Cocaine, Adderall, and the Brain

Dr. Ryan Bachtell gave a presentation at the University of Colorado on Cocaine’s affects on the brain, but not surprisingly (due to the abuse of the controlled substance by college students around the nation), the talk took a turn towards discussing Adderall, and its effects on the brain.

Psi Chi, Colorado’s psychology club, created the event and opened it up to students. The room was set up in the usual format of a presentation, with a projector and white board for the speaker, and pizza and soda to bribe students to attend. Dr. Bachtell began by talking about his achievements and previous research, building credibility with his audience. His talk was centered around the usage of cocaine and its effect on Brain-Derived Neurtrophic Factor (BDNF) activity in the nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain that determines pleasure and rewards. He described that cocaine increases BDNF activity in mice which led to increased self-administration of cocaine, indicating signs of addiction and tolerance.

Most of the students that attended, shown by a survey the Bachtell did at the beginning of the presentation, were psychology, not biology, students. Bachtell spoke in a highly, biologically-specific and technical manner that even I, a fourth year molecular cellular developmental biology student, had trouble following at times. I believe this caused the audience to doze off from time to time during the presentation, and I think Bachtell noticed this.
He then asked the audience if they knew anyone who took Adderall that wasn’t prescribed the medicine. Nearly everyone raised their hands.  He used this as a segue to his experiments of the effects of adderall on mice. I noticed, as I think he did too, that this peaked the majority of the audience’s interest. He asked people to share the myths they heard about using un-prescribed Adderall and then went on to debunk the false ones. He showed us images of neural activity in human brains on and off Adderall. He then went on to explain that prolonged usage of Adderall can actually change the way a brain functions, possibly creating ADD/ADHD-like functioning brains in people who have/had normal brains.

Bachtell’s powerpoint presentation was flawless. Slides with only pictures were supplemented with a thorough discription and explanation. He explained the mice brain images and was sure to emphasize that the results from the mice studies can allow extrapolation of theories to the effects of cocaine and Adderall on humans, but can’t be deemed as causal evidence because of the large differences between mice and human brains.

Bachtell then went on to give resources to addiction and abuse hotlines and told stories of people that failed to use these resources, which ultimately lead to their death. Bachtell finished his presentation with a Q/A and answered every question he was asked, no matter how loosely-linked the question was to his research. He drew figures on the board to explain complicated processes and would simplify his complicated explanations when asked.

While Bachtell didn’t deviate from the traditional presentation style in his body language or powerpoint, he did respond and change his presentation based on the audience’s interests. He used ethos by stating his achievements and previous resources, pathos by telling stories of cocaine-abuse patients, and logos with his research data to effectively convey his ultimate message of how and why abusing these substances is detrimental to physical and mental health of humans.


A Civil Discussion Leads to the Search for Knowledge

On Wednesday November 13, 2013, The Veritas Forum in conjunction with the University of Colorado-Boulder, put on a discussion between a University of Colorado philosophy professor and an Oxford scholar on the subject of Atheism vs. Christianity. Though it was hosted by the University of Colorado, the public was invited to attend and the Glenn Miller Ballroom was packed with both students and non-students wishing to learn a bit more about the subject. The discussion was not intended to be a debate about which world view was better, but was put forth to inform people, to get people to ask questions, and to better inform people about both Atheistic beliefs and those of Christians. Michael Tooley from the University of Colorado spoke on behalf of Atheists and John Lennox from Oxford spoke for the Christians. They wished not to have a winner or a loser, but to have a thoughtful and respectable dialogue. The talk turned out to be so popular that hundreds of people were turned away at the door because the venue was full.

The scholars began by giving a brief description of their backgrounds and how they came to believe what they believe. They then began to discuss the topics of evil in the world, the philosophy behind a good and moral God, the infallibility of the Bible, the co-existence of science and religion, and the second coming of Jesus. Finally, the floor was opened for those in the audience to ask questions to either Dr. Lennox or Dr. Tooley or both. I found it interesting that a number of the questions asked did not seem to come from those wishing to learn more, but from those wishing to attack the beliefs of Christians, many of them being posed to Dr. Lennox to defend.

Just about the only thing that the two scholars could agree upon were the basic definitions of Atheism and Christianity that would be used in their discussion. Beyond that, both had very different ideals that reflected their upbringings. Both speakers were clearly very passionate about what they were discussing as they had spent their lives devoted to the subject. This is something that is critical to giving a good talk.

What really stood out about this talk was the level of civility involved. Both professors held each other with the utmost respect and often pointed out when the other had made a good point or where they were correct. The idea that this discussion was not a debate was driven home quite well. The talk could have very well be conducted in a person’s home one on one and it very likely would have had the same atmosphere for the speakers.  The emphasis was placed on informing the public however. They professors both implored the audience in their closing remarks that we go out and ask our own questions, to search for the answers ourselves. It is in this way that we will most fulfill our own search for knowledge.

Bioneers Presentation: An organizational Review

I went to the Front Range Bioneers conference on Saturday and saw a woman speaker by the name of Michelle Parish put together a presentation that I thought was well constructed and got her point across effectively.

When she began her presentation she introduced herself and gave out preliminary information to set the stage and let people know that she had the appropriate credentials to know what she was to be presenting on. Her introduction involved:

-Affiliations (Head of CU Climate Justice)

– Past accomplishments

– Current Projects (Boulder Flood Relief)

After her intro she gave us her thesis statement or general theme of her presentation; resilience of the community after the Boulder floods. After introducing her broad theme, she narrowed it down to a more concentrated issue; The harmful plutonium in the Rocky Flats area that was disturbed by the flood.

Now that the audience knew exactly what she was presenting on she went on to outline her points of concern and finished with a take home point that wrapped up her presentation well and in turn she got an impressive response from the audience after her presentation was over.

The highlight of the organization of the presentation for me was the broad theme that she introduced and then narrowed it down to a smaller target issue that allowed the audience to attend to the core concepts of the presentation by eliminating confusion about her focus for her message.


Cosmo’s Pizza: Not for the Sober-Hearted

Authors: C. R. Roberts, A. F. Price, R. D. Moghe, J. B. Arkin, B. D. Pereksta, J. A. McDaniel


We set out to confirm why Cosmo’s is so highly rated on some websites [4] and to refute the negative Yelp reviews [1][2][3]. By conducting a controlled chimpanzee study, we determined that there is a positive correlation between the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and the value of Cosmo’s Pizza. From this study we moved to human trials in which we determined the satisfaction that young women (ages 18-22) received from the consumption of Cosmo’s Pizza when drunk, which also resulted in a positive correlation of satisfaction and BAC. To reinforce our data, we took a random sampling of students from the University of Colorado whose BAC was determined via a breathalyzer and asked them to verbally state their levels of satisfaction with Cosmo’s Pizza.


Previous reviews have stated that Cosmo’s pizza was a disappointment [1], not hot nor fresh [2], and insanely expensive [3]. We are studying the effects of alcohol on the satisfaction of the consumption of Cosmo’s pizza. We hypothesize that the above-stated downsides of Cosmo’s pizza are negligible when a subject’s blood alcohol concentration is above a .15, or 15%.


Chimpanzee-based studies were first conducted to see the determined value of Cosmo’s pizza when sober compared to inebriated. This study involved the dosing of chimpanzees with intravenous ethanol (5 ml of 95% to achieve). Each chimpanzee was given a slice of Cosmo’s pizza and their normal diet of vegetables when sober, and after the introduction of alcohol. Their reaction was recorded.

Next, human-based studies consisting of college women (ages 18-22) who stated they were on a diet, were conducted. A similar study was conducted as on the chimpanzees. 100 women were given the choice between salad and pizza when sober and intoxicated (4 drink level over a period of 1 hour and 30 minutes). Their choices were recorded.

Finally, we took a random sampling of University of Colorado undergraduate students from the times of 12-2 am on wednesday through saturday nights and correlated their enjoyment with their level of sobriety (inverse of blood alcohol level). Students were given several slices of Cosmo’s pizza and a survey. They were given a breathalyzer to determine their BAC. Their enjoyment of the pizza was recorded based on answers to the survey questions.


With the chimpanzee study, we determined that the presence of ethanol in the system, rewires the neurocircuitry of the brain in a way that causes the value of Cosmo’s Pizza to increase from nil to immeasurable amounts.  We found that as the level of alcohol in the subject’s blood increased, their consumption and enjoyment of said consumption of Cosmo’s pizza increased. The chimpanzees refused to eat the pizza before the introduction of alcohol, while after their intoxication they consistently chose the pizza over their more standard foods.

In the study of college women on diets, the results were similar. Only 24 of the women chose Cosmo’s over the salad while sober. When they were intoxicated, the results were flipped with 75 of 100 women choosing Cosmo’s over salad.

In the final test, we saw that the level that students enjoyed Cosmo’s pizza peaked at a BAC of 0.15. However, we found that once the subject reached a blood alcohol level greater than .15, the subject’s enjoyment began to greatly diminish until the point of having a blood alcohol level of .4, which usually results in death. It is interesting to note, that students who ate the pizza with spicy ranch, consistently rated the pizza higher than those who did not.

Alcohol Dieting alcoholLimitations:

Limitations to this study should be considered when evaluating the data and results presented. During many trials, both the subjects and researchers had been exposed to copious amounts of ethanol which may have inhibited the researchers’ abilities to conduct experiments and the subjects abilities to denote value and ratings of satisfaction to our researchers.

Discussion: Subjects consistently chose the pizza over other options and showed a higher enjoyment of the pizza when intoxicated. This leads us to come to the conclusion that Cosmo’s pizza is in fact more desirable after the consumption of alcohol. Wiser food choices were foregone by subjects for the possibility of eating the pizza. Future testing needs to be done on the application of spicy ranch to the desirability of the pizza. We saw that some subjects chose to add it to their pizza and were consistently happier with their meal.

After conducting this study, the researchers decided to conduct on-field auto-ethnographic research. From what the researchers can remember, and it isn’t very much, our conclusions from both the subject-based and auto-ethnographic research supported our hypothesis. We must note that during this auto-ethnographic trial, 4 out of 6 of the researchers did not remember anything.


[1] Jen A. Boston, MA

[2] Mike S. Boulder, Co

[3] Allison S. Boulder, Co


Decline in Physical Science Education

In recent decades, American schoolchildren have been falling further and further behind other countries in terms of math and science.  In an article published in Advances in Geosciences in 2005, R. A. Pertzborn details various possible reasons for this trend, as well as proposes some possible solutions.  In his study, Pertzborn notes the impending workforce crisis stemming from the fact that there is “increased demand for scientific and technically literate workers, while fewer of the nation’s students are pursuing degrees in these academic areas” (Pertzborn, pg 1).  The rest of the article briefly summarizes some of the past solutions (and their unintended consequences) that have been put into place in an attempt to close the math and science achievement gap between the United States and other nations. 

One issue that Pertzborn examines is the fact that each year there is a steady decline of foreign students coming to study math and science at universities in the United States.   Possible reasons for this include the increasingly strict immigration laws that have been implemented post 9/11 as well as the fact that many countries are catching up to America and becoming able to provide their youth with the same opportunities that they would have access to in the United States (Pertzborn, pg 2)  This is a problem, because many foreign students who attend college in America end up staying in America to work instead of returning to their homelands, and now that students are becoming more and more likely to stay in their native countries for school the workforces of other countries will become stringer while America may begin to fall behind.

Another topic discussed by the author is the problem of teachers not being able to successfully foster an interest in math and science within their students.  Pertzborn explains that some reasons for this are teachers not being adequately equipped to teach certain subjects (especially physical sciences) and also the common misperception among students that “science is hard.”  Pertzborn also brings up the gender gap in math and sciences, citing a deficiency in female role models as a possible reason for this. 

By examining the possible causes of the decline of students graduating with degrees in math and science, Pertzborn is able to use his study to call the attention to the possible avenues of change that need to be affected in the United States if we wish to rectify this problem.  Overall this seems to be a good source to use for the examination of the lag in math and science education recently observed in the United States.  A limitation of this article is that its main focus is on the observed insufficiency of physical science education, but this trend is one that carries over into other fields of science and mathematics, so this limitation is not a debilitating one and this article can still be used to further the overall point of the final paper.

Three Dimensional Platforms for Cell Culture

This article, titled “A Versatile Synthetic Extracellular Matrix Mimic via Thiol-Norbornene Photopolymerization,” is about the basic structure and chemistry typical of a hydrogel system, similar to the system I will be using, and about why hydrogels are important. It also explains that because hydrogels can emulate the environment a cell experiences when inside the body, hydrogels can be used as a three dimensional platform for cell culture and for the studying of cells. Additionally, this hydrogel platform functions as a cell scaffold that the researchers explain could be used for transplanting cells. The researchers explain, “thiol-norbornene polyermizes via photoinitiation to form a matrix in which cells can be encapsulated within” [1]. Due to the “pore” size of the matrix, or the gaps in between the network, proteins and other small molecules necessary for cell viability can be swelled within the gel. This thiol-norbornene system is a good start for hydrogels, but the researchers explain potential problems of photopolyermization. Photopolymerization can create harmful radicals that can damage cells so a hydrogel system that doesn’t need photopolyermization would be more ideal. This article also demonstrates the dynamic capabilities of the matrix to change its density to those more similar to living tissue. This hydrogel system was used to keep stem cells that are pretty strong and durable alive. I am using this article because it was the first article I read when I entered my lab and it provided me with information about the basis of the research I was about to engage in. I currently use a different hydrogel polymer system that can have more delicate cells encapsulated within it and survive, but providing the background of why hydrogels are even created, for culturing cells, studying development of cells, and potentially transplanting cells, is important to convince the UROP grant committee that my research is beneficial and important.

[1]         B. D. Fairbanks, M. P. Schwartz, A. E. Halevi, C. R. Nuttelman, C. N. Bowman, K. S. Anseth, Adv. Mater. 2009, 21, 5005–5010.

Improving One Nano at a Time

Reference: Ganesh, V Kartik. “Nanotechnology in Civil Engineering.” Nanotechnology in Civil Engineering. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

The research paper, Nanotechnology in Civil Engineering, just as the title implies, touches down on nanotechnology, which Ganesh defines as “the understanding and manipulation of matter on the nanoscale”, and how it is used/or will be used in Civil engineering. [He] goes on to explain that nanotechnology, very much like construction, has undergone and will continue to undergo great changes over the course of history despite either of [them] not being anywhere close to a new science or technology (Ganesh, V Kartik).

This paper goes into great depths to introduce what exactly nanotechnology is in the field of civil engineering and, for a beginner with no knowledge about nanotechnology, is very informative. The paper goes into great detail, beyond background information and what [it] is, about the various methods and uses of the technology in construction today. Some such methods would be concrete strengthening and healing, increased corrosion resistance in steel, the addition of fire-protection to glass, and material/structure performance monitoring nanosensors among many other uses (Ganesh, V Kartik).

Last but not least, just like mostly everything in this world, the paper highlights many different advantages and disadvantages of using nanotechnology in construction and civil engineering.

This source will prove to be very useful when it comes to writing my paper on civil engineering related nanotechnology due to its extensiveness on the subject and my desire to give a complete overview on nanotechnology’s development and usage in the world of civil engineering today.