Tag Archives: Peek

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.

Share on Facebook

Aaaaaawwwwwwww!

by Richard

So can we call this an oops baby?

Zookeepers at the US National Zoo had basically given up on Mei Xiang, the giant panda, ever getting pregnant. Just wasn’t going to happen.

Still, they figured, why not give it the ol’ artificial insemination try? Just for grins and giggles? Turns out, the long shot wasn’t so long.

Earlier this year, she gave birth to a newborn panda cub, which is a pink, hairless blob about the size of a stick of butter. We’re hoping the little dude/dudette lives past 100 days, since that’s when the zookeepers will consider it to have past most of the early danger and will give it a name.

So why all this fuss here, in the Dude’s Guide, about a baby panda? Other than the fact that it’s a good thing that the biodiversity of the planet continues to get a little help?

Mostly because there’s a webcam you can use to peek at the new momma and her hairless pink blob that will soon someday become cute. Much, much cuter.

Seriously, dudes, you need to click here and go watch this. Okay, sure. Mostly it’s static pictures of a sleeping panda or a panda-less screen. But, sometimes you get to see the big cutie pies. And, yeah, they’re adorable.

My oldest young dude, Sarcasmo, spent a couple of weeks in China two summers ago and, as part of his service mission there, did unpaid grunt work at the panda preserve. He got to work in the enclosure with them, clean out the poop (for which he had to wear almost surgical-like scrub suits) (don’t know if that was for his protection or theirs).

One thing Sarcasmo said was that he and the rest of his group were warned repeatedly that they had to be on the lookout to make sure they didn’t get mauled. Move slowly and don’t antagonize the beasts. No matter how cute they are, and they are cute, they also can be deadly.

But look how cute. . .

Share on Facebook

Another Peek At The Future

by Richard

The future keeps breaking through into the present, usually in ways we never thought it would.

For instance, today I’m getting ready to take Sarcasmo on a trip to Idaho for a look at another bit of education. I’m coming back. He’s not.

Hyper Lad is away at Camp Cheerio.

The only one of the young dudes still home is Zippy the Monkey Boy, who just returned from a near-month-long trip to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia (makes me wish I was one of my own kids) and is getting ready to head off to the University of North Carolina Wilmington in just about a month.

So we’re down to one kid, two adults, two cats, a dog and a bird.

Yeah, the nest officially is getting a little bit emptier.

Especially considering Zippy the Monkey Boy is the type to sleep in until someone goes into his room and tips his bed over onto the floor. Mornings are going to be pretty quiet for the next little while.

I guess it’s something I’ll have to get used to.

When school starts up Aug. 27, it’s going to be quite real and quite quiet.

Hyper Lad is off to school by 8:30 am and that’s it. Nothing to do with kids until he gets home near 5 pm.

Still not sure how this is going to work. I mean, I haven’t had to cook for only three people (one child) for a long, long time. I have a feeling I’m going to be making a lot of accidental leftovers for the first couple of months.

Maybe I can buy that huge storage fridge I’ve had my eye on for a while. Get a place to put the stuff away . . . Well, realistically, never look at it again. Making leftovers? Yeah, I’m good at that. Serving leftovers? Not so much.

Of course, with Zippy the Monkey Boy leaving the house, our grocery bill will almost immediately come down a substantial amount since I’ll no longer have to buy his, and his alone, normal ration of 2.5 gallons of milk per week.

Ah well. That’s in the future, which is only waving hi this week. I’m sure it’ll be coming for a much longer visit next month.

Until then. . .

Share on Facebook