Placebos: Tricking the Brain, Targeting the Body

Author: Shweta Ramdas
Editors: Charles Lu, Whit Froehlich, and Scott Barolo

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Placebo or Nocebo?

Last year, when I pooh-poohed my mother’s alternative medicine regimen, she said, “But these actually work well for me, because I believe in them!” My mother had just outsmarted me with science.

The placebo effect is one of the most remarkable yet least understood phenomena in science. It is a favorable response of our body to a medically neutral treatment (sugar pills, anybody?): in other words, a placebo is a fake treatment that produces a very real response. This is attributed to a physical reaction stemming from a psychological response to the administration of therapy. You could say that a patient sometimes gets better anyway—how many times have we waited out the common cold—and you would be right. This natural return to the baseline which can happen is not considered the placebo effect, which is an improvement in response to a treatment.

Continue reading “Placebos: Tricking the Brain, Targeting the Body”

How Gecko Feet Will Make Your Next Move Easier

Author: Andrew McAllister

Editors: Ana Vasquez, Molly Kozminsky, and Kevin Boehnke

One of the most frustrating parts of moving is dealing with furniture. Most pieces need to be taken apart to fit through doors or into your moving van. Even if you’re lucky enough to have buff friends to help, one lost or stripped screw is enough to make you question your choice to cart everything miles away.

If only things could be simpler. Instead of screws, why not a super strong, reusable, and easy-to-detach piece of tape to hold your furniture together? Sounds like a tall order, but scientists inspired by a gravity-defying lizard, the gecko, are trying to make it a reality.

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#Scijack: Co-opting Twitter for Science Communication

Author: Ada Hagan

Editors: Whit Froehlich, Scott Barolo, and Irene Park

I doubt Dr. Shaena Montanari ever thought that a single Twitter conversation would earn her 3,000 new followers (1,000 within two hours) and help launch a new hashtag. But that’s what happened when she replied to a political tweet that mentioned velociraptors.

fig1 - scijackSource

Continue reading “#Scijack: Co-opting Twitter for Science Communication”

Science March – One Week Later

From the MiSciWriters Editorial Board

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017- Thousands of scientists and citizens came together in celebration of scientific achievement and its influence upon public health and environmental safety, but also in protest of proposed budget cuts and spread of “alternative facts.” Not only was this march staged in Washington D.C., but there were 610 satellite events all around the world including Ann Arbor.

Along with the primary goal to increase public understanding of science, the March for Science was also intended to prove science’s political worth to remain within the budget. Now, a week after the event, we ask ourselves: Did the March meet these goals? What further actions need to be taken?
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The Science of What Keeps Us Apart

Author: Kaitlin Weskamp

Editors: Shweta Ramdas, Alex Taylor, and Kevin Boehnke

“… in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” 
             ― Maya Angelou

Over time, there has been a general trend towards acceptance and inclusivity in the civil rights laws of the United States. From the abolition of slavery in 1865, to granting women the right to vote in 1920, to the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, we are making torturously-slow-but-steady progress towards the promise that “all men [and women] are created equal.”

Today, the majority of people in the U.S. agree with Maya Angelou that diversity lends strength to our community. However, racism, sexism, and homophobia remain enormous societal issues. Is there a neurological basis for these ideas? If so, how can we combat it?

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More than Meets the Eye: How Optical Illusions Stump Our Brains

Author: Haley Amemiya

Editors: Kevin Boehnke, Zuleirys Rodriguez, Patricia Garay, and Scott Barolo

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Figure 1. Ninio’s Extinction Illusion

There are twelve black spots in scientist Jacques Ninio’s Extinction Illusion. Can you see them all at once? Continue reading “More than Meets the Eye: How Optical Illusions Stump Our Brains”

Introverts & Extroverts: It’s Not as Simple as Shy or Outgoing (Part 2)

Author: Ellyn Schinke

Editors: Whit Froehlich, Nayiri Kaissarian, and Irene Park

In my last post, I wrote about the social differences between introverts and extroverts and the misconceptions surrounding the two personalities. This post will focus on the underlying brain biology that contributes to whether a person is an extrovert or an introvert.

The more I read about these personalities, the more I wondered—are there ways in which the biology can explain the social differences? It turns out that there are several known, key differences in the brain biology between introverts and extroverts.

Continue reading “Introverts & Extroverts: It’s Not as Simple as Shy or Outgoing (Part 2)”