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Consciousness isn’t easy to define, but we know it when we experience it. It’s not so simple to decide when someone else is conscious, however, as doctors must sometimes do with patients who have suffered traumatic brain injury. Now, researchers have come up with an approach that uses the brain’s response to magnetic stimulation to judge a person’s awareness, reducing it to a numerical score they call an index of consciousness. “You’re kind of banging on the brain and listening to the echo,” says Anil Seth, a neuroscientist at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the work.
Faced with an unresponsive patient, clinicians do their best to determine whether the person is conscious. Through sound, touch, and other stimuli, they try to provoke verbal responses, slight finger movements, or just a shifting gaze. Yet some conscious patients simply can’t move or speak; an estimated 40% of those initially judged to be completely unaware are later found to have some level of consciousness.
China is transforming the provision of mental health to its citizens under a new law that takes effect tomorrow. Its first national mental health legislation should have wide-ranging effects on provision of mental health services, but perhaps the most significant and controversial change is one that banishes most forms of involuntary treatment.
The law also mandates strict limits on use of seclusion and restraints and ends the use of psychiatric admission as punishment or to enforce treatment of individuals who do not have a mental illness.
It also forbids the practice of requiring patients to participate in labor or limiting their right to communicate with the outside world.
Michael Phillips, M.D., said the new law is much more comprehensive than laws in other countries. “China's experience in providing a more holistic approach to mental health problems will, hopefully, generate lessons that all countries can learn from,” he said.
You think you know what's best but do something else instead. What's going on? Plato and Aristotle had different approaches to this phenomenon of weakness of will ('akrasia' in Greek). Jessica Moss who has recently moved to New York University discusses their different approaches in this episode of the Philosphy Bites podcast.
Progress in regenerative medicine has been coming fast and furious in recent months: scientists are now using far-out tissue engineering techniques to restore liver function in mice, regrow human muscle, and even implant bioengineered blood vessels into ailing patients. Now, a team at the University of Pittsburgh has managed to grow human heart tissue that can beat autonomously in a petri dish — an exciting step towards devising transplantable replacement organs.
"Using NEST, the team, led by Markus Diesmann in collaboration with Abigail Morrison both now with the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at J-lich, succeeded in simulating a network consisting of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses. To realize this feat, the program recruited 82,944 processors of the K Computer. The process took 40 minutes, to complete the simulation of 1 second of neuronal network activity in real, biological, time."
There is a medicinal spice so timelessly interwoven with the origins of human culture and metabolism, so thoroughly supported by modern scientific inquiry, as to be unparalleled in its proven value to human health and well-being.
Indeed, turmeric turns the entire drug-based medical model on its head. Instead of causing far more side effects than therapeutic ones, as is the case for most patented pharmaceutical medications, turmeric possesses hundreds of potential side benefits, having been empirically demonstrated to positively modulate over 160 different physiological pathways in the mammalian body. While no food or herb is right for everyone, and everything has the potential for unintended, adverse side effects, turmeric is truly unique in its exceptionally high margin of safety vis-à-vis the drugs it has been compared with, e.g. hydrocortisone, ibuprofen, chemotherapy agents. Furthermore, nothing within the modern-day pharmaceutical armamentarium comes even remotely close to turmeric's 6,000 year track record of safe use in Ayurvedic medicine.
New research suggests that language can both enhance and diminish the sensitivity of of vision
The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously said that, "the limits of my language mean the limits of my world," meaning that we can only understand the world through the language we use, and that if our language does not include words for some particular idea or concept, then that concept cannot exist for us. The relationship between language and thought is complex, which researchers continue to debate. Some, like Wittgenstein, argue that thought is dependent on language. Others point out that thought can occur in the absence of language, deaf people being an important case in point.
These arguments focus on the relationship between language and so-called "higher order" thought processes – our ability to evaluate and analyze, to conceptualize and understand. What about lower-order brain mechanisms, such as perception? New research provides evidence that language can influence these processes, so that hearing the name of an otherwise invisible object can enhance visual perception, boosting that object into our conscious awareness.
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