West Nile virus is also on the list

In Caldwell, Idaho, on the Snake River in Western Idaho, Dr. Carolyn Rees tells us that she was at ground zero during a West Nile Virus epidemic “leaving many people with post-encephalitic brain damage”. A review of the research literature on WNV includes a number of studies now documenting enduring memory and other cognitive losses…

Was that Will really Free?

Not Shakespeare, mind you. We’re talking about the infamous Mr. Seung-Hui Cho. Stephanie noted in a comment that Sharon Begley had written very cogently (and generally in agreement with what I had written) about the origins of behavior that could result in something like the Virginia Tech massacre. Sharon Begley is a highly informed science…

Jack’s hippocampus is bigger than yours

My dog Jack, thinking, has a proportionally larger hippocampus than you do. If I had a pet bunny, its hippocampus would be (proportionally) larger, still!! You’ve probably heard a lot about the crucial role that the hippocampus plays in recording our “episodic” (historic, serial, ‘long-term’) memories. Does this mean that we should revise that age…

Why we do research

Why do we study autistic or dyslexic or schizophrenic or other subjects, in our scientific experiments? That is a question that was asked, rather impolitely, by “dyslexic in LA”, who challenged the “arrogance” of a perspective that engages such individuals as “scientific guinea pigs”. There are two simple answers to this question. We want to…

The brain and the law, when Bobby goes bad

Each year I deliver a “guest lecture” in a medical ethics course at Stanford. My friend Bill Hurlbut, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, is the course director. The issues that I raise in this course were addressed in part by an interesting cover story in the March 11th New York Times Sunday…

Another factor contributing to PTSD onset; the NUMBER of traumatic events

A scientific friend and colleague, Professor Thomas Elbert from Konstanz University in Germany, has had a long interest in applying “simple” treatments to individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs). With his wife Maggie and others, he has developed and applied such treatments to war victims, primarily in Africa and Sri Lanka. There, literally millions…

How can the same brain plasticity-based training programs help individuals with cognitive losses arising from normal aging, exposure to IED explosions, or chemotherapy?

Over the years, I have specifically discussed the potential value of intensive brain plasticity-based brain fitness training for individuals with ALL of these (and other, related) personal histories. How in the heck can “one size fit all”? How on earth can the losses in mental faculties stemming from an explosion of little bubbles in the…

Why science can be confusing, just another example

A provocative article in an Issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Columbia researchers (Saxe, Malleret, et al.) described a study in which scientists documented the consequences of blocking neurogenesis (the birthing of new neurons) on maze-learning in mice. Since we already know that the magnitude of neurogenesis in this brain…

“WAR’S NEW WOUNDS. A shock wave of brain injuries”

That was the headline in a Washington Post article written by Ronald Glasser, published on Sunday, April 8, 2007. It reported a rather astounding statistic that applies to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: About 30% of soldiers in those conflicts have been directly exposed to IED or other powerful explosions. That exposure has…