Category "High School"


Authors: Sahit Mamidipaka and Shruti Balamurugan

On January 13th of 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge, plummeting into the icy-cold Potomac River just a few miles from the White House. The impact of the collision killed 73 people, leaving only 6 survivors struggling to survive as the military and surrounding civilians attempted to rescue them. When the rescue chopper arrived, Arland D. Williams, one of the six survivors, unselfishly passed the rope to the other survivors three times, putting their lives above his own. Sadly, he didn’t make it and drowned in the icy depths.

And something just as unselfish and inspiring occurred on January 2nd of 2007. Commemorated as the “New York City Subway Hero,” Wesley Autrey, a 50-year old construction worker at the time, performed an unselfish, heroic act by leaping onto the tracks of a subway rail to rescue a young man who had convulsed and fallen in. With no time to think, Autrey sprang into action, leaving his two daughters on the platform, and pressed his body against the fallen man’s as the train went over their heads, failing to brake in time. Thankfully, both men survived and made it out with very minor injuries.

The actions of Williams and Autrey are honored as valiant, altruistic acts. But what is altruism, what motivates people to perform such acts, and what is the science behind it?

Altruism, simply put, is the unselfish act of helping someone out of concern for their welfare and wellbeing, often at a cost to oneself. Altruistic acts are characterized as actions that aren’t motivated by any form of personal gain, duty, responsibility, loyalty, or any other such reason. The act is performed purely to help someone else out of the good of your heart. There are no expectations of rewards (prize money, awards) or ulterior motives (wanting to be seen as a hero or famous).

The term “altruism” was first coined by the French Philosopher Auguste Comte to encapsulate his vision for morally putting the needs of others before one’s interests. He constructed the word from the Latin “alteri”, meaning “others”, and since then the word has been interpreted and defined in many ways- including both the ulterior and non-ulterior senses of the word. Auguste Comte’s time has come and gone, but the conundrum that his concept has caused still ripples throughout society today.

Now, if this seems pretty idealistic, superhero-esque, that’s because it is. Or at least, that’s the debate that rocks psychology. From an evolutionary point of view, there is no logical or rational reason for a person to help someone else, especially by risking their life or a similar personal cost. Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan that humans are inherently selfish, and all altruistic acts secretly had some self-interest at heart. The famous 18th-century philosophers David Hume and Jean Jacques Rousseau, argue the opposite.

So are some people really filled with such a selfless, make-the-world-a-better-place type of attitude?

Well, there are essentially two perspectives on altruistic acts: self-interest (egoistic) and selfless (altruistic).

Let’s delve into both:

The egoistic perspective, defined by Psychological Egoism and rooted in the Theory of Universal Egoism, states that every action has an underlying self-interested or self-benefiting motive that drives the action itself. And this isn’t necessarily always explicit or conscious. Within the realm of altruistic acts, the egoistic perspective argues that we help others not because we are innately selfless, good people, but because we have something to gain from it (could be subconscious, shaping our behavior without us being aware of it). For instance, we “selflessly” help a stranger because the action makes us feel good about ourselves, or increases our self-esteem and self-image, or impresses those around us, filling our need for attention or respect, or simply because we want to gain the person’s favor for future purposes.

From this perspective, there is no true altruistic act in the world since everything can be defined as having an underlying, self-interested motive. And the logical fallacy that courses this perspective is that it is unfalsifiable. It is merely an empirical statement because you can’t ever disprove that someone didn’t act for self-interested motives, especially if they aren’t even consciously aware of it.

On the other side of the coin, we have the altruistic perspective, which is shaped by the philosophical/ethical doctrine of moral or pure altruism. In moral/pure altruism, only a single motive exists and drives the action—the welfare of the other person. Pure altruistic acts are driven by a person’s internal, selfless values and principles to do good and benefit others, even if it’s risky or comes at a personal cost. This remains more of a philosophical concept than a psychological one.

It’s unlikely that Auguste Comte was expecting such an age-old debate about altruism to rise when he first conjured the idea of it- but since his simple definition was created there have been philosophical, political and biological arguments on whether humans are naturally selfish or unselfish that continue today, as well as a hundred different takes on the meaning of altruism and the types of actions that fall under the word.

Psychologists have found there to be many actions that fall under the term “altruism”, categorizing them into three distinct types.

1. Genetic Altruism – In this type of altruism, people engage in altruistic acts that explicitly benefit family members, such as when parents make millions of sacrifices for their children’s happiness and future. From an evolutionary standpoint, genetic altruism makes the most sense. Evolutionary theorists maintain that we essentially focus on the genes over the person itself. By helping our family, people who share our pool of genes, we are increasing their chances of survival and thus, ensuring there is a greater chance for the genes to be passed down in the future. This is also known as kin altruism or inclusive fitness theory.

2. Reciprocal Altruism – Reciprocal altruism involves an expectation that others will eventually offer their help in return if you help them now. For instance, you help your classmate with a problem today, assuming that they will one day reciprocate your act by helping you with something else. But why would we selflessly aid a stranger with whom we don’t share much genetic material? Evolutionary biologists argue—it does. By helping a stranger in exchange for future mutual aid, we increase the chances and possibilities that we or our kin receive the benefit in the future. This concept is mathematically established through a broad field known as game theory. So by helping someone, you increase your possibilities for future reciprocal aid when needed for yourself and your genetic family.

3. Group-selected Altruism – As the name indicates, in this type of altruism, people engage in altruistic acts for only people within their “group,” which may be based on familiarity, friendship, gender, age, interests, hobbies, or virtually anything else that unites a group. People feel loyal and obligated to their group (akin to a social family) and thus perform selfless acts for people within their group.

But with all the theoretical talk about what altruism really is, and how it is defined, another topic entirely is why people decide act altruistically. After all, one of the most inquisitive questions psychology strives to answer is why we do what we do. What drives our actions? What motivates us to be altruistic (if we assume such an act exists, and not everything is egoistic). Scientists have come up with a couple explanations, but these are just the beginning.

1. Evolution/Kin Selection – As mentioned in previous paragraphs, evolutionary scientists believe helping those who share your genes increases their chance of survival in the future, and thus passing down their genes in the upcoming generations and pass on the lineage. Thus, evolution has made family-based altruistic acts a part of our instincts and nature.

2. Reward Center – Neurobiologists have discovered that when people act altruistically, the reward centers of their brains become more active, supplying them with a sense of pleasure and contentment. Participating in altruistic, compassionate behaviors activates these pleasure centers in our brains and the positive feelings that result then reinforce our altruistic behaviors, leading to a cycle.

3. Environment – Altruistic acts fall under the broader umbrella of prosocial behavior—socially conforming and accepted behaviors intended to help other people. And a ton of research suggests that prosocial behavior has a nurture-based effect. The environment you inhabit, the social interactions you have, and what you observe others do have profound effects on learning and participating in prosocial behaviors, such as altruism. The environment and social modeling, originating from Albert Bandura, have significant effects on prosocial behaviors and altruism.

4. Empathy – Centered around the empathy-altruism hypothesis, people who feel empathetic towards the pain or distress the person in need is in are more likely to engage in altruistic behaviors. Neurobiology research also reveals that mirror neurons allow us to feel and “mirror” the feelings and emotions of those around us. When we see someone in need, we naturally share some of the pain they are undergoing, feel it internally, and this acts as a motivator to participate in altruistic actions. The negative-state relief model affirms that altruistic acts help alleviate the negative feelings we experience when we see someone in distress or pain. We experience negative emotions when we see someone suffering, and we feel better (by reducing these negative emotions) by helping them.

5. Inner Cognitive Incentives – We often help others “selflessly” because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Essentially—acting good makes us feel good. An egoist would claim that the act isn’t truly altruistic since there is an incentive to make ourselves feel better (self-benefiting).

Whatever the reason people decide to help one another out, altruistic acts promote prosocial behavior in society, self-motivated or not. Society runs on the back of people being kind to one another, and without the occasional altruistic act, people would have many more problems than we do today. Thats not the only benefit of promoting kindness in everyday life, however. Altruistic acts committed can bring about many benefits, both on an individual scale and a large one.

1. Better Physical Health – First and foremost, an array of research clearly outlines that altruistic acts can not only improve our physical health (ex–reduced stress levels & risk of high blood pressure) but also significantly lower your chances of mortality

2. Increased Happiness – People also tend to feel more satisfied, content, and happier when they engage in prosocial behavior motivated by others’ wellbeing. In fact, a famous research study revealed that people feel happier when they spend money on someone else rather than themselves.

3. Improved Mental Health – Similar to volunteering, engaging in altruism alleviates stress, calms anger, and counteracts anxiety. Moreover, engaging in volunteering and prosocial behaviors can help with depression, increase confidence, and prevent feelings of isolation.

Altruism imbues the person you are assisting and you with joy, peace, and life! Helping someone out helps you out more than you realize.

However, a precautionary note: be wary of being altruistic to such an extent that you are putting yourself in significant and permanent harm or risking your life.

So what does all of this mean? Everyone comes to their own conclusion. Some people believe there is no such thing as altruism or selflessness and see all acts of aid as self-benefitting ruses. Others believe that people are good by nature and are deeply caring and nurturing of others. Philosophical, theological, and even biological debates on Auguste Comte’s vision of altruism have prevailed for centuries- and they don’t look like they’re stopping any time soon. It’s up to the people to research, learn, and form opinions on their own.

Well, here’s ours: regardless of your motives, whether it’s completely idealistic, founded on pure principles, and has no lustre for self-benefit or it’s entirely selfish for reasons like feeling better about yourself or improving your image for the press, a good deed is a good deed in the end. Despite the underlying reason, the outcome is the aid of someone in need. And as such, we ought to focus more on the effects and results of our actions and appreciate the support we can give someone.

So, go out there and be more compassionate, generous, and altruistic! For decades to come, people will still debate the true intentions of Arland Williams and Wesley Autrey, but one thing is certain. Regardless of why they did what they did, real people are alive and living real lives because of their actions.

And that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Note: In acknowledgment of his bravery and sacrifice, President Reagan recognized Arland Williams as a hero. He may no longer be alive, but by renaming the bridge Air Florida 90 crashed to Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge, his actions are memorialized for history.

Sources: 7-years-ago/2565245002/ ght-90-crashed-potomac-37-years-ago/2565245002/


Most people believe that dementia is a disease but it actually is used to describe the decline of a person’s mental ability. Dementia incorporates related diseases such as Parkinson’s, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s (most common form of dementia).

The brain is packed with around 100 billion neurons which are all interconnected, scientists call this a ‘neuron forest’. This means that it is very easy for signals to take place between nerve cells (aka neurons). When neurons are attacked or destroyed, they cause memories to fade, the inability to think properly and difficulty in expressing feelings. This can then lead to diseases such as dementia.

Neurons don’t regenerate unlike other somatic cells so Alzheimer’s (which is a disease that destroys the brain’s neurons) can affect all areas of the brain. Certain groups are more susceptible to dementia, these include people who smoke, people who have diabetes and people who have obesity. This doesn’t mean that those individuals will necessarily develop dementia but it means that they have a slightly higher risk.

There are ways to combat dementia such as sleeping well, eating healthy, reducing stress, exercising and playing challenging games such as sudoku or scrabble.

Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by an abnormal protein build up in and around brain cells. Amyloid is one of the proteins involved, and deposits of it create plaques around brain cells. Tau is the other protein, and deposits of it form tangles within brain cells.

Although it’s not known exactly what causes this process to begin, scientists now know that it begins many years before symptoms appear.

As brain cells are damaged, there is a decrease in the chemical messengers (called neurotransmitters) that are involved in sending messages, or signals, between brain cells. Acetylcholine levels are notably low in the brains of individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Different parts of the brain diminish throughout time. Memory is frequently one of the first areas to be impaired. Different parts of the brain are affected in more rare forms of Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than memory impairments, the earliest signs may be issues with vision or language.

Author: Christina Brown


It is a known fact that our eyes move faster than our brain is able to comprehend. Thus in order to compensate for this lapse, our brain has the remarkable ability to “predict” what our eyes will see next. Until recently, this phenomenon was largely unexplainable; however, research in the University of Scotland has determined how this process unveils, and how, in a sense our brain has the ability to work as a crystal ball.

Published in the Scientific Reports journal, scientists at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom had previously used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and optical illusions to better understand what’s occurring in our brains when we see. As it is already established that our eyes transmit information to the brain through the optic nerve — a process known as feedforward input — the study particularly focused on brain feedback input, which is the neurological process where the brain sends information to the eyes. According to the study co-author Gracie Edwards, “Feedforward and feedback information interact with one another to produce the visual scene we perceive every day.”

The study utilized twenty seven volunteers; the fMRI focused on their visual cortex — the area of the brain involved in processing vision — while the volunteers viewed an optical illusion. This illusion entailed looking at two, stationery flashing squares; however, it appeared as though one square was moving between two locations. Results demonstrated brain feedback — they revealed that during the flashes, the visual cortex feedback updated to a new predicted coordinate; fMRI scans also showed that our brains simultaneously adjust predictions as our eyes move. These results were crucial, as they added to our existing understanding of neuroscience and the brain’s fascinating ability to predict future acts. To keep our vision “smooth”, our brain must foresee the location of a moving object; the study’s results allowed researchers to observe this mechanism directly.

Although this discovery is exciting by itself, the possible implications of it is even more exciting. For instance, knowing how the brain processes vision could eventually help us create brain-inspired forms of artificial intelligence. Currently, artificial intelligence uses a feedforward mechanism where it collects information and processes it in a main computer. However, it lacks a feedforward predictive mechanism. Incorporating this could unleash the gate to more breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, as well as allowing it to become more robust and flexible. Some experts warn that we should take a grain of salt with these discoveries, though; in other words, just because we could do something, it doesn’t mean that we should. Granting robots the intelligence equivalent to the human brain could lead to the beginning of the end for humanity.

Nonetheless, it is crucial to learn as much about the brain as possible, because in the long run, this knowledge could aid in treatments for brain injury or other neurological ailments. Our brain doesn’t work exactly like a crystal ball, yet, the fact that it could foretell objects seconds before our eyes glance at them is a testament to the power of the human brain, and the intricacies of the human body.

Author: Sareena Naganand


It is a well known fact that as we age, our brains do, as well. This is noticeable in memory lapses, decreased cognitive strength and the decreased ability to learn. In a world where life saving drugs and antibiotics exist, shouldn’t there be a way to strengthen our brain, or improve its function in the long-term? Couldn’t there be a safe, effective supplement — like a multivitamin for the brain — that would ensure long-living, healthy brains? As this reasonable neuroscience question floated around for the past couple of decades, numerous pharmaceutical companies have jumped at this opportunity to deliver.

One of these companies is Quincy Bioscience, the manufacturer of the well-known, advertised product: Prevagen. This daily supplement aims to improve memory and overall cognitive function; it contains a calcium-binding ingredient originally found in jellyfish (known as apoaequorin). However, like all over-the-counter supplements, Prevagen’s statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Although the television commercial doesn’t mention any major side effects for the drug, one must wonder whether the drug is truly effective. Evaluating this notion, a Harvard University blog assesses the claims that Quincy Bioscience makes. For instance, the main ingredient, apoaequorin, has no known role in human memory; experts believe that these types of supplements would be digested in the stomach, and not have an impact on our brains.

In the case of Prevagen, the company portrays a rise from 5% to 20% in “recall tasks” over the course of ninety days; yet, as the phrase, “recall tasks” is loaded with ambiguities, there’s no definite way to determine what these numbers represent. Furthermore, a published study on apoaequorin demonstrates minimal memory improvement; specifically it is unlikely to be absorbed to a significant degree as it would degrade into amino acids (monomers of a protein).

Since the United States Federal Trade Commision wasn’t convinced by the supplement’s benefits, it charged the supplement maker with false advertising; Quincy Bioscience was accused of selectively reporting data and misleading the public by claiming that Prevagen is “clinically proven” to improve cognitive function. More recently, in November 2020, a federal judge approved a settlement which required the manufacturers of Prevagen to provide cash payments to those who purchased the product. Even though the company admitted no wrongdoing, they agreed to stop marketing Prevagen with statements that it can improve memory without disclosing concrete scientific and clinical data.

Unfortunately, Prevagen is not the only supplement that has been credited with making exaggerated claims. It falls into a wider class of supplements known as pharmaceutical nootropics, or those that are meant to enhance memory and cognitive function. Booster drinks like “Shot of Genius”— which declare to provide customers with a boost in energy and brain function — and fall into this category. Despite the fact that the claims surrounding these products are unsubstantiated by clinical research, it has taken the market by a storm; the global nootropics market was valued at $2.17 billion in 2018, with an expected compound annual growth rate of 12.5% by 2025.

Nevertheless, there are other, less invasive ways to enhance brain function in the long-term. Arguably one of the most notable achievements in neuroscience is that it was demonstrated by research in mice and humans that it doesn’t take a neuro-centered multivitamin to improve brain function and slow the brain’s aging. Simple actions like receiving mental stimulation — by completing puzzles, fulfilling a meaningful hobby, or learning something new — will foster new connections between nerve cells and help the brain develop new cells, subsequently developing flexible neurological plasticity. This creates a functional learning reserve that would not only strengthen the brain, but also combat future cell loss. Overall, following a healthy lifestyle will lead to a healthier, stronger brain. Therefore, it doesn’t take a pill, or any other pharmaceutical product to strengthen our brains — it takes a brain.

Author: Sareena Naganand


Let me guess, you’re probably reading this article because you want to learn more about the brain. Well, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll be learning what a brain is, how to grow your brain, and what your brain is made up of. 

First of all, what is a brain? Well, your brain is located inside of your forehead. Your brain is the most complex part (organ) of the human body. It is a 3 pound organ full of knowledge and intelligence. It interprets your senses, directs your body movement, and basically controls everything you do!

How can you grow your brain? Just like a remote control car needs batteries to function, your brain needs food to stay healthy and function properly! Since the brain is an organic structure, what you feed it, will determine how your brain functions for the rest of the day. Eating every meal properly and staying on a healthy diet, means that your brain will be alive and up to its fullest potential for the rest of the day. However, skipping meals and eating unhealthy, will lead to your brain being tired all day and your body may pain a bit. Eating fruits and vegetables will make your brain healthier. Fruits and vegetables supply loads of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Lean meat is also really healthy to your brain. Lean meat is meat with a relatively low fat content. It is low in fat and it is a good source of protein. It is also important to eat some dairy foods at least once a day. Dairy products are a good source of calcium and it improves bone health.

What is your brain made up of? You should know what’s inside your brain before you even start to nurious it. Your brain has many different parts that work together. There are five key parts of the brain. The cerebrum is the biggest part of the brain and it controls your thinking and your voluntary muscles. The cerebellum is located at the back of the brain and it controls your balance, movement, and coordination. The brain stem sits behind the cerebrum and it is in charge of you breathing air, digesting food, and circulating blood. The pituitary gland is extremely small and it’s job is to produce and release hormones into your body. Lastly, the hypothalamus is like your brain’s inner thermostat. This part of the brain knows what temperature your body should be at. Your brain is also made up of nerves. Your brain is the boss, but it needs some nerves to help. The spinal cord is made up of a LOT of nerve cells. The spinal cord and nerves together, is known as the nervous system – that let messages flow back and forth between the brain and body. The nervous system is made up of millions and millions of neurons. But we’ll talk about that in another blog. Without any of these parts, your brain would not be complete. 

Did you know? 

  • About 75% of the human brain is made of water. This means that dehydration, even as small as 2%, can have a negative effect on brain functions. Wow! 
  • We use more of our brain when we are asleep than we are using when we are awake. Awesome!
  • The brain can’t feel pain. Surgery can be done on the brain but technically the brain does not feel that pain. Cool!

I hope everybody learned something amazing from this article and I’ll see you in the next blog!

Author: Yashi Kumar


When a trauma patient is admitted to a hospital, doctors don’t only have to treat the most visible injuries, but also have one, pressing worry looming over their head: Has the patient suffered any brain damage? Unlike a broken bone which can be stabilized with a rod, brain damage cannot be reversed; severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) survivors hence experience permanent functional disabilities due to the brain’s poor capacity to generate. The reality is that doctors can administer some type of remedy for a wide range of other illnesses, but hit an insurmountable wall when it comes to brain injuries — injuries that ravage the control center of a person, impeding them for the rest of their life.


Throughout the ages, people have pondered the significance of dreams. The Greeks and Romans were convinced that dreams had prophetic powers but it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung came up with some of the most widely-known theories to date. 


Throughout our extensive history, humans have evolved; minor changes in the genome of one became more widespread throughout the population over time, eventually leading to advantageous, groundbreaking changes in human structure and function. Similarly, research in neuroscience has uncovered the extent of the extensive change that the human brain has undergone; the overall trend is that it has grown larger, leading to an increase in human intelligence and capability.


We’ve all heard the phrase ‘Liar Liar, Pants on Fire’; it’s a common, charming phrase often
found in the children’s vernacular, used primarily when one has caught someone or suspects
someone to be lying. Maybe you’ve even used it once as a kid yourself — or adult, who am I to


When heinous crimes occur, prosecutors often struggle to find the reason why. After all, wouldn’t it be difficult — almost impossible, even — to determine what caused someone to kill an innocent human being? What could potentially motivate someone to start fires, commit robberies, and cause overall chaos? Although criminals come in all shapes and sizes, some neuroscience research has identified biological commonalities — or risk factors — amongst those who have committed crimes. In other words, researchers are getting closer to mapping out the mind of a criminal.