Monday, October 27, 2008

Nutrition and Cancer

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dopamine stimulation causes withdrawal

A New State of Mind

The importance of dopamine was discovered by accident. In 1954 James Olds and Peter Milner, two neuroscientists at McGill University, decided to implant an electrode deep into the center of a rat's brain. The precise placement of the electrode was largely happenstance: At the time the geography of the mind remained a mystery. But Olds and Milner got lucky. They inserted the needle right next to the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), a part of the brain dense with dopamine neurons and involved with the processing of pleasurable rewards, like food and sex.

Olds and Milner quickly discovered that too much pleasure can be fatal. After they ran a small current into the wire, so that the NAcc was continually excited, the scientists noticed that the rodents lost interest in everything else. They stopped eating and drinking. All courtship behavior ceased. The rats would just cower in the corner of their cage, transfixed by their bliss. Within days all of the animals had perished. They had died of thirst.

It took several decades of painstaking research, but neuroscientists eventually discovered that the rats were suffering from an excess of dopamine. The stimulation of the brain triggered a massive release of the neurotransmitter, which overwhelmed the rodents with ecstasy. In humans addictive drugs work the same way: A crack addict who has just gotten a fix is no different from a rat in electrical rapture. This, then, became the dopaminergic cliché — it was the chemical explanation for sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll.

But that view of the neurotransmitter was vastly oversimplified. What wasn't yet clear was that dopamine is also a profoundly important source of information. It doesn't merely let us take pleasure in the world; it allows us to understand the world.

I have yet to see anyone "cower with bliss" and it is funny that it took 30 or so years to make the research fit the supposition (cliche is right). Speaking of rats and drugs, the Rat Park experiments were very interesting.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I am cleaning out some files on my computer and sticking them on my blogs and this was interesting but I don't know where it came from:

Sketching a fuller picture of Thomas Edison than the usual sanitized version, Gardner sums up his appraisal of the national hero by stating that his "beliefs and habits were those of a crackpot and a bum. Rats lived happy and undisturbed in his laboratory; he often slept in his clothes, because he believed that changing or taking them off induced insomnia; he thought that Richard Wagner was Jewish; he was a disastrous husband and father; he all but starved himself to death because he believed that food poisons the intestines; his own company in Europe coined the cable name 'Dungyard' for him."

Some jokes

A baby born in the hospital weighed ten pounds.
The odd thing about him was his body weighed
five pounds and his balls weighed five pounds.

All the nurses and even the doctor didn't know
what to do with him.

Then, the chief surgeon walked in and said,
"Well it's obvious that you should put him
into a mental institution."'

'Why,'' asked the head nurse.

"Take a look at him," replied the chief surgeon,
He's obviously half nuts."

A guy had been feeling down for so long that he finally decided to seek the aid of a psychiatrist. He went to the shrink's office, laid on the couch, spilled his guts then waited for the profound wisdom of the psychiatrist to make him feel better.

The psychiatrist asked the man a few questions, took some notes, then sat thinking in silence for a few minutes with a puzzled look on his face.

Suddenly, the shrink looked up with an expression of delight and said, "Um, I think your problem is low self-esteem. It is very common among losers."


"The trouble is," said the entertainer to the psychiatrist, "that I can't sing, I can't dance, I can't tell jokes, I can't act, I can't play an instrument or juggle or do magic tricks or do anything!"
"Then why don't you give up show business?"
"I can't - I'm a star!"


A man walks into the psychiatrists office wearing nothing but Saran Wrap.

The doctor said, "I can clearly see you're nuts."


He who fights against monsters must beware lest he become one himself - Nietzsche

It may sometimes be hard to define good, but evil has its unmistakable odor. Every child knows what pain is. Therefore, each time we deliberately inflict pain on another we know what we are doing. We are doing evil.- Amoz Oz

Studies show that children and adolescents who are victims of schoolyard bullying face an increased risk of developing depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and are at increased risk of schizophrenia according to one New Zealand study. Dr John Read from the University of Auckland presented research at a psychiatrists' conference in Canberra, showing there are similar changes in the brains of abused children and adult schizophrenics. He says his research shows up to 60 per cent of women with schizophrenia may have been abused as children.

Bullying is the most common form of violence in our society. Bullying behavior is behind all child abuse, domestic violence, workplace violence, hate crimes, and road rage. It travels from the strongest to the weakest and it does not dissolve into nothingness. Men bully their female partners, women bully children, older children bully younger children and younger children bully their pets leading to a "vortex of violence". Young children, who are at the bottom of this ladder absorb it, accumulate it and wait until they are strong enough to erupt. It is well documented that many violent criminals were victims of child abuse.

The same vulnerable feelings are felt in most bullying. Marilee Strong described her reaction to parental abuse in A Bright Red Scream: "In some ways, an abused child faces terror worse than anything a soldier experiences on the field of battle. She lives in a world of continual and unpredictable danger and may, with good reason, fear for her life. Yet she has no gun to protect her, no squad to back her up, no training for her combat role. She is completely alone, completely powerless, completely at the mercy of her parent's will, she cannot fight back, cannot escape. She is trapped."

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and many of the perpetrators of mass violence exemplify the incomprehensible injustice of retaliation against bullying by attacking innocents at random. Between 1992 and 1999 there were over 250 violent deaths in schools that involved multiple victims and in virtually every school shooting, bullying had been a factor. Deadly assaults do not occur from one brief encounter. Like other forms of child abuse, bullying pits a weak, single individual against a strong, dominating aggressive foe who chronically victimizes his/her prey. Many of the bullied are in survival mode of just getting through each day hoping they'll endure that day.

The bully or bullies dehumanize their victim and conduct a deliberate, hurtful, repeated assault on their prey's esteem. Charles "Andy" Williams who shot 15 people, killing two at Santana High School, Santee, California was constantly called "faggot" and "geek" at school. Bullies stole his cigarettes, wallet and skateboard repeatedly. His peers constantly ridiculed him. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who made Columbine infamous, were harassed, bullied and put down on a daily basis for years. Every day when Harris and Klebold came to school, they were met by a gauntlet of students that harassed them in the hallways and cafeteria and called them "dirt bags," "dirt balls," or "homos" and other names. They were also hassled by having orange juice poured on their trench coats so they would have to wear the sticky stuff all day. Frequently the football players would physically assault them by throwing a body block on them banging them into the lockers or the wall.

Everyone said we should fear the loners. Loner children should be protected precisely because they think differently and become our inventors, our artists, our lyricists, writers, poets, comedians and yes, sometimes our "nuts". Society benefits if only these children can live to adulthood without committing suicide or becoming mentally ill for loners live under constant stress as prime bully bait. The pressure to conform is enormous to teenagers. To witness the phenomenon, walk the halls of your high school and tell me you don't find the uniformity spooky. You, too, will feel like you have entered a cult because everyone dresses the same, combs their hair similarly and talks in the same clichés. Naturally, any independent thinker, anyone who doesn't dress regulation, anyone you maintains a free identity will be made into an outcast. The hated students, unfortunately, have no choice on their outcast status, they have been sentenced by their peers to relentless ridicule. Classmates create a prison without walls and concur, "We have judged you and find you unfit for our society."

The social ostracism these students experienced forced them to seek help in some cases. The psychiatric community who basically rejects talk therapy in favor of psychotropic prescriptions brands the victim "chemically imbalanced" and promises that the proper dulling medication will help them adjust. Some would say that the aggressive bullies should have been referred for psychiatric evaluation but it was Harris who was prescribed Luvox, an antidepressant and Kip Kinkel, (who killed his parents and two students in Oregon) who was on Prozac. Just maybe we are medicating the wrong segment of society when cruelty is ignored or rewarded and victims have to have their brains altered.

Our society has a tendency to blame the victim for his troubles. I remember reading of a young German student who said the Jews were responsible for the holocaust because they allowed themselves to be victimized. We have made the term "victim mentality" a derogatory term and privileged people sneer at anyone who doesn't admit that he is to blame for his own troubles or asks the courts or government to provide redress. We don't decry the "bully mentality" for this society praises winning at all costs. Conformity is the golden rule of the bully mentality and "love it or leave it" is their prayer. Any laws passed to give any minority equal access to America are a threat to the bully mentality. Whenever minorities want handicapped access, anti-discrimination laws, or "hate crime" legislation, the bullies cry "foul" and claim the minority is getting extra advantage. The bullies ridicule fairness by mocking it as "politically correct" and not once admitting it is morally correct in a civilized society to protect the vulnerable from the cruel and the greedy.

Old but interesting article

Teaching Old Drugs New Tricks
Pharmaceutical companies won't study whether cheap old drugs work better than expensive new ones. But NIH should.
By Emily Yoffe
Posted Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Suppose a researcher discovered that some cheap, long-available drug could treat a devastating disease. Patients wouldn't need exorbitantly priced new drugs, and they might be able to avoid surgery. Insurers and hospitals would save millions by adopting the economical new treatment.

It would be great news for everyone—except pharmaceutical companies. They don't care if old, off-patent drugs have novel uses. Their profits depend on new, expensive, patented drugs. They're not about to undertake costly testing to prove that a discount drug whose patent has expired works as well a pricey new one.

Since the pharmaceutical companies are the economic engine behind drug development, and since there is no incentive for them to find new uses for old drugs, such research is no one's mission. A Wall Street Journal story last month nicely illustrated the problem, describing the inability of Dr. G. Umberto Meduri to get sufficient backing for a major study to prove what his small, promising studies have indicated: Low doses of common steroids can help prevent death by sepsis, an often deadly bloodstream infection. The steroids, no longer under patent, cost about $50 per course of treatment. Eli Lilly & Co., the Journal points out, has just released a new sepsis drug that costs $7,000 per course. And Lilly is spending millions to promote its drug.

This would seem like a job for the National Institutes of Health. It's in the United States' financial interest—as well as public health interest—to see whether steroids work on sepsis. If they're effective, taxpayers could save millions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. But so far Meduri has failed to get federal funding. A spokesman for NIH says the vast majority of applicants do not get funded, and it's true that even the best system is going to leave some worthy studies undone. But Meduri's case and others suggest that novel uses of existing compounds—therapies that could improve lives at little cost—often have a hard time getting attention at NIH, especially if they contradict prevailing medical opinion.

NIH's main mission is—and should be—basic biomedical research, understanding how the human body functions at a molecular level. NIH is also a center for clinical research, but clinical trials receive only one-sixth the funding that basic science does, frustrating investigators who say clinical research deserves to be treated with more urgency.

For example, promising findings that the amino acid homocysteine might be as good as, or possibly better than, cholesterol at predicting heart disease languished for more than a decade because of lack of funding. Drug companies avoided studying homocysteine for an obvious reason: The treatment for elevated homocysteine is folic acid and B vitamins, which cost next to nothing. No pharmaceutical company wanted to test whether lowering homocysteine is as important as lowering cholesterol. Cholesterol-lowering drugs, after all, earn billions for the pharmaceutical companies.

Again, NIH was the obvious place to turn, but it wasn't interested. According to a New York Times article on the controversy, NIH was long considered "a kind of ground zero for the cholesterol camp." Dr. Kilmer McCully, the doctor credited with discovering the homocysteine connection, lost his funding and his position at Harvard Medical School for advocating a line of inquiry so contrary to accepted medical belief. Today, there is powerful evidence that homocysteine levels are a marker not only for heart disease, but also for stroke and Alzheimer's. Yet, even today, as an NIH Web site points out, "Clinical intervention trials are needed [emphasis added] to determine whether supplementation with vitamin B6, folic acid, or vitamin B12 can help protect you against developing coronary heart disease."

When a pair of Australian researchers, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, presented findings in the early 1980s showing that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, not stress and excess stomach acid, caused most peptic ulcers, they were derided by the medical establishment. At the time, the drug companies were introducing new acid reducers, the staggeringly profitable drugs now available over the counter as Tagamet and Zantac. As the Journal points out, drug companies are often the primary suppliers of information about drugs to physicians. So for years doctors gave little credence to the bacterial infection theory of ulcers. Such a theory would mean that patients could be cured with a short-course of antibiotics, rather than merely receive symptomatic relief from long-term treatment with costly acid reducers. It wasn't until 1994 that the NIH convened a panel that accepted the infection theory.

This is not to say NIH rarely does clinical studies; it does many. Nor does NIH always fail to notice promising uses for old compounds. Right now NIH is recruiting patients for a massive study on whether selenium and vitamin E can prevent prostate cancer, and it's even investigating whether the spice turmeric can prevent colon cancer. (NIH is doing another kind of research drug companies won't: studying the long-term effects of the most popular prescription drugs. Click here for more.)

Finding significant, unexpected uses for drugs has a long history. Some major discoveries in the treatment of mental illness resulted from seeing surprising benefits in mood or behavior in patients who were treated with drugs for purely physical ailments. At the recently concluded meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the New York Times wrote, "There were particularly promising reports involving new uses for old drugs."

NIH's budget has doubled in the last five years to $27 billion. Now that it's so flush with cash, it's time for the NIH to search more systematically for potential lifesavers that are already on the pharmacy shelves.