The Mother-Infant Bond

Mother & Child (Doux Réves) from Wikipedia

Many people talk about how important the mother-infant bond is, but how many of us can really understand what it means to ourselves? We know that it clearly is critical for the baby’s survival during the first few months of life. What is its role in preparing a person early in life for becoming a social human being? What are the benefits to both the baby and the mother for having this bond? How is it represented in the brain? Why is there a narrow window of opportunity, only three years, for it to form? Why can’t the mother make up for its lack later in life? What are the individual steps in bond formation that must be taken during very short periods of time within that three-year period, and why? What happens to the social development of a child who never forms that bond with the mother?

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The Social Brain

The Mind is Mapped Onto the Head in Phrenology (de Phrenologie (1894) by Friedrich Eduard Bilz (1842-1922): Das neue Naturheilverfahren (75. Jubiläumsausgabe), In the public domain, PD-US
The Mind is Mapped Onto the Head in Phrenology (de Phrenologie‘ (1894) by Friedrich Eduard Bilz (1842-1922): Das neue Naturheilverfahren (75. Jubiläumsausgabe), In the public domain, PD-US

How Does the Brain Make Us Social?

Ever wonder how are our brains arranged to allow us to act as a member of a social group? I will go back to the very origins of a brain to investigate this behavior, describing both anatomy and physiology of simple to very complex neural circuits necessary for us to be social beings. There is an extremely important point I make in this post: nervous tissue is different from all other tissue. Its properties seem to be “pre-designed” to make it uniquely capable of allowing an organism to interact with another in a complicated way.

There are differences in the brain among vertebrates, reflecting the need for “attachment” between two or more animals. There are also levels of attachment seen in brain organization and function, reflecting the fact that social groupings can be more complex. I bring a very different perspective to the discussion, and hope to provoke more discussion with the ideas I present in this post. Continue reading

Gender Differences in the Brain

Comment on “Title IX At 40: What Has Changed, And What’s Next” on NPR’s Morning Edition for June 20, 2012 where sports commentator Frank Deford looks back on achievements since Title IX was passed into law, and wonders about the future of collegiate sports given what has happened in the last 40 years. The nervous system may play a role in the ironic consequences of this legislation.

Summary

NPR did a series of reports on the significance and effects of Title IX on sports and other aspects of our educational system, as we approach its 40th birthday. NPR Commentator Frank Deford, master writer that he is, acknowledges its tremendous effect on women’s sports. He discusses how the number of women in college sports has increased with the consequent effect of decreasing the number of sports available to men. He raises the specter of more losses in male sports because of the increasingly greater proportion of women attending college now (60% of students). He even raises the possibility that even “King Football” might end up being sacrificed at many schools because of the evidence of brain damage and because “it’s so expensive and has no female analogue.” He also notes the irony in that even though the number of female athletes has greatly increased, there is no “corresponding interest in women watching other women play sports.” He ends his essay with a paraphrased Henry Higgins (My Fair Lady) question, “Why can’t a woman be more like a fan?”

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Medicinal Herbs

Posted: 12 Oct 2011
Updated: 17 July 2012

In this post, I discuss news reports and address topics critical for understanding how medicinal herbs work. Please check out my blog posting “Eating Wild Greens” for information about other herbs for both nutritional and medicinal purposes. I approach this topic very differently from most authors. I believe that less is more and that it is better to treat conditions nutritionally when possible before resorting to any medication, either pharmaceutical or herbal. However, there are many conditions for which pharmaceutical drugs or medicinal herbs are fast, thorough, and important lifesaving techniques available to us.
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Sweetness Preferences Change at Puberty

Comment on “Kids’ Sugar Cravings Might Be Biological” on Morning Edition Sept 26, 2011 where it was reported that sugar cravings are not an indicator of tendency toward obesity, but are found naturally in all children. Thus controlling obesity in children will not be successful if the only method used is an attempt to change the motivation of children toward sweets. The report relates sweetness preference instead to pain relief and to helping to promote growth in height.

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The Problem with Vaccines

Comment on “Doctors Counter Vaccine Fears In Pacific Northwest reported on All Things Considered 09/13/11, where I discuss some of the mistakes in this news report, as well as some of our current state of knowledge about mercury in vaccines and the incidence of autism. This post is in no way exhaustive.

Summary

NPR Reporter Martin Kaste covers a story about an increasing number of kindergartners not being vaccinated for school, with the poorest record in the states of Washington and Oregon. Public Health officials call this “vaccine hesitancy” and often occurs among well-off, educated parents. There are many people who consider vaccination as a conspiracy by the “medical-industrial complex”. Vaccine hesitancy by parents can occur as the complete avoidance of any vaccination to picking and choosing which vaccines to have their child get. These parents want to discuss every vaccine in the same way they want to discuss a surgery. Disease that can be prevented with vaccines are on the rise. This report refers to the 1998 study in The Lancet by Dr. Andrew Wakefield that showed a link between MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccines and autism, as fraudulent, which appeared to give rise to some of the vaccine hesitancy seen today. Some blame the plethora of studies showing a link to problems with vaccines, combined with states who offer easy exemptions to vaccination rules.

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Hearing Ability is Related to Emotions

Can listening to music prevent hearing loss? Or is the study a bit too eager to point to a causal effect when no experiment was done?

Comment on “How Music May Help Ward Off Hearing Loss” on Morning Edition 22 Aug 2011: emotional trauma may explain better this type of hearing loss.

Human Left Ear, from David Benbennick at Wikimedia
Human Left Ear, from David Benbennick at Wikimedia

Summary

NPR reporter Patti Neighmond interviewed two researchers. Nina Kraus (Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwest University), has studied age-related hearing degradation, in particular that involved with the ability to distinguish particular sounds (“f” vs “th”) as well as bits of silence between words. The loss of these abilities along with memory losses lead to not being able to keep up with a conversation where people talk fast, because the listener is still trying to process the difference between “f” and “th” or trying to process “ashortfatlittlebody” vs “a short, fat, little body”. It is especially apparent in a crowded restaurant or where there is a lot of extraneous noise.     Continue reading

Genetics, Toxins and Autism

3D DNA Structure, from Elapied, at Wikimedia
3D DNA Structure, from Elapied, at Wikimedia

Autism Spectrum Disorder describes a complex of many symptoms that appear in children, often first noticed by parents when the child is three years old. Some report having noticed a change in what they thought was normal development much earlier. New research shows that there may be indicators other than behavior that might help us to intervene and possibly prevent the worst of symptoms.

An NPR report on some of the genetic research sparked my wish to wrangle with some of the assumptions being made by many researchers. Much of the discussion of autism centers on genetic “causes,” despite the fact that genes do not “cause” anything. However, genetics research can give us many insights into how the brain is put together. I also present new research that suggests an environmental association and criticize both kinds of research for not asking the right questions.

Updated: 17 Sept 2014

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Segmentation in the Nervous System

Embryonic Brain, before it folds up into what we recognize today, from Wikimedia
Embryonic Brain, (looking down on it from above) before it folds up into what we recognize today, from Wikimedia

Updated: Oct 15, 2011

The nervous system is “segmented”, a critical property of vertebrate bodies that allowed the building of modular designs in different parts of the body, in a kind of “conservation” of developmental processes. This method of building a vertebrate body conserved successful designs and promoted small changes in that design to cause major adaptations in vertebrates to different habitats. Once scientists realized that segmentation occurred as a basic property of vertebrate design, its discovery in different systems (skeletal, muscular, urinary, reproductive, and digestive) allows us to study evolution more efficiently. The modular building of segments in the brain and spinal cord mimics the modules formed from bone, muscle, and parts of the body. Thus, keeping segmentation in mind, we can understand how certain basic principles of form and function are kept in the spinal cord and brain during development, even if the final form of the brain appears to have changed so drastically. Continue reading

The Content of Our Voices

Talking
Talking

Does the human voice have more meaning to others than words do? If not, then why do humans respond differently to spoken language than to the written word? A report in the news offers new information that might help explain the difference, although some may have missed the significance of this news.

NPR logoYou Bug Me. Now Science Explains Why on Morning Edition 17 May 2011, tells us why some are so annoyed with cell phone users when trapped in the same room, vehicle, or outdoor space as the user. It describes research which suggests how the brain might work to understand words in not so optimum an environment for hearing, how what is heard in a conversation affects the mood. This post includes both straight reporting and the author’s observations and opinions on this research. Since speech can be more effective than a written essay with the same words in it, some of the unconscious content might include more than an emotion.

Updated: June 6, 2011 Continue reading

Emotional Representation in the Brain

We all tend to think of “emotion” as those feelings we experience under certain circumstances.  The “bad” emotions of a person who suffers emotional trauma tend to range from anxiety, to frustration, to fear, to sadness, to depression, to anger, to rage.  These words, I think, best portray a sequence of emotions that we will express as the severity of emotional trauma increases.  I think they also depict the strength of response by the individual that is demanded by the brain as unrelenting bad conditions occur.

Updated 15 Aug 2012

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Surgical Approach to Sleep Apnea

Is surgery necessary or even better than alternative treatments for sleep apnea? Is it appropriate even if we don’t know the cause?

Comment on “How to Beat Sleep Apnea? Cut It Out (Surgically)” on Morning Edition on 14 March 2011,  where I discuss how doctors need to consider environmental causes other than germs, like toxins, as a cause of sore throats. Toxins can damage tissue, attracting predatory microbes. They can also interfere with nerve transmission, preventing proper muscle contraction, gland secretion, and control of fluid flow in the subcutaneous tissues of the nose and throats.


Updated: Aug 16, 2011

Collapse of Pharynx during sleep can cause apnea, by Habib M'henni & User:DMY on Wikimedia
Collapse of Pharynx during sleep can cause apnea, by Habib M’henni & User:DMY on Wikimedia

Summary:

This report described cases of sleep apnea in adults.  NPR reporter Patti Neighmond interviewed Dr. Erica Thaler, an eye, ear, nose and throat surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. She describes a patient, Daniel Sheiner, who had  an obstruction at the back of the throat which caused his sleep apnea.  He tried different methods to allow him to sleep through the night, but none worked, so she performed a type of robotic surgery that removed excess tissue that had built up in the back of the throat that included swollen tonsils.  Another doctor, Rashmi N. Aurora, says surgery should be suggested only for younger patients, and describes several other techniques that can be used. Continue reading

Treating the Criminally Mental Illness Cases

Goya's "Madhouse" (1812-1819), PD at Wikimedia
Goya’s “Madhouse” (1812-1819), PD at Wikimedia

How we think mental illness is caused greatly affects how we treat it. Those severely mentally disordered people who have committed crimes are being treated in mental hospitals without proper supervision. The safety of health professionals is at risk.

Comment National Public Radioon “Changes Sought After Death at Calif. Mental Hospital” on Morning Edition on 19 April 2011.  See also the report on Morning Edition on 24 May 2011, “California Ordered To Reduce Prison Population“, and on All Things Considered 23 May 2011, “High Court Rules Calif Must Cut Prison Population“, where I discuss how combining severely mentally ill criminals in mental hospitals without proper safety precautions creates an extremely dangerous work environment for professional hospital workers. I take issue with the use of the term “genetic” to describe a cause of mental illness, since there is always an environmental interaction with genes.

Updated 25 May 2011

Summary:

The death of a patient who had to be subdued by hospital staff for attacking another patient has led to more debate about what to do about the mental hospitals in California who have swelled with patients referred to them from the criminal justice system. This death happens just after the state has been asked to do something about the increasing violence because of a previous recent death of a staff member. The state’s response? California’s OSHA levied fines because the hospital had violated state labor law.  The answer so far has been to lift the hiring freeze at the hospital. Continue reading

On “Healthy” Ice Cream

Ice Cream Cones from Lee Wardlaw: My Books
Ice Cream Cones from Lee Wardlaw: My Books

What is “healthy” ice cream? Is it healthier without the fat of a “real” ice CREAM? We can use knowledge about the chemistry of our foods to help us choose better foods when we feel hungry.

Modified comment on “Does Healthy Ice Cream Taste Good?“, reported on Morning Edition 14 March 2011, where I discuss what healthy eating is and how our chemical needs dictate what we want when we eat.

Updated 21 May 2011

Summary

Researchers at the University of Missouri tried to make an ice cream healthier by adding fiber, antioxidants and probiotics (bacteria that can survive freezing). This was a very short report that left out other critical information, e.g. milk instead of cream? Sugar or sugar substitute? Continue reading

Sleep: What it Does

Why sleep and why dream? Why do some of us insist they do not just because they cannot remember what they dreamed? How does sleep apnea fit into the functions of dreaming?

National Public RadioSleep apnea is reported in Eight Is Too Much For ‘Short Sleepers’, (Saturday Weekend Edition 16 April 2011). So why is apnea more likely in those who get what has been called the recommended amount of sleep? The real functions of sleep and dreaming might explain how damage elsewhere in the body could be responsible for sleep apnea. The amount of sleep that a person needs might demand a more complex study than just its association with apnea. There may be better tests of hypotheses which could determine how short sleepers are different from long sleepers.

Updated: 08 Aug 2016

Sleeping Baby from New Baby and You, http://www.newbabyandyou.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/sleep_hours-300x181.jpg

Summary

A team of scientists at the University of California at San Francisco found an association between certain genetic mutations and a propensity toward ‘short sleeping’, where people routinely sleep only four to six hours a night and seem to function as well or better than those who needed longer sleep times. They found that short sleepers tend to be very active, have faster metabolisms, to be thinner, are more energetic, have more positive attitudes, and a higher tolerance for pain than the ‘long sleepers’.
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MRT 1.0-a (Appl. Kinesiology): How it Works

My Single-Hand Self-Testing MethodI will present my own theories about how Muscle Response/Reflex Testing (Applied Kinesiology) works. Others have also offered explanations which I will review very briefly first, but offer a much longer treatise on what I think (see also “MRT 1.0: Using MRT“) Muscle Response/Reflex Testing (MRT or Applied Kinesiology, see also “MRT 1.0: Using MRT“) is happening with this technique.

Updated 08 Aug 2014

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