Jul 26 2011

Soylent Green, Red, Orange, and Purple Is People!

Tag: brains,food & drink,Science, Medicine, etc.Donna B. @ 8:08 pm

Well, not exactly.

Though surely we will see “jello pop science” as a Wheel of Fortune  Before and After puzzle.

Developments like this are going to bump up against some of our deeply ingrained “Ewwww, ICK” reactions now that they are not just in the realm of science fiction. 

One of the problems the story notes with current gelatin manufacturing methods is that it is not vegetarian since it is derived from animals. Like this commenter, I’m having trouble seeing where this technique will solve that problem for the more picky vegetarians out there.

Photo found here, but upon further browsing, I’m sure this is the original.

May 06 2011

I’m Still Here

Tag: brains,healthDonna B. @ 9:05 pm

You know the old saying about when it rains it pours. It’s been pouring around here for a while. And you can bet your sweet bippy I’m not about to ask what else can go wrong!

Most of what’s gone wrong has resolved or is well on its way to being resolved. One issue (that I’m not going to write about) I’ve simply shoved away for a time.

One issue I will write about is my worry that my husband was developing a dementia of some sort on top of his numerous well-documented (and mostly well-treated) physical problems. Finally, I get the courage and impetus to broach the subject with him and we see his doctor.

Sure ‘nuf, he flunks the mini-test warranting further exploration. The first thing done is an MRI to rule out stuff. One of the things to be ruled out is normal pressure hydrocephalus. And the MRI indicates that might be the problem – but before we get those results back, he passes out and falls hitting his face on our metal trash can.

I hear the crash and find him conscious, but not coherent at all. I call 911 and refuse his requests to help him up. I’ve got to compliment the Shreveport Fire Department and EMS people. They got here quick and they were as compassionate and helpful with my panic as they were my husband’s disorientation.

So we’re off to the ER and find out about the implications of the MRI and that other causes of fainting now have to be ruled out also. Then we experience the horror of being hospitalized over the weekend.

It took approximately 6 hours for my husband to return to “normal”. It was very much like being with someone coming out of anesthesia, though maybe a bit slower. We were told by various representatives of specialists that several tests needed to be done. The first was 24 hour heart monitoring. By the time that was finished, we were told (on a Saturday morning) that the other tests couldn’t be done until Monday or later.

Now… there’s nothing worse than being in the hospital when you feel as good as you ever do… or “fine” if that’s the word to use. The remainder of these tests — a specialized MRI, EEG, ECG, tilt table test for orthostatic hypotension, etc., are all tests that can be and are routinely done on an outpatient basis.

So… perhaps we were wrong insisting on going home. However, I’m not sure that these tests would have been done sooner had he stayed in the hospital.

After leaving the hospital (not against doctor’s advice btw) I ran into more trouble than I’ve ever had before scheduling these various tests. One of the problems turns out to be that the hospitalist intern was now acting (or trying to act) as primary care doc – and he would certainly not be the doc of our choice. Another problem was that the consulting cardiologist in the hospital was also not the cardiologist who has been treating my husband for over 15 years.

Then there was the crazy neurologist. Yes, crazy. My husband and I had both been referred to this neurologist a few years ago and the best way to describe his diagnostic technique is that he refuses to diagnose. So… we were not thrilled, but also felt we had no choice but to try to use him.

There’s a lot of appointment making strangeness, but I’ll not go into that right now.

As it stands now, my husband is having a cardiac cath done next week because he failed the stress test needed to clear him for surgery to install a shunt to treat the normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Of course during all this, I get my annual cold which turns into bronchitis and am pretty much out of commission for a few weeks.

We have an appointment with a second neurosurgeon also. As of now, the main differences between the two neurosurgeons is the brand of programmable shunt they use, the ease of interacting with their staffs, and the location of the operating room… and, of course, their reputations.

One of them is the chief of neurosurgery at LSU medical school and hospital. He practices with a group of neurosurgeons that has managed to not renew the practice’s domain name, has an indescribably poor telephone system that makes making an appointment next to impossible, and… includes the neurosurgeon that scared the hell out of me a few years ago about my meningioma.

I do not think that the neurosurgeon that I rejected a few years ago reflects on the skills of the chief of the department. But I have to ask why the department continues to allow a doctor whose physical impairments quite clearly portray an inability to operate to continue doing so.

The other doctor is one who just might have what I think could be an unethical relationship with a medical device manufacturer. This is merely a suspicion… and I do NOT think that doctors who look to the manufacturer of devices for training are necessarily unethical.

Regardless which surgeon we choose, this is a no guarantees procedure. First, there’s no way of knowing whether his dementia symptoms are caused by the normal pressure hydrocephalus. And there’s also the possibility that some are and others are not. The surgery itself is sort of a test to determine cause.

It’s also a step that I think must be taken. The possibility that this surgery can stop the dementia symptoms where they are now (mild) cannot be discounted. The possibility that the surgery could reduce the symptoms cannot be overlooked, even though that is not likely.

Of course, he could have Alzheimer’s or some other dementia as well as having normal pressure hydrocephalus dementia. I can’t say that is a reason to not have the surgery. One cause seems better than two, doesn’t it?

So… we wait. We’ll see.

Next up – what’s with this shortage of drugs?

Sep 26 2010

It’s Complex

Tag: brains,Science, Medicine, etc.Donna B. @ 12:10 am

I’m sure there’s a law by Murphy to cover the phenomenon that Razib is discovering.

My first choice:
You can never tell which way the train went by looking at the track.

Under the most rigorously controlled conditions of pressure, temperature, volume, humidity, and other variables the organism will do as it damn well pleases.

Nov 24 2009

News From The Neuro-Urology Department

Tag: brains,health,stimulusDonna B. @ 5:01 pm

The most amazing news to me is there’s such a specialty as neuro-urology. This is like life imitating a dirty joke. The author of Shocking Treatment Helps Erectile Dysfunction, and perhaps even the researchers just can’t seem to help themselves, even though the treatment sounds exciting, er… I mean interesting.

I admire the way researcher Yoram Vardi describes the parameters of the strength of the shockwaves in language the average layman can understand:

“These are very, very low energy shock waves,” Vardi said. Each shockwave applied roughly 100 bar of pressure — some 20 times the air pressure in a bottle of champagne, but less than the pressure exerted by a woman in stiletto heels who weighs 132 lbs. (60 kg). 

“This sort of energy is completely different from what you would get in a massage, although everyone can do what they want,” Vardi said.

This is just perfect material for a Neurotopia Friday Weird Science post.  


Oct 17 2009

Good Morning Dear Reader!

Tag: brains,grandchildren,politics,Shreveport/LouisianaDonna B. @ 4:23 am

Having just awakened from one of my infamous 15 hour naps, I find I have nothing important to say. I know that surprises you.

Get used to it, OK? Even the President has mostly nothing important to say. What I lack is his ability to say nothing eloquently.

What could possibly be said meaningfully or eloquently about poor Meghan McCain’s twitter castastrophe… and why is everyone so upset that she has boobs? I have boobs. Some people are boobs. Boobs are ubiquitous, right? Then… the feminist side of me jumps up screaming why are boobs associated with foolishness and ignorance, er… I mean dumb and blonde?

Is there an actual association between hair color and boob size? Or is there an association between women of average or better intelligence who happen to be blonde and have big boobs who have “made hay” of a perceived link?

As a big-boobed blonde of above average IQ who has given birth to a redhead, blonde, and brunette of above average IQ (and I won’t comment either on the boob size or gender…) I gotta ask… does penis size correlate with IQ? Is smaller smarter?

If I remember correctly, women with bigger boobs have more trouble breastfeeding than to do women with smaller ones. In some way this makes a lot of sense since lower primates and mammals do not develop big boobs. So is this smaller breast size and greater ability to breastfeed a sign of greater evolution or a sign of the productivity of lesser evolution?

At what point in human evolution did the appearance and associated utility of mammary development become  important? If only nourishment of the next generation were considered, small breasts with large nipples would be the norm.

Where did humans go ‘wrong’ in their preference? And did males have anything to do with it?

And what are we to do with the incredibly stupid JP in Tangipahoa Parish who will not marry “mixed” race couples?  It’s fairly obvious that this man opposes only black/white marriages. How would he decide on an Asian/Caucasian marriage or on an Native American/Caucasian marriage? An Hispanic/Caucasian marriage?

While we are given little information on his opinions of “mixed race” marriages not of the black/white type, I am not reluctant to “guess” at his opinion of other mixed “race” types.

And… once again, I am compelled to remember my sharing of photos of grandchildren with a black woman. Her grandson had blue eyes and blonde hair while my granddaughter had black hair, near black eyes and “much darker than white” skin.

It’s rather ironic that my caucasian genes might lower the IQ of my Asian granddaughter and that the caucasian genes might raise the IQ of the black woman’s grandson… theoretically, at least…

And while we’re thinking about racism and it’s incomprehensible negative effects, do not forget those who think that Barack Obama’s black heritage is of a higher intelligence than those whose black heritage is through slavery.

There is a cognitive dissonance thing going on among those who think Obama’s blackness is more “pure” because he is descended from an “actual” African and those who think his “African” descendance is less pure than an American African descendant.

Frankly, as “post-racialist” I think it matters not at all. He chooses the background that most helps his agenda. Unfortunately, his lack of understanding of history confuses him in identifying his agenda.

Sep 19 2009

Is It Late Saturday Night Or Early Sunday Morning?

Tag: brains,economics,humor,UncategorizedDonna B. @ 8:34 pm

My mental clock runs  7 hours late. I won’t get into how my physiological clock runs other than to say it’s not exactly on time.

The mental clock was programmed by working for years in a 24 hour industry. Three shifts, and the last one started at 11 pm. Can we agree that it would be a mathematical and bookkeeping nightmare to be accurate and calculate the hours and pay spanning two different days rather than one?

So, a day — for minimal distress and the payroll bookkeeper’s sanity started at 7 am. Of course, a simple solution would be to start the work day at midnight, but… frankly that would be too damn simple and still confusing for the workers who headed off to work on the 2nd day of the month but didn’t clock in until the 3rd.

Also, it’s just best to not have shifts end at noon or midnight. There’s always that 59 minute question, is there not? Does morning end at 11:59 am? Does afternoon start at 12:01? Frankly, every 24 hour business would lose 2 minutes of work per day. That adds up to an entire 12 hour shift being lost every year per worker.

Business could not function under that loss, since it would be added to the 3 hours per 8 hour shift lost to surfing the internet and general goofing off.

What should be understood is whether I finally finish this post at 11:59 on Saturday, September 19 or 4:02 am on Sunday, September 20, it is still a Saturday night post.

This manner of time-keeping also comes in handy for those who have had instilled in them the idea that drinking on Sunday is a bad thing. Using this method, Saturday night parties can last much longer. An there’s no reason why one can’t drink until 2 or 3 am, then have a leisurely breakfast at Waffle House and still grab a few hours sleep before church.

Don’t think I can’t sense the rumblings of some of you disagreeing out there. Rationalization, you say? Hell yeah! Why else did we evolve big brains?

Aug 05 2009

What To Think, What To Do

Tag: bariatric surgery,brains,healthDonna B. @ 3:10 am

My symptoms.

I’m not even sure the site linked above is a reliable one. The design sucks, but that’s not an infallible indicator of bad information. Nor is bad spelling and grammar, but it makes one wonder.

However… dammit, except for PTSD, every one of those things is happening or has happened to me. I had VBG – vertical banded gastroplasty about 16 years ago. Oh yeah, I lost weight at first, but now I weigh about 5 lbs less than when I had the surgery.

Until recently, I didn’t even consider that any of my health problems were related to that surgery. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia before the surgery, but tended not to say anything about that to anyone because it was not really accepted as a “real” problem at the time.

Several years after the surgery, I found I had a small meningioma which finally grew much larger. It was treated with radiation when it got larger. Many of the symptoms listed in that link, I attributed to the tumor.

I’ve seen neurologists, neurosurgeons, gastroenterologists, psychiatrists, rheumatologists, and… of course, my primary care docs. I recently had a hernia repaired which was due to the incision made by the VBG surgery. Ever since then, the diarrhea is much worse.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do. None of these symptoms alone are serious enough to worry about or cause much trouble, but taken together, they do cause problems. And they’ve become much worse over the past 3-4 years. But how am I — or a doctor — to know what causes what?

I also had a bad fall about 3 years ago. Both knees were injured, but my right knee has never been “right” since then. It was x-rayed and nothing is broken, but it is still very tender and painful at times. My left knee is “unreliable”. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, but it was that way before I fell. It’s just worse now.

Though I’ve joked about losing 25 IQ points, it’s really not funny. I am blessed that even with that loss, I’ve still got at least an “average” IQ and supposedly can express myself well.

Well, not as well I once did and not as well as I want to. I hate the inability to concentrate. Once upon a time, I read two books a week, now it’s a book a month, at best. This is a serious blow to my sense of well-being.

One of the main reasons I have this blog is to try to keep my mind as sharp as I can. It’s also why I read certain blogs daily. But frankly, sometimes I’m a little bit frightened that I can’t communicate the way I want to, whether in a post here or a comment elsewhere.

Mar 24 2009

Helmets And Closed Head Injuries

Tag: brains,Science, Medicine, etc.Donna B. @ 9:25 pm

The death of Natasha Richardson has spurred many comments about what might have prevented her death. One of those memes is “if only she had worn a helmet” is, perhaps, misleading.

What is not addressed is the problem of coup-contrecoup brain injuries. Helmets do little to alleviate head injuries of this type.

Please read this post and the following thread for a good explanation of why helmets help sometimes and don’t help others: A simple bump on the head can kill you. Read the comments for the full story.

I think that there is a reluctance to admit that helmets do not prevent all, or even all types, of head injuries because it’s thought that people won’t wear them if they don’t work 100% of the time.

The other side of that argument is that people who wear helmets may think they are protected to an extent they can take risks they ordinarily wouldn’t.

The take-home message here is to always wear a helmet and to always be careful because a helmet can only protect you against some head injuries, not all.

Sep 05 2008

Take My Corvette, But Don’t Mess With My Typewriter

Tag: brains,healthDonna B. @ 9:20 pm

Robert Novak writes How a Tumor Is Changing My Life. 

Jul 08 2008

Today’s Reading

Tag: brains,food & drink,healthDonna B. @ 3:13 pm

First thing I read today was in a doctor’s office waiting room. I was thrilled that he’d put out a recent copy of the Southern Medical Journal. Surely, I didn’t understand some of the terms used, but if I’d chosen Glamour, I wouldn’t have understood why any of the content was important.

One article was about a 17 year old Hispanic male who had a reaction to concurrent treatment for HIV and active TB. I was mainly horrified that one so young led such a life where he was exposed to either. So very, very sad.

Another was about a 61 year old woman who unknowingly aspirated a hazelnut. I think I remember the nut and the age of the woman correctly. My first question was how one could unknowingly do that. Then it noted that other than the breathing problems that prompted her to get treatment, she had no other health problems except schizophrenia. Perhaps that explains the unknowing part.

The take-home message for me from that article was that aspirated foreign objects are relative rare in adults, but quite common in children, especially ages 5 and under. The most commonly aspirated objects are nuts; the most common nut is the peanut. Note to parents: no nuts until after age 5.

Online, I’ve been reading mostly health or science topics too. Crooked Timber has a great post, Fat Hominid, on fad diets and evolutionary psychology. The comments are good too. If you can stomach reading about eating rodents and insects. :-)

Then I surfed on over to ScienceBlogs where I eventually found a link to Encephalon #49 at Neuroscientifically Challenged. It’s always amused me that we must use what we’re studying to learn about the brain. And yes, I’m easily amused.