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Academy Scientific MARCH 2014



Neuro Issue










Academy Scientific Editors-in-Chief Simran Arjani and David Heller Features Co-Editors Anna Radakrishnan and Ana Song World News Co-Editors Ji-Sung Kim and Lexi Lerner School News Co-Editors Joanna Kim and Serena Tharakan Layout Editor Lucia Tu Photography Editor Sarah Joseph Webmaster Joshua Meier Distribution Coordinator Esther Lee

Bergen County Academies 200 Hackensack Avenue Hackensack, NJ 07601 (201) 343-6000 www.bergen.org www.academyscientific.org 2 | ACADEMY SCIENTIFIC 3.2

Faculty Advisors Dr. Robert Pergolizzi Mr. Peter Guthrie Mr. Scott Lang Mr. BIll Pavlu

{On the cover}: An array of magnetic resonance images (MRIs) from Getty Images {On the next page, clockwise from top left}: Public Domain




From the Editors

Cannabis and the Brain



by Alaena Lim WORLD NEWS



by Simran Arjani, David Heller


by Sneha Kabaria

Junk Food: Why Do We Crave It?

Erasing Fear



by Rissa Lee

by Karine Liu

Cognitive Development

Myth-Busting About the Brain by Joshua Ross FEATURES


16 18 20 22

The Science of Fear by Kajal Jani FEATURES

Neural Prosthetics by Lucia Tu FEATURES

The Brain on Drugs by Anna Harootunian FEATURES

Alzheimer’s Disease by Lauren Lee FEATURES


24 25 26 27

Interview with Dr. Donald DeWitt by Christopher Markosian STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Interview with Dr. Patricia Kenny by Victoria Yam STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Provita Pharmaceuticals by Radhika Malhotra SCHOOL NEWS

BCA SciChallenge by Erin Sulovari SCHOOL NEWS

FROM THE EDITORS Dear Academy Scientific Readers, Since our uploading of the Space Issue back in October 2013, we are proud and honored to have amassed over 49,000 online readers, making this issue our most successful! The Academy Scientific team works extremely hard to produce, what we consider to be, an enticing and easy-to-read magazine for science-lovers of all ages. To have received the support that we have had from all over the world is an incredible honor, and we are greatly appreciative. For our second issue of the 2013-2014 school year, we decided to produce the Neuroscience Issue based on the topic’s wide popularity. Neurological disorders and the abuse of neurological stimulants occur all of the world and in populations of all ages. In our Features section we discuss topics including myths about the brain, and the science of the brain’s reaction to fear, stimulation, and drugs. The World News section was mainly dedicated to the highly influential news regarding cannabis, why the brain craves certain foods or actions, and other interesting developments in neuroscience. As always, we highlight some of the scientific achievements of Bergen County Academies students and teachers in the School News section. We are excited to announce that this issue will be the first to be sold to our readers. Students who are interested will be able to own a copy of their work and the work of their peers. We hope that this will allow more readers to enjoy at their leisure the work that our writers, editors, committee members, and advisor all put into Academy Scientific. Thank you for taking the time to read our magazine and we hope that you enjoy and learn about an incredible field in the pages ahead.

Simran Arjani

David Heller


simarj@bergen.org davhel@bergen.org


WORLD NEWS Cannabis and the Brain by SNEHA KABARIA, AAST 2015

has influenced its unsurpassed popularity over the years. Physiologically, users are also prone to dilation of pupils and enhanced senses, and later to feelings of paranoia and panic. When Cannabis is smoked, the major active chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), travels from the lungs to the blood stream that will transport the chemical to various organs, primarily the brain.

Because of its far-reaching effects on the nervous system, THC is known as a psychoactive substance.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

This leafy plant has generated vastly opposing opinions amongst the general populations, but its biochemical impact cannot be disputed. In November of 2012, the Colorado legislature became the first state to legalize the recreational use of Marijuana. Although occasionally utilized as a medicinal substance in hospital settings, as well as illegally distributed around the world, the effects of this drug have only recently been manifested. Many health services maintain their stance that Marijuana, or Cannabis, is harmful to both the human body and psyche. However, the media and general public still push for its legalization and medicinal application. Is Cannabis safe for recreational or medical use? Can scientists accurately produce findings that suggest this substance is either harmful or beneficial? Cannabis, colloquially known as marijuana or weed, is a green, shredded mixture of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves from the hemp of the plant Cannabis sativa. The drug is smoked, baked into food, or brewed into beverages. Users describe the initial sensation of using Cannabis as “euphoric”, “mellow”, or “hazy”, a fact that 6 | ACADEMY SCIENTIFIC 3.2

It activates cerebral cannabinoid receptors,—transmembrane proteins located primarily in the cells of the immune and nervous systems—which regulate the production of neurotransmitters such as the cognition and mood-associated chemical, dopamine. The receptors, densest in the cranial regions, are responsible for pleasure, memory (the hippocampus), concentration (cerebral cortex), perception (additional sensory portions of the cerebral cortex), and movement (the cerebellum). This explains why the particular symptoms that become either impaired or enhanced when the drug reaches the nervous system do so. Although the long-term effects of the substance remain under investigation, the short-term effects of this drug are all too well known. Even first time users will experience impaired coordination and problem solving capabilities, difficulty thinking, and adversely effected memory and learning abilities. Hallucination may result from repeated use due to THC’s impairment of normal brain function. Cannabis induces feelings of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, which has led pharmacologists to prove that marijuana use in mentally disabled people can augment the pejorative effects of this drug. Contrarily, scientists have discovered that other active ingredients in Cannabis have therapeutic potential for relieving pain, suppressing nausea, stimulating appetite, decreasing muscle spasms, stopping convulsions

(seizures or unexpected muscle spasms), and decreasing ocular pressure (which, in rare cases, can relieve patients of glaucoma and its associated symptoms).

Cannabis may also be used in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, and multiple-sclerosis.

However, its enhancement in the treatment of these conditions is subject to the specific case, and thus is often avoided in patients with intricate ailments.

There is substantial controversy over the medicinal, ethical, socioeconomic, political and moral implications of Cannabis use. Nine states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and one state for recreational use, as the majority of the medical world is yet to accept its positive qualities as outweighing the negative side-effects on body and mind. Nonetheless, what remain factual are the influences this drug and its chemical components have on the minute intricacies of the brain.

Cognitive Development by ALAENA LIM, AMST 2015

Cognition is the mental process of acquiring knowledge through thought and the stimulation of senses, or common experience. Cognitive development involves the maturation of thought processes as the nervous system develops. Perhaps the most historically influential theory was formulated by Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist.

Piaget theorized that the development of cognition included acquisition of schemata.

These are entities that represent how one perceives the world, beginning with expression of limited knowledge through small gestures or words and culminating with the individual’s ability to recognize and respond to the external environment. A study conducted in Canada has found that the human brainwave, known as alpha rhythm, enhances the brain network responsible for cognitive control. The researchers at the Western University and the Lawson Health Research Institute discovered that changes occurred, called neurofeedback, after 30 minutes of neural-based training.

pling within a key cognitive network was reflected in the individual level of brainwave change provoked by neurofeedback,” says Tomas Ros, lead author of the study. “Our findings speak for the exquisite functional plasticity of the adult brain, whose past activity of little more than 30 minutes ago can condition its future state of processing. This has already been hinted at in mediation research, but we arrived at a direct and explicit demonstration by harnessing a brain-computer interface”. Co-author Dr. Ruth Lanius adds, “Our findings are unambiguously supportive of a direct and plastic impact of neurofeedback on a central cognitive-control network, suggesting a promising basis for its use to treat cognitive disorders.” Dysfunction of the cognitive control network is associated with disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, thus neuroplasticity may form the basis for the treatment and ultimate cure of certain neurological disorders. Nova Tech EEG

At this point, users gained the ability to control their own brain activity via a computer connected to the scalp by EEG (electroencephalogram) sensors. After connection, the system goes through a process called a neurofeedback loop, simultaneously analyzing and projecting the subject’s real-time brain activity.

Information reflects the user’s level of control and allows him or her to reproduce distinct neural-function states under physiologically normal conditions while avoiding harmful side-effects. Such a process would not be possible without the neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to reorganize after continual training as individual synaptic connections among neurons are removed or recreated. “We were excited to find that increased metabolic cou-

The cognitive-control network proposed by Ros and his team suggest potential treatments for various neuropathological diseases. ACADEMY SCIENTIFIC 3.2 | 7

Junk Food: Why Do We Crave It? by RISSA LEE, AMST 2014

We all have our unique cravings, whether they are eating tons of chocolate or biking twenty miles down the shore every weekend. Even while exercising self-control, the human body can easily succumb—mentally and physically—to these desires. What are the neurological mechanisms behind human cravings? In essence, what is the scientific explanation proving why you cannot simply eat just one Pringle? A desire starts with a tiny particle known as an endorphin. Endorphins are proteins that regulate and hinder pain perception. When someone experiences stress, fear, or excitement, this chemical rushes to the hypothalamus— a region within the brain that controls bodily functions such as breathing and hunger—and is processed by receptors. This reaction elicits a feeling of euphoria due to the effects endorphins produce similar to those felt when on morphine. Endorphins are effectively the body’s natural painkiller. On top of relieving pain, endorphins also generate pleasure.

Certain clusters of endorphin receptors, located in the prefrontal and limbic brain regions, can significantly increase the amount of euphoria experienced. According to Professor Henning Boecker, head of the Department of Radiology at University Hospital Bonn, these regions primarily deal with emotional processing. Therefore, once an external stimulus is recognized as pleasure-inducing, the body craves it and it becomes, from a purely neurological standpoint, a desire. This applies to food. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that “consuming junk food only makes you want to eat more junk food.” An experimental group of rats was exposed to chocolate M&M’s, after which there was an increase in cranial activity of the endorphin enkephalin, a protein involved in the intake of high-sugar and high-fat foods. After Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, the leading scientist of the study, hypothesized that this endorphin fueled the desire to eat


Our brains act as the common centers of emotion and pleasure, releasing endorphins as a chemical marker of things we enjoy. 8 | ACADEMY SCIENTIFIC 3.2

M&Ms she injected the rats with synthetic enkephalin to see if the endorphin would cause the rats to consume more candy. In response to the synthetic enkephalin, the rats doubled their consumption rates, proving her hypothesis correct.

Desires for a plethora of chemical substances all come down to a neurological, biochemical need to feel pleasure.

Unfortunately, the impulse to repeatedly fulfill a desire also applies to addictions millions have of harmful substances, such as alcohol and cocaine. A study conducted by the scientists at the University of California showed that increased alcohol intake results in greater endorphin production. This biochemical reaction results in a person’s desire to continue drinking, essentially a response to the pleasure felt during endorphin-release.

The sensations not only seem to fulfill the craving one may have for, say Lay’s potato chips, but similarly lead one to desire for further solicitation of these sensations. What becomes apparent is the idea that after eating junk food for the first time, it is not your juvenile desire for sugary sweets that brings you back to the candy store, but rather your nervous system’s innate response to pleasure.

People retain the feelings they have when consuming certain foods.

Erasing Fear by KARINE LIU, AMST 2014 A recent study conducted at New York University has provided promising findings in the quest for eradicating fear. The process of this study began with the creation of fearful memories in the volunteers. Daniela Schiller, the primary investigator, instilled fear in the subjects by showing each of them an image of a yellow square while simultaneously shocking the volunteers with a mild electric impulse.

The impulse caused the subjects to correlate the yellow square to pain, a relation based entirely on memory.

After this causal relationship was established in each of the test subjects, they were divided into three groups that would undergo the same therapy to erase their fears, but at different times. The first group was given therapy directly following the initial fear exposure. The second group was given therapy ten minutes later, and the last group underwent therapy after a six-hour delay. These large differences in time proved important when each of the volunteers underwent the same yellow square/electric shock exposure the next day. Interestingly enough, the group of volunteers that had received therapy ten minutes after the initial exposure was the only group whose subjects did not exhibit any signs of fear. Schiller attributes this phenomenon to a specific process in the brain known as reconsolidation. The theory states a probable explanation for the modification—and in rare cases the complete elimination—of memories entirely. This unique phenomenon can occur up to ten minutes

following an incident, a time interval in which the specific memory of the fear-inducing incident is fresh enough to be altered neurobiologically. As Schiller presents it, reconsolidation then accounts for the strange lack of fear in the ten-minute therapy group. Without a doubt, this study excites researchers particularly in the areas of psychiatry, psychology and neurology. Many of the world’s leading neurologists are optimistic that these promising results will likely lead to new psychiatric treatments provided that more studies are performed. However, there is a critical caveat imminent especially in the case of PTSD: for a memory to be truly altered or erased, it must be fully experienced by the subject on a subsequent occasion. That is, the severe trauma and terror must be completely relived.

For many, this may prove to rule out Schiller’s reconsolidation process as a means of eradicating fears; however, for those with milder fearful memories, this method may serve to erase those terrors permanently. It only goes to show the truly labile characteristics that memories retain once they enter the confines of the brain. Not only are memories and fears ever-changing, but their alterations, such as those presented with the formulation of Schiller’s theory, may in fact lead to their eventual expulsion from our minds.


REFERENCES + CANNABIS AND THE BRAIN 420. (8 July 2010). How marijuana affects the brain [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vygJr4VgoM Bonsor, Kevin. (02 July 2001). How Marijuana Works. Retrieved from http://science.howstuffworks.com/marijuana.htm National Institute on Drug Abuse. (November 2010). DrugFacts: Marijuana. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana/ + COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT Brainwave training boosts network for cognitive control. (2012, October 4). - Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://www.schulich.uwo.ca/schulichhome/articles/2012/10/24/brainwave-training-boosts-network-for-cognitive-control Cognitive Development. (n.d.). Online Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/Encyclopedia/Content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID =P01594 + JUNK FOOD: WHY DO WE CRAVE IT? Clue as to why alcohol is addicting: Scientists show that drinking releases brain endorphins. (2012, January 12). ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/ releases/2012/01/120111155137.htm How does the body regulate pain. (n.d.). How does the body regulate pain. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://www.macalester.edu/psychology/whathap/UBNRP/pain/regulatepain.htm MD. (2012, October 1). The Michigan Daily. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://tmd. pub.umich.edu/news/university-researchers-discover-chemical-brain-related-eating-junkfood?page=0,0 Scheve, T. (2009, June 22). What are endorphins?. HowStuffWorks. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/endorphins1.htm + ERASING FEAR Bardin, J. (2012, September 20). Researchers erase fear memories in people through behavior alone. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://articles.latimes.com/2012/ sep/20/science/la-sci-sn-researchers-erase-fear-memories-in-people-through-behavioralone-20120920 Castro, J. (2010, December 14). Scientists Gain Insights into How to Erase Pathological Fear. Scientific American, -. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-molecules-of-fear/ Lametti, D. (2010, March 23). How to Erase Fear. Scientific American, -. Retrieved January 7, 2014, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-erase-fear-in-humans/



“The brain is a world consisting of a number of unexplored continents and great stretches of unknown territory.” SANTIAGO RAMON Y CAJAL (1852-1934)



14 Myth-Busting About the Brain 16 The Science of Fear 18 Neural Prosthetics

20 The Brain on Drugs

22 Alzheimer’s Disease

{Source: Public Domain}


Myth-Busting about the brain by JOSHUA ROSS, AMST 2014

It is common knowledge that the brain is the command center of the body. It sends signals through each of your billions of cells so that you can perform everyday tasks such as moving a hand, walking down the street, and eating.

Without the brain, we would be vegetables: inanimate objects unable to think, move, or feel.

It is the most complex computer known to man. Its intricacies continue to confound, surprise, and enlighten. Among the pile of knowledge still lurking between the wrinkles in our command center, certain misconceptions about the brain have risen their way to the top. Through years of research, strands of sleep-less nights, and countless thousands of test subjects, many of the most famous misconceptions—including the following three—about the brain have finally been shown in their true light. It has been said that we only use about 10% of the useable regions in our brains. This common misconception is made even more wide-spread through pop culture, with popular movies, such as Limitless, establishing this misconception as fact. Dale Carnegie, a famous author of self-help teaching books, originated this myth. Carnegie mentioned that only 10% of the brain is used, seen as a way to inspire people to reach their full potential. However, through advanced techniques such as brain imaging, magnetoencephalography (mapping brain activity using electrical currents), and microstructural analysis, humans use much more than 10% of the brain. It becomes evident then that a stroke--when blood supply is cut off to the brain—is increasingly detrimental to one’s brain function as it has the ability to hinder the majority of neurons in the brain from functioning 14 | ACADEMY SCIENTIFIC 3.2

properly, which can leave the nervous system damaged. Another common misconception expresses the well-known belief that brain damage is permanent and irreversible. It was first thought that the brain developed a certain number of brain cells (neurons), which could not be replaced after their damage as a result of trauma. Similarly, it was thought that the brain was a “static organ” and could not undergo changes once damaged.

In recent years, however, neurobiological evidence has shown that the brain can rewire or alter itself in response to increased, continual stimulation.

This phenomenon occurs via neurogenesis through which new brain cells are created from neural stem cells and progenitor cells. Although neural stem cell transformation and neurogenesis are lengthy, taxing processes on the nervous system, their discoveries have yielded convincing proof that traumatic brain damage can be rectified. It has become a traditional notion to believe that listening to Mozart can enhance undeveloped minds. This myth was brought about by a study conducted by Rauscher, Shaw, and Ky in 1993 in which students were exposed to Mozart before being given an IQ test. Results of the test showed that those exposed to Mozart scored eight points higher than on a the same test taken by those without the aid of the composer’s intricate melodies. This individual test, however, has had difficulty being replicated and as such could not be further evidenced.

Moreover, the study claimed that listening to Mozart increased performance in certain spatial-temporal tasks—those that require our perception of the physical world—rather than directly increasing intelligence from a general standpoint. Unfortunately these subsequent

findings may have been the causal evidence needed to disprove the positive effects of Mozart’s music on brain function and intelligence.

References +Aamodt, S., & Wang, S. (2008). Welcome to your brain. Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved from http://synapse.princeton.edu/~sam/Six_Myths_About_The_Brain.pdf +Freeman , S. (n.d.). Howstuffworks.com. Retrieved from http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nervous-system/10-brain-myths. htm +Posit Science. (2012). http://www.positscience.com. Retrieved from http://www.positscience.com/brain-resources/brain-facts-myths/brain-mythology Confined within the folds of our brain are regions responsible for the hearing, understanding, processing of, and response to music, all of which work together to make the melodies more than just sound waves bouncing off our eardrums.

The Science of Fear by KAJAL JANI, AMST 2014

Your body starts to sweat. Your heartbeat gets louder. Your muscles freeze. Fear is an innate, purely neurological experience all humans share. But what triggers these responses? Fear is defined as a negative emotional state triggered by the presence of a stimulus that has the potential to cause harm (Schaffhausen). The almond-shaped amygdala - the fear and emotion center of the nervous system - is constantly using data from our sensory organs to be on the lookout for danger.

Perhaps the most remarkable capability of the amygdala is that it is able to recognize and prepare the body against danger before we are consciously aware of it (Fear & The Brain).

It possesses the ability to store memories in order to better protect the individual during similar future instances. After our sensory organs collect information from physical experiences, the thalamus processes it. From the thalamus, the information can either take the “short path” or the “long path” (Fear & The Brain). The short path takes the information straight to the amygdala where it is screened for potential threats. The amygdala is able to recognize dangers and sends out orders for action throughout the body. One of these results in the activation of our body’s freeze response, which stops normal motion and promotes action to protect the individual from danger. The amygdala sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which releases adrenaline and triggers the “fight-or-flight” response, therefore increasing heart rate, sweating, and blood 16 | ACADEMY SCIENTIFIC 3.2

pressure. As a result of increased heart rate, more blood is pumped to our larger muscles, causing muscle tension (Fear & The Brain). The long path takes the information from the thalamus to the visual cortex, where a sharper and more complete picture of the danger is created when it is finally sent to the amygdala. This step is completed in only a fraction of a second after the short path completes its round (Fear & The Brain). If the information from the short path and the long path differ, and the threat turns out to be a false alarm, the amygdala orders normal body function and allows us to relax. If both paths confirm a danger, the “fight-or-flight” response is reinforced (Fear & The Brain). Our implicit memory, which concerns the physical responses our bodies have to emotional events, is stimulated by traumatizing or dangerous experiences. Memories related to fear increase heart rate and breath count without us consciously recognizing the danger. Moreover, explicit memory deals with facts that we can remember using our own willpower (Fear & The Brain). For example, an individual who is afraid of the dentist may start to have an increased heart rate at the moment they walk into the office and smell the scent of antiseptic. It is likely that the person has not yet consciously recognized the smell, but their physiology is altered due to the amygdala’s storage of the previous fearful experience at the dentist. This displays implicit memory, while recalling the brand of toothpaste the dentist may have given you or the number of teeth you had pulled out demonstrates explicit memory. Nevertheless, our reaction to fear and the memories associated with it are controlled by the amygdala. It is truly the “threat center” of our nervous system and will continue to make our heart race, blood pressure rise, and muscles tense when presented with danger.

References +Fear & The Brain. 2012. National Science Foundation. Web. 28 October 2012.+ +Ledoux, Joseph. “Searching the Brain for the Roots of Fear.” 22 January 2012. The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Web. 28 October 2012. +Schaffhausen, Joanna. Fear Conditioning: How the Brain Learns about Danger. 2012. Posit Science Corporation. Web. 28 October 2012.

In a moment, before your brain is conscious of its environment the body has the capability to react and ensure someone’s safety.


Neural Prosthetics by LUCIA TU, AMST 2015

Uncovered just five years ago, the oldest known example of a prosthesis was an artificial toe found on a 3500 year-old mummy. Over the years, prosthetics — the field of medicine dealing with the production of artificial body parts — has advanced greatly. Its implications have become seemingly endless. Recently, physicians and biomedical engineers have begun remarkably advanced research on a sub-discipline of prosthetics known as neuroprosthetics. Neuroprosthetics deals with the creation of artificial extensions to the body that restore lost or damaged functions of the nervous system. Over the last decade, it has begun to dominate the field of prosthetics. Various researchers and organizations, such as the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), have been working toward goals such as developing neuro-regenerative systems that will help patients regain motor function that may have been impaired as a result of traumatic injuries.

Most patients with injuries of the spinal cord do not possess the bioelectrical circuitry between the spinal cord and the brain necessary for voluntary movement.

Current available technology enables patients to use lingering proximal limb movement to stimulate pre-programmed muscle contraction. This leads to potential functionality of paralyzed muscles and allows the patient to perform a few different basic grasping motions. According to a new paper published in Nature, some scientists


in the field of neural prosthetics are now focusing on decoding neural signals from the motor cortex in order to achieve muscle contraction through functional electrical stimulation (FES). The motor cortex is composed of the regions of the cerebral cortex that initiate the movement of muscles.

FES is a form of synthetic movement of paralyzed limbs via electrical stimulation of nerves.

By permanently implanting microelectrodes in the brain and simulating the effects of paralysis by using a local anesthetic as a nerve block, researchers were able to record the electrical activity of approximately 100 neurons in the motor cortex. They were then able to predict intended activity of the muscles and developed an FES system to control the stimulation of these muscles. Restoring voluntary control of the primates’ paralyzed muscles through a process that bypasses the spinal cord is a significant breakthrough towards similar restoration in human patients. The irrefutably similar genetic makeup between primates and humans makes these findings even more promising. This novel form of neuroprosthesis brings about greater flexibility and dexterity in limbs than is currently possible with existing FES systems. The limits of the neurological implications of prosthetics are endless, and with current pioneering research being performed, the brain will continue to be bioengineers’ most valuable resource.

References +Ethier, C., Oby, E. R., Bauman, M. J., & Miller, L. E. (2012). Restoration of grasp following paralysis through brain-controlled stimulation of muscles. Nature, 368-371. doi:10.1038/ nature10987 +Andersen, R. A., Musallam, S., Burdick, J. W., & Cham, J. G. (2005). Cognitive based neural prosthetics. Paper presented at International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Retrieved from http://www.vis.caltech.edu/Papers/PDFs%20of%20journal%20articles/pro ceedings/a1506.pdf +Neural interfaces program. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/research/npp/index.htm +Bellis, M. (n.d.). The history of prosthetics. Retrieved from http://inventors.about.com/library/in ventors/blprosthetic.htm

The Brain on Drugs by ANNA HAROOTUNIAN, AMST 2014

A drug is a compound that causes a biochemical reaction in (or on) our bodies. For thousands of years people have been tampering with plants found in their environment to create substances that were deemed pleasure-inducing. Although technology has changed and people have gained insight into these substances, the idea remains the same today, leading to the creation of some of the more illicit and sought-after drugs. The response we feel when our brains are reacting to these chemical is described in light of a dreamlike state – where every emotion we experience is amplified. The brain works in mysterious ways. It is a continuously changing collection of cells that controls everything a person does and enables a person to experience pleasure or pain, which play a key role in our everyday lives.

For example, when someone has a pleasurable experience, the brain is wired to try to repeat that action.

In addition, life sustaining activities, such as eating, stimulate a circuit of specialized nervous cells that produce and regulate pleasure. It is this activation that makes a person feel “good.� The neurons involved in these pathways use chemical neurotransmitters to relay their messages. Neurotransmitters carry messages that regulate pleasure, impulsivity, mood, arousal, alertness, and energy. They include, but are not limited, to epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), norepinephrine, serotonin, acetylcholine, gamma aminobutyric acid, glutamate, and several types of endorphins. Specifically, drugs of abuse that are taken recreationally act by


either enhancing or interfering with the activity of these neurotransmitters and their receptors within the brain. This causes varying degrees of euphoria, relaxation, excitation, sleepiness, or perception distortion (better known as being high). There are two types of drugs: agnostic and antagonistic. Agonistic drugs enhance the effects of neurotransmitters. They spur increased production of particular neurotransmitters, thereby creating larger amounts of these pleasure chemicals that then bind to their receptors and cause the rush or high that drug users enjoy. The re-uptake of certain neurotransmitters can also be interfered by agonistic drugs, causing the neurotransmitters to interact with their receptors for a longer period of time than what is considered normal.

Finally, an agonistic drug can completely bypass the neurotransmitter and simply interact with, and activate, the receptors.

Examples of agonistic drugs include stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines, opioids such as morphine, codeine, and heroin, and depressants such as alcohol, benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Antagonistic drugs, on the other hand, interfere with the transmission of neurotransmitter messages, thus lessening or eliminating the effects caused by the receptor activation. These drugs can interfere with the release of neurotransmitters or can bind to the receptors of these chemicals, inhibiting them from binding to their receptors and transmitting their messages. An-

tagonistic drugs include cannabinoids such as marijuana and hallucinogens such as LSD. All kinds of drugs create a short-term high for a

drug user, but they also cause long-term and, sometimes dangerous permanent changes, to the brain.

References +National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/science-addiction +National Institute of Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Effects of drugs of abuse on the brain. Retrieved from http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/tg_effects.php +BSCS. (Producer). (2000). Long-term effects of drugs on the brain. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih2/addiction/activities/lesson4.htm


Alzheimer’s Disease by LAUREN LEE, AMST 2014

Neurological disorders are classified as any abnormalities of the brain, spinal cord, or nerves. Some major types of such disorders are those caused by faulty genes (muscular dystrophy), problems with the development of the nervous system (spina bifida), and degenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s). Other types include seizure disorders, certain cancers, infections, and diseases of the blood vessels. The most common degenerative disease in the world is Alzheimer’s disease; yet, few people are aware of exactly what it is. In the United States alone there are 5.4 million people currently living with Alzheimer’s, and one in eight older Americans has the disease.

Even more troubling, an American develops the disorder every 68 seconds.

It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and is the only of the top ten causes of death that is not preventable or curable. In fact, in the past ten years the number of deaths from Alzheimer’s has increased by 66 percent, while that of other major diseases – including heart disease, the leading cause of death in the US – has decreased during the same time period. Dr. Alois Alzheimer was the first to study Alzheimer’s disease in 1906. She observed the brain of a woman who died while suffering unusual neurological symptoms, including memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behaviors. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder, and the degeneration in the brain begins long before any symptoms appear. First, amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles form when abnormal deposits of proteins and neurons begin losing the ability to communicate with each other.


The damage then spreads to a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is vital in forming memory.

Slowly, more and more neurons die, and the brain tissue shrinks significantly. This degeneration process causes a slow and excruciating death that occurs anywhere between three and ten years after the first show of symptoms. In order to effectively improve quality of life and provide the best possible prognosis after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is imperative that one visit a physician at the first sign of symptoms. Although frequently dismissed as a normal consequence of old age, the most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering information. More severe symptoms then progress, such as mood and behavior changes, difficulty speaking and swallowing, confusion, and suspicions of familiar people and places. This progression is divided into seven stages, which range from no impairment (stage 1) to very severe cognitive decline (stage 7). Towards the end of life, patients with Alzheimer’s need assistance with almost every daily activity, such as eating and using the bathroom. In order to make sure that Alzheimer’s and other neurological disorders do not go undiagnosed and untreated, it is important to raise awareness for these illnesses and work to advance research in the field of neurological pathology. Although many are presently incurable, breakthroughs in this field have the potential of sparking a chain reaction of treatments for a host of neurological diseases. It is the complexity of the brain and the ailments that damage it that have continued to drastically slow the progression of possible life-

changing treatments. However, what remains a spark of optimism are the rare individuals who

show subtle signs of improvement while suffering from a certain neurological disorder.

References +Alzheimer’s Association (2014). 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s. Alz.org. Retrieved from http://www.alz. org/alzheimers_disease_stages_of_alzheimers.asp +Alzheimer’s Association (2014). Major Milestones in Alzheimer’s and Brain Research. Alz.org. Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/research/science/major_milestones_in_alzheimers.asp +National Institutional of Aging. (February 2014). Alzheimer’s Disease Fact Sheet. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-factsheet +World Health Organization (February 2014). What are neurological disorders? Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/qa/55/en/

Slowly, more and more neurons die, and the brain tissue shrinks significantly...In order to effectively improve quality of life and provide the best possible prognosis after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is imperative that one visit a physician at the first sign of symptoms.


STAFF SPOTLIGHT Dr. Donald DeWitt, Neuroscience Dr. Donald DeWitt received his Ph.D. in cardiovascular physiology from the University of Michigan Department of Physiology. As he continued his biomedical research career in the area of heart biochemistry at Michigan State University he worked as a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Harvey Sparks. Later, he moved to New Jersey to become a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology where his primary focus was in the field of chemical biology. In 1992 he began teaching in the biology department at BCA, while aiding in the foundation of the school. The following is an interview with Dr. DeWitt regarding his class, Neuroscience, which is available to Academy for Medical Science Technology seniors only. Q: Who is this course available to? A: Neuroscience is the second course in the Anatomy and Physiology track for Academy for Medical Science Technology [AMST] students. In their senior year, AMST students have the option to continue their junior-year course, Cell Physiology, with this class. Q: What do the students learn in the class? A: During the first trimester in Neuroscience we complete our cell-focused journey that began in Cell Physiology by examining energy metabolism, including fermentation and cell respiration. During the second and third trimesters, we turn to another type of cell, the neuron, which is the basic functional unit of the nervous system. During the second trimester our focus is on electrophysiology of neurons, which explains how they receive information from other neurons, generate action potentials, and communicate with other cells. Then during the third trimester we examine how neurons are used to construct the nerves and the spinal cord, the make up the peripheral and central nervous system. In our study of the spinal cord we also investigate how the vertebral column is used to protect the spinal cord. Q: What is your philosophy involving the class and why is this class important? A: My philosophy is to excite students about the basis for life, a cell, and then to introduce them to one of the most exciting areas of human physiology, the nervous system. I present a few topics in great detail so that my students can begin to appreciate how detailed the medical field is. In addition, I focus on preparing my students for success in college. I provide a wide spectrum of as24 | ACADEMY SCIENTIFIC 3.2

signments with a general shift toward examinations on large quantities of material, which is what will happen in college and most specifically on the Medical College Admissions Test [MCAT] that is taken during the junior year of college. Q: In what aspects does your Neuroscience curriculum intertwine with that of Dr. Kenny’s AP Psychology class (see page 25)? A: These two courses run at the same time and are available only to seniors. AP Psychology meets twice as often as Neuroscience but as they coexist, they provide two approaches to the study of neuroscience. AP Psych introduces all of the major topics of the biological functioning of the nervous system plus the fascinating topics of how different nervous systems interact with each other as humans function in our society. The function of the brain is a difficult concept to teach to high school students. The anatomy is complex but how the parts interact to create a thought or a memory is elusive and puzzling. In my Neuroscience course available only to students who have spent the previous year with me in Cell Physiology, we continue the study of the molecules of cells with a slow turn toward the molecules involved in the basic operations of the fundamental cells of the nervous system, the neurons. To understand how these building blocks work we explore electrophysiology requiring a strong background in chemical and physical principles. Finally we decrease the magnification and study the anatomy and function of the nerves carrying information to and from the spinal cord. This foundation in neuroscience, along with the broader scope of AP Psychology creates an impressive graduate who is ready to excel in the study of neuroscience as a major in college.

Dr. Patricia Kenny, Biopsychology Dr. Kenny, Bergen County Academy’s resident expert in the field of psychology, joined us for an interview regarding the development of a new hybrid science called biopsychology. This interview is a definitive exploration into what biopsychology truly is, and into its symbiotic relationship with neuroscience. Finally, it discusses Dr.Kenny’s biopsychology elective, and where she sees this field going in the future. Q: What is biopsychology? A: Simply put, biopsychology is an emerging field sitting at the crossroads between neuroscience and psychology.

psychology at its roots. Much of neuroscience, primarily the research aspect of it, deals with the brain, the center of behavior; biopsychology studies just that. Much of neuroscience overlaps with biopsychology, and the two become infinitely related.

Q: What profession do you think most incorporates biopsychology? What do biopsychologists do?

Q: How has the modern age of neuroscience influenced the field of biopsychology?

A: Many jobs in the medical profession rely on biopsychology. Many types of physicians need to know how the physiology of the brain impacts patients’ behavior and health. Research positions, specifically, are going to be the most involved, especially those that involve animal research and studying the relationship of brain and behavior.

A: Research with humans has become more common in the past couple of years as more advanced technology has been developed. Brain scan and brain imaging techniques such as MRI, EEG, and PET Scan, have allowed researchers to study the unobservable workings of the brain and analyze, for example, which portions of the brain are activated when a certain emotion is experienced.

Q: What can a student expect to learn in your biopsychology elective? A: Students will learn about brain function and the nervous system as well as the functioning of both our sensory and perceptual systems. There will also be an introduction to consciousness, specifically sleep. Q: What is the relationship between biopsychology and the other disciplines of neuroscience? A: Biopsychology has had such a profound influence on all of the distinct disciplines of neuroscience. Really anything that deals with the brain or behavior has bio-

Q: Where do you see biopsychology going in the future? A: Biopsychology will definitely delve deeper and deeper into the functioning of the brain and its influence specifically on human behavior. Biopsychologists will become less and less reliant on non-humans for research purposes and more so on humans themselves. It is a field that is growing more than any other because of the mounting interest in human behavior. It will become more inclusive as researchers shift their focus from hypotheses to actual findings. Biopsychology is at the forefront of modern neuroscience. It will only increase in importance from here.

We thank the two teachers featured in this issue’s “Staff Spotlight”, Dr. Kenny (left) and Dr. DeWitt (right) for their commitment.


SCHOOL NEWS Provita Pharmaceuticals by RADHIKA MALHOTRA, AMST 2014

Provita is a pharmaceutical corporation established by Bergen County Academies students in 2009. The company uncovers, cultivates, constructs and advertises medicines to tackle medical mysteries through the eyes of a clinical researcher. Joshua Meier (AAST 2014), the CEO of Provita, and Serena Tharakan (AMST 2014), a member of Provita, were interviewed to discover more about the company, its visions, and its inner workings. Q: What is one thing Provita has taught you? Joshua Meier (JM): Although I have a wide arrange of interests, my true passion lies in their integration. Whether it’s combining my love of history with iOS Development or mixing computer science with molecular biology, the applicability of ideas can be enhanced by fusing these concepts together. Provita is yet another example of this amalgamation, and perhaps the most useful one -- entrepreneurship and biotechnology. Serena Tharakan (ST): One thing Provita has taught me is to believe in your product and really sell it. Of course, you need to be able to back it up scientifically, and we do that with research, experimentation, etc. But you also need to really endorse your product, because when you believe in it, so do others. Q: What is a skill that someone wanting to join Provita would need? JM: All that’s needed to join Provita is a willingness to think outside the box. Every member of the team contributes unique talents, but for these to be most efficiently utilized, we must think outside of the confines of our high school laboratory. ST: Provita is all about commitment. It is really rewarding


to be recognized for the work you are putting in, and the positive results you are producing for the company. Also, our members are driven and ambitious, and that comes with commitment. In terms of skills you might need, dedication is definitely the most important. (On a side note, we’re looking for a web designer so that would also be useful!) Q: Is Provita something you believe embodies a real world corporation? JM: Provita is the most realistic experience available at BCA. We’re a pharmaceutical company with real products, real data, real relationships, and real value. ST: Definitely, and more so than most other high school activities. In Provita we are really applying what we’re learning in the classroom, in terms of research, business principles, etc. When we give our culmination presentation in front of CEOs of real pharmaceutical companies, we need to know what we’re talking about and how our products compare with other real products on the market. So yes, I think Provita does embody a real life experience. We’re making real business plans, we’re doing real research in the lab, with techniques such as PCR, gels, etc, we’re networking just as any other real company would. Q: Is there a particular instance you can talk about in which Provita helped you through a real life experience? JM: One of the most significant things I’ve been pushing for this year is effective marketing. As a team, we’ve learned to give presentations in front of critical company executives, contrive unique strategies, and think innovatively. Biotech/pharmaceutical start-up companies are the most difficult to manage, and we’ve all gained experience collaborating as a team. We have 15 phenomenal minds on our research team, and each one of them is contributing remarkable ideas.

BCA SciChallenge

by ERIN SULOVARI, AMST 2014 On June 16th, 2012, the Bergen County Academies (BCA) held its first annual BCA SciChallenge, a science fair for middle school students. The event is a new affiliate of the Broadcom Masters National Science Fair organized by the Society for Science and the Public, a foundation that also oversees prestigious science fairs such as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and the Intel Science Talent Search (STS). BCA SciChallenege received 50 entries from all over Bergen County with projects ranging from Shock Absorption Based Upon Geometric Shapes of Differing Viscosities to Minimizing Water Loss in Plants. The idea for the fair was conceived by a group of BCA cell biology research students who wanted to instill their scientific fervor in younger kids. The following recounts an interview with Mrs. Leonardi - biology teacher, cell biology research advisor, and director of the BCA SciChallenge. Q: What was the inspiration behind the BCA SciChallenge? A: The inspiration for the BCA SciChallenge actually came from me as well as a group of my research students. The students became very excited at the thought of instilling the passion in younger students that they had in science research. They started to think that if high school researchers started young, they would be more likely to come up with more sophisticated projects as they get older. Q: How successful was the first BCA SciChallenge? A: The first BCA SciChallenge was a huge success. Everything was meticulously planned by the students, right down to the smallest detail. We had a lot of volunteers who were helping us and the experience seemed to

be really rewarding for them. Most importantly, the students seemed to have had a really great time. The BCA SciChallenge brought alumni volunteers and middle school competitors, together. It was very rewarding to see them working together to instill a passion for science for the younger generation. Q: What was some feedback from students and parents? A: I have already gotten emails as early as August from some of the parents about the date of the next BCA SciChallenge. It was great to see students so excited about the event. Q: Were the alumni/judges impressed with the work of the students? A: The work of some of the young students really impressed the alumni volunteers. They commented to me about the ability of the students to carry out controlled experiments that they were unable to search on the Internet themselves. What they found most impressive was the students’ creativity and ability to produce some really interesting findings! Q: What will be different about the 2013 BCA SciChallenge? A: We started out small, and we wanted to start that way. I think it was wise to start small so we would make sure that we would get it right. In 2013, hopefully we will have at least twice as many entries. We are hoping to get some of the larger organizations to come and help us out on the day of the fair. We would hope for these organizations to help enlighten what will already be a group of very gifted and creative students in all aspects of science.



September 2013- March 2014 The students at Bergen County Acaemies pride themselves in the work they conduct in the biologcal laboratories run by Mrs. Alyssa Calabro, Mrs. Donna Leonardi, and Dr. Robert Pergolizzi. The following is a list of awards granted to BCA students in the past school year in various science fairs and competitions. Siemens Semifinalists Eugene Kim Brianna Pereira Anna Radakrishnan Siemens Regional Finalists Jenna DiRito Jang Hoon Ha Joshua Meier- National Finalist Serena Tharakan Carrie Xu Intel Semifinalists Daniella Batarseh David Heller Anna Radakrishnan Hee Jae Song Joseph Gibli Intel Finalists Pereira, Brianna, 17 Meier, Joshua Abraham, 18 - WINNER 4 Th place YSAP Jenna DiRito and Serena Tharakan Akshay Swaminathan Anthony Xu Nicholas Joseph Haas and Matthew James Korst Anna Molotkova Shannon Oscher Tracy Wan Joyce Zhou Monmouth Junior Science Symposium Sang Hyun Kim- 1st Paper Presenter (National Qualifier) Dongyeon Joanna Kim – 3rd Paper Presenter Ji-Sung Kim- Student Poster Presenter Parth Patel- Student Poster Presenter Nicole Eskow- Student Poster Presenter

NJAS Grant-in-Aid Research Program Jenna DiRito & Serena Tharakan Adi Melamed & Sara Zhou Rachel Gleyzer Eric Kim NJRSF ISEF Trip Awards Joshua Abraham Meier Kelvin Wang Alon Millet Ji-Sung Kim- Alt ISEF Team Award Jenna Rose DiRito Serena Tharakan ISEF Symposium Finalists Ji-Sung Kim Joshua Abraham Meier Isabella Natalie Grabski Dongyeon Joanna Kim Hee Jae (Ana) Song Kelvin Wang Alon Millet Category Awards- Cell and Molecular Biology Joshua Abraham Meier-1st Anna Radakrishnan- 3rd Sneha Kabaria- HM Category Awards- Biomedical Science Jenna Rose DiRito- 1st Serena Tharakan- 1st Ji-Sung Kim- 2nd Ariana Rose Martino- 2nd Nicole Marie Eskow- 3rd Katherine Chew- HM Justin Kevin Yu- HM

Category Awards- Cancer Research Dongyeon Joanna Kim- 1st Brianna Pereira- 2nd Parth Bhargav Patel- 2nd Bianca Pereira- 3rd Justin Trout- HM Rachel Gleyzer- HM Anna Molotkova- HM Category Awards- Chemistry Isabella Natalie Grabski- 1st Kellie Heom- 3rd Category Awards- Environmental Science Jerome Fratello- HM Christopher Capasso- HM Category Awards- General Biology Alon Millet Category Awards- Health and Physiology Hee Jae (Ana) Song- 1st Rebecca Judith Rosenthal- 3rd Category Awards- Mathematics and Computers William Kang- HM Category Awards- Physics Kelvin Wang- 1st American Chemical Society Award Olivia Park and Adam Taylor Berry- 2nd place American Physiological Society Award Jenna Rose DiRito and Serena Tharakan NJIT Academic Fellowship Justin Kevin Yu Katherine Chew- Alt Partners in Science Award Vanita Mangru- Alt Rachel Gleyzer- Alt Ryan Nathaniel Alweiss- Alt NJIT Summer Academy Scholarship Anna Molotkova Patricia Helena Perfect- Alt Karen Kranz Memorial Award for Independent Student Research Ji-Sung Kim Bianca Periera

Rutgers Student Award Patricia Helena Perfect Sohum Sanghvi Sol Jay Lim Eric Kim Lauren Jacqui Beglin Sungho Lee Rebecca Judith Rosenthal Stacey Qi Xuan Chung Zachary Justin Stier Daniella Batarseh Statistics Award Hee Jae (Ana) Song- 1st Sneha Kabaria- 3rd Human Genetics Award Brianna Pereira- 1st Anna Radakrishnan- 2nd Intel Excellence in Computer Science Award Kelvin Wang In Vitro Biology Award Justin Kevin Yu Sneha Kabaria Mu Alpha Theta Award Zachary Justin Stier Jonathon Douglas Chan Office of Naval Research Award Jonathon Douglas Chan- 3rd Kelvin Wang- 4th Ricoh Sustainable Development Award Alon Millet Scientific American Award Ji-Sung Kim- 1st Joshua Abraham Meier- 2nd Isabella Natalie Grabski- 3rd Dongyeon (Joanna) Kim- 4th Hee Jae (Ana) Song- 8th Kelvin Wang- 9th Stockholm Junior Water Prize David Kang Myung Yang Yale Science and Engineering Award James Dongmin Lee

Bergen County Technical Schools “The Bergen County Technical School District is an educational model that prepares students to live, work and lead in a global community.�

Bergen County Technical Schools Board of Education Jason Kim...............................................................................................................................President William J. Meisner, Ed. D................................................................................................. Vice President Scott Rixford.......................................................................... Interim Executive County Superintendent Marie E. La Testa............................................................................................................Board Member Raymond J. Hryczyk......................................................................................................Board Member Central Office Administration Howard Lerner, Ed.D. ....................................................................................................Superintendent Andrea Sheridan............................................................................................. Assistant Superintendent Richard Panicucci.............................................Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction John Susino............................................................................ Business Administrator/Board Secretary Bergen County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan Board of Chosen Freeholders David L. Ganz......................................................................................................................... Chairman Joan M. Voss............................................................................................................. Vice Chairwoman John A. Felice........................................................................................................... Chair Pro Tempore Steve Tanelli...........................................................................................................................Freeholder Maura DeNicola ....................................................................................................................Freeholder James j. Tedesco, III..............................................................................................................Freeholder Tracy Silna Zur.......................................................................................................................Freeholder BCA Campus Administration Russell Davis............................................................................................................................ Principal Raymond Bath................................................................................................................. Vice Principal Mr. Victor Lynch.......................................................................................................... Dean of Students Mrs. Giulia Zanoni-Mendelsohn........................................................................Supervisor of Instruction

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Academy Scientific Issue 4: The Neuro Issue  

This is the last issue to be printed under David Heller and Simran Arjani's team. They are extremely proud of the work produced by their wri...

Academy Scientific Issue 4: The Neuro Issue  

This is the last issue to be printed under David Heller and Simran Arjani's team. They are extremely proud of the work produced by their wri...

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