Adrenaline MicroZine

July 18, 2014

I chose to research the Adrenaline (also known as Epinephrine) neurotransmitter because I had heard of adrenaline as a hormone and never knew it was also a neurotransmitter. I found out a lot about both my neurotransmitter and different parts of the brain and different receptors by researching adrenaline. Adrenaline is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is found in the sympathetic nervous system, which is a part of the autonomic nervous system. This part of the nervous system helps to maintain homeostasis. Therefore, adrenaline is used to cure patients that suffer from cardiac arrest, extreme allergies or breathing problems. I am not necessarily an artist, so I struggled a bit with the assignment. I wanted to express the information in a concise way. Also, I aimed my MicroZine at an older audience because some of the information is complex and would not be understood, for example, by a child. I hope you all like it! Adrenaline MicroZine


July 18, 2014

“The Pursuit of Serotonin”

I selected the neurotransmitter serotonin, because it is well known for being the cause of happiness. Serotonin is often increased by taking drugs such as LSD and cocaine. But the things to remember is that the serotonin naturally produced in the brain will cease as result of an overdose of artificial serotonin. Soon, one may not be able to feel happy, even with drugs. The production of serotonin can be damaged easily. Just a heads up that I am, in no way artistic. So this was a bit more difficult than I had imagined. In regards to “my creative process”, I tried to use many colors and make sure that the drawing did not look as if they had been done by a primary student, but in the end, it did.


Research Exercise

July 18, 2014

Popular Media Piece:

“Red meat increases death, cancer and heart risk, says study.” BBC News: Health.


The article references a study that associates the risk of death from cancer and heart disease with the consumption of red meat. It suggests the substitution of red meat with other sources of protein and attributes this risk to high levels of saturated fat and sodium.

Primary Literature Article:

“Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies.” Archives of Internal Medicine.


The article describes the findings of a 28 year study during which the diets and health status of over 100,000 individuals were recorded and assessed. The study finds that substituting red meat with “healthy dietary components” (such as fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains) is associated with a 13% lower risk for cardiovascular disease mortality; a 18% lower risk for cancer mortality; and a 10% lower mortality risk overall. The researchers note, however that no distinction was made between processed and unprocessed red meat.

Do you think the popular piece accurately reflects the scientific finding?

I believe that the main scientific finding is accurately reflected (i.e. that the consumption of red meat increases the risk of mortality), but the popular piece is a great deal more aggressive in its propagation of this finding. The scholarly article includes the actual statistics from which the conclusion was drawn, which in this case are not as substantial as the headline of the popular media piece seems to suggest. The scholarly article also addresses flaws and potential biases in the methodology. Most prominently, it evaluates the lack of distinction between processed and unprocessed red meat (as processed meat has higher sodium content). This, however, is not even noted in the BBC article. Hence, the scholarly article presents a balanced evaluation of methodology and its potential effects on the conclusiveness of the study, whereas the popular piece presents the scientific findings as incontrovertible.

How are these two different?

These two different presentations of what is essentially the same material have different impacts on the reception of the material by potential readers. The scholarly article presents the material in a more balanced manner, giving a reader the impression that the conclusions drawn are suggestive, but not definitive. The popular piece, on the other hand, is more sensationalist, causing a potential reader to feel alarmed and inspired to immediately change their diet.

Where are the aspects exaggerated or misrepresented?

The significance of the results is greatly exaggerated by the popular media piece. Its title (“Red meat increases death…”) is aggressive and alarming and implicates extremely significant findings. The study itself, however, found that the consumption of red meat (both processed and unprocessed) is 10% more liable to cause death than the consumption of healthy substitutes. When phrased as such, the findings seem less alarming and more coherent with common knowledge.

How would you improve the popular media piece?

I would improve the popular media in two ways. First of all, I would include more information about the methodology of the experiment (e.g. the age and socio-economic status of the sample, variables controlled for within the experiment, the actual statistics of mortality increase etc.) so as to make the reader more aware of the limitations of the study. Furthermore, I would try to get an interview with the study’s author(s), and include quotes of their recommendation for action. This is because the researchers themselves would have a much better understanding of the significance of their findings, and how they should be acted upon.


July 18, 2014

I chose glutamate because it seemed like an interesting neurotransmitter to further research. It is an essential neurotransmitter found in the brain, and I wanted to learn about its use and how it affected neurons when it was released.
Through my zine, I wanted to convey the main points about glutamate’s role in the brain, as it plays a vital role in brain development. Something I learned while researching that I touch upon in my zine is that efforts are being made in the clinical field to find a way to use medication to control glutamate levels as well as glutamate receptors. Through this research, they are looking to improve conditions for people with depression and disorders such as OCD.  Existing drugs are already being experimented with;  I briefly talk about one of them in my zine.
I wanted to highlight the key points in my zine, and I used color to do so. I used some diagrams to help visualize some points, and tried to label thoroughly so that everything aspect was clear.



Microzine: Beta-endorphin

July 17, 2014

I chose to focus my zine on one particular type of endorphin: beta-endorphin. I’m interested in endorphins in general because I’ve heard a lot about them, especially with regards to ‘runner’s high’, so I wanted to research them and get a better understanding of how they work.

I tried to give a general overview of what beta-endorphin is, what it does and how it works. I a couple of ‘fun facts’ as well in a (hopefully successful) attempt to not become to monotonous.

Most of the zines on Small Science Collective used hand drawn illustrations rather than photographs or clip art, so I tried to incorporate that as best I could (DISCLAIMER: I am not an artist). I also tried to include different colors to liven my zine up.


Scientific Representations in the Mainstream Media

July 16, 2014

–          Science Daily’s article was titled as “Health risks posed by ‘third hand’ tobacco smoke.” The research presented claimed to estimate the cancer risk by age group from exposure to third hand tobacco smoke which is defined as dust in the home containing traces of tobacco and tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). Children are the most heavily affected age group by third hand smoke as they have the highest increase in cancer incidents.

–          They used a variety of quotes from the scientists involved in the study including one from Dr. Ramirez from York’s Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories. She, far from stating any substantial effects of third hand smoke, said, “While TSNAs have been suspected to form part of third hand smoke as a result of laboratory studies, we have demonstrated for the first time the presence of carcinogenic tobacco-specific compounds, such as TSNAs, in settled house dust found in a panel of smokers’ and non-smokers’ homes. The TSNAs concentrations found in smoke-free homes would suggest that TSNAs formed in smoking environments can persist for extended periods, possibly due to partitioning to ambient particles, and subsequently be transported into non-smokers’ homes from outside.”

–          The actual study had some slightly different things to say.

–          The study stated that third hand smoke had an adverse effect on children that did lead to cancer, but was only slightly above the threshold that the EPA had established. Additionally, third hand smoke, at most, led to one more cancer occurrence per thousand exposures.

–          The study’s conclusion was something slightly less troubling and far more helpful. The researchers concluded that the risk of exposure to third hand smoke should not be neglected, and the effect of third hand smoke on non-smokers and children, especially, should be added to future programs about the effects of smoking.

I would not say that the popular journal is completely misguided, however, it does misrepresent some of the findings by bloating the effects to make the journal more newsworthy. The title of the popular journal illustrates this effect perfectly. “Health risks posed by ‘third hand’ tobacco smoke” does not accurately describe the findings of the study. However, anything less would not be eye catching enough for readers of to even click on. This, I feel, is the crux of the misrepresentation problem that has certainly plagued readers for decades, if not centuries. Scientific findings are often misrepresented for the best interest of the popular publisher. These publishers know quite well that most readers are not going to read the firsthand study and essentially have a free pass to bloat the findings of a study in order to attract readers.

The main differences between the popular journal and the actual study are the differences in the representation of the findings of the study. The popular journal claims that the study has found health risks associated with third hand smoke while the study takes a more modest and truthful route stating that they have found possible, not extremely substantial, effects of third hand smoke on cancer and this information should be considered in future education programs.

The exaggerated parts of the article were its claim that the study had found health risks. This gave me an impression of immediate and imminent danger to my wellbeing whereas the truth was much less dangerous, albeit still an additional, considerable effect of smoking.

To improve the second hand journal, one would first and foremost have to change the article name to a something more representative of the actual data such as “Possible effects of third hand smoke” rather than the aforementioned name of the article. Then, one would have to include more data about the effects of third hand smoke found in the study rather than simply stating that third hand smoke has a negative effect on children. One of the biggest areas of improvement would need to be the inclusion of quantitative data.

Microzine! – Dopamine

July 15, 2014

Hey Everyone,

So to start off, I would just like to say, I AM NOT AN ARTISTIC PERSON.

I was once called to the front of the class to draw a tree, and it is still remembered, four years later, as the greatest worst tree the world has ever seen. They call it the Dhruv Tree.

So that’s out of the way.

Thank you Dr. Aizenman for this really cool tool to convey information. I had never previously heard of a zine.

I chose dopamine because I had heard a lot about it from YouTube and the media but wanted to delve a little deeper into the chemistry and the effects of dopamine.

I tried to convey the uses and effects of dopamine in the brain. I also tried to incorporate some humor into the zine so that it would be slightly more enjoyable. Where’s my Dope? was my first idea; with that title, I decided I should definitely not try to be serious. However, there are some parts where seriousness was required like with the controversy over dopamine as a treatment for schizophrenia.

I tried to use the computer as much as possible to mask my dearth of artistic ability, but did attempt to not just use black and white.

After gluing all the individual cutouts on to the zine, I drew a couple pictures that corresponded or related to the information being conveyed.

That’s about it!



“Doing the Cajal” for a living

July 10, 2014

Greg-DunnThe first assignment of the class is a undoubtedly a challenge: selecting one individual neuron from a brain slice processed with Golgi stain and replicating the complex shape of neural cells by drawing it out. This is exactly what scientists such as Ramon y Cajal would do before cameras could be attached to microscopes .Considered by many as the father of neuroscience, Santiago Ramon y Cajal proposed the Neural Doctrine after spending many hours working on impressive replications of different neurons stained with Golgi.

R&C actually wanted to be an artist – however, his father wanted him to become a doctor (classic). With the medical background, R&C became chair of Normal and Pathological Histology at the university of Barcelona in 1887. He was truly a master of histology (processing of biological tissues): he perfected the Golgi stain to improve the quality of his work and, after many unbelievably precise drawings, propose the Neural Doctrine.

Greg Dunn went through a similar struggle a few years ago. He had always been into art, but got his PhD in neuroscience from Penn in 2011. Instead of working in a lab or industry, he decided to use his scientific knowledge to make amazing artistic renditions of the nervous system using a technique called microetching.

I’m posting a link to a video describing the process of microetching by Dunn. Trust me, watching this is most definitely worth 2 minutes of your life!

Welcome to your section’s blog!

July 8, 2014

Welcome to your section’s blog! In this space you will be posting some of your assignments. You have been made an author in this blog, and to access it you can login using your web ID. This blog platform provides a great space to showcase your work and share it with your peers. It also allows you to comment and discuss on your work and that of your peers. Although this space will be used to submit a subset of assignments, including a final project, feel free to add additional posts of your own. For example you might want to write about something that inspired you about the course material, or provide a link a short commentary on an interesting article about neuroscience you happen to come across and would like to share with the course. Or maybe you were so inspired by the lesson on synapses that you wrote and recorded a song! Or you want to share your latest theory of everything! Or you wrote an ode to the cerebellum! You get the point. Please be respectful in the comments and try to be constructive. Please enjoy the space and make it your own. Your TA’s and I are really looking forward to reading your work and thoughts!


You can always embed images and video to your blog post.