Archive for the ‘bblonde’ Category

Sigmund has the last word…

In bblonde, sigmund on 12/13/2006 at 1:25 pm

A neurological disorder in which physiological symptoms are discernible without seemingly justifiable reasons is commonly termed a ‘conversion disorder’ and is generally accepted to be subconciously triggered by stressful and/or traumatic events. The critical point here is that the symptoms of conversion disorder, which may include loss of coordination or balance, facial tics, loss of specific senses such as sight or hearing, difficulty swallowing or feeling of a lump in the throat, paralysis of limb, etc… are entirely involuntary. In essence the person is not consciously acting out the consequent physiological effects and often not even aware of the physical symptoms until it is pointed out to them.

The irony is that ‘conversion disorder’ was a term coined by Freud because he thought that people unconsciously converted a psychological distress into a physiological symptom, and has long been looked upon by the medical establishment as a ‘phantom’ disease more appropriately to be categorized under psychosomatic ailments. Although unfortunately it is still more commonly referred to as ‘hysteria’, its unusual features haven’t changed. Sufferers have neurological symptoms ranging from numbness in a limb to paralysis, memory loss and seizures, that cannot be traced to any known medical problem. That is, until now. ..

Now a new study, published in the December issue of medical journal Neurology finds that a part of the brain which normally responds to touch was inactive when the numb body part was stimulated – proof that the symptoms really exist. Omar Ghaffar, a resident in psychiatry at Sunnybrook and the study’s lead author along with Anthony Feinstein of UofT, says the findings are good news for those who have long been told their condition was imaginary and offers brain evidence that “validates” the general Freudian view of the disorder. So next time your significant other complains of tingling sensations or nervous tic, don’t be so quick to assume that they are imagining it, try offering a deep back rub instead 🙂


my damaged brain…?

In bblonde, damaged brain on 11/07/2006 at 1:57 am

So, I have a confession to make. I buy a single lottery ticket every wednesday, without fail. This past week a ‘friend’ informs me matter of factly that therapy may be required for what is clearly and obviously a gambling addiction. Luckily for her there weren’t any heavy object immediately discernable to throw but it did jostle my sensitive memory cells about the subject
Fact is, our perception of brain damage has never really extended to our own behavioral patterns, particularly when it involves recurring but non-intrusive compulsive activities like gambling. Even in the face of pretty concrete neurological evidence dating as far back as 2003, gambling is still categorized as an impulse control disorder, where even hard core pathological gamblers are considered ‘healthy’ with respect to their cognitive behavior. To save my failing brain (sigh) the trouble of summarizing badly, I have dug up for you gentle readers, the original abstract in its entirety innocently titled;

Brain damage and addictive behavior: a neuropsychological and electroencephalogram investigation with pathologic gamblers. Enjoy while I rip up my lottery ticket… ;

BACKGROUND: Gambling is a form of nonsubstance addiction classified as an impulse control disorder. Pathologic gamblers are considered healthy with respect to their cognitive status. Lesions of the frontolimbic systems, mostly of the right hemisphere, are associated with addictive behavior. Because gamblers are not regarded as “brain-lesioned” and gambling is nontoxic, gambling is a model to test whether addicted “healthy” people are relatively impaired in frontolimbic neuropsychological functions. METHODS: Twenty-one nonsubstance dependent gamblers and nineteen healthy subjects underwent a behavioral neurologic interview centered on incidence, origin, and symptoms of possible brain damage, a neuropsychological examination, and an electroencephalogram. RESULTS: Seventeen gamblers (81%) had a positive medical history for brain damage (mainly traumatic head injury, pre- or perinatal complications). The gamblers, compared with the controls, were significantly more impaired in concentration, memory, and executive functions, and evidenced a higher prevalence of non-right-handedness (43%) and, non-left-hemisphere language dominance (52%). Electroencephalogram (EEG) revealed dysfunctional activity in 65% of the gamblers, compared with 26% of controls. CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that the “healthy” gamblers are indeed brain-damaged. Compared with a matched control population, pathologic gamblers evidenced more brain injuries, more fronto-temporo-limbic neuropsychological dysfunctions and more EEG abnormalities. The authors thus conjecture that addictive gambling may be a consequence of brain damage, especially of the frontolimbic systems, a finding that may well have medicolegal consequences.
Dr.Regard M, Dr. Knoch D, Dr. Gutling E, Dr. Landis T.
Department of Neurology, University Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland.

worth a look…

In bblonde on 09/27/2006 at 6:39 am

He is a University of Washington State drop-out who believed in dreams. Currently he is the fifth richest man in America, worth a mere $16 billion. He is crazy about sports and bought not one, but two teams, football’s Seattle Seahawks and basketball’s Portland Trailblazers. He’s a cancer survivor, real estate developer, philanthropist, venture capitalist and both the lead strategist, the real brain behind world’s richest company AND the lead guitarist, in a rock band aptly named ‘Grown Men’. Oh yes, and he is a major contributor to the SETI, or Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence project.

And now, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has successfully completed an ambitious web based, 3D atlas, one that maps all the genes in a mouse brain. The Allen Brain Atlas, unveiled today, will literally change some of our lives as we search for cures to such brain disorders as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, schizophrenia, autism, depression and behavioral mechanisms underlying compulsive addictions.
We humans have more than 90 percent of our genes in common with the Mouse; mapping this represents a significant step in understanding our own brain. Ultimately it may also help unlock the mysteries of how we think, see, feel, hurt and experience other emotions and sensations that fly around the 1 quadrillion communications points in the brain.

All of this is the culminating results of a project for brain science that Allen established in 2003 and provided $100 million in seed money as they embarked on a three-year quest to map 21,000 active genes in a mouse brain. The genes were detected in various sections of the brain, filled with a photogenic substance and then photographed by automated microscopes and uploaded into a computer.

The atlas shows a map of active genes in the brain, which in turn provides links to specific brain functions.
More than 85 million images were captured; the 600 terabytes of information in the on-line atlas could fill 20,000 I-Pods. A 5minute demo of the atlas is available here.
Roughly one-fourth of American adults, or 58 million people, suffer from a diagnosable brain disorder in a given year. About 4.5 million have Alzheimer’s; autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the nation; 2.7 million have epileptic seizures; schizophrenia affects 2.2 million people, and 1 percent of Americans over 65 have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“Computers are simple,” Allen says. “Brains are far more complex.”

really is worth a look… warning #1; you must download and install BrainExplorer software from here 🙂 and warning #2; do not click on image above if you think you are squeamish about mouse brain dissections :))

the long and short of it…

In bblonde on 09/04/2006 at 12:24 pm

What do Tom, Verne, and Immanuel have in common..?
Recently while perusing National Bureau of Economic Research (yes my morning read right after the Cosmo fix) I ran smack into this sentence On average, taller people earn more because they are smarter” Wow there stop. Normally this type of stuff goes right into the trash, except this one just happens to be penned by two very brilliant minds at Princeton, Anne Case and Christina Paxson. Complete text here for anyone interested. Of course it has always been evident that at least in the political arena short candidates are disadvantaged. Quantitative studies of U.S. Senators and Governors have shown they are on average 2-4 inches taller than the U.S. population at large. Of the 43 U.S. Presidents, only five have been more than an inch below average height and of the 54 US presidential elections only 13 have been won by the shorter candidate.
but… and it’s a big ‘but’, Immanuel Kant, merely the most influential thinker of modern Europe and the last major philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment, was only 4’11”. And napoleonic complexes aside, let’s not forget Hollywood power brokers like Tom Cruise (5′ 7″) or Michael J. Fox (5′ 4″) Dustin Hoffman (5′ 6″) Dudley Moore (5′ 2 “) Al Pacino (5′ 5 1/2″) Elijah Wood (5’6”) and not a hollywood player but still my favorite,Verne Troyer (2′ 8″) aka minyme;). Why do I have the sneaking suspicion is that there is probably much more fertile ground to be covered researching penis size correlation to power brokering ratio ; ie. more power you seek bigger dick you are…? hmm… more to come on this subject definitely :))

Anne Case is a Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University.
Christina Paxson is Professor of Economics and Public Affairs Director, Center for Health and Wellbeing Princeton University

sexy shorts vs…short morals

In bblonde, sexy shorts vs.short morals on 08/24/2006 at 1:44 am

“hey, sexy shorts.”
“um.. thanks. He really hates to wear them. But he has to.”
I looked at her, puzzled “..has to?”
Carla smiled “Yes, you know, we um… are trying so hard to conceive. And David has low sperm count, so hot weather like this he has to wear shorts so his.. you know, doesn’t overheat.”
Carla and David are my friends, married three years and desperately trying to have a baby. I debated whether to tell her in fact that best way to triple his sperm count would be to convince David that she was having an affair. A dangerous tactic, to be sure but from a evolutionary psychological point of view, entirely justified and effective way to tactically counteract the low sperm count. From the male’s point of view, evolutionarily speaking, it is not how long since they have had sex, but how many opportunities his mate has had to consort with other males that affects the sperm count. In essence the more he believes she is unfaithful, more elevated his sperm spm(variance 20-160 million sperm per milliliter) . This makes sense if we see that over generations of evolutionary progress, his sperm may have had to compete with sperm of other males inside her womb, so to speak.

Carla stared slack jawed. “you’re kidding me.”

Faithful readers of this blog are well aware by now of our bias towards evolutionary psychology when it comes to observing the behavior of our gentle species. Although it may be fairly obvious and more accurate to say that our preference is more in line with the ‘field’ of evolutionary neurology, particularly given our name:) If we accept the basic premise of evolutionary psychology that the human mind, like every other organ in our body, was designed for the purpose of facilitating gene transmission from one generation to the next, and that the feelings and thoughts created in our minds are at best a kind of by-product of this non-organic ‘pipeline’, then it’s fairly clear we should understand that our hunger pangs, as much as the existence of our stomach, are here only because it helps our species propagate. Our libido, no less than our sex organs, are also present for same reasons. “hmm..”, you say, “but all that sounds familiar…”

But let’s see if we can push this theoretical ‘envelope’. Neurologically speaking, we may have been designed with an entirely different focus in mind. In effect, our brains are geared to nurture ruthless genetic self-interest in that we focus primarily not on searching for that ideal mate, but rather first depriving our closest competitors (ie friends, companions) of that possibility. In doing so we are naturally oblivious to our own ‘ruthlessness’. It is genetic, after all…
The danger here is that people will take easiest path; react by surrendering to “natural” impulses, as if what is “in our genes” are beyond reach of self-control. We may even conveniently and incorrectly assume that what is “natural” is good.
This idea may still be common and perhaps widely held. Natural selection for the evolutionary good of the species is a powerful thought, who could argue against constantly “improving” our species for the greater good? How often do we still hear the same refrain from a cheating boyfriend “uh..but honey you know us guys have to ya know spread our seed to ensure survival of human species, it’s in our genes..we are built that way!” But evolutionary psychology rests on a quite different world perspective; clear recognition that natural selection does not work toward overall social welfare, in fact much of what passes for ‘innate’ human nature is thinly disguised ruthless genetic self-interest. Morality does not come built into our species, contrary and with all due respect to Charles Darwin, who believed that men stood apart from every other mammalian species because humans were ‘engineered’ with a concept of morality. Understanding moral issues and being able to attain moral ideals are too often worlds apart.

money gene coming right up…

In bblonde, money gene on 07/28/2006 at 1:19 am

Prozac for money & sex coming soon to pharmacy near you…

The following sentence may sound like beginning of a Stephen King novel, but rest assured all true. Once upon a time late at night, in a basement laboratory at Stanford University, (sigh anyone who knows the state of basements at mcgill will understand why these discoveries are never made at mcgill, but we digress..) Brian Knutson made a startling discovery: Our brains lust after money, just like they crave sex.

This innocuous idea is currently sending shivers up spines of financiers and money brokers everywhere. For years economists and experts on Wall Street have propagated an unassailable idea that financial expertise is a learned behavior, much like say accounting, or law, or driving. The idea is enshrined in the economic theory of rational expectations, for which people have won Nobel Prizes for heaven’s sake (ie Robert Lucas in 1995).

For most of us it seems well.. logical that that when it comes to money, logic should prevail, that intellect matters in investing. Entire field of Economics, and lately Game Theory, is founded on the resolute principle that ‘experts’ in these disciplines possess invaluable experience that come primarily from knowledge learned and techniques applied along with ability to learn from past mistakes.

Well guess what. Welcome to the new world of neurofinance. (huh?)

The prefrontal cortex has a high number of interconnections both between the brainstem‘s Reticular Activating System (RAS) and the limbic system. As a result, the centers in the prefrontal cortex depend significantly on high levels of alertness, and emotional linkages with deeper brain structures related to control of pleasure, pain, anger, rage, panic, aggression (fight-flight-freeze responses), and basic sexual responses. Now we can add ‘financial risk responses’ to this list. The viceral pleasure of orgasm, the transient high from cocaine, the adrenaline rush of buying Google at $450 a share… the same neural pathways may in effect govern all three. What’s more, our primal pleasure circuits can, and often do, override our seat of reason, the brain’s frontal cortex. In other words, stocks, like sex, (and men) sometimes drive us crazy. And answers to questions like why some people win at ‘game’ of money and others perennially walk the loserslane may be found amidst the 96,000 km of neural wiring in our brainspace, rather than in books or colleges or Wall street brokerage houses.

Not to belabour the point, suffice it to simply quote Daniel Kahneman, who merely won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for his pioneering work in behavioral finance that fuses classical economic theory and studies of human psychology.

” The brain scientists are the wave of the future in the financial world… if you seek to maximize understanding, whether you’re in academia or in the investment community, you’d better pay very serious attention to them.”

” The brain scientists are the wave of the future in the financial world.”



The Spears-Federline phenomena explained…

In bblonde, spears-federline phenomena on 07/20/2006 at 2:25 pm

While we are on the topic of bright iQ’s it should be remembered that more often than we think, smartest of brains are fooled by simplest of deceptions and betrayed by that which should be our most trusted agent, ourvery own eyes… no more elegant demonstration of this than the infamous table illusion revisted, (and properly renamed… 😉

It first gained notoriety because at a recent science symposium (that’s a gathering of brainiacs with egos to match elevated iQ for all youse innocents) severe tempers flared upon ‘presentation’ of this illusion by the moderator and an illustrious audience member had to be physically restrained because of his assertion on the impossibility of the two tables being identical, and his insistence on coming onstage to show umbrage at the ‘stupidity’ of the presenter.

The eye sees familiar 3d objects (tables) on a 2-dimensional medium (paper) but insists on trasmitting neurological signals that convinces the brain of the viability and certitude of the ‘target’ objects in question being 3-dimensional. Therefore brains ‘sees’ two very different
tables when in fact of course, they are exactly identical. Unique feature of this is that unlike many so called illusions which depend on angle of perspective viewed and our ignorance of it being an illusion, in this case our brain persists in telling us the tables are different even after the brain ‘understands’ that the tables are equal in every respect.

Simply put, psychological experiments demonstrate time and time again that a rational smart ‘brain’ still exhibit a taste for consistency. Our brains are inclined to interpret new evidence in ways that confirm their pre-existing beliefs. Brains also tend to influence our beliefs to enhance the desirability of our past actions. ie. We see what we believe.That may go a long way as to why and how to explain puzzlingly bad strategic decisions in political campaigns and investments, not to mention our choice of lifemates. (which of course would explain the Britney Spears Kevin Federline coupling 😉