editorial in Wednesday's Times calls for caution from parents considering using marijuana extracts to treat their children's seizures and, just as importantly, for a full-speed-ahead study of the compounds that may make such treatment effective. As states like Colorado and California begin to legalize marijuana, it becomes easier to administer the drug to epileptic children outside of the clinic. Unfortunately, federal regulations designating even CBD--the non-psychoactive component of marijuana that may inhibit seizures--as a Schedule 1 drug, make it very difficult to conduct scientific studies. The compound may work, says Orrin Devinsky, an epileptologist at NYU and one of the op-ed's authors, but the science just isn't yet in. Nor has the safety of the compound been proven. "This concern is especially relevant in children, for whom there is good evidence that marijuana use can increase the risk of serious psychiatric disorders and long-term cognitive problems," writes Davinsky, one of the country's top epilepsy doctors and researchers.
Devinsky and Daniel Friedman, his co-author and colleague at NYU, are not anti-pot ideologues. They are scientists making an urgent plea for the study of a set of promising but complicated compounds. Apparently (from the avalanche of outraged comments) the piece was misunderstood by many legalization advocates. The authors are not calling for pursuit or persecution of patients using CBD but rather for an urgent and rigorous scientific study, and the update of federal regulations that would make that possible. Of course such study will be skeptical; science always should be.
Friday, October 25, 2013
|DARPA yes, but are they combat|
satellites or brain dust?
That would be great. But beware, by the time you could monitor and treat mental illness through implanted wireless electrodes you could monitor and influence all kinds of other "mental events" as well.
Darpa may have made a mark on history by giving us GPS and the Internet, but with read-write brain-machine interfaces it would bring about more than a technological revolution; more like a human speciation event! Keep your seat belts on...and your skull caps closed.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
|John Blanchard/ The Chron|
This is fascinating stuff! Someone should write a book on the subject!
Monday, September 30, 2013
Neurologist and neuroscientist Josef Parvizi wanted to hear what a seizing brain would sound like if it were made audible and musical. He recruited the help of fellow Stanford professor Chris Chafe, a composer, music researcher, and an expert at converting natural signals into music. A patient of Parvizi's donated an EEG recording of one of his seizures to the project. The result is not only a haunting piece of musification that seems to several epileptic commentators to capture the deep and eerie "feeling" of a seizure, but it also set in motion an effort to develop a device that would allow non-professionals to hear the onset of a seizure by broadcasting the sounds of converted EEG tracings in real time. They call the device a "brain stethoscope." Read a piece by Bjorn Carey about the project on the Stanford News website. And listen to the moving, musical seizure.
Parvizi explains the audio: "The patient whose brainwaves you are hearing is sitting quietly in bed and is NOT having a convulsive seizure. Around 0:20, the patient's seizure starts in the right hemisphere, and the patient is talking and acting normally. Around 1:50, the left hemisphere starts seizing while the right is in a post-ictal state. The patient is mute and confused. At 2:20 both hemispheres are in the post-ictal state. Patient is looking around, still confused, trying to pick at things, and get out of bed."
Friday, August 2, 2013
|Gary Shteyngart's very good|
"O.K., Glass: Confessions of a Google Glass Explorer"
is in the Aug. 5, 2013 New Yorker
Socrates warned that the spread of writing would be disastrous for the life of the mind. Readers would grow lazy, he predicted, and no longer internalize knowledge. If they didn't memorize important information and wisdom, their grasp would be superficial at best. They might have access to texts, and even read them once in a while, but that would be an anemic kind of knowing, if it was knowing at all. Does the fact that we love books today mean that mean Socrates was wrong? No. It may be the nature of the loss that we simply can’t remember what it was like when the essential knowledge was stored in our heads. But for a taste, think of the difference between reading a great poem and knowing it by heart. We downplay the difference; but maybe it is key.
At the same time as more and more of our memory, knowledge, and wisdom is stored on disks and in servers outside of our heads, the devices that we use to access the stuff are moving brainward once again. PCs keep our stores of valuable knowledge within a few feet of our heads most of the day. Smartphones put our important memories in our pockets and Bluetooth devices beam the interface right up to our ears. Now Google Glass puts our mental prosthetics closer still, placing the interface on the face, just a fraction of an inch from the brain itself.The woman wearing Google Glass might not know that poem, but she can call it up any time. And to all the world it may look like she does know it.
Soon enough, brain-computer interfaces will bring the device inside the body, perhaps even merging it seamlessly with the brain. In that case, will she "know" the poem again, even though she herself never memorized it and even though it doesn't reside in the organic part of her head? Does it matter if the memory is stored in gray matter or silicon? whether it is hippocampal or digital? We can philosophize all we want, but to really know we will just have to wait and see what it feels like to remember something we never knew, to know something we never learned. Beware though, by then we might not even remember the pleasure of knowing for ourselves.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
|Brain Trainer Special: fun, yes,|
The New York Times ran a bad piece about mobile brain-training apps today. A Workout for Your Brain, on Your Smartphone, by Kit Eaton, reviewed the gamut of brain app designers from Luminosity to Mind Games, Game Trainer, and The Clockwork Brain. Nowhere in the entire piece does it even question whether these games actually help do anything but improve one's performance at playing them. It would be like reviewing Astrology apps without mentioning that they might not really be reading the future.
Monday, February 11, 2013
|Maya Shenwar, executive director |
of Truthout, with EEG leads
taped to her head.
The two most salient things about epilepsy are 1) that it sucks, and 2) that it is awesome. If you're living with seizures, of course, their awesomeness almost certainly does not make up for their suckiness. Even if you have out-of-body experiences during your seizures or hear old music, smell burning toast, or have orgasms while seizing, you still probably would rather do without them. And yet, I've met a lot of people who have a great deal of respect, if not awe, for their seizures. As they should. Epilepsy may be the enemy, as one philosophical epileptic acquaintance put it, but it is an awesome and mysterious enemy.
Not all epileptics are as enamored of their their seizures as Fyodor Dostoevsky's protagonist Prince Myshkin in The Idiot. As writer Maya Shenwar tells us in her excellent piece today on the political website Truthout, Myshkin flashes, during the auras at the outset of his seizures, to "the highest form of existence" and "the acme of harmony and beauty." Shenwar, who has had seizures for nearly a decade, has less transcendent fits than Myshkin did, but still, she is making the most of them. And she has clearly learned a lot from her epilepsy. She is courageous, funny and smart and now as fully out as an epileptic can get, a real accomplishment given the stigma and discrimination that still hounds people with this particular neurologic disorder. Read her excellent piece, and learn many things, including why she called the essay "I am Not a Camel...But I do Have Epilepsy."