Tag Archives: Neuroscience

Posts related to the structure and function of the brain.

My Brain Diary, Part 11

My Brain Diary, Part 11

Right now is not so good. I’m going to be pretty frank, but I don’t want people to worry. I’ve been through some bad brain stuff even before Roscoe took over my life, and even when I’m close to the bottom of the deep well of suckitude, I can still remember to look up to the light at the top and know there’s a way up as well as a way down.

My medications aren’t working the same way as they did before, which is no surprise. If you look at the early MRIs, there was a lot of compression. Blood supply was rerouted or restricted. Neurons were obviously going to be moving around trying to get past blockages. And the limbic system, where most of our emotions are seated, was pretty wonky from getting pushed out of shape. So this is just like starting all over again from scratch. Cymbalta is too stimulating an antidepressant because it’s a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, meaning that my whole “fight or flight” reaction is on higher alert than it should be. I also had to discontinue Adderall for the same reason, and add in Klonopin because my life had become all panic, all the time.

When you’re transitioning from one antidepressant to another, there’s this horrible period during which you’re getting too little of both of them. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m titrating down on Cymbalta – 15mg per day. This is enough to reduce the panic and keep the brain zaps to a minimum, but not enough to affect my depression. At the same time, I’m beginning sertraline (Zoloft) but only a measly dose of 25mg. Not only not enough to even tickle the edges of depression, but also only starting the 4-6 week journey before it shows any effect whatsoever. In a few days I’ll be off the Cymbalta (protip – it’s a capsule full of beads, so if you feel a brain zap, and ONLY if you feel a brain zap, take one or two BEADS. Makes it less awful.) and up to 50mg of sertraline. Still a baby dose, and still at least two weeks away from making even a tiny bit of difference.

So, yeah, I’m in a pretty bad way right now. Fortunately, even when a smidgen of suicidal ideation pops up, it’s easily quashed by reminding myself of the light at the top of the well of suckitude and by making a plan so elaborate (typical ADHD) that I’d decide it was too much effort before I even came close to doing anything about it. No matter what I might say in the throes of depressive misery, you’re not going to get rid of me that easily. Heh.

The whipped cream and cherry on top is the visit to the neurosurgeon. My brain, right now, is about as good as it’s going to get. I’m going to see a neuropsychologist for an evaluation, and probably end up with some kind of therapy to help me adapt to my new neurological paradigm, but I was kind of hoping for normal. Having that hope dashed is not helping with my mood. Yes, I’m way, way better than I was two years ago, but there are things that are a struggle still.

My spatial relations are vastly improved – I have a much better concept of where I am in the space that surrounds me, I have my sense of direction back, and I’m aware of objects around me, both moving and stationary. However, “mirror images,” both literally (myself in the mirror) and figuratively (looking at pictures or looking at other people) are bizarre and confusing. I have trouble telling right from left, and forwards from backwards. Up and down are intact, thank goodness. Blow drying my hair has been an adventure, and I still haven’t quite mastered the art of flossing my teeth without hurting myself. If I look at my MRIs, I have to pretend that they are someone else’s, because their orientation is like a mirror, and they start from the far side and come forward. If I think of them as mine, I can’t get past the idea that my left side is on the right of the image, and the coronal slices as they move from the back of my head to the front are coming towards me instead of moving away from me.

I don’t lose my balance all that much anymore, either. . .but it still happens.

Since the tumor smooshed my left occipital lobe and left temporal lobe, I also have some problems that are related to vision and vision-related language performance. I don’t have any consistent object or color blindness, but sometimes I will look at things, see them, but not really “recognize” them, or know what they are. Quick example – we were at a food kiosk, and I wanted to leave a tip. There was a bright blue tip cup by each cash register. On the one that was right in front of my face, I couldn’t see the word “tips” written on it. I saw only the “s” and thought for some reason that it meant that was a cup for straws. So I reached over and put the tip in the cup on the other side of the kiosk, because I could perceive the whole word on that one. Other times, I won’t see things outside of what I’m looking at because I simply don’t understand why the thing I’m looking at isn’t the thing I want. Really. I look at it, and I think “this isn’t what I want? Why isn’t it what I’m looking for?” and the thing I want is right there above it or below it or next to it.

The most frustrating thing, though, is the anomia. This is where the temporal lobe gets involved. Most of your language processing occurs in your left temporal lobe, and the normal loop between seeing something and saying it involves the visual image that’s processed somewhere in your right hemisphere (depending on what it is) being “translated” by your left occipital lobe and sent into the language loop in your temporal lobe. That’s not happening for me. But only in one direction. If I see an object or a person (or picture an object or person in my head) there’s a good chance that I will not be able to name that object or person. I could tell you everything about that object or person that I knew, except for what that object or person is called. And the name I remember this morning may well be completely inaccessible in a few hours. No amount of prompting, besides actually telling me the word, is going to bring that name into my conscious thoughts.

In the other direction, no problem. If I hear or read a noun or a name, I have no trouble whatsoever picturing that object or person in my mind. But it is kind of a problem – because when I’m circumlocuting to try to use the words I have to describe the word I don’t, people try to be helpful and finish my sentences for me. And once they say the word that isn’t the one I’m looking for, it creates a new mental image that supersedes the one I’m trying to describe, and all is lost. I know they’re trying to be helpful, and I know it’s awfully difficult to listen to me when I’m struggling through this, but really, the only thing it accomplishes effectively is to make me feel like crap and maybe even start crying. Just a heads up. I won’t hold it against you, I promise, but I will probably start to cry.

So. . .I see the psychiatrist in another couple of weeks and we’ll ramp up the sertraline if it’s working OK. I may even be able to go back on Adderall once my dose is stabilized. We’re looking at mid-March here. If you’re worried about my mood, look at your calendar. If it isn’t halfway through March, stop worrying. I’m just transitioning between medications.

February 11th, I go for a consult with the neuropsychologist, and get another dose of reality about how much improvement, if any, I can expect with therapy. Until then, I have regressed to the mean, and everything I just described above is SOP. And that’s just the way it is.

My Brain Diary – Part 9

My Brain Diary – Part 9

This is a tiny update, because I went for MRIs yesterday. I chose a few to share with you, similar images from each scan – September 2012, when I was diagnosed with the tumor, March 2013, when I was leaking cerebrospinal fluid and had pressure both inside and outside my skull, and yesterday, pictures for my 1-year (more or less) followup. I still have occasional problems with balance, but this is sporadic. My short-term memory, while it’s never been good, is still more of a problem than it used to be. The biggest issue I have still is word loss – names and nouns. If I see or hear a word or a name, I can immediately picture the person or object, but it doesn’t work in the opposite direction. If I see or think of a person or an object, I frequently have difficulty recalling the name of that person or object. I have no problem with recognition of that person or object, just with being able to recall what to call the person or object. I had read an article about a man who had a stroke in his left occipital lobe that led to the same issue, but I’ll be darned if I can find it again now. Maybe later. Anyway. . . (addendum. . .this might not be THE one, but it is one. . .)

Saggital (back to front – think of Saggitarius, the archer, and the direction he shoots his arrows) views without contrast:
Saggital-T1SE

Same thing, with contrast:
Saggital-T1contrast

Coronal (think of a corona or even a tiara-like crown – this is a vertical side to side view), towards the back where all the problems were:
Coronal-post

Axial (horizontal view. I can’t think of a simple mnemonic, so just remember that there’s only one horizontal axis, and that’s the Axial view) showing the cerebellar distortion. If you know what you’re looking for, other views show distortions as well, but if you don’t, then you won’t be able to tell them apart. So here’s where you can tell them apart:
Axial-cerebellum

So there you go. Things are looking better. I’ll hear what the neurosurgeon has to say in a few weeks.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

A new study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association about neuroimaging to determine response to medication or therapy in Major Depressive Disorder. It seems much more exciting if you don’t actually read it. Fortunately, Neurocritic did, so you have someone to explain what’s hope and what’s hype.

Paul Offit explains why we shouldn’t take multivitamins.

He also has a book coming out soon called “Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine” and USA Today covers some of the issues that make this stuff such a dangerous alternative.

And Darshak Sanghavi at Slate wonders why so many of us think we need to avoid gluten

Now, if you happen to be near Washington, DC, and you want to see some cool genetics stuff, hit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for an exhibit called Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code.

Teaching otters to use vending machines might not be the best idea, but it sure is cute to watch.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Yes, it’s been a while since the last set of links. I’ll try to do better. Enjoy these for now.

Carl Zimmer wrote an article on Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva for the Atlantic. One of the reasons I think it’s important to read stories like these is to see examples of the success that comes from investigating genetic origins of diseases. Another is to show that there are real reasons that a treatment may or may not be produced outside of the simple profitability of the treatment itself. All in all, this is a great story with some human interest thrown in for good measure.

I’ve often had the discussion with people about how even though we have names for colors, not everyone perceives them the same way. Well. . .who’d have known it? Apparently some of our perception differences arise from how we name the colors in the first place! Empirical Zeal discusses it in two parts. Part 1. Part 2.

Beyond Recognition: The Incredible Story of a Face Transplant
Yes, it’s graphic, but it’s also absolutely amazing.

Scicurious has an interesting piece about genes and environment. . .interesting not only because it shows an actual mechanistic result in the brain that can differentiate genetically identical mice, but also because those of us on SSRIs can take comfort in knowing our meds are assisting us in hippocampal neurogenesis.

Another thing that seems to be related to a mechanical malfunction in the brain is Body Integrity Identity Disorder, in which a person is uncomfortable with the very presence of a part of his or her body. Mindscapes: The man who needs to paralyse himself in New Scientist talks about some of the possible roots of this condition that makes people seek elective amputation procedures.

From Nature, an explanation of what a chemical is, and why it’s not inherently dangerous or toxic.

Some tips
on distinguishing science journalism from infotainment.

And. . .a tap-dancing seagull.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Watching the Lights Go Out is a blog by a man who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimers’, chronicling his life and thoughts and how the disease affects him. It’s touching and thought-provoking. Go read it.

How animals grieve – make sure to watch the video, too.

Scientists playing around with the prefrontal cortexes of rats may have come across a new way of treating addiction.

People who don’t understand epigenetics or neuroplasticity have no compunctions about writing about them anyway. Then we get books like this that the average reader thinks represent real science. And because genetics and epigenetics is so nuanced and complex, people automatically assume a position of nature OR nurture – with the nurture enthusiasts often accusing people who talk about genetics as being genetic determinists. Virginia Hughes has some wonderful insights about how we really think.

And Bradley Voytek explains why this should be fixed by more science – it’s an investment in wonder. Kevin Mitchell at Wiring the Brain adds that, well, it works.

Images of g-coupled protein receptors
that may help us understand how they work and how to treat the problems they cause!

Before kitten can drink the milk, kitten must DEFEAT the milk!

My Brain Diary, Part 8

My Brain Diary, Part 8

3/8
The one thing that I do notice, still, is the correlation between the amount of fluid under my scalp and my functionality. There’s definitely more fluid back there and more headache and more impairment when weather’s coming in – I know you have the weather predicting sinuses, too, so you know what I mean. I don’t know whether sinus swelling pushes cerebrospinal fluid out of my skull and into my balloon scalp, but it certainly seems like it.

Rarely, I’ll find myself experiencing balance or spatial relations or aphasia issues without the increase in fluid, but most often the two things happen at the same time.

3/11
There is a huge amount of frustration involved in the length of this recovery and the limits it imposes. Today is five months from my surgery, and my scalp is so full of fluid that the tops and backs of my ears are numb; the pressure from the fluid in my neck is uncomfortable when it’s not painful, and makes my throat sore; feeling exhausted is the norm, even when I’ve slept 12-14 hours; I still get intermittent aphasia and loss of balance and disorientation.

Don’t get me wrong – things are better. They’re just not all better, and they’re not consistently or predictably better. The night of my last update, we were watching television, and the host said the phrase, “Where’s the beef?” The name “Clara Peller” popped right into my head, and I remembered the story behind it completely. The very next night, I was asking DH to go with me to Costco because I was having some anxiety about the overstimulation for some very specific reasons that I’d already been thinking about during the day. Then I lost the words. The nouns, in particular, and even though I know now that there were other words I could have used that were different parts of speech as substitutes, I couldn’t mentally get past the lost words. Because they were lost, there was apparently no way to find the substitutes, because they were associated with the words I couldn’t find. Of course we’re in public, of course I’m fighting back tears, and of course it’s the first time I’ve worn makeup in ages, and of course I smeared it wiping tears away. That’s a truly minor thing, but at the moment it was the icing on the cake.

My antidepressant is working. The tiny bit of Adderall I’ve started on is helping. I’m cutting back slowly on my alprazolam. The problem I’m battling now is not something medications can fix. Anyone who says “Gee, I wish my doctor would prescribe months of bed rest” is going to get smacked in the head. Hard.

3/15
The MRI was. . .interesting. My left hemisphere has clearly stretched itself back out quite a bit, but you can see that the gyri and sulci (the folds and bumps of the brain, respectively) are distorted, and there’s something that looks like fluid accumulation between them in certain areas. My left frontal lobe is swollen or distorted or pushed somehow by fluid, and you can see that it is pushing on my right frontal lobe by the curve in the gap between the hemispheres.

My occipital lobes seem to be quite happy with their new freedom, as my visual perception seems to be working just fine. It’s my left eye itself that’s affected, and I’m wagering that it’s because of the pressure from whatever it is that’s distorting my left hemisphere.

My short-term memory has really taken a hit, but I can remember things when I’m reminded of them. This is an improvement over not being able to recall things at all, but it’s still frustrating to not be able to retain them voluntarily.

Looking at the MRI itself gave me a reference point for the improvement in my spatial relations – before surgery, looking at the scans, it was nearly impossible to orient myself as to what was where. When you look at these scans, it is as if you were looking at another person, with left and right reversed. Before surgery, I couldn’t get beyond the perception that it should have been a mirror image. The axial (horizontal) scans start from bottom to top, and the saggital (back to front, like an arrow shot by saggitarius!) scans go from left to right, and the coronal (side to side, like a crown!) scans go from back to front. I started off looking at this second set having the same difficulty grasping that as I had before, but slowly began to be able to put left and right, front and back, and bottom and top in their correct relative places.

I have to figure out how to compare the before and after shots side by side, but I’m not in a rush to do that right now. The neurosurgeon will have better insight on that come Tuesday.

3/19
Well, I’ll be going off to the hospital again. And my hair was growing in so nicely, too! My brain looks good, according to the neurosurgeon, but I sprung a leak between the bone and the new and improved plastic skull assembly. That needs to be looked at and patched, and I need a shunt to siphon off all the cerebrospinal fluid that’s in my neck and under my scalp. It’s not going to go away by itself, and it’s the reason I’m in pain.

The only bad news is really that the pain level for the first week of recovery is going to be pretty bad – but that’s better than living with what I’m feeling now for the rest of my life. The surgery itself is pretty simple for this doctor, and will take less than 2 hours. And he made a note that I don’t respond to morphine, so I’m actually a lot less concerned about the pain, anyway.

The adventure never stops. . .

SURGERY UPDATE

The Hospital

I got lucky; the first patient of the day cancelled, so I got in before I really had a chance to think about how hungry I was or how much I wished I had gotten a cup of coffee. All the preadmission questionnaires and consults with the assisting physicians and getting IV hookups took about an hour, but it wasn’t long before I was being wheeled into the OR and getting an armful of Versed, which would make me forget everything that happened after they attached the safety straps that would allow them to turn me face down.

Recovery

I didn’t stay long in recovery, but I could tell right from the start that this thing was going to hurt like anything. They had drained pretty close to a pint of fluid from under my scalp and the back of my neck. In order to press the scalp against my skull, prevent further fluid accumulation, and hold the patch in tight to the bone, they had packed a good couple of inches of gauze rolls against the incision/drained area and then wrapped me in a massively tight turban of more gauze and tape. As soon as my surgeon had seen me, explained how they had ended up doing the procedure, and what I was in for in the ICU, I was rolled up there.

ICU

The original plan was to drain 10cc per hour of cerebrospinal fluid through the lumbar drain that had been inserted into my spine. My surgeon was on call, and supervised the first drain. After 3ccs, it felt like a few dozen ice picks had been plunged into my skull all at once. So, new plan of action was to stick with 5ccs per hour, and to drain as slowly as possible. My first two ICU nurses were kind, caring, gentle people who treated me very well. . .day 2 in ICU was pretty unbearable.

Keep in mind here that I’m on a heavy duty opiate for pain, and it kind of sort of takes a little of the edge off. Keep in mind that after a lumbar drain, my pain is so huge that it no longer has an edge. Daytime ICU nursing staff really didn’t consider this much of an issue. In fact, the common procedure was for the alarms and call bells to go unanswered while the nurses talked about the houses they were buying, how many of each kind of baby they wanted, and food.

My IV alarm went off multiple times, and I always pressed the call button, because usually all it needed was to be reset. If I pressed that call button and saw a nurse in less than a half hour, it was a miracle. In fact, I could press that button and see her looking into my room, and she would either continue eating, or walk around to the other side of the nurses’ station. So just for ha-has, I didn’t press the call button – until my IV alarm had beeped 400 times and I was getting tired of listening to it. They would also start my lumbar drain and then leave – and the idea of having more than 5ccs taken out while they disappeared for a half hour or so was pretty frightening to me.

Therefore, it was no surprise that this nurse decided on my second full day in ICU that it was about time I sat in a chair. Immediately after my lumbar drip was done and my head was exploding. Adding insult to injury, I still had a foley in, and she hooked the bag right on my pulse ox wire so my left hand was trapped. I started yelling that I was going to pass out, because, of course, they left me alone in the room like this, and they came in and saw me white as a sheet and drenched in sweat so bad that the dressing holding the lumbar drain came loose and decided maybe it wasn’t quite such a good idea to make me sit up after all. The fact that for a half hour or so after that my pulse kept dipping down into the low 40s and they had to call in my surgeon kind of made it clear this wasn’t something to try again.

The trip down to get a CAT scan was a pretty unpleasant adventure, as well. Hey, guys, that’s a conscious, living human being on that bed who’s just been through major surgery. Do not ride my bed down the ramps and swing me 90 degrees to the left just before we hit the wall, and then whip me around 90 degrees to the right to go through the next door. I am really not here for an amusement park experience. And maybe you could talk to me instead of carrying on a personal conversation between each other, you know, as if you’re concerned about my health and well-being.

The other unpleasant thing was a matter of dignity. This surgery made it so that even the slightest change in orientation from horizontal was excruciating. The pain from the incision and the packing in my neck hurt the back of my head, and the decreased fluid cushion around my brain gave me the stabbing headache in the front. However, at some point, they need to take the catheter out and you have to use a bedpan. My one good ICU nurse was joined by another good one on my last day, and both of them understood that going in a bedpan requires more cleanup than using a toilet – and both of them gently helped me turn over and lower the head of the bed and take care of that, because I couldn’t do it myself. One other nurse didn’t clean up my back and thighs, but at least she changed the pad. The others from the infamous day shift left me minimally wiped, and lying on a urine-soaked pad, which eventually soaked up into my gown, as well.

Upstairs to the regular rooms

This really is a different experience. It also helped that some of the nurses, food service, and cleaning staff remembered me from last time – they treated me wonderfully then, they treated me wonderfully this time. I was there Monday and Tuesday and part of Wednesday, and I didn’t have to worry about my pain being ignored, or not being able to get help to get to the bathroom on time, or my doctor not being called when his directions were needed.

The procedure

So, the surgical cement that had been used to replace the bone that had been removed in my original surgery was fine, but my own bone simply didn’t knit with it in one specific spot. I had been experiencing a pretty marvelous recovery, but then all of a sudden, my scalp started to fill up with more fluid, instead of continuing to flatten out as it had. Then the headaches started, in my forehead and slightly upwards, perfectly symmetrical, and with a distinct margin between pain and no pain. I could have drawn these headaches on my head with a sharpie.

The MRIs showed exactly where the fluid was leaking and where it was accumulating. This meant opening up an incision as close as safely possible to the hole, draining out the fluid that had escaped into my scalp and neck, sealing the hole with the same surgical cement, then using a combination of pressure dressings on the outside and draining cerebrospinal fluid from the inside to keep the new patch securely in place while it cured.

After, the headaches were the same as before, only much, much more intense. My surgeon says that these symmetrical headaches that start around eyebrow level and move upwards are pretty typical of low pressure headaches, and there are investigations going on to see if there’s a connection between “weather headaches,” which have most of the same qualities, and an actual drop in CSF pressure.

Once I got home, I discovered quite by accident that the horrible pain (yes, it was still horrible. Really, really horrible) that hit the moment I started to get vertical, and which became worse the longer I stayed upright, could be mitigated by holding my hands over my head. I will try this trick for other headaches, you can be sure. The only thing that makes the headaches bearable is being horizontal. However, the pain medications are much more effective today than they were even yesterday. Staying horizontal as much as possible is essential to my recovery so that pressure inside my skull doesn’t fluctuate more than necessary.


The weird stuff

So, as I remember, I’m going to try to pass on some information about my experiences. Some things are unique to me, but some are common in brain injury that includes loss of cerebrospinal fluid.

Day one, my dreams were frenetic and without plot or direction. If you’ve ever seen a movie or TV show in which a character is being filled with information from a computer, and it’s just screen after screen of images and characters in rapid succession, that was what I was dreaming. None of it made sense, and there were more images of white screens full of alphanumeric text than anything else. I felt emotionally disturbed by these dreams, even though there was nothing inherently frightening about them. There has been a slow transition between dreams that consist solely of flashing images to normal dreams that are momentarily interspersed with these images.

This could be from the physical trauma of surgery, loss of CSF, or a side effect of the medications. It could also derive in part from the fact that I was being awakened at least once an hour, so it made me remember the dreams more!

Sound and light bothered me, just as they would if I were having a migraine headache. Draining the fluid cushion added another dimension – all the sounds around me seemed to be coming through a drum with a clear plastic head. (Drummers, you know what I’m talking about – it’s a very specific type of reverberation.) The lower the pitch, the more reverberation, and the more painful it was to hear. My surgeon and his PA confirmed that this was related to fluid levels, because it changed how much my eardrums vibrated.

I often felt as if my head and my body were somewhat separated. After the nausea dissipated, I felt perfectly normal from the neck down, restless and ready to get up and move around. When I did, though, it felt almost as if my head were moving through thicker air than the rest of me.

That’s all that comes to mind right now, but I’ll add more as I remember it.

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Here are some references to help you win at logic: The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe explains how logic works and doesn’t work before delving into its top 20 logical fallacies – how to spot them and how to counter them. The Nizkor Project breaks them down by type, and you can search them by name. Logical Fallacies is an encyclopedic reference, a little more detailed than Nizkor, and an easier font and background than Skeptic’s Guide. Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies is great if you’re a visual learner, with little icons for each individual fallacy. The Master List of Logical Fallacies is written for writers, has a few different names for some fallacies that you might not recognize, but is maybe a little easier to understand because there’s less Latin.

Speaking of fallacies, one of the big ones is the “teach both sides,” or “teach the controversy,” usually found regarding evolution. Dave Hone, in The Guardian blogs, shows how misleading this is with a specific case of a TV show that showed “both sides of the debate” regarding the evolution of birds. One side is represented by the majority of experts, the other by people who have an opinion.

Genetic research unearths a possible marker for prostate cancer, which may help us develop targeted treatments to cure it.

More on genes and cancer. . .apparently the genetic condition called Laron’s syndrome makes people’s bodies short, but their lives long. Somewhere in their genes, they’re resistant to growth hormones and resistant to cancer. Fascinating.

Phineas Gage is probably the best-known case of the effects of traumatic brain injury on behavior. New technology attempts to recreate the damage that was done by the railroad spike in his head in an effort to understand it better. Mindhacks isn’t sure he wants to know more, but shares it anyway.

Sometimes you need an outside perspective to see that an idea looks stupid. People in the UK think the NRA’s idea to put armed guards in schools is nuts. I think they’re right.

The Keystone pipeline could make this a scene anywhere along its entire length. Maybe that’s better than an ocean spill, but wouldn’t we rather avoid it in the first place if we can?

Rhinos are dangerous animals. Really dangerous. But how can you be scared of one that looks this cute?

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Colin McGinn, in the New York Review of books, has plenty to say to Ray Kurzweil (and anyone else who thinks that brains are like computers) in his review of “How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed.”

The only people who think that there’s such a thing as genetic determinism are environmental determinists. So over at Discover online, An anthropologist explains the gene!

If these porn stars‘ before pictures were put up on facebook, there’d be no shortage of nasty comments about their looks. The transformations are amazing – and show how deceptive makeup can be!

Scientific American shares some interesting history about, um, butt-wiping.

I suppose if you’re going to major in something dangerous, it helps to be able to laugh about it.

When I first saw the video of this amazing small space, I didn’t think about much else but how cool it was. Gawker, on the other hand, has some insightful things to say about its owner’s exhortation to “live with less.”

OTTERZ!!!

I saw this adorable page of what looked like a pet otter. Obviously, I needed to read it in English to find out um, what goes into obtaining caring for one of these sweet little creatures. Let’s just say that Google translate still has a few bugs to work out! (I’m especially fond of the picture subtitled, “Dark, dark, dark cousin dark ~ ♪ ~ ♪ ~ Dai favorite Crotch, crotch, crotch crotch us ~ ♪ ~ ♪ ~ Dai favorite”)

My Brain Diary, Part 7

My Brain Diary, Part 7

1/30
Another day of mostly sleep, so far. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been having a little trouble with my balance again. Nothing as bad as before, and it seems to be more physical balance than spatial orientation. Something really weird happened, though, for the first time ever.

I was lying in bed, on my left side with my right arm and leg luxuriously stretched out into the space normally occupied by my darling husband. Suddenly I felt a cat jump up onto the foot of the bed, walk along the edge for a bit, then jump off. Then I felt a cat jump up onto the bed close to my elbow, walk around my hand, up towards the pillow, then jump off. Read the rest of this entry

Wednesday Links

Wednesday Links

Do yourself a favor and buy or download The Holy Family. It’s a story that follows a man on his path from faith to unbelief, and shows eloquently how he manages to live and love with triumph and tragedy, just like any other person. Even if it hadn’t been written by a friend of mine, I’d be telling you to read it.

A pharmacist weighs in on the (lack of) benefits of dietary supplements.

Researchers have a new tool to help find the genetic causes of disease. Edit the genome of a stem cell and see if it gets sick. . .sounds crazy, but it seems to have potential!

Right after reading an essay by neuropsychologist Vaughn Bell about how the human brain is not as simple as we think, which talks about how neuroscience findings are being dumbed down and twisted to confirm folk wisdom even when they don’t. . .there’s an example of this very thing in action. Athena Andreadis writes in a Scientific American blog about a language gene study being misinterpreted as scientific confirmation that women talk more than men. (N.B., that’s not what it says. . .) Which, of course, brings me back to Dr. Steven Novella’s excellent post from December about why people turn to alternative medicine. Confirmation bias trumps cognitive dissonance every time.

CAT IN A BUBBLE BATH!!