This Ricky Gervais interview had some outtakes that were suprisingly adult. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy; your toddler will see something completely different when the episode is out on tv.
Jonah Lehrer has a great article over at Wired on stress and its effects. It’s quite a sobering read.
Elizabeth Gould, a neuroscientist at Princeton, is best known for demonstrating that the birth of new neurons — a process known as neurogenesis — takes place in the adult brain. For the past several years, Gould has been studying the relationship between neurogenesis and stress in primates. She has found that when stress becomes chronic, neurons stop investing in themselves. Neurogenesis slows. Dendrites shrink. Neuronal arbors retreat. (In fact, the very act of keeping primates in standard lab enclosures — often just bare wire cages — is so stressful that for years scientists had a warped understanding of the primate brain. Gould has become an ardent advocate of “enriched enclosures,” which provide the animals with things to play with and social interaction.) These cellular alterations help explain why, as researchers noted in a recent review article, a “large part of the changes in brain structure and function [induced by chronic stress] have similar characteristics to those observed in neurodegenerative diseases, most notably Alzheimer’s.” And the higher the level of stress hormone, the greater the level of cognitive decline.
See the article for more on methods to deal with stress (like alcohol! and partying with your friends! um, in moderation of course). And for more from Robert Sapolsky, who is absolutely brilliant, check out this video:
If you are in a Thursday Thlump at the moment, try this 5-minute quiz for fun. It’s just like the description says: “The Dewey Color System® is now the world’s most accurate career testing instrument!” Obviously, it must be true.
Well, at the very least I can use these results to explain why I am looking for something else to do on a Thursday afternoon. Happy almost-weekend everyone.
Wow. This is just so wicked cool. Cells have memories, and they are pretty hard to wipe out. Check out the whole thing at Not Exactly Rocket Science. Very well written, and very easy to understand. And to think, until somewhat recently methyl groups were thought to be just a waste of space.
The history of iPSCs is written in molecular marks that annotate its DNA. These ‘epigenetic’ changes can alter the way a gene behaves even though its DNA sequence is still the same. It’s the equivalent of sticking Post-It notes in a book to tell a reader which parts to read or ignore, without actually editing the underlying text. Epigenetic marks separate different types of cells from one another, influencing which genes are switched on and which are inactivated. And according to Kim, they’re not easy to remove, even when the cell has apparently been reprogrammed into a stem-like state.
Atul Gawande has a typically great article in the New Yorker on how our medical system deals with the end. It appears that hospice care can be the most meaningful option for patients who are known to be terminally ill, yet few choose it. To choose hospice care, most insurance plans force you to sign a statement that you consent to stopping treatment, which many people view as admitting defeat. When they do wish to choose it, their families talk them out of it, not wanting to admit the advent of what’s coming.
It has also been shown that when patients do choose hospice care, their life duration stays about the same as it does with intensive treatment. In some cases, it is extended. In all cases, the quality of life is much improved, reducing suffering for the patient, the patient’s family and incidence of depression in loved ones. But for a patient to choose hospice, the physician has to have a very delicate, deliberate, and extraordinarily difficult series of conversations with the patient and the family.
Given how prolonged some of these conversations have to be, many people argue that the key problem has been the financial incentives: we pay doctors to give chemotherapy and to do surgery, but not to take the time required to sort out when doing so is unwise. This certainly is a factor. (The new health-reform act was to have added Medicare coverage for these conversations, until it was deemed funding for “death panels” and stripped out of the legislation.) But the issue isn’t merely a matter of financing. It arises from a still unresolved argument about what the function of medicine really is—what, in other words, we should and should not be paying for doctors to do.
The simple view is that medicine exists to fight death and disease, and that is, of course, its most basic task. Death is the enemy. But the enemy has superior forces. Eventually, it wins. And, in a war that you cannot win, you don’t want a general who fights to the point of total annihilation. You don’t want Custer. You want Robert E. Lee, someone who knew how to fight for territory when he could and how to surrender when he couldn’t, someone who understood that the damage is greatest if all you do is fight to the bitter end.
More often, these days, medicine seems to supply neither Custers nor Lees. We are increasingly the generals who march the soldiers onward, saying all the while, “You let me know when you want to stop.” All-out treatment, we tell the terminally ill, is a train you can get off at any time—just say when. But for most patients and their families this is asking too much. They remain riven by doubt and fear and desperation; some are deluded by a fantasy of what medical science can achieve. But our responsibility, in medicine, is to deal with human beings as they are. People die only once. They have no experience to draw upon. They need doctors and nurses who are willing to have the hard discussions and say what they have seen, who will help people prepare for what is to come—and to escape a warehoused oblivion that few really want.
Read the full article here.
Please pay close attention, this is a public service announcement pertaining to your safety at this very moment.
A monster is on the loose.
Very little is known about the monster:
1. His (her?) name is WuggaWugga.
2. Monster lurks mostly under beds and couches. However, has also been seen on top of staircases that someone wants you to climb, or around corners when you are about to turn.
3. Monster appears to be invisible, at least to some.
At this point, we do not know of the monster’s color, likes or dislikes, birthday gift preferences or any possible relations to The Muppet Show. However, we urge you to stay alert and send us any information you may have on monsters and how to deal with them.
Wanna thrill your toddler boy today? Show them this climbing excavator video and revel in your parental coolness. Fast forward to 2:45 for the real action to begin. (via @kottke)
In case you haven’t seen it yet today, Mila’s Daydreams acts out her baby’s sleepy time – so. darn. cute.
See way more on her blog. I think the Elephant Rider is my favorite, although Rock Star is pretty close. I must say, her baby sleeps like a rock! There is no way Elijah would have let me slide a plate under his head during his nap. Or would lay down and sleep on the floor. Or, sleep in any way at all. Sigh… must be a girl thing.