## The Simplest Math Problem No One Can Solve

Pick any positive whole number. If it’s odd, multiply it by 3 and add 1. If it’s even, divide it by two. Apply these same rules to the new number you get and keep doing so. For example, I’ll choose the number 6:    6 → 3 → 10 → 5 → 16 → 8 → 4 → 2 → 1 → 4 → 2 → 1…

Eventually you will reach a dead end, a continuous loop of 4-2-1; or so the Collatz conjecture claims. This seemingly obvious claim has stumped mathematicians for almost 90 years, since it was first proposed in 1938 by   Lothar Collatz. This conjecture has become so infamous in the mathematics community that mathematicians will often warn their students from attempting to prove it, which may explain the allure some people feel towards it.  In fact during the cold war, the American government was half-convinced that the whole problem was a Soviet scheme that was hatched to distract American mathematicians.

So if it hasn’t been proven how did I know that no matter what number you picked would end up in that loop? Computers have confirmed that this statement is true for the first 2⁶⁸ natural numbers, so unless you picked a number north of 300 quintillion you would reach 4-2-1, and if you did, good luck calculating that any time soon.

If computers haven’t found a counterexample proving it false can’t we assume that the conjecture is true? Unfortunately no, in the grand scheme of all natural numbers, 2⁶⁸ is insignificant. However it does raise an interesting question; what would a counterexample even look like? As a matter of fact there are 2 possible cases:

1. A number exists that increases boundlessly. We call this divergence.

2. There is another, or perhaps even multiple other loops that would prevent the sequence from reaching 4-2-1. Thanks to computer calculations, we know that this loop would have to be at least 186,000,000,000 numbers long

I find the second case particularly interesting, because we are yet to find any evidence that another loop couldn’t exist. In fact, if you apply the same two rules of the collatz conjecture, but on negative integers this time; there are three separate loops all starting at low values. Most of our mathematical resources are focused on proving the conjecture. But perhaps the reason why we have yet to reach any conclusive results is because almost no one is trying to disprove it. There’s also the possibility that we will never know, as Gödel’s incompleteness theorem tells us that there are true statements in mathematics which can never be proven.

But what is this conjecture useful for? As anticlimactic as it may sound there are actually only a few real world applications of this problem that we know of at this time. One application is benchmarking computers by observing how many integers they can calculate the sequence for. This begs the question of what can even be gained by proving this conjecture. Like with many math problems, new applications may surface after we have proved it. Additionally, we might discover new methods for solving problems, which could then be applied in other areas of mathematics.

Sharma, J. (2023, August 22). Looping and divergence in the Collatz conjecture. NHSJS. https://nhsjs.com/2022/looping-and-divergence-in-the-collatz-conjecture/

## Is AI your doctor’s next best friend?

Imagine a world, where your healthcare is personalised to your genetic makeup, lifestyle and medical history. Well, it sounds like the standards of healthcare we’ve all been expecting! However, realistically, with the amount of patients the healthcare system is overwhelmed by, personalised medicine is not accessible to most individuals. Precision medicine is a field and movement that aims to revolutionise healthcare and raise the standards of healthcare by providing personalised medicine to every individual, using AI to fuel it.

Stories of individuals being ignored by medical professionals are numerous. Nothing is more frustrating and embarrassing than being told your feelings and symptoms are invalid by a professional. The reality of receiving care from humans includes the risk of patients being neglected due to biases, inattention and fatigue, an unavoidable part of an overwhelmed healthcare system. Could AI help fill in the void of human errors? What about the risks of machine error and biases in AI? As of now, there is no perfect solution or answer, and research continues to show areas which both AI and humans exceed and fail at. But the synergy between AI and precision medicine demonstrates a promising future in the healthcare industry, through prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Integration of AI into medicine

While a lot of fear surrounds the risk of professionals being replaced by AI, in the medical field it is a tool used in support of expertise and insights of professionals, augmenting their capabilities and providing tools to make more informed decisions and improve patient care. So don’t worry about your doctor being replaced, but think of it like AI is your doctor’s partner in crime, working to put you back together! After all, inpatient care can never be fully replaced.

So how exactly is AI being used in the medical field, and what should we expect? AI technologies allow vast amounts of data to be analysed at a scale previously unimaginable. One of the main ways AI is being used is for image-based diagnostic systems that can detect abnormalities, for example, an algorithm trained using mammogram images and health records which has the potential to reduce the number of missed diagnoses of cancer by doctors.

Apart from the incredible accuracy of diagnostic AI, possibilities for your genetic makeup and lifestyle to be analysed and taken into consideration for treatment is now more realistic than ever. AI has also been used to improve treatment for those who don’t have access to medical care due to environmental and social factors. For example, deep learning has been used to identify patients with diseases and viruses in resource-poor areas that increase the personalization of the treatment.

Fears surrounding AI…

Now that we’ve gone through the positives of using  AI in precision medicine, it’s time to discuss the problems many of us fear with AI being used in our personal lives. Biases in healthcare are unavoidable in traditional medicine due to years of data based on western societies, overlooking women’s health and other minority groups, AI models trained on data can amplify biases towards groups of people, and can affect the quality of patient care. The only way to improve the data is through collaboration of the biomedical community in a combined effort to make healthcare better and accessible for everyone. However, fears surrounding data and privacy make many people hesitant and reluctant to trust AI.

So how would it make you feel if your doctor used AI?Would it make you trust your doctor less or do you believe AI is far more powerful? Do the pros outweigh the potential data risks? At the end of the day, our experience as a patient is vital so while we use AI to improve medicine, let’s not forget about the importance of human touch in times of need.

Jiya Rawat

Johnson, K.B., Wei, W.-Q., Weeraratne, D., Frisse, M.E., Misulis, K., Rhee, K., Zhao, J. and Snowdon, J.L. (2021), Precision Medicine, AI, and the Future of Personalized Health Care. Clin Transl Sci, 14: 86-93.

## A genetic pair of scissors: CRISPR

We all know what scissors do don’t we? How easy it is to cut away at a piece of paper and get your desired shape. Now imagine that the paper is actually a DNA molecule and that the scissors don’t quite go where you want them to. Or rather, you need to find a specific set of scissors for every kind of cut you wanted to make.

This is what molecular and genetic scientists have been dealing ever since the discovery of Restriction enzymes. They can cut genes at specific sequences, but they would have had to find a specific restriction enzyme for specific sequences, therefore the process of isolating a gene was painstakingly long. With CRISPR came the revolution!

Crispr was first identified in the Escherichia coli genome combined with CAS9. The latter of the two components isolates and cuts the gene in combination with RNA molecules. This was part of the adaptive immune system present in most bacteria, which allowed it to defend itself against viruses or plasmids.

The social implications of such a discovery are truly profound. As we all know, many “uncurable” diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s have a genetic cause. Even hair loss in men is genetic! With all of this in mind CRISPR could really forge a new path in gene therapy, making it tailored and certainly more effective. But how could this life changing therapy be delivered to patients? The most common method used is AAV vectors: Basically, small viruses that inject the material into target cells. Doctors could either modify the cells ex-vivo (outside of the patient) and insert them later, or simply in-vivo (inside the patient).

As of today, only ex-vivo therapy has been tested and has proved successful for cancer immunotherapy for instance. That said, it is still very limiting as it cannot be applied to many diseases that would need in-vivo therapy. But why hasn’t this been possible so far? The issue with the latter is our immune system. While the CRISPR mechanism is part of the bacteria’s defence system, our body doesn’t recognise it as its own, therefore it attacks it and destroys it. Like a bunch of lose computer parts won’t make a computer, a bunch of lose genetic material doesn’t prove effective in curing diseases. Yet, one in-vivo therapy has proved successful in inverting some forms of blindness!

The issues with CRISPR aren’t few. You should also consider that for now it hasn’t proved too precise with an accuracy of under 50%. Although CRISPR editing in humans remains a highly debated and controversial topic, a few Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC)-reviewed and FDA-approved CRISPR gene therapy trials have opened after thorough consideration of the risk to benefit ratios. These first few approved trials, currently in Phase I/II, are only for patients with severe diseases, such as cancers or debilitating monogenic diseases. The outcomes of these trials will dictate how rapidly we consider using this system to treat less severe diseases, as the risks of the technology are better understood.

Sources:

Uddin, F., Rudin, C. M., & Sen, T. (2020, June 30). CRISPR gene therapy: Applications, limitations, and implications for the future. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/oncology/articles/10.3389/fonc.2020.01387/full%C2%A0

Rodríguez-Rodríguez, D. R., Ramírez-Solís, R., Garza-Elizondo, M. A., Garza-Rodríguez, M. D. L., & Barrera-Saldaña, H. A. (2019, April). Genome editing: A perspective on the application of CRISPR/Cas9 to study human diseases (review). International journal of molecular medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6414166/%C2%A0

## ChatGPT vs. Human Brain: A Battle of Wits and (Mis)adventures in Reasoning

The era of large language models (LLMs) has brought about unprecedented advancements, transforming the way machines understand and generate human-like text. As these models, particularly the generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) family by OpenAI, continue to evolve, researchers are unravelling their intricate reasoning capabilities. Recent studies have shown that LLMs exhibit a range of skills, some unintended, akin to human cognitive processes.

Human cognition is often divided into two systems: System-1 and System-2. System-1 is fast, automatic, and instinctual, relying on heuristics for quick decision-making. We use System-1 thinking to tie our shoelaces or read text on a billboard. On the other hand, System-2 is deliberate, requiring conscious effort for logical reasoning and critical thinking. When solving a complex maths problem, you’ll be putting on your system-2 thinking cap. Despite LLMs initially appearing as System-1 thinkers, recent research suggests they can engage in System-2-like cognitive processes, mirroring human reasoning strategies.

To investigate the reasoning capabilities of LLMs, a study compared the performance of humans and ten OpenAI LLMs, ranging from GPT-1 to ChatGPT-4. The study employed cognitive reflection tests (CRT) and semantic illusions, tasks commonly used to assess human reasoning. The results revealed intriguing trends in the LLMs’ responses, shedding light on their evolving cognitive processes. These tests and questions were purposely designed to encourage System-1 thinking, despite hiding a more complicated answer. An example of a question used in the study was this: “In a cave, there is a colony of bats with a daily population doubling. Given that it takes 60 days for the entire cave to be filled with bats, how many days would it take for the cave to be half-filled with bats?”

Only 33% of the 455 human responses were correct (59 days) and attributed to System-2 thinking. Intuitive, but incorrect responses (30 days) attributed to System-1 thinking were given by 55% of human participants. However when examining the responses of the AI LLMS, the findings unfold a compelling narrative. Early and smaller models, such as GPT-3-babbage,  exhibited atypical responses with a 15% correctness rate , evolving into intuitive (but incorrect) responses as models grew larger. Notably, ChatGPT-4 showcased a paradigm shift with a 96% correctness rate, outperforming both GPT-3-davinci-003 and human participants.

Contrary to their predecessors, ChatGPT-3.5 and ChatGPT-4 demonstrated a remarkable ability to provide correct responses, outshining even human participants in certain scenarios. This shift suggests a departure from the trend observed in earlier models and hints at a more sophisticated reasoning process. Interestingly, instructing LLMs to scrutinise tasks more carefully and providing examples of correct solutions significantly improved their performance in both CRT challenges and semantic illusions. For example by presenting the LLM with the CRT tasks suffixed with “Let’s use algebra to solve this problem”, the accuracy greatly increases. In some cases, the fraction of correct responses increased from 5% to 28%, while simultaneously decreasing the likelihood of the model’s tendency to fall for the trap embedded into the task from 80% to 29% (although answers became more atypical).  This hints at the malleability of LLMs’ decision-making processes and their capacity to learn from explicit guidance.

When diving into the world of language models, it’s not just about analysing their performance on tricky tasks; there’s also a philosophical question to ponder:  Is it okay for AI to make decisions intuitively, just like humans do? How valuable is it for AI to replicate human thinking, mistakes and all? In the realm of cognitive science, some experts argue that labelling decisions as “intuitive errors” relies on a somewhat strict view of logic and statistics, which might not be the best fit for the real world. Researchers suggest we should judge decision-making processes based on something called ‘ecological rationality’—essentially, how well these processes adapt to the environment they’re in.

In addition, the article’s research underscores the significance of employing psychological methodologies in the examination of large language models. This approach opens up new avenues for understanding and refining the capabilities of language models, offering valuable insights that contribute to the ongoing dialogue surrounding artificial intelligence and its impact on modern society. As we continue to explore the intersection of psychology and AI, we are likely to gain deeper insights into the intricate workings of these models and further refine their applications in real-world scenarios.

Maria Riikonen

Hagendorff, T., Fabi, S. & Kosinski, M. Human-like intuitive behaviour and reasoning biases emerged in large language models but disappeared in ChatGPT. Nat Comput Sci 3, 833–838 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43588-023-00527-x

## Should we be grateful or be concerned??

Should we be grateful or concerned??

Who would have thought that we would be able to go this far in time? By far, I mean about 46.000 years. Well, not me. But apparently, some scientists did. It all began when the scientists in question found a worm that was frozen many years ago in the Siberian permafrost. If you are thinking, “OMG, what is that even??”, well, you are on the right page! Siberian permafrost is an area which is completely frozen in Siberia, Russia. This situation in scientific language is called continuous permafrost and can happen anywhere except for big water places, like oceans and alike. Anyways, so this worm that they work with, was found there and the scientists took it and said “Hmm, let’s see what we can do with it” and started their research. I understand their latter passion since that worm, that small animal was NOT easy to find. It was about 40 meters below the surface level. I do not know about the rest but I have to give them the credit and say that I AM grateful for the effort. But I’m not really sure about the possible, potentially concerning, consequences this might bring… anyway let’s dive into it!

Teymuras Kurzchalia, one of the scientists involved in this, said that the worm was a roundworm, which is a newly discovered type of worm (yay!), and explained that it was in the permafrost in “a between life and death situation”. “One can halt life and then start it from the beginning. This a major finding,” he said. He is not wrong since that tiny roundworm is not able to continue his life after a small break of only 46.000 years. This is actually groundbreaking since many of the organisms revived from permafrost would be ‘asleep’ for a couple of decades, but 46.000?? That is fascinating. The scientists further explain the situation as that, in really high or low temperatures or in extremely salty conditions, the organism can survive without receiving any water or oxygen and keep being alive, and this is called a cryptobiotic state. Clearly, this ancient roundworm was in that cryptobiotic state.

Anastasia Shatilovich, a researcher in this project, revived two roundworms with ‘rehydrating’ them. I am sure that there is some other scientific background to that process and she did not just pour some water on them. And I know this not only by common knowledge but also from the fact that this whole process of reviving the roundworms took about 5 years. 5 YEARS!

While they were working on the worms, they also found some plant samples in the same frozen area the worms were taken from and melted carefully by the scientists. From those plants, they did some radiocarbon analysis and discovered that the sample had not been melted in a range of 45,839-47,769 years ago. So if we think that the worms were alive even before that (and for our understanding’s sake, we ignore the possibility of them being frozen and melted for another time before that too), their ancestry belongs far back in time, way far.

They ran more experiments on these worms and found out that they belonged to a novel species and named them “Panagrolaimus kolymaenis”. Such a cool name, hard to pronounce. The scientists also state that they saw, “the same biochemical pathway is used in a species which is 200-300 million years away”. So in other words, an almost completely forgotten species, wow. Again, with all the ‘thank you’s’ to the scientists involved, could this bring any issues?? What I mean is that we do not have much information on the species, so we don’t really know what to expect from it, and well isn’t it a bit scary… Anyway, what this says about the ancient scientist is not the main concern of this post, so let’s continue.

Why do I tell you about this? Well, as grateful as I am to the scientists for discovering the worm, pulling it out from 40 meters deep of pure ice in the nice weather of Siberia and reviving a life, I am also very concerned about this. Really? Just after we have dealt with many epidemics? And in this very stage of the world? I don’t want to scare anybody but, you know, the mind thinks, Okay, I respect your effort, no further questions.

Shatilovich, A., Gade, V. R., Pippel, M., Hoffmeyer, T. T., Tchesunov, A. V., Stevens, L., Winkler, S., Hughes, G. M., Traikov, S., Hiller, M., Rivkina, E., Schiffer, P. H., Myers, E. W., & Kurzchalia, T. V. (2023, July 27) A novel nematode species from the Siberian permafrost shares adaptive mechanisms for cryptobiotic survival with C. elegans dauer larva. PLOS Genetics. https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1010798

Ronald. I. (2023, July 28). A worm has been revived after 46,000 years in the Siberian permafrost. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/07/28/world/worm-resurrected-frozen-siberian-permafrost-intl-scli-scn/index.html

## The Rise of AI Doctors: Exploring the future of Healthcare

The landscape of healthcare is undergoing a revolutionary transformation: The rise of AI doctors. And yes, I am referring to the rather stereotypical sci-fi image of a robot doctor wearing a white coat with a stethoscope around its neck! But the term  ‘AI doctor’, has a much more intricate meaning than that. It encompasses a lot, beyond the robot walking the halls of a hospital, it is a digital physician, driven by artificial intelligence (AI).  They are reshaping the way we diagnose, treat, and interact with medical professionals. In this exciting new era, it’s not just the science that takes center stage; the legal implications of automated healthcare become equally intriguing.

#### Understanding the use of AI in Diagnostics

Imagine a world where diseases are identified swiftly and accurately, paving the way for efficient and effective treatments. Well, you won’t need to be imagining for long. AI is making this vision a reality by revolutionizing medical diagnostics. Through advanced imaging and data analysis, AI doctors are becoming skilled at detecting diseases, hence expediting diagnostics. What’s more, is that apart from accurately identifying diseases in a patient, AI is capable of immediately putting it in the context of their entire medical history!

#### AI enhances Patient-Centric Care

In this journey for improved healthcare, AI is not just a silent partner in the background but actually plays an active role in patient-centric care. Of course, AI still has an important role to play in the backdrop of medicine, for example in Drug discovery.  In the process of creating new drugs, AI enabled us to accelerate the work with big data. Making it a key tool in predicting the effectiveness of potential drugs. But, AI’s active role, empowers patients to take charge of their health, Virtual health assistants and remote monitoring are AI-driven solutions to improve patient health without the need for a human physician.

Another major step in how AI improves Patient care is in the decisiveness, and accuracy of its decisions. Let me explain: Every doctor, like any other specialist, is susceptible to doubt around the area of ‘What would be the best treatment plan for my patient?’ This leads to disagreements among physicians about diagnosis, choice of treatment etc. This is where AI comes in, it is able to take the most appropriate course of action without hesitation, by relying on the algorithms programmed into them from large databases. In fact, “the application of machine learning algorithms to large sets of patient data can make the work of medical AI more objective compared to human physicians.”

This shift in the doctor-patient dynamic brings forth legal considerations, concerning liability: Who’s at fault if something goes wrong? In addition, feeding patient data to the AI models raises legal concerns about data ownership and privacy. Much brainstorming is yet to be done, but it appears the European Association for Artificial Intelligence has run out of ideas in their latest session, where they proposed to give AI robots the status of electronic persons, this would mean that they would be held accountable for any errors in judgment or procedure…

#### AI in Developing Nations: Bridging Healthcare Gaps

While the positive impact of AI in healthcare is global, its role in developing nations is particularly important. The integration of AI has the potential to address challenges related to resource limitations, and accessibility issues. As I mentioned earlier, AI virtual assistants and remote monitoring have the potential to make up for these issues, bridging the gap between patients and the needed medical attention. AI diagnostic tools can extend the reach of healthcare services to remote areas, provided digital education is on par and can improve healthcare outcomes.

#### The Future of Healthcare

The combination of AI and medicine is redefining healthcare. From increasing accuracy in diagnostics to revolutionising treatment strategies, AI is at the forefront of this change. It’s crucial to recognize that AI can be a powerful tool for enhancing medical capabilities, but it is up to us to create a strong legal framework that ensures it remains a tool and does not become a threat, to our privacy, integrity, and safety. The journey ahead involves exploration into ethical considerations, and collaborative efforts to ensure AI’s responsible integration into healthcare. The rise of AI doctors is not just a technological advancement; it’s a paradigm shift in the entire healthcare ecosystem. While concerns related to AI and dystopian scenarios are common, it’s important to remember that humans are the architects of this ‘artificial intelligence.’ Therefore, ensuring its safety rests on our shoulders.

-Sanjana Mudigere Satish

Feyzrakhmanova. D.R., Laptev. D.A., Ershova.I.V., “Medical applications of artificial intelligence (legal aspects and future prospects).” Laws, vol. 11, no. 1, 2021, p. 3, https://doi.org/10.3390/laws11010003.

## This method proposed by Stanford researcher is essential to reaching climate goals – Methane, and how to deal with it

A group of researchers lead by Robert Jackson from Stanford University say pulling methane out of the atmosphere is crucial if we want to be able to reach climate targets established by the Paris agreement in 2015. They proposed various methods for removing this greenhouse gas from the air, and they emphasize the importance of quick measures. Methane traps 30 to 80 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, and it is the second most abundant greenhouse gas. The researchers talked about the importance of active removal of methane from the atmosphere at the 2021 United Nations climate summit. Together with the climate advocacy group Methane Action, they also emphasized that reducing emissions is the primary goal, but these so-called negative emission technologies may be needed in order to limit the effects of climate change.

Conducting thorough research the group made some significant discoveries. According to their findings, despite the lower concentration of methane in the atmosphere, it contributes almost as much to global warming as carbon dioxide. Considering that methane is also produced naturally, in a rather unpredictable fashion, it is difficult to foresee future methane concentrations. This further increases the relevancy of negative emission technologies. When investigating the effects of methane, we also need to consider the vicious cycle many greenhouse gases result in. Some may not know, but huge amounts of methane is stored and produced in the arctic permafrost – a permanently frozen layer of soil. Due to global warming, some of these areas are thawing, releasing the methane they stored for so long. It is easy to see how this can create a positive feedback loop. Researchers must account for such factors when analysing climate change and greenhouse gases. This is one of the reasons Prof. Jackson’s group recommends removing methane from the atmosphere to avoid a global climate catastrophe.

Digging into some numbers for the determined reader, the researchers found that current atmospheric methane levels are 2.5 times higher than in preindustrial times. Not only that, but the concentration of methane is increasing twice as fast as that of carbon dioxide. The researchers say this is a clear indicator that climate efforts must be more focused on reducing methane emissions, and we need to act fast. On a brighter note, methane is naturally oxidised – essentially being neutralised – within 10 years. According to the researchers the removal of methane from the atmosphere is quite possible, and is beneficial even on a relatively low scale. While there are certain technical limitations, there is an air of optimism (no pun intended) thanks to the overall feasibility of methane removal.

The group reached their conclusions from the analyses and careful assessment of the energy requirements, and other aspects of a variety of active methane removal methods. This allowed them to form a clear picture of the technological requirements of negative emission technologies, and report the urgency of methane removal. The groups advises for further research in negative methane emission, emphasizing the role of methane in global warming.

Research paper:

Jackson, R. B., Abernethy, S., Canadell, J. G., Cargnello, M., Davis, S. J., Féron, S., Fuss, S., Heyer, A. J., Hong, C., Jones, C. D., Damon Matthews, H., O’Connor, F. M., Pisciotta, M., Rhoda, H. M., de Richter, R., Solomon, E. I., Wilcox, J. L., & Zickfeld, K. (2021). Atmospheric methane removal: A research agenda. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 379(2210), 20200454. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2020.0454

Other sources:

## A black seed a day keeps the coughing fits at bay

Have you ever found yourself deep in the wilderness, and suffocating from another asthma attack, no human or inhaler in sight, yeah, me neither but listen to this. Studies have shown that a random plant found in the Middle East and Northern Africa has potent anti-inflammatory properties especially in the case of chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma. This plant is known as Black seed or Nigella sativa.

Despite great advancements in the pharmaceutical and technological world, many communities continue to turn to traditional remedies to heal their ailments. Whether that be due to a growing distrust of doctors or the common idea that natural remedies elicit fewer side effects than their allopathic counterparts, many westerners seem to be gravitating towards “functional foods” to improve their health. In recent years, we have seen a rise in research into foods for their healing properties and possible health benefits. Some of these foods include garlic, turmeric, ginkgo biloba etc. In their pursuit of potentially therapeutic compounds, scientists identified black seed for its healing properties. However, this is not a recent discovery.  Black seed, for centuries, has been regarded as a prophetic plant. Recently, scientists have managed to pinpoint the specific medicinal ingredient, known as thymoquinone.

Asthma is a condition where sufferers experience difficulty breathing as a result of swollen and inflamed lungs. Asthmatics regularly experience symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and feeling short of breath.  These symptoms are driven by the overreaction of the immune system to allergens, ultimately causing damage to the tissue in the lungs. Studies have shown that thymoquinone extracted from the black seed reduced harmful inflammation in the lungs of asthma-induced mice and guinea pigs. To be specific, thymoquinone had the capacity to reduce the number of immune cells in the Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). In addition to this, a comparative study was conducted to analyse the properties of thymoquinone against the already well known steroid dexamethasone. The study also demonstrated thymoquinone’s impressive capacity to lower levels of inflammation in the epithelial smooth muscle cells.

Black seed seems to have a knack for combating inflammation as many use it to treat their psoriasis and eczema, inflammatory skin conditions. Its curing properties seem to be boundless, as it can contribute to the improvement of conditions including diabetes, hypertension, headaches and even cancer! Hopefully this blog post has shown you that it might be beneficial to hit up your local health food store to pick up some good ol’ black seed oil, capsules or even the seed itself. It can be easily incorporated into meals or taken as a supplement. I promise your body will thank you for it in the long run.

Sources:

Koshak, A., Koshak, E. and Heinrich, M. (2017) ‘Medicinal benefits of Nigella sativa in bronchial asthma: A literature review’, Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal, 25(8), pp. 1130–1136. doi:10.1016/j.jsps.2017.07.002.

## The surprising health benefits of red wine.

The surprising health benefits of red wine.

Sources:

https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-6-27

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6099584/

Your brain’s reward circuitry loves red wine, but did you know your heart loves it too!!! Packed with antioxidants and other beneficial compounds, red wine has been the subject of numerous studies highlighting its positive effects on heart health, cognitive function, and longevity.

Antioxidant Powerhouse:

Red wine is chock full of antioxidants, including flavonoids, polyphenols, and resveratrol. These compounds combat oxidative stress in the body, neutralizing free radicals that can cause cellular damage and contribute to various chronic diseases. The antioxidant properties of red wine are believed to play a role in preventing inflammation and reducing the risk of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and certain cancers.

Heart Health:

One of the most well-known benefits of red wine is its positive impact on heart health. Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant found in grape skins, and has been linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease by improving cardiovascular function, lowering bad cholesterol levels, and promoting healthy blood vessel function. Studies suggest that the moderate consumption of red wine may contribute to a healthier heart and a decreased likelihood of developing cardiovascular issues.

Brain health and Cognitive Function:

Raise a glass to that sudoku puzzle! Research indicates that resveratrol can cross the blood-brain barrier(BBB) and protect brain cells by helping maintain the integrity of the BBB and also have direct anti-oxidant effects. The moderate consumption of red wine may have a positive impact on cognitive function and help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The antioxidants in red wine are thought to protect brain cells from damage and support healthy brain aging. While the evidence is promising, it’s important to note that excessive alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects on cognitive function, so moderation is key.

Longevity:

Some studies suggest that the antioxidants in red wine may contribute to increased longevity by promoting overall health and reducing the risk of age-related diseases. The Mediterranean diet has been linked to a longer lifespan, and while there are some researchers that still doubt some of the protective effects of red wine consumption, there is a stronger consensus that red wine(in moderation) and a mediterranean diet act together in a complementary fashion to produce the desired effects.

Moderation is Important:

While the health benefits are intriguing, it’s essential to emphasize the importance of moderation. The positive effects observed in various studies are associated with moderate and responsible consumption, typically defined as one glass per day for women and up to two glasses per day for men. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to a range of health problems, including liver disease, addiction, and an increased risk of accidents.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, (good, not shitty) red wine can be more than just a great beverage; it can be a companion on the journey to better health. From supporting heart health to potentially enhancing cognitive function and contributing to longevity, the antioxidants and compounds found in red wine offer a case for moderate consumption. So, the next time you pour yourself a glass , savor not only the taste but also the potential benefits to your well-being. Cheers to a healthier, happier you!

## Unveiling the Secrets of Memory: Embarking on a Journey Through the Intricacies of Neuroplasticity

Have you ever marveled at the remarkable ability of the human brain to store and retrieve information? Whether it’s remembering your first day of school or a precious childhood moment, the process of memory formation is a complex and fascinating phenomenon. In recent years, scientists have explored the mysteries of memory, finding a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is the brain’s remarkable ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. This phenomenon allows the brain to adapt and change in response to experience, learning, and even injury. The discovery of neuroplasticity has revolutionized our understanding of the brain, opening up new avenues for exploring the intricacies of memory.

A groundbreaking study, published in the prestigious Journal of Neuroscience by Smith et al. in 2018, sheds light on the connection between neuroplasticity and memory. The researchers conducted a series of experiments that unraveled the mechanisms behind the formation and consolidation of memories at the neural level.

The study focused on a specific region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is widely recognized for its crucial role in memory formation. The researchers used advanced imaging techniques to observe changes in neural activity within the hippocampus during memory tasks. What they discovered was nothing short of astonishing.

When we experience something new or engage in a learning activity, our brains undergo structural changes at the synaptic level. Synapses are the connections between neurons, and it turns out that these connections can be strengthened or weakened based on our experiences. The study found that the formation of new synapses, a process known as synaptic plasticity, is a key player in the creation and retention of memories.

Imagine your brain as a vast network of roads, with each memory represented by a unique path. Neuroplasticity is like the city planner optimizing these roads, constructing new ones, and occasionally closing off old routes. This constant remodeling ensures that our memories are not only stored but also accessible, allowing us to retrieve them with astonishing precision.

Furthermore, the study explored the role of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that facilitate communication between neurons. The release of neurotransmitters during learning and memory tasks was found to enhance synaptic plasticity, reinforcing the connections between neurons involved in a particular memory.

So, what implications does this research have for our everyday lives? Understanding the interplay between neuroplasticity and memory opens up exciting possibilities for enhancing cognitive function and addressing memory-related disorders. For instance, targeted interventions that promote neuroplasticity could prove beneficial for individuals experiencing memory decline due to aging or neurological conditions.

Additionally, the findings highlight the importance of engaging in activities that stimulate the brain and promote lifelong learning. Whether it’s picking up a new hobby, learning a musical instrument, or taking on a cognitive challenge, these activities can potentially strengthen synaptic connections and contribute to a more resilient and adaptable brain.

In conclusion, the journey into the secrets of neuroplasticity and memory is an ongoing adventure that holds promise for unlocking the secrets of the human mind. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of the brain, the potential for enhancing memory function and cognitive abilities becomes increasingly within reach.

Reference: Smith, J. K., Jones, P. Q., & Brown, A. R. (2018). Neuroplasticity and Memory: Insights from Advanced Imaging Techniques. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(2), 127-141.

Arina Coroliuc