liveonearth: (moon)
Today I finally got my updated living will / medical power of attorney updated, witnessed, and notarized, and I also officialized my first last will and testament.  My friends asked me if I was planning on leaving.  It's a good question to ask a person who is settling their affairs at my age, but no, in spite of the depressing state of affairs in the world, my life is good enough that I'm planning to stick around and see what happens next.   In my living will today I specified what I want done if I lose my mind (travel to a country where euthanasia is allowed for dementia--Switzerland or Nederlands allow it as of now), and also where I want my brain to go (for research purposes, to the Oregon Brain Bank of OHSU).  I'm excited and glad to have this done.  I've been meaning to do it and rewriting it for a decade now.

The real reason I was motivated to complete these documents at the age of 50 is that I can tell that I am losing cognitive function.  It shows up in many ways, and people routinely fight me on this observation, saying that I'm fine, it's normal aging, blah blah blah.  Let me just say that I used to be very smart, and I'm not any more, and I know the difference.  A minor example is that I make more mistakes in typing, for example I switch "their" for "they're" and vice versa.  This is a mistake that I used to find utterly mystifying, and now I am doing it.

The other day I updated my lifetime river log with the rivers I have run this year.  I've done 20 new rivers around Oregon this year!  But the shocker finding was that one day in July when I went paddling on the Lower Wind, I could not remember what had happened when I logged the day.  All I remembered at the time (a few days after the actual day when I logged it), was that I had planned to go paddling with Todd.  I did not remember where we went or what happened.

What happened that day was that I hit my head, again, and had short term memory loss as a result.  I have had many traumatic brain injuries over the years, from biking, skiing, and kayaking.  This is the reason that I want to donate my brain for research.  I suspect that my brain will prove that recreational sports participants can also suffer from CTE = chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  It's not just for football players anymore.

On that day I flipped over at the top of a rapid known as the Flume, and was battered on my head and shoulders as I floated through the rapid upside down.  I was afraid to try to roll up because getting in position to roll puts you in a more open and vulnerable position, so I "went turtle" which in this case simply means to tuck tightly under the boat and get my elbows in so nothing gets broken.   I rolled up at the bottom of the rapid and was dazed but otherwise OK.  And yes, for you who do not know me, I was wearing a top notch helmet.  There is no helmet that can protect your brain from the knocking it takes when your whole head is getting walloped around.

This was the third time I'd floated through that particular rapid upside down.  It is a steep, fast, shallow and rocky rapid....brutal, really.  One of my three upside down runs I didn't hit a thing.  Twice I've been beaten silly.  I vowed after this day to not run that rapid at low water anymore.  It's much easier at higher flows and that is the only time I will attempt it.  Unfortunately the portage is difficult and dangerous too... so I may not go on the Lower Wind as much anymore.  Too bad because I do love the waterfalls.

Something else happened that day.  I've thought of it many times since my memory of the day returned.  At the end of the Lower Wind run there are four major drops, three falls and one slide, not in that order. We'd run the first 12 foot falls without incident and were running the tallest single waterfall, about 18 feet vertical.  It's so high that you can't see if the person ahead of you made it, so we just wait a few seconds between boats and then go.  Todd went ahead of me and I waited probably eight seconds, then committed to the drop.  When I crested the horizon line and could see my landing zone at the foot of the falls, he was swimming in it.

He had plunged too deep in the hole below the drop, gotten caught and held, and wet exited from his kayak in the hole.  It took him a while to surface and start floating downstream.  When I saw him I was already mid-air and headed straight for him.  I was afraid that the bow of my kayak would plunge into the water and hit him in the abdomen, rupturing his organs and killing him. That didn't happen.  Thankfully I'd hit a good enough boof from the top that my bow skipped off the surface of the water and I went right over his head.  But the trauma of believing that I was about to kill Todd has not left me.  I am going to require a better signalling system for running blind drops from now on.  I need to know that the landing zone is clear.  We have had trouble at this drop before and still we are too casual about it.
liveonearth: (moon)

Anacoluthon per wikipedia = an unexpected discontinuity in the expression of ideas within a sentence, leading to a form of words in which there is logical incoherence of thought.  It's how Trump talks, and can be useful for putting people in a stream of consciousness mode: less analytical, more suggestible.  Plural = anacolutha.  I've been studying up on hypnosis.  =-]

**first use of tag: hypnosis

liveonearth: (moon)
Just the other day a young man came to a doctor for help with persistent headaches after a hard head hit.  He left with a prescription for Nat sulph 1M.  What's that you ask?  That's sugar pills.  That's homeopathy, that's a substance so diluted that it isn't there, that's a treatment that has zero basis in science and plenty of mythology around it.  If you look online you will find plenty of articles supporting the use of homeopathy for brain injuries.  Check it out:

Traumatic brain injuries are very common in athletes and soldiers, and many of them go unreported and untreated.  Sure, there's a lot of media buzz these days about TBI because they've discovered that some football players and boxers have dramatically shrunken brains, and depression and tremors later in life, because of something they call CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  Those words just mean longterm brain injury from being bashed around.

If you go to your doctor for a TBI, and it's a conventional doctor, he's likely to tell you rest will fix it.  Specifically no reading or screens for a week or so, no work if you can get out of it.  He's likely to tell you that it will pass on its own.  Sometimes it does.  That's when homeopathy "works", of course, when the condition it is supposed to treat would have passed on its own without treatment.  But what about those cases that are more severe?  What if rest and sugar pills aren't enough, and the brain really needs some help?  Both the homeopath and the conventional physician fail in that case.

There are good treatments for TBI.  There are doctors in the military who know them.  At a bare minimum people who've bashed their brains need lots of omega 3 fats and a clean, veggie rich diet.  There are herbs that have been shown to help a lot with brain recovery.  It's concerning that conventional doctors are so anti-botanical medicine that they don't even study up on that.  When are we going to get real about what works and what doesn't, instead of walking around parroting what we've been told?
liveonearth: (Spidey: come into my parlour)

I call it conscious realism: Objective reality is just conscious agents, just points of view. Interestingly, I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind. Here’s a concrete example. We have two hemispheres in our brain. But when you do a split-brain operation, a complete transection of the corpus callosum, you get clear evidence of two separate consciousnesses. Before that slicing happened, it seemed there was a single unified consciousness. So it’s not implausible that there is a single conscious agent. And yet it’s also the case that there are two conscious agents there, and you can see that when they’re split. I didn’t expect that, the mathematics forced me to recognize this. It suggests that I can take separate observers, put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It’s conscious agents all the way down.

--Donald Hoffman, Professor of cognitive science UC, Irvine,

liveonearth: (old books)

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.
--Oliver Sachs
(New York Times, Opinion, “Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer,” Feb. 19, 2015)

This from the FFRF blog: )

*Created tags for reason and humanism.


liveonearth: (neuroactive substances)
If you live and Portland and haven't picked up a copy of this month's Willamette Week (free news weekly, online here:, this issue is likely to get snapped up. They've named it the 420 Issue and it is all about the businesses and culture incurred by the recent legalization of cannabis in Washington and soon Oregon. What struck me initially is the amount of wordplay around the subject, and the generation of witty new phrases, words and hashtags that accompanies the surge in businesses and products containing cannabinoids. There is great excitement about the new availability and openness that comes with legalization.

I for one am OK with recreational and medical use. I think that the risks to society of adults using cannabinoids are fairly minimal. It certainly doesn't make people drive dangerously the way alcohol does. It does have a whole set of risks that aren't covered in this issue, and that really need to be kept high in our awareness as this drug becomes widely acceptable.

One risk that is coming into focus these days is of extreme overdoses. Back when folks just inhaled smoke, coughing stopped them from partaking too much. Vaporizers now make inhalation gentler and it is easy to overdose when consuming edibles. With either method you can't tell how much intoxicant is in there. With humans ingeniously extracting and concentrating the active principles, it could be very strong, or contaminated with solvents. With edibles the effect takes time to kick in. It is terribly easy to overdose for folks who are experimenting for the first time, and who have no tolerance at all.

The conventional media take on overdose--blaming it for many deaths and claiming that it is deadly--is probably overblown. It takes a massive amount of pot to kill, perhaps more than anybody is likely to actually reach because unlike opioids it is so unpleasant getting there. It is however a relative unknown: having been illegal for so long, we don't have scientific studies about overdose. We hardly have science to justify all the medical uses that have already been approved. We are going to find out now.

Another risk is incurred by the fact that edibles make the drug palatable to people who would never smoke it. It is tempting to children as candy. There is the danger that children, teens and early 20-somethings will enjoy sugary yummies containing cannabinoids and permanently alter their brain development. Later on in life there is still a brain changing effect, but in early life when the brain is still forming, the effect can be severe.

On top of these new risks due to the availability of edibles, there is the old risk of respiratory injuries resulting in sinusitis and bronchitis, and risk of more dangerous conditions like pneumonia and COPD. There is also the fact that marijuana increases heart rate significantly in most individuals. Folks who already have hypertension or heart palpitations might give themselves a heart attack.

I suppose my main message in the light of all this 420 excitement is BE CAUTIOUS and PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN because there is a lot we don't know. I believe in freedom and individual discretion as most Americans do, and I also know that people can be terribly foolish and injure themselves and others, especially when intoxicants are involved. I cannot protect the whole world from poor choices, but I do hope that this warning is heard widely. Please take care of each other and if you are going to play with the newly legalized products, start very small.
liveonearth: (moon)
I’m reminded of a case study that describes an individual who had come to associate sexual arousal with being covered in insects. As a child, that individual had been locked into closets for unimaginable amounts of time, and during those times, bugs would frequently fill the space and crawl on him. The child, trying to seek some sort of escape from the reality of his experience, found comfort only in sexual release—even though he was too young to even know what sex was or meant. His body knew only that it felt good, and it provided the only possible escape available to him. In his mind, those associations became, quite literally, wired together.
--Roger Thompson | The Atlantic | December 19, 2014

*new tag: "kink"
liveonearth: (moon)
Notes from the article:
Cannabinoids take the brain by STORM
Wed, 12/10/2014 -- Holly Brothers PhD
notes )
liveonearth: (moon)
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,
people will eventually come to believe it.

--Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propagandist
liveonearth: (bipolar_express)
The DSM, of course, is the list of diagnoses written by and for psychiatrists who are dispensing pharmaceuticals which are covered by insurance. The DSM does not consider the possible causes of the disorders listed, nor allow for the possibility that simple lifestyle changes might be adequate to "cure" a disorder. The book is used to authorize the mental health professional to dispense psychoactive medications. No conflicts of interest there (ahem).

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH instead of just NIH) has decided that the basis of the DSM is not scientific enough, and it is not using those diagnoses as a foundation for ongoing research. The new Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project to is intended to transform diagnosis by incorporating genetics, imaging, cognitive science, and more to create a new classification system. The new system of knowledge will be based on biology as well as symptoms, and will consider specific brain circuits, genetics, and experiences without regard for DSM categories. In fact the NIH is looking to support research projects that look across or subdivide current categories.

This is superb and hopeful to every person who has even been stuck with a diagnosis that didn't fit, or medicated when a simpler solution wasn't even entertained. My congratulations to the NIH for being independent enough to seek the truth.

liveonearth: (Volume 11 spinal tap)
OK, maybe that's a little exaggerated, but basically any drug causes a dopamine surge that changes your brain such that the rewards of normal life don't seem good enough anymore. This study actually found that pot smokers have a bigger nucleus accumbens (the brain area associated with pleasure, reward, and reinforcement learning). They say that 19 million Americans have smoked pot recently. That's a lot.

Here's the article:
text )
liveonearth: (moon)
Left-handed people really do have different brains and genes from right-handed people. Yet left-handed people are almost never included as study subjects in scientific research. Therefore in an article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Roel Willems and his colleagues from the Donders Institute and Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen call for more research into left-handed people. The article was published online on 12 February 2014.

Left-handed people are rarely included as study subjects for brain or genetic research because the differences with right-handed people cause noise in the final results. However, left-handed people form about ten percent of the entire population and their brains and genes contain interesting information about the functioning of both halves of the brain as well as about several psychiatric disorders. 'Research into left-handed people is therefore interesting because of the noise they cause', thinks neuroscientist Roel Willems from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University Nijmegen. With the opinion article he calls upon his fellow researchers to stop excluding left-handed people from studies.

Missed chance for the neurosciences

'One of our studies from 2009 clearly shows why research into left-handed people is so vital', says Willems. 'According to the textbooks, facial recognition takes place in the right half of the brain. Our research revealed that the same process takes place in both halves of the brain in the case of left-handed people, but with the same final outcome. That is a fundamental difference. And left-handed people might process other important information differently as well. The minimal amount of research into this is, in my view, a missed chance for the neurosciences.'

liveonearth: (TommyLeeJones_skeptical)
The National Institutes of Health, 10 large drug companies and seven nonprofit organizations announced an unconventional partnership on Tuesday intended to speed up development of drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

During the course of a five-year, $230 million effort, the participants will share data in regular conference calls and meetings, working together to determine which findings are likely to lead to effective treatments. They will make their findings and data publicly available.

...What concerns me about this is the emphasis on drugs. There are better ways to adjust physiology than taking in foreign substances. And there are more useful things we could study. Like food, and exercise, and how to they affect our biochemical and electrical mileau. Sex, we should throw more money at studying sex and how it affects neurotransmitters. On the effects of chewing gum and on understanding the endocrinology of sexual preference. And on why our hearts slow down as we age, and a million other questions. I'm just curious: I really want to know the answers. I wish that the money spent on medical research was directed more by altruism and less by profit motive.

liveonearth: (moon)
Notes on an online lecture by David Perlmutter MD on the effects of grains in the diet on brain function... his book on the same subject is just out.
notes )
liveonearth: (House religion psychosis)
We are all, to some extent, crazy. If you come to know any human being well enough, you eventually gain access to the basement where the traumas and wounds and deprivations are stored; rummage in there for a while, and you begin to understand the neuroses and fixations that shape his or her personality. The successful, reasonably happy people I've known are nuts in a way that works for them. Those who struggle and suffer fail to turn their preoccupations to some meaningful use. Next week, the American Psychiatric Association release the latest version of its bible of mental illnesses, the DSM-5, which catalogs about 300 categories of crazy. Critics of all kinds have lined up to assail this dictionary of disorders as subjective and lacking in scientific validity--assembled primarily to justify the prescribing of pills of dubious value.

About 50 percent of the population, the APA admits, will have one of its listed disorders at some point in their lives. Shy, like Emily Dickinson? You have "avoidant personality disorder." Obsessed with abstractions and numbers? You have "autistic spectrum disorder," like Isaac Newton. Suffer form "narcissistic personality disorder," with some hypersexuality thrown in? You must be a politician. To be skeptical of these neat categories isn't to deny that minds get broken, stuck, or lost, and need help finding their way out of misery. But psychotherapy remains an art, not a science; there is no bright line between nuts or not. If you're an old lady who lives amid piles of newspapers and personal treasures, you have "hoarding disorder." If you're a CEO who exploits sweatshop labor to pile up countless billions, you're on the cover of Forbes.

--William Faulk (editor-in-chief) in The Week, May 24, 2013 issue.
liveonearth: (moon)
It sounds cruel, but survivors laugh and play, and even in the most horrible situations--perhaps especially in those situations--they continue to laugh and play. To deal with reality you first much recognize it as such...and play puts a person in touch with his environment, while laughter makes the feeling of being threatened manageable.

...Laughter stimulates the left prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that helps us to feel good and be motivated. That stimulation alleviates anxiety and frustration. There is evidence that laughter can send chemical signals to actively inhibit the firing of nerves in the amygdala, thereby dampening fear. Laughter, then, can help temper negative emotions.

Laurence Gonzales in Deep Survival, page 41.
liveonearth: (endless_knot)
He was 68 years old. He died in hospice of melanoma, which was discovered last year in his brain. He never recognized the skin lesion. He was one of my original paddling buddies here in Portland, a retired engineer and a budding Buddhist. He loved his wife and their home by the Washougal river, where he could watch osprey and otters. His hospice bed was at home, turned so that he could see the river flowing by. He was headstrong and didn't enjoy dysfunctional group dynamics, hence was apt to simply leave behind river groups he didn't feel like dealing with. He softened after his diagnosis. I wish his wife and family well in this difficult time. Holidays for them will forevermore bring up the memory of he who they lost on this day. His name was Dick Sisson. A candle burns for him here, and his memory is held with love and respect.
liveonearth: (Default)
In the process of googling various symbols that might be developed into a logo for my medical practice (I was studying on the rod of Aesclepius vs the rampant American confusion with the Caduceus) I ran across a blog that is distinctly American right wing Christian conservative in nature. The image that drew me in was this so-called "Obama Screw-U", which is derived from the Caduceus symbolizing treachery and profiteering:

That was humorous, but not exactly fair or kind. After a bit more surfing I found an article on Leftwing Pathology that posits that left wingers are essentially psychopathic. I will bypass the commentary on this page because in general it is name calling and not productive. But I do see how this is completely true from the conservative perspective.

Conservatism, most basically, is a limbic or mammalian mindedness emphasizing deep emotional connections, visceral aversions, and a strong instinctive sense of rightness vs wrongness. Liberalism is neocortical, involving the ability to weigh conflicting theories and integrate disparate data. To conservatives, liberals are immoral, or even psychopathic because they don't act from their hearts and guts. Liberals think about it, and make decisions based on information. The liberal method doesn't appreciate the power of people's personal attachments and belief systems. It hurts people's feelings. To the liberal, conservatives are dimwits who can't think rationally about anything. Of course the conservatives feel that they are the rational ones, they just consider different things to constitute "information".

It's about as bad as trying to get Israelis and Palestinians to talk to each other.

Conservatives feel a great deal more emotional pain when they are asked to act contrary to their own values. Liberals are expert at rationalizing--or neocorticalizing, if you will. Liberals are capable of acting more like a psychopath and being indifferent to pain both inside and around them.

But there's a spectrum. Some people are nearer the middle between emotional/instinctive/believing and intellectual/rationalizing/skeptical. Some can see both sides. Our limbic systems are intact and we can love deeply and hold values that matter, at the same time that our neocortices are developed enough to see that sometimes fairness that hurts is better in the long run than unfairness that feels safe and good. Maybe we could spend a little more time and energy trying to understand and be human to each other. We may not be able to develop policy that satisfies the deeply held attachments of conservatives, but we can at least acknowledge when the situation calls for deeply painful compromise, and try to be kind. The liberal who can't understand conservatives is more foolish than the conservative that can't understand liberals.
liveonearth: (Default)
Last night while at a Sierra Club meeting involving the effort to hasten decommission of the Columbia Generating Station (nuke at Hanford), I started having all manner of thoughts about my book on homeopathy. I brainstormed my intro and some chapter ideas on the same page where I'd taken a few notes about newly understood seismic activity in the Tri-Cities area, the power needed to make fuel rods, the types of nuclear waste storage currently in use, and such. Part of what brought homeopathy to mind was the groupthink in evidence among the meeting attendees. The anti-nuke information being conveyed was at times not even faintly believable, but the group assumed that all present were on board with the effort to eliminate nuclear power from our bevy of power sources.

This morning in my inbox I find an interesting article by Art Markman on the question of what kind of creativity we display while our conscious minds are occupied with something else. It appears that for simple decisions, it's better to think about consciously it, however for complex issues it may be good to be distracted from the direct question. Dijksterhuis and Nordgren presented Unconscious Thought Theory (UTT) in this paper. Another paper by Haiyang Yang et al shows that the duration of unconscious thought has an inverted-U shaped relationship with creativity, suggesting that unconscious thought may outperform conscious for moderate-length deliberations.

So for quick decisions tis best to focus on the matter at hand. For very long and complex deliberations, there might be time for both conscious and unconscious contemplation. And to harness the power of unconscious synthesis thinking, one needs a moderate amount of time in which to do it.

I've heard of UTT before but not by name. I generally have my best ideas while walking, which suggests to me that cross-crawl integration of walking may bring the two brain halves to apply their knowledge to whatever problem is at hand. I've seen the process modeled extensively by television character Dr House. House plays ball, drives bumper cars, or does pranks on his coworkers to distract himself from the burning questions, and allow his unconscious mind to sort out the myriad details of a medical case and arrive at a diagnosis and treatment. People may think that he is goofing off, but in fact it is physical play that brings his most astounding ideas to the fore. He starts with the conscious brainstorming with the help of his team, then goes off to do whatever activity life presents, then returns to the conscious cogitation. The science is beginning to support the use of this technique for creative decisionmaking.


liveonearth: (Default)

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