Author Archives: rubinalo

Detection of Future Criminals?

Scientists have discovered that they can detect criminal tendencies by looking at the MRI brain scans. According to Dr. Adrian Raine, a British criminologist, the origins of crime and antisocial behavior can be found in children as young as only three-years old. Psychopaths have physically different brains from “normal” people; in other words, they may be “born to kill.”

Normal vs. Criminal
Brain Scans
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Studies have shown that in the MRI brain scans of criminals, they had approximately 11% less grey matter in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and amygdala than in the brains of non-psychopaths. Grey matter of the brain is important for understanding people’s emotions and is associated with behavior, guilt, remorse, and empathy. People who lack grey matter might have no sense of regret or loss of emotions.

Brain Anatomy
Image from Wikimedia Commons

In one study, three-year olds were measured for their response to fear. These children were given a stimulus and then a small electrical shock. Involuntary physical impulses were then measured when children were presented with the same stimulus, minus the shock. Children who would later grow up to become criminals showed a distinct lack of fear when presented with the stimulus in comparison to other children.

Correlations have been shown between callousness and crime. Nathalie Fontaine, a criminologist studying the brains of the children between the ages of seven and twelve, found that children who tend to be insensitive and unemotional are at greater risk of becoming criminals than children with typical emotions.

While the criminal brain tends to be physiologically different than that of the law-abiding citizen, hope is not lost. By identifying possible criminal behavior earlier on in life, we can minimize further escalation of such behaviors. For these children, positive reinforcement is important. On the other hand, taking food and medicine rich in omega-3 fatty acids can counteract behavioral problems. A study showed that by taking omega-3 and multi-vitamin/mineral, behaviors of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity significantly reduces.

Criminal behavior is certainly not a fixed behavior. As the studies of three-year-olds and other research have shown, many of these brain abnormalities can be measured early on in life. By identifying these types of antisocial behavior of a child, proper approaches can be made before an individual might develop into actual psychopathic tendencies or commit a crime.

The following video, “A Killer’s Brain: Scans Look for Clues to Violence,” shows Dr. Raine’s study of how study of brain scans can detect future criminals:


– Rubina Lo



Which is Healthier? Brown Sugar or White Sugar?

We all know that brown rice healthier than white rice, and whole wheat bread is better than white bread, but is brown sugar better than white sugar?

Raw sugar comes from sugar cane, and it is brown when it is formed due to the presence of molasses. In order to produce refined white sugar, manufacturers bleach the sugar to extract the molasses. By adding molasses back to the white sugar, brown sugar can be produced. Let’s take a look in how brown and white sugar are processed. First, sugar cane field is set on fire to remove dead leaves. Then the sugar canes are harvested and are chopped into miniscule pieces. Next, stalk pieces are crushed to release the sugar cane juice. The juice extract contains some impurities such as dirt, cane pulp, and tiny pieces of the stalk. In order to purify the juice, calcium hydroxide is added to the mixture creating insoluble calcium compounds. With the help of polyacrylamides, the juice is filtered. The purified fluid is simmered until the water evaporates. The remaining “juice” is warmed and once afresh, fine seed crystals are added to help the sugar crystallize. Through this process, the mother liquor, a remaining by-product that contains molasses, is removed. Finally, the sugar cane juice is centrifuged to separate the sugar crystals and form raw sugar.

The video below shows the processing of raw sugar from sugar canes:

Though many people believe that brown sugar is healthier than white sugar, the truth is that they only have marginally different nutritional values. White sugar contains 99.9% pure sucrose, whereas brown sugar contains 97% sucrose, 2% water, and 1% other substances. In 100g of white sugar, there is 387 calories, while brown sugar has 377 calories. Molasses in brown sugar contains a number of minerals, which include calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. However, since only very small amounts of these minerals are found in brown sugar, they do not bring any health advantages to the body. According to the Plant Physiology article, sugar contains very little nutrients, and the elements found in both white sugar and brown sugar does not promote health. Molasses are not healthy and do not contain any important nutrients for the body, in other words, brown sugar cannot be considered healthier than white sugar.

Therefore, the decision between consuming white sugar and brown sugar is a matter of personal preference. While some people favor to consume brown sugar because of its rich taste, others like the pure sweet taste of white sugar. Nonetheless, both types of sugar can be harmful to the body if they are consumed excessively.

– Rubina Lo


Cloning Organs for Transplant?

Although there have been great improvements in medical technology and an obvious increase in the number of donors over the past years, the supply of organs available for transplant is far lower than what we need. An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs. More than 4,300 Canadians are currently waiting for an organ transplant.

We often hear about cloning plants and animals but have you ever imagined that you could clone your organs and store it somewhere safe in case you need a heart or liver transplant? Organ transplants itself are difficult to carry out because firstly, it is hard to find a donor, and secondly, there is no guarantee that your body will accept the new organ due to the rejection of tissues. However, if we could clone organs and produce an endless supply of transplants, people will no longer have to fear not being able get a donor.

So how does cloning organs work?

Figure. 1 Stem Cell Process

First, let’s talk about cloning itself. The most common method of cloning is somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). SCNT involves removing the nucleus from a host’s egg. With the lone nucleus and an empty egg cell, the nucleus can then be fused with the DNA from the organism that is to be cloned. The cell is then incubated; and within a few weeks, the cells will multiply and form a blastocyst (early stage embryo) with almost identical DNA to the original organism. Scientists could theoretically clone organs with SCNT through this process and extracting the stem cells from the blastocyst could produce the desired organ. Nevertheless, coaxing the framework for the stems cells to grow in will require further research.

The video below will further discuss the cloning of organs:

The most obvious benefit of cloning organs is that it is an easy replacement of internal organs and tissues for patients in need of transplants rather than having to wait for suitable organ donors and since the cloned organ contains patient’s own cells and tissue, it will lessen the chance of rejection. Conversely, the biggest issue that arises from this topic is whether it is ethical to kill an embryo in order to produce its stem cells which that can be further cultivated into an organ for transplant purposes.  According to McGill’s Journal of Medicine, a new technique device shows that the manipulation of the cells can be done without killing the embryo during the process. If that’s the case, there will be nothing morally compelled and the process of organ cloning would be ethical to carry out.

While further research and engineering still needs to be made for cloned organs to work on the human body, it is almost certain that most body parts will eventually be replaceable and we will have an unlimited supply of organs for transplant.

– Rubina Lo