Plagues from China says “The first outbreak of plague occurred in China more than 2,600 years ago before reaching Europe via Central Asia’s “Silk Road” trade route, according to a study of the disease’s DNA signature.”


Eat Dark Chocolate. Save Your Brain.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that a compound in dark chocolate may protect the brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.

Ninety minutes after feeding mice a single modest dose of epicatechin, a compound found naturally in dark chocolate, the scientists induced an ischemic stroke by essentially cutting off blood supply to the animals’ brains. They found that the animals that had preventively ingested the epicatechin suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.

While most treatments against stroke in humans have to be given within a two- to three-hour time window to be effective, epicatechin appeared to limit further neuronal damage when given to mice 3.5 hours after a stroke. Given six hours after a stroke, however, the compound offered no protection to brain cells.

from Science Daily

Magic Cures

When I was in first grade, no one would hold my hand when we were supposed to grab hands because both my thumbs were covered in warts.

I cried.

My folks took me to a doctor and the warts on my right thumb, the lesser covered thumb, with only 23 warts, were burnt off.

A week or two later they were back.

We went to another doctor. He recommended several options.

One was to sleep with an oily rag under my pillow. Not doable. We couldn’t ruin linens like that. We didn’t have the money for more.

Another was to rub the warts with a cut potato. You were supposed to say, “Potato, potato, take these warts away.” Then you buried the potato.

Worked a treat. All 67 warts gone and I have never gotten another.

My dad wrote the Old Man of the Hills in Oklahoma for a wart cure when he was young. That worked too.

And at church last Thursday night we were discussing the fact that if you put a bar of soap under the sheets in your bed, you wouldn’t get leg cramps. When I started to get a leg cramp, I went and got a bar of soap out of the bathroom and stuck it between the sheets. (We were at a hotel. I wonder what the maids thought of that.)

So, serendipitously, I saw “The Magic Cure” in The Boston Globe.

You’re not likely to hear about this from your doctor, but fake medical treatment can work amazingly well. For a range of ailments, from pain and nausea to depression and Parkinson’s disease, placebos–whether sugar pills, saline injections, or sham surgery–have often produced results that rival those of standard therapies.

I believe that.


Black Walnuts

Black walnuts taste nasty, just in case you wanted to know. And they are expensive.

But supposedly, they can make night shade allergies disappear. And after two days of pain in my knee for having eaten tomatoes (no other trauma I can think of), I ate a handful (1/3 cup) of black walnuts.

We shall see how it goes.

If it works, I may need to find something that really covers the taste of the black walnuts. And I’ll post on my nightshade allergies post to say it works.

Health Care Perspective

“In a private fee-for-service medical system, a dead patient is a revenue loss. In the National Health Service (UK), a dead patient was a cost savings.” -Harry Bailey MD 1930-2003, Sheffield (England) University Medical School 1950-1956; Harvard Medical School 1958-1981, US Navy Medical Corps 1982-1991.

The above quote is from my late father.

from Take Me To Your Lizard

Boys v. Girls: Different

The Common Room has a post that is exceptional:

However, the female response to stress is completely different, and prompts instead a decreased heart rate and blood flow to the brain, dizziness, nausea — all of it triggering a desire to hug and be hugged, he said.

Math in New and Improved Ways

The Math Curmudgeon has a great post on Game-Changing Graphics.

It is well worth looking at.

Want to see how a Russian Winter decimated Napoleon’s army? It’s there.

How cholera was identified as coming from a septic tank? That, too.

Scary view of sex at Jefferson High. (When did that come out and how did I miss it? Answer 2004. I don’t know. That would be a good place to point some of my students. American Journal of Sociology.)

This would definitely be interesting to read about.

Americanization of Mental Illness

An intriguing article/title from the NYTimes.

This unnerving possibility springs from recent research by a loose group of anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists. Swimming against the biomedical currents of the time, they have argued that mental illnesses are not discrete entities like the polio virus with their own natural histories. These researchers have amassed an impressive body of evidence suggesting that mental illnesses have never been the same the world over (either in prevalence or in form) but are inevitably sparked and shaped by the ethos of particular times and places. In some Southeast Asian cultures, men have been known to experience what is called amok, an episode of murderous rage followed by amnesia; men in the region also suffer from koro, which is characterized by the debilitating certainty that their genitals are retracting into their bodies. Across the fertile crescent of the Middle East there is zar, a condition related to spirit-possession beliefs that brings forth dissociative episodes of laughing, shouting and singing.

For more than a generation now, we in the West have aggressively spread our modern knowledge of mental illness around the world. We have done this in the name of science, believing that our approaches reveal the biological basis of psychic suffering and dispel prescientific myths and harmful stigma. There is now good evidence to suggest that in the process of teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we’ve been exporting our Western “symptom repertoire” as well. That is, we’ve been changing not only the treatments but also the expression of mental illness in other cultures. Indeed, a handful of mental-health disorders — depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia among them — now appear to be spreading across cultures with the speed of contagious diseases. These symptom clusters are becoming the lingua franca of human suffering, replacing indigenous forms of mental illness.

And those are just two of the fascinating sections of the article.

Ultrasound and Abortion

from Fox News comes this:

The former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in southeast Texas says she had a “change of heart” after watching an abortion last month — and she quit her job and joined a pro-life group in praying outside the facility.

Get Religion has a discussion of local coverage and the dearth of coverage.

Marry an Educated Woman, Live Longer

Reuter’s says:

In a study, researchers found that a woman’s education was a stronger factor in her husband’s risk of dying over the next decade or so than the man’s own level of education.

And a husband’s social class based on his occupation had a greater influence on a woman’s survival than her own occupational class, Drs. Robert Erikson and Jenny Torssander of the Swedish Institute for Social Research in Stockholm found.

Autism-Spectrum Quotient Test

Take it here.

I am not autistic. But I think my eldest is.

I’d like him to take the quiz without knowing what it was.

I took it for him and came up with a 35. That’s less than the Common Room mom got so either 1) I don’t know E as well as I thought or 2) He’s not as Asberger-ee as I thought.

Definition of Death, but Not Life

We now record fetal heartbeats at 14 days post-conception. We record fetal brainwaves at 39 days post-conception. And I don’t expect you to answer this, but I do expect you to pay attention to it as you contemplate these big issues. We have this schizophrenic rule of the law where we have defined death as the absence of those, but we refuse to define life as the presence of those.

Sen.Tom Coburn,
speaking to Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor,
confirmation hearing, July 15, 2009


The Unborn Remember

The unborn have memories, according to medical researchers who used sound and vibration stimulation, combined with sonography, to reveal that the human fetus displays short-term memory from at least 30 weeks gestation – or about two months before they are born.

“In addition, results indicated that 34-week-old fetuses are able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later,” said the research, which was released Wednesday.

From The Washington Times

May I just say here, prophetically, that this, like the anti-global warming science, will be ignored, discounted, and disbelieved.

Because we can’t have babies remembering when we want to kill them, can we?

Fathers Make a Difference

Father’s day is today.

What can we learn about fathers?

Teenagers whose fathers are more involved in their lives are less likely to engage in risky sexual activities such as unprotected intercourse, according to a new study.

The more attentive the dad — and the more he knows about his teenage child’s friends — the bigger the impact on the teen’s sexual behavior, the researchers found. While an involved mother can also help stave off a teen’s sexual activity, dads have twice the influence.

So, yeah for great dads!

Quote from MSNBC

Guess I Really Need to Exercise

Apparently exercise is one way (an important way, maybe even a vital way) to keep the brain working as you age.

Briefly, the investigators found that adults who did not smoke, exercised once a week, were socially active, had at least a high school education and a ninth grade literacy level, were more likely to maintain cognitive skills through their 70s and 80s.

“To this day, the majority of past research has focused on factors that put people at greater risk to lose their cognitive skills over time, but much less is known about what factors help people maintain their skills, Fiocco noted in a statement.

Fiocco’s team tracked the cognitive function of 2,509 well-functioning white and black adults who were between 70 and 78 years of age at the start of the study.

During 8 years of follow-up, 53 percent of the study subjects showed minor cognitive decline normally associated with aging and 16 percent showed major cognitive decline. However, 30 percent of the study subjects maintained cognitive function, the team reports in the journal Neurology.

Further investigation revealed that people who exercised moderately to vigorously at least once a week were 30 percent more likely to maintain their cognitive function than those who did not exercise that often.

Those who had at least a high school education were nearly three times as likely to stay sharp as those who with less education. Elderly with a ninth grade literacy level or higher were nearly five times as likely to stay sharp as those with lower literary levels and non-smokers were nearly twice as likely to stay sharp as those who smoked.

People working or volunteering and those living with someone were also more likely to maintain cognitive function late in life.

from Reuter’s Health

Oh that’s just great.

Reuter’s health today said:

People with psoriasis, a common scaly skin condition, are at increased risk for strokes, heart disease, and circulatory problems in the legs, new research shows.

Yes, the only reason I read it is my father has psoriasis.