Thursday, October 10, 2013

Legally dead

Once you have been declared dead, it may be difficult to be declared alive again, at least if you live in Ohio and were declared dead more than three years ago:
Donald Miller Jr. went to court this week to ask a county judge to reverse a 1994 ruling that declared him legally dead after he had vanished from his home eight years earlier. But the judge turned down his request, citing a three-year time limit for changing a death ruling.
No medical opinion required!

Read more: US Judge Tells Man He's Still Legally Dead

Friday, June 22, 2012

Spearing the Brain

Well, I've been slow to update this blog, and meaning to post this story since I came across it: Docs Reveal Stunning Images Of Teen With Spear Through Head In brief: Doctors remove a spear (accidentally deployed from a speargun in what the story calls a "freak accident") that entered just above a teenage boy's right eye, and then penetrated the back of his skull. The pictures are amazing, as is the boy's expected recovery.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Trepanation kit

Just came across a lovely trepanation kit, featured on BoingBoing. David Pescovitz writes:
Over the years, I've spotted many trephination tools at various antique scientifica dealers. But this complete set is by far the most stately I've ever seen. No wonder it's in London's Wellcome Collection on display as part of their current Brains exhibition.
To see a picture of the kit and read more about it, see Skull drill set from the 18th century.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Love and the Brain

Last night, I watched a fabulous short film called "The Love Competition" by Brett Hoff. I saw it on Wholphin (which I subscribe to and love), but the piece can be viewed *right now* on Vimeo:, and I recommend you check it out asap.

The premise? A team of Stanford neuroscientists scans the brains of a half-dozen or so competitors (aged 10-75) as they love as hard as they can for five minutes. MRI scans reveal the winners! The brain reveals all, perhaps.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Is that your brainwaves talking?

The brain may not be able to speak quite yet, but researchers at the University of California, Berkeley are working to correlate speech to the brain's neural activity.
Using algorithms to interpret the neural activity, they created a graphical representation of the data, which they later converted back to audible speech.
"People listening to the audio replays may be able to pull out coarse similarities between the real word and the constructed words," says Pasley. When New Scientist listened to the words, they could just about make out "Waldo" and "structure". However, its fidelity was sufficient for the team to identify individual words using computer analysis.

Is reading minds just around the bend? Not likely, but researchers hope to help people like Erik Ramsey, who is paralysed.

To read the full story, see Telepathy machine reconstructs speech from brainwaves by Helen Thomson

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Old Brains and Mental Illness

Just came across this very interesting piece by Virginia Hughes in Scientific American about the Indiana Medical History Museum, formerly the pathology department of the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane, and now back in the news because of a frustrating "dearth of postmortem brain donations from people with mental illness." The solution? Mining genetic information from "old, often forgotten tissue archives".

Though studying old brains is not without challenges, the tissue is free from modern psychiatric drugs, and is, in the words of John Allman, a professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology, "an untapped resource."

To read the entire story, see Shelf-Preservation: Researchers Tap Century-Old Brain Tissue for Clues to Mental Illness

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

If someone slipped you valium...

This week's New Yorker contains an article by Michael Specter that I was compelled to read at once. The topic? Placebos. In this fascinating piece, Specter offers important details such as:
In most cases, the larger the pill, the stronger the plecebo effect. Two pills are better than one, and brand-name pills trump generics. Capsules are generally more effective than pills, and injections produce a more pronounced effect than either.
Thomas Jefferson... noted that 'one of the most successful physicians I have ever known has assured me that he used more bread pills, drops of coloured water, and powders of hickory ashes, than of all other medicines put together.'
And, perhaps my favorite, that doctors have found:
...that diazepam--more commonly known as Valium--has no discernible effect on anxiety unless a person knows he is taking it.
To read the article, see The Power of Nothing.