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Archive for the ‘Health & Medicine’ Category

lowboy“The last dozen years or so have seen the emergence of a new strain within the Anglo-American novel. What has been variously referred to as the novel of consciousness or the psychological or confessional novel—the novel, at any rate, about the workings of a mind—has transformed itself into the neurological novel, wherein the mind becomes the brain. Since 1997, readers have encountered, in rough chronological order, Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love (de Clérambault’s syndrome, complete with an appended case history by a fictional “presiding psychiatrist” and a useful bibliography), Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn (Tourette’s syndrome), Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (autism), Richard Powers’s The Echomaker (facial agnosia, Capgras syndrome), McEwan again with Saturday (Huntington’s disease, as diagnosed by the neurosurgeon protagonist), Atmospheric Disturbances (Capgras syndrome again) by a medical school graduate, Rivka Galchen, and John Wray’s Lowboy (paranoid schizophrenia). And these are just a selection of recently published titles in “literary fiction.” There are also many recent genre novels, mostly thrillers, of amnesia, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder.” (cont’d @ n+1)

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Food, Inc“MOVIES about food used to make you want to eat. . . .

“But that was then, before Wal-Mart started selling organic food and Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Before E. coli was a constant in the food supply, before politicians tried to tax soda and before anyone gave much thought to the living conditions of chickens.

“Into this world comes Food, Inc.,’ a documentary on the state of the nation’s food system that opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday. . . .

“‘Food, Inc.’ begins with images of a bright, bulging American supermarket, and then moves to the jammed chicken houses, grim meat-cutting rooms and chemical-laced cornfields where much of the American diet comes from. Along the way Mr. Kenner attempts to expose the hidden costs of a system in which fast-food hamburgers cost $1 and soda is cheaper than milk.” (more @ NY Times)

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cadaver-book“Visual explorations of how the human body works have had us riveted since before Leonardo da Vinci sketched the famous Vitruvian man sometime around 1487. That fascination is the focus of what may be one of the most gruesome coffee table books ever.

Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930 contains hundreds of pictures of medical students posing with the cadavers they were learning to dissect.

“These photos were something of an underground genre, says author John Warner, a professor of medical history at Yale. You wouldn’t see one in a doctor’s waiting room, but they were taken and treasured, and sometimes even passed around as Christmas cards.” (more @ NPR) [Click image to enlarge]

Meanwhile, in Berlin:

A controversial German anatomy artist is facing protests over his latest plastination exhibition after unveiling a work showing two corpses having sexual intercourse.

Gunther von Hagens, whose latest exhibition, Cycle of Life, opens in Berlin tomorrow, has defended the exhibit saying that it combines the two greatest taboos of sex and death and is a lesson in biology, but is ‘not meant to be sexually stimulating’.

“The exhibition has drawn angry protests from a cross-party group of politicians as well as church representatives. They have called for the work to be withdrawn, saying it is pornographic and an insult to the dead. . . .

“Von Hagens developed the plastination method several years ago after discovering a method for preserving bodies by replacing their fat and water deposits with injections of silicon, which then harden.

“His popular exhibitions, which have travelled the world, have included corpses playing chess, high jumping, and horse riding. Others have shown a dead pregnant woman and foetuses at various stages of development.” (more @ Guardian.UK)

Related: Prof In Corpse Sex Plan

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fatty-foodsA hormone released during the digestion of certain fats triggers long-term memory formation in rats, a new study says.

“Researchers found that administering a compound produced in the small intestine called oleoylethanolamide (OEA) to rats improved memory retention during two different tasks.

“When cell receptors activated by OEA were blocked, the animals’ performance decreased.

“Though the study involved rats, OEA’s effects should be similar in other animals, including humans, said study team member Daniele Piomelli, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine.” (more @ National Geographic)

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The presence of many lethal genetic diseases affecting the brain among Ashkenazi Jews may also increase their intelligence – so say Gregory Cochran (bottom), a physicist and genetics buff, and geneticist Henry Harpending (top), authors of the recently published, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“The biological basis for intelligence can be a thankless arena of inquiry. The authors of ‘The Bell Curve’ were vilified 15 years ago for suggesting genes played a role in IQ differences among racial groups.

“But Cochran, 55, and Harpending, 65, say there’s no question that as a whole, Ashkenazi Jews — those of European descent — have an abundance of brain power. (Neither man is Jewish.)

“Psychologists and educational researchers have pegged their average IQ at 107.5 to 115. That’s only modestly higher than the overall European average of 100, but the gap is large enough to produce a huge difference in the proportion of geniuses. When a group’s average IQ is 100, the percentage of people above 140 is 0.4%; when the average is 110, the genius rate is 2.3%.

“Though Jews make up less than 3% of the U.S. population, they have won more than 25% of the Nobel Prizes awarded to American scientists since 1950, account for 20% of this country’s chief executives and make up 22% of Ivy League students, the pair write.” (more @ LA Times)

RelatedAre Jews Smarter?

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neurotic-states[Living part-time in Brooklyn, New York and part-time in Northampton, a college town in western Massachusetts, I am unsurprised by the findings that the northeastern states are among the most neurotic, as well as among the most open, “openness” reflected by “curiosity, intellect, and creativity at the individual level.”]

From “The Geography of Personality”:

Neuroticism is characterized by ‘anxiety, stress, impulsivity, and emotional instability and is related to antisocial behavior, poor coping, and poor health.’ Unsurprisingly, the study found that highly neurotic states had lower rates of exercise, higher rates of disease, and a shorter life expectancy. In these states, people are less likely to join clubs and spend time with friends. The geographic clustering of neuroticism is strong: it’s prevalent in the Northeast and much of Appalachia, and, for some reason, in the states of the lower Mississippi Valley. The West is decidedly less neurotic than the East, you may be unsurprised to hear.

(More @ The Map Scroll, including maps charting the geographical variations of  the big five” personality traits: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness.)

Related: A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence, and Expression of Geographic Variation in Psychological Characteristics

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vasectomy“It is too early to proclaim a bona fide trend in elective sterilization, because no organization regularly tracks the number of vasectomies performed on an annual or even a monthly basis. The most recent comprehensive data come from a study published in The Journal of Urology in 2006, which estimated that about 527,000 vasectomies were performed in this country each year.

“But the recent anecdotal data, if they hold, would have a historical parallel in the Great Depression, when the birth rate fell sharply.” (more @ NY Times)

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