Projects on 'bath salts' and the link between fetal alcohol exposure and diabetes take other honors
An exploration of electronic "screen time" and sleep on mood, memory and learning was given the top Addiction Science Award at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)-the world's largest science competition for high school students. The awards are coordinated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Friends of NIDA, a coalition that supports NIDA's mission. The Intel ISEF Addiction Science Awards were presented at a ceremony Thursday night at the Phoenix Convention Center.
First place distinction was awarded to Zarin Ibnat Rahman, a high school junior at Brookings High School in Brookings, S.D., for her project, The At-Risk Maturing Brain: Effects of Stress Paradigms on Mood, Memory and Cognition in Adolescents and the Role of the Prefrontal Cortex. The 16 year-old hypothesized that excessive screen time with computers, phones and other electronic devices serves as a stressor ultimately affecting mood, academic performance and poor decision making. She asked 67 teens -- divided into two groups -- to take a series of tests measuring factors such as use of electronic devices, sleep patterns, anxiety, mood, and attention. She concluded that excessive screen time shapes adolescents' sleep patterns, compromising academic success and emotional health. Rahman noted that electronic devices are tools, and like tools, they can be used to build or destroy. She hopes teens will re-think the amount of time they spend on these devices after reading about her project.
"This young scientist identified important risk factors that can cause a teen to stumble on his or her way to adulthood," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "By taking a comprehensive look at how the developing teenage brain responds to various stressors of modern teenage life, she was able to make the link between excessive use of electronic devices to sleep deprivation and its consequences."
The second place distinction went to two 17-year olds, Emory Morris Payne and Zohaib Majaz Moonis of the Bancroft School in Worcester, Mass. Their project, The Effect of Ethanol on Beta Cell Development in Zebrafish, made a unique link between alcohol exposure during fetal development and type 1 diabetes. After exposing Zebrafish embryos to increasing concentrations of ethanol (a pure form of alcohol), the team observed the health and function of pancreatic beta cells, which are needed to produce insulin. As the alcohol concentrations increased, more beta cells became degraded. Poor beta cell functioning in the pancreas is directly linked to diabetes, leading the team to conclude there might be a link between alcohol use during pregnancy and type 1 diabetes. Moonis has just graduated from high school and plans to attend New York University; Payne will be a high school senior this fall.