Tuesday, March 31, 2009

AAA likes The A&P Professor

News flash
A recent piece in American Association of Anatomists (AAA) News highlights the advantages of The A&P Professor website, blog, and FREE newsletter.

According to the article in the Hotlinks section of the AAA newsletter, The A&P Professor is a "good resource for faculty teaching anatomy and physiology."

That's a great compliment, considering that AAA itself is a good resource for A&P professors. For example, check out their list of links related to teaching and learning human anatomy. I'm a member . . . you should consider joining, too!

Thanks, AAA!

[See American Association of Anatomists News. Volume 18 Number 1 March 2009 p.27]

Consiousness signature

What and where is the mind? An ancient and intriguing question that still has not been answered by modern science. Scores of books have been released in the last few years that propose different theories, many at odds with one another. And none yet with a definitive theory of what consciousness really is.

Of course we know consciousness when we see it, right? Perhaps most of the time. But what about those painful situations where we just don't know for sure whether a person is conscious, or at what level . . . or perhaps they are even "brain dead." A way to objectively measure consciousness could be a very useful tool indeed.

A recent article in New Scientist summarizes new data published in the PLoS (Public Library of Science) Biology journal about the possible discovery of a consciousness signature. Researchers found that there is a dynamic pattern of interaction of brain regions when a person is conscious that is distinct from activity seen when not conscious . . . or at least not focused ( a low level of consciousness).

While there's a lot to be argued over here, it's an interesting development. One that you can add to your arsenal information when the questions about mind vs. brain come up in your A&P course.

'Consciousness signature' discovered spanning the brain
A. Ananthaswamy
New Scientist online 17 March 2009
[Great summary of the original research and its place in the overall discussion of the theories of consciousness. Has links to some very good similar stories.]

Converging Intracranial Markers of Conscious Access
Gaillard R, et al.
PLoS Biology Vol. 7, No. 3, e61 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000061
[The original FREE research article with a useful "Author Summary" that boils it down for nonexperts. Includes some great images you can use in class for related topics.]

For other FREE journals like PLoS Biology, please see my list of FREE JOURNALS.

Quick and easy narrated screen captures

My friend Tom Lancraft recently shared with me some short videos outlining how to use the new (to me) ANGEL platform we are adopting for our HAPS Institute courses. He used FREE software called Jing.

I was intrigued by how fast he was able to produce these, then quickly email us a link to the finished demo. So I checked it out and tried it myself (of course). What a great (and EASY) little program to quickly put together a narrated screen capture to send to students or colleagues that need help that is better seen and heard.

Here's a sample of a little Jing presentation that I made in just five minutes:

My sample has a small webcam shot in the corner, which was done by merely placing my webcam capture window alongside the browser window I wanted to demonstrate. To show you how flexible this approach is. Probably most of the time, you'd just use the browser window alone. Or PowerPoint screen, or lab software screen, or whatever.

If you want to learn more about Jing, check out this recent posting in my blog The Electronic Professor:
Jing screen-capture service
Kevin Patton
The Electronic Professor 19 March 2009
Do you have experience with Jing or some other way of making video demos? Questions? Then use the blog's *Comments* feature to connect with the rest of us!

And don't forget my FREE software page at The A&P Professor website!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Updated newsletter format

News flash
Those of you who subscribe to The A&P Professor email newsletter, you have already noticed the sleek new look of your newsletter.

For those of you who don't subscribe, why not?

The newsletter is a FREE weekly summary of the latest blog entries from The A&PProfessor blog. It's an easy and convenient way to keep up with what's going on in your favorite forum for news, updates, and FREE stuff related to the teaching and learning of human anatomy and physiology.

To subscribe, use the form here:
Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz
If you want to preview the new look of newsletter, click this link: The A&P Professor Preview

The new look sports a new banner similar to that seen in the blog and website.

It also features summarized blog entries so that you can quickly scan through the entries to see what's there at a glance. That way, you don't have scroll through (sometimes) long articles just to see what the main stories are for the week. And there's no worry of clogging up your mailbox with huge files.

In the weeks ahead look for expanded content in the blog and newsletter, too!

[Some forms and other features may not appear in the feed or newsletter form of this article. Go to The A&P Professor blog to see these features.]

More on stem cell policy

Last week I discussed scientific controversies in the news. I forgot about this interview on Science Friday not long ago:

AAAS President Peter Agre: Science Friday host Ira Flatox talks with Peter Agre, a Nobel laureate and the incoming president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, about the intersection of science and public policy.

The interview, which also features guest Evan Snyder (who directs a stem cell research program), was first broadcast Friday, March 13, 2009.

Adapted from the NPR website.

Epidural hemotoma example

Tragedies such as the accidental death of actress Natasha Richardson can be opportunities for teaching and learning.

Apparently, what seemed like a minor fall during a skiing lesson in Canada caused epidural bleeding that eventually resulted in the tragic death of a beloved celebrity. While it is fresh in everyone's mind, we have an excellent opportunity to teach and learn about the anatomy of the brain and meninges . . . and apply it to "real" life and death.

This story may also be an interesting basis for a case study to discuss in class or use on a test or exam.

The news report on NBC Nightly News (in the player below) includes a graphic explanation of the problem.

Additional resources given below may also be useful in discussing the subject in class.

The Nightly News report:

Also from MSNBC, this one focused on the anatomical/medical aspects of the tragedy (a bit more detailed than the previous clip):

Here's a clip that shows some interesting medical images of epidural hemotoma:

Here are some links to images that you can use to teach this information:

Diagram of skull and meninges
(FREE from Gray's Anatomy)

Epidural hematoma seen in CT scan

Diagram of epidural hematoma

Cadaver dissection
(links to other medical photos also)

See also

[NOTE: Please check copyright permissions if you plan to import and use any of these images or other rescources]

It's almost too late!

A while back I mentioned all the benefits of participating in HAPS Institute (HAPS-I), the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society's professional continuing education program for A&P professors that offers short, flexible graduate biology courses.

We have four courses that begin soon . . . April 15. These courses involve both online work and sessions at the upcoming 2009 Annual HAPS Conference in Baltimore MD at the end of May.

Two of those courses still have some room in them . . .

Advances in Anatomy & Physiology 2009 (2 graduate credits)
  • A great "first experience" in HAPS Institute
  • Begins online April 15, 2009
  • Learners engage the material presented in the conference Update Seminars more fully than just "walking in cold"
  • Learners have a chance to discuss the seminar presentations together to find those gems that we can "take back to our classroom."
  • Faculty: Ellen Arnestad and Kevin Patton
Advanced Respiratory Biology (2 graduate credits)
  • A reprise of last year's wildly popular course
  • Explore the "in and outs" of the respiratory system for a fully understanding
  • Begins online April 15, 2009
  • Features master teacher Mary Pat Wenderoth of University of Washington
The program also offers a completely online course . . . but there are only a couple of spots left!

Best Practices in Hybrid & Online Teaching of A&P (2 credits)
  • No conference attendance required
  • Begins online May 1, 2009
  • Taught by online A&P experts Tom Lancraft and Janice Yoder Smith
  • Great credential to have in your portfolio!
Want more information? Follow these links . . .

Here's the outside of the HAPS-I brochure

(use the frame buttons to ZOOM, then scroll or print)

Here's the inside of the HAPS-I brochure

(use the frame buttons to ZOOM, then scroll or print)

[The video players and other features may not be visible in a feed or newsletter item. Go to The A&P Professor blog to view these features.]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Science controversies in the news

Some recent news items provide us with good opportunities to bring up in our classes important issues about how science is done and the interplay between culture and science.

In previous blog posts, I've chatted about how best to teach the scientific method:
Is the scientific method working?
Kevin Patton
The A&P Professor blog 11 Nov 2008
[My previous discussion of how the scientific method is understood and taught]
I think it is important to discuss mistakes and misunderstandings--and what mechanisms there are to correct them--to impart a full understanding of how science works in the real world. I also think it's important to recognize that our culture affects science--and how science affects our culture.

One of them is the recent lifting of a U.S. ban on embryonic stem cell research.

A few years ago, we in Missouri were asked to vote on a statewide proposition to permit embryonic stem cell research and to permit patient access to therapies using embryonic stem cell science. As the pros and cons were being debated across kitchen tables across the state, several threads on this topic appeared in the optional online forum in my A&P course. We'd been talking about stem cells, so this was an appropriate use of the forum.

The spontaneous debates involved questions that were researched and answered by other students. I watched, but stayed completely out of it. It turned out to be a "learning moment" for many as they increased their understanding of science and their understanding of how science and culture relate. And I think many of them came to understand themselves as individuals better.

So now may be a good time to discuss the recent change in federal government policy regarding stem cell research:
Obama to lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research
Lisa Stein
Scientific American online 6 March 2009
[Summary article from the 60-second Science Blog includes hyperlinks to original sources and definitions]
Donor-Derived Brain Tumor Following Neural Stem Cell Transplantation in an Ataxia Telangiectasia Patient
Amariglio N, et al.
PLoS Medicine Vol. 6, No. 2, e29 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000029
[Recent FREE research article illustrates one of the risks of using stem-cell therapies, a point often made during debates about stem cell research. The included Editor's Summary is a great tool for students and teachers. The summary includes links to good information about stem cell research.]

Here's a video summarizing issues regarding the recent change:

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Some discussion starters:

  • What is stem cell research?
  • What are its potential benefits? Its potential risks?
  • What are the sources of embryonic stem cells? How do such sources relate to different cultural beliefs and positions?
  • How is science affected by culture? How is culture affected by science?

Another topic in the news lately involves anesthesiologist Scott Reuben, who faked at least 21 important research studies in pain management during orthopedic surgeries. His fictional studies may have impacted millions of patients worldwide.

A Medical Madoff: Anesthesiologist Faked Data in 21 Studies
Brendan Borrell
Scientific American online 10 March 2009
[Nice summary of the story, with links to sources and other information]

A Listing of the Twenty-One Fabricated Studies by Dr. Scott Reuben
Mike Adams
NaturalNews.com 16 March 2009

Here's a Real Audio clip about the controversy:
Medical Studies Allegedly Fabricated
Bob Oakes
WBUR (NPR affiliate) 11 March 2009

[Includes nice discussion of the bigger picture.]
Here's a video clip on the story:

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Some discussion starters:

  • What are the possible effects of faking medical research?
  • What is currently done to prevent fake research from being published? Considering this case, is that enough?
  • Should the scientific method be changed?
  • What might be some motives a scientist has to fake research findings?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting a Clear View

If you are using any of my textbooks in your A&P course, you have probably already seen the nifty Clear View of the Human Body . . . a set of opaque and transparent overlays that allow you to peel away layers of the body in a sort of virtual dissection.

I recently posted this tip to my blog for students The A&P Student . . .

DO NOT FORGET that the CLEAR VIEW is there!

A lot of students look at it when they first get the book and are thumbing through the pages marveling at all the interesting artwork and photos (and trying to size up how interesting or difficult the course may be). But as they get involved in the learning process, many students forget that the Clear View is there . . . and miss out on using this valuable tool.

Why use the Clear View? It's a great way for students to develop their concept of the spatial relationships of the body . . . that is, how all the organs "fit together."

To see my tip for students go to Using the Clear View of the Human Body.

To provide a link to my YouTube video that walks through the Clear View use this URL:

Preview it here yourself first:

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Photo by mnadi at flickr.com

Mitochondrial problems

In my A&P course, we spend a lot of time on cell biology before "jumping in" to the systems.

That's because they're often a bit weak in this area coming in—and even more often don't have up-to-date information.

Although this provides a firm foundation for nearly everything that follows in the course, my students often wonder . . . do we really need to know all this stuff?

It's sure hard to see why knowing about all the ins and outs of mitochondria, for example, are important to understanding people.

A recent feature article in Science News does a great job of bringing home why its important to know this. The article talks about the mitochondrial aging theory and new information linking mitochondrial dysfunction to disease and aging.

[NOTE: The mitochondrial theory of aging is discussed, and illustrated, in Chapter 33 of my textbook Anatomy & Physiology]

Some key facts revealed in the article include:

  • scientists think that millions of us may suffer from mitochondrial problems

  • mitochondrial dysfunction may be a mechanism of Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and more

  • mitochondrial mechanisms are now thought to be so central to understanding disease processes, the NIH is now encouraging additional mitochondrial research

  • the reason low-calorie diets may prolong life is because it keeps the mitochrondria from producing an excess of free radicals that contribute to aging

  • physical and mental activity produce similar anti-aging effects

  • researchers are investigating treatments that take advantage of knowledge of mitochondrial function

This is a great article to give students to chew on. Or to simply point to as a good reason why it's important to know about mitochondria . . .and other cellular structures and mechanisms.

Here's the article, along with some additional resources on the topic . . .

Mitochondria Gone Bad
by Laura Bell
Science News 28 February 2009, Vol.175 #5 (p.20)
[Great feature article available FREE online. Includes nice artwork.]

Mitochondria as Chi
Douglas C. Wallace
. Vol. 179, 727-735. June 2008.
[Extensive FREE full-text article with an interest twist: a link to ancient Asian medicine. Includes FREE PowerPoint slide you can use in your course.]

Mitochondrial Medicine for Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases
P. Hemachandra Reddy
Neuromolecular Medicine, 2008. DOI 10.1007/s12017-008-8044-z
[FREE abstract and preview.]

Mitochondrial biology and oxidative stress in Parkinson disease pathogenesis
Henchcliffe, C., and M.F. Beal.
Nature Clinical Practice
2008. 4(November):600-609. doi:10.1038/ncpneuro0924
[Connect mitochondrial dysfunction to PD. Several FREE PowerPoint slides you can use in your course.]

Medication-induced mitochondrial damage and disease
Neustadt, J., and S.R. Pieczenik
Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 2008. 52:780–788. DOI 10.1002/mnfr.200700075
[FREE abstract of research report.]

The mitochondrial theory of aging and its relationship to reactive oxygen species damage and somatic mtDNA mutations
Loeb, L. et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciense U S A. 2005 December 27; 102(52): 18769–18770.
[Article summarizes the mitochondrial theory of aging. Includes FREE image.]

Here's a video on mitochondrial disease:

[The video player embedded here may not appear in your news feed or emailed newsletter. Go to The A&P Professor blog to access the video viewer. Go to The A&P Professor website to learn how to embed the video in your PowerPoint or webpage . . . or simply link to it from your own email or webpage.]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Net calories

We're teaching about metabolism and nutrition . . . then comes the perennial question for which we have no good answer:

"Well then, which diet is best?" Meaning, which of the popular weight-reduction diets du jour are most scientifically sound, based on what we've just learned?

This is a great question!

Not because I have a great answer--I don't.

It's a great questions because I don't have an easy answer. We (meaning "the science community") simply don't know enough yet to say for sure. So it's a great question to talk about that aspect of how science works.

It's also a great starting point to ask, "based on what we are learning now, which do you think would be best?" This opens up possibilities to apply concepts, such as
  • how nutrients are converted to different forms (lipids, carbs, proteins),
  • how nutrients are stored in the body,
  • how metabolism works,
  • what an energy budget is,
  • how metabolic imbalances can created pH imbalances and other problems,
  • the role of vitamins and minerals in the body,
  • the role of fiber in the digestive tract,
  • what metabolic rates are,
  • the role of hormones,
  • and . . . well . . . this list goes on and on . . .
One concept that I often emphasize in this context is the balance between how many calories come in to the body (food calories) and how many calories go out of the body (metabolic calories expended). Much of the difference is stored* . . . and the favorite way we store it is as body fat. This concept is emphasized in my textbooks as well.

But what about all these different approaches to weight-loss dieting. Or just having a healthy diet in general? What about:
  • low-fat vs. high-fat diets
  • good-fat vs. bad-fat diets
  • low-carb vs. high-carb diets
  • processed foods vs. unprocessed foods
  • high-sodium vs. low-sodium diets
  • high-fiber vs. low-fiber diets
  • and this list also goes on and on . . .
You've probably heard about the latest news on this topic . . . something that can inform your next discussion of this topic . . . and perhaps spark additional discussions, eh?

A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the best weight-reduction diet is as simple as reducing calories in a diet that can include just about anything, as long as it's proportionally high in "heart-healthy" foods such as vegetables and fish.

So the "it's all about the calories" notion is pretty close to the mark, eh?

Want to know more? Check out these resources:

Weight-Loss Winner: A Diet High in Fiber, Low in Calories
by Coco Ballantyne
Scientific American online. 25 February 2009
[FREE article summarizes the recent study]

Stick to a Low-Calorie Diet and It Will Work

by Nathan Seppa
Science News online. 25 February 2009
[Another FREE summary of the recent study]

Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Sacks, F.M., et al. 2009.
New England Journal of Medicine 360(Feb. 26):859-873.
[FREE full-text article about the latest research.]

The Science of Weight Loss
Scientific American online. Accessed 27 February 2009
[FREE set of online resources related to this topic.]

Calorie Calculator
freedieting.com Accessed 27 February 2009
[FREE online calculator estimates the daily calorie needs of an individual based on age, gender, size, exercise habits, etc. Has advanced options and links to additional calculators. Interesting class, lab, online, small-group, or homework activity.]

* some of the calories are lost in the feces

[photo by NatalieTraynor at Flickr.com]

My use of clickers

I've already sung the praises of using student response systems (clickers) as a really effective teaching tool.

I know you don't believe me. I didn't believe the "true believers" either . . . for a while. But eventually I "got it" and well . . . forgive me . . . I'm now a missionary for the cause.

Want to hear my "testimony" . . . even if it's just to knock holes in it?

i>clicker, the company that makes the system that I use, has recently published my case at their website . . . along with testimonials from other biology faculty (and faculty across many disciplines).

Check out My clicker case at my The Electronic Professor blog for an intro to my case . . . and the link to find it.