Monday, August 27, 2012

Immune Disorders and Autism

English: Trichuris Suis
English: Trichuris Suis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A recent article from the New York Times talks about the immune disorders and autism.  As my Gentle Readers might have noticed, aside from using a little bit of vitamins and supplements, I have steered clear of any biomedical interventions.  I am not interested in being a chemical experiment!  I just don't know enough biochemistry to make an informed decision.  However, there is some scientific evidence for the immune system interactions with at least some forms of autism.

At least a subset of autism — perhaps one-third, and very likely more — looks like a type of inflammatory disease. And it begins in the womb.

It starts with what scientists call immune dysregulation. Ideally, your immune system should operate like an enlightened action hero, meting out inflammation precisely, accurately and with deadly force when necessary, but then quickly returning to a Zen-like calm. Doing so requires an optimal balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory muscle.

In autistic individuals, the immune system fails at this balancing act. Inflammatory signals dominate. Anti-inflammatory ones are inadequate. A state of chronic activation prevails. And the more skewed toward inflammation, the more acute the autistic symptoms.

However, what is being proposed is dosing yourself with a parasite.  A noted immunologist, Dr. Parker, at Duke University has noted that maybe we are biologically dependent on the immune suppression provided by parasites.  Parasites provide anti-inflamatory properties naturally.

 ... a trial is under way at the Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine testing a medicalized parasite called Trichuris suis in autistic adults.

First used medically to treat inflammatory bowel disease, the whipworm, which is native to pigs, has anecdotally shown benefit in autistic children.

And really, if you spend enough time wading through the science, Dr. Parker’s idea — an ecosystem restoration project, essentially — not only fails to seem outrageous, but also seems inevitable.

I think Dr. Parker is on the right track.   I am not completely happy about eating whipworms though, no matter how medically sanitized they may be.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Round of CellField and Princeton on a Summer Night

I am doing another round of Cellfield... looking at words through a strange wavy dotted background, and deciphering a lot of Pig Latin.  It is definitely helping my vision as I am getting more of a sense of space.  Getting more of a sense of space is hard to describe because it is, as a neuroscientist would say, qualia, the internal and subjective component of sense perception.  In layman's terms, what is qualia? It is the redness of red, the sweetness of peach, the sound of F major chord... so, in my case, the spaciness of space.

While driving through Princeton last night (fortunately, my husband was driving, so I could gawk), I was suddenly struck by the liveliness of Nassau street on a summer night.  Because of an enhanced perception of depth and space, I could see into the storefronts of Nassau Street.  I could see all the way back into the stores and restaurants.  But, it was much more than a passive noting of the contents of the stores and restaurants.  It was seeing and feeling a very vibrant nightlife.... the interactions of packs of college friends enjoying ice cream, beers, cheeseburgers and Indian food... romantic couples canoodling by candlelight.  The lighted storefronts of Landau sweaters, Design By Choice home furnishings, the mosaics of Zorba the Greek, and the green lighted Tudor architecture of Hamilton Jewelers, J. Crewe and the Hamilton Square shops were all very new and vibrant.  The thing is, I was alternating between seeing new details in these places and then taking in the  scene of Nassau Street as a whole.
Copyright © 2010-2012 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Did You Know Captain Kirk and Spock Have Tinnitus?

Yes, that's right. One day, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were on the set of Star Trek and an explosion went off leaving both of them with ringing in their ears.  William Shatner got ringing in his right ear and Leonard Nimoy got some ringing in his left ear.

Copyright © 2010-2012 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Walk through Churchville Nature Center

When I walk through the Churchville Nature Center, I feel surrounded by trees who are dark, conscious,sentient beings. I feel like a watching me like they're guarding me like there around the menu of them have very dark bark now because it's just me and the trees.  The native Lenape Indians had many of the same feelings when they endowed trees and animals with spirit.

Tree - leaf canopy
Tree - leaf canopy (Photo credit: blmiers2)

As my vision improves, being more aware of space and the relationships that living plants and creatures have towards one another and to myself starts to make me wonder about spirituality and consciousness of life forms.  Serious evolutionary neuroscientists are talking about social organization and consciousness in the animal kingdom, not quite human consciousness to be sure, but a definite sense of awareness and connectedness.  They are even positing a sort of consciousness without a nervous system for the plant world.

Maybe the Indian were right--that we are living in a world of Beings.   This idea is not so far fetched as  you think. On July 7,   the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was signed by a group of leading cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologiests, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomist and computational neuroscientists  at the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals.

The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

I think this Declaration of Consciousness can provide the foundation of a Declaration of Rights for Life within the ecological movement... that all life is created with certain unalienable rights. If there is consciousness then it is a grave sin to disturb consciousness.  Maybe the Hindus and Buddhists have it right after all.

I think also, in a very local fashion, to tie the consciousness back to the original human beings, the Lenape, who inhabited this region.  That their acknowledgement of the beings of the animal world helps us who are know living here.  Maybe by being more acutely aware of relationships within the world around me  by my improved vision brings makes me wonder how higher order functions of the brain such as consciousness are impacted by a change in how one views the world.
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Cup at the Fleisher Art Memorial

My Cup made it to the Fleisher's Facebook page.  This is the raw cup before firing.  I can't believe anybody would be that interested in anything I ever made in an art class but here it is!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Here Come the Neurobots

Can we build a brain from the ground up, one neuron (or so) at a time? That’s the goal of neurobotics, a science that sits at the convergence of robotics, artificial intelligence, computer science, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, physiology, mathematics and several different engineering disciplines. Computationally demanding and requiring a long view and a macroscopic perspective (qualities not often found in our world of impatient specialization), the field is so Here Come the Neurobotsfundamentally challenging that there are only around five labs pursuing it worldwide.
Neurobotics is an outgrowth of a growing realization that, when it comes to understanding the brain, neither computer simulations nor top-down robotic models are getting anywhere close. As Dartmouth neuroscientist and Director of the Brain Engineering Lab Richard Granger puts it, “The history of top-down-only approaches is spectacular failure. We learned a ton, but mainly we learned these approaches don’t work.”
Gerald Edelman, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist and Chairman of Neurobiology at Scripps Research Institute, first described the neurobotics approach back in 1978. In his “Theory of Neuronal Group Selection,” Edelman essentially argued that any individual’s nervous system employs a selection system similar to natural selection, though operating with a different mechanism. “It’s obvious that the brain is a huge population of individual neurons,” says UC Irvine neuroscientist Jeff Krichmar. “Neuronal Group Selection meant we could apply population models to neuroscience, we could examine things at a systems’ level.” This systems approach became the architectural blueprint for moving neurobotics forward.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Forest for the Trees?

iGoodbye blackberry way
iGoodbye blackberry way (Photo credit: green-dinosaur)
Changes in Thinking Due to Vision Therapy?

Most surprising to me was that the change in my vision affected the way that I thought. I had always seen and reasoned in a step-by-step manner. I saw with one eye and then the other. When entering a crowded room, I would search for a friend by looking at one face, then the next. I didn't know how to take in the whole room and its occupants in one glance. While lecturing in class I always spoke about A causing B causing C. Until I watched my children grow up, I had assumed that seing the details and understanding the big picture were separate processes. Only after I learned the details could I add them up together in the whole. I could not, as the saying goes, see the forest for the trees. But my kids seemed to be able to do both at the same time.
 From Sue Berry in Fixing My Gaze

I am starting to wonder about some higher level functioning.  For the past month, I have been taking a bit of a vacation from my eyes.  No exercises at all.  I am going to be starting another round of Cellfield in two weeks and that will definitely kick my tail.  So I am taking a break from everything except some OT.   

However, the neurons keep weaving while I am otherwise occupied.  I have noticed that periodically I am "taking in everything at once".  While I was driving, I had stopped at a red light at a four way crossroad and suddenly I noticed that I was at a corner with a Luk Oil gas station on one side of the street and a store on the other side.  Now, I have stopped at this corner multiple times and it is only know that I am processing it as a "corner" and not as some buildings.  I have noticed that cars pulling out of the wooded little road leading into the George School are lined up in a curve leading into the school.  Also, when I am driving somehow I am more aware of relationships between objects in the scenery around me.   I feel like my thought process is somehow changing.   So, what's going on here?  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Strabismics: Watch out for your optician

IMPORTANT: Opticians don't know how to measure PD for strabismics - Sovoto

I am going to cross post this message as it is extremely important for strabismics and for parents of strabismic children seeking prism lenses.

Be extra careful when ordering prism glasses as some opticians have no idea what to do with strabismic patients and may calculate their own pupillary distance (PD) measurement that will not be the same as the developmental optometrist's PD. The difference in the PD measurement can have disastrous effects on your prescription. Although Luxottica Retail says they'll change their training programs for their opticians after my incident, I don't know if they really will. Even if you go to non-Luxottica owned optical stores, make sure the optician doesn't override your doctor's prescription because of the "Standard Operating Procedure" for measuring PD.

I am not exaggerating when I say that what I experienced could have been fatal. Below is the description of what happened to me.

After two and a half LONG years in VT, I finally got a prescription for prism glasses in mid May. I went to Sears Optical to fill the prescription and after a long delay in making my lenses, I received a pair that almost caused me to crash my car because the pupillary distance was incorrectly calculated by the optician.

Effect: I had to drive with one eye closed because my left field of vision moved faster than my right field. The divider lanes on the left doubled at a 20 degree angle into my lane, causing me to get confused as to where my lane was. At night, the extra divider lane was not only at a 20 degree angle but it was sometimes elevated above ground. If you've ever had to drive with an eye closed, you know how hard it is.

I couldn't look down when descending a staircase because the end of the step would also double at a 20 degree angle, making it hard for me to see where the end of each step was. Other lines, whether they be on sidewalks or my kitchen floor, would double or be distorted.

This is especially important in Pennsylvania where the counter people do not have to be licensed opticians. For strabismics, you can get yourself really hurt. For normal folks, you can go round and round trying to get your glasses straightened out especially if you use the chains like Sears or Pearl Vision. In New Jersey, however, you MUST be a licensed optician to sell eye glasses.

I went round and round trying to get progressive lenses straightened out here in PA before I got a referral for an optician in NJ who got them straightened out.

MIL went to a chain and we went back and forth a number of times until I gave up and went to NJ.

For my prisms, I did go to an optician in PA but only the one recommended by my developmental optometrist.



Friday, August 3, 2012

Tumbling Through The Cortex

I've decided to post the results of my artistic endeavors over at:   I just put up a couple of my paintings and one of my glass pieces.  Will be posting more in the next few days.

Copyright © 2010-2012 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fame as an Artist!

Fame (album)
Fame (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I got a bit of an atta girl at the Fleisher Art Memorial.  The director of adult programs came down to my class and asked for permission to use  a picture of my cup and for my name to give it credit appropriately.  Someday I am going to tell her my story and what the Fleisher has done for me.

I am utterly amazed that anyone would ever give me any recognition whatsoever in the artistic realm!   Whoot!  I am the kid with the incredibly screwed up piece in art classes.  Can't get the work done on time.  Can't realize the piece.  Start with an overly complicated and overly ambitious idea and add some half-baked compensations to the mix that further screw things up and watch me fall off track.  That's me!  Gotta own it!