Brain

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Knowing when to eat is important, but there are no bad times. One of the most obese people I have known personally was our family Kosher (traditional Jewish) butcher back on the east coast.  He said his weight was immeasurable on a normal scale; I didn’t know then that I would become that way later.  He was the kind of guy who was so heavy he was in such pain whenever he got up from a chair to serve a customer, he invoked God in rapidly recited Hebrew.

He said he ate very reasonable “balanced” (which is not what obese people need) meals during the day, but every night he got “crazy hungry” and “snacked” on everything imaginable, mostly sweets, from the minute he finished after-work dinner until his late bedtime, while in front of the television. He said his doctor was irate and told him to stop eating at night because eating in the evening and before bed made people fat and sick. Read more on Meats or Sweets For Weight Loss…

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Sometimes, in practical everyday life, I get lost or disoriented.  Like in one of the busy discount department stores we frequent.

My husband is always there in the store. Read more on Mapping Out Life…

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Natural treatment of obsessionality. “Estelle, you’re such a little worrier.  Yes you are.” When I was little, I never understood why my Auntie Charlotte always addressed me this way.  I did know that my family had “adopted” her which seemed to give her the right to “adopt” me.  Her orthodox Jewish family had rejected her because she wanted to marry a guy who had been married before, even though he was very Jewish. I was not supposed to know or care about such things.  But I did know she was the first person in my life to tell me I worried too much about things that didn’t need worrying about.

Read more on Obsessions…

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One of the themes that keeps coming up in those little “newslets” for 15 minutes of Continuing Medical Education each is that systematic screening for several serious diseases, like cancers, is simply not as efficient as one wishes it were. At the very least, in terms of cost, it rarely pays. Sometimes people try to identify a subset of people who should be screened; but all too often, even that is a daunting task.

Some stalwart and doubtless realistic physicians sometimes suggest–screen patients who ask for it. This seems strikingly similar to the young doctor in Amiens who told me, that if he wanted to build a practice and feed his family, he had to give everyone antibiotics. It is that ancient trend of anti-intellectualism, patients who second-guess the doctor, people who are worried about their health– And yet, these people could argue that (they have paid their health insurance and earned what they think is good care), and they are individuals and not statistics. Read more on When To Screen For Things Medical That Could Kill…

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Maybe if it’s “all in your head,” it’s in your brain chemistry

We women have spent so long and worked so hard for equality in rights, in education, and at work, that it may actually be hard to talk about how we are different.

The World Health Organization has been working on this, and knows a lot about what is going on.  Illnesses of the mind, problems with thinking and feeling and living, are only identified by doctors less than half the time. Three out of five people who have this kind of problem wait less than a year before seeing a doctor. This is true of both sexes. Read more on Mental Health In Women…

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I have seen them.

Men, who sit in my office and tell me they are addicts to internet pornography.

They describe symptoms that have long been regarded as markers of addiction.

Dependence — They start feeling poorly, maybe even depressed, if they don’t get their regular quota of exposure.

This is easy enough to get on the internet, so everybody who feels they want this (or “need” this) is able to get it. Read more on Internet Pornography IS Addiction…

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I was a 2nd year resident in neurological surgery when there was news that a single neuron could link with a single computer wire and messages could travel from the one to the other. Nobody in my doctors’ lounge seemed to care.

Brain In A JarI remember seeking out a psychologist who had a fairly high tech research background, to see if he was anywhere nearly as excited as I was. To say “no” is a gross understatement.

He told me about an idea which long before that had been both funded and forgotten.  The idea had been one of a prosthetic frontal lobe.  Frontal lobe of the brain, among other things, tells people what is “appropriate” socially. The one example I will never forget is the physician who (inappropriately) peed in his pants on rounds, and ended up having a frontal lobe tumor. So the idea was that somebody who had a hunk of frontal lobe excised to get rid of the tumor, or presumably some other kind of illness, could have a teency-tiny computer to hold in their hand that would do some frontal lobe kinds of things that they no longer could.

The attempt to develop this happened on the east coast, presumably sometime after Noah’s flood, and the funding dried up just like that great flood did.

Of course, another possibility is that men do not much care where and when they pee.  I doubt this, since I had a patient in Oklahoma who had purchased a fair amount of real estate in his life and thought it necessary and appropriate to “mark” it in the same way a dog marks his territory.  Yes, it involved peeing in public, but the fellow had no known frontal lobe pathology at the time.

Ah, those Oklahoma men. Read more on Maybe Those People Who Annoy Can Get A Prosthetic Brain…

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Why can’t science be fun?

I mean, sure – I’d love to see cancer cures, and schizophrenia cures and even more on the promising telomeric theory of living forever.  But sometimes, we learn a lot of things that seem – if not useless, then inconsequential –and they prove invaluable later on in ways we can never predict.

Would you like to know in advance if a pop song is going to be a big hit?  I’m sure some people would.  Believe it or not, that has been the topic of recent research. Okay, so it is a small study.  Who would fund further research on this one? There is a certain part of the tender adolescent brain (remember, our brains don’t get completely myelinated until age 28.  That means we do not have all the fatty-insulation around the nerves to conduct impulses) that reacts in a very interesting way to music. Based mostly on animal studies, the ventral striatum seems to be associated with emotions that generate behavior.  This differentiates it from the dorsal striatum, which has mostly sensorimotor control.   Makes sense.  Although they are similar, these two different types of behavior are slightly different.  Sometimes we decide what we want to do by what we feel physically.  If it is too cold, we go for a jacket.  The sensory input probably goes through at least a couple of brain centers, like thermoregulation. Read more on Using Science To Predict Pop Music Hits…

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While taking my psychiatric training at the University of Kansas, Wichita – the so-called “Buckle of the Bible Belt,” I often saw patients who told me freely they did not think I could help them because I was of Jewish origin.

Most could deduce because of my name, and most were not shy about asking point-blank.  I had nothing to hide and was not ashamed. 

They would quiz me about my belief in Christ, and despite my protestations that a prescription pad looked pretty much non-sectarian to me, some would request/demand to see someone who was at least marginally a Christian. Read more on What About The Brain Of The Born-Again?…

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It’s hard for many who know me to believe – and it is even hard for me to believe – but from a very early age, I loved the brain.

Looking at my professional path, one can see that everything I’ve done has been related to the brain (with a few side trips, of course). I tell most people now that my change from neurosurgery that ultimately landed me in psychopharmacology was a result of personal maturation. After all, I once believed that most medical problems had mechanical, or near mechanical solutions.

The OBT (Olivier-Bertrand-Tipal) frame for stereotactic brain surgery

The OBT (Olivier-Bertrand-Tipal) frame -- Conventional stereotaxy makes use of a frame attached to the patient's head.

I once believed that a hematoma drained, using squishy squeegie apparatus, just like my mother of blessed memory would have used to baste the Thanksgiving turkey.

The truth of the matter is that I had become convinced slowly that a brain, once touched or handled, changed in immeasurable ways. My own dexterity seemed piteously inferior to the task of brain manipulation.  It was not fear — at least I do not think it was.  It was more a sort of reverence for the complexity of that which I struggled to lay my hands upon – literally to manipulate. Read more on Messing Around With The Brain Is Serious Business…

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