Benson, John. (2013). Bilingual Education<br />

Holds Cognitive, Social And Health<br />

Benefits (INFOGRAPHIC). The Huffington<br />

Post.<br />

Grosjean, Francois, Ph.D. (2012). How<br />

Many Are We? Psychology Today.

A C A D E M I C<br />

E N H A N C E R S<br />

Written by: Julia Colliton<br />

Designed by: Divya Ganugapati

In the past years, it is understood that drug culture is an essential part to the full<br />

college experience. The time that young adults spend in the microcultures of green<br />

quads and large lecture halls is heavily intertwined with drugs. According to the<br />

National Institute of Drug Abuse, daily marijuana use among college students has<br />

increased in the population from 3.7% in 1995 to 4.6% in 2015. As well as, a directly<br />

proportional increase in binge drinking among the college students recorded at 31.9%<br />

in 2015, with only 23.7% of student of college age not attending school (Drug, 2016).<br />

These values suggest that the college lifestyle acts as a catalyst for drug use<br />

behavior which is now linked to those who are now common offenders or drug<br />

abusers. The focus should be redirected away from the common offenders to the<br />

psychological and physiological consequences of the recreational drugs.<br />

70%<br />

of college students using drugs<br />

do so to improve attention<br />

A new group of drugs called academic enhancers are dominating college campuses.<br />

The drug culture of college students is changing from just doing drugs for fun and now<br />

letting the influence seep into the classroom. Students use this advantage to take<br />

chemicals to seek academic excellence. According to the American Psychological<br />

Association, Adderall and Ritalin came on the scene in the late 1990s and have been a<br />

drug of choice among students more and more each year (2). In 2005, only 6.9% of<br />

students from a representative sample of 119 colleges and universities had used<br />

Ritalin, Dexedrine or Adderall without a prescription (2). Sounds like a fairly small<br />

number, right? It is important to point out that figure is an average because some<br />

schools recorded 0% but some schools recorded as high as 25% (2). One fourth of<br />

students had admitted to using an academic stimulant without a prescription, a<br />

chemical that only came into play less than 20 years ago at the time of the study. The<br />

APA attempted to explain the popularity of these drugs, explaining that in the<br />

traditional drug culture, students used drugs as a means of escape. Now, 70% of<br />

students claim to use these drugs to improve attention and 54% of students say<br />

they are trying to improve study habits. (2) So, yes students are using drugs just a<br />

much, if not more, than they were before. However, is it better that students are<br />

abusing these chemicals to improve their academic performance than as a means of<br />


The use of drugs to achieve academic excellence is not a universal phenomenon. This<br />

suggests that the more competitive the school, the more susceptible the students<br />

are to use Adderall or Ritalin. Thus it can be hypothesised students feel a need to use<br />

them just to cope with the competitive nature of our society and not as heavily<br />

sought out for pleasure . This hypothesis is widely contested as Nita Farahany, the<br />

director of Duke Science & Society, argues for the use of the drugs or rather the<br />

freedom of choice for college students (Ojiaku, 2015). She states that students<br />

should be able to decide for themselves whether to utilize academic stimulants. By<br />

backing up her argument with the idea that bettering the student's intellectual ability<br />

is beneficial for society as a whole. Contrastingly, Nicole Vincent, associate professor<br />

of philosophy, law and neuroscience at Georgia State University, argues that there is<br />

no proof that there is benefit of using these drugs and that using them to cope with<br />

the competitive nature of society simply perpetuates the problem (Ojiaku, 2015).<br />

The debate between these two professors reveals an interesting interconnection<br />

between choice and coping. Freedom of what we put into our bodies is a heated issue,<br />

and if we say the use of Adderall and Ritalin is the choice of the individual, where is the<br />

line drawn? If these drugs are left to choice, why are college students punished for<br />

using alcohol when under 21 or smoking pot? At the same time, the reason that<br />

students feel the need to turn to drugs in the first place is to escape from the<br />

pressures of society. While the use of academic stimulants are not seen as an escape<br />

a much as drinking or getting high, it is a means of coping with the means of intense<br />

stress college students face in the classroom. That is a socially constructed problem,<br />

and if drugs like Adderall and Ritalin help students survive the environment we force<br />

them into, how can we judge them for striving for success? While it’s easy to get lost<br />

in the debate over this issue, the most important insight may come from the students<br />

themselves.<br />

I took the time to interview two students at the University of<br />

Connecticut, one of whom uses Adderall with a prescription<br />

to treat ADHD and one uses Adderall without a prescription.

Student A: Prescribed User<br />

Q. Why were you prescribed Adderall?<br />

I was prescribed Adderall for my ADHD as well as to treat my Post Concussive Syndrome.<br />

Q. How easy was it for you to get this prescription?<br />

Once I was diagnosed with ADHD, acquiring Adderall was very easy. I was set up with a<br />

medicine provider and she prescribed me Adderall after just a few appointments.<br />

Q. How many times do you use Adderall/what is your<br />

treatment plan?<br />

I use my Adderall as needed, so on days when I’m studying for an exam or if I have a lot of<br />

work to do. I take both extended release and short term release. I usually take 20mg.<br />

Q. Did you see any improvement in your studying when using<br />

the Adderall?<br />

I have always struggled with reading and studying before taking Adderall. Now I am able to<br />

read my textbooks and absorb the content which is incredible for someone with brain<br />

damage and ADHD. My life has changed completely since taking this drug.<br />

Q. Did you see any improvement in your grades in the<br />

coursework you were studying for while on Adderall?<br />

I have always been able to succeed academically before Adderall, but now it is much easier<br />

and less strenuous to get straight A’s.<br />

Q. How competitive would you describe your college<br />

environment?<br />

I would say that it is much more competitive than high school, but I try to compete solely<br />

with myself and not with my peers.<br />

Q. Do you think there’s a difference between using Adderall<br />

and drinking/smoking marijuana? Why?<br />

It is different if you are being prescribed the drug. I take Adderall so I can function at the<br />

same level as everyone else who is not afflicted with attention deficit disorder. Those who<br />

take it recreationally are doing more damage to their bodies than those who simply<br />

drink/smoke. If abused, Adderall can become a dangerous drug.

Q.Do you think people have the right to use Adderall solely for<br />

academic enhancement?<br />

As someone who legitimately needs Adderall to function normally, I would say no. Putting<br />

unnecessary drugs in your body just to get a higher grade seems irresponsible and unsafe. I<br />

think Adderall should be used solely as an ADHD drug. Adderall should be used to level the<br />

playing field rather than used to help some get ahead.<br />

Q. Have you ever felt a negative stigma for using Adderall?<br />

What is the impact for the legitimate prescription use of<br />

Adderall as it is becoming more and more widely abused?<br />

My first day using Adderall, someone asked me if I would be willing to sell them some. I feel<br />

as though I have to defend my diagnosis and prescription every time I take my pills in a<br />

public setting. It’s almost as though taking it recreationally is more common than taking it<br />

as prescribed.<br />

Student B: Non-prescribed User<br />

Q. How easy was it for you to get Adderall?<br />

Very easy, my friend has a prescription for it so she would always just give me some if I<br />

gave her a couple dollars per pill.<br />

Q. How did you get Adderall?<br />

My friend has a prescription.<br />

Q. Did you see any improvement in your studying when using<br />

the Adderall?<br />

It did help me focus so that I was able to study and get work done.<br />

Q. Did you see any improvement in your grades in the<br />

coursework you were studying for while on Adderall?<br />

It didn’t necessarily improve my grades, but it allowed me to focus when I couldn’t bring<br />

myself to study.<br />

Q. How competitive would you describe your college<br />

environment?<br />

Not very competitive. I haven’t felt the need to use Adderall as much in college because I<br />

feel there is less coursework for me to do and I have more time to get motivation naturally<br />

to study.

Q. Do you think there’s a difference between using Adderall<br />

and drinking/smoking marijuana? Why?<br />

There is a definitely a huge difference between the three substances. Marijuana makes<br />

me feel tired and completely unmotivated and seriously lack focus. Alcohol makes it so<br />

it’s very difficult to pay attention to anything and do any work. Adderall helps me focus<br />

and stay on task, but it also gives me a hyper feeling. I don’t feel the need to drink coffee<br />

because I am full of energy. I also have taken Adderall a few times to give myself a boost<br />

of energy and excitement<br />

From these interviews, some interesting dichotomies come forward. First, while both<br />

students said it was relatively easy to acquire the Adderall, it seems the student with<br />

the prescription had to put in more effort. She had to go through multiple<br />

appointments, while the other student buys if off her friend whenever she wants. This<br />

brings up an interesting point that students who actually need the drug have more<br />

barriers to receiving it. Also, both students do not seem to think the competitive<br />

nature of college has an impact on their Adderall use. It seems that competition would<br />

be a strong motivator in student striving for academic excellence, but in reality<br />

students do not need to feel this pressure in order be interested in taking drugs to<br />

better their academic performance. The results about competitiveness may be<br />

different at universities, but this reveals the question why are students using these<br />

drugs? I think the major reason for the rise in academic stimulants is the attitude that<br />

surrounds them. The nonprescription user associates Adderall solely with academic<br />

purposes. Although the use of Adderall remains highly contested, the severity of the<br />

drug seems to be overlooked, which could be detrimental to college students. Not to<br />

say drinking and smoking are any better, but right now a student is probably more<br />

likely to justify ‘popping an addy’ then showing up drunk to class. This may be<br />

justifiable, but we won’t know until we address this issue.<br />

1. Drug and Alcohol Use in College-Age Adults in 2015 [Digital image]. (2016, November 3). Retrieved<br />

March 10, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/drugalcohol-use-in-college-age-adults-in-2015<br />

Pardon Our Interruption. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.<br />

2. Ojiaku, P. (2015, November 3). ‘Smart drugs’ are here — should college students be allowed to use<br />

them? The Washington Post. Retrieved March 10, 2017, from<br />






Written by: Shivani Dave<br />

Designed by: Apoorva Kulkarni<br />

Music is a universal language that anyone<br />

can enjoy. It can be soothing, motivating, and<br />

healing all at once. After taking music lessons<br />

for 8 years and listening to a variety of<br />

genres, I have developed an appreciation for<br />

the dedication and creativity behind making<br />

music. A musician?s brain requires training,<br />

informal or formal, and practice to achieve<br />

the professionalism and confidence to<br />

improvise and create music. But what are the<br />

experiences and structure like of musician<br />

minds that allow music to be so diverse and<br />

popular?<br />

commitment specific parts of the brain<br />

contribute over many years. Even in young<br />

children ages 5 to 7, certain regions of the<br />

brain show distinctions of musical training<br />

compared to the brain regions of nonmusical<br />

children1. After only 15 months of monitored<br />

rhythmic lessons, children developed<br />

changes in multiple areas of the brain,<br />

including the corpus callosum and Heschl?s<br />

gyrus1. Conclusions from studies point<br />

towards the importance of learning music at<br />

a critical age, when the brain is most flexible<br />

for these changes to occur.<br />

As learning music is the acquisition of a<br />

complex skill, it is easy to imagine the<br />

The differences in brain structure seen in<br />

children were also observed in adult

musicians, most of whom have practiced music for<br />

years. Many of the structural differences relate to<br />

the level of experience both the adults and children<br />

have. Each area of the brain contributes to a<br />

different effect and the distinctions seen in<br />

musicians? brains also portrays this. For example,<br />

more gray matter in the Heschl?s gyrus is related to<br />

selective hearing of pitch and tone1. Really, the<br />

effects of early and consistent musical training are<br />

vast, ranging from higher cognitive and auditory<br />

processing to more efficient motor skills1. As a<br />

musician myself, I noticed more dexterity develop<br />

over the years in my left hand despite having a<br />

dominant right hand.<br />

It is important to note, however, that these changes<br />

may not only be the result of musical training but<br />

other factors as well. Nonetheless, music in<br />

combination with predisposed genetic factors and<br />

other environmental factors can help facilitate<br />

positive stimulation in the brain.<br />

While we all appreciate music for its entertainment<br />

purposes, for some music has become a tool for<br />

healing. From personal experience, listening to or<br />

playing music is a method of relieving stress or<br />

diverting my mind from worrying. Not only does it<br />

benefit the musician, but music has also proved to<br />

be an effective form of therapy for patients with<br />

illnesses and mental disorders. In one study using<br />

music therapy as a relaxation method for patients on<br />

ventilators, there was a reduction in the level anxiety<br />

of patients compared to anxiety levels for patients<br />

on ventilators without music2. Over time, the<br />

patients on ventilators who were exposed to music<br />

also showed a decrease in heart rates2. An<br />

interesting observation from this study was the<br />

alignment of heart rate to the rhythm of music. The<br />

study used genres such as classical, new age,<br />

country, western, and religious on the participants.<br />

The calming tones and lyrics in these genres may

have been one of the factors that contributed<br />

to decreased anxiety levels in the patients.<br />

Previous research has also looked at mental<br />

disorders such as the effects of music on individuals<br />

with depression. Four out of five studies resulted in<br />

reduction of symptoms of depression3. The fifth<br />

study used music as an active control treatment<br />

and no reductions in symptoms were shown3.<br />

These are only a handful of studies that I was able<br />

to find on depression alone, but there are studies<br />

where music was able to help improve<br />

communication in children with autism spectrum<br />

disorder4.<br />

Further interesting investigations from these<br />

results would be to analyze how different genres<br />

effects patients using music therapy. I am trained in<br />

classical music and it falls under more mellow<br />

sounds, which I would believe to have a more<br />

calming effect. Even schools use classical music in<br />

classrooms because studies have shown that<br />

stimulates students to focus and reduces anxiety.<br />

The benefits of music are vast, and if the<br />

healing and stimulating properties of music may not<br />

be convincing enough for to pursue lessons, people<br />

can still promote it for the purpose of<br />

entertainment and enjoyment. It is an art that<br />

anyone can partake in and appreciate the benefits<br />

of.<br />

1Barrett KC, Ashley R, Strait DL and Kraus N. (2013) Art and science: how musical<br />

training shapes the brain.Front. Psychol.4:713. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00713<br />

2Chaln L. (2004) Effectiveness of a music therapy intervention on relaxation and<br />

anxiety for patients receiving ventilatory assistance. Heart and Lung: The Journal of<br />

Acute and Critical Care Volume 27, Issue 3, May?June 1998, Pages 169-176.<br />

https://doi.org/10.1016/S0147-9563(98)90004-8.<br />

3Maratos A, Gold C, Wang X, Crawford M. Music therapy for depression. Cochrane<br />

Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004517. DOI:<br />

10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub2.<br />

4Gold C, Wigram T, Elefant C. Music therapy for autistic spectrum disorder. Cochrane<br />

Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004381. DOI:<br />


The Big Five<br />

Personality Traits:<br />

Reading People Like<br />

an Open Book:<br />

How Researchers are Linking the Shape<br />

of Your Brain to Your Personality<br />

Written by: Sarah Lukas<br />

Designed by: Divya Ganugapati<br />

When a person claims they can read you like an open<br />

book, what clear observations have you given them to<br />

confidently say such a statement? Reading a person<br />

encompasses using what you see on the outside of an<br />

individual to decipher how they are feeling, their<br />

possible motives, and likely actions. This can be done<br />

by observing body language, facial expressions,<br />

behavior, and by paying attention to key<br />

characteristics. Reading a person is a skill which<br />

comes with practice and experience; not only do so<br />

many factors influence one person, but also, not all<br />

people are as easy to read as others. This process is a<br />

part of the field of psychology. Just recently,<br />

researchers have used the psychological model of the<br />

Big Five to study brain anatomy. With a simple MRI<br />

scan of observing brain measurements due to the<br />

evolution of the brain, genetics, and other<br />

environmental factors, a knowledgeable researcher<br />

can read your personality like an open book without<br />

ever meeting you. This is possible through the<br />

combination of observations made of an individual on<br />

the outside accompanied by what is anatomically<br />

proven on the inside by the brain.<br />

The Big Five personality traits comprise the<br />

dimensions of the human personality broken down<br />

into five major traits that are studied in the research<br />

project Surface-based morphometry reveals the<br />

neuroanatomical basis if the five-factor model of<br />

personality. Researchers Roberta Riccelli, Nicola<br />

Toschi, Salvatore Nigro, Antonio Terracciano, and<br />

Luca Passamonti looked at differences in the brain<br />

cortical anatomy in over 500 healthy individuals. The<br />

brain is measured four different ways, by thickness,<br />

surface area, volume, and folding in different areas of

the brain. The individuals who volunteered were<br />

young healthy men and women ranging from 22 to 36<br />

years old with no record of obesity, hypertension,<br />

alcohol misuse, anxiety, and other mental disorders.<br />

They all went under MRI brain scans and took the<br />

NEO-Five-Factors-Inventory personality assessment.<br />

This assessment is made up of 60 questions, each<br />

question is a description of behavior which is<br />

answered on a five point Likert scale. The results show<br />

that individuals who scored high on neuroticism are<br />

characterized by higher cortical thickness with this<br />

trait having a negative correlation to cortical surface<br />

area and volume. Those who scored higher on<br />

extraversion are linked to higher cortical thickness,<br />

lower surface area and volume in the temporal gyrus<br />

and higher cortical folding. Higher openness scores<br />

are characterized by lower cortical thickness and have<br />

a positive correlation to cortical surface area, volume,<br />

and folding. Those with larger agreeableness scores<br />

have negative associations with cortical thickness,<br />

surface area, and volume. Rather, this trait shows<br />

increased folding in the area of the temporal lobe.<br />

Lastly, individuals whose scores are high in<br />

conscientiousness are connected to higher cortical<br />

thickness, lower surface area, volume, and folding in<br />

specific areas of the brain.<br />

As most of the findings in this study have been in the<br />

cortex, it is helpful to understand that humans have<br />

the most highly evolved cortex, more specifically the<br />

prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain distinguishes<br />

us from apes and other animals by our high level of<br />

social cognitive skills. These skills develop over our<br />

lifetime; for example, as we mature neuroticism<br />

decreases and conscientiousness increases as we are<br />

able to handle our emotions and reactions better. This<br />

is why there is a contrast between thicknesses for<br />

these two traits. However, those that suffer from<br />

mental illnesses will have brain different brain<br />

development and can show pronounced areas of the<br />

cortical regions that connect certain traits to their<br />

mental illness. There are limitations to this new<br />

research but it leads to open doors for mental illness<br />

research and detailed autopsies.<br />

Figure 1. Neural representations of default mode networks exhibiting correlation with<br />

the indicated Big Five traits. Figure taken from Sampaio et al. (2013).









Reducing this “gunner” problem so curtly is<br />

naïve. The underlying issue of even why many<br />

of us feel so put off by the “gunners” is set in<br />

a larger epidemic—one that rises above the<br />

pressures of checking off boxes or crafting a<br />

meticulous resumé—that pervades college<br />

campuses across America. So, how can we<br />

address what I call the “Pre-Med Mentality”—<br />

this gunner mindset?<br />

Before everyone is up in arms about my<br />

critical analysis, I confess that I too am a premed<br />

student. I’ve been guilty of all the things<br />

I’m going to investigate, and I have struggled<br />

to address them myself. I know full well the<br />

burden of preparing for medical school. This<br />

road is not easy, and working to correct the<br />

mindset can be equally challenging. I get it.<br />

But if we are dedicating ourselves to such a<br />

noble profession, I would argue its<br />

preparation must uphold an equally stringent<br />

integrity. I also know pre-med students hail<br />

from all corners of higher education, and I will<br />

operate under the assumption that most of<br />

these students are concentrated in the<br />

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Other<br />

majors and colleges contain pre-med<br />

students, and the following lessons may also<br />

apply to you, though more indirectly.<br />

My encounters with the Pre-Med Mentality<br />

(PMM) began as early as freshman year at<br />

UConn. Growing up as the son of two<br />

immigrants, I learned that a getting an<br />

education—more importantly, a well-rounded<br />

education—was as important as eating,<br />

breathing, and sleeping. So, as a first-year<br />

student I charted a course in liberal arts<br />

education. English literature, economics,<br />

psychology, anthropology, and philosophy<br />

peppered my class schedule between biology,<br />

chemistry, and physics. However, what I<br />

envisioned as “breaks” among my<br />

typical science courses quickly devolved into<br />

“I-don’t-have-time- to-learn-that.” More often<br />

than not, I resented completing my Logic<br />

assignments in lieu of studying for organic<br />

chemistry, which made (funnily enough)<br />

more sense. Sophomore year blurred into<br />

junior year as I struggled to balance my time<br />

examining the scientific world with thinking<br />

about the reasons why it even matters at all.<br />

And, slowly, I realized that my desire to flesh<br />

out my understanding of the world aside<br />

from molecules and proteins had dwindled.<br />

"a liberal arts education builds a<br />

strong foundation for students<br />

to become far better leaders"<br />

I can hear you already saying, “But Matt, I<br />

expect my doctor to be an exquisitely<br />

trained professional. I couldn’t give two<br />

hoots about her ability to understand Plato!”<br />

And to a certain extent, you are right.<br />

Shouldn’t we expect our exorbitantly-paid,<br />

strung-out, supremely educated doctors to<br />

perform at the highest level of clinical care?<br />

I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t be. In<br />

fact, I am arguing precisely in favor of your<br />

sentiment. Medical institutions in other<br />

countries believe in this model so much so<br />

that they take their students straight from<br />

high school. But I believe that a liberal arts<br />

education builds a strong foundation for<br />

students to become far better leaders in<br />

medicine precisely because America prides<br />

itself on a higher education system that<br />

allows its students to formulate a vision of<br />

the world and prepare them to be productive<br />

members in it. To this end, the value of an<br />

education in liberal arts prior to a highly<br />

specialized training in medicine shapes us<br />

into better practitioners, researchers, and<br />

life-long learners.<br />

To better illustrate, consider aspects of a<br />

medical career that don’t immediately come<br />

to mind. Take economics. Medicine in<br />

America is a business, no matter how<br />

obstinately we insist it ‘isn’t about the<br />

money.’ Rather than burying our heads into<br />

the sand, discerning how to run a business

(from a micro and macro standpoint), studying<br />

structures of insurance payments, knowing<br />

organizational models, and balancing<br />

opportunity costs prepares students to take on<br />

the vicissitudes of the biomedical-industrial<br />

complex. With social humanities like<br />

psychology and sociology, knowing how to deal<br />

with people and approach their issues<br />

compassionately is crucial to establishing<br />

robust and meaningful patient-doctor<br />

relationships. Learning about mental health<br />

uncovers the invisible symptoms that can<br />

influence physical manifestations. These<br />

examples demonstrate not only how people<br />

behave but why, bringing to light many<br />

perspectives that can be hidden from the<br />

general population. Furthermore, thinking<br />

about ethics and philosophy is paramount in a<br />

profession that faces ethical dilemmas and<br />

challenges daily. What do you do in a situation<br />

that has no set standards of care? How can you<br />

approach a problem where your decision<br />

impacts another person’s life, but there are no<br />

good options? Why would you opt to do<br />

something or not do something and how can<br />

you justify your actions? These considerations<br />

are important beyond just theoretical musings.<br />

As a final illustration, politics and history help<br />

us scrutinize the bureaucracy of medicine, the<br />

repercussions of social determinants of health,<br />

sharpening skills in health advocacy,<br />

education, communication, and more. It’s hard<br />

to ignore the constant bickering that we hear<br />

from political leadership on the need to<br />

overhaul the health care system. There are<br />

many problems to fix, and (perhaps to our<br />

dismay) science is not always the solution.<br />

Downplaying these aspects of liberal arts, I<br />

believe, is why we have seen a sudden rise in<br />

our “gunner” population. In an increasingly<br />

metric-measured process, things like academic<br />

pressures, hyper-specialization, and a<br />

competitive process breed a culture where<br />

motivated and intelligent students shy away<br />

from such critical components of their<br />

education. What are these barriers to<br />

overcoming the PMM and how can we address<br />

them?<br />

(1) Scheduling problems.<br />

Fitting all of the required pre-med courses<br />

can feel nearly impossible in the four years<br />

of undergrad, let alone when thinking<br />

about volunteering, MCAT, research...the list<br />

never seems to end. However, with gap<br />

years on the rise to accommodate the<br />

mounting expectations from medical<br />

admissions committees, the additional<br />

time might actually be conducive to<br />

scheduling. So, take advantage of the extra<br />

year to explore your passion in human<br />

rights or health psychology. Use your<br />

summer and winter classes to take a<br />

writing course. Beyond just making your<br />

academic profile more interesting to<br />

admissions boards, the demonstrated<br />

interest in non-science curricula will help<br />

form a fuller picture of the people, the<br />

system, and the problems with which you<br />

will work.<br />

(2) GPA stranglehold.<br />

It’s an undiluted fact that successful<br />

medical applicants need a strong GPA. Why<br />

risk a B- in British Literature, when you<br />

could maintain that 3.8 by skipping it<br />

altogether? Why not take the easiest<br />

electives possible to score a good grade<br />

and check off that requirement? This is one<br />

of the biggest hurdles for any pre-med<br />

student to surmount, and perhaps why<br />

many students choose not to venture<br />

outside of the required coursework. But<br />

college, I would argue, is a time to discover<br />

the complexities of the human experience,<br />

to challenge and be challenged, and to<br />

obtain a broad education. Liberal arts are<br />

meant to provide that experience. A worse<br />

grade in a tough philosophy course may<br />

not seem like a good plan, but when you’re<br />

dealing with a patient who does not want to<br />

be resuscitated even if he can be saved<br />

you will know how to deal with the<br />

situation. If you are more realistic than<br />

idealistic, a great workaround is to take<br />

courses on a Pass/Fail basis. You still

eceive credit, without the stress of being<br />

graded.<br />

(3) General Education requirements are<br />

trivialized.<br />

I noticed that many of my classmates in the<br />

courses were often uninterested in the<br />

material at hand, or perhaps unwilling to<br />

devote enough time to picking apart the<br />

details of discussion. By and large, you might<br />

hear a pre-med student say they’re getting<br />

their gen-eds “out of the way” so they can<br />

focus on what they want to learn. This line of<br />

thinking causes students to devalue the<br />

lessons they may learn outside of basic<br />

science. Though such a mindset is tough to<br />

address, I would advise taking a few courses<br />

that you find fun and would probably never be<br />

exposed to ever again in your education.<br />

Pottery, choir, nutrition, women and gender<br />

studies are a few examples that come to<br />

mind. Expand your horizons and enjoy it!<br />

(1) Mastery of knowledge requires<br />

specialization.<br />

The rigor of science courses is undeniable;<br />

they demand a constant attention to<br />

detail and deeper understanding not only of<br />

how or what, but of why. Of course, these are<br />

the things that draws pre-meds to the study<br />

of biology in the first place. But many late<br />

nights at the library to go over a signaling<br />

pathway, reviewing anatomical systems, or<br />

covering metabolic steps is exhausting in<br />

breadth and depth of knowledge. Though<br />

there is nothing inherently wrong with deeper<br />

learning, this siloed approach does not allow<br />

for cross-disciplinary learning. Dr. Keat<br />

Sanford, former dean of the UConn School of<br />

Medicine and current pre-med advisor,<br />

advises students to “look at each semester as<br />

an opportunity to provide some balance and<br />

try to get some engagement in the three areas<br />

that the Association of American<br />

Medical Colleges (AAMC) has determined<br />

important (cultural competency,<br />

interpersonal skills, professional<br />

development).” Working on these soft skills<br />

is not a waste of time and a reason that<br />

social sciences have become requisite<br />

coursework for the MCAT.<br />

(2) Pre-professional preparation drives<br />

students to begin much earlier.<br />

I realized that my future prospects as a<br />

medical school applicant relied on<br />

academic excellence in science-related<br />

areas on top of research, volunteer work,<br />

and clinical experience. While important to<br />

building the foundation of knowledge in the<br />

field that I wanted to enter, such<br />

preparation lured my attention away from<br />

the basic ideas and ideals of a liberal arts<br />

education. Our culture of maximizing<br />

results with minimal effort (“most bang for<br />

your buck”) and instant gratification also<br />

contributed to this shifting focus. Rising<br />

costs of higher education makes it harder<br />

to think beyond preparing for a career and<br />

job, and certainly, for other technical<br />

careers this sentiment is strong.<br />

However, aspiring doctors should be<br />

comforted knowing that the rate of<br />

unemployment for physicians was 0.4%<br />

in 2014, and their median income was<br />

greater than $200,000. Despite these facts,<br />

students may still find it difficult to justify<br />

taking an indirectly related course for their<br />

professional career. Beyond the tangible<br />

benefits that I’ve already outlined, the<br />

critical thinking involved in reading<br />

literature, connecting historical events, and<br />

learning language equips students to<br />

problem-solve in situations that warrant<br />

more than just basic science knowledge.<br />

Writing and speaking to communicate<br />

findings well and advocating for<br />

disenfranchised individuals, using<br />

statistics to peel apart convoluted data,<br />

utilizing Spanish to communicate to<br />

native-speaking patients are only a few<br />

applications of things that should be<br />

learned as an undergraduate.

(1) Resume padding.<br />

Starting earlier in the pre-professional training<br />

has also led to the “checkbox effect.” Have you<br />

taken all the courses? Check. Have you<br />

shadowed doctors? Check. Have you started a<br />

club or joined a club about health care? Did<br />

you start doing research? Have you<br />

volunteered? Check, check, check. More often<br />

than not, the reason for engaging in activities<br />

can trace its way back to looking good for an<br />

application. Yes, it is paramount to have a<br />

good understanding of a career in medicine<br />

and to pursue extracurriculars that reflect<br />

your interest. By the same token, being<br />

passionate about what you do, trying new<br />

things for the sake of interest and not a means<br />

to an end, invariably makes you a more<br />

remarkable person and candidate. Dr. Sanford<br />

adds: “Be careful and selective what you<br />

choose to be involved in. You want to be<br />

passionate about these things so they don’t<br />

end up as checklist items on your list...it’s<br />

so transparent to schools [admissions<br />

committees].” It’s time to stop thinking like a<br />

pre-student of medicine and more like a<br />

college student interested in medicine.<br />

(2) Numbers game.<br />

A large culprit for the PMM is certainly the<br />

numbers game that the admissions process<br />

uses. There is no escaping it. However,<br />

organizations and institutions have<br />

recognized this problem and—believe it or not<br />

—have been trying to address it for years.<br />

Holistic admissions is the process of looking<br />

at an entire person’s application package and<br />

taking the whole rather than the sum of its<br />

parts into consideration. Since the early<br />

2000’s, several programs have adopted an<br />

“early assurance” track allow undergraduate<br />

students direct admission into affiliated<br />

medical schools, some even scrubbing the<br />

MCAT requirement altogether and pushing<br />

students to pursue a liberal education. A look<br />

at some top ranked schools will also show that<br />

the median MCAT scores and GPAs for an<br />

incoming class are rarely at the 99th<br />

percentile. That is to say, medical schools<br />

are looking for more than knowledge gurus<br />

who can test well. They are looking for<br />

interesting students who have done<br />

meaningful things. There is no set pathway<br />

or heuristic to get into medical school; what<br />

works for one student does not guarantee<br />

success for another.<br />

Move away from this mindset of “there’s no<br />

way I can possibly get in and do this,” says<br />

Dr. Sanford. “Don’t let anyone tell you that<br />

you can’t do something.” In a process full of<br />

numbers, excelling in other areas you’re<br />

passionate about will help you stand above<br />

the crowd.Becoming a physician is<br />

exceedingly difficult now more than ever<br />

before. More students are flocking to the<br />

industry that continues to make strides in<br />

technology, research, and outcomes. We<br />

should be excited about these<br />

advancements, but not let the ends justify<br />

the means of maximizing our American<br />

higher education. The Pre-Med Mentality is<br />

a symptom of a gasping liberal arts<br />

education, and it’s preventing us from<br />

becoming the best professionals possible. If<br />

we can understand that healthcare is a<br />

team effort, that learning about more than<br />

just science builds a broader skill base,<br />

that devoting our time and effort to passion<br />

projects will enable us to connect with our<br />

patients more effectively, then we stand to<br />

serve as better thinkers, leaders, and<br />

practitioners. With luck, we might shed the<br />

PMM and along the way also become better<br />

people. But hey, what do I know—I’m just a<br />

“gunner.”<br />

Matthew Lin is a Biological Science major in<br />

his senior year. He will be heading to medical<br />

school next year.

CYRANO<br />

Written By: Delaney Meyer | Designed By: Shemona Singh<br />

Cyrano, the new<br />

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Start Sniffing!<br />

We all recognize those smells<br />

that have the ability to<br />

instantly relax us and<br />

change our mood.

Whether it is the smell of<br />

donuts on campus, clean<br />

laundry, or salty water<br />

at a beach, aromas can<br />

catapult us into different<br />

places and times.<br />

Scent is a powerful sense<br />

for humans, and technology is<br />

beginning to realize just how<br />

profound its impact can be. A new<br />

product, the Cyrano, is attempting<br />

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movement that is sure to take over<br />

technology in the future.<br />

The Cyrano resembles a small<br />

portable music speaker, but it has<br />

one important feature that distinguishes<br />

it from the Bose devices in<br />

our dorm rooms: it can emit smell.<br />

The primary goal of the Cyrano is<br />

to be able to enhance someone’s<br />

mood through the pairing of scent<br />

and music. With all the stresses<br />

of daily life, don’t you wish your<br />

speaker could do more to improve<br />

your mood too? The Cyrano is a<br />

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only does the Cyrano have pairs<br />

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but they also have pairs that can<br />

awaken or energize you.<br />

We all use air fresheners,<br />

but eventually we become tired<br />

of the smell, or just stop smelling<br />

it at all. With the Cyrano, the smell<br />

is only emitted for a short amount<br />

of time to ensure that you receive<br />

maximum impact with each use.<br />

packs that can be purchased for<br />

the Cyrano. One scent pack is<br />

entitled “Cancun Stroll,” which is<br />

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Another scent is titled “Einstein”.<br />

This scent pack includes rosemary<br />

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fresh way as Einstein did. There are<br />

currently twelve scents to choose<br />

from, but the company is developing<br />

more so everyone will find a<br />

pairing that fits their needs.<br />

Cyrano is one of the first<br />

products to be able to produce<br />

scents through control of an app,<br />

demonstrating just how advanced,<br />

and how accessible, technology<br />

has become. However, mental<br />

health is not the only reason to use<br />

scent for technology in the future.<br />

Because scent is such a powerful<br />

tool, it has great influence over<br />

what humans enjoy and of course<br />

what purchase. While you are in a<br />

store, you are much more likely to<br />

buy something if the store smells<br />

pleasant to you. If you can smell<br />

the tuna that one of the workers<br />

ate for lunch, you will most likely<br />

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hands. Now, companies will begin<br />

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consumers to buy their products<br />

by releasing particular smells while<br />

they show ads on the television or<br />

even over Spotify. Commercials<br />

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For more information,<br />

or to order your own<br />

Cyrano, check out:<br />

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throughout the advertisement<br />

but the smell that takes over the<br />

room while the commercial is on.<br />

Imagine just how much Superbowl<br />

Sunday will change when you can<br />

smell everything you see! Once we<br />

can smell commercials in the comfort<br />

in our own homes, it will not<br />

be long before movies and television<br />

series can begin to utilize the<br />

technology.<br />

Can you imagine watching<br />

the Food Network and being able<br />

to smell what Bobby Flay is grilling?<br />

Or what Guy Fieri is tasting?<br />

Even if you are not a fan of the<br />

Food Network, you have to agree<br />

that having the ability to smell<br />

something you have only been<br />

able to see and hear about is enticing.<br />

Even watching your favorite<br />

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as you will be able to smell<br />

anything that the characters can<br />

smell, immersing you deeper into<br />

the plot. As of right now, commercials<br />

and television with scent are<br />

still far away, but the ball is rolling.<br />

Thanks to products like the Cyrano,<br />

a new world is unfolding right<br />

under our noses!


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Let us know<br />

what you think!<br />

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