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One of the features of humankind that has long been thought to be unique to us is the theory of mind.  This is our ability to deduce what another might be thinking, a critical base for such behaviors as for empathy, socialization, even battle and strategy.  It is so prevalent and so innate that we often do it without realizing it, anthropomorphizing machines, televisions, the computer, animals, even the clouds and the waves.  Imagine a world where no one did this.  Imagine for a minute not even realizing that the people you interact with daily have their own minds inner workings and dealings.  This is the world of Asperger Syndrome.

 

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    Di at Doctor and Covenants pointed me to this story, where a brain surgeon was operating to remove a mass from a patient and and ended up finding a foot.  The story states that this is either a rare type of tumor called a teratoma or is it a rare case of a twin that remained attached to the patients and was totally enveloped into the skull, a condition called fetus in fetu.

         The image is striking, and gives a certain visceral reaction, which is largely why pictures like this make their rounds on the internet.  Read the rest of this entry »

There is a dirty little euphemism we all learn about in medical school called health care disparities.  It seems the health care system is better at treating heart disease in men compared to women, hypertension in whites compared to blacks, and in keeping rich people healthier across the board in every category compared to the poor.  The problem runs deep enough and fundamental enough that it appears no one is immune.  It is the problem of poverty that I find particularly perplexing. Read the rest of this entry »

Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor his own brain“.
             Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852-1934)
                             Spanish Neuroscientist

  Life is distinguished from the inanimate by its ability to recreate itself and hold a pattern.  Throughout our lives, The very material we are made up of is recycled or regenerated.  Every few weeks we completely change out the cells that compose our skin.   The body is constantly in a state of regenerating itself.  Even the bones are borrowing or depositing calcium throughout our lives.  The machinery of our cells are constantly disposing of waste, replacing damaged portions, killing cells that are old or dysfunctional and making new ones.  All this processes are kept in order by our genetic information.  In essence the only thing that holds our form and keeps it from weathering away and degenerating is our DNA.  This is the master set of instructions that our cells use to replace, rebuild, and develop us into the body we now have.  It is the ultimate difference between the collection of elements that is us, and a rock.

     However, there is much more to what we are than just the DNA blueprints.  I remember a moment at the beginning of my very first year of medical school that really brought this home to me.  In anatomy we had to memorize every crater, every bump, every nodule, line and crevice in every bone in the body.  As we learned about these landmarks, we learned that they form not as part of some genetic program, but as a reaction to stress forces from pulling tendons and ligaments, triggering a reaction that caused the cells in that part of the bone to duplicate and reinforce the bone as needed.  In other words, our actions determine the shape of our bones every bit as much as our genes.

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” Be ye Therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.”

Matthew 5:48

    We love and adore that which is perfect in our society.  Hollywood is built on the premise that the beautiful people can sell movies, models are airbrushed to perfection to sell magazines.  The Olympic games is going on currently with its motto, “Bigger, stronger, faster.”

    As the records fall, it seems these athletes do live up to the motto.  Just look at Michael Phelps, the epitome of the bigger, stronger, faster ideal.

 

Michael Phelps, olympic swimmer has a very real chance at an unprecedented eight gold medals this Olympics.

 

    Sadly, as recent scandals in Baseball and Bicycling have revealed, the push to be bigger, faster, and stronger can lead to the use of steroids, amphetamines, or other substances with very real consequences for an athletes long term health and well being.  When does the drive to perform cross the line into madness.  In my day, Michael Jordan was celebrated worldwide as the greatest ever, even carrying his team to victory over my beloved Utah Jazz in one game in the finals with Forty some odd point and the flu.  Today, it is Tiger Woods held in much the same esteem, having just won the US open with a severe knee injury in a playoff he counts as his greatest victory ever.  My question is, at what point does this single minded devotion turn into madness.  

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When I was in the third grade, I learned about this very cool thing called a bike-a-thon.  I could take my bike and by just riding it help cure cystic fibrosis, a disease that I had no idea what it was, but sure sounded bad.  In my idealistic eight year old mind this just seemed like it just having fun for a good cause, so I signed right up and went for it.

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My second grader sister heard about the same thing and decided she had to do it as well.  That was a pain.  This meant every pledge I went to get had to pledge equally to the both of us by royal decree of my mother.  I was irritated, but we both pluckily canvassed the small town of under 1,000 inhabitants, all of whom knew our family, and gathered pledges.  I knew no fear in those days, heck, I didn’t even realize knocking on doors asking for money is annoying in my innocence. 

    Pledges were made per mile and so the first question we were asked was how many miles we were going to bike.  I pulled the number twenty off the top of my head as it seemed a nice even number.  I still remember some of the amused, patronizing smiles as these wordly wise adults then penciled in their donation.  Our pledges piled up and we ran out of room to contain them, requiring extra pledge sheets.  What’s the harm in donating to a couple of naive kids playing grown up biking on their Schwinn’s after all.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

One of the features of humankind that has long been thought to be unique to us is the theory of mind.  This is our ability to deduce what another might be thinking, a critical base for such behaviors as for empathy, socialization, even battle and strategy.  It is so prevalent and so innate that we often do it without realizing it, anthropomorphizing machines, televisions, the computer, animals, even the clouds and the waves.  Imagine a world where no one did this.  Imagine for a minute not even realizing that the people you interact with daily have their own minds inner workings and dealings.  This is the world of Asperger Syndrome. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Do men and women weaken themselves in order to bring out the best qualities of the opposite sex?  I am starting to wonder.  Many women I have known throughout my life have a dream of taking the man, rough around the edges, and healing him, making him a better person.  What could be more admirable? If you want to melt a woman’s heart, let her know that she makes you want to be a better person.  This is ultimately Christlike and truly an admirable impulse, embodied in the story of Beauty and the Beast.  There is something amazing about the idea of the magically transforming female bringing out the best in others through love.  I think there is also a dark side to this perception.  Read the rest of this entry »

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