Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Plutonium Pacemaker

So, today's lecture is cardiac elcetrophysiology... I thought this might have some relevance...
Various elements have been used to power pacemakers, which, externally, overdrive suppress ectopic or insufficiently fast automaticity foci, or kick in when there are no impulses whatsoever.

Plutonium has a pretty long half-life and radiates well, so some scientists figured "why not?!"
some are still in people!

The Arsenic DNA Paper

In class we discussed the troubles that Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon is currently under with her paper about finding a bacteria that uses arsenic and not phosphorous as its DNA backbone. Most of the responses have been a backlash at her paper, but if her paper is in fact true it may be a new way of finding new extraterrestrial planets. I have links to the paper, and the timeline of responses to her paper.

Arsenic Paper

Timeline of Responses

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cell phones and your health

"Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." (Jurassic Park)

In the light of a recent study that found that cell phones increase the local metabolism of glucose in the brain, it's difficult to rest easy as to whether or not these findings should pose some concern. In our world of wireless networking, cell phone communication, and instant chicken pot pie, we're subjected to some form of radiation every day. While most fears are over-exaggerated and bordering on paranoia mostly because of a lack of knowledge, all fear can't entirely be ruled out. As Adrienne posted, magnetic fields can be used to treat depression, so controlled electromagnetic fields do have some impact on us. Attached is an IEEE review of a few books that attack this issue, which clearly shows that this discussion is completely open for debate still. Do you think electromagnetic radiation is a legitimate health concern, or are international standards protecting us entirely?

IEEE Spectrum: Murderous Microwaves

Thursday, March 10, 2011

EEG Waves

This seems to explain the differences between the EEG waves when we are awake, in REM sleep, deep sleep, ect.

Also a good resource for Problem 4 of homework 6!

Magnets as a Treatment for Depression

Using magnetic fields as a legitimate treatment for medical conditions makes me a little skeptical.  It doesnt help that Professor Chatterjee in class today basically said that he thought there was no way that magnets could cure illnesses.  During the lecture today by Dr. Sajda he mentioned TMS and he described it as a coil over the head which has a very high gradient magnetic field.  It basically perturbs an area in the brain for a couple hundred milliseconds. Apparently he has done this to himself several times and has not experienced any difference in his mental state at all.

I would be really interested in hearing what everyone else thinkings about this!

The differences between neurons and transistors...

If you haven't read this yet it basically covers topics which have been covered in my artificial intelligence class, circuits class, and bioelectricity class.  This is an interesting development because it is a machine built to behave like a person.  It is based off of the human model.  One of the topics covered in my class was the question of whether we can/should base computers/AI's off of humans because computers are so fundamentally different from machines.  Is there a line that computers cannot cross which would prevent them from behaving like people?

And of course this AI project with memristors is funded by the military.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nerve Inflammation

From what I have read, it appears that MS can cause optic nerve inflammation, which gives headaches, eye pains, and vision loss. And that "Guillain-Barre syndrome is an acute type of nerve inflammation." Below is a description of three different types of nerve inflammation.
This website speaks very briefly on how MS causes nerve inflammation.

I also found a website that has a little nice video on what how MS is caused, and the entire website is an in depth view on what MS is and what are the possible treatments.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

GBS and the H1N1 vaccine - 1976 to today

In 1976 there was a fear of an outbreak of the H1N1 virus, much like what we very recently experienced. Apparently the H1N1 vaccine was linked to cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, and the vaccination was immediately pulled. Unfortunately, 500 cases were reportedly linked to the vaccination.

Although the specific link between the 1976 H1N1 vaccine and GBS remains unknown today, a blog posting from 2009 indicates that possible triggers for GBS do include infections and their vaccinations in rare cases. That same blog also eases some worry for the recent fear of an H1N1 outbreak, and is further supported by the CDC's preliminary findings on the issue published the following year.

The general consensus is that vaccinations can, in especially rare cases, lead to the onset of GBS. While 1976 did indeed have a significantly higher number of cases potentially resulting from the vaccination, the result was no I Am Legend and vaccinations have improved since then. Still, the associated fear of GBS with the most recent H1N1 vaccine is not quite simply a surviving relic of past mistakes, but also evidence of how little we still know of GBS. As many as 60% of cases of GBS have no known causes, according to the Wikipedia article.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guillain-Barre Syndrome

This article has a nice synopsis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  The symptoms range from a tingling sensation in the legs and arms to paralysis.  One of the treatments which seems to work for Guillain-Barre is plasmapheresis or exchanging the patients plasma because their plasma contained something which damaged the myelin.  

Read more: 

Also in case you were interested in the part where the flu shot was linked to trigger Guillain-Barre here is a link to a reuter's article which explains it from 2006.  But just looking at the numbers, it seems unlikely this is actually a trigger.

Just some extra notes...

I was just looking for some more information on the effects of narcotics on the myelin sheath and I found this:  It has some really like pictures and diagrams if you would like to check it out!

Fishy Treatment for M.S.?

I ran upon a NYT article about M.S. and a possible treatment to ease the symptoms. Some doctors believe that the symptoms of M.S. are caused by the narrowing of veins in the neck and that the opening of these veins (called 'liberation procedure') can be a treatment for the disease. On the last page of the article another doctor found that 19 of 20 patients with M.S. had narrowed veins in the neck and/or chest. Hmm... is it a coincidence or can M.S. also be a vascular disease?

New York Times Article -

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A little about optical illusion

Optical illusions occur mainly because the brain interprets the data received from the eyes. In class we discussed a bit about optical illusions and how when a black and white edge are placed close to one another we perceive a grey area in between. Here's a link for an article on why we see optical illusions. On a side, the same site has a cool video of nyc subway lines making sounds.

AMNH Brain Exhibit

Hey guys,
I attached a link to a the videos section of the American Museum of Natural History's Brain exhibit. It's a temporary exhibit, so I recommend that you go there to see it. I went and it was really really interesting.

Unfortunately the exhibit page really doesn't do it justice-- the exhibit itself is incredibly interesting for anyone even remotely curious about the brain. I particularly liked the language section, which actually has one of the videos attached on the site. They talk about the different regions of the brain and how they are activated during particular activities like language processing, etc. They also talk about what we discussed in class sort of as a digression when Professor Tandon was explaining her past work in the retina and optic nerve. They talk about the possibilities of creating devices that can replace body parts by interpreting and sending the right electrical signals.

I highly recommend all of you to go... or perhaps as a secondary class trip =D? If anyone has gone, did you have a favorite section?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Hey guys,
I stumbled upon this piece as I was searching the web for some references for one of the homework questions.
KvLQT1 is a protein that controls the delayed rectifier for potassium ions, which controls repolarization of the cell. If a mutation causes this protein to be defective, repolarization of the cardiac cells may occur or too late, which can essentially make the heart irritable and cause it to function in arrhythmia. (repolarization happens to be the most vulnerable stage for the heart, so based on that knowledge alone, this seems like it has the potential to do some serious damage!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blind Spot

Here is a post for a test to see where your blind spots are, just as we spoke about in class. Follow the instructions closely. The blind spot on my right eye is in the center right and has a radius of about 2cm. It was really difficult to get the results for my left eye since I can only wink with my left eye . . . So I was holding my right eye closed, but then I move my glasses in the process and can't seem to find my blind spot on my left eye.

Where do you guys have your blind spot?

Heads or tails: Cells' electricity decides what to regenerate

This article more or less describes what Professor Tandon was talking about the first day of class with the cells which grew into a mass of heart cells and would beat together, but with flatworms instead.