Physiology in the news

Vertebrate Physiology is not an easy subject; there is a lot of information that I teach and even more that I expect students to know when entering my class.   The degree to which they do, in fact, know this informoation is critical to their success in my class.  I try to temper that with as much review in the beginning of the semester as possible, but I can only devote so much time to it.  Additionally, the course is required for Natural Resources majors and an optional course for biology majors, which are the two largest majors on campus, in terms of enrollment.  

Taken together, these two facts mean that I have a classroom full of students with varying degrees of interest in the subject and a large disparity in background knowledge on the subject, both of which are significant challenges on their own.  One of the most useful things I do every semester to ensure that I am addressing the students’ needs in each of these reals is to give mid-semester evaluations.  

I just gave this evaluation to my class this morning.  In going over the (anonymous) feedback, there were several themes, but the one that I noticed first, and the subject of this post, is that students came into the class with either low or no interest in the subject and now, 9 weeks later, have become much more so.  It probably speaks more to the content of the course than my teaching, but it was great to read nonetheless.


One of the other, related, themes was that students really enjoy the physiology in the news, an assignment where they are instructed to find a recent physiology paper and write a summary and a critique of the paper, which they also present to the class.  There have been some wonderful presentations on fascinating science, and letting students discover these on their own, and share them with the class, gives them a sense of ownership and, I think, pride.  

So, I thought I’d kick off the weekend with a list of some physiology in the news — articles and studies that I have read about recently that might pique your interest.  


Gut microbes are known to be important to Crohn’s Disease, but researchers have now identified the exact bacteria that are responsible!

The exact causes of alzheimer’s are still very much unknown and genetics is certainly very important, but new research suggests that environmental variables, and pesticides in particular, may also be just as important.  (With the caveat that correlation does not equal causation.)

Many body builders take branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) supplements to increase muscle growth, but BCAAs may also have anti aging benefits.



New research suggests that levels of T-tau, a protein that indicates brain trauma, is found in high concentrations in the blood in the hour after injury.  Development of a blood test could increase detection and diagnosis of concussions, and may lead to better and faster treatments.

Enjoy your weekend reading and HAPPY PI DAY!



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