Once upon a time, these preserved human and animal brains were once lovingly studied by Soviet-era neuroscientists. But when the lab was abandoned — perhaps in a hurry — these lonely brains were left behind.
There are few details on this abandoned neuroscience lab, so we’ll have to take the photographer’s word that it’s the real deal. Supposedly, this former Soviet laboratory sits in Moscow, where it was operated by the army. Some time after the lab was hastily abandoned, it was sealed off. But civilians who venture inside will see skinned animal heads, slides depicting brain cross-sections, and lots and lots of actual brains amidst the more mundane dirty dishes and glassware. Head over to the Russian blog brusnichka for more macabre photos from the lab.
Thanks to DSM-5’s new definition of General Anxiety Disorder, we can now all be labeled ‘mentally ill’. The psychiatric, and pharmacological industries approve.
To start, let’s go back in time..
In 1994, a study asking a random sample of thousands of Americans about their mental health reported that 15% had ever suffered from anxiety disorders. A 2009 study of people interviewed about their anxiety repeatedly for years raised that estimate to 49.5% — which would translate to about 117 million U.S. adults.
Some psychiatrists say the increase in the prevalence of anxiety from about 4% to 50% is the result of psychiatrists and others “getting better at diagnosing anxiety,” as Dr. Carolyn Robinowitz, a past president of the APA, put it. “People who criticize that are showing their bias,” she said. “When we get better at diagnosing hypertension, we don’t say that’s terrible.”
Critics, including other leading psychiatrists, disagree. They say the apparent explosion in anxiety shows there is something seriously and dangerously wrong with the DSM. Its next edition, due in May, would lower the threshold for identifying anxiety.
The criticism rests on three arguments.
First, the DSM fails to recognize that anxiety is normal and even beneficial in many situations, so it conflates a properly functioning brain system with a pathology.
Second, the DSM’s description of anxiety is more about enforcing social norms than medicine.
Finally, they say, anxiety is adaptive. Its brain circuitry was honed by evolution for a purpose. Only when that mechanism misfires should a person be diagnosed as mentally ill.
But wait, is there any other human emotion more basic than anxiety? Many forms of it simply should not be categorized as disorders — because, they’re just the result of evolution over thousands of years, rather than something going wrong.
When the brain’s anxiety system misfires it can prevent people from functioning, as when someone is unable to leave home, interact with friends and family or walk past even a leashed dog. But the anxiety system is working properly when it makes someone afraid of heights or wild dogs or threatening strangers.
I agree, anxiety or panic symptoms that have been severe, persistent and cause clinically significant distress or impairment need to be diagnosed promptly — we have some great treatment options for them. I don’t oppose people getting treatment, I just think people are much too willing to think they have a disorder that requires treatment.
Under changes for the DSM-5 proposed by experts convened by the APA, symptoms such as excessive worry, restlessness, feeling on edge, avoiding activities that cause anxiety, and being overly concerned about health or finances or family would have to be present for only three months rather than six to justify a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). And people would have to display one physical symptom, not the current three.
With this, the threshold for GAD is set so ridiculously low — DSM-5 will mislabel as mentally ill many people who are experiencing no more than the normal and expected worries of everyday life.
The use of mobile tablet computers was associated with improvements in perceived and actual efficiency among residents, according to the findings of a single-institution study.
Bhakti K. Patel, MD, from the Department of Pulmonary/Critical Care, University of Chicago, Illinois, and colleagues published their findings in a research letter published in the March 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The authors note that medical residents spend much of their time working on indirect care tasks such as updating patient medical charts. “Unfortunately, the implementation of electronic health records actually increases time in indirect care and the need for available computer workstations to advance care,” the authors write. “These trends, coupled with the growing information needs for patient care, have led to more time spent locating a computer or working on the computer at the expense of time at the bedside or at conference.”
More than three quarters (78%) of the surveyed residents reported that the use of iPads (Apple) improved their workflow efficiency, with an average savings of approximately an hour a day. In addition, 68% of the house staff reported that delays in patient care were avoided because of iPad usage.
Even after recovery, heart attacks can leave a lasting mark on your ticker — scar tissue weakens the muscle and prevents it from functioning as well as it did before seizing up. A pioneering stem-cell procedure, however, could cut the damage in half.
According to the results of a small safety trial by the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and published in the Lancet medical journal, introducing stem cells derived from the patient’s own heart have shown an “unprecedented” ability to reduce scarring as well as regenerate healthy cardiac tissue.
During a heart attack, the organ is deprived of oxygen and its tissue begins to die off. As the heart heals from the attack, any damaged muscle is replaced by scar tissue, which prevents the heart from beating properly and pumping the requisite blood flow the body needs.
Around 1800, Italian scientist Jean Aldini zapped the brains of dead felons with electricity to make their bodies move. He later reported using the same technique to cure “melancholy.” This sounds like the history of electroconvulsive (shock) therapy, but those were actually the first experiments in transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), tweaking the brain with very mild shocks, 1,000 times less intense than delivered by shock therapy. A resurgence in tDCS is now underway. (Experiment “Consent Video” above from the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation.) Indeed, neuroscientists at the University of New Mexico are using a tDCS device powered by a 9-volt battery to see if 2 milliamps shocks to certain regions of the scalp can improve cognition and learning. Early results are promising. (In fact, tDCS may even prime neurons to respond to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a technique we’ve posted about on BB many times in which bursts from a magnetic coil near the head alter brain activity. TMS has been tested as a potential treatment for certain severe neurological and psychological disorders. Scientific journal Nature surveys the tDCS field in its latest issue.
Recent studies have highlighted a problem that many medical students know about all too well: the prevalence of depression and burnout in medical training. On student discussion boards, the stories put a human face on this troubling issue.
One medical student writes that she experienced severe depression during exams a few years ago. “I couldn’t stop crying, couldn’t sleep, I stopped seeing all my friends, I just used to sit and stare at books with nothing going in, it was horrible,” she notes in a comment on Medscape’s student blog, The Differential. After going to counseling, she was able to look objectively at her abilities and stop putting so much pressure on herself.
Medical students are exposed to a host of new, stressful experiences during their training, and they often process these moments in isolation. Although it has been studied considerably, the effects of depression and burnout on attitudes and actions are still being realized.
Depression is more common among medical students, residents, and physicians than in the general population, though estimates of its prevalence vary.
Over 25 percent of teenagers and young adults in the U.S. admit to being binge drinkers (according to the CDC). And over 33 million adults admit to binge drinking in the past year. Binge drinking is defined as having over four or five drinks in a matter of a few hours. And, as we all know, it’s becoming a cultural norm.
Alcohol ranks third as the cause of preventable deaths (after cigarettes and poor diet) killing nearly 80,000 Americans a year. Half of those are due to binge drinking. That’s for adults. Binging is the major cause of alcohol related deaths for adolescents and young adults. To really hammer this home, think about this one: 90 percent of all the alcohol consumed by high school students is consumed through binge drinking.
As a culture, we seem to enable binging. Evenings of recreation for college students or young adults are often centered around drinking heavily as a primary activity — as opposed to alcohol being a compliment to other forms of entertainment. In this environment, what can people do to defend themselves against a such an underestimated problem so poorly understood or defined?
Alcoholism is generally thought of as someone who drinks every day. So is binge drinking a form of alcoholism as well? And what can people do to curb a binge drinking habit in a culture which encourages it?
How is it that 17 million children in the U.S. live on the brink of hunger while, at the same time, 9 million American children are obese?
It’s certainly a troubling paradox. And it’s one of several reasons why many Americans don’t quite believe or understand the urgency and extent of hunger in the United States.
Misconceptions about hunger fall into two broad categories: Hunger is overwhelming, unsolvable, and “here to stay.” Alternatively, a prevailing view is that hunger can’t possibly exist in the U.S. — it’s a developing-world problem. (With one “small” caveat: It occurs among the homeless.) After all, just look at the obesity problem we have.
Let’s first address the paradox. Yes, hunger and obesity co-exist. Not surprisingly, however, most of this correlation is linked to poverty. As the Food Research and Action Center explains, low-income families face the same hurdles as anyone else — they’re not eating right and they’re too sedentary.
But they also live in neighborhoods — called “food deserts” — that lack full-service grocery stores, where healthy food like fresh produce is often more expensive and of poorer quality. And they creatively stretch their food budget by purchasing cheap, calorie-dense foods that will keep their children’s stomachs filled longer. There’s also a “feast or famine” situation at play — if you have to eat less or skip a meal, you may overeat when food does become available. And that can contribute to weight gain.
Yes, we have an obesity problem. But we also have a very worrying, largely hidden, and under-discussed hunger problem on our hands.
And it’s getting worse. Four years ago, 1 in 10 Americans struggled with hunger. A year later, it rose to 1 in 8. Today, it’s 1 in 6. That’s 50 million Americans, including 17 million children — and contrary to popular opinion, only 10 percent of these people are homeless.
We need to re-connect people to the problem and show them that hunger doesn’t conform to their stereotypes. But how to do that without shaming, numbing with statistics, and making hunger sound unsolvable?
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, led by Minrui Yu, have successfully induced nerve cell tendrils to grow through semiconductor tubes using strained silicon (Si) and germanium (Ge) nanomembranes as a cell culture substrate.
What do you think research like this will do for us in the future? I have my own ideas, but I’d like to hear yours!
By now, many of you have heard news reports about the PACE study out of the U.K., suggesting that cognitive behavioral therapy and exercise are helpful for chronic fatigue syndrome, and misguided media reports suggesting that this shows that the illness is all in people’s minds.