New thoughts on brain disorder

I have a powerful fascination with all things brain and intellect.  When I was younger, I had a hang-up with the flawed concept of IQ.  Later, when I hoped to become a psychiatrist, I did dvolunteer work in an out-patient mental-health facility.   More recently, I’ve been reading a lot on autism, schizophrenia, and other brain development challenges.  Basically – I like learning more about what goes on within the brain.  Of course, given how limited my access to research is, and how little I’ve read on the subject, my knowledge is pretty damned limited.  Still, when I find an article like this NY Times story on new thinking about mental disorders, I have to check it out.

The theory emerged in part from thinking about events other than mutations that can change gene behavior. And it suggests entirely new avenues of research, which, even if they prove the theory to be flawed, are likely to provide new insights into the biology of mental disease.

. . .

Their idea is, in broad outline, straightforward. Dr. Crespi and Dr. Badcock propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways.

In short, it sounds like when one parent’s genes overpower the other sufficiently, it can affect brain development.  Which parent’s genes exert a greater influence will change how the brain develops.

A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’.

Ah Ha!!!  Psychotic!  And that’s their word, not mine.  I’m sure many men, at this point, would be nodding their head and saying “Of course that pushes the brain towards psychotic.”  Except, of course, most of us man can’t really focus long enough to get this far in the story.  🙂

Better said by NY Times:

In short: autism and schizophrenia represent opposite ends of a spectrum that includes most, if not all, psychiatric and developmental brain disorders. The theory has no use for psychiatry’s many separate categories for disorders, and it would give genetic findings an entirely new dimension.

But before putting too much stock in this theory, realize it has early critics.  And it has early problems worth working through before giving too much confidence in the end concept.

“The reality, and I think both of the authors would agree, is that many of the details of their theory are going to be wrong; and it is, at this point, just a theory,” said Dr. Matthew Belmonte, a neuroscientist at Cornell University. “But the idea is plausible. And it gives researchers a great opportunity for hypothesis generation, which I think can shake up the field in good ways.”

The full story at the NY Times delves deeper in to the thinking behind the theory, how the authors game up with the idea, and why it might or might not develop into something useful.  I just wish I knew enough to make better sense of it and have more of value in commenting on it.

[tags]Brain development, Brian disorder, Psychotic, Autism, Schizophrenia[/tags]

Blind pilot – talk me down

You get in your plane.  You take to the skies.  All seems good.  Suddenly – you go blind.  Now, how are you going to get back home alive?  Well, if you are bad-ass Jim O’Neill, you just get someone to talk you down to a safe landing.

A British pilot who was suddenly blinded by a stroke during a solo flight was talked safely down by a military pilot, the Royal Air Force said Friday.

. . .

The air force said in a news release that O’Neill initially believed he’d been “dazzled” by bright sunlight, and made an emergency call for help. He then realized that something more serious was happening, and said, “I want to land, ASAP.”

Because, well, when you suddenly can’t see, the first thought is probably “Yo, tower – having a little trouble seeing.  Can I get assistance?” I guess.

Now I confess, this is no “I’m trapped by this rock.  Guess I’ll cut off my arm.”  But it’s still pretty bad-ass to land with verbal guidance only.  Well, and skill.  Mad, mad skillz.

[tags]Stroke, Blindness, Bad-ass, Royal Air Force[/tags]

32G key, cheap

Man, I soooo totally need to buy one of these.  I may just be in need of an upgrade of my 8 Gig USB key.

DataTraveler 150 USB Flash drive is big news in mobile storage. With a capacity of 32GB, it lets you store more digital files than ever before on one drive. DataTraveler 150 from Kingston helps budget-conscious users break storage barriers, allowing them to easily store and move files in a 32GB device no bigger than a pocketknife. As easy as click and drag, DataTraveler 150 can hold just about any file you can think of term papers, theses, digital images, spreadsheets or other important documents.

And the cool thing?  It’s dang cheap – just under $60.  Pop half a dozen compressed DVD images on there, and still have room for pr0n or portables apps and games.

[tags]USB, Storage, Kingston, PortableApps, Portables, Pr0n[/tags]

Time Turner collectible?

My wife and I have a friend who spends a lot of time at our house.  Honestly, she ends up doing more housecleaning than either of us quite frequently.  She babysits our kids so the wifey-person and I can go out, or when we have to work, or sometimes just so I can have time to myself.  As a small token of appreciation, I’ve been thinking about getting her one of these Time Turners.

She is a HUGE fan of, among other things, all things Harry Potter.  I personally think the Time Turner is one of the neater little meaningless gizmos from the series, so it seems like a good gift idea to me.  The problem is, of course, that I’m looking at this from the point of view of what I find cool.  The question really is, will she consider this a cool gift item?  I have no idea how to judge, but figured getting this out so others can see it might get me some feedback.  Would this be a worthwhile toy for a Harry Potter nut?  Would this be neat to have on display in one’s home?  I don’t know, but hope someone less geeky than I am can tell me.

[tags]Harry Potter, Time Turner, Gift, Friends[/tags]

Bejeweled Twist quick-impression

I just downloaded PopCap game‘s newest – Bejeweled Twist.  The first couple versions of Bejeweled games grabbed me right away.  This one?  Meh.

But then, I decided to start paying attention to what the game was offering.  The concept is simple – spin a set of four jewels, try to get three in a row.  It lacks the immediacy of the original, but it gives some new twists that add depth and strategy.  Here’s a video someone else made showing a bit of gameplay.

Read more of what I saw in the game below the hump. Continue reading “Bejeweled Twist quick-impression”

Watchmen – the graphic novel trailer

I recently finished reading Alan Moore’s Watchmen again.  It is, quite simply, one of the best graphic novels ever written, I think.  The art is well done.  The story is thoughtful.  This is one of the graphic novels that made people recognize long-form comic as legitimate novel rather than just another comic format.  I had read this in college, then forgotten about it for a long time.  In the past year or two, I’ve started seeing it on bookshelves again (or possibly it was always there and I just started noticing it there), and decided last month to order it from Amazon.

While doing other random surfing this week, I stumbled on mention of a Watchmen trailer that was out.  I didn’t even realize this graphic novel was being made into a movie, but it is.  So naturally, I had to track the trailer down.  You can get the official, hi-res, widescreen trailer from the official movie site, but I have a soft-spot for Rorschach, and liked this fan-made trailer enough to use it instead:

No compromises.  Not even in the face of Armaggedon.  Not much longer to wait.  I look forward to seeing this.

[tags]Watchmen, Graphic Novel, YouTube, Watchmen Movie[/tags]

Mathematics: A visual exploration

While checking out the latest news on some of the geeky things that interest me, I found a link to this visual walk through of mathematics. The most interesting facet of the Dimensions Math page to me, and what made me think I needed to post about it, is that the 2 hour video that is the visual walkthrough of math was created entirely with the raytracing program POV-Ray. The entire video is available for free online, can be purchased on DVD, and is licensed for distribution under a Creative Commons license.

A film for a wide audience!

Nine chapters, two hours of maths, that take you gradually up to the fourth dimension.
Mathematical vertigo guaranteed! Background information on every
chapter: see “Details“.

Here is the sample video for the visual walk-through:

Watching this, seeing that it was made with POV-Ray, and thinking of the power of legally freely available tools like this makes me feel that I owe my readers a write-up of some of the many free tools and toys I use on my computer at home and for work.

[tags]Dimensions, Mathematics, POV-Ray, Video[/tags]

Quick draw

For my gun enthusiast visitors. I worked with a fellow years ago who claimed to have a rated speed of 0.02 seconds for draw and fire motion of his handgun. I was skeptical, but knew this guy to not be one to brag in general, so I tentatively accepted his claim although I never could imagine it being true. After seeing this video of Bob Munden, I’m not so skeptical any more.

I’m especially impressed with his accurately shooting 2 balloons, tied 8 feet apart, with two shots fired so quickly that it appears to be only a single shot. This looks like a prime candidate for the Time Warp treatment from the folks at the Discovery Channel:

I think it would be awesome to see this quick-shooter filmed at 1800 frames per second or higher. Too bad it looks like Discovery Channel hasn’t taken that show past the first episode. (via Bill at DQ)

[tags]Quick draw, Quick-Shooter, Handgun, Fast, Video, YouTube[/tags]

Purple Turtle Products – outstanding bookseller

Recently I ordered a copy of the book Virtual LEGO: The Official Guide To LDraw Tools for Windows from the Amazon seller Purple Turtle Products. I buy from Amazon sellers all the time, and normally don’t post anything about them. However, Barbara and Purple Turtle Products were so amazing to deal with when my book arrived and I had a problem that I wanted to publicly compliment her for outstanding support.

My book arrived last week on Monday and all looked good. When I grabbed it to start working some with LDraw and associated tools on Wednesday, I noticed that a chunk of the included CD was crushed into pieces no bigger than half the size of a pencil eraser. I searched online for the contents of the disc, hoping to just download everything I needed and get to work. When I was unable to find the files I needed, I contacted the general support email for Purple Turtle Products about the problem and got a response within 24 hours. Barbara offered to send me a new disc from another copy of the book they had.

Since I know books resell for less without the CDs than they do with the CDs, I told her that I felt bad because, and I stress, this problem was clearly a book binder’s error, and not a problem caused by improper handling or packaging for shipping. The disc was actually partly folded into the spine of the book, and obviously attached to the binding improperly – I’m guessing a temporary alignment glitch with the book-binding machinery. I offered to at least pay shipping, since I knew they couldn’t be making much of a profit from my purchase. Barbara, as you might guess, would have none of that and sent the disc to me at the start of this week. It arrived today, in perfect condition, and I am now able to practice creating virtual LEGO structures using the LDraw drawing tools and render them after conversion to POV-Ray format.

Thanks Barbara – you have been outstanding to buy from, and I will most assuredly be looking for Purple Turtle Products’ offerings when I buy from Amazon in the future.

[tags]Purple Turtle Products, Amazon seller, Support[/tags]

Free comic book day coming this week-end

Don’t forget to get up early so you don’t miss out on free comic book day offerings at your local comic shop this Saturday. I missed it last year because the site was broken on free comic book day, and I hadn’t checked on participating comic shops before the event. So head over there now, look up your local shops, and make sure to drop in to get your free comics.

[tags]Free comic book day, comics, free, FCBD[/tags]