I’m going to have miserable allergies anyway, so I may as well bring all the sneezy, itchy stuff indoors where I can enjoy it…
Humor for Geeks. Appreciation of Coyote vs. Road Runner “stupid physics” requires both an intuitive and learned understanding of physics. Of course, the physically impossible interactions are funny in a “psychological” context also; concrete vs. supernatural perception.
If I were a physics teacher I would definitely use these in class – and for “reality” testing!
I found: Many videos on how to doodle, mostly for business presentations.
I found: Many videos on how to learn to draw.
I found: Videos on how to use visual “strategies” (actually techniques) to remember grocery lists.
I switched to videos about art and artists.
I found: Actual artists attempting to explain the work of other artists verbally.
I found: Actual artists attempting to explain their own work verbally.
I found: Experts verbally reviewing art and artists.
I settled on the following video because it illustrates the problem. The presenter is speaking in French, which means that if you are not a French speaker the “words” are mostly meaningless and become an incredible onslaught of noise; in fact I find it hard to believe that anyone can speak with such unrelenting force and without pause or pacing – and seemingly without needing to breathe. But this is what people do constantly. It’s less noticeable when listening to a language that one understands, because if it’s “your language” your attention is on the meaning.
And where is the visual meaning or content? Suffocated by words! How can people expect to visually engage with the environment when they never shut up? How can verbal thinkers understand anything, when they simply won’t shut up?
If you wanted to understand basketball, wouldn’t you try playing basketball?
Two articles about tick-born disease dangers: one social media; one from Washington University in St Louis. Do “ASD” Asperger people run away from environmental threats (chemicals, noise, light, crowding, disease – “sick buildings”; pathogens, parasites, etc) due to a natural “ecological fear response”?
By Megan Molteni for WIRED.
First comes the unscratchable itching, and the angry blossoming of hives. Then stomach cramping, and — for the unluckiest few — difficulty breathing, passing out, and even death. In the last decade and a half, thousands of previously protein-loving Americans have developed a dangerous allergy to meat. And they all have one thing in common: the lone star tick.
Red meat, you might be surprised to know, isn’t totally sugar-free. It contains a few protein-linked saccharides, including one called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal, for short. More and more people are learning this the hard way, when they suddenly develop a life-threatening allergy to that pesky sugar molecule after a tick bite.
Yep, one bite from the lone star tick — which gets its name from the Texas-shaped splash of white on its back — is enough to reprogram your immune system to forever reject even the smallest nibble of perfectly crisped bacon. For years, physicians and researchers only reported the allergy in places the lone star tick calls home, namely the southeastern United States. But recently it’s started to spread.
The newest hot spots? Duluth, Minnesota, Hanover, New Hampshire, and the eastern tip of Long Island, where at least 100 cases have been reported in the last year. Scientists are racing to trace its spread, to understand if the lone star tick is expanding into new territories, or if other species of ticks are now causing the allergy.
The University of Virginia is deep in the heart of lone star tick country. It’s also home to a world-class allergy research division, headed up by immunologist Thomas Platts-Mills. He’d been hearing tales of the meat allergy since the ’90s — people waking up in the middle of the night after a big meal, sweating and breaking out in hives. But he didn’t give it much thought until 2004, when he heard about another group of patients all suffering from the same symptoms.
This time, it wasn’t a plate of pork chops they shared; it was a new cancer drug called cetuximab. The drug worked, but curiously, patients that lived in the southeast were 10 times as likely to report side effects of itching, swelling, and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
Platts-Mills teamed up with cetuximab’s distributor, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and began comparing patient blood samples. He discovered that all the patients who experienced an allergic reaction had pre-existing antibodies to alpha-gal, and cetuximab was full of the stuff, thanks to the genetically modified mice from which it was derived. With that mystery solved, Platts-Mills turned to figuring out what made patients so sensitive to alpha-gal.
The best hint he had was the geographic overlap between the cetuximab patients and previously reported meat allergies. The area perfectly matched where people came down with Rocky Mountain spotted fever — a disease carried by the lone star tick. But it wasn’t until Platts-Mills and two of his lab members came down with tick-induced meat allergies of their own that they made the connection.
Over the next few years Platts-Mills and his colleague Scott Commins screened more meat allergy patients and discovered that 80 percent reported being bitten by a tick. What’s more, they showed that tick bites led to a 20-fold increase in alpha-gal antibodies. Since ethics standards prevented them from attaching ticks to randomized groups of patients, this data was the best they could do to guess how meat allergy arises. Something in the tick’s saliva hijacks humans’ immune systems, red-flagging alpha-gal, and triggering the massive release of histamines whenever red meat is consumed.
Researchers are still trying to find what that something is. Commins has since moved to the University of North Carolina, where he’s injecting mice with lone star tick extracts to try to understand which molecules are setting off the alpha-gal bomb. It’s tricky: Tick saliva is packed with tons of bioactive compounds to help the parasite feed without detection. One of them might be an alpha-gal analogue — something similar-but-different-enough in shape that it sets off the human immune system. But it could also be a microbe — like a bacteria or virus — that triggers the response. Some have even suggested that residual proteins from the ticks’ earlier blood meals could be the culprit.
Whatever it is, allergy researchers will be paying attention. Because, as far as anyone can tell, alpha-gal syndrome seems to be the only allergy that affects all people, regardless of genetic makeup. “There’s something really special about this tick,” says Jeff Wilson, an asthma, allergy, and immunology fellow in Platts-Mills’ group. Usually a mix of genes and environmental factors combine to create allergies. But when it comes to the lone star tick it doesn’t matter if you’re predisposed or not. “Just a few bites and you can render anyone really, really allergic,” he says.
In the meantime, Platts-Mills, Commins, and Wilson are busy communicating the scale of the public health problem. Every day they check local news headlines to log new cases of catastrophic hamburger aversion, and spend hours on the phone gathering the latest intel from allergy clinics and academic centers around the country. They’re building the first real red meat allergy incidence map of the U.S. — because state health departments aren’t required to report alpha-gal syndrome to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it’s still rare enough outside the southeastern US that many doctors don’t correctly diagnose it.
Wilson is trying to get blood samples from all the new outbreaks, to figure out if the patients’ antibodies correspond to the saliva of lone star ticks or a different tick species. That will tell him if the increases in the allergy are the result of changing range patterns, or if other ticks have developed the capacity to rewire human immune systems in the same way. That information would also provide further clues to the mechanism itself. As for a cure? There’s not much science has to offer on that front, besides Epipens and veggie burgers.
Don’t know how accurate this list is, but it points out that ticks need moisture and woody environments to thrive. After 22 years in Wyoming, with my dogs running all over the desert shrub-land, I’ve had to remove maybe 2-3 ticks.
Top 5 states for Dogs with Fleas: Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Oregon Top 5 States for Cats with Fleas: Oregon. Washington, Florida, California, Alabama The least common? Semi-arid and Desert regions of the U.S. of the North, Midwest and Western states. Bottom 5 States for Dogs with Fleas: Utah, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, South Dakota Bottom 5 States for Cats with Fleas: Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, South Dakota
From people who study ticks: https://source/wustl.edu/2012/02
Squirrels and raccoons will give up food to avoid ticks
By Diana Lutz February 24, 2012 January 13, 2016
Here’s a riddle: What’s the difference between a tick and a lion? The answer used to be that a tick is a parasite and the lion is a predator. But now those definitions don’t seem as secure as they once did. A tick also hunts its prey, following vapor trails of carbon dioxide, and consumes host tissues (blood is considered a tissue), so at least in terms of its interactions with other creatures, it is like a lion — a very small, eight-legged lion.
Ecologists are increasingly finding it useful to think of parasites, such as ticks, as micro-predators and have been mining predator-prey theory for insights into parasite-host ecology. One of those insights is that predators don’t just graze at will, and prey aren’t just so many steaks in a freezer. Instead, prey make predators work for dinner by moving elsewhere, being vigilant, flocking together or taking other defensive measures.
This notion that prey are not victims but players, as strongly motivated by fear as the predators are by hunger, is called the ecology of fear.
Work at Washington University in St. Louis, just published in EcoHealth, shows that the ecology of fear, like other concepts from predator-prey theory, also extends to parasites. Raccoons and squirrels would give up food, the study demonstrated, if the area was infested with larval ticks. At some level, they are weighing the value of the abandoned food against the risk of being parasitized.
This new understanding of the interaction between ticks and host animals has implications for human health because the ticks are vectors of several newly emerging diseases. The more we know about what determines the distributions of ticks in their environment, the better prepared we will be to avoid human exposure to these diseases.
Do host animals fear ticks?
The study’s first author, Alexa Fritzsche, collaborated with Brian Allan, PhD, now an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Two young raccoons visiting a feeding tray for breakfast become unwitting participants in the study. (Credit: FRITzsche)
By the time Allan finished his postdoctoral fellowship at WUSTL, he had acquired a reputation as the tick man of Tyson Research Center, the university’s biological field station. So it was only natural that when Fritzsche, then Allan’s summer research technician, was given time to do research of her own, she decided to see if the ecology of fear extends to ticks.
Fritzsche now is a doctoral candidate in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia and is studying the role that animal behavior plays in determining the risk of parasitism
Near St. Louis, the most prevalent tick is Amblyomma americanum, called the lone star tick because the adult female has a white splotch on her back. Its larval stage heavily parasitizes small mammals, such as gray and fox squirrels and the common raccoon. Because the ticks can weaken an animal either by exposing it to pathogens or simply by consuming vast quantities of its blood, it made sense to ask whether the host animals were aware of the ticks and able to avoid them.
“It really comes down to natural selection,” Fritzsche says. “There is a cost to being parasitized, and if you don’t develop ways to detect the parasite and avoid it, you’re not going to do well in the long term.”
What will they give up to avoid ticks?
The study was designed to take advantage of the fact that lone star tick larvae (sometimes called “seed ticks”) emerge from eggs in the leaf litter in mid- to late-summer and tick densities increase as more and more ticks emerge. Larval tick densities were measured by dragging a cloth to which “questing” ticks became attached, and counting and identifying the ticks in the laboratory.
“The tick larvae are only about the size of a poppyseed,” Fritzsche says, “but they are present in such great numbers that you can look down and see a mass of them on the ground.
“When you dragged over one of these ‘tick bombs,’” she says, “the ticks could scatter across the cloth within seconds. I walked with a loop of duct-tape around my hand and as soon as I saw a mass, I’d hit the cloth with the duct tape and they’d be stuck on the tape.”
The animals’ response to the ticks (raccoons) was measured by how much food they abandoned, called the giving-up-density (GUD). This metric for assessing tradeoffs between foraging benefits and predation risks is well-established in predator-prey ecology but has only recently been used to assess the ecology of fear in host-parasite interactions.
Run for your lives
Contrary to Fritzsche’s expectations, the animals didn’t abandon the ground-level trays as soon as the ticks began to emerge. Over the course of the study, tick numbers increased — but in a patchy fashion. Some sites had only one tick per 60 square meters; others had 667.
Now, the animals began to abandon more seed from trays at sites with high tick densities regardless of whether they were on the ground or in a tree. The result suggests that the host animals may recognize the threat of parasitism and adjust their patterns of foraging accordingly.
The Center for Disease Control: reported cases of Ehrlichiosis chaffeensis, the most common of the emerging diseases carried by the lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum). Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas account for 35 percent of all reported E. chaffeensis infections. The incidence of ehrlichiosis has gone steadily up since the disease became reportable in 2000 but thankfully the case fatality rate has declined. (Credit: CDC)
“We thought that they might abandon more seed on the ground than in the tree because ticks are confined to the ground, so we expected more of a local trade-off in foraging,” Allan says. “It turned out that the hosts were actually avoiding entire areas of high tick densities, suggesting potentially an even stronger response to the risk of parasitism than we initially hypothesized.”
Apparently people have underestimated both the ticks and their furry hosts, which far from blundering about obliviously, are wary of threats to their health the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
Fritzsche is willing to take the ecology of fear even farther — to include host responses to infections with micro-organisms as well as micro-predators.
Running a temperature helps some amphibians fight parasites such as viruses and fungi. As cold-blooded animals, they can’t raise their temperature on their own, but some amphibians will go to the highest rocks where the sun burns brightest to acquire a “behavioral fever” that helps them fight these illnesses.
“Some people are reluctant to attribute this level of ‘awareness’ to wild animals,” Allan says, “but ecologists have established quite clearly that prey will go to great lengths to avoid predation. Given the substantial cost of parasitism to wildlife, it wouldn’t be surprising if hosts actively adjust their behaviors to reduce this burden.”
After all, it isn’t that different from washing your hands.
The most dramatic scenery for this 2017 eclipse can be found in Wyoming. While Yellowstone National Park is just north of totality, Grand Teton National Park is squarely centered in the eclipse path and will surely be a magnet for eclipse observers.
CLICK FOR THE Wyoming STATE PAGE ON ECLIPSEWISE.COM. THE SITE PROVIDES THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE AND AUTHORITATIVE STATE PAGES FOR THE 2017 ECLIPSE. ECLIPSEWISE.COM IS BUILT BY FRED ESPENAK, RETIRED NASA ASTROPHYSICIST AND THE LEADING EXPERT ON ECLIPSE PREDICTIONS.
This is a long article: Go to: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC43182861
U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health
Jonathan M. Metzl is with the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society and the Departments of Sociology and Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. Kenneth T. MacLeish is with the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society and the Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University.
Only in the 1960s and 1970s did US society begin to link schizophrenia with violence and guns. Psychiatric journals suddenly described patients whose illness was marked by criminality and aggression. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) most-wanted lists in leading newspapers described gun-toting “schizophrenic killers” on the loose,76 and Hollywood films similarly showed angry schizophrenics who rioted and attacked.77
Historical analysis14,78 suggests that this transformation resulted, not from increasingly violent actions perpetuated by “the mentally ill,” but from diagnostic frame shifts that incorporated violent behavior into official psychiatric definitions of mental illness. Before the 1960s, official psychiatric discourse defined schizophrenia as a psychological “reaction” to a splitting of the basic functions of personality. Descriptors emphasized the generally calm nature of such persons in ways that encouraged associations with poets or middle-class housewives.79 But in 1968, the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)80 recast paranoid schizophrenia as a condition of “hostility,” “aggression,” and projected anger, and included text explaining that, “the patient’s attitude is frequently hostile and aggressive, and his behavior tends to be consistent with his delusions.”80(p34-36)
A somewhat similar story can be told about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), another illness frequently associated with gun violence.15 From the mid-19th century though World War II, military leaders and doctors assumed that combat-related stress afflicted neurotic or cowardly soldiers. In the wake of the Vietnam War, the DSM-III recast PTSD as a normal mind’s response to exceptional events. Yet even as the image of the traumatized soldier evolved from sick and cowardly to sympathetic victim, PTSD increasingly became associated with violent behavior in the public imagination, and the stereotype of the “crazy vet” emerged as a result. In the present day, even news coverage drawing attention to veterans’ suffering frequently makes its point by linking posttraumatic stress with violent crime, despite the paucity of data linking PTSD diagnosis with violence and criminality.38,81
Evolutions such as these not only imbued the mentally ill with an imagined potential for violence, but also encouraged psychiatrists and the general public to define violent acts as symptomatic of mental illness. As the following section suggests,
WOW! A dangerous granting of authority to psychiatrists, (and indeed psychology and the social sciences) and further evidence that the “caring, fixing, helping” industry has taken on vast power to define individual “destinies” since the 1960s. Most Americans have no awareness that this shift in dominant authority has occurred and how negatively this philosophy of pan-human dysfunction has eroded the American quality of life.
In a 1969 essay titled “The Protest Psychosis,” psychiatrists postulated that the growing racial disharmony in the US at the height of the Civil Rights Movement was a manifestation of psychotic behaviors and delusions afflicting America’s black lower class. “Paranoid delusions that one is being constantly victimized” resulted in black male anger and misplaced desire to overthrow the establishment.
Two articles that point to gray matter differences in people whose jobs require mental mapping and a paper concerning gray matter distribution in Autism and Asperger’s brain types
Boston Globe Online
How a useful technology interferes with our ‘mental mapping’ — and what to do about it. By Leon Neyfakh Globe Staff August 18, 2013
Clip: “(Veronique) Bohbot, the McGill neuroscientist, started experimenting with navigation because of an interest in the way people’s brains change as a result of learning. Bohbot developed a method for using fMRI technology to distinguish between people who tended to find their way by going through a memorized list of step-by-step directions — what she calls “stimulus response strategy” — and those who were inclined to orient themselves by conjuring a mental map of the world around them. People who just follow directions, Bohbot found, tended to have less gray matter in their hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for encoding spatial memories.”
“People whose everyday work is deeply dependent on mental mapping can show brain development that is particularly distinctive. A famous study published in 2000 by British neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire showed that taxi drivers in London with years of experience navigating the city’s complex geography had more gray matter in the posterior hippocampus compared to people who were not taxi drivers. The study underscores that how our brain works is subject to use; the brain is plastic, and the more mental mapping we do, the stronger our cognitive navigation skills and the bigger the part of the brain that encodes them.”
More at Boston Globe…
The comparison of gray matter volume as a plastic result of how one ‘uses’ the brain, led me to a study on PubMed:
Detailed article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3201995/
An ALE meta-analysis of grey matter differences in studies of Asperger syndrome or autism supports the argument against the disorder being considered solely a milder form of autism in neuro-anatomic terms. Whereas grey matter differences in people with Asperger syndrome are indeed more sparse than those reported in studies of people with autism, the distribution and direction of differences in each category is distinctive. Asperger syndrome involves clusters of lower grey matter volume in the right hemisphere and clusters of greater grey matter volume in the left hemisphere. Autism leads to more extensive bilateral excess of grey matter. Both conditions share clusters of grey matter excess in the left ventral temporal lobe components of the extrastriate visual system. This summary of a rich VBM MRI data set has important implications for how we categorize people on the autism spectrum and cautions that mixing individuals with autism and Asperger syndrome may at times obscure important characteristics manifested in one or the other condition alone.
I have to say up front that on the “choice” curve (I’m sure someone somewhere has generated such a thing) I fall on the “less is more” end of “not enough choice – too many choices” preference. But I think this favorite topic of marketing behavior – which drives contemporary product design and marketing – misses the point.
I was at the grocery store yesterday, standing in the OTC aisle, looking for a generic version of Benedryl: Why pay a high price for a brand name, when there is an identical product for much less, at least in theory, simply packaged in a less “zingy” cardboard and plastic package, at the end of the assembly line at the very same factory? It’s a go-to choice for me and millions of other shoppers…
Like other severe allergy sufferers (suffer is the correct word), relief is the goal, and the search becomes something of a seasonal religious pilgrimage from store to store, pharmacy to pharmacy, (I gave up on doctors long ago) aisle to aisle; a bewildering journey to find the holy object, concoction or magic pill, that brings even moderate relief. What one finds is a wall of pink and purple and yellow and orange and blue boxes tricked out with labels and messages; the ingredients in nano-type… how many times have I grabbed a product, thinking that it’s what I bought before, only to find when I get home, that it’s not…
What ought to be simple is not! The store has changed it’s product array; eliminated “my” standard choice, or rearranged the wall – moving key products, so that a “visual” location that was a good system for navigating the “too many choices” shelves is useless. Flagging down a clerk usually yields results like “the product is right in front of your face” look; or, the “corporate elves” moved everything again, according to some new marketing scheme, or we discontinued that item, or we’re out of stock, or more “excuse choices”.
One soon appreciates that old age is as much a “contrived” challenge as a steady decline in sensory acuity: confusion becomes a default experience in dealing with the world. Despite all the media attention about a rapidly aging population and the need to “address” the needs of the elderly, there is little “real world” response, except an increase in expensive, useless and faulty junk products marketed as “free” because insurance will “pay for” them.
Besides, someone my age isn’t supposed to use the words “old, elderly, impaired, slow, over-the-hill”, etc. but to defy Nature by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year jumping out of airplanes (don’t forget your parachute), communing with “natives” in the Amazon, and looking spry, well-preserved and young, while doing it, or gardening with one’s equally well-preserved spouse on a grand estate in “the islands” somewhere, purchased with vast resources that one managed to not spend over the previous forty+ years of “living”.
Americans “waste” so much of what we buy, and time shopping, for food or household supplies, OTC “medications” and the rest. And reading “labels” is not much help when the ingredients in laundry detergent seem to “pop up” in juice drinks, sodas, “organic” baked goods and prepared and processed food: it’s ALL artificially produced at this point.
The fruits and vegetables and novelty “plant things” in the “green region” of our stores are just as artificial as the blue gummy stuff aimed at kids and sold as “vitamins” and “nutrition” supplements. The “money” spent to bring products to a store near you, or that are delivered to our homes from online sites, is allocated to overseas production, packaging, shipping, distribution, marketing, advertising, and endless conniving to make “junk” components, ingredients, materials, chemicals – and indeed dangerous or toxic fillers and additives, “appear to be” different products, but in reality, only the “decorative boxes” distinguish the same essentially worthless contents from each other.
Choice is just another lie in the “culture” of consumerism. That is a hurdle that cannot be overcome by the consumer. So-called “education” merely confirms the distortions presented over decades of deception, manipulation, and indoctrination; of false labeling, intentional disregard of product safety or efficacy, and reduction of quality that is the pattern of “modern” corporate – government behavior.
More and more often I find myself bewildered when shopping: Is there actually anything worth eating, or safe to eat, that can be purchased at the “grocery” store? But, being a “realistic” Asperger, whatever “damage” to my body from ingesting bizarre ingredients has occurred – no remedy for that. Time spent making “decisions” as to which “pretty package” to purchase is just that…a waste of time.
Forbes Quarry specimen, Gibraltar: Discovered 1848. I added some rough hair. I know this is supposed to be a female Neanderthal, but it’s a reach to imagine what she would look like. I think with hair, this person looks remarkably like “us”.
Extinction by Dr. Blake Ketchum. Cast Stone. 30cm tall. Actually, “Extinction” seems an inappropriate title – this Neanderthal looks very “familiar” – a fellow human being.
This portrait is a faithful forensic reconstruction of a Neanderthal individual. A model of the Forbes Quarry cranium was used as the foundation for the sculpture. You can see a progressive development of the sculpture here. I used the Manchester Method of forensic reconstruction, which relies more upon anatomical geometry than tissue depth, which is not available for Neanderthals, of course. This sculpture has been shown widely at competition in international online exhibits and in galleries in NYC and throughout the North Eastern US. A cast is a part of the permanent collection of the Earth and Mineral Science Museum of Penn State University.
Creation Date: 7 May 2014 | Review Date: 7 May 2014
Source: Society for Neuroscience
For years before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came out with its recent recommendation that women cut the dose of Ambien and related sleeping medicines in half, there were reports of patients engaging in strange, sleepy next-day behaviors. However, it wasn’t until scientists took a closer look at the data showing the amount of the drug still in the blood of male and female users when they awoke the next day that they recognized one reason why.
MRI studies of healthy people (How is “healthy” determined? Who is excluded?) suggest there are sex differences in the size of regions throughout the brain. This image highlights regions that were larger in women (pink) and men (blue) relative to the total volume of the cerebrum. Courtesy, with permission: Cahill. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2006.
The “point is” that 2,000+ years of relentless prejudice against the female sex cannot be “undone” by mere statements of “reform“. The very foundation of social and cultural beliefs is involved, and in fact, still guides and informs “scientific” research; the intent, design and results of “studies” – and the conclusions and claims about how humans (and animals LOL) are “supposed to” think, behave and feel. And the “body of knowledge” based on prejudice remains active in academic belief systems. That includes women in academic systems…
As it turns out, (a weasel phrase meant to “sweep away” any questions as to what all this means, implying that the “sciences elves” have definitively and objectively applied their magic and have “discovered” some ultimate truth about “reality” – in this case – a revealing conclusion) women break the drug’s active ingredient zolpidem down slower than men do. Since they were taking the same dose of the drug as men, they were waking up with more of the drug still in their bodies. Studies would later reveal that these elevated levels increased their risk of adverse events, like car accidents.
Why did it take years to recognize sex matters when it comes to sleep medication doses? Because many (male authorities) assumed “sex cannot matter that much,” explains Larry Cahill, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine who studies sex differences in the brain. (Sex DOES matter though when innate skill, intelligence, rationality, judgement, logic, leadership, or other “performance” ability is being discussed.)
Traditionally, in both human and animal research, males have been the research subject of choice because their hormone levels do not vary cyclically the way that they do in females. (The “females are crazy by default” myth) Many researchers assumed that fluctuating hormone levels in females would make it more difficult to draw conclusions from their findings (Because the conclusion has already been made that women are hormonally defective “crazy people”), and any findings in male study subjects translated to females. (That is, almost all conclusions about “human – ness are strictly male-based human-ness. Only female reproductive physiology is of interest – ) However, recent analysis of numerous studies comparing male and female mice show studies with females show no greater variability than those with males.
Additionally, as the sleep medication study suggests, “The assumption that you can safely ignore sex [when developing treatments] is wrong,” Cahill says. In fact, a growing number of studies highlighting sex differences in the brain are beginning to turn this concept on its head.
Sex differences start early
Early research on sex differences in the brain began with animal studies of the hypothalamus, the brain area involved in feeding, stress, and mating behaviors. Just as early exposure to the sex hormone testosterone guides the “masculinization” of the body — including the development of the male reproductive tract and external genitals — scientists discovered it also influences the development of the brain and behavior. When researchers exposed female guinea pigs to testosterone while still in the womb, they found that the animals displayed mating behaviors more similar to males later on in life. In contrast, female guinea pigs exposed to testosterone later in life showed typical female mating behaviors.
Comment: How fraught with misinterpretation are these parameters: “typical male mating behaviors” and “typical female mating behaviors”? And in Guinea pigs? Guinea pig “mating behavior” translates to human mating behavior? Really? Human mating behavior is socially determined, regardless of biology! No human is free from the dictates of culture in “mating” behavior.
Researchers have since identified structural differences in male and female brains in animals. In rats, the volume of a large cluster of cells in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus is greater in males. In contrast, the anteroventral periventricular nucleus — a section of the hypothalamus that helps to regulate the ovulatory cycle — is larger in females. Other studies have found that the length and complexity of dendrites (the branch-like structures neurons use to receive information) in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus also differs between males and female rats, suggesting there may be sex differences in brain circuitry (in rats!) Sex and memory Scientists (those busy unidentified elves who always seem to agree with whomever is writing the article or paper) are now learning sex differences are present beyond the regions of the brain that are involved in mating. Animal research indicates the presence of sex differences in the hippocampus — an area involved in storing memories and the spatial mapping of an environment. In addition, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of people have found that, when compared to the total volume of the brain, the hippocampus is larger in women than men. In contrast, the amygdala — an area crucial to the formation of emotionally charged memories (and much more) — tends to be larger in men. (Wouldn’t this “suggest” that men are more emotionally reactive than women?) Other studies suggest that there are differences in how these brain regions function in men and women, perhaps affecting how they respond to stress (Stress=watching violent movies?) For instance, when researchers asked men and women to watch violent films, they discovered that women display greater activity in the amygdala on the left hemisphere of the brain while men show greater activity on the right. Regardless of sex, the more active the amygdala, the more the participant remembered when asked about the violent film a few weeks later.
When scientists gave participants a drug that dampens amygdala activity before presenting them with an emotional story, they found that men had a more difficult time remembering information central to the emotional story line, while women had a harder time recalling peripheral story details one week later. (Did anyone take into consideration the dosage of whichever drug was used, as per the warning at the beginning of the article?)
These hemispheric activity differences may explain why men tend to recall the gist of an emotional event, while women tend to remember the specific details. (So – from this “fragment of brain activity” “gist vs. detail” we can legitimately “confirm” a pre-conceived cliche about “gist vs. detail”? Is there any possibility that the “focus” of males and females has been socially and culturally directed from birth? Ie, there are “environmental reasons” for females to pay attention to detailsvs. “the gist” (if they actually do). What about male “focus” when males are trained to be “unemotional”? What is the “gist” of an event anyway, in scientific terms?)
Sex matters for understanding disease
Generalizing animal research findings on sex differences to humans remains a significant challenge, (but we’re over-generalizing anyway) as does determining the ways in which the varying life experiences of men and women affect the brain, says Michigan State University neuroscientist Cheryl Sisk, who studies the role of hormones on adolescent brain development. Still, many researchers believe that studying sex differences in the brain will one day uncover new information about brain illnesses that affect the sexes differently. (Autism is not an “illness” – there is no medical diagnosis!)
For example, boys are nearly four times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) early in life. In contrast, depression and anxiety, which are more commonly diagnosed after puberty, occur almost twice as frequently in women as men. A recent study also suggests that APOE4 — a gene variant commonly associated with heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease — confers greater disease risk to women. (So depression=Alzheimer’s?)
The article is mixing-conflating – “illness” as a disease process with “mental states” in women (depression). Given the inferior status of women – the constant “stress” of social inequality and misogynist dogma present in most cultures, and the pervasive physical and mental abuse – which are environmentally present and active from birth – and add to these social indoctrination which is intended to change female human beings into subservient objects, NONE OF THESE factors can be considered to be the source of “disruption” in brain functioning that is “labeled” depression!)
According to Margaret McCarthy, who studies the effects of hormones on brain development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, sex differences in the prevalence of these and other brain illnesses suggest “something is different in the way the brain is developing that is making it more vulnerable at different times for males versus females.” In cases where a disease is affecting one sex more than the other, “one sex is protected from disease more than the other,” McCarthy explained in a 2012 article in The Journal of Neuroscience. “Thus, identifying the sex-specific protective agents could lead to better understanding of potential therapies, or identification of new drug targets,” she wrote.
WOW! It’s a huge leap to assume some “protective agent” lurks within “female brains” or “male brains” when the “differences” that are being discussed may (logically) be the result – consequence of factors in the environment that (literally) shape the child’s brain post-birth, in addition to whatever anatomical differences may exist between “male and female” fetus-infants-children. This identification of “biology” and “culture” as one and the same, or the equally egregious dismissal of either as determinants in human experience and behavior is simply a disaster.
The tendency is to (erroneously) “confirm” social concepts about “being human” by appropriating “biology” as the causal factor in what is SOCIALLY PRESCRIBED and ENFORCED human behavior: “proof” of prejudice is coerced from supposedly scientific investigations, but what is ”going on” is not science: it’s pseudoscientific feedback that supports myths about laboratory animals being sufficient “stand-ins” for humans – while perpetuating archaic religious beliefs about human nature.
Isn’t it a bit contradictory to claim that Homo sapiens, the most complex, intelligent, creative, sensitive, technology-producing “uber-species” on planet earth (males only, of course) is “explainable” by the “primitive” brains of rats, mice, monkeys, rabbits dogs – even invertebrates?