Monday, April 15, 2013

More than clear minded - a see-through brain

Karl Deisseroth, neuroscientist at Stanford University and his colleagues reported that they had developed a way to replace the opaque tissue in brains (harvested from lab mice or donated by people for research) with “hydrogel,” a substance similar to that used for contact lenses.

The result is see-through brains, their innards revealed in a way no current technique can: large structures such as the hippocampus show up with the clarity of organs in a transparent fish, and even neural circuits and individual cells are visible. This may make it possible to study intact brains, and give us a better chance of examining connections over large distances, which would help determine structure-function relationships.

The Stanford scientists are able to visualize the thalamus and the brainstem, the cortex and hippocampus with the naked eye. Using a microscope revealed the white matter that serves as a brain’s transmission lines, carrying signals from one neuron to another in far-flung circuits that underlie mental function.

It turns out that hydrogel is not only transparent but also permeable thus allowing scientists to infuse fluorescent dyes into the brain and other molecules that attach to specific brain cells, and even to individual proteins and other molecules, turning the circuitry a neuroscientist wants to study into can’t-miss hues when viewed in special light.  Deisseroth says “we could see structures down to paired neurons on each side of a synapse.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Geometrical Psychology

Imagination receives the stream of Consciousness, and holds apart and compares the different experiences

I was reading about Benjamin Betts’ unusual diagrams of consciousness, collected in the 1887 tome Geometrical Psychology, or, The Science of Representation, a predecessor to Julian Hibbard’s geometric diagrams of love. This reminded me of something I’d read about years ago – the question of whether mathematics in a different universe may vary from the one we grew up to either love or hate.

If there ever is a universe out there with a non-Euclidean space, or if that universe has more than the three spatial dimensions we know so well – it entirely possible that the geometry of that universe is unlike ours. 

Euclid's five postulates, the axioms of geometry below would therefore be different from ours.

1. A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points.
2. Any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a straight line.
3. Given any straight line segment, a circle can be drawn having the segment as radius and one endpoint as center.
4. All right angles are congruent.
5. If two lines are drawn which intersect a third in such a way that the sum of the inner angles on one side is less than two right angles, then the two lines inevitably must intersect each other on that side if extended far enough.

So we are able to see how geometry may be different in another universe, but can we push this notion to think that arithmetic may also differ from that of ours. After all, isn’t arithmetic so pure, so fundamental that it surely can’t be different? For example, let's say we have a box in our universe and we place a cat in this box. We then put another cat into the box. We now have two cats in this box, and we would use this fact to generate one of our axioms of arithmetic in this universe: 1 + 1 = 2

But now let's say we’re in a different universe with a different geometry. Again, we have a box and we again place a cat into the box. We then add another cat into our box. But in this universe physical objects behave differently so that when two objects (cats) touch they merge to become a single object. So we now have only the one cat in our box. In which case the mathematics developed in this universe has the axiom: 1 + 1 = 1

It’s possible the whole system of mathematics developed in a different universe may differ from ours because it’s based on axioms different from what we’ve formulated. Those axioms would be based on physical axioms of a universe different in geometry from ours. These, to the inhabitants of that universe will be completely natural and obviously correct.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A scheme to pay employees wanting to donate an organ

The Australian Federal Government is to trial a scheme to pay employees wanting to donate an organ a six-week salary on the minimum wage. Under the scheme, workers will be paid up to $606 per week for six weeks to help ease the burden of medical costs.

A part of the press release acknowledges donor risk "Because the procedure to transplant an organ is not without risk to the donor, we want to ensure they are assisted during the recovery period after surgery."

Patients faced with the diagnosis of life-threatening diseases such as that of the liver, kidney, lung may have to consider the seriousness of having an organ transplant, which can be a definitive cure for many acquired and genetic diseases. This doesn’t come without risk and there is the anxiety of waiting for a donor organ, the risks associated with the transplant operation, and the chance that the transplant procedure will not achieve the desired result.

The donor must also consider both the negative psychological and physical symptoms associated with the procedure (invasive surgery). It is possible the donors may feel sad, anxious, angry, or resentful after surgery. Donation may change the relationship you have with the recipient if known to the donor.

Living donors must be made aware of the physical and psychological risks involved before they consent to donate an organ.

Living donation is major surgery. All complications of major surgery apply. These include:

    Infection at the incision site
    Incisional hernia
    Blood clots
    Potential need for blood transfusions
    Side effects associated with allergic reactions to the anesthesia
    Even death

Long-term organ specific donor complications (kidney)

    Kidney failure


    Bile leakage
    Small bowel obstruction
    Biliary stricture
    Portal vein thrombosis
    Pulmonary embolish
    Intra abdominal bleeding

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blind spots and concepts out of our humanly reach

I was having a conversation with a colleague today about the usefulness of Johari windows in self reflection - in particular dealing with our own blind spots when my mind turned to something I have been giving a lot though to lately; our blind spots arising from a lack of mental architectures dealing with concepts out of our present reach.

This might include, for example, obscure items or concepts such the obvious difficulty we have;

  • Visualizing the fourth dimension (or any dimension higher than 3), 
  • Thinking about a time before time, 
  • Coming to grips with the capacious atom, 
  • The shape of the universe, 
  • Space-time singularities (read we have no clue) and even
  • Imagining alternate and/or co-existing universes. 

I usually, and privately try to make sense of the such through the lens of the anthropic principle.

Driving home, I wanted to hold on to Johari windows, blind spots and see if I can weave a thread that might run through those notions currently out of our reach; In particular the idea of the multiverse (hypothetical set of multiple possible universes). There are currently 3 multiverse models that are not related and it goes without say they are not seen.

Follow the link below for a far better explanation that I’m capable of;