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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Welcome to the UC Merced Undergraduate Research Journal, an open access publication of research conducted by undergraduates at the University of California, Merced. 

In October and March, SUBMIT HERE.

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Migrant Worker Serial Killer: Schizophrenia’s Effects on Violence

Migrant workers are susceptible to violence because they are viewed as easier targets dueto their lack of assets within their new land. Between February 1, 1971 and May 19, 1971 inSutter County, California 25 migrant workers were murdered by a man with schizophrenianamed Juan Vallejo Corona. Schizophrenia is a mental illness that is often explained by reducedemotional responses and lack of rationale within decision-making. Schizophrenia is prevalentwithin populations of individuals who have committed violent offenses. However, the reason theterm “schizophrenia” has a concrete definition today is because of the efforts historicalpsychologists such as Eugen Bleuler put in to determining it. “Schizophrenia” as a term hasdeveloped over time and its true meaning today can be understood through observing thedifferent brain systems connected with the illness. Conversely, many years ago the term wassolely understood by the Greek roots Schiz meaning to split and phrene meaning mind.Neuropsychological disturbances in this disorder can be attributed to abnormalities in the frontolimbicsystem, the brain region most responsible for negative emotional reaction to externalstimuli. Schizophrenia has been known to cause violent tendencies in people who are notnormally violent. Juan Corona murdered his victims with a machete and felt no remorse over hisactions. Like most serial killers he targeted a group of individuals who he believed to be vulnerable. These immigrants he murdered had limited resources in America, such as socialconnections and revenue. Since Corona was a labor contractor and the immigrants worked forhim he had a sense of power over them, which added to their vulnerability. This literature reviewfocuses on examining immigrant vulnerability and how Corona’s violent actions were productsof his schizophrenic illness.

Same Sex Couples Influence Their Children: Sexual Orientation & Emotional Well Being

The main purpose of this paper is to provide strong supporting reasons explaining how same sexparents do not influence their children’s sexual orientation and/or emotional well-being. Inaddition, the evidence supporting this claim demonstrates that the influence that same sex parentsdo have on their children is associated by how much love and support is given. Overall, thispaper will review background, context including specific information about same sex parents andif they influence their children’s sexual orientation and/or emotional well-being, and will providelimitations of these studies along.

A Phenomenal, Neurological, and Social Conscious Mind

Many of those in the cognitive science community have neglected consciousness as atopic of rigorous scientific discourse, a neglect which resulted in the disjunction between thephilosophy and science of consciousness. Theorists or researchers often create a misconceptionfor consciousness by considering it exclusively as an abstract phenomenon without anygrounding in neurology. In doing so, they neglect consciousness’ rightful play alongside naturalorder. Others, in contrast, have considered consciousness solely by the neurology, aconsideration that fails to fully capture its robustness. Furthermore, many fail to recognize theimportance of the contingent social aspect of consciousness. Thus, by not closing this gap, thecommunity has created a dis-unified understanding of the most fundamental aspects of thehuman mind. As such, the solution to this so-called “hard problem of consciousness” is toaddress our limited conception of consciousness by bridging this gap between the contingentsocial, phenomenal, and neurological understandings of the mind.

Breaking Youth Behind Bars: A Literature Review What are the Psychological Effects of Incarceration on Youth?

Few conclusions have been made about the psychological effects of incarceration onyoung offenders. However, studies indicate that the current approach of the juvenile justicesystem is not favorable for the development of adolescents. The high prevalence of recidivism(repeat offending), among youth demonstrates the shortcomings of the primary goal of detentioncenters, which is to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents. This brings up questions about the actualimpact imprisonment has on adolescents since the desired outcomes are not being met. Thehostility and isolation regularly experienced in detention centers deprive adolescents ofdeveloping the necessary skills to function effectively within society. While incarceration maybe an immediate solution to halting juvenile criminal behaviors, research continues to highlightthe lasting negative psychological consequences detention centers have on adolescents. Delvingdeeper into the prevalent situations often experienced by juvenile delinquents before, during, andafter incarceration, it can be concluded that imprisonment contributes to the behavioral andemotional problems often found among incarcerated youth. These findings suggest the need for amore developmental and diplomatic approach within the juvenile justice system to provide themost effective treatment for this population.

Possible Social Deficit Improvement in the Autistic

Progressive alignment techniques can be utilized with clinically-diagnosed autistic childrento improve their social cognition, or, more specifically, their ability to recognize differentfacial expressions according to the associated feeling/emotion. Progressive alignmenttechniques (that involve comparison and categorization processes) have been shown tolead to changes in children’s representations of relational structure, allowing for them tomore easily identify more abstract features. In general, intensive, long-term, appliedbehavior treatment has already been shown to improve the cognitive, language, adaptive,and academic skills of children with autism. Further, other research has proven that theamygdala is also involved in the process of behavior reinforcement through rewards (orpositive reinforcement). This literature review, more specifically, aims to both A) supportthe idea that there is a positive correlation between progressive alignment methods andmildly autistic children with social deficits and B) demonstrate specific, potentialexperimental methods to support such a relationship

Gender Cues and Acceptance of Supreme Court Decisions: An Experimental Study on Source Cues

The issue of gender, politics, and the judiciary has widely been reviewed. Previous research hasobserved judges craft both gender motivated and other self interested decisions. Rather thanconducting an examination into possible gender motivated decision making; an experimentalinvestigation is employed to examine the acceptance rates of perceived gender motivateddecisions by the Supreme Court. This study employs the use of cues (information shortcuts)presented to participants as to the gender of the justice in a Supreme Court decision regardingwomen’s rights in order to measure differences in acceptance rates. It is theorized that arelationship exists between a perceived gender motivated decision and a decline in acceptancerates of specific decision; or in other words when it appears a judge is acting in a self interestedmanner through this will yield lower rates of publics’ acceptance of the Court’s decision. Theprevious theory is advanced further to suggest as to when a judge issues an opinion or behaves ina way that goes against general expectations the actions are perceived by the public to be morecredible. This is demonstrated in the study below which finds when a female Supreme CourtJustice issues a majority opinion that is against women’s rights the decision enjoys a statisticallysignificant greater rate of acceptance; than a male justice issuing the same decision. This findingparallels with previous research across multiple disciplines of political science, psychology, andcommunications on credibility of a communicator (Supreme Court Justice) and the use of a cue(gender).

Longitudinal Study of Many Neurological Disorders’ Connections to Neuropsychological Impairments

The brain is what gives individuals their unique personality and cognitive ability, sowhen the brain is damaged, a person's cognitive capacity may also be damaged. The cognitiveimpairment is specific to the type of brain damage and can greatly vary from person to person.There has been no widespread convention for what tests have been used to analyze eachcognitive domain’s impairment, making it difficult to compare previous results stemming fromthe different neurological disorders. Our objective is to use a standardized battery of cognitivetests, taken on a large time scale, to analyze the effect that different brain disorders have on longtermcognitive ability and to assess the cognitive trends between a wide array of neurologicaldisorders and the connections that they have to each cognitive area. The study will track a largegroup of healthy subjects who have taken the standardized battery, the Cogstate Cognigramassessment. Should the subjects be diagnosed with any neurological disorder in the future, theywill be asked to retake the assessment at one-year intervals, collecting data on each cognitivedomain’s impairment and the status of the neurological damage. Our findings will advance thefield's understanding of the relationships between specific cognitive domains and theneurological disorders that impair them.

Diagnostic Issues and Gender Differences of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

This literature review looks at different studies on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) and the findings on gender differences. Many studies have analyzed male and femaleADHD behaviors, cognitive functioning, IQ, task performance, and parent/teacher and selfreportedratings. Most studies have found that the results for gender differences vary due to thevarying sample selection methods that they use, which include clinical and community samples,sample size, culture, and age. Results have been compared, and most studies have shown thatsimply using one sample type limits the generalization of the results. Also, some studies focusedon different behaviors exhibited by and reported for children and adults with ADHD, and usedthose behaviors as a criteria for diagnosing and comparing and contrasting gender differences.Some of the main findings reported by most studies were that males externalize their ADHDbehaviors while females internalize theirs. Other studies have reported that females and maleswith ADHD show no impairment differences, but that they are significantly more impaired thanmales and females without ADHD. The discrepancies in these study findings are compared andevaluated on the significance that they have to the higher prevalence of ADHD in males, and suggestions on how to make future studies and diagnosis better are given.

Double Entendre: A Glimpse into the Meanings of Slave Songs

As seen in history, traditional slave songs also known as “Negro spirituals” have garnereda very significant role in African American culture and society. Historically, the tones andmelodies heard in the antebellum south were founded on the metamorphosis of African folklore,polytheism and consistent exposure to Eurocentric-Christianity. The forced cohabitation of bothcultures, African and European, produced a painful and yet rhythmic ode to spirituality andescapism. The allegorical duality of various hymns such as Steal away to Jesus and Go down,Moses, demonstrate the double entendre of lyric and diction as to illicit steadfastness and a senseof escape in the heart of the slave. Therefore, through double meaning and metaphor can saidNegro spirituals accurately address the cultural melancholy, optimism, entrapment and escape ofthis racially marginalized group.

Empowerment through Empathy

The field of subaltern studies emerges from the progression of historical studies and anintegration of indigenous literature and research into the formally recognized academic scope ofhistory. This integration is the beginning of a greater movement towards better understanding theperipheral sides of history, the stories of the marginalized. In this paper, I analyze the impact ofpost-colonial literature from the side of marginalized and its effect on our greater understandingof the universality of the human condition. I find that through balancing an understanding of therelationship between “center” and “periphery”, a strong sense of empathy emerges, stemmingfrom the ultimate transcendence between these two worlds through breaking down cultural andhistorical barriers and creating room for the voices that never had a chance to be heard but carrythe heaviest impact in harboring global unity.

Water: The Future’s Fuel

Fossil fuel burning vehicles contribute to atmospheric pollution and the continuoustemperature increase that affects the entire planet. This occurs because of the accumulation ofwhat are known as Green House Gases (GHGs), which are responsible for trapping the energy ofthe Sun here on Earth. Because the pool of GHGs is becoming denser due to the burning of fossilfuels, among other contributors, the amount of energy that is trapped consequently increases,resulting in an increase in planetary temperature (The Green House Effect). If the burning offossil fuels is responsible for the increase of GHGs in the atmosphere, the logical thing to do is tofind a substitute that does not produce GHGs. An obvious replacement is hydrogen (H2), a cleanburning gas with no GHGs as byproducts. The only thing hindering the transition to H2 is its’method of production. In today’s day and age, technology has finally reached a point wherewater (H2O) can be used for the production of H2, which makes it our fuel for the future.

John Locke cautions rhetoricians against the use of empty words

While John Locke presents a novel concept coined “empty words,” he minimallydescribes it in his essay “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding” originally published in1689, then re-printed in books like “The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical times tothe Present” by Bizzell and Herzberg. In addition, he daringly challenges the definition ofrhetoric and its relationship to the use of empty words. This essay attempts to define and exploresthe existence of empty words in the various definitions of rhetoric proposed by the followinggreat philosophers: Aristotle, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, Francis Bacon, Longinus,Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (Quintilian), and of course John Locke.

Sleep Deprivation vs. Alcohol Consumption: Effects on Motor Skills

This paper examines the motor impairment seen in sleep deprivation versus alcoholintoxication and determines if the two can be compared or not. There are two opposingideas in the current literature. The first is that alcohol intoxication and sleep deprivationcannot be compared, and the second idea is that the two can be compared. After using theUniversity of California, Merced’s Online Library database, PsycINFO, studies were foundthat compared motor impairment of subjects who were intoxicated to those who weresleep deprived. Through surveying all relevant articles, it was concluded that motorimpairment in sleep-deprived subjects and subjects that are intoxicated could becompared.

The Misdiagnosis of the Doppelganger Diseases Understanding Similarities in Disease and Treatment by Infliximab

Due to their frequent misidentification for other ailments, a lay audience is likely to be unfamiliar with Early-Onset Sarcoidosis (EOS) and Blau Syndrome (BS), their presentation, their nuances, or developments in their treatments. EOS and BS are two genetic disorders that have often gone misdiagnosed for other conditions such as Juvenile Arthritis or Sarcoidosis due to their similar presentations of granulomas and inflammation. While these two particular disorders confer the same symptoms as their counterparts, the causes for their mutations are subtly defined. It's only been in recent years that the true culprit causing these disorders has been found and addressed. Recent strides in medicine have been taken to properly identify these disorders from their imposters and treat their underlying causes.  An antibody known as Infliximab has shown untapped potential in the treatment for EOS and BS. It was only until recently that doctors and researchers questioned Infliximab's ability to treat EOS and BS, as this antibody is well known for treating other inflammatory conditions such as Crohn’s Disease. Multiple case studies have shown promising efficacy when treating EOS and BS with Infliximab, often resulting in total reduction of symptoms when using Infliximab alone. Other case studies involving Sarcoidosis and Infliximab have produced little to no progress, further establishing the distinct differences between EOS and BS from their doppelgangers.

Regeneration of lost brain tissues by genetic manipulation of nou-darake in Schmidtea mediterranea planarians

Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease,affect up to 40 million people worldwide. These diseases in humans work by slowly degradingneural structures, but some species, such as planarians, can combat such afflictions by theirrobust regenerative properties. While it is known that the progressive loss of neural structures arecommon in these diseases, it is not known whether regeneration of neural structures can restorethe brain as it was. Our objective is to inhibit nou-darake (ndk), a gene associated withectopic brain formation, in genetically modified Schmidtea mediterranea planarians andanalyze both partial and full neural regeneration. Our general strategy starts by thedevelopment of three different planarian models utilizing RNA interference (RNAi): (1) SmedTOR(RNAi)planarians which exhibit only wound-healing abilities similar to humans, (2) Smedapc(RNAi)planarians which have disrupted anterior-posterior (A-P) polarity regenerating onlyposterior ends after amputation, and (3) Smed-βcatenin-B(RNAi) planarians which have disruptedA-P polarity regenerating only anterior ends after amputation. Afterwards, each planarian modelwill be given Smed-ndk(RNAi) and observed intact and after amputation. The proposed study willnot only present detailed spatiotemporal images of neural regeneration in multiple planarianmodels, but propose the planarian as a model organism for future neurodegenerative research. Our goal is to further the understanding of both partial and full neural regeneration in order tobring forth new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.

Virtual Reality in the Medical Field

The objective is to analyze the use of the emerging 3D computer technology of VirtualReality in the use of relieving pain in physically impaired conditions such as burn victims,amputees, and phantom limb patients, during therapy and medical procedures. Virtualtechnology generates a three dimensional visual virtual world in which enables interaction.Comparison will be made between the emerging technology of the Virtual Reality and methodsusually used, which are the use of medicine. Medicine have been the main use in relieving painin these surgical and medical procedures, however since people gain tolerance to the medicineand higher dosage could lead to addiction, therefore this method of Virtual Reality Technologyhave been developed in order to lessen the harmful effect and possibly improve in relieving thepain. The review will present the notable researches, clinical trials, and developments of thetechnology in the medical area. This paper will outline the research and current technology ofVirtual Reality technology and the role in modern health care. The review showed that theVirtual Reality technology is applicable in the modern healthcare and showed significantimprovement in pain reduction during the procedure. From the fast-paced development of newtechnology, much more improvements could be observed in the future.

Antibiotic Resistance Factors and Alternatives to Antimicrobial Growth Factors within Animal Husbandry

The repercussions of antibiotic resistance in humans give scientists a vivid picture of the effectsof microbial evolution. These repercussions can be felt economically and scientifically as thedemand for stronger antibiotics grows stronger, yet the availability for such an effect remainslow. Citizens must pay more money in order to access antibiotics from their healthcareproviders; however, if treatment is not completed, bacteria become increasingly immune toantibiotics, closing off pathways to new antibiotics that are able to combat the bacterialimmunity. Antibiotic resistance can stem from other areas aside from a doctor’s office, wherethey are used not only for treating bacterial infections, but antibiotics that are utilized also to killbacteria in agriculture and in animal husbandry, which remnants fall into the hands of theconsumer when they consume the animal product. This review therefore looks at severalmechanisms of such resistance transfer as well as alternatives to antibiotics to decrease theamount of antibiotic resistance in humans.

Durotaxis Directed Cell Migration for Enhanced Vascular Stent Endothelialization

Vascular stents often cause adverse physiological responses as a result of inadequate endothelialcoverage. The new generation of vascular stent designs includes substratums with nanopatternedtopographies that enhance cell functionality for rapid endothelialization. Quick endothelializationcan be achieved by promoting cell migration rate and guiding cell migration direction, factorsaccomplishable by durotaxis, stiffness directed cell motility. However, the stiffness gradientrequired to induce durotaxis has not yet been implemented in materials viable for vascular stents.Our objective is to improve upon existing stent designs through durotaxis by studyingendothelial cell migration on biodegradable chitosan modified with nanopatternedtopography and gradated stiffness. We will fabricate three nanostructured substrates with 400nm pitch rectangular grooves and ridges possessing different stiffness gradients of 1 Pa/um, 10Pa/um, and 100 Pa/um and seed them with human umbilical vein and human aortic endothelialcells. We expect our nanostructured substrates will outperform our only topographicallymodified (no stiffness gradient) control and flat surface control. The proposed study will not onlyoffer a potential solution for improved endothelialization but also offer a proof of concept forintegration of durotaxis to vascular stent designs..

Human Adaptations: Free divers

Freediving has been around for thousands of years and was only way to dive until the inventionof oxygen tanks in the 19th century. Around the world, people dove for goods such as pearls, andtoday people freedive for sport. Divers stretch the limit of their body and mind’s capabilitiesthrough psychological adaptations from thermal, respiratory, and cardiovascular responses.Findings conclude that thermal adaptations are a similar process to cold adaptive response. Withthe implementation of wetsuits, this adaptation has disappeared. Other adaptations includerespiratory tolerance of the build up of carbon dioxide, different flows of gas exchange, andincreased lung volume capacity. Cardiovascular changes in freedivers are attributed to the divingresponse, or the innate animalistic ability to survive when in water. These innate responsesinclude: a decreased heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and decreased blood flow to the limbs.This response is more pronounced after only two weeks of breath-hold training. Freediving,although adaptive, is dangerous and causes issues ranging from dizziness to death. There aremany environmental adaptations, but little research and conclusive evidence of geneticadaptations involved.

Rejection of the Westernization Model of Eating Disorders

Current theory in clinical psychology holds that eating disorders (EDs) arise from theWestern ideal of bodily thinness (Keith, 2011, p. 214). If this is true, the growing prevalence ofEDs in non-Western countries likely follows from the expansion of Westernization and theWestern thinness ideal. However, if incorrect, this theory might adversely influence thediagnosis and treatment of non-Western patients with EDs who seek treatment from Westerndoctors. If culture influences the perception or definition of “normal” eating patterns, Westernphysicians might overlook culture-specific symptoms of non-Western patients. Indeed, much ofthe cross-cultural research on this subject compares populations based on only a few diagnostictests for ED symptoms, or studies Western populations from a Western viewpoint. The currentliterature evaluates past research on the validity of the Westernization model for EDs, as well asthe influence of this framework on testing measures.