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What We're Reading

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Hello readers! We are deep into midterm season… so why not give your brain a break from the lecture notes? The BMSA Communications team has found some interesting content, here is what we’re reading:

Engineered Mini Brain Models Show Patterns of Activity That Resemble Babies’

Contributor Claire Millard

Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Scientists have engineered a reconstruction of the developing brain in the form of miniature ‘brain-like blobs’. With the rise of stem cell reprogramming techniques, scientists have created cerebral organoids that may provide us with a way to look inside the ‘black box’ that is the human brain. Recently, there have been patterns of neural activity recorded in these organoids that resemble those found in the brains of babies. This research has also found that the developmental age of these cerebral organoids can be predicted using an algorithm with astonishing reliability. This is very promising for the future use of these mini brains in research. However, these promising findings do not come without their criticisms. Questions of the ethical treatment of cerebral organoids and concerns regarding the premature excitement caused by these model brains remain. There is still a lot to be discovered before the vast unknown of the human brain is uncovered. 

Using Self-Defense to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Contributor Simi Juriasingani

Courtesy of

With the rising incidence of sexual assault across the globe, and the continued lack of convictions in reported cases, there is a need for greater access to therapy and novel approaches to manage the PTSD that victims may experience. This article features the story of a sexual assault survivor and her experience with self-defense classes as a part of her therapy. Case studies and research on the pros and cons of this approach are woven throughout the piece. The benefits of self-defense training in this context are due to a mix of controlled exposure to the threat, empowerment through redefining traumatic memories and gaining tools to combat dangerous situations. However, some psychologists are wary of this approach because it has the potential to revictimize if it's handled incorrectly. Non-governmental organizations like IMPACT train survivors in a manner that is sensitive to their experience; however, improper and  inadequate training is increasing in likelihood due to the commercialization of self-defense classes. While self-defense training is emerging as a therapeutic tool that may help some sexual assault survivors, it is evident that standardization and collaboration with mental health professionals will be esssential for this approach to be truly effective.

The blind and visually impaired can help researchers by getting their genes tested

Contributor Si-Cheng Dai

Courtesy of

Ruanne Vent-Schmidt is a vision scientist and PhD candidate affected by a harrowing disease: retinitis pigmentosa, which leads to eventual blindness. In the article, Vent-Schmidt tells us her story and why she advocates for the 2.2 billion people suffering from retinal impairment to undergo gene testing. By participating in a registry, patients can get their genes tested for their particular disease — knowing the genetic cause of such impairments can allow for gene therapy trials to take up the mantle. So far, 250 genes have been found to contribute to inherited retinal disease and gene therapy trials for retinitis pigmentosa, achromatopsia, and age-related macular degeneration have begun, among others. Perhaps a cure lies in wait for those persistent enough to find it.

The race to create a perfect lie detector – and the dangers of succeeding

Contributor: Ramtin Hakimjavadi

Courtesy of

This article is dull - that was a lie! Okay, I apologize, please do not scroll away… This piece from The Guardian is an intriguing read about the emergence of accurate lie detection technologies. The implications for society as they leak into the private sector and within government have become pressing issues. Lie detectors have long been sought out through human history with little success. Today, startups have already begun offering lie detection services thanks to significant advances in brain-scanning technologies and artificial intelligence (AI). Of course, with any injection of AI into modern society comes ethical dilemmas; to what extent should companies like Uber and FedEx - customers for these lie detection services - trust an AI entity that judges human honesty? More broadly, how would the knowledge of flawless lie detection change the way individuals behave in society? To think that this would bring about a utopian society is naïve. Read this article to learn more about human dishonesty and how it reveals itself, the emergence of accurate lie detection technology, and the dangers that these advances could unleash on society.

Doctor...who? A second-year student works through imposter syndrome 

Contributor: Vicky Chang

Courtesy of

This med student's storytelling really stood out to me. As of late, I've felt that as an undergraduate student, we're so caught up in midterms, extracurriculars, and just trying to build a profile that will get us into medical school.  We hardly give a second's thought as to what it will be like when (if) we get there. In this article, Lauren Joseph, a second year medical student, sheds some light on her continued journey to see physicians as "we" instead of "they," as she struggles with imposter syndrome. In this truly captivating piece that relates back to one of your favourite childhood films, Lauren shares her experiences. She talks about practicing clinical skills on patient-actors, performing physical exams on real world ones, and she gives her thoughts on feeling as though she doesn’t belong all along the way. It was certainly intriguing to read about someone’s story leading up to the turning point from students to respected physicians. This is very much worth breaking out of the endless studying cycle for midterms and giving it a read.

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