Media Production Project // How to Reset Your Body Clock

Many of us go to bed late, wake up feeling tired, and end up feeling sluggish for the rest of the day. The inconsistency in the sleep schedules of today’s generation is causing an increase in overall sleep deprivation among the general population. Instead of attempting to sleep earlier every night and failing each time, try going on a week excursion outdoors. A recent study conducted by researcher Kenneth Wright and his team found that spending a week camping outdoors could reset our body clocks, fix our sleep schedules, and get us more sleep.

Our body clocks, also known as our circadian clocks, tells our bodies when it is time to wake up and go to sleep. This internal clock is tracked by measuring how much melatonin is present in our blood at specific times. A person with a healthy circadian clock would have melatonin levels that correspond to the natural biological night. They would have higher levels of melatonin before bedtime and throughout the night and lower levels of melatonin before they wake up. Due to modern day advancements, the night we are used to is not same as the biological night of the natural world. The biological night of the natural world begins at sunset and ends at sunrise. Because most of us have a biological night begins much later than the natural biological night, our melatonin levels will still be relatively high during sunrise, when our melatonin levels are supposed to be low.

Light affects human physiology and behavior as it plays a key role in human cognition, sleep, vitamin D synthesis and physical activity. Modern day advancements, particularly in technology and electricity, have increased the amount of time we spend indoors. This leads to an increased usage and dependence on electrical light rather than on natural light, ultimately interfering with our sleep schedules and circadian clocks.

Conducted in July of 2013, Dr. Kenneth Wright and his team conducted a study that tested for how our circadian rhythms are affected by electricity and natural light. They sent out eight participants, in their 20s and 30s, on a two-week camping trip in the Rocky Mountains, in which they were allowed to use electrical lighting for the first week and only natural lighting for the second week. The participants were allowed to manage their own daily routines in the first week, including school, work, social activities, sleep schedules and exposure to indoor and outdoor light. During the second week, however, the participants had to camp outdoors in tents and were only allowed to use natural sources of light.

The researchers measured for two factors: the amount of light exposure received by the participants and melatonin levels in the participants. Although participants were exposed to more natural light than usual for both weeks, the amount of natural light exposure was higher in the second week. As expected, melatonin levels increased closer to sunset during the second week and decreased right after sunrise. On average, melatonin levels rose more than an hour earlier than usual. Exposure to natural light also stabilized the timing of melatonin rhythm and onset among the participants.

To conclude from the research findings, increasing exposure to natural light during the day and decreasing exposure to electrical light during the night is the best way to reset our circadian clocks.

Reflection

I had some difficulty writing the summary in the beginning, since I wasn’t sure whether I should follow the content of the pop culture article or the scholarly research article. I ended up basing my content on the scholarly research article but wrote the summary in the style of the pop culture article. Because I was writing in the style of a pop culture article, I had to break down a lot of the details and jargon present in the scholarly research article. Another main obstacle I experienced while writing the summary was that I did not have interviews that I could incorporate into it, in order for it to be like a pop culture article. The lack of interviews in my summary is also a significant difference between my summary and the original article. Not having interviews made it difficult to make the summary more original and appealing to readers. My summary, however, presented the study in a more condensed and concise fashion that was more comprehensible to readers, similar to the original article.

As I had mentioned earlier, it was particularly difficult for me to write the summary in the style of a pop culture article and through the perspective of a journalist. Based on my previous experience in newspaper and journalism during my junior year of high school, it is very important to include primary and direct sources in our articles, unless the article is an opinion piece. These sources are often obtained through interviews and quoting direct quotes. Journalists often write to the general population, whether it is to appeal, to inform, or to persuade. In original pop culture article, the journalist had persuasive tone that encouraged the public to go out and try camping. The journalist also incorporated a title that is aimed towards people seeking for a solution to their sleep schedules, hence the “how to” title. As a result, my summary was not able to compare to the pop culture article, as the content did not match to how a journalist would write it.

Works Cited:
Netburn, Deborah. “How to Reset Your Body Clock – and Get Better Sleep – with Hiking Boots and a Tent.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2017, http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-camping-better-sleep-20170202-story.html. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.

Wright, K., McHill A., Birks B., Griffin, B., Rusterholz, T., Chinoy, E., (2013, August 19). Entrainment of the Human Circadian Clock to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle. Retrieved March 23, 2017.


Mental Health // Schizophrenia

We often see schizophrenia to be depicted in the media as horror-related. For this week, I watched a schizophrenia simulation, and it was my first time watching a schizophrenia simulation. The simulation did not really feel like a scene from a horror movie to me because it depicted a more realistic experience of a schizophrenic patient and was not made for the purpose of entertainment. For example, the voices in the person’s head were normal voices instead of deep and creepy whispers that are often portrayed in horror movies. The simulation, however, did make me feel nervous and anxious while I was watching it. I was able to know more of what it is like inside a schizophrenic person’s head, in terms of what they see and hear.

Schizophrenia is usually depicted as scary in the media. My previous exposure to schizophrenia only includes creating a short film with several friends for a humanities course in high school. From that project, I have always seen schizophrenic patients as very traumatized and lonely. This particular simulation, however, did not really show the emotions and feelings of the patient. Although the simulation and media portrayals are similar in showing the frightening aspects of schizophrenia, the simulation gave a more personal perspective, in which we can feel the anxiety of the person. Because the simulation was a video, I was not able to fully experience other aspects that a schizophrenic patient experiences, such as smells and feelings.


BBC Milgram Replication // Extra Credit

The BBC Milgram Replication replicated Milgram’s study on obedience using the learner and shock generator. Milgram’s study found that while most people believed they would not generate electric shocks to the point when the learner cries for release, the results showed that 65% of participants administered shocks to the highest level. The replication experiment was very similar to the original experiment and included the “researcher” who was actually an actor and the participants (the “teachers”) who believed they were participating in a experiment about learning. The video showed the participants to gradually become more reluctant and even refuse to continue generating the shocks, but most of them still continued as the actor tells the experiment requires for continuation. In the end, 9 out of the 12 participants went all the way to the maximum shock of 450 volts. The researchers of the video pointed out most people continued to generate shocks because people have the impression that scientific experiments are supposedly beneficial, despite the lack of knowledge the participants had of the “researcher”. The percentage of people who administered shocks to the highest level in the BBC experiment was 10% higher than the percentage of people who did the same in the original experiment.

I was not surprised at the high percentage of people who continued administering the shocks to the highest level as I was expecting a similar turnout to Milgram’s experiment. While I was watching the video, I felt very frustrated with how easily the participants were influenced by the actor’s statement that the experiment required for continuation. I ended up realizing, however, that the obedience of the participants was largely caused by their positive view on scientific experiments and being “caught up in the moment” and not thinking about what they were doing. Watching and observing the BBC experiment and Milgram’s experiment have influenced me to be more questioning and skeptical in various situations and also to not be easily influenced by the statement of others.


Social Psychology // Implicit Association Test

For this week’s blogpost, I took two Implicit Association Tests. I took the Asian American and Sexuality IATs, which measured for racism and homophobia. The tests called for associating words with a certain group of people, in these tests Asian Americans and homosexuals, by pressing “i” or “e” for the appropriate associations the tests call for. When I began taking the test, I went very slowly to make sure I was getting each answer right. As the test progressed, however, I became more confident in taking the test which caused me to make several mistakes. The results did not surprise me too much, but it was interesting to find out whether I had a preference for a particular group of people or not. The results definitely opened my eyes to some slight biases that I had thought did not exist.

I believe taking the IAT could be useful for college and the workforce, but people who have trouble with coordinating their hands to things may no be very successful on these tests. Despite the mistakes I made on my tests, I think the IAT can reliably measure if someone is inherently racist, sexist, or homophobic. I believe the IAT can reveal our hidden biases and slight preferences that are likely shaped by the environment we grew up in. By reviewing these results, we will be more aware of ourselves and form less automatic negative associations and assumptions with a certain group of people.


Motivation // Orthorexia nervosa

With the increase of weight loss “methods” and societal pressures to be “fit” in the media, the idea of healthy eating has become widely popular today, particularly with millennials.

I would consider the provided criteria to be a valid way to define the boundary between eating healthy and having a mental disorder. I believe healthy eating becomes a disorder when it becomes obsessive, emotionally distressing, and/or compulsive. The criteria also lists evidence of when the line is drawn between healthy eating and disorder.

The first source I found on orthorexia nervosa suggested the disorder as similar to eating disorders, emphasizing orthorexia as an obsession about healthy eating rather than about weight loss and the the idea of being “thin”. Although I agree with the source’s statement that orthorexia is mainly motivated by wanting to be “healthy”, I disagree with its claim that orthorexia is not motivated by weight loss. I believe the obsession with healthy eating can result from an obsession with body image, and therefore orthorexia could be considered as an eating disorder. One can develop orthorexia along with other mental disorders due to societal pressures to be “fit” or look “thin”, both of which are associated with being “healthy” and healthy eating in today’s time. The source also pinpoints orthorexia becomes a problem when it takes up an inordinate amount of time in one’s life, a statement which I agree with.

The second source provides additional information on the effects of orthorexia and compares it with anorexia nervosa that was not as clearly stated in the previous two sources. The source add that those who suffer from anorexia or orthorexia seek self esteem through controlling food take, avoid certain foods, possess co-occuring disorders such as OCD, and may become socially isolated as a result of their disorder. All these factors add to my opinion that orthorexia can be classified as an eating disorder.

Sources:

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/orthorexia-nervosa

http://www.timberlineknolls.com/eating-disorder/orthorexia/signs-effects/


Spotlight // Learning

For my first spotlight blog, I chose to review three sources focusing on study tips for college students, parents, and high school students.

The first source provided study tips for college students and consisted of a visual that provided study tips and statistics derived from various scientific studies that back up the advice given. For example, t included the percentages of students who played games, checked emails, surfed the net, and used instant messaging while using their laptops in class to suggest that laptops could be a source of distraction when in the classroom. The source emphasized setting aside a designated study time ranging from 30 to 50 minutes with a 10 minute break and studying within 24 hours of receiving the information due to higher retention rates at that time period. This related to the textbook’s tip on chunking, organizing information into chunks for better memory. The source also included techniques that we have discussed in class, such as rewriting notes, using flashcards, and making up examples. The source mentioned tips relating the negative of effects of listening to music while studying, cramming, and lack of sleep, all of which were discussed in the textbook. I would consider all of the tips in this source as good tips since they are reliable due to evidence from scientific research . Despite the biases the article seems to give off, it encourages its readers to discover what study techniques work best for them.

The next source from U.S. News targets parents, specifically those of middle and high school students. Some of the tips it provides are similar to the previous source, such as to develop a study plan and to designate a study area. Although I thought the advice was good, the source did not provide scientific studies to support the advices, making it less believable to readers. Some of the advice, such as “get organized”, were vague and superficial. Many of us know organization is important when it come to effective studying. A way to improve this advice is to provide multiple strategies for organization, such as maintaining a sleep schedule, setting daily goals, and motivating yourself with rewards.

The source targeting high school students was titles “10 Study Methods for College-Bound Teens”. It included tips that were mentioned in the previous two sources, but also different ones, such as working on soft skills, tracking habits, and maintaining good health. While the most of the advice was good, this source was similar to the source for parents and did not include studies or further details to support the advice. For example, the advice that suggests for using peers to study, should provide ways to set up and organize a study group.

Overall, the sources provided useful study tips, but the last two could have used more evidence to support the methods.

Sources:

Boynton, Briana. “10 Study Methods for College-Bound Teens.” U.S. News. U.S. News, 13 Dec. 2016. Web.

Comer, Ronald J., Michael Clifford Boyes, Elizabeth Gould, and Nancy A. Ogden. Psychology around Us. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2015. Print.

Media, Column Five. “Rasmussen College.” Rasmussen College – Regionally Accredited College Online and on Campus. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

“10 Good Study Habits to Help Your Child Succeed in the New School Year.” Sylvan Learning Blog. N.p., 26 July 2016. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.


Drugs // Marijuana

The debate to legalize medical and recreational marijuana is unnecessarily prolonged. The issue can be solved efficiently if our government chooses to take more consideration on the benefits of legalizing marijuana, instead of viewing marijuana as merely an addictive drug. I strongly believe both medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized and decriminalized.

The popularity of marijuana nullifies the purpose of marijuana criminalization, to diminish marijuana usage. Criminalization has not lead to decreased use of marijuana. In fact, marijuana usage has double in the past decade, according to Time. As a result, legalization of marijuana, whether medical or recreational, will not be a factor that causes increased usage. Criminalization of the usage of marijuana has increased incarceration rates in America. High rates incarcerations are costly, both financially to America and socially to the offenders. Whether used as a calming reagent or a cure to epilepsy, medical cannabis is also a medicine. It can treat illnesses ranging from insomnia to multiple sclerosis to autism. There has also been no supported records that the effects of recreational marijuana are not near as harmful as the effects of cigarettes. Excessive use of marijuana, however, can obviously cause more harm than good. Just as overdosing on prescription drugs can lead to serious problems, overuse of marijuana can do the same. While there are not that many studies that focus on the effects of marijuana on our lungs, it is something we should look into more when it comes to usage of marijuana in relations to our health.

While I do believe medical and recreational marijuana should be legalized, I also believe that it is crucially important to do research and conduct more studies on both the positive and negative effects of marijuana. It is important to understand this drug as it is important to understand other drugs.


Memory // Study Habits

This week, we are prompted to discuss about our study habits. Usually, I start out my week by writing down all of my assignments, activities, goals and tasks for that week in my agenda. I plan out times that I should be studying in the library and what class to study for on certain days. When I study for tests and quizzes, I use Quizlet flash cards to help myself memorize terms and processes for classes such as biology and psychology. Because this is a new method of studying that I adopted this semester, I’m not sure whether or not this method will work for me. In addition to using flash cards, I often record notes from textbooks and lectures in a notebook. I am satisfied with my note taking techniques because I have already found a way to effectively organize my notes. I still struggled to motivate and push myself to actually review them consistently. Knowing myself, I tend to procrastinate and get distracted easily, and eventually become behind the schedule I had initially set earlier that week.

For the last psychology exam, I did not get the chance to study my flash cards as much because I did not make them in a timely manner. In order to avoid the same situation from occurring, I will make flashcards immediately after each lecture and divide them up into smaller categories. This should allow me to remember and categorize the abundance of information I learn more efficiently. I spent most of my study time for the first exam by repeatedly looking over my notes and the textbook. This method only helped me remember the material to an extent, since I had difficulty remembering material that wasn’t discussed or reviewed as much in class. For the next exam, I plan to rewrite my note without looking at them to avoid being stuck on the free response questions. Hopefully, I will be able to discover new ways to help me study for subjects that require a lot of memorization after this week’s lessons.


Neuroscience // Toward a New Understanding of Mental Illness

Thomas Insel: Toward a New Understanding of Mental Illness

This week, I watched a Tedx CalTech talk by Thomas Insel titled “Toward a new understanding of mental illness”. I was drawn to this talk in hopes of learning and understanding more about mental illness. The speaker, Thomas Insel, is not only a neuroscientist and psychiatrist, but also the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Insel’s abundant research and experience in neuroscience and neurobiology make him a trustworthy source on the topic of mental illness. In this talk, Insel compared deaths from commonly known illnesses (heart disease, leukemia, etc.) to deaths from mental illness. He discussed the importance of early detection, and how it has significantly lowered death rates of heart disease and leukemia over the years. Intel questions of we could do the same with mental illness. He suggests understanding the brain and brain disorders as the key to understanding mental illness. What I found most interesting from this talk is that Insel brought up how we only acknowledge mental illness when we observe a behavioral disorder. For mental illness, early detection is not emphasized. Insel pointed out by the time we observe the behavioral part of mental illness, it is already past the early detection stage.

If I were to come up with a research idea based on the information from this presentation, I will use the experimental method. This experiment will test the idea of early detection  of mental disorders and observable behavior of mental disorders. To conduct this experiment, I will use neuroimaging technology to detect brain abnormality in children from the ages of 3-10. The experiment will be conducted over a period of time, as I will have to follow up with the children’s parents each year to record whether there are signs of behavioral disorders.


Development // The Ideal Parents

Hi everyone,

This week’s topic is:

Tiger moms, jellyfish dads, and helicopter parents. These terms all refer to various parenting styles and each has been both promoted as an ideal and criticized as “the problem with kids these days.” We will discuss parenting this week, but I’m curious what you think is the “best” way to parent. By “best” I mean most likely to produce children who grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive members of society. Write your post about the ideal way parents should raise their kids.

As a Chinese-American, I grew up with a Tiger mom. To make things equal, my dad was also quite demanding, just not as much as my mom. If you’re not familiar with the term “Tiger mom”, it is a strict mom who pushes her children to achieve high standards in academics and extracurriculars. The goal of Tiger moms (or parents) is to raise multi-talented and academically successful children. Although this may sound idealistic to some people, Tiger parenting has its negatives. Many children raised by tiger parents end up becoming productive members of society, however, they lack in happiness and health. A lot of Tiger parents are so focused on creating carbon copies of other “successful” children that they ignore and forget about their children’s emotions, thoughts and feelings. They forget that not all children are built the same way. They forget that there are more career options than doctor, engineer and lawyer. Most importantly, they forget that happiness is also connected to successfulness.

Coming from a background that highly values the act of working hard, I believe children should always be pushed to do their best. It depends on the parents’ values when it comes to how much a parent should focus on their children’s academics, activities and etc. Contrast to the limitations of Tiger parenting, I also believe children should be exposed to open options. It’s important for the child to discover what they like and want to do by themselves instead of having the parent decide  the child’s future. Parents should be a source of guidance and not a source of decision. They should establish trust and connection with their children through communication.

There is no “perfect” way to raise a child, considering that every child is different. In the end, parents will have to modify their parenting techniques as their children grow and change.

Holly