1/2/2014, Brainstormers: Obama’s big research push kicks off


Eighteen months after President Obama launched an ambitious brain-research initiative, likened by some to the moonshot of the 1960s, federal officials are trying to create a new model for neuroscience research, one that emphasizes innovation and cooperation across specialties and institutions. To do that, they threw a two-day “kickoff” for scientists fortunate enough to have received the first funding slices of what probably will be a multibillion-dollar federal pie…

There are approximately 86 billion neurons in our brain, and at a minimum those neurons contain 100 trillion synapses, or connections. Identifying synaptic connections is further complicated by the fact that while the genome is essentially fixed, the brain is changing constantly. Every thought, every emotion, every act we perform creates, redirects, strengthens or weakens neural connections…

Japan, Australia and Israel also are in the planning stages of their own national neuro projects, and China launched its program nearly a decade ago…

…and using new data to develop theories on how the healthy human brain works.

Shouldn’t we first define what “healthy” means, as it pertains to the brain?

Only one species has had the entirety of its brain connections, called a connectome, mapped. At one millimeter in length, the C. elegans roundworm has 302 neurons, harboring about 6,400 connections. It took scientists more than a decade to complete a map of its neural code, but that was in 1986, before automated brain sectioning and computer algorithm data analysis.

Mapping the human connectome, at least right now, seems almost beyond comprehension. In just a single cubic millimeter of human brain tissue — about the size of a grain of salt — there are 30,000 neurons and 50 million connections…

The West Virginia scientist told the Hopkins researcher about her previous work studying abnormal eye movements in schizophrenics. He told her about his research into dopamine receptors in schizophrenics…

Just looking for possible interest in the treatment of pain… no such luck.

Republicans in state governments plan juggernaut of conservative legislation


And as marijuana legalization takes effect in two more states, in addition to the two where the drug was already legal, legislators in most states are expected to debate a rash of drug law revisions. Pure legalization bills will be introduced in 18 states, while decriminalization bills will be introduced in 15, according to a tally maintained by the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project.

11/18/2014, New Mexico To Pay Less For Healthcare


The analysis shows New Mexico residents as a whole will be paying nearly 12 percent less for health insurance than they did during the previous open enrollment period. Nationally average insurance costs have stayed relatively the same. The Kaiser report shows only Colorado and Mississippi experienced a greater drop in coverage prices, while costs in other states increased between 18 and 28 percent.

8/2/2014, Woman charged with sister in drug case to plead


Jennifer and Jacqueline Weiss… are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of meth. Jacqueline Weiss pleaded guilty in May. The attorney for Jennifer Weiss filed notice earlier this week that she wants to change her plea to guilty. A plea hearing has not been set.

Medical Marijuana a Challenge for Legal Pot States


Alaska doesn’t have commercial medical dispensaries, so licensed stores there won’t face direct competition.

Ah, the fear of competition… There’s a lot of that in New Mexico.

And in Oregon, taxes on recreational pot are set at just $35 an ounce, which officials hope will minimize competition from the medical side.

Sorry, but $35 an ounce is still a lot of money, especially for poor people.

A competition to see which side can make the most money… pay the most in taxes… No, no, no.  Patients shouldn’t have to pay taxes on their medicine.  So why is it fair to tax cannabis for any other use?  Marijuana isn’t a drug like alcohol, with only a small amount of medicinal benefit. Why should those who have the money to access medical cannabis be the only ones who benefit from the medicinal properties of this plant?

Legalization — the only fair, reasonable, and logical answer.  And taxes should be a lot lower on cannabis than on alcohol, to equal the amount of harm/benefit each drug brings to the public. (Are there taxes on guns?)

Testing anti-drinking drug with help of a fake bar


Yet a recent review for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that less than a third of people who need treatment get it, and of those, less than 10 percent receive medications.

Three drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol abuse. One, naltrexone, blocks alcohol’s feel-good sensation by targeting receptors in the brain’s reward system — if people harbor a particular gene. The anti-craving pill acamprosate appears to calm stress-related brain chemicals in certain people. The older Antabuse works differently, triggering nausea and other aversive symptoms if people drink while taking it.

The FDA:  We advocate for certain medications, you know, the ones that don’t make you “high.” Because feeling good, while you’re feeling bad, is just… not right.  What medical evidence do we have to back that up?  Why, addiction rates.

So, you’re denying the beneficial effects of certain drugs because 9% of the population may become addicted to them?  What does that have to do with the medical evidence of a drug’s effectiveness?  What about the other 91% of people for whom the drug works just fine?

Recent research suggests a handful of drugs used for other disorders also show promise:

—Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute found the epilepsy drug gabapentin reduced relapses in drinkers who’d recently quit, and improved cravings, mood and sleep by targeting an emotion-related brain chemical.

—A study by NIAAA and five medical centers found the anti-smoking drug Chantix may help alcohol addiction, too, by reducing heavy drinkers’ cravings.

I’m sorry, but from what I’ve read about Chantix, that doesn’t sound like a good idea.

—And University of Pennsylvania researchers found the epilepsy drug topiramate helped heavy drinkers cut back, if they have a particular gene variation mostly found in people of European descent…

Now Leggio is testing whether blocking ghrelin’s action also blocks those cravings, using an experimental Pfizer drug originally developed for diabetes but never sold. The main goal of this first-step study is to ensure mixing alcohol with the drug is safe. But researchers also measure cravings as volunteers, hooked to a blood pressure monitor in the tiny bar-lab, smell a favorite drink. Initial safety results are expected this spring.

I wonder… Can you block cravings for chocolate? Peanuts? Butterfingers? Steak?

“Our hope is that down the line, we might be able to do a simple blood test that tells if you will be a naltrexone person, an acamprosate person, a ghrelin person,” Koob said.

Oh, we’re gonna drug you all right, we’re just not gonna let you decide which drugs you can take. We’re gonna decide when your habit turned into an addiction, we’re gonna decide which drugs are good and which are bad, and we’re gonna decide who needs treatment, especially with more drugs.

Big Pharma:  We have a cure for everything.

Scientists Discover That Drunk Birds Slur Their Chirps


The researchers were also surprised to find how much the birds enjoyed getting inebriated. “A lot of animals just won’t touch the stuff,” says head researcher Christopher Olson. “But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it.”

(Photo: New Mexico, April 2014)

Dec 2014, Pain-Caused Sleep Disruption May Slow Patient Recovery


Poor sleep caused by pain after surgery can prolong a patient’s hospital length of stay, a new study has found. Not exactly earth-shattering news, but now there are data to prove it…

They found that patients in greater pain had significantly decreased sleep efficacy and woke up more frequently. The researchers suggested that better pain management could improve sleep and recovery time. The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s annual meeting.

Face it, without adequate pain management, treatment with surgery is going to be an option that fewer and fewer patients make…

You say I’m being referred to a surgeon?

And now the surgeon wants to operate?  But I’m only allowed pain medication for a total of 2 weeks to 45 days after surgery, if that?  And I have to sign a pain contract, pee in cups, have surprise pill counts, and face shame at the pharmacy and through my insurance company — just to get that?

Now that I think about it… Dr. Surgeon, am I at risk for being caught in the terrible throws of an opiate addiction if I agree to pain management with surgery and drugs?  Is surgery possible without drugs?  (Sorry, silly question…)

So, you have a 70% success rate?  What exactly does “success” after surgery mean?

What if surgery makes the pain worse?  More surgery?  And I’m only allowed to have pain relief — before, during, and for a short time after —  if I agree to the surgery?  How many pain patients keep having surgery just so they can get pain relief for that short amount of time?

Yeah, thanks, but no thanks.  I was that desperate once, but hopefully, never again…

Cancer patients get all the love…

December 2014, Experts Urge More Individualized Treatment for Cancer Pain


“The biopsychosocial model Dr. Vissers described and variations of it have been implemented in various cancer institutions including ours,” said Amitabh Gulati, MD, director of ambulatory pain, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City. “Our palliative, psychiatry, rehabilitation and anesthesiology services meet regularly to discuss patients who have complex pain symptoms and develop a comprehensive plan similar to that described by Dr. Vissers.”

Biopsychosocial:  The medical industry’s new buzz word…

In this list of services — palliative, psychiatry, rehabilitation and anesthesiology — I wonder where the chronic pain patient fits in?  All?  My god, that’s a lot of doctors and specialists… Is it like a game of musical chairs?

Meniscus Lesions Tied to Neuropathic Pain in Knee OA


The finding of a greater likelihood of NP in patients with meniscal extrusion and lateral meniscal tears suggests that knee OA patients with a neuropathic pain component have more severe symptoms, they wrote. This, to a certain extent, was reflected by a trend towards greater use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), they added (12% of those unlikely to have neuropathic pain were taking these drugs compared with 31% of those with likely neuropathic pain)…

The exact mechanisms underlying neuropathic pain-like symptoms in OA are poorly understood, but the authors noted that OA pain likely includes both nociceptive and neuropathic components. It has been suggested that local damage to innervation as well as other joint structures may cause damage to peripheral nerves, they said…

This finding is clinically relevant for various reasons, they added. Not only does it support the examination for meniscal extrusion in knee OA patients with neuropathic pain, but the predominance of a neuropathic component in such patients should encourage physicians to consider using MRI to establish a proper diagnosis.

A diagnosis of meniscal extrusion may also help identify patients who might benefit from treatment aimed at controlling their symptoms. “There is hope that this ‘personalized therapeutic management’ would avoid the prolonged use of anti-inflammatory drugs or even narcotic analgesics, preventing potential side effects” the authors wrote.

“Treatment aimed at controlling their symptoms”… If they’re not talking about drugs, then they must be talking about surgery, especially if an MRI is necessary.  Wonderful — the answer is surgery.

The observational study was limited by a relatively small sample size, the arbitrary determination of the sample, and the diagnosis of neuropathic pain based solely on the PainDETECT questionnaire.

Breaking News: Sin Does Not Exist

Religion is about a lot of things, but mainly it’s about your afterlife. If you’re good in this life, then you will be rewarded in the next. I suppose some people need this threat of punishment and/or promise of “salvation” to lead a “good” life…

But really, all you need is the Golden Rule; something that exists in some form or fashion in every religion. Treating other people right involves believing that everybody is human, and no person is better than the next.  Do religious people believe that?

Regarding the afterlife… As a chronic pain survivor, I have no interest in extending this painful life into another one. Perhaps heaven is a place without pain? If humans are there — in person or in spirit — then I doubt it.  But then, I don’t believe that heaven exists. Hell either.

And I don’t believe in “sin.”  Sin is used to shame and ostracize people, just like religion.  If you want to believe in a god, more power to you.  But if you look down on other people because of your religious beliefs, or because other people don’t believe like you do… well, then we have a problem, Houston.

Can’t say this enough:  Medical science and religion don’t mix.