Stay Positive

"In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." - Alert Camus

Friday, May 31, 2013

Forced marijuana treatment: an economic boon for the addiction industry?

A new advocacy group called SAM (Smarter Approach to Marijuana), co-founded by Patrick J. Kennedy, a former congressman and self-admitted alcohol and oxycodone addict,

proposes treating marijuana use in the following manner: “Possession or use of a small amount of marijuana should be a civil offense subject to a mandatory health screening and marijuana-education program. 
Referrals to treatment and/or social-support services should be made if needed. 
The individual could even be monitored for 6-12 months in a probation program designed to prevent further drug use.” 

But is this forced treatment for marijuana warranted?

In Psychology Today’s “Is Marijuana Addictive?,” the authors compared marijuana to other substances and found that it does not pose the same risks of dependence. It is estimated that 32% of tobacco users will become addicted, 23% of heroin users, 17% of cocaine users, and 15% of alcohol users.

Yet only 9-10% of regular marijuana users will ever fit the definition of dependent . Moreover, the other substances are objectively more harmful than marijuana. So what is the incentive for this push for treatment centers for marijuana use when Mr. Kennedy knows from available evidence and personal experience that alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs are far more harmful?

Based on my own personal experience, I think I have at least part of the answer.

About a year ago, I was put through some marijuana re-education of my own when I had to attend court-ordered Deferred Entry of Judgment classes.

Every Wednesday night for 18 weeks, I met with a health department leader and other unfortunate drug war casualties. The class would start off with roll call and paying a weekly fee. We would watch a video on addiction or the teacher would read some course work to us.
Then he would give us some questions that we were required to answer. Most of them were things like, “How does your addiction affect your daily life”?

“I’m not addicted. I use cannabis as a medicine. It helps me control my migraines.” 

Without cannabis, my life would again center around debilitating migraines, which honestly were driving me toward suicide.

Under the guise of “treatment,” what they were doing was working on creating statistics that would support a HUGE money grab for more services and create a story of crisis that does not really exist!

Rehab, it turns out, is a pretty good business. Is rehab roll-up-able? In the most basic sense, the answer is yes. But :
- are these treatment centers working to end addiction or 
- is it all about the profit margin?

One word I hear over and over again when cannabis activists get together is “WHY?” As in, “Why on earth do we continue to punish adults who simply choose to relax with marijuana instead of the more harmful substance, alcohol?”

 I think the answer is clear. Follow the money...

Source:  Forced marijuana treatment: an economic boon for the addiction industry?

Cure Type 1 Diabetes could be used to treat other immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.


Researchers Able To Prevent And Cure Type 1 Diabetes In Animal Models

21 May 2013   

Melbourne researchers have identified an immune protein that has the potential to stop or reverse the development of type 1 diabetes in its early stages, before insulin-producing cells have been destroyed. 

The discovery has wider repercussions, as the protein is responsible for protecting the body against excessive immune responses, and could be used to treat, or even prevent, other immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Professor Len Harrison, Dr Esther Bandala-Sanchez and Dr Yuxia Zhang led the research team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's Molecular Medicine division that identified the immune protein CD52 as responsible for suppressing the immune response, and its potential for protecting against autoimmune diseases. The research was published in the journal Nature Immunology. 

So-called autoimmune diseases develop when the immune system goes awry and attacks the body's own tissues. Professor Harrison said CD52 held great promise as a therapeutic agent for preventing and treating autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. 

"Immune suppression by CD52 is a previously undiscovered mechanism that the body uses to regulate itself, and protect itself against excessive or damaging immune responses,"  Harrison said. "We are excited about the prospect of developing this discovery to clinical trials as soon as possible, to see if CD52 can be used to prevent and treat type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases. This has already elicited interest from pharmaceutical companies." 

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that develops when immune cells attack and destroy insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Approximately 120,000 Australians have type 1 diabetes and incidence has doubled in the last 20 years. "Type 1 diabetes is a life-long disease," Professor Harrison said. "It typically develops in children and teenagers, and it really makes life incredibly difficult for them and their families. It also causes significant long-term complications involving the eyes, kidneys and blood vessel damage, and at great cost to the community." 

Professor Harrison said that T cells that have or release high levels of CD52 are necessary to maintain normal balance in the immune system. "In a preclinical model of type 1 diabetes, we showed that removal of CD52-producing immune cells led to rapid development of diabetes. We think that cells that release CD52 are essential to prevent the development of autoimmune disease, and that CD52 has great potential as a therapeutic agent," he said. 

CD52 appears to play a dominant role in controlling or suppressing immune activity in the early stages of the immune response, Professor Harrison said. "We identified a specialised population of immune cells (T cells) that carry high levels of CD52, which they release to dampen the activity of other T cells and prevent uncontrolled immune responses," Professor Harrison said. "The cells act as an early 'braking' mechanism." 

Professor Harrison said his goal is to prevent and ultimately cure type 1 diabetes. "In animal models we can prevent and cure type 1 diabetes," Professor Harrison said. "I am hopeful that these results will be translatable into humans, hopefully in the not-too-distant future." 

Melbourne researchers have identified an immune protein that has the potential to stop or reverse the development of type 1 diabetes in its early stages, before insulin-producing cells have been destroyed.

Professor Len Harrison explains the discovery that the immune protein CD52 is responsible for protecting the body against excessive immune responses, and could be used to treat, or even prevent, other immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Read the full media release:

This research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the Victorian Government.
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

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31 May. 2013.
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Thursday, May 30, 2013


To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance. - Buddha  

'You owe it to yourself to find some do things that really fulfill you.' -Sir Ken Robinson

"Some women believe they can have it all, and that's the crux of the problem" --Erick Erickson on women who work

... conversation with about what he
called "unwinding" our lives to a more harmonious state of living.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Google Tech Talks: Zen and the Brain

Flower Bowl

The Art of Mindful Living

Thich Nhat Hanh is among the world’s most respected Zen Buddhist monks. He’s the author of over 70 books on what he calls the art of mindful living.

In this post you’ll discover four powerful practices taught by Thich Nhat Hanh which will allow you to live a more mindful, and happier, life.

Anything Can Be the Object of Your Mindfulness

Thich Nhat Hanh explains that God is happiness, and God is always available. 
This means that we can be happy at any time. The way to access the Kingdom of God is through mindfulness. With mindfulness and concentration you can get in touch with the Kingdom of God as expressed in the wild bamboo tree, or in the yellow chrysanthemums, at any moment.

He adds that if you breathe in mindfully, and you’re aware of your in-breath, you bring your mind home to your body.

 When your mind is with your body you are fully in the here and now. 

When you are fully present you can get in touch with that chrysanthemum, or with the full moon, and these belong to the Kingdom of God.

Thich Nhat Hanh defines mindfulness as follows: 

“Mindfulness is the capacity to be aware of what is going on, and what is there. The object of your mindfulness can be anything.” 

You’re always mindful of something.  You can look at the sky, breathe in, and say:
“Breathing in, I am aware of the blue sky.”
At that moment you are mindful—or aware–of the blue sky; the blue sky becomes the object of your mindfulness.

Then you can add the following:

“With each breath I come back to the present moment.”

You can turn to look at a tree, or at someone walking by, and do the same thing.

In addition, Thich Nhat Hanh explains that you can be mindful of your eyes which have the ability to see the world around you: you only need to open your eyes in order to enjoy a paradise of forms and colors.

Also, you can be mindful of your heart, which functions normally, which is a good thing. Focus on your heart as you breath in, and then smile at your heart as you breathe out. According to the Buddhist monk, through mindfulness we can appreciate the beauty and wonder of each moment of life.

By being aware of your actions, you can enjoy your life while you drink tea (mindfulness of drinking), or while you wash the dishes.

All of this means that you can stop running after things which you think will make you happy.
By being aware of what you already have–and of the beauty that surrounds you–you can be happy right here, right now.

When you put your focus on something in the present, such as your in-breath and your out-breath, you are releasing the past and the future. 

More specifically, you are releasing the sorrow and regret of the past, and the fear and uncertainty of the future. 

Doing things mindfully allows you to be in the here and the now at all times, which means that you’ll be living deeply every moment of your daily life.
  • Breathing should be pleasant.
  • Walking should be pleasant.
  • Sitting should be pleasant.
Once we realize that through mindfulness we can connect with the Kingdom of Heaven–or with happiness–at any moment, we gain the ability to generate happiness and joy at any time.

Thich Nhat Hanh Talks About the Ego

Thich Nhat Hanh explains that his right hand has written many poems, while his left hand hasn’t written any. However, his right hand doesn’t have a superiority complex. It doesn’t turn to the left hand and say: “I write poetry and you don’t. I’m better than you are. You, left hand, are good for nothing.” At the same time, his left hand doesn’t have an inferiority complex. It doesn’t feel bad about itself because the right hand writes poetry and it does not.

Thich Nhat Hanh goes on to say that he was trying to hammer a nail into the wall but he missed the nail, and he ended up hitting the thumb on his left hand with the hammer. His right hand immediately put down the hammer and held the left hand very tenderly, as if it was taking care of itself.

The right hand did not then say to the left hand:  “Left hand, remember that I, the right hand, have taken good care of you. You have to pay me back some time in the future.”  At the same time, the left hand didn’t say: “Right hand, you’ve done me a great harm. Give me the hammer. I want justice.” The two hands know that they’re together; they know that they’re in each other’s care.

Thich Nhat Hahn Talks About Anger

He explains that we should hold our anger in a tender way, like a mother holding her baby. When a baby starts to cry and the mother picks him up and holds him tenderly, the baby feels the energy of tenderness and begins to calm down. In the same way, your anger feels itself being embraced by mindfulness and begins to quiet down.

Another way of saying “loving kindness” is “mindfulness”. Every time the energy of anger is present, we should invite the energy of mindfulness to be present as well, so that it can take care of the anger. 

We invite mindfulness to be present through mindful breathing.

 When you breathe mindfully you’re not ignoring anger, you’re mindful of your anger; you’re taking care of your anger. Loving kindness is a part of us, but so is anger; so it’s basically one part of us taking care of another.

Say the following to yourself as you breathe:
“Breathing in, I know that I am angry. Breathing out I am taking good care of my anger.” 
This is embracing anger with the energy of mindfulness. If we do this for some time, there will be a transformation in the heart of the anger.

To illustrate his point, Thich uses the metaphor of flowers that are closed in the morning. When the sun shines on them, penetrating deeply into the flower, eventually the flower opens to the sunshine. Our anger is like a flower that needs the care of sunshine, that is, it needs mindfulness.

Suffering Comes From the Nature of Our Perceptions

Thich explains that most of our suffering comes from the nature of our perceptions. He indicates that in our daily life we are seldom free from our feelings, emotions, wrong perceptions, and mental formations. 

We’re like a leaf floating on the ocean, with the waves pushing us back and forth. 
We don’t have sovereignty over the situation; we allow ourselves to be pulled away by our feelings and perceptions.

He adds that we need to lead our own lives, instead of allowing our lives to be led by the circumstances that surround us. That’s why it’s so important to master the situation and master ourselves; we do this by mastering our feelings and our perceptions.

Thich explains that in Buddhism, Nirvana is the cessation of all suffering. 
At the same time, as explained above, our suffering comes from our wrong perceptions. The practice of meditation removes our wrong perceptions, so that we can be free of the afflictions and the suffering that arises from wrong perceptions.

As an example of a wrong perception, Thich talks about death. We may be afraid of dying, and thinking about death may cause us suffering, because we have a wrong perception of death. People tend to think of death as nothingness. However, the Buddha taught that birth and death are simply notions. The fact that we think they’re true creates a powerful illusion that causes our suffering.

You look at a cloud in the sky. Then it rains and you no longer see the cloud. You think that the cloud no longer exists. However, if you look closely, you can see the cloud in the rain. It’s impossible for a cloud to die: it can become rain, snow, or ice, but the cloud can’t become “nothing”. That is why the notion of death cannot be applied to reality. There’s a transformation, there’s a continuation, but you cannot say that there is death.

In this same way, you can examine all of the perceptions that bring you suffering and realize that these perceptions are wrong. In addition to meditation, this is how you remove suffering. 

Nirvana can be translated as “freedom from wrong views”.


To conclude, here’s a beautiful quote by Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”

Awakening the heart with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (08/2011) Dharma Talk

The Art of Mindful Living

Rethink health care.

 We pay the doctor to make us better when we should really be paying the farmer to keep us healthy.

Exercise Daily

Fitness First or California Wow? The Big Debate by

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food

What happened to, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ? To be healthy in mind, body and spirit, eating a nutritious diet is an essential piece of the puzzle.  

Jo Robinson tells us that the food system has paid more attention to providing popular flavors than to providing wholesome fruits and vegetables.  

Consequently, we need to rethink our purchasing habits, if we want to obtain the nutrients with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. 

We pay the doctor to make us better when we should really be paying the farmer to keep us healthy.Rethink health care.

May 25, 2013
Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food

WE like the idea that food can be the answer to our ills, that if we eat nutritious foods we won’t need medicine or supplements. We have valued this notion for a long, long time. The Greek physician Hippocrates proclaimed nearly 2,500 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Today, medical experts concur. If we heap our plates with fresh fruits and vegetables, they tell us, we will come closer to optimum health.

This health directive needs to be revised. If we want to get maximum health benefits from fruits and vegetables, we must choose the right varieties. Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers.

These insights have been made possible by new technology that has allowed researchers to compare the phytonutrient content of wild plants with the produce in our supermarkets. The results are startling.

Wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a “superfood.” A purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes. One species of apple has a staggering 100 times more phytonutrients than the Golden Delicious displayed in our supermarkets.

Were the people who foraged for these wild foods healthier than we are today? They did not live nearly as long as we do, but growing evidence suggests that they were much less likely to die from degenerative diseases, even the minority who lived 70 years and more. The primary cause of death for most adults, according to anthropologists, was injury and infections.

Each fruit and vegetable in our stores has a unique history of nutrient loss, I’ve discovered, but there are two common themes. 

Throughout the ages, our farming ancestors have chosen the least bitter plants to grow in their gardens. It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste.

Second, early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil. These energy-dense plants were pleasurable to eat and provided the calories needed to fuel a strenuous lifestyle.

The more palatable our fruits and vegetables became, however, the less advantageous they were for our health.

The sweet corn that we serve at summer dinners illustrates both of these trends. The wild ancestor of our present-day corn is a grassy plant called teosinte. It is hard to see the family resemblance. Teosinte is a bushy plant with short spikes of grain instead of ears, and each spike has only 5 to 12 kernels. The kernels are encased in shells so dense you’d need a hammer to crack them open. Once you extract the kernels, you wonder why you bothered. The dry tidbit of food is a lot of starch and little sugar. Teosinte has 10 times more protein than the corn we eat today, but it was not soft or sweet enough to tempt our ancestors.

Over several thousand years, teosinte underwent several spontaneous mutations. Nature’s rewriting of the genome freed the kernels of their cases and turned a spike of grain into a cob with kernels of many colors. Our ancestors decided that this transformed corn was tasty enough to plant in their gardens. By the 1400s, corn was central to the diet of people living throughout Mexico and the Americas.

When European colonists first arrived in North America, they came upon what they called “Indian corn.” John Winthrop Jr., governor of the colony of Connecticut in the mid-1600s, observed that American Indians grew “corne with great variety of colours,” citing “red, yellow, blew, olive colour, and greenish, and some very black and some of intermediate degrees.” A few centuries later, we would learn that black, red and blue corn is rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have the potential to fight cancer, calm inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, protect the aging brain, and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

EUROPEAN settlers were content with this colorful corn until the summer of 1779 when they found something more delectable — a yellow variety with sweeter and more tender kernels. This unusual variety came to light that year after George Washington ordered a scorched-earth campaign against Iroquois tribes. While the militia was destroying the food caches of the Iroquois and burning their crops, soldiers came across a field of extra-sweet yellow corn. According to one account, a lieutenant named Richard Bagnal took home some seeds to share with others. Our old-fashioned sweet corn is a direct descendant of these spoils of war. (like with tobacco, the Indians get the last laugh)

Up until this time, nature had been the primary change agent in remaking corn. Farmers began to play a more active role in the 19th century. In 1836, Noyes Darling, a onetime mayor of New Haven, and a gentleman farmer, was the first to use scientific methods to breed a new variety of corn. His goal was to create a sweet, all-white variety that was “fit for boiling” by mid-July.

He succeeded, noting with pride that he had rid sweet corn of “the disadvantage of being yellow.”

The disadvantage of being yellow, we now know, had been an advantage to human health. Corn with deep yellow kernels, including the yellow corn available in our grocery stores, has nearly 60 times more beta-carotene than white corn, valuable because it turns to Vitamin A in the body, which helps vision and the immune system.

SUPERSWEET corn, which now outsells all other kinds of corn, was born in a cloud of radiation. 

Beginning in the 1920s, geneticists exposed corn seeds to radiation to learn more about the normal arrangement of plant genes. They mutated the seeds by exposing them to X-rays, toxic compounds, cobalt radiation and then, in the 1940s, to blasts of atomic radiation. All the kernels were stored in a seed bank and made available for research.

In 1959, a geneticist named John Laughnan was studying a handful of mutant kernels and popped a few into his mouth. (The corn was no longer radioactive.) He was startled by their intense sweetness. Lab tests showed that they were up to 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn. A blast of radiation had turned the corn into a sugar factory!

Mr. Laughnan was not a plant breeder, but he realized at once that this mutant corn would revolutionize the sweet corn industry. He became an entrepreneur overnight and spent years developing commercial varieties of supersweet corn. His first hybrids began to be sold in 1961. This appears to be the first genetically modified food to enter the United States food supply, an event that has received scant attention.

Within one generation, the new extra sugary varieties eclipsed old-fashioned sweet corn in the marketplace. Build a sweeter fruit or vegetable — by any means — and we will come.

Today, most of the fresh corn in our supermarkets is extra-sweet, and all of it can be traced back to the radiation experiments. The kernels are either white, pale yellow, or a combination of the two. The sweetest varieties approach 40 percent sugar, bringing new meaning to the words “candy corn.” 

Only a handful of farmers in the United States specialize in multicolored Indian corn, and it is generally sold for seasonal decorations, not food.

We’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of other fruits and vegetables. How can we begin to recoup the losses?

Here are some suggestions to get you started. Select corn with deep yellow kernels. To recapture the lost anthocyanins and beta-carotene, cook with blue, red or purple cornmeal, which is available in some supermarkets and on the Internet. Make a stack of blue cornmeal pancakes for Sunday breakfast and top with maple syrup.

In the lettuce section, look for arugula. Arugula, also called salad rocket, is very similar to its wild ancestor. Some varieties were domesticated as recently as the 1970s, thousands of years after most fruits and vegetables had come under our sway. The greens are rich in cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates and higher in antioxidant activity than many green lettuces.

Scallions, or green onions, are jewels of nutrition hiding in plain sight. They resemble wild onions and are just as good for you. Remarkably, they have more than five times more phytonutrients than many common onions do. The green portions of scallions are more nutritious than the white bulbs, so use the entire plant. Herbs are wild plants incognito. We’ve long valued them for their intense flavors and aroma, which is why they’ve not been given a flavor makeover. Because we’ve left them well enough alone, their phytonutrient content has remained intact.

Experiment with using large quantities of mild-tasting fresh herbs. Add one cup of mixed chopped Italian parsley and basil to a pound of ground grass-fed beef or poultry to make “herb-burgers.” Herbs bring back missing phytonutrients and a touch of wild flavor as well.

The United States Department of Agriculture exerts far more effort developing disease-resistant fruits and vegetables than creating new varieties to enhance the disease resistance of consumers. In fact, I’ve interviewed U.S.D.A. plant breeders who have spent a decade or more developing a new variety of pear or carrot without once measuring its nutritional content.

We can’t increase the health benefits of our produce if we don’t know which nutrients it contains. Ultimately, we need more than an admonition to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables: we need more fruits and vegetables that have the nutrients we require for optimum health.


Jo Robinson is the author of the forthcoming book:

 “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.”

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Brain Rewires Itself

Brain rewires itself after damage or injury, life scientists discover

When the brain's primary "learning center" is damaged, complex new neural circuits arise to compensate for the lost function, say life scientists from UCLA and Australia who have pinpointed the regions of the brain involved in creating those alternate pathways — often far from the damaged site.

The research, conducted by UCLA's Michael Fanselow and Moriel Zelikowsky in collaboration with Bryce Vissel, a group leader of the neuroscience research program at Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research, appears this week in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers found that parts of the prefrontal cortex take over when the hippocampus, the brain's key center of learning and memory formation, is disabled. Their breakthrough discovery, the first demonstration of such neural-circuit plasticity, could potentially help scientists develop new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, stroke and other conditions involving damage to the brain.

For the study, Fanselow and Zelikowsky conducted laboratory experiments with rats showing that the rodents were able to learn new tasks even after damage to the hippocampus. While the rats needed more training than they would have normally, they nonetheless learned from their experiences — a surprising finding.

"I expect that the brain probably has to be trained through experience," said Fanselow, a professor of psychology and member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute, who was the study's senior author. "In this case, we gave animals a problem to solve."

After discovering the rats could, in fact, learn to solve problems, Zelikowsky, a graduate student in Fanselow's laboratory, traveled to Australia, where she worked with Vissel to analyze the anatomy of the changes that had taken place in the rats' brains. Their analysis identified significant functional changes in two specific regions of the prefrontal cortex.

"Interestingly, previous studies had shown that these prefrontal cortex regions also light up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, suggesting that similar compensatory circuits develop in people," Vissel said. "While it's probable that the brains of Alzheimer's sufferers are already compensating for damage, this discovery has significant potential for extending that compensation and improving the lives of many."

The hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure where memories are formed in the brain, plays critical roles in processing, storing and recalling information. The hippocampus is highly susceptible to damage through stroke or lack of oxygen and is critically inolved in Alzheimer's disease, Fanselow said.
"Until now, we've been trying to figure out how to stimulate repair within the hippocampus," he said. "Now we can see other structures stepping in and whole new brain circuits coming into being."

 Zelikowsky said she found it interesting that sub-regions in the prefrontal cortex compensated in different ways, with one sub-region — the infralimbic cortex — silencing its activity and another sub-region — the prelimbic cortex — increasing its activity.

"If we're going to harness this kind of plasticity to help stroke victims or people with Alzheimer's," she said, "we first have to understand exactly how to differentially enhance and silence function, either behaviorally or pharmacologically. It's clearly important not to enhance all areas. 

The brain works by silencing and activating different populations of neurons. To form memories, you have to filter out what's important and what's not."

Complex behavior always involves multiple parts of the brain communicating with one another, with one region's message affecting how another region will respond, Fanselow noted. These molecular changes produce our memories, feelings and actions.

"The brain is heavily interconnected — you can get from any neuron in the brain to any other neuron via about six synaptic connections," he said. "So there are many alternate pathways the brain can use, but it normally doesn't use them unless it's forced to. Once we understand how the brain makes these decisions, then we're in a position to encourage pathways to take over when they need to, especially in the case of brain damage.

"Behavior creates molecular changes in the brain; if we know the molecular changes we want to bring about, then we can try to facilitate those changes to occur through behavior and drug therapy," he added. I think that's the best alternative we have. 

Future treatments are not going to be all behavioral or all pharmacological, but a combination of both."

Fanselow and Vissel have worked closely over the last several years. For more information on Fanselow's research, visit the Fanselow Lab website. For more on the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, visit their website.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (grant MH 62122), part of the National Institutes of Health, and by the National Science Foundation (EAPSI award 0914307 to Zelikowsky).

UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of more than 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and six faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Dyslexia comes with a range of strengths and weaknesses

Defining My Dyslexia

SAN FRANCISCO — I STARTED cataloging insults in the second grade... learned all the jokes about dyslexia, and told them to better effect than anyone else. Making fun of myself was my best defense. The other choices — hiding from my diagnosis or accepting myself as limited — did not appeal.
Fortunately, humor and hard work proved a good strategy. Also helpful were my crafty parents. They often read out loud to me and, noticing my passion for fantasy novels, would stop at the most exciting point in a chapter — then leave the book in case I wanted to read by myself. It wasn’t long before I was sneaking paperbacks into study hall.
Though slow out of the gate — I couldn’t read fluently until 13 — I went to Yale, then medical school at Stanford, and I published two fantasy novels with disabled heroes (think Harry Potter and the Special-Ed Classroom). At every step,I used my diagnosis to my advantage, arguing that I had succeeded despite being dyslexic. It helped me stand out. 
Now a growing body of research suggests that I was unintentionally lying.
Last month, at the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation Conference on Dyslexia and Talent, I watched several neurobiologists present evidence that the dyslexic brain, which processes information in a unique way, may impart particular strengthsStudies using cognitive testing and functional M.R.I.’s have demonstrated exceptional three-dimensional and spatial reasoning among dyslexic individuals, which may account for the many successful dyslexic engineers. Similar studies have shown increased creativity and big-picture thinking (or “gist-detection”) in dyslexics, which correlates with the surprising number of dyslexic entrepreneurs, novelists and filmmakers.
The conference’s organizers made a strong case that the successes of the attending dyslexic luminaries — who ranged from a Pulitzer-winning poet to a MacArthur grant-winning paleontologist to an entrepreneur who pays a dozen times my student loans in taxes every year — had been achieved “not despite, but because of dyslexia.”
It was an exciting idea. However, I worried that the argument might be taken too far. Some of the attendees opposed the idea that dyslexia is a diagnosis at all, arguing that to label it as such is to pathologize a normal variation of human intellect. One presenter asked the audience to repeat “Dyslexia is not a disability.”
Not a disability? My years of functional illiteracy suggest otherwise. Today’s educational environment exacerbates dyslexic weaknesses. Schools misidentify poor spelling and slow reading as a lack of intelligence; typically diagnose the condition only after students have fallen behind; and too often fail to provide dyslexic students with the audio and video materials that would help them learn. Until these disadvantages are removed, “disability” most accurately describes what young dyslexics confront.
At the heart of the conference was the assumption that a group of advocates could alter the definition of dyslexia and what it means to be dyslexic. That’s a bigger idea than it might seem. Ask yourself, “What role should those affected by a diagnosis have in defining that diagnosis?” Recently I posed this question to several doctors and therapists. With minor qualifications, each answered “none.” I wasn’t surprised. Traditionally, a diagnosis is something devised by distant experts and imposed on the patient. But I believe we must change our understanding of what role we should play in defining our own diagnoses.
Before I went to medical school, I thought a diagnosis was synonymous with a fact; criteria were met, or not. Sometimes this is so. Diabetes, for example, can be determined with a few laboratory tests. But other diagnoses, particularly those involving the mind, are more nebulous. Symptoms are contradictory, test results equivocal. Moreover, the definition of almost any diagnosis changes as science and society evolve.
Diagnostics might have more in common with law than science. Legislatures of disease exist in expert panels, practice guidelines and consensus papers. Some laws are unimpeachable, while others may be inaccurate or prejudiced. The same is true in medicine; consider the antiquated diagnosis of hysteria in women. Those affected by unjust diagnoses — like those affected by unjust laws — should protest and help redefine them.
The past 50 years provide several examples of such redefinitions. In 1978, Susan Sontag’s “Illness as Metaphor” demonstrated how the contemporary understanding and description of cancer unfairly blamed patients. In the next decade, activists began their struggle to enlighten the medical profession and society about H.I.V. More recently, the neurodiversity movement has changed how we understand autism.
I believe that scientific evidence and social observation will continue to show that defining dyslexia based solely on its weaknesses is inaccurate and unjust, and places too grim a burden on young people receiving the diagnosis. A more precise definition of dyslexia would clearly identify the disabilities that go along with it, while recognizing the associated abilities as well. If the dyslexic community could popularize such a definition, then newly diagnosed dyslexics would realize that they, like everyone else, will face their futures with a range of strengths and weaknesses.

Blake Charlton, the author of the novels “Spellwright” and “Spellbound,” will be a resident physician in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine starting in June.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection.
- Johann von Goethe

We read frequently if unknowingly, in quest of a mind more original than our own.
- Harold Bloom
US author, critic, educator, & scholar (1930 - )

Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you.
- Harold Bloom, O Magazine, April 2003

I'm not afraid of facts, I welcome facts but a congeries of facts is not equivalent to an idea. This is the essential fallacy of the so-called "scientific" mind. People who mistake facts for ideas are incomplete thinkers; they are gossips.
- Cynthia Ozick

Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey.
- Cynthia Ozick

To imagine the unimaginable is the highest use of the imagination.
- Cynthia Ozick

To want to be what one can be is purpose in life.
- Cynthia Ozick, O Magazine, September 2002

When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.
- Stephen Hawking

When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.
- Stephen Hawking

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Common Sense is under-rated

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. -- The Buddha

When considering some of the products offered up by the HEALTH FOOD INDUSTRY to cure multiple sclerosis and other maladies, it important to appeal to our inner skeptic and common sense for guidance.  Anyone who has suffered with m.s. for any length of time has a collection of miracle cures that have been proferred to them  by well-meaning people.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Atrophy In Key Region Of Brain

Associated With Multiple Sclerosis

Main Category: Multiple Sclerosis
Article Date: 25 Apr 2013 - 0:00 PDT

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Atrophy In Key Region Of Brain Associated With Multiple Sclerosis

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measurements of atrophy in an important area of the brain are an accurate predictor of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology. According to the researchers, these atrophy measurements offer an improvement over current methods for evaluating patients at risk for MS.

MS develops as the body's immune system attacks and damages myelin, the protective layer of fatty tissue that surrounds nerve cells within the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include visual disturbances, muscle weakness and trouble with coordination and balance. People with severe cases can lose the ability to speak or walk.

Approximately 85 percent of people with MS suffer an initial, short-term neurological episode known as clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). A definitive MS diagnosis is based on a combination of factors, including medical history, neurological exams, development of a second clinical attack and detection of new and enlarging lesions with contrast-enhanced or T2-weighted MRI.

"For some time we've been trying to understand MRI biomarkers that predict MS development from the first onset of the disease," said Robert Zivadinov, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN, from the Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center of the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. "In the last couple of years, research has become much more focused on the thalamus."

The thalamus is a structure of gray matter deep within the brain that acts as a kind of relay center for nervous impulses. Recent studies found atrophy of the thalamus in all different MS disease types and detected thalamic volume loss in pediatric MS patients.

"Thalamic atrophy may become a hallmark of how we look at the disease and how we develop drugs to treat it," Dr. Zivadinov said.

For this study, Dr. Zivadinov and colleagues investigated the association between the development of thalamic atrophy and conversion to clinically definite MS.

"One of the most important reasons for the study was to understand which regions of the brain are most predictive of a second clinical attack," he said. "No one has really looked at this over the long term in a clinical trial."

The researchers used contrast-enhanced MRI for initial assessment of 216 CIS patients. They performed follow-up scans at six months, one year and two years. Over two years, 92 of 216 patients, or 42.6 percent, converted to clinically definite MS. Decreases in thalamic volume and increase in lateral ventricle volumes were the only MRI measures independently associated with the development of clinically definite MS.

"First, these results show that atrophy of the thalamus is associated with MS," Dr. Zivadinov said. "Second, they show that thalamic atrophy is a better predictor of clinically definite MS than accumulation of T2-weighted and contrast-enhanced lesions."

The findings suggest that measurement of thalamic atrophy and increase in ventricular size may help identify patients at high risk for conversion to clinically definite MS in future clinical trials involving CIS patients.

"Thalamic atrophy is an ideal MRI biomarker because it's detectable at very early stage," Dr. Zivadinov said. "It has very good predictive value, and you will see it used more and more in the future."

The research team continues to follow the study group, with plans to publish results from the four-year follow-up next summer. They are also trying to learn more about the physiology of the thalamic involvement in MS.

"The next step is to look at where the lesions develop over two years with respect to the location of the atrophy," Dr. Zivadinov said. "Thalamic atrophy cannot be explained entirely by accumulation of lesions; there must be an independent component that leads to loss of thalamus."

MS affects more than 2 million people worldwide, according to the Multiple Sclerosis International Foundation. There is no cure, but early diagnosis and treatment can slow development of the disease.

Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.

Visit our multiple sclerosis section for the latest news on this subject.

Alternative Medicine Use Among MS Patients

Data Gathered Reveals Extent Of Alternative Medicine Use By MS Patients

Main Category: Multiple Sclerosis
Also Included In: Complementary Medicine / Alternative Medicine
Article Date: 23 Apr 2013 - 0:00 PDT

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Data Gathered Reveals Extent Of Alternative Medicine Use By MS Patients

A major Nordic research project involving researchers from the University of Copenhagen has, for the first time ever, mapped the use of alternative treatment among multiple sclerosis patients - knowledge which is important for patients with chronic disease and the way in which society meets them. 

 People with multiple sclerosis (MS) often use alternative treatments such as dietary supplements, acupuncture and herbal medicine to facilitate their lives with this chronic disease. 

This is the result of a new study of how MS patients use both conventional and alternative treatments which has been carried out by researchers from five Nordic countries. The results have been published in two scientific journals, the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health and Autoimmune Diseases.

"What we see is that patients do not usually use alternative treatments for treating symptoms, but as a preventative and strengthening element," says Lasse Skovgaard, industrial PhD candidate from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Society, who has been involved in conducting the questionnaire-based study among 3,800 people with MS in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease which attacks the central nervous system, and which can lead to a loss of mobility and sight. Denmark is one of the countries with the highest incidence of the disease worldwide, with approx. 12,500 MS patients. At the same time, the number of MS patients in the West is increasing, posing considerable challenges in respect of treatment, prevention and rehabilitation.

Access to knowledge bank

Together with researchers from the five other Nordic countries, Lasse Skovgaard has spent three years gathering the new data, and he is delighted at what it offers:

"Within the field of health research, it is often a question of studying the extent to which a particular type of drug affects a particular symptom. However, it is equally as important to look at how people with a chronic disease, for example, use different treatments to cope with their situation. Here, MS patients offer valuable experience. Their experiences constitute a knowledge bank which we must access and learn from," he says.

Lasse Skovgaard draws attention to the significance of this new knowledge because, if people with chronic disease are better able to manage their lives, it can potentially save society large sums of money.

"There is a lot of talk about 'self-care competence', in other words patients helping themselves to get their lives to function. Here, many people with a chronic disease find they benefit from using alternative treatments, so we should not ignore this possibility," says Lasse Skovgaard.

At the same time, he emphasises that knowing more about why patients choose particular treatments is important in relation to improving patient safety because of the possible risks involved in combining conventional and alternative medicine.

Growing use of alternative treatments

According to the latest Health and Sickness Study from the Danish National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) in 2010, one in four Danes say that they have tried one or more types of alternative treatments within the past twelve months. Among MS patients, the use of alternative medicine has been growing steadily over the past fifteen years. In the researchers' latest study, more than half of the respondents say that they either combine conventional and alternative medicine or only use alternative medicine.

"We cannot ignore the fact that people with chronic disease use alternative treatments to a considerable extent, and that many of them seem to benefit from doing so. It doesn't help to only judge this from a medical point of view or say that alternative treatments are nonsense - rather, we must try to understand it," says Lasse Skovgaard.

Highly qualified women top the list

The study shows that, among MS patients using alternative treatments, there is a significantly bigger proportion of people with a high level of education compared to those who do not use alternative treatments. There is also a larger proportion of highly paid people and of younger women.

"Some critics are of the opinion that when alternative treatments are so popular, it is because they appeal to naïve people looking for a miraculous cure. But our results indicate that it is primarily the well-educated segment that is subscribing to alternative treatments. And that using alternative treatments is part of a lifestyle choice," says Lasse Skovgaard.

He hopes that the new knowledge will improve communication regarding how the chronically ill use alternative treatments in combination with conventional medicine:

"We see that so many people are combining conventional medicine with alternative treatment that it should be taken seriously by the health service. Until now, there hasn't been much focus on the doctor-patient dialogue in relation to the alternative methods used by the chronically ill to manage their lives," says Lasse Skovgaard. He says that the research group is continuing to analyse the results and, among other things, is conducting several interview studies based on the results of the questionnaires. The interview studies will, for example, provide additional knowledge on how patients perceive the risks associated with using alternative medicine and explore why some patients turn their backs completely on conventional medicine.

Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release. Click 'references' tab above for source.

Visit our multiple sclerosis section for the latest news on this subject.