Monthly Archives: October 2009

Podcast Review: Nature Neuropod Oct 28th 2009

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In the 28th October edition of the Nature Neuropod, Kerri Smith interviews researchers who have published recent interesting research in the field of neuroscience. In one of the interviews Smith talks with researcher Ted Abel who has identified a cyclic AMP signalling pathway that is modified in the hippocampus during sleep deprivation such that the levels of phosphdiesterase-4, which degrades cAMP are increased. Further when this pathway was blocked, sleep deprivation-related memory impairment was reversed. There may be therapeutic implications pending further research. There is also an interview with Professor Pasko Rakic who has been looking at the evolution of the central nervous system in mammals. There is  a fascinating interview with Eve Marder about individual differences in the central nervous systems of crabs, moving away from the paradigm of averaging group properties. This question of the difference between individual and group properties is an important one which is relevant to many different areas of research in the life sciences including clinical sciences (see for instance the paper reviewed in this article). There is also a look at research on place cells – which code for spatial locations. The slow pace and clearly enunciation work well for the complex material that is carefully explained for the listeners.

 

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Podcast

You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast).

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

Book Review:The Greatest Show on Earth

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The book reviewed here is ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ by Richard Dawkins. Both Dawkins and his wife actress Lalla Ward narrate the book in an engaging style and in the process convey the awe of nature that permeates the book. Indeed for those unfamiliar with Dawkin’s works – he is a champion of communicating the beautiful and at the same time inexorable logic of evolution while at the same time answering the common criticisms that have been levelled against evolution. In my opinion, Dawkins writing represents the embodiment of rationalism in search of an ephemeral eternal truth about nature which because of the subject of its enquiry takes on a transcendent quality. Dawkin’s latest work references many of his earlier works, reiterating important nuances in evolutionary theory such that it parallels a collection of axiomatic proofs building to a final conclusion. The conclusion in this case is the essence of several billion years of evolution on Earth. Dawkins examines the possible origins of life with a fascinating reference to Darwin’s profound passage on the chemicals in a pond which might contribute to the beginnings of life. He covers artificial, natural and sexual selection and illustrates each of these with elegant examples that reaffirm the concepts. Indeed what it is striking is Dawkin’s ability to effortlessly take such examples which are selected from across vast expanses of time as well as geographically and phylogenetically disparate regions and which reveal a supreme familiarity with the natural world. Indeed it seems that any debate about the underlying principles of evolution should begin with a demonstration on both sides of such familiarity particularly as the significance of the natural world is rarely contested. Dawkins also discusses the gene pool and this part in particular I had found interesting. I had overlooked that the individual and successful genes are part of a gene pool within the organism and this relationship between an individual gene and the remainder of the genome (or genomes if the wider group is considered) adds a necessary layer of complexity. For instance, the small changes in genes which may initially cause problems can be compensated by the actions of other gene products. This is interesting in the light of recent evidence that in people, each generation results in an average of 100 mutations in the genome*. In this regards it was also interesting to note that different parts of the genome have staggeringly different rates of mutational change with such changes being particularly rare in histone-related genes. On further reflection about some of the underlying evolutionary principles, I thought that these might easily be abstracted in mathematical form and this became more evident when Dawkins describes one of the computer programs he had written to simulate evolutionary changes (indeed genetic algorithms have been particularly successful in real world applications). This again testifies to the skills and effectiveness of Dawkins in translating such refined arguments into a format that is easily accessible. He has in the process developed a language which combines the underlying logic of evolution with those additional components of knowledge which reach out to a wider audience**. This is another indispensable work for those with an interest in the wonders of the natural world.

* It is tempting to suppose that multi-gene mutations may produce significant changes in a network effect although such an effect is improbable if such mutations are independent (given the size of the genome)

** It would be interesting to see if such rules could form the basis for an open-source educational and research software paradigm

References

Richard Dawkins. The Greatest Show on Earth. Narrated by Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward. Random House Audio Books. 2009.

Twitter

You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link

Podcast

You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast).

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

Blog Review:Doctor Dymphna’s Diliberations

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The blog reviewed here is ‘Doctor Dymphna’s Diliberations‘.

Appearance and Design

The blog has a black background and a slightly off-black background in the central pane on which the white text of the articles is overlaid. The title pane consists of the blog name together with a colourful photo-like design. At the time of writing on the right hand pane there is an ‘About’ section for the blog, links to the associated twitters, blogroll, category cloud, recent posts and links to other websites. The blog can be navigated via an archived index also on the right hand pane. The blog is hosted at WordPress.

Articles

In the first post, there is an explanation of why the blog was started as well. Although there is a suggestion of abandoning anonymity, I couldn’t find a reference to the author’s name although this is apparently identifiable from the related twitter. As I couldn’t find a reference to the same name in the blog, I have refrained from using it in case they’re not equivalent. What I found interesting was that the author uses a combination of mindfulness-based therapy, cognitive-based therapy and pharmacotherapy. Some of the posts broached broader issues which could be argued by some to cross over into other distinct and separate domains. There are also interesting articles such as this on lifestyle approaches based on the research literature. The author also writes about her son’s condition and how this affects her. This article looks at some of the authors reasons for tweeting and indeed it is through the twitter account that I first came across this blog. There are also a number of book and film reviews.

Conclusions

This is a relatively young blog which usually has a few posts every month. The articles are sufficiently long to explore the topic of interest and to present these from the author’s perspective. I found some of the psychotherapeutic posts to be particularly interesting.

Addendum (10.11.09)

The About section has subsequently been updated – the author of the blog is indeed Dr Elizabeth Cordes

Twitter

You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link

Podcast

You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast).

Responses

If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.