Category Archives: Health

Study reveals where psychedelics zap your brain


This is your brain on drugs, or, more specifically, how three different psychedelic drugs, psilocybin [‘shrooms]. LSD, and ketamine [“Special K”], as revealed in a new scientific study revealing that psychedelics trigger neuronal excitement in specific brain areas,  as reported in Nature [open access], the world’s premiere scientific journal [click on the image to enlarge]:

We’ve long been fascinated with a certain class of drugs, the so-called psychedelics [from the Greek for mind-manifesting], drugs taken not to numb or physically stimulate but to reveal normally hidden dimensions of our inner mental lives.

New research is revealing that psychedelics may be the one reliable route to relieving depression [previously], a condition with which esnl has struggled for most of our years on the planet, as well as stopping smoking and even reducing spousal abuse.

Now a new study show where three such compounds impact the the brain

More from the University of Sussex:

Scientific evidence of a ‘higher’ state of consciousness has been found in a study led by the University of Sussex.

Neuroscientists observed a sustained increase in neural signal diversity – a measure of the complexity of brain activity – of people under the influence of psychedelic drugs, compared with when they were in a normal waking state.

The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those who are asleep.

This, however, is the first study to show brain-signal diversity that is higher than baseline, that is higher than in someone who is simply ‘awake and aware’. Previous studies have tended to focus on lowered states of consciousness, such as sleep, anaesthesia, or the so-called ‘vegetative’ state.

The team say that more research is needed using more sophisticated and varied models to confirm the results but they are cautiously excited.

Professor Anil Seth, Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex, said: “This finding shows that the brain-on-psychedelics behaves very differently from normal.

“During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the brain is less predictable and less ‘integrated’ than during normal conscious wakefulness – as measured by ‘global signal diversity’.

“Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of ‘conscious level’, we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher ‘level’ of consciousness than normal – but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure.”

For the study, Michael Schartner, Dr Adam Barrett and Professor Seth of the Sackler Centre reanalysed data that had previously been collected by Imperial College London and the University of Cardiff in which healthy volunteers were given one of three drugs known to induce a psychedelic state: psilocybin, ketamine and LSD.

Using brain imaging technology, they measured the tiny magnetic fields produced in the brain and found that, across all three drugs, this measure of conscious level – the neural signal diversity – was reliably higher.

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Headline of the day: Trump trumped in the House


Let the eruption commence. . .

From the New York Times:

  • Major Setback for Trump in First Big Legislative Clash
  • House Republican leaders withdrew legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration just as voting was set to begin.
  • President Trump had pressed for a vote on the bill so he could shame Republicans who opposed it. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, talked him down.

White House fails to win House for TrumpCare™


Even his own party fails to fall behind Agent Orange.

From Reuters:

Republicans in Congress said they lacked the votes needed for passage of their U.S. healthcare system overhaul and a key committee chairman came out in opposition after Donald Trump demanded a vote on Friday in a gamble that could hobble his presidency.

Amid a chaotic scramble for votes, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, who has championed the bill, met with Trump at the White House. Ryan told the president there were not enough votes to pass the plan, U.S. media reported.

If the bill is defeated, Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, the 2010 Affordable Care Act dubbed Obamacare, would remain in place despite seven years of Republican promises to dismantle it.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top campaign promise by Trump in the 2016 presidential election, as well as by most Republican candidates, “from dog catcher on up,” as White House spokesman Sean Spicer put it during a briefing on Friday.

The showdown on the House floor follows Trump’s decision to cut off negotiations to shore up support inside his own party, with moderates and the most conservative lawmakers balking. On Thursday night he had issued an ultimatum that lawmakers pass the legislation that has his backing or keep in place the Obamacare law that Republicans have sought to dismantle since it was enacted seven years ago.

And a new Reuters/Ipsos poll reveals the reason for their reluctance [click on the image to enlarge]:

The Republicans are confronted with a harsh reality: Even those who voted for the short-fingered vulgarian, most notably those poorer heartland folks who voted for him are reluctant to inflict higher costs and even lack of emergency room access and maternity care on themselves,m their families, and their friends.

Map of the day: Western Hemisphere happiness


From Views of the World, the always informative blog of British geographer Benjamin Henning, a look at how the nations of the Western Hemisphere fare on the Happy Planet Index [click on the image to enlarge]:

From the blog post, where you can find the full map, which is based on a remapping of the world to show the nations resized to match their relative populations:

March, 20th is the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness, recognising ‘the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world’. Bhutan is credited as the first country to have implemented the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ as an official measure for the state of a nation, introduced in 1972. After the global financial crash in 2008, ideas about giving the ‘spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of [people] and natural environment’ more prominence over mere economic development are reflected more and more in international efforts towards a sustainable future.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI), developed by the New Economics Foundation, takes a rather radical approach on this issue. It aims to measure well-being and happiness by taking a universal and long-term approach to understanding, how efficiently people in a country are using their environmental resources to live long and happy lives.

This cartogram maps the results of the 2016 Happy Planet Index from the perspective of people. The gridded population cartogram shows the world resized according to the number of people living in each area, combined with the national HPI score:

The indicators that are used for calculating the HPI score cover life-satisfaction, life expectancy, inequality of outcomes and the ecological footprint. As argued in the report, ‘GDP growth on its own does not mean a better life for everyone, particularly in countries that are already wealthy. It does not reflect inequalities in material conditions between people in a country.’ This explains why consumption patterns are seen as more important for well-being than production. It also acknowledges that inequalities in well-being and life expectancy are important factors in the overall happiness of the population in a country.

When taking these notions into account, the rich industrialised countries score much worse in achieving sustainable well-being for all. Of the 140 countries included in the HPI, Luxembourg is the most extreme example for a wealthy nation scoring very badly – it does well on life expectancy and well-being, and also has low inequality, but sustains this lifestyle with the largest ecological footprint per capita of any country in the world. It would require more than nine planets to sustain this way of life if every person on Earth lived the same way, showing that the standard of living comes at a high cost to the environment.

Among the positive stories is Costa Rica, which is also highlighted on the map. The country has persistently scored highest in all HPI releases (the 2016 edition is the third, after 2009 and 2012). More of a surprise might be the high score for Mexico (second), which is credited to massive efforts at improving health and environmental sustainability. Despite challenges with tackling inequality, well-being is perceived higher than in the wealthier northern neighbour, the United States. Quite a few Central and South American nations, as well as some Asian and Pacific countries do better than many wealthy nations. However, the African continent shows that at the bottom end extreme poverty can be a limiting factor in achieving sustainable well-being.

Headline of the day: The want freedom. . .to die


Yep the Koch brothers’ pals in Congress really do want to kill the poor, and the quickest way to do that is cut them off from things like emergency rooms and maternity care.

From the New York Times:

Consensus Eludes G.O.P. With Health Vote Looming

  • The hard-line Freedom Caucus met with President Trump but failed to reach a consensus on changes to the House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • They are pressing to eliminate federal requirements that health insurance plans provide basic benefits like maternity care, emergency services and wellness visits.

UPDATE: But it’s even worse. . .

More on what the Zealots want to cut from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

House Republicans, looking for a deal to secure their health care legislation, may scrap one of the Affordable Care Act’s most important consumer protections: requiring individual health insurers to cover ten essential health benefits.

The benefits are:

  • Pediatric services, including oral and dental care
  • Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care
  • Outpatient care
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization
  • Prescription drugs
  • Mental health and substance abuse services
  • Laboratory services
  • Rehabilitative services
  • Prevention services and chronic disease management

Without the mandatory coverage of essential benefits, the health law’s limits on out-of-pocket spending would be “essentially meaningless” because it applies only to those essential services, according to a blog post on Thursday by Timothy Jost, an Emeritus law professor at Washington and Lee University.

The health law’s ban on annual and lifetime coverage limits also applies only to essential benefits, meaning they too would be eliminated under the still-evolving GOP bill.

Charting the American rural/urban divides


Donald Trump’s populism starkly revealed the growing rural/urban divide in the United States, a divide exploited by Pussygrabber’s peculiar brand of populism.

As a look at this cartographic breakdown of county-by-county presidential vote results by Penn State physicist Mark Newman reveals, Democrats won majorities largely in coastal and urban counties, plus those less populated areas where non-anglos are in the majority:

Why are the two polities so different in their responses to a populist promising a political panacea?

The Conversation, an open source, lay language academic journal, asked a group of academics to describe some key differences between city and countryside, and their explanations are both in words and graphics:

Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today.

1. Poverty is higher in rural areas

Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.

Contrary to common assumptions, substantial shares of the poor are employed. Approximately 45 percent of poor, prime-age (25-54) householders worked at least part of 2015 in rural and urban areas alike.

The link between work and poverty was different in the past. In the early 1980s, the share of the rural poor that was employed exceeded that in urban areas by more than 15 percent. Since then, more and more poor people in rural areas are also unemployed – a trend consistent with other patterns documented below.

That said, rural workers continue to benefit less from work than their urban counterparts. In 2015, 9.8 percent of rural, prime-age working householders were poor, compared with 6.8 percent of their urban counterparts. Nearly a third of the rural working poor faced extreme levels of deprivation, with family incomes below 50 percent of the poverty line, or approximately US$12,000 for a family of four.

Large shares of the rural workforce also live in economically precarious circumstances just above the poverty line. Nearly one in five rural working householders lived in families with incomes less than 150 percent of the poverty line. That’s nearly five percentage points more than among urban workers (13.5 percent).

According to recent research, rural-urban gaps in working poverty cannot be explained by rural workers’ levels of education, industry of employment or other similar factors that might affect earnings. Rural poverty – at least among workers – cannot be fully explained by the characteristics of the rural population. That means reducing rural poverty will require attention to the structure of rural economies and communities.

Brian Thiede, Assistant Professor of Rural Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University


2. Most new jobs aren’t in rural areas

It’s easy to see why many rural Americans believe the recession never ended: For them, it hasn’t.

Rural communities still haven’t recovered the jobs they lost in the recession. Census data show that the rural job market is smaller now – 4.26 percent smaller, to be exact – than it was in 2008. In these data are shuttered coal mines on the edges of rural towns and boarded-up gas stations on rural main streets. In these data are the angers, fears and frustrations of much of rural America.

This isn’t a new trend. Mechanization, environmental regulations and increased global competition have been slowly whittling away at resource extraction economies and driving jobs from rural communities for most of the 20th century. But the fact that what they’re experiencing now is simply the cold consequences of history likely brings little comfort to rural people. If anything, it only adds to their fear that what they once had is gone and it’s never coming back.

Nor is it likely that the slight increase in rural jobs since 2013 brings much comfort. As the resource extraction economy continues to shrink, most of the new jobs in rural areas are being created in the service sector. So Appalachian coal miners and Northwest loggers are now stocking shelves at the local Walmart.

The identity of rural communities used to be rooted in work. The signs at the entrances of their towns welcomed visitors to coal country or timber country. Towns named their high school mascots after the work that sustained them, like the Jordan Beetpickers in Utah or the Camas Papermakers in Washington. It used to be that, when someone first arrived at these towns, they knew what people did and that they were proud to do it.

That’s not so clear anymore. How do you communicate your communal identity when the work once at the center of that identity is gone, and calling the local high school football team the “Walmart Greeters” simply doesn’t have the same ring to it?

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Health professionals declare war on TrumpCare™


Back when esnl was in knee-pants, members of the healthcare professions were adamantly opposed to government involvement in their bailiwick, with doctors especially deriding government involvement in the insurance racket as nothing less than [horrors] socialized medicine!.

Doctors in particular could be relief on by the GOP as reliably in their pocket.

But no more.

Consider the just-announced declarations of war from three healthcare alliances, allergists, psychologists, and nurses.

Allergists take a resolute stance

First, from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) are gravely concerned about the impact President Trump’s proposed budget, released earlier today, will have on the future of medical research. We call on Congress to reject the proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and instead, build on the commitment made last year to begin increasing spending for medical research.

The President’s budget blueprint recommends significant, largely unspecified, cuts to the budget of the NIH. In total, the proposed reduction would amount to approximately 20 percent of the NIH’s entire budget.

ACAAI president Stephen A. Tilles, MD and AAAAI president David B. Peden, MD said the following upon learning of the proposed cuts: “Although the budget blueprint released by President Trump earlier today is short on specifics, it is hard to imagine how cuts of this magnitude could be accomplished without doing serious harm to the core mission of the NIH – medical research. Together, we call upon Congress to reject any cuts to the NIH that would decrease the NIH’s ability to conduct life-saving medical research and training.”

NIH, and in particular the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are providing vital funding for medical research that could lead to life-improving treatments for individuals suffering from allergies, asthma, immunologic disorders and infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, emerging and reemerging infectious diseases).

Each year, billions of dollars are spent treating the causes and symptoms of food, drug and skin allergy, immunodeficiency, and asthma. Through the work of NIAID, NHLBI and NIEHS and the research they are funding, we have the opportunity to identify and develop life-saving and life-improving treatments for these widespread chronic conditions.

This past October, NIAID researchers announced promising results from an NIH sponsored clinical trial on the efficacy and value of an intervention for treating children and young adults with peanut allergies. This January a NIAID sponsored expert panel issued clinical guidelines to help health care providers give parents and caregivers important information on early introduction of peanut-containing foods to infants to prevent the development of peanut allergy. These are the type of results the American people can expect from supporting NIH (NIAID, NHLBI and NIEHS) and their medical research mission.

ACAAI and AAAAI call on Congress to continue its bi-partisan support for the NIH and the NIAID, NHLBI and NIEHS as it completes the 2017 appropriations process and embarks on enacting appropriations bills for fiscal year 2018.

And the headshrinkers weigh in

From the American Psychological Association:

The American Psychological Association and its affiliated APA Practice Organization sent a letter to congressional leaders stating their opposition to the American Health Care Act after a Congressional Budget Office analysis projected that the bill, if enacted into law, could double the proportion of Americans without health insurance by 2026.

“We believe that any health care reform legislation to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act considered by Congress should increase the number of Americans with coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment,” said the letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signed by APA President Antonio Puente, PhD, and Interim CEO Cynthia Belar, PhD. “As the recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office concludes, the American Health Care Act would significantly decrease Americans’ access to these services, and by 2026 would take coverage away from an estimated 24 million people who would have otherwise been covered under current law.”

The letter voiced concern that the AHCA would severely undermine Medicaid by instituting per capita caps in federal payments to states that would not keep pace with per enrollee spending growth and by eliminating the Medicaid expansion for Americans with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level. The CBO projected the AHCA would cut Medicaid spending by $880 billion over the next ten years and remove coverage from 14 million beneficiaries by 2026.

“These cuts are unconscionable in light of the large unmet need for mental and behavioral health and substance use services, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of Americans dying each year due to opioid addiction,” said the letter. “By drastically reducing federal spending for Medicaid, and by removing the requirement that Medicaid benchmark plans cover mental health, substance use, and behavioral health services, the American Health Care Act would jeopardize coverage for these life-saving treatments for the entire Medicaid population.”

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