Monday, July 15, 2013

Everybody Must Get Stoned?

This is a startling result and I have to wonder why it isn't being more widely publicised:

In the present study, we observed smaller brain weights and volumes in male macaque monkeys after 1.5–2.3 years of exposure to marijuana at plasma drug levels comparable to those in treated humans. Exposure to marijuana was associated with a similar reduction in mean fresh brain weight, as well as mean fresh weight and volume of the left cerebrum, compared to matched, placebo-exposed animals. For both drugs, the magnitude of these effects was in the range of 8–11%. The reduction seemed to be global (ie including all brain regions), but was most robust in the frontal and parietal lobes. In addition, both gray and white matter volumes appeared to be reduced to a similar degree.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chronic Cannabis Exposure Induces Cerebellar Inflammation?

The cerebellum, also known as the "little brain" is at the base of brain. Originally thought to be involved in the "fine tuning" of motor function we now know it plays an important role in wide variety of behaviors. This news item from Live Science highlights a potential risk from chronic cannabis exposure but after reading the full journal article I realise there are some important reservations about the claims made in the Live Science article.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Potassium or Die


Reducing salt and increasing potassium will have major global health benefits

Cutting down on salt and, at the same time, increasing levels of potassium in our diet will have major health and cost benefits across the world, according to studies published in BMJ today.
Reducing salt intake is not enough, potassium intake amongst hunter gatherers is many times the potassium intake of modern diets and hunter gatherers typically have what we would regard as potentially dangerously low blood pressure.

Nutrition Myths

I was sent this link which provides some very interesting insights into the silliness of much standard nutrition advice. Unfortunately these myths still persist and in a couple of these I can see that I had once entertained the same ideas.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Atheists are Coming!

It may seem contradictory but in Britain there is an Atheist Church and it is now setting up shop in Australia. The movement has rapidly grown in Britain and reflects a refreshing change from the all too often dour and sombre tone of traditional religions. Traditional religion is so bloody serious, like this life must be lived in subservience to some higher purpose. One reason I have always had a liking for Zen is because I regard it as the only religion capable of laughing at itself. Sadly though, at least in my experience, Buddhists also seem to suffer from "we're here for a higher purpose" and be lacking in humour.

While people like Dawkins presume the popularity of religion has something to with rationality the popularity of religion has as much to do with maintaining social cohesion, providing group identification, and socialising, as it does about rationality. I consider it one of the major flaws of the New Atheists that they focus far too much on the unsubstantiated beliefs of religions and fail to recognise the more non-rational drivers of religion. The non-traditional churches, pentecostals being the prominent example, focus much more on making religious observance a celebration rather than a sombre reflection upon life. These churches have boomed in recent decades but mainly by acquiring members from the traditional churches. Interestingly in advanced societies traditional religions have been declining for decades, this trend particularly noticeable from the mid-20th century onwards.

Atherosclerosis is an Ancient Problem

There are some who attribute modern degenerative diseases to the modern lifestyle. Some argue that cancer and heart disease were virtually non-existent in the good ol' days. This recent study (full text at link) found that 1/3 of all mummies examined had evidence of atherosclerosis. You can read the Australian ABC news release here. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rethinking Madness(Again?)

What is that old saying: that if you keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result then you are insane? Why do we need to keep rethinking madness? If we're going to do that then do it properly rather than using polemical literature which so often leads to polarised views.

As some of my recent posts indicate I am more than willing to criticize modern psychiatry for some of its excesses. The problems of modern psychiatry are not just within the domain of psychiatry. The situation is very complex and I cannot do full justice to that issue here. Nonetheless I do feel that modern psychiatry lacks sufficient numbers of iconoclasts, that psychiatrists, generally speaking, are too willing to adopt the medical model of mental illness in spite of a dearth of evidence supporting those models.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Learn Something, Always Be Learning Something

Free education video sites. 

RefSeek's guide to the 25 best online resources for finding free educational videos. With the exception of BrainPOP and Cosmeo, all listed sites offer their extensive video libraries for free and without registration.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Creation of Psychopharmacology - David Healy(Review)

This is a very difficult subject to address. It is contentious, opinions are divided, and I'm sure David Healy has made more than a few enemies because of this text. Be warned, I have neither time nor inclination to fully assess the merits of his argument. So in the interests of fairness I provide these links for reviews of this work. Be clear, not just because of this text but also because of a longstanding interest in understanding behavior(not professionally) I have to concur with the main thrust of Dr. Healy's argument. As recent posts on this blog have indicated(Psychotherapy and Drugs: A Dangerous Combination? , Psychiatry, Psychology, and Philosophy) I am, like David Healy, challenging some of the fundamental assumptions driving modern psychiatry and psychology.

I cannot address all the issues raised by this text. That would take 10,000 words and this post is 2,000 words. I do strongly advise those who are interested in this matter to find this book, read it, and think very carefully about it. 

BTW, I become very angry at the end of this post.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Steve Wolfram on the Nature of Mathematics

A video clip where Wolfram argues for mathematics existing in many possible forms and types.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Don't Interrupt Me

Study: Brief interruptions spawn errors

Short interruptions – such as the few seconds it takes to silence that buzzing smartphone – have a surprisingly large effect on one's ability to accurately complete a task, according to new research led by Michigan State University.

In the good ol' days when I knew how to concentrate I also knew that maintaining concentration for extended periods often required the satisfaction in knowing I could continue uninterrupted for however long I chose to be focused on the task at hand. A small quiet place is one of the most important assets for good work.