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  1. Edith’s STEAM project focuses on the objective of “Explain how sensory cells translate stimulus into action potentials” through looking at how nicotine affects brain and other body processes. When nicotine consumed, the molecule can bind to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the brain, which are typically receptors that bind to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. When nicotine binds nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, the following neurotransmitters are released: dopamine, which gives the user a euphoric feeling, norephedrine and acetylcholine, which causes the user to be more attentive and have increased cognitive function, and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and certain endorphins, which can reduce stress and anxiety in the user. Nicotine can also gave some non-brain associated effects such as increasing blood pressure, increasing respiratory rate, increasing heart rate, causing a small increase in blood sugar levels, and releasing adrenaline from the adrenal glands, which accounts for the stimulating effect nicotine can have. When users of nicotine stop using nicotine, withdrawal symptoms can occur which include anxiety or feeling stressed, irritability, difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, having trouble sleeping, and having depressive feelings. Because nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine, it is thought that nicotine users who stop using nicotine can struggle with mood disorders.
    Edith’s artwork illustrates these concepts by first showing the molecular structure with nicotine, along with the plant nicotine comes from. Below it is a cigarette that has very body systems drawn on it with a skull and crossbones. This represents that nicotine can have harmful effects on many body systems.

    Shannon Powers

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