Tag Archives: 15 Minutes

Who Needs A Psychiatrist When You’ve Got An iPhone?

Okay, sure the headline might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s a (somewhat) serious question.

Here’s why.

Despite how amazingly complex is our brain function, it can be easily fooled and made to go along with the plans of others. For instance, if you smile at someone, odds are that that person will smile back. If you smile, you will feel better.

It should be the other way around. That is, if you feel good, you smile. And that’s true. You do. But it seems as if the mere physical act of twitching a few facial muscles is enough to fool the brain into thinking that, “If I’m smiling, I must be happy so I’d better start the happy time now.”

Which is the thinking behind MoodTune. According to the developer, Harvard psychiatrist Diego Pizzagalli, if you turn on MoodTune for about 15 minutes a day, play some games in the app, it’s possible you can lift yourself out of depression. It’s possible, Pizzagalli said, this app could be all the treatment a depressed person needs. No meds. No talk therapy. Just an iPhone app.

Pizzagalli started working on depression in 1999 and released some of his most important papers in 2001. The papers focused on “biomarkers,” signals of response in the brain to antidepressants and psychotherapy. Take a peek inside the brain, and you can see areas light up–or fail to light up–in response to treatments. Whether an area lights up or not predicts, with considerable accuracy, whether a treatment works, he says.

So, the thinking goes, what we if we illuminate those regions another way? The brain could readjust appropriately without the need for a pill. The anterior cingulate cortex is associated with depression and also works when snap decisions need to be made, Pizzagalli says, so perhaps having someone make snap decisions would help treat depression. He developed desktop software in his lab to test it out and was happy enough with the results to delve deeper into the technology.

And there’s the whole thing with the physical act of smiling making us feel happy. The thinking here is that it doesn’t matter what causes these specific areas of the brain to light up. If they light up, you feel less depressed.

I don’t know about you dudes, but I find that idea rather fascinating. It speaks to a sort of hacker mentality, but working in neurons instead of silicon chips. I think it’s sort of like an extension of behaviorist approaches to therapy. Behaviorists don’t care why you do something if the thing is what you want to stop. They just work on stopping the behavior and feel like that will take care of the underlying problem as well. In a nutshell. Generally speaking.

This is some really strange, but very cool stuff, very next-level thinking. My concern, though, arises from an analogy. If you’ve got a car tire that keeps going flat, you go out and get a new tire. Problem solved. You don’t care why it went flat because you’ve got a new tire and all is good. But what if the reason your tire kept going flat was because you kept parking next to a sharp bit of curb and it would scrape against the tire, causing it to gradually lose air. Pretty soon, you’re going to need another new tire because the underlying problem is still there.

Think of that like the brain. You’re seriously depressed. You treat this by tricking your brain into lighting up some key anti-depression areas by playing some games. You feel better. But the root cause still is there, yeah? Won’t the depression come back? Keep coming back?

I guess that’s why they research these things. We keep asking questions and they keep trying to find the answers.

I picked this information up from an interesting article at Popular Science. You might want to go over there and read the whole thing. It’s really absorbing. I know I learned some things, and that’s always good.

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I Was Feeling Kinda Seasick

I was seriously convinced that seasickness was, in fact, all in your head. Not mine, of course. Because no matter what the size of the waves, I never was really bothered. It was just a little of the ol’ up and down, really. Nothing to be concerned about.

As far as I was concerned, seasickness was just people talking. Then people listened and then, when they’d heard enough about people being sick, they went out on the ocean and remembered what they’d heard and they decided to get sick as well. So, basically, it was all a scam.

And I kept thinking that right up until Sarcasmo started puking in my lap as we went out deep-sea fishing.

Although the sky was clear, it was still windy and the waves were crashing into the hull of the ship. We’d started out early in the morning. And I mean really early in the morning. You know the time: When it’s so early that no one’s in a good mood and even the possibility of being in a good mood is too awful to think about. Yeah, that early.

Sarcasmo and Zippy the Monkey Boy were the only two of my little dudes who were old enough to go on the fishing trip with the rest of the older dudes in my family. Speed Racer stayed at home, which, as it turned out, was a good thing.

About 15 minutes into the trip out to the fishing reef, Sarcasmo started looking green. Seriously green. I’d thought he was too young to really have heard about being seasick, so I wasn’t sure what was going on. Still, I took him into the cabin to get a little air conditioning. It didn’t help. Zippy asked what was wrong and I assured him it wasn’t anything. Just keep having fun out on the deck. So he did.

Little Sarcasmo sat down on a seat next to me in the cabin and then put his head on my lap. Yeah, this was quite a time ago. He kept moaning that he didn’t feel good and I kept telling him he was going to be fine.

My brother-in-law, who’d already taken his seasickness-prevention pills, was being nice about it, but basically telling me I was an idiot for not giving said pills to the little dude. I laughed it off.

Again and again. Right up until the point where he, yes, puked in my lap. Fortunately he’d not had a huge breakfast, but still. . .

He’d puked in my lap. That’s the sort of evidence you can’t ignore. Especially coming from a little dude with no agenda.

So, the reason for this wonderful story? Get dramamine or any kind of seasickness-prevention pills and have them with you if you’re going out on the waves with a little dude or dudette. It’s no fun wearing puke all over your shorts for five hours in the hot sun.

Trust me.

— Richard

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Dude Review: Terminator Salvation

Notice the movie title didn’t have an actual colon in it? I thought for sure it would be Terminator: Salvation, but I was wrong. So very, very wrong. So, here’s the deal. I am a Terminator fan from way, way back. I loved the first movie and I adored T2, which was so good it didn’t even need an actual name. Just letters and numbers. Now that’s awsome, yeah?

I’ve been waiting for this movie since the last time I saw T2, even thought I didn’t now it. Both Terminator and T2 were set in the present day. Whereas Terminator Salvation is set in the future, during the actual war against the machines. The war that John Connor and his mother had been fighting for so very long to prevent. Guess what? They didn’t prevent the war. In fact, it came no matter what. Of course, it was completely unlike the war against the machines as seen in TV’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. (Notice the colon there? Maybe that’s why it got canceled by Fox.)

Here’s the deal, though. My middle little dude loved the movie. I loved the movie. Right up until the last 15 minutes or so. I’m going to put a

spoiler warning

here, so only read on if you don’t mind knowing what happens at the end of the movie.

Okay, you were warned.

A heart transplant? Seriously? In the field? Without preparation? And it works? Really? That last fifteen minutes really dragged the movie down from a great flick to a merely good movie. Something that can be seen and forgotten far too quickly.

I was hoping for a movie that put the capstone onto the Terminator movies, something that showed us how bad it was for the humans during the war against the machines. What I got was a good movie that succumbed to horrible editorial rewriting and the Hollywood desire for a happy ending. Terrible. Just terrible ending.

Christian Bale does a great turn as John Connor, growling a little less than he does as Bruce Wayne, which is always good. Dallas Bryce Howard is almost unrecognizable as Connor’s wife, while Moon Bloodgood (who’s name I just can’t say enough) is bold and believable as a resistance fighter.

end spoilers

Now that the movie is out and it’s been kicked in the head by Night At The Museum 2, I’m a bit worried that this franchise can be redeemed. We’re going to need at least two more movies to get this back on track. Let’s see if Christian Bale and co. can do the job.

For now, this movie gets three and a half dudes out of five, if only because I loved watching humanity and machine duke it out before the really stupid ending.

— Richard

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