November 19th, 2009

green leaves

Crohn's disease might be the result of an underactive immune system

A new theory suggests that a weak immune system allows infections to build up in the intestines.

This is kind of neat, not just in that it gives hope for better treatments for a debilitating disease, or that it supports cynicism because if the theory is right, then Crohn's sufferers were being given exactly the wrong treatment, but because it's a result of careful thought and checking the evidence.

The decade of medical backtracking
I had breast cancer back in 2000, and I am trying to come up with a way that I can use that experience to shed some light on these new findings. I have never believed that everything happens for a reason. But I do feel very strongly that everything happens so that it can be turned into a column.

Whatever the moral would be, I don’t think it helps Representative Camp’s argument. I had mammograms every year like clockwork, and I had just gotten a clean bill of health from my latest one when I found a lump on my left breast while watching a rerun of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” multitasker that I am.

It turned out to be cancer, of a fairly low-grade variety. My oncologist felt strongly that it never would have developed if I hadn’t taken estrogen replacement therapy — another one of the medical marvels that has now been consigned to the Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time category.

So, in summary, the cutting-edge of medical thinking of the 1990s may have induced my cancer, and then the universally recommended testing protocol failed to detect it.

If this isn't evidence that the Flynn Effect means something, I don't know what is. I can remember when medical humor for the general public consisted of funny stories about doctor visits.

Second link thanks to osewalrus.
green leaves

Sapolsky on depression

Sapolsky (who spends half the year studying baboons in the wild and the other half in the lab) talks about severe depression first from the angle of brain chemistry and then from the emotional angle.

I realized that severe depression could be viewed as an inability to heal-- a lot of people get knocked out for a while from bad events, but they come out of it on their own. What's more, there are people who have cyclical severe depression-- they go into and out of severe depression on a yearly or a year-and-a-half cycle. If someone has had four or five episodes of severe depression caused by bad events, their risk of falling into severe depression goes up sharply.

I can't swear that no one is studying spontaneous recovery from depression, but I'm pretty sure that if they are, it hasn't hit the popular press. I'm pretty sure that understanding the process of recovery would be an important clue to preventing depression.

Subject thanks to tamnonlinear, who posted about this Sapolsky lecture yesterday, but I couldn't get it to work and went looking for other lectures. Today it seems to be working. It's tempting to blame AVG, but that's probably unfair.

It was unfair-- the lecture just had a longish introduction.