Schizophrenia in a Vial? The Story of Ketamine

Note: Ketamine is a controlled substance in the US and many other countries. Do not use ketamine illicitly.

Imagine an injection that briefly gives you schizophrenia. Now imagine that this injection is all at once the same drug once abused by Steve-O of MTV’s Jackass, the same drug popped in karaoke bars in East Asia, the same drug given as anesthesia to animals and children, and the same drug that holds promise as an emergency antidote to suicidal thoughts.

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The Quest for a Successful TBI Treatment

A military veteran who survived a gunshot wound to the head suffers from frequent seizures and memory problems. A motorcycle crash survivor experiences chronic depression and is unable to hold a job. A 7-year-old boy who fell down the stairs as a toddler now has behavioral problems and difficulty focusing at school.

What do these people have in common? All these individuals are all afflicted with the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries, or TBI.

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The Ultimate Thought Experiment Part III: Flowers for Algernon

In Part II of this series, we considered artificial intelligent in the context of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel and Stanley Kubrik’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In Space Odyssey, intelligence is arguably seen as an end in-and-of itself, rather than a means to an end. Flowers for Algernon, a short story later turned into a novel by author Daniel Keyes, questions that assumption while considering the ethical implications of artificially manipulating a person’s intelligence.

The protagonist of Flowers for Algernon is Charlie Gordon, a janitor who begins the story with intellectual disability, or mental retardation as it was referred to at the time when Keyes wrote the story. Gordon’s intellectual disability is a result of phenylketonuria, a real life metabolic disorder resulting from mutations of the gene encoding phenylalanine hydroxylase, an enzyme that breaks down the amino acid phenylalanine. An inability to metabolize this amino acid causes its toxic build up in the brain, often resulting in a low IQ and other problems, such as mental disorders.

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The Ultimate Thought Experiment Part I: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Let’s imagine something crazy.

What if each person in China was ordered to simulate a neuron in a brain, making an enormous “China brain?” Every participant in this grand experiment would be given a two-way radio to communicate with other people, similar to how neurons talk to each other. Some people play the role of “effector neurons,” which control parts of a giant robot, just as motor neurons in our nervous system control bodily movements.

Basically, imagine that the entire nation of China became a giant robot’s brain. What might happen?

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The Epigenetic Legacy of Trauma

The evening of November 9th, 1938, began with typical fall solemnity for many Jews living across Germany: closing up their shops and businesses, returning home from school, and preparing family suppers. It would end with terror, as mobs ransacked storefronts, assaulted Jews on the street, and set fire to their homes. That terrible night would be known to history by the glittering debris of shattered windows lining the streets: “Kristallnacht.”

Kristallnacht, and the subsequent atrocities of Germany’s holocaust against the Jews, changed the world. Modernity had to forever acknowledge a surprising and abhorrent crime. Societies would undergo lasting changes, attempting to prevent such crimes, and the victims themselves, sadly, would suffer long-lasting impacts to their psyche.Continue reading

OCD Stress Knowing Neurons

A “Little Bit” of OCD: When Words Trivialize a Disorder

Sheldon Cooper, a beloved character in a television series, knocks on a door exactly three times before his roommate opens it — and if the door is opened earlier, he still persists his triad of door knocks. He fixates on occupying the exact same spot on the sofa every single time calling it “his” spot. As an audience, we watch his actions and surmise, “He has a little bit of OCD.”

The reality is: there is no such thing as a “little bit” when it comes to obsessive-compulsive disorders.Continue reading