The article “Electronic Skin” presents an electronic device created by John Rogers and the other scientists part of his lab. This device, in the form of something like a temporary tattoo, has the ability to record data about your health: “Placed on a forehead, the device can record brainwaves; on the wrist, blood flow and muscle movement. On the skin of sick patients, it can track vital signs and watch for problems, replacing the bulky equipment usually found in hospitals. And stuck to the throat, it can function as a secret cell phone, activated by the movements of a person’s voice box.” It can even be placed near the heart, where it will pick up information about heartbeats.
With the size being close to that of a postage stamp, its thickness of half a paper, and its ability to be flexible like the skin, it’s barely felt by the person who has it on them.
This opens up numerous possibilities- some that are mentioned in the article include the ability to record the brainwaves of a person with epileptic seizures and it can identify throat movements while someone is speaking (helpful for deep-sea divers and spies). With this device, the larger machines may not be necessary.
The article even took it outside of the health world. Coleman says, “If we can monitor the brain signals between teachers and students who are interacting, then maybe we can learn the extent to which they understand each other. That could revolutionize education and training. It’s easy to imagine the possibilities. And if we don’t imagine, then what are we doing?”
It’s crazy what technological innovations have provided for us- I can’t believe how far technology has taken us and how much further it will take us in the future.
According to this BBC News article titled Nature deficit disorder ‘damaging Britain’s children,’ the British are noticing a change in the childhood experience.
Researchers from the National Trust are finding that the growing dissociation of children from the natural world and internment in the “cotton wool culture” of indoor parental guidance impairs their capacity to learn through experience. They cite several reasons for the decreased access to nature and child’s play outdoors: heavy traffic and fears that automobiles do not see children playing in the street, more focus on technology and toys that kids tend to play indoors with (internet, TV, other toys), and parental anxieties over crime and ‘stranger danger.’ Statistics found in the study show that the area where children are allowed to range unsupervised around their homes has shrunk by 90% since the 1970s.
Access to play outdoors or interactions with nature help children learn more effectively, and children themselves say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors more than owning technology. This brings up some interesting questions: how much do we encourage children to play outdoors, and should parents (specifically city parents, as those who live in the suburbs have easier access to nature) be more involved in encouraging outside play despite their parental fears? How do we find a balance between safety and play?
Personally, I grew up in a suburb with lots of access to grass and ‘safer’ areas to play in, so I do not have a perspective of what a childhood in a city would be like. However, I feel that no matter where children live, its fundamental that they get access to play spaces outdoors because it helps them develop in ways that playing indoors can only pretend to replicate.
While surfing the Bad Science blog, a post caught my interest. In his post “The golden arse beam method” Dr. Goldacre mentioned a study that looked at whether or not behaviors changed after practicing different ways of thinking about the goals they wished to achieve (in the case of this study the goal was to eat more fruit).
The participants were split up into four groups, and each group was assigned to either repeat “eat more fruit” to themselves, imagine themselves enjoying fruit, repeat verbal plans for what they would do when they see fruit, or create a detailed mental image of themselves finding fruit, picking it up, touching it, and finally eating it. Although a short study, it found that the group that imagined themselves doing the latter task doubled their intake of fruit.
Just how effective is our mental willpower? If we sit and imagine detailed plans of how we are going to accomplish our goals (both small and big) and how we will experience them, will it affect the outcome?
I personally have a hard time creating goals and then following through in order to reach them. While I don’t necessarily believe that this method of ‘positive mental thinking’ that’s described in the study will magically make the outcome of my actions different, I think that it could be a beneficial way to put people in the right mindset and help them focus to work on ways to accomplish the task they are thinking about.
When you are sick, do you prefer to take one medication that dampens or significantly relieves your symptoms, or take one medication per symptom? Pepto-Bismol for example relieves headache, nausea, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea (YEA Pepto-Bismol!). Now would you rather take Pepto-Bismol or one medication for headache, one for nausea, one for indigestion, etc.? (Also which is more cost effective.) I would rather have Pepto-Bismol personally because it is one substance, with multiple applications, that has a short set list of side effects that can be controlled. Now I want you to imagine that you are an Iraq War veteran who was sent home because you endured a IED attack that left you with only a segment of your right arm, and numerous years of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
I am fairly certain that if any of us were being shot at several times a day, and in audible range of large explosions we would have a quite a few persistent nightmares. This is the life that Sgt. Ryan Begin, as well as an estimated 37% of this generation’s vets, lived for six years before he received his authorization card last March to smoke medical marijuana. However, it wasn’t until Begin reached the bottom before anyone considered the possibility that the 80+ pills a day he was taking was causing him further psychological distress due to the extended list of side effects. He obviously slipped into a long period of drug abuse, overdoses, arrests which landed him in mental institutions on several occasions.
Now Begin has eliminated his dependence on each of the 80+ drugs he was on, and replaced them with four to five joints a day. “Using marijuana balances me out,” he says. “It takes those peaks and valleys of PTSD and it softens them. It makes my life manageable.” If all it takes is a little THC to subtle his PTSD, why won’t the government even allow preliminary studies as to the effectiveness of the drug on PTSD sufferers.
The article provides two of the many flimsy reasons why the government officials of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shut down the first study proposed to analyze and research marijuana’s effects on PTSD— Before I state the reason, I must add that NIDA runs the only source of marijuana for medical studies (makes things a little harder, don’t you think). Firstly, they state that there are too many health, safety and property issues that would arise from allowing patients to smoke outside medical facilities. Second, (when they realized that there were numerous ways around the first statement) they went straight for Dr. Sue Sisley, who was the chief researcher on the study. The officials simply said that Dr. Sisley was too inexperienced in treating PTSD patients and therefore should not perform such a study.
I’m no expert, but if health concerns are an issue for medical facilities, which don’t want their other patients exposed to the marijuana smoke, why not build a room with a window and a large vent. Just as simply, if experience is an issue, why not just let Dr. Sue work with a researcher who is experienced; or two, or three. I think there are many solutions to these bogus arguments presented by the officials at NIDA and I do believe that medical marijuana should be at least tested to evaluate its effects on PTSD patients. Currently, without any research ever done, how can NIDA know what the effect of marijuana will be?
In my mind medical marijuana should be tested to say the least. If its chemicals relieve stress, anxiety, nightmares, and even some of the other debilitating symptoms of PTSD, why won’t officials approve it? What are your thoughts?
This month in science brings not one, but two major headlines in disease research.
Scientists have successfully created an effective malaria vaccine after 24 years of intensive research. The vaccine is reported to be safe, effective, and cheap, and will be available for regular distribution by 2015.
Currently, almost 10% of the world’s population is affected by this dangerous disease, and many millions have died to date in the absence of a vaccine to prevent infection. Although this vaccine does not necessarily mark the end of the disease, it is a momentous step towards the eradication of the deadly parasite.
Because this disease is so widespread, there is growing concern over making the vaccine cost-efficient enough to provide the cure for all those who are in danger of being infected. This is especially an issue for malaria because the disease afflicts many poorer regions of the globe.
There are a number of antimalarial medicines available for those traveling into malaria-ridden areas, but they only provide protection from the parasites so long as the medication is active, making it unfeasible to use as a worldwide cure.
The concern at this point is for the vaccine to be shown to be effective in humans at a high rate, and with a long (preferably lifetime) period of immunity. The drug advances now to the third stage of trials where it is being tested on an afflicted population.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center also recently unveiled a new generation of prosthetics able to be controlled by the brain. Neuroscientists are working on perfecting a system to allow robotic prosthetics to be controlled strictly through intention by means of intercepting brain waves.
These programs are in their nascent stages, but immediately are yielding promising results. Robotics engineers and neuroscientists are teaming up to allow more precise control as well as a more intuitive design. Footage shows a man paralyzed in a motorcycle accident reaching out for the first time in 7 years, this time with a robotic arm that is detached from his body.
What are the implications of machines that can be operated with the mind? Are true ‘cyborgs’ in the foreseeable future?
For my First Year University Writing Seminar, I chose a session called “Issues in Healthcare Controlling African American Minds and Bodies”. Only one of our representatives presented. The presentation was named “Mind Control: The Effects of Poverty on Black Mental Health”. The Presentation discussed the reasons why Blacks don’t get the mental health they need. One of the points that hit home to me was the discussion of the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness in the African American community. Later, evening I read Priyanka Kaur’s blog post “Science and Disney” and I wondered if may we should spice up our blog posts. So, here is a video I found on blacks and mental health called “Snapping the Chain: Ending Mental Health Stigma in the African American Community” from youtube.
This video really hit home for me. I have family who refuse to get psychological evaluations because of the stigma of mental illness. Additionally, the outside world’s only view of African Americans with mental illness are prisoners, homelessness, and extreme violence. It is those views that continue to push down those with mental illness and make others afraid to get diagnosed.
What do you see when you think of people with mental illness? Are their other cultures that place a stigma on mental health? What do you think about this problem in the African American community? Does the media perpetrate these ideas about the mentally ill? Do you see a solution in science? Tell me what you think.
While reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks I kept thinking to myself, “What would her treatment and subsequent life be like if she were diagnosed today?” Whenever I would read Rebecca Skloot’s explanation of a medical or otherwise pathogen-related discovery, I would always come back to modern times and ask myself what being done today that could have aided doctors and researchers in their attempts to detect, diagnose, and treat these same diseases earlier. After doing this throughout the entire book, I found one point of intersection that never seemed to fail, technology.
Modern day technologies such a Computed Tomography scan (CT scan) and a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine (MRI) have been used y doctors and scientists for years in the fight against malignant and/or cancerous tumors—such as the one Henrietta Lacks and George Guy developed. However, it appears that scientists in Germany are currently in the animal-testing stages of their new implantation chip that is supposed to read, and transmit oxygen levels in the blood of a localized area to a receiver that displays the information on a screen–it is fair to say that this is a better form of detection than simply realizing that “I got a knot on my womb.” (p. 13) (For those who are unaware, oxygen levels drop significantly during the proliferation and growth of tumor cells.) The chip is called “IntelliTuM”, and the team of developers hope that it will be able to monitor the progression of slow-growing or inoperable tumors that cause cancers such as cervical or pancreatic cancer—the cancers that plagued Henrietta and George Guy respectively. This device is to one day replace or be used in collaboration with the CT and MRI scans, without the high risk of radiation poisoning. It is important to remember however that the chip is still in its early stages and does come with the added risk of some toxic poisoning from the material of the chip itself. Although the chip may seem more science fiction than science at the moment, it is certainly more efficient than placing pure radium rods near the tumors themselves and hoping they are resized to a benign level.
The medical field is a constantly evolving one with twists and turns at every step of the way. When cancer research first began, they were not even considering the use of technology as form of detection. But that was then, and we have come a long way since.
I would say that this article leaves a few open-ended points for discussion specifically the point about Henrietta’s treatment had she been diagnosed today? But I would also like to ask if you believe the doctors did everything in their Hippocratic power to diagnose Henrietta’s tumor, considering the fact that it wasn’t until decades later did anyone care to examine the tumor cells more closely to find that they had been misidentified? But this wouldn’t be a question in 2011 if I didn’t wonder if Henrietta would really receive better care today, factoring in her economic and social status?
Greenwood, V. (2011, September 12). Tumor-monitoring implant could give advance warning of growth. In Discover Magazine. Retrieved September 17, 2011, from http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2011/09/12/tumor-monitoring-implant-could-give-advance-warning-of-growth/