Topic: Physiology

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Polyphasic Sleep

Medicine Psychology Physiology

Biphasic sleep (or diphasic, bimodal or bifurcated sleep) is the practice of sleeping during two periods over the course of 24 hours, while polyphasic sleep refers to sleeping multiple times – usually more than two. Each of these is in contrast to monophasic sleep, which is one period of sleep within 24 hours. Segmented sleep and divided sleep may refer to polyphasic or biphasic sleep, but may also refer to interrupted sleep, where the sleep has one or several shorter periods of wakefulness. A common form of biphasic or polyphasic sleep includes a nap, which is a short period of sleep, typically taken between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm as an adjunct to the usual nocturnal sleep period. Nowadays, the definition of polyphasic sleep is any sleep schedule with at least two sleeps per day, to distinguish it from monophasic sleep, which only has one sleep per day.

The term polyphasic sleep was first used in the early 20th century by psychologist J. S. Szymanski, who observed daily fluctuations in activity patterns (see Stampi 1992). It does not imply any particular sleep schedule. The circadian rhythm disorder known as irregular sleep-wake syndrome is an example of polyphasic sleep in humans. Polyphasic sleep is common in many animals, and is believed to be the ancestral sleep state for mammals, although simians are monophasic.

The term polyphasic sleep is also used by an online community that experiments with alternative sleeping schedules to achieve more time awake each day. However, researchers such as Piotr Woźniak warn that such forms of sleep deprivation are not healthy. While many claim that polyphasic sleep was widely used by some polymaths and prominent people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, and Nikola Tesla, there are few reliable sources supporting that view.

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Mammalian diving reflex

Medicine Physiology Scuba diving Physiology/neuro

The diving reflex, also known as the diving response and mammalian diving reflex, is a set of physiological responses to immersion that overrides the basic homeostatic reflexes, and is found in all air-breathing vertebrates studied to date. It optimizes respiration by preferentially distributing oxygen stores to the heart and brain, enabling submersion for an extended time.

The diving reflex is exhibited strongly in aquatic mammals, such as seals, otters, dolphins, and muskrats, and exists as a lesser response in other animals, including adult humans, babies up to 6 months old (see infant swimming), and diving birds, such as ducks and penguins.

The diving reflex is triggered specifically by chilling and wetting the nostrils and face while breath-holding, and is sustained via neural processing originating in the carotid chemoreceptors. The most noticeable effects are on the cardiovascular system, which displays peripheral vasoconstriction, slowed heart rate, redirection of blood to the vital organs to conserve oxygen, release of red blood cells stored in the spleen, and, in humans, heart rhythm irregularities. Although aquatic animals have evolved profound physiological adaptations to conserve oxygen during submersion, the apnea and its duration, bradycardia, vasoconstriction, and redistribution of cardiac output occur also in terrestrial animals as a neural response, but the effects are more profound in natural divers.

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Eigengrau

Color Physiology

Eigengrau (German: "intrinsic gray", lit. "own gray"; pronounced [ˈʔaɪ̯gn̩ˌgʁaʊ̯]), also called Eigenlicht (Dutch and German: "own light"), dark light, or brain gray, is the uniform dark gray background that many people report seeing in the absence of light. The term Eigenlicht dates back to the nineteenth century, but has rarely been used in recent scientific publications. Common scientific terms for the phenomenon include "visual noise" or "background adaptation". These terms arise due to the perception of an ever-changing field of tiny black and white dots seen in the phenomenon.

Eigengrau is perceived as lighter than a black object in normal lighting conditions, because contrast is more important to the visual system than absolute brightness. For example, the night sky looks darker than Eigengrau because of the contrast provided by the stars.

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Exploding Head Syndrome

Medicine Physiology

Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is a condition in which a person experiences unreal noises that are loud and of short duration when falling asleep or waking up. The noise may be frightening, typically occurs only occasionally, and is not a serious health concern. People may also experience a flash of light. Pain is typically absent.

The cause is unknown. Potential explanations include ear problems, temporal lobe seizure, nerve dysfunction, or specific genetic changes. Potential risk factors include psychological stress. It is classified as a sleep disorder or headache disorder. People often go undiagnosed.

There is no high quality evidence to support treatment. Reassurance may be sufficient. Clomipramine and calcium channel blockers have been tried. While the frequency of the condition is not well studied, some have estimated that it occurs in about 10% of people. Females are reportedly more commonly affected. The condition was initially described at least as early as 1876. The current name came into use in 1988.

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Liquid Breathing

Medicine Medicine/Pulmonology Physiology Scuba diving Physiology/respiratory

Liquid breathing is a form of respiration in which a normally air-breathing organism breathes an oxygen-rich liquid (such as a perfluorocarbon), rather than breathing air.

This requires certain physical properties such as respiratory gas solubility, density, viscosity, vapor pressure, and lipid solubility which some, but not all, perfluorochemicals (perfluorocarbon) have. Thus, it is critical to choose the appropriate PFC for a specific biomedical application, such as liquid ventilation, drug delivery or blood substitutes. The physical properties of PFC liquids vary substantially; however, the one common property is their high solubility for respiratory gases. In fact, these liquids carry more oxygen and carbon dioxide than blood.

In theory, liquid breathing could assist in the treatment of patients with severe pulmonary or cardiac trauma, especially in pediatric cases. Liquid breathing has also been proposed for use in deep diving and space travel. Despite some recent advances in liquid ventilation, a standard mode of application has not yet been established.

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Radiotrophic fungus

Fungi Physiology

Radiotrophic fungi are fungi which appear to perform radiosynthesis, that is, to use the pigment melanin to convert gamma radiation into chemical energy for growth. This proposed mechanism may be similar to anabolic pathways for the synthesis of reduced organic carbon (e.g., carbohydrates) in phototrophic organisms, which convert photons from visible light with pigments such as chlorophyll whose energy is then used in photolysis of water to generate usable chemical energy (as ATP) in photophosphorylation or photosynthesis. However, whether melanin-containing fungi employ a similar multi-step pathway as photosynthesis, or some chemosynthesis pathways, is unknown.

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Roseto effect: close-knit communities experience a reduced rate of heart disease

Medicine Sociology Physiology Medicine/Cardiology Medicine/Society and Medicine

The Roseto effect is the phenomenon by which a close-knit community experiences a reduced rate of heart disease. The effect is named for Roseto, Pennsylvania. The Roseto effect was first noticed in 1961 when the local Roseto doctor encountered Dr. Stewart Wolf, then head of Medicine of the University of Oklahoma, and they discussed, over a couple of beers, the unusually low rate of myocardial infarction in the Italian American community of Roseto compared with other locations. Many studies followed, including a 50-year study comparing Roseto to nearby Bangor. As the original authors had predicted, as the Roseto cohort shed their Italian social structure and became more Americanized in the years following the initial study, heart disease rates increased, becoming similar to those of neighboring towns.

From 1954 to 1961, Roseto had nearly no heart attacks for the otherwise high-risk group of men 55 to 64, and men over 65 had a death rate of 1% while the national average was 2%. Widowers outnumbered widows, as well.

These statistics were at odds with a number of other factors observed in the community. They smoked unfiltered stogies, drank wine "with seeming abandon" in lieu of milk and soft drinks, skipped the Mediterranean diet in favor of meatballs and sausages fried in lard with hard and soft cheeses. The men worked in the slate quarries where they contracted illnesses from gases and dust. Roseto also had no crime, and very few applications for public assistance.

Wolf attributed Rosetans' lower heart disease rate to lower stress. "'The community,' Wolf says, 'was very cohesive. There was no keeping up with the Joneses. Houses were very close together, and everyone lived more or less alike.'" Elders were revered and incorporated into community life. Housewives were respected, and fathers ran the families.

Sleep and creativity

Physiology Physiology/neuro

The majority of studies on sleep creativity have shown that sleep can facilitate insightful behavior and flexible reasoning, and there are several hypotheses about the creative function of dreams. On the other hand, a few recent studies have supported a theory of creative insomnia, in which creativity is significantly correlated with sleep disturbance.

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Trivers–Willard Hypothesis

Physiology Evolutionary biology

In evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology, the Trivers–Willard hypothesis, formally proposed by Robert Trivers and Dan Willard in 1973, suggests that female mammals are able to adjust offspring sex ratio in response to their maternal condition. For example, it may predict greater parental investment in males by parents in "good conditions" and greater investment in females by parents in "poor conditions" (relative to parents in good condition). The reasoning for this prediction is as follows: Assume that parents have information on the sex of their offspring and can influence their survival differentially. While pressures exist to maintain sex ratios at 50%, evolution will favor local deviations from this if one sex has a likely greater reproductive payoff than is usual.

Trivers and Willard also identified a circumstance in which reproducing individuals might experience deviations from expected offspring reproductive value—namely, varying maternal condition. In polygynous species males may mate with multiple females and low-condition males will achieve fewer or no matings. Parents in relatively good condition would then be under selection for mutations causing production and investment in sons (rather than daughters), because of the increased chance of mating experienced by these good-condition sons. Mating with multiple females conveys a large reproductive benefit, whereas daughters could translate their condition into only smaller benefits. An opposite prediction holds for poor-condition parents—selection will favor production and investment in daughters, so long as daughters are likely to be mated, while sons in poor condition are likely to be out-competed by other males and end up with zero mates (i.e., those sons will be a reproductive dead end).

The hypothesis was used to explain why, for example, Red Deer mothers would produce more sons when they are in good condition, and more daughters when in poor condition. In polyandrous species where some females mate with multiple males (and others get no matings) and males mate with one/few females (i.e., "sex-role reversed" species), these predictions from the Trivers–Willard hypothesis are reversed: parents in good condition will invest in daughters in order to have a daughter that can out-compete other females to attract multiple males, whereas parents in poor condition will avoid investing in daughters who are likely to get out-competed and will instead invest in sons in order to gain at least some grandchildren.

"Condition" can be assessed in multiple ways, including body size, parasite loads, or dominance, which has also been shown in macaques (Macaca sylvanus) to affect the sex of offspring, with dominant females giving birth to more sons and non-dominant females giving birth to more daughters. Consequently, high-ranking females give birth to a higher proportion of males than those who are low-ranking.

In their original paper, Trivers and Willard were not yet aware of the biochemical mechanism for the occurrence of biased sex ratios. Eventually, however, Melissa Larson et al. (2001) proposed that a high level of circulating glucose in the mother's bloodstream may favor the survival of male blastocysts. This conclusion is based on the observed male-skewed survival rates (to expanded blastocyst stages) when bovine blastocysts were exposed to heightened levels of glucose. As blood glucose levels are highly correlated with access to high-quality food, blood glucose level may serve as a proxy for "maternal condition". Thus, heightened glucose functions as one possible biochemical mechanism for observed Trivers–Willard effects.

Wild and West published a paper describing a mathematical model built on the Trivers–Willard hypothesis that allows precise predictions of alterations in sex-ratio under different circumstances.

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Biology and political orientation

Biology Politics Psychology Neuroscience Genetics Physiology Physiology/neuro Evolutionary biology Conservatism

A number of studies have found that biology can be linked with political orientation. This means that biology is a possible factor in political orientation but may also mean that the ideology a person identifies with changes a person's ability to perform certain tasks. Many of the studies linking biology to politics remain controversial and unreplicated, although the overall body of evidence is growing.

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