Monthly Archives: January 2014

The connection of “experience” with the human body — Revised

Your ability to read this right now is incredible.  Your capacity to see twisted, oddly-shaped symbols and turn these odd symbols into a very tangible meaning is downright extraordinary. The ability to see, read and interpret symbols is just one very small part of a much larger concept; the concept of consciousness. Consciousness has a biological construct, and the study of that construct is called neuroscience.  How remarkable is it to realize that every emotion, every thought, every feeling and every memory that any of us have had or ever will have only exists solely as a result of this odd, fleshy mass of an organ we call the brain?  It is really remarkable to think that the grand, incredible game of life we endure every day that we call the “human experience” can only exist due to the biology of many seemingly-infinite interconnected neurons.  In our day-to-day experience, I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of us don’t ever have this thought cross our minds. For many people, it may even be safe to say that this thought never crosses their mind at all.  For me, this thought about neuroscience came about at a young age, and not particularly out of my own free will.

Through playing soccer throughout my life, I have been subjected to five concussions. None of them were particularly severe, however the last concussion I endured was the one to cause a bit of a paradigm shift in how I viewed and understood the world, and it abstractly introduced me to neuroscience. During a soccer match against our rival team, I found myself defending against the leading scorer on the eighteen yard box. As he was lining up to take a shot, I had to shunt his attempts at scoring by slide-tackling the ball away. Unfortunately for me, I managed to time this tackle in such a manner that my head perfectly displaced the ball waiting in the path of his foot. The full force of his shot, instead of leading their team to a potential goal, collided with the back of my skull and briefly knocked me out. Twenty minutes later after I had left the field, I laid witness to my rapidly disappearing vision—until I found myself 100% blind. While two hours later I was lucky enough to begin regaining my vision (and have since had nothing more than minor visual disturbances), this event in my life demonstrated to me that every feeling and experience we endure is entirely dependent on the intertwined biological workings of the body and brain.  As such, this experience sparked the tinder of a raging fire that would soon become my interest in neuroscience.

The study of neuroscience is an emerging field right now that seeks to understand the inner biological workings of our minds. My intent with this blog is to discuss the many fascinating advances happening every day in neuroscience in this wonderful day and age. However, more importantly, it is my intent through this blog to discuss the importance of neuroscience in interpreting life and all its experiences.

~Ian Zatlin

Finding a Passion Through Artwork (Revised)

Finding a Passion Through Artwork

It was Saturday, December 8th, 2012 and I was with my two best friends Shaun and Tyler attending a concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colorado. I initially had no desire or intention of going to this show, but they assured me that I would never forget that night because before the show started we would have the pleasure of listening to a presentation from a world famous spiritual/psychedelic artist named Alex Grey. I had no idea who Mr. Grey was or even what his artwork was about. We stood as close as we could to the rail in hopes of catching a good view of the screen. Upon entering the stage, I noted that Mr. Grey had long flowing silver-white hair, spoke with a soft voice that seemed unnaturally peaceful and wore a jacket decorated with bright colors and patterns. This man’s unique appearance was enough to get my attention and intrigue me about what he was saying. Throughout Mr. Grey’s presentation I learned that he worked at Harvard Medical School studying anatomy and preparing cadavers for dissection. This incredible experience of working first hand with the deceased inspired him to follow his passion of artwork and human anatomy to create beautiful, magnificent pieces of art that highlight the human body and spirit. What separates Mr. Grey’s artwork from other spiritual/psychedelic artists are the anatomically perfect human bodies that are the focus of his pieces. Mr. Grey’s artwork seems to “x-ray” the subjects, allowing a look into their anatomy. He includes the skin, muscles, vital organs, blood vessels, nerves and bones of each body in the painting displaying how intricate humans are.

As a reader you may be asking yourself, “How does this experience relate to your life, Chase?” Well, even as a small child I had a strong interest in how our bodies functioned and what made us tick. Advancing through school my favorite subject was always biology because it offered explanations for the questions about our bodies that I longed to understand. During the Fall 2012 semester of school, which coincidentally was the same semester that I was introduced to Alex Grey, I officially declared my major as Integrative Physiology at CU Boulder. Within the Integrative Physiology major, students have the opportunity to study human anatomy by working with actual cadavers, similar to what Alex Grey experienced, in a course called “Intro to Human Anatomy Lab.” Throughout the lab I found myself constantly examining Mr. Grey’s artwork looking for specific blood vessels, nerves and bones that I had learned about, and found them present exactly where they should be on the human body. Finishing Anatomy Lab caused me to appreciate Mr. Grey’s artwork even more, because the body is exceptionally complex and he manages to capture the beauty of it all. I am now a second semester junior at CU Boulder and absolutely love what I study. Without a doubt, working with the human body is what I want to do as a profession and a lot of credit goes to Alex Grey and his magnificent artwork that sparked a passion that will last a lifetime.

Alex_Grey-Reading

Alex Grey- Reading, 2001, Oil on Linen

-Chase Stanker

Diversity of Science- Revised

When I was seven years old, my mother took me flying for the first time in a Cessna 172. I remember sitting on her lap, taking complete control of the airplane, and experiencing the utter amazement of flying. From that point on, I became an obsessively curious second grader, who wanted to know everything about the world around me. I drove my parents and teachers into insanity with questions such as; “How does water turn to steam?”, “Why don’t old people have teeth?” and my favorite “If you could hold lightening in you hand, how much would it weigh?”. As time went on and the list of questions grew, however, I began to notice a trend: every question I asked was tied back to an understanding of science and because of this the realm of science and opportunities within this realm were endless.

Ken Jenkins once said, “I think science has enjoyed an extraordinary success because it has such a limited and narrow realm in which to focus its efforts. Namely, the physical universe”.  Through a hint of sarcasm, Jenkins clearly addresses the fact that the study of science has no boundaries. Science can begin with studying something as small as an atom, to something as large and far away as a star in the sky. Careers in the subject alone compile an endless list that includes: astronauts, geologist, meteorologist, engineers, physics, chemists, mechanics, oceanographer and more. There are countless fields of science that when put together work to create an explanation for the entire universe, in which we live in.

Though flying with my mother did not lead me to become a pilot, this experience sparked a strong passion for me to explore other topics of science. While I soon learned that I despised chemistry and physics, I quickly realized how drawn I was to other classes such as physiology and anatomy. However, whether it’s calculating the speed of a 300,000 kg 777 aircraft with a breaking force of 445,000 N or determining what cells produce fibers that form the framework of lymphatic organs, the answers are ultimately derived from what Jenkins calls the study of the physical universe. There are no limits to the diversity of knowledge that can be obtained when one chooses to pursue an interest in science.

Unique, you say? (Revision 1)

“Unique.” Humans have been force fed this idea about Earth for the entirety of our lives. If we aren’t unique, then where is the proof of life elsewhere in the universe? It’s obvious, isn’t it? We have never seen “aliens,” so we can safely draw the conclusion that we are alone in this universe. Right?

Wrong.

The size and complexity of the universe makes the thought of us being alone seemingly impossible. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a well-known astrophysicist, explains the reality of the “uniqueness” in the attached video.

“That’s like going to the ocean, taking a cup of water, scooping it up [looking at the cup] and saying ‘There are no whales in the ocean.’ Here’s my data. You need a slightly bigger sample.” I can’t agree with Tyson more. Just because we can’t see life in the small area we have explored (barely beyond the reach of the solar system), doesn’t mean we can jump to the conclusion that we are alone. That idea of Earth being the only place to support life is a very crazy and conceited thought to me.

After taking astrophysics and astronomy classes, one is humbled to see how huge and vast the universe really is. There are a few hundred billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and a few hundred billion galaxies in the OBSERVABLE universe. “Observable” means that these numbers only reflect what we are able to see from Earth. When I learned this, I realized that “unique” is the furthest from the truth when it comes to Earth’s position in the universe. This idea strengthens my passion to continue our space exploration in the days to come.

-Bryan Doyle

The connection of “experience” with the human body

Unbeknownst to me and not particularly out of my own free will, the path my life was to take started at a very young age. To be specific, my path started at age ten on a field of astroturf, where I found myself having a mild seizure.  This seizure started after a soccer ball collided with my right temple on the side of my head.  While this resulted in a mild concussion, it was fortunately not particularly disastrous. We all have such a tremendous capacity for bouncing back from head injuries at such a young age. Unfortunately for me, though, this was to be the first of five concussions I would receive—four of which came through playing soccer—until my final concussion at age seventeen.  My last concussion involved a particular event in which the leading scorer on the opposite team was on the eighteen-yard box taking a shot, when I slide-tackled the ball away. Again, unfortunately for me, my head managed to displace the ball perfectly at that exact moment he was taking his shot.  As a result, I took the full force of his shot into my right occipital lobe and was briefly knocked unconscious. Over the next twenty minutes after I left the field, I laid witness to my rapidly disappearing vision—until I found myself 100% blind.  I sat in the car, lost and confused, asking my father if I would ever be able to see again. He wasn’t exactly sure what to say.  Two hours later I was lucky enough to begin re-gaining my vision, and have been fortunate enough to only have mild visual disturbances since then.

 

What does this have to do with science, or my career path?  That’s the real question here. While I had no real life path when I was younger, my many concussions threw me into a spiraling curiosity about the brain and consciousness, and how the two were intertwined.  Many of us as teenagers have this sense of infallibility.  We have this sense of freedom and infinite safety, no matter the stupid decisions we make. My parents always called it “the bubble.”  I was forced to learn through my many concussions, as well as my temporary blindness in particular, that we are far from infallible. Every one of our personalities, every one of our memories, every one of our experiences in any part of our life is entirely based on the odd-looking fleshy mass of the seemingly-infinite interconnected neurons that make up our brain.  As such, I was set on the path of studying neuroscience.   It is my intent through this blog to explore and discuss the many facets of this emerging field of science. However, more importantly, it is my intent to discuss the importance of neuroscience in interpreting life and all its experiences.

 

~Ian Zatlin

Finding a Passion Through Artwork

It was Saturday, December 8th, 2012 and I was with my two best friends Shaun and Tyler attending a concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, Colorado. I initially had no desire or intention of going to this show, but they assured me that I would never forget that night because before the music started playing we would have the pleasure of listening to a presentation from a world famous spiritual/psychedelic artist named Alex Grey. I had no idea who Alex Grey was or even what his artwork was about. We stood as close as we could to the rail in hopes of catching a good view of the screen. Upon entering the stage, I noted that Mr. Grey had long flowing silver white hair, spoke with a soft voice that seemed naturally peaceful and wore a jacket filled with bright colors and patterns. This man’s unique appearance was enough to get my attention and intrigue me about what he was saying.Throughout Alex’s presentation I learned that he worked at Harvard Medical School studying anatomy and preparing the cadavers for dissection. This incredible experience of working first hand with the deceased inspired Alex to follow his passion of artwork and human anatomy to create beautiful, magnificent pieces of art that highlight the human body and spirit.

As a reader you may be asking yourself, “How does this relate to your life, Chase?” Well, it was during the Fall 2012 semester of school that I had officially declared my major as Integrative Physiology at CU Boulder. I had mixed feelings about this decision, knowing that I could be well in over my head with the amount of material I would need to learn and the amount of schooling I would need to succeed in the field. But it was in becoming more and more familiar with Alex’s artwork that I developed a passion for human anatomy and found everything about it fascinating. It just blows my mind thinking that every single part of the human body serves a specific function, and that it performs that function perfectly. I am now a second semester junior and could not even imagine studying anything else but Integrative Physiology, with a big credit to Alex Grey.

 

Alex_Grey-Reading

“Reading” -Alex Grey, 2001

 

“The evidence that all beings are connected is revealed before us every day. The only life on Earth 3.7 billion years ago was blue-green algae. Now our human consciousness contemplates that fact and marvels at the miraculously diverse biological bloom of creation we share with all beings.” -Alex Grey, Net of Being

 

Chase Stanker

Diversity of Science

Starting college, I was certain I would follow in the footsteps of every member in my family and become a pilot. Well two and a half years later I am now over half way through a degree in medicine. Although it may appear to be a complete change in direction, the fact is that it was not. Aviation and medicine are just two out of the hundreds of topics that share a connection through a love for science.

 

In a quote by Ken Jenkins he states, “I think science has enjoyed an extraordinary success because it has such a limited and narrow realm in which to focus its efforts. Namely, the physical universe”.  Though Jenkins conveys a hint of sarcasm in his statement, he also clearly addresses the fact that the study of science has no boundaries. There are countless fields of science that when put together work to create an explanation for the entire universe in which we live in. Whether it is calculating the speed of a 300,000 kg 777 aircraft with a breaking force of 445,000 N or determining what cells produce fibers that form the framework of lymphatic organs, there are no limits to the diversity of knowledge that can be obtained when one chooses to pursue an interest in science.

-Natalie Eidson

Unique, you say?

Unique. Humans have been force fed this idea for the entirety of our lives. If we aren’t unique, then where is the proof of life elsewhere in the universe? It’s obvious. We have never seen aliens, so we can safely draw the conclusion that we are alone and unique in this universe, right?

Wrong.

Well known astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, explains this thought in the attached video. “That’s like going to the ocean, taking a cup of water, scooping it up [looking at the cup] and saying ‘There’s no whales in the ocean.’ Here’s my data. You need a slightly bigger sample.” I can’t agree with Tyson more. The idea of Earth being the only place to support life is a very crazy and conceited thought to me.

I can pinpoint the reason I became so interested in science, astronomy in particular. After taking astrophysics and astronomy classes, one is forced to see at how huge and vast the universe really is. The sheer number of stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone is intimidating, let alone the seemingly infinite amount in the whole of the universe. That’s when I realized that “unique” is the furthest from the truth when it comes to Earth’s position in the universe.

-Bryan Doyle