Ode to a Dreamer of Dreams

Dear Dr. Sacks, Like the late Carl Sagan, you have a gentle way of magnifying everything into brilliant resolution and reminding us of our place in the universe. I always look forward to reading your books and opinion pieces, as you put which things matter into perspective. Last month, I was quite delighted to read …

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Top Ten Favorite Scientists

I was recently asked to make a list of my top ten favorite scientists, and after some deliberation, these are the people I chose: Richard Feynman: While Feynman made outstanding contributions to our understanding of quantum physics and to the Manhattan project, he is perhaps most remembered for his teaching as evidenced by the still-beloved …

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Why Medical Research?

More than a body of knowledge, science is a way of thinking based on empirical observation. William Lawrence Bragg once said, “The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.” Science makes use of that wonderful blend of curiosity, skepticism, and imagination …

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Brainstorming the Existence of a Mythical Country

The Constitution of the United Citizens of Andalucía, An Autonomous Community of Spain Area: 88,000 sq. kilometers, Population: 1,000 Economics Free market, fair trade, and laissez-faire economic policy. Production and export of wheat, barley, and other textiles as well as the development of hydroponics drive the economy. Carbon capture and sequestration methods are used to …

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Compiled List of Medical Reads

MissMedDiva

Hey everyone! As promised, here is the list of compiled suggested medical reads from everyone. I don’t know about you, but I want to buy all of these books and start reading right now! Thank you to everyone that sent me suggested books – this list came from all of you! Take a peek, enhance your library, and learn even more about the amazing and fascinating medical world. At the very bottom of the list is a section titled “Textbooks/References” for pre-meds and medical students. Enjoy!

Why medicine?: And 500 Other Questions for the Medical School and Residency Interviews – Sujay Kansagra, M.D.

Everything I learned in Medical School: Besides All The Book Stuff – Sujay Kansagra, M.D.

Baby Doctor: A Pediatrician’s Training – Perri Klass, M.D.

Intensive Care: The Story of a Nurse  – Echo Heron

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

When the Air Hits…

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Imagination in health and medicine? 11 fresh ideas from the TEDMED stage

TED Blog

Nassim Assefi hosted TEDMED2014, Photo: Sandy Huffaker Jr. Nassim Assefi directed the stage program for TEDMED 2014, a conference which brought out unexpected ideas in medicine—like how one can help cancer patients with a pink tutu. Photo: Sandy Huffaker Jr.

Prosthetics as sculpture, the maternal benefits of breast milk, Cuba’s radical approach to free medical education. These are just a few of the subjects tackled at TEDMED 2014: Unlocking Imagination, hosted last week simultaneously in San Francisco and Washington, DC, with a stage program directed by TED Fellow, physician, novelist and activist Nassim Assefi. On two stages over three days, 2,000 conference-goers and 80 speakers and performers gathered for an idea exchange on a vast range of subjects relevant to innovation in health and medicine.

A medical edition of the TED conference that was founded in 1995 (it’s now independently owned), we asked Assefi what made this TEDMED different from those in the past. “This was the most diverse TEDMED conference…

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A Beautiful Mind, A Dysfunctional Synapse

The dopaminergic projection pathways in the midbrain also play a crucial role in the development of schizophrenia. The midbrain has two distinct dopaminergic projection pathways: the nigrostriatal pathway and the mesolimbic pathway. The former is involved in motor control and is associated with Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease (after Alzheimer’s disease), while the latter is involved with addiction and reward behaviors and is therefore implicated in the development of schizophrenia.

The nigrostriatal pathway is compromised in Parkinson’s disease, which is often treated with L-DOPA, the precursor to dopamine, in order to stimulate the biosynthesis of dopamine within nerve terminals (dopamine is not administered because it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier). However, this increased biosynthesis of dopamine often leads to overstimulation of the mesolimbic pathway, which also utilizes dopamine, manifesting in schizophrenia-like side effects. Similarly, antagonists of the D2 dopamine receptor (called neuroleptics) used in the treatment of schizophrenia often result in side effects resembling Parkinson’s disease due to the unintended suppression of the nigrostriatal pathway. Abnormalities in other neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine and glutamate, may also contribute to schizophrenia.

Knowing Neurons

JohnForbesNashJr2_300 John Forbes Nash, Jr.
Image courtesy of Princeton University.

“I felt like I might get divine revelation by seeing a certain number; a great coincidence could be interpreted as a message from heaven.”

– John Nash in “A Brilliant Madness”

John Forbes Nash Jr. was a 20-year-old graduate student when he came up with the mathematical theories that would win him the Nobel Prize in Economics 50 years later. His mathematical insight into game theory is often over-shadowed by accounts of the eccentric behavior, paranoia, and delusions that characterized his schizophrenia. Paranoid schizophrenia manifests in clinical terms as fixed beliefs that are over-imaginative and accompanied by experiences of hauntingly real perceptions of something not actually present. These hallucinations often take the form of auditory or visual disturbances and can be accompanied by a lack of motivation and clinical depression. In his own words in the documentary “A Brilliant Madness,” Nash…

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