from the world's big
Steven Castellano Reflects on his Background
Steven Castellano is a senior at High Technology High School in Lincroft, New Jersey, and is one of Big Think's "10 under 25" young experts.
At High Tech, he was the vice-president of the Key Club, vice-president of the National Honor Society, and a member of the senior class council. He also served as the secretary for the New Jersey state Technology Student Association that works to promote technological literacy in schools throughout the country. He has developed a deep interest in behavioral neuroscience research throughout high school and has worked on projects investigating the effects of acupressure on alertness and visual attention skills.
His research has won first prize in the MIT THINK competition, the Delaware Valley Science Fair, the Jersey Shore Science Fair, and the New Jersey Academy of Science. In addition, Steven has been named an Intel Science Talent Search semifinalist and has presented his research to the American Junior Academy of Science division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Human Factors and Ergonomics division of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association. Most recently, his research has been published in Imagine magazine.
In 2009, Steven and his teammates won $20,000 in the 2009 Moody's Mega Math Challenge, an applied mathematics competition sponsored by the Moody's Foundation and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. During the challenge, his team had 14 hours to analyze and submit a paper on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The team was also featured on Bloomberg Radio's Taking Stock with Pimm Fox and Karen Moscow. His paper and presentation can be viewed at 2009 Winning Papers.
After graduating from High Tech, Steven plans to attend Columbia College of Columbia University to study neuroscience and physics.
Question: Where do you think you math and science talent comes from?
Steven Castellano: So right now my interests in college are neuroscience and physics and I do find that interesting that my parents are a psychologist and an electrical engineer. I mean, it's ironic there. But I remember growing up and I was thinking, I don't want to be an engineer, and I don't know why I felt that. I felt maybe I felt there was a more narrow mindset. I mean, since then I've discovered that, that they actually have a good thought-process behind it, after taking engineering classes in high school. But I remember growing up I don't think they pushed me in any specific direction. I think I just kind of found that path on my own, however they did definitely help me in finding a direction. I know when I was in like, grammar school I was in third grade and when you're in math classes, if you're ahead of the class you just get more worksheets, it would kind of be boring, like repetitive, work and it's at no fault of the teachers, because there's people that they are trying to encourage to work and you wanna be more apathetic, so they have a wide range of people to cover and it's a big classroom, so, I mean, it's just a crazy environment.
So I remember we went to visit a private school where they had small classes of 15 and teachers were talking about what types of math they were doing and the types of books they were reading in English class and I was really interested. And back then, I was in like third grade, so I wasn't like "oh private schools are really expensive" so I said, "Oh, can I go here?" and my parents, they actually, you know, after just this impromptu visit, they were like, "well most kids don't want to switch schools, they want to stay where they are, but that's really great for him." So they managed to allow me to switch to the private school in fourth grade, so, I mean, they've definitely been encouraging me. And even after I went, starting in fourth grade, I mean it's kind of like where you sink or swim you know, and you're not used to doing as much work in the public school system so when it first came, the first day and we got lots of homework and tests to study for, that's where I could have either not worked hard or work hard, and I remember I had a rough start, like the first two weeks, but they were just like you know, "you have to keep up with the work," and that's were I was able to really be successful. So I definitely think they have a positive influence on me and I find it very interesting that I'm pursuing similar areas of interest as they did, but I don't really ever feel that they pushed me towards science or towards medicine.
Question: What was your first science project?
Steven Castellano: My first science project I remember it was fifth grade, and it was on symbiosis. And I read about how earthworms help plants in the soil, and I found that really interesting, so just to kind of discover it for yourself, even though you hear about it, to have a plant and put soil--one with regular soil and one with the earthworms in it-and see that the plant is actually more stable, more productive, that there is like a mutually beneficial relationship going on, that was a really interesting project for me.
And then after like exploring that I just I mean I was really interested in optical illusions. I think it was like Bring Your Relative To School Day, and I brought my grandpa and we were doing all kinds of optical illusions, and that was like my thing for some reason. So I really was just interested in them, how like the brain can misperceive certain things, or how you can interpret things different ways and it's not always clear-cut. And then, from there like in seventh or eighth grade, from that interest I then went to high school and that's kind of what I started researching. It's a great program at High Tech, where they want you to do research like for one year, and I know a lot of good articles I was looking into have to do it like visual attention and stuff like that. My first research project sophomore year had to do with like how video games affected visual attention skills and I found that they were helpful but I also found that video games have tons of negative side effects like stress and addictivity and stuff like that, so I guess that's kind of what encourage me and maybe look into acupressure as like an alternative means to train increased visual attention skills. So I think it was always some sort of I guess neuroscience and visual systems starting in like seventh grade.
Recorded on: May 8, 2009
The scientist notices a parallel between his parents’ careers and his own interests.
A time for sleep<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="Mt29uUqI" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="931343dee3c02121445e51e94ba22446"> <div id="botr_Mt29uUqI_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/Mt29uUqI-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/Mt29uUqI-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Previous studies had already suggested a link between persistent nightmares in childhood and psychosis and borderline personality disorder (BPD) by adolescence, but researchers at the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology wanted to see if a similar connection existed between these mental disorders and other childhood behavioral sleep problems.</p><p>To do this, they scoured data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, a longitudinal cohort study that followed approximately 14,000 children born in Avon, England, in the early 1990s. The study followed the children for more than 13 years. During that time, mothers filled out questionnaires asking about the children's lives. Factors looked at included housing, parenting, nutrition, physical health, mental wellbeing, environmental exposures, and so on. </p><p>The cohort study inquired about sleep routines, sleep duration, and awakening frequency when the children were 6, 18, and 30 months old, and then again at 3.5, 4.8, and 5.8 years. It also assessed mental health in adolescence using semi-structured interviews, such as the Psychosis-Like Symptom Interview.</p><p>"We know that adolescence is a key developmental period to study the onset of many mental disorders, including psychosis or BPD. This is because of particular brain and hormonal changes which occur at this stage," <a href="https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/psychology/marwaha-steven.aspx" target="_blank">Steven Marwaha</a>, professor of psychiatry at Birmingham and senior author on the study, <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200701125431.htm" target="_blank">said in a release</a>. "Sleep may be one of the most important underlying factors—and it's one that we can influence with effective, early interventions, so it's important that we understand these links."</p><p>After compiling the data, the researchers discovered an association between children with irregular sleeping patterns and teenagers with <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/psychosis/about-psychosis/" target="_blank">psychotic experiences</a>—that is, episodes when the person perceives reality differently than those around them. Even when depression at 10 years old was considered as a mediating factor, their findings still suggested "a specific pathway between these childhood sleep problems and adolescent psychotic experiences." </p><p>Toddlers with shorter nighttime sleep duration and late bedtimes were likewise associated with a <a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder/index.shtml" target="_blank">borderline personality disorder</a>—a disorder marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-images, and behaviors—in their teenage years. Depression at age 10 did not mediate this particular association, suggesting a separate and more specific pathway. </p>
A more restful tomorrow<p>While the sample size was large and mental health was assessed with a validated interview, there nevertheless remain limitations to this data. For starters, sleep habits were based on mothers' reports. Because they came from memory, versus a more direct observation method such as actigraphy, these data may be prone to imperfect recollection and reporting error. There are also many confounders that could be secretly nudging the results, such as family conditions, prenatal medicines, and a host of environmental factors. Finally, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024884/#:~:text=Sleep%20difficulties%20in%20youth%20with,fear%20of%20dark%20%5B13%5D." target="_blank">the relationship between sleep problems and mental disorders</a> is both complex and two-way.</p><p>As such, the study shows an association between poor childhood sleep later mental disorders but does not prove a causal link. Parents need not worry that a string of nightmares or the eternal struggle settle into bed will be the first ingredients in a witches' brew of debilitating mental disorders. The goal of the study, the researchers point out, is not to create undue worry but improve our ability to recognize the signs of at-risk children and deliver necessary interventions earlier.</p><p>"The results of this study could have important implications for helping practitioners identify children who might be at higher risk for psychotic experiences or BPD symptoms in adolescence, and potentially lead to the design of more effectively targeted sleep or psychological interventions to prevent the onset or attenuate these mental disorders," Isabel Morales-Muñoz, the study's lead researcher, <a href="https://www.healio.com/news/psychiatry/20200702/childhood-sleep-problems-linked-to-adolescent-psychosis-borderline-personality-disorder#:~:text=Sleep%20problems%20during%20early%20childhood,study%20published%20in%20JAMA%20Psychiatry." target="_blank">told Healio Psychiatry</a><u>.</u></p><p>If a parent reading this is worried that their child's sleep patterns are deleterious, the take away should not be despair over an unyielding fate. It should be to seek professional help as soon as possible to begin improving sleep duration and quality. Even if you aren't worried, it's worth remembering that childhood experiences lay the foundation for a lifetime of salubrious sleeping habits. It's so much more than beauty rest.</p>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>