If this is the first time you’re reading my blog – Welcome!

If not, you know that I’m … ummm … mature and that I’ve been restless enough to study many branches of medicine.

My current credential is in psychiatry, and like Rodney Dangerfield, we shrinks “Don’t get no respect.” Read more on Researchers Are Short-Sighted When Looking At Data…

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Okay, let me get this straight.  We are looking for new science to stop an aged population from getting Alzheimer’s and getting dependent on others for that structured “senile” type care that is expensive and — let’s be honest — usually not enough to keep people really productive.

The first of the two studies reported here is basically saying that people with lower amounts of measurable beta amyloid marker have more cognitive decline over the nine years studied.  Another report on the elusive “marker” for Alzheimer’s.  If someone can tell with a blood test that you got it, what are you going to do? There are several drug companies, presumably including the folks at Avid Pharmaceuticals, who sponsored the second study, for a molecule that binds to the protein that ends up in microscopically visible “tangles” that show up in biopsies and autopsies of Alzheimer’s type brain tissue. It is also reported that educated people are less likely to get Alzheimer’s.  Frankly, this sort of finding is usually attributed to a “use it or lose it” analogy to the physical workout.  In some ways this is true. I remember some lovely studies when I was in France that led La Nation to tell seniors to slowly practice memorizing their shopping lists, and they did indeed seem to improve their recent memory.

I also remember a study I suspect the rest of the world has forgotten, called the “Minneapolis Nun Study.” Read more on Misguided Research Is Dithering Around Alzheimer’s Again…


Research is something that many people find suspicious.  The mass public doesn’t know what makes “good” research and what is just plain manipulation.

Most people know that studying a lot of cases gives a more accurate picture than studying a single case – or just a few cases.  But speaking as a formally trained and professional researcher, let me tell you that – contrary to conventional wisdom — it is really hard to make any sense of any kind of statistics that study a big-lot-much-HUGE number of human people.

Read more on Beware Of Governments Bearing Statistics…

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A senior woman scientist once told me that when she came of age in the 50s, women who wanted to look younger or who wanted softer skin could only choose lanolin compounds.  Lanolin — that stuff on sheep wool that makes your hands feel smooth after you have been — well, petting living sheep if you are the kind of person who gets to do that.

Disney's Minnie Mouse Halloween Package

Minnie Mouse Makeup

There have been lots of advances since then.  I do remember at least once, long ago, being shopping with a woman physician who had an interest in such products. In France, of course. Any docs I know here in the states are usually so submerged in the system, so overworked, that they are lucky if they have time to wash their faces. But back to France.  It was clear to me from her shopping habits that this woman, a distinguished scientific researcher, suspended her level of requirements for “good science” when she bought beauty preparations.

There was a good reason for this. There wasn’t any.

Oh, I had worked with her in medical school putting eye shadow on mice. Now although that may sound a bit bizarre, I must tell you that this was research.

Through a deal which I doubt anyone other than my glamorous professor could have put together, we got a contract to test cosmetics to make sure they were safe before the government would let them be put on the general market. Read more on Putting Beauty Treatments To The Test…

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My husband told me something that I thought was a joke, but he convinced me it was serious.

During “drive-time” he heard an advertisement for a medical marijuana dispensary on the radio.  Among the many conditions it promoted marijuana as helping was eating disorders.

My thoughts went immediately to stoners with the midnight munchies making an emergency run to 7-11 for Cheetos or the late-night drive through at Burger King. Read more on Standardizing and Regulating Medical Marijuana — Who Are We Doing It For?…

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Excuse me while I curse — “Oy vays mir!”

Cell Phones and Brain Cancer

Cell Phones and Brain Cancer

That is a pretty mild ethnic expletive in Jewish language as cursing goes and the translation is something like “oh, woe is me.”

I’m sure you’ve heard worse elsewhere.  However, this is engrained deeply in the limbic — deep, reflexive — areas of my brain, I suppose, since sometimes I forget that there is nobody around me who could possibly understand it.   It does not call upon any real or imagined universal powers.  Yet my grandmother of blessed memory spoke it often, when she thought someone around her was being really stupid, and could potentially be harmful — like a butcher who had slaughtered her chicken incorrectly  and we maybe could end up with some bile in the preparation. So by hearing this, you can be assured that I have surely been secreting bile. Read more on Brain Cancer and Cell Phones (Or Not?)…

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I — and everybody — seems to enjoy it when neurochemical research links the seemingly distant mysteries of the brain to real everyday behavior, to feel-good acts, and such.

I am not sure that it is the stuff people should spend their whole careers on.  But a single association  between neurochemistry and holding hands has been enough for a previous posting.

Now the association between feelings of gratitude and lowered cortisol has delighted me so there is a smile on my face. I guess this is because it validates some of the pure observation from life kind of anecdotal advice that my grandmother of blessed memory would come up with.  Things like “Roughage is good for you,” which later became “eat

The idea that gratitude is good for brain chemistry is so delightful and potentially validating for otherwise not too tough to validate behavior, that it has been joyously co-opted by coaches.  They are an entrepreneurial lot who never bother with footnotes, not any more than they do with credentials.  I mean, there is no regulation known to me about using the nomenclature “coach.”  But on the other hand, they build careers and get paid with the results of their ministrations, a situation which I believe would send a fair amount of physicians to the poorhouse. Read more on Lower Cortisol By Giving Thanks…

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No small part of the life of psychiatrists (and other doctors, I suppose) is made up of writing papers and reports.  A rather astonishing part of this are reports that are supposed to predict other people’s behavior.

This is basically impossible.  I remember hearing and never forgetting, early in my training, a supposedly ironclad rule of behavior prediction.

“If they did it before, they will do it again.”

Sometimes it had slightly different forms, made to appear more authoritative. “Past behavior is the solidest predictor of future behavior.” Read more on Prediction and Propinquity…

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Even though it has been slow and gentle, my weight loss (yes, 150 pounds without surgery in a couple of years and yes, I will speak of it more later and elsewhere) means, among other things, that I have located some new veins — and today, an artery.

Now the veins that made me happiest were, and still are, the ones on the back of my hands. I have a memory etched into my soul of a chief resident in neurology at the University of Minnesota who told me privately,and with all of the discretion that he could figure out how to muster,that I should be ashamed of being as fat as I was. Because if ever I had a serious health crisis, and nobody could find a vein, someone could die from lack of a proper venous access. It didn’t take any training in psychiatry to figure out that some time, in the past not too distant to that remark, he had failed to find a vein in someone who died. Of course, I felt horrible.  But oh, the joy as I slowly lost weight and was able to locate, when I had enough liquid volume on board, big juicy veins on the back of my hand, even as I can now. Every time I look at them I think “Wow.  Even a first year medical student who has never seen a vein on a living person would not only know immediately I have wonderful veins, but could pierce them with just about any kind of tubing, no matter how poorly suited for the job.  They could not miss. They would be happy. They would think they are the next star of “Boston Medical” and they would call their parents and ask for some spare money to celebrate.  This is what it is to be a “real doctor.”

Actually, most veins are now pierced by far less qualified and far lower paid professionals, certified “phlebotomists.” They have taken my blood in unskilled and inappropriate ways, sometimes screwing up all pretense of sterile procedure by doing things like ripping fingers out of latex gloves to get a better “feel.”  Another cheap doctor substitute, foisted on people who do not know what they are NOT getting. Read more on As If By Magic An Artery Appears…

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An administrator of a clinic where I worked long ago and far away once told me how he had to go to an orthodox (Jewish) rabbi and get some sort of a special document in order to satisfy his community (and mostly his wife) when a cardiac surgeon decided to put a pig valve in his heart to keep him alive.

I was not as impressed with the gravity of the situation as he wanted me to be.  Sure, I know that Jews aren’t supposed to eat anything that comes from a pig because it wallows in the mud and is thus “dirty.”

Stop animal research

The prohibition against consuming its flesh is often credited with saving generations of (religious) Jews from getting sick with trichinosis.  Medicine has, however, advanced considerably since Biblical designs.

Whatever people believe about our Creator, there is no way that he or she is going to introduce information to the world that we can’t understand because our technology is not advanced enough. Nobody told about genetic recombination on Mount Sinai.  Nobody talked about transplantation in the era when the Gospels were being written.

The obvious conclusion is that it is time to stop worrying about right or wrong in religious doctrine and start living as fully and joyously as our medicine and technology will permit. Instead, I find that people whose spiritual beliefs seem associated with organized churches, seem to be given easily to generalizations and even name-calling: blatant intolerance. Read more on Animal Rights vs. Human Progress…

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