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   Medicine for the brain is incredibly complex.  Yet, the joke goes around medical circles that Neurologists are admirers of disease, not treater’s of it.  This is far less true now than forty years ago, and is rapidly becoming less and less true everyday, but that small kernel of truth does say something about we who are drawn to the field.  I really do find the disease processes that affect brain function seriously fascinating. 

 

 We learn almost everything we know about the brain from what happens when things go wrong.  Genetic diseases become our laboratory, nature the experimenter, allowing us to learn things we would be monsters for trying to recreate in the lab with people.  In fact, Nazi physicians are generally hailed as monsters for doing precisely this, reducing the person to lab rat.

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I recently had the opportunity to listen to a rather provocative podcast at All in the Mind about cognitive enhancing drugs.  Specifically they discuss Modafinil, a drug used to treat Narcolepsy, a disease in which sleep comes suddenly and often, to help them with excessive daytime sleepiness.  I was startled to learn that many in the neuroscience community are using this drug, openly, and sharing it with others in order to work longer hours, get more done, focus more, and think more.  This blew we away.  Read the rest of this entry »

One of the largest fronts in the Religion vs. Science culture wars of our time is embryonic stem cell medical research. From a secular medicine point of view, we can and obviously should be using any and every means at our disposal for advancing technology to fight the diseases and scourges of our day. I am by no means unsympathetic to this point of view. I see very real and tragic stories everyday in children with damaged nervous systems that cannot recover, and for whom their is no curative or reparative treatment.

However, from a religious or even ethical point of view, things are just not that black and white. There is a point where just because we can does not mean we should. Nazi medicine shot into high gear with experimentation and eugenics on all kinds of “subhuman” or “damaged” subjects, certainly making scientific advancement easier but only in the most abhorrent and repugnant way.

While not always this obvious, the scientific community has a checkered history of recognizing when can does not mean should. They deeply resent any hint of suggestion of applying brakes when they see possibilities. The resentment goes doubles if the concerns are religious, with the two communities frequently at odds and at each others throats since the days of Galileo. Read the rest of this entry »

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