Northview High School's Beta Club Hosts Annual Stress Awareness Week To Relieve Tensions With PJs, Stress Balls And Puppies

Northview High School's Beta Club Hosts Annual Stress Awareness Week To Relieve Tensions With PJs, Stress Balls And Puppies

Last week, Northview High School Beta Club hosted Stress Awareness Week to help alleviate stress in Northview students' daily lives.
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Every single year, Northview High School's Beta Club hosts something called as Stress Awareness Week: the one week of the entire school year that alleviates stress from high school students. This year, this event occurred just a week ago on Oct. 23 to 27. As the Northview Beta Club President, I have taken a huge part in organizing this wonderful event. For Stress Awareness Week, the Northview Beta Officer Board assigned a special activity for each day of the week: Monday is PJ Day, Tuesday is Stress Kit Day, Wednesday is Stress Balls Day, Thursday is Stress Break Day and Friday is Puppies Day. As you'll see below, I'd say this week was a blast.


Day 1 – Monday: PJ Day

What better way to alleviate stress by getting out of bed and heading to school without changing? Many people were extremely comfortable and enjoyed a day of school in their pajamas. Throughout the day I noticed many people wore their pajamas and were truly excited to wear them.

Day 2 – Tuesday: Stress Kit Day

The Northview Beta Club officers and members worked extremely hard to create small stress kits for students. We created approximately 500 bags overall and passed them out in the morning. Many people were thrilled to see what were inside, and many were also disappointed for not receiving one. The stress kit bags contained a marble, a small piece of string, a penny, a tea bag and a mint. On the outside of the bag, there was a cute message that said: "Have a penny so you're never broke... Have a tattoo because your stress is temporary... Have a string so you have something to hold onto... Have a marble for when people say you lost yours... Have a tea bag to warm your heart... Have a mint so your day stays minty fresh."

Day 3 – Wednesday: Stress Balls Day

Many people were thrilled to see the ever-so-famous stress balls to return to Northview High School. This year the Northview Beta Club brought over 500 stress balls to hand out to students in the morning. Throughout the day, I witnessed many people playing with these stress balls, and I was truly happy that many people were enjoying these stress balls, personally designed by one of our Beta officers!

Day 4 – Thursday: Stress Break Day

On Stress Break Day, everyone was provided a 30-minute break from school. There were many activities students could do such as playing basketball in the gym, having a study hall in their classes or even playing Mario Kart in the school library! There was a positive feedback from many students, saying how they wished there was a stress break every week. The Beta Officer Team was truly thrilled to hear all of the positivity about stress break day.

Day 5 – Friday: Puppies Day

This day was absolutely the most popular one. For puppies day, the Northview Beta Club contacted the Furkids animal shelter to provide us around seven puppies to alleviate students' stress during lunch. Around 300 people showed up to take a few minutes of their time, petting and getting to know the puppies. For me, I got to know Gorgeous really well, especially since she fell asleep in my arms.


To anyone in the Beta club, I'd say go and encourage your school's officers to start a Stress Awareness Week in your own school. Beta Club is all about making an impact on our community so why can't we make a strong impact on our school's mental health? Take a stand and let the world just how powerful the National Beta Organization is.

Cover Image Credit: Sarah Jang

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Scoliosis: The Curving Disease

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Heather Searfoss

2-18-2018

The Curvature

After winning the 2018 Super Bowl Philadelphia is known as ‘The City of Champions and Underdogs’. It is the birthplace of the underdog boxer, Rocky Balboa, and the home of the current Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. It is also the birthplace of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where fighters are born and challenged every single day.

I was one of those fighters and I was fighting scoliosis.

According to www.scoliosisrehabilitationcenter.com, “173,000 people are diagnosed with scoliosis every year” (2018, ST&RC) and most of those diagnosed are children. I was diagnosed when I was 11 years old. But before I get into details, what is scoliosis? How is it caused? And why do we need to know about it?

Scoliosis is a medical condition that causes the spinal vertebrae to curve. It is caused by genetics, arthritis, or it may not have a known cause at all, in which case, this is known as idiopathic scoliosis. “Spinal deformity in children and adolescents accounts for the largest share (48%) of all musculoskeletal deformity health care visits – over 857,280 each year” (HCUP-AHRQ 2011) (2018 CLEAR) and this number continues to grow along with the population. But is scoliosis a serious medical condition? Yes, it is and it must be taken seriously.

Scoliosis severity is measured on 3 levels according to CLEAR Scoliosis Institute:

·Mild- Curvature is 20 degrees or less

·Moderate- Curvature is 20-40 degrees

·Severe- Curvature is above 40 degrees

I had 2 curves in my spine.

One curvature was 65 degrees which caused my rib cage on my right side to protrude and constrict my left lung cavity and, the other was 32 degrees which caused my hips to protrude towards the left side. Altogether my curvatures were 97 degrees. By the summer of 2008 my curvatures would have escalated to 100 degrees or above.

The tricky part about scoliosis is that it is a progressive disease. It is like cancer, but without tumors or chemotherapy. It cannot be placed into remission and it cannot be fully cured.

Only maintained and monitored.

“Bracing will NEVER reduce the curvature, and surgery is only a temporary solution for scoliosis treatment” (2018 ST&RC) as for me, I have been through both treatments. I wore a back brace for 2 years and I had a spinal fusion on February 18th, 2008.

To this day, I still have the bars in my back from the surgery and my quality of life has improved since I was first diagnosed in the summer of 2004 so I would say this far I am lucky.

Scoliosis is a disease that most of Americans and society do not think twice about. It is a hidden disease that can only be diagnosed with specific tools and expertise. It is a challenge for those who face it and a burden for the families who witness it. But, with this knowledge I hope we can band together and end this plague, I call

‘The Curvature’.

Works Cited

https://www.clear-institute.org/learning-about-sco...

http://www.scoliosisrehabilitationcenter.com/

My own personal experience with scoliosis. To hear my full story please visit my blog @ https://soccerxlspsu.blogspot.com/

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Are Magic Mushrooms The Key To Understanding The Brain?

An Academic Perspective
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Mushrooms that, when ingested, induce “mind-manifesting” effects are categorized as psychedelic. They are colloquially referred to as “Magic Mushrooms." The main psychoactive component of these fungi is psilocybin. Here, the term psychedelic is describing the compound’s ability to manifest underlying aspects of the mind; it’s etymology deriving from the Greek words psychē and dclôsē, meaning “mind” or “soul” and “to manifest,” respectively. Western countries first became aware of the “magic mushroom” in the first half of the 20th century when a western traveler came across one in Central America. Psychedelics became popular with the generation of Americans who were disillusioned with government, as the Vietnam War broadcasted on television and had forced conscription. The government targeted anti-war protesters, often identified as hippies through the illegalization of psychedelic drugs. As with many illegal substances, the “magic mushroom” continues to be abused for recreational purposes. Non-western nations, specifically those indigenous to the Americas, have an ancient history with psilocybin, which was often used in sacred ceremonies, as well as for healing purposes. Whilst it is often implied that western medicine is more legitimate, that narrative is founded in cultural biases held by the people who invaded and settled on this land. Nevertheless, this paper focuses on current western research into psilocybin, as interest in the therapeutic aspects of psychedelics have had a resurgence in these countries. It induces a similar state to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Unlike experiments performed during REM, however, those performed under psychedelic influence can be mechanistically and scientifically controlled. Inspired by the mysteries of the brain, this article explores the possibility that psilocybin may be the catalyst for marrying analysis of the brain on the cellular level and on the metacognitive, conscious one. It is the first part in a series of academic articles on the topic.


Because psilocybin is structurally similar to the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin), it produces psychedelic effects by binding to 5-HT2A receptors. One study suggested that 5-HT2A receptors may live in the plasma membrane of pyramidal cells that project onto interneurons, possibly contributing to the decrease in neural activity associated with higher level thought. A study done in people found a statistically significant increase in the likelihood of layer 5 pyramidal neurons firing after consumption of magic mushrooms. Nevertheless, the former study disagrees on how, proposing that excitation of 5-HT2A receptors has an inverse relationship with that of pyramidal cells. It is notable that 5-HT2A receptors are most densely expressed on pyramidal neurons, specifically in the neural regions associated with cognition and perception, as opposed to ones associated with more basic functions, such as the motor cortex. Whilst the underlying mechanisms of psychedelic effects at the receptor level aren’t clear, the impact on neurobiological mechanisms, believed to be involved in higher-level thinking, have more of a consensus across studies.

One study used arterial spin labeling fMRI and blood-oxygen level-dependent fMRI imaging techniques to look at the changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF) as it correlates to the specific regions of interest in the brain over time, as well as to the subjective intensity of the effects of the psilocybin administered. Associating CBF with neural activity, they found that decreases in CBF were localized to the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and the thalamus.

All of the aforementioned function as important connector hubs in the brain, associated with high level cognitive functions. Specifically, the PCC is a vital component of the default mode network (DMN), a system of highly correlate brain regions critical for cognition and the perception of self; the ACC is involved in executive function, connecting the emotion-linked limbic system and cognition-linked prefrontal cortex; the mPFC functions in higher order memory and decision-making processes; and the thalamus relays sensory signals to the cerebral cortex and regulates consciousness. The statistically significant correlation between these decreases and perceived potency of psilocybin, as well as the significantly decreased positive coupling of the PCC and the mPFC suggest that classic psychedelics may function by fracturing brain networks to alter a person’s state of waking consciousness.

Consistently receiving greater CBF and energy than all other regions of the brain, the default mode network (DMN) has a functional centrality as it integrates and routes information from different brain networks, excluding sensory. The DMN, in fact, may be the highest level of functional hierarchy, engaging in metacognition that encompasses: self-reflection, theory-of-mind, and mental time-travel. This metacognition, the discernment and/or control of one’s own thoughts and behaviors, is commonly only attributed to humans, and may be thought of as “self” or as “ego” in Freudian terminology. A recent study used fMRI to investigate the medial temporal lobe (MTL), including the hippocampus, which is involved in the formation of long-term memory, and its interaction with the DMN. Functional coupling between the MTL and DMN decreased post-psilocybin delivery into the bloodstream, further supporting the hypothesis that the psychedelic state is a regression from executive control. Studies on meditative states, long thought to be similar to psychedelic ones, have found the same phenomenon.

This desynchronization of cortical activity can be observed via the modulation of alpha oscillations, deduced to be a result of psilocybin-excited 5-HT2A receptors. Related to temporal framing of perception, alpha oscillations were found to regulate both cortical excitation and N170 visual potentials that appear connected to visual hallucinations. The decreased alpha power values post-psilocybin absorption in the body demonstrated a statistically significant relationship with both general increased excitability in the absence of stimuli, as well as the formation of hallucinations, which is consistent with known psychedelic effects. The latter is likely because psilocybin attenuates N170 potentials, which help translate natural images into clear and meaningful structures. Moreover, another study found that this decrease in alpha power positively correlated with subjective ratings on both the disintegration of “self” and the “supernatural” quality of the experience. The presented pharmacophysiological mechanism underlying these results submit that oscillatory rhythms constrain spontaneous firing of individual pyramidal cells, upholding structure to brain activity and supporting the theory of “self-organized criticality.”

The entropic theory of consciousness, known as the entropic brain hypothesis, relates system entropy in the brain with “self-organized criticality.” Entropy refers to system disorder. “Self-organized criticality” refers to a complex system (the brain), in which the properties as a whole are not those expressed at the level of an individual unit (neuron). The entropic brain hypothesis purports that a mature sense of self-identity or personality, related to metacognition, suppresses entropy in the brain so that humans can have more advantageous control over the natural world. We'll talk more about the entropic theory of consciousness in the second part to this article.

Share if you've learned something new! I've put references below, if you'd like a more thorough understanding.


Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to condone the use of illegal substances, or replace individual research. The author takes no responsibility for the actions of readers.


References:

  1. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Hellyer, P., Shanahan, M., Feilding, A., Tagliazucchi, E., Chiavlo, D., Nutt, D., (2014). The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. U.S.A. 8, 1662-5161, DOI=10.3389/fnhum.2014.00020
  2. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Erritzoe, D., Williams, T., Stone, J. M., Reed, L. J., Colasanti, A., et al. (2012a). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 109, 2138–2143. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1119598109
  3. Yu A-M. Indolealkylamines: Biotransformations and Potential Drug–Drug Interactions. The AAPS Journal. 2008;10(2):242. doi:10.1208/s12248-008-9028-5.
  4. Dinis-Oliviera, R.J., Drug Metab Rev. 2017 Feb;49(1):84-91. Doi: 10.1080/03602532.2016.1278228. Epub 2017 Jan 31.
  5. Zhu JJ. Maturation of layer 5 neocortical pyramidal neurons: amplifying salient layer 1 and layer 4 inputs by Ca2+ action potentials in adult rat tuft dendrites. The Journal of Physiology. 2000;526(Pt 3):571-587. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7793.2000.00571.x.
  6. Sporns, O., Chialvo, D. R., Kaiser, M., and Hilgetag, C. C. (2004). Organization, development and function of complex brain networks. Trends Cogn. Sci. 8, 418–425. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2004.07.008
  7. Euston DR, Gruber AJ, McNaughton BL. The Role of Medial Prefrontal Cortex in Memory and Decision Making. Neuron. 2012;76(6):1057-1070. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.12.002.
  8. Freud, S. (1927). The Ego and the id. London: L. and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth press, The Institute of psycho-analysis.
  9. Chialvo, D. R., Balenzuela, P., and Fraiman, D. (2007). “The brain: what is critical about it?” in Collective Dynamics: Topics on Competition and Cooperation in the Biosciences, eds L.M. Ricciardi, A. Buonocore, and E. Pirozzi (New York, NY: Vietri sul Mare), 28–45.
  10. Ardila, Alfredo. (2008). On the evolutionary origins of executive functions. Brain and cognition. 68. 92-9. 10.1016/j.bandc.2008.03.003.
Cover Image Credit: cg trader

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