Monday, July 27, 2009

Two really interesting articles

Dear Science Enthusiasts,

I came across two interesting articles in online news today: published an article about schizophrenia and the prodrome, which is the "pre-conversion" phase of psychosis... before someone has that break with reality that is classically associated with schizophrenia.

The article basically discusses a pilot treatment program, and the reasoning behind the pilot.

Since I was treated in this phase, in the prodrome, I know from experience that treatment approaches geared towards treating in this phase can be very successful, and can prevent a lot of the deterioration in health that is so common when full-blown psychosis happens.

My belief, which come from my experience, and the experiences of a number of people I've talked to, is that "schizophrenia," what ever it is, is "around" in the brain long before people actually get help. In my experience with the condition, I was having clear symptoms, including hallucinations, for at least two years before I was able to find the language to be able to ask for help. So basically I was quite unwell for two years, being tired, feeling overwhelmed, having hallucinations, and I KNEW that something was going on with my health.

Anyway, I just wanted to get the word out on that bit of news.

Another article I came across in the Toronto Star has found evidence of a relationship between obesity and the immune system.

I thought this article was pretty interesting, since our immune system is implicated in so many things, and yet we know so little about how it works. Also, I think this article can bring some hope to people who are living with weight problems.

Just wanted to bring you all some good health-related news!
x's and o's,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Canada: A Nation for ALL People

Dear Pride Supporters,

This article left my jaw hanging this morning... It's a Star article, describing the reactions of the Conservative party to a tourism stimulus grant that was given to support Pride Week, here in Toronto.

Pride week draws in millions of tourists who come to celebrate diversity and recognition of the equality for all persons. For some who hail from more "socially conservative" countries/regions, Canada is held in high esteem, and Pride week is considered the pinnacle celebration. I have a friend who runs a Bed and Breakfast, and his inn is full to the rafters before, during, and after pride. His visitors hail from all over the world, many of them being from our neighbouring US. During Pride week, bars and restaurants in the Church/Wellesley area are perpetually full of thirsty, hungry customers... the revenues from Pride are relied upon to turn accounting book ink from red to black. For the tourism engine in Toronto, Pride week provides a nice salvo to help it run smoothly.

Since I moved to Toronto, I've partaken in Pride week events every year. During Pride week, Torontonians who support Pride are encouraged to hang rainbow striped flags in their windows or on their homefronts. Honestly, I find it so overwhelming when I tour around Toronto during Pride week and see all those welcoming flags... It's like seeing a zillion little candles, welcoming weary travellers a place to rest in the dark hours of night. Somehow Toronto just feels more welcoming, safer even, during Pride.

Apparently, some of the "Social Conservatives" from Stephen Haper's Conservative party were incensed that a Federal grant was given to a cultural group that does not reflect "family values" and "pro-life" agendas. The article is below if you want to read it yourself.

Back in the day, "Conservative" in the political sense USED to mean economically conservative. Since when did political conservatism come to represent such ambiguous and arbitrary ideas as "family values?"

As far as I'm concerned, no government is allowed to dictate what happens in my bedroom. Furthermore, no government, sorry, no POLITICAL PARTY is entitled to decree exclusive ownership to the definition of morality, nor are they allowed to force me to live under the strictures of their definition.

I can make choices about my conduct and morality on my own, thank you very much. And if what I do is determined to be against the values of our vast, nature loving nation, as these values our etched out in our semi-secular laws, well then, try me in a court of peers and if I'm found guilty, just put me in jail. That's what our justice system is there for, to create a climate where ones conduct can be tried and judged against existing, writ rules, among their peers.

I'm adding this to my list of reasons NOT to vote Conservative. As if I needed more.

Incensed at the audacity of a minority of people within a minority government,

PS. Harper, pretty bold of you to let this kind of shit storm leak out of your office. You must be feeling confident lately.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Yer genez haz a Bermuda Tryangle!!!

Dear Triangulists, Complicators, and Complexifiers,

Life is complicated. The universe and its events are complicated. The world and how it works is complicated. The body and its integrated systems is/are complicated. The brain. Is. Complicated.

There's a group of people out there who believe that mental illness is "caused," "solved" and "resolved" by what I like to call singularities.

Let me give you an example:
Schizophrenia is caused by early childhood abuse. Or a cold mother. Or drug use.

These are examples of singularities... exceptionally uncomplicated causes for a very complicated condition of the body/brain.

Another example of singularity:
Recovering from schizophrenia means "finding" the "root" cause of your schizophrenia.

So the cause is blamed on a single event. And if we simply find the single event that caused a person's break, one could begin to recover... a singular approach to identify a singularity.

Another example of singularity:
If you solve the "bigger problem" (of childhood abuse, let's say) your smaller problem of schizophrenia will be gone.

More with the singularities, as in, all one has to do is fix the initial problem! Then the balance of the world (and one's interpretation of reality) will be restored. Wow. Miracle of all miracles! Problem solved!

If only it were that simple... If. Only.

If you missed the central point, I'll make it clear: I'm not one for singularities. I think that singularities as causes of mental illness, and the belief in singularities as solutions to mental health issues, is a crutch for our tiny human minds, which basically cower in the face of complexity. Shrieking like banshees, confused by too much information, our brains retreat into the darkness of feeble excuses, illogical rationalizations, and cooler places of simple comfort... all to avoid that horrific creature; triangulation... complication... complexity.

Indeed the world is complicated.

While astronomers and physicists try to account for much of the mass of the universe, which is currently unaccounted for, by the way, neuroscientists are searching for the causes of schizophrenia.

The astronomers and physicists have uncovered our newest sub-atomic bits, called neutrinos - invisible bits of energy, impossibly fast, and difficult to capture. An exciting discovery, these neutrinos are. They are bursts of energy that exist beyond what is materially visible, which pass through our bodies undetected. Things we cannot see. Things which may have an effect that we can never know.

Their addition to our textbooks fills in another section of the sketch we humans are creating about the scale and scope of universal events. Although the astronomers and physicists were hugely optimistc about the contributions of neutrinos in their accounting for that missing matter; their mass is too light. Simply put, there is another particle out there, so heavy, presently unknowable, which comprises much of our universe's mass. And so they search, for this matter that has no name except for Dark Matter. Dark Matter, the unseen, currently unknowable mass of the universe.

At the same time, in another field of research, neuroscientists are picking apart man's universe that is his brain, and they have found that genetics accounts for only 40 to 50% of the "cause" of schizophrenia. Coincidentally, most of these genes related to schizophrenia - mutations, duplications, and junky bits of genomic code - sit in the "Bermuda Triangle" of our genetic geography; on some godforsaken space of a single chromosome where a number of immune illnesses lie. Thus the genetic vulnerabilty for schizophrenia sits alongside a predisposition to an illness like Type 1 diabetes, for example.

(See this article for more information.)

Like the astronomers and physicists, the neuroscientists are still trying to find the "Dark Matter" of schizophrenia. What is that unaccounted for 50 to 60% "cause" of the condition? What is it? Where is it? How can we find it? If we ever find it, will we be be able to "save" people from it?

If we were incurious creatures, we would accept that the world we see is the only thing that exists. Our world would be simple, it seems, if we were unconcerned about way lay beyond our immediate perception and intuition. And yet our curiosity has led us to understand that there is a world of the impossibly small, and a world, apparently, of the possibly unknowable. Our world is, apparently, very complicated. How ever, then, could one believe in singularities as an explanation for anything?

It's complicated, but that might be okay,