Musings on aerial chairlifts at ski resorts.
Thoughts and observations on media, technology, community, education and modern life.
Houston, the city most affected by Hurricane Harvey, is named in honor of former Texas governor Sam Houston. He was the lone governor within a future Confederate state to oppose secession from the Union in 1861, which led to his removal from office. To avoid bloodshed of fellow countrymen, he also refused an offer of a Union army to put down the Confederate rebellion. Instead, he retired to the country, where he died before the end of the Civil War.
Social species exhibit even higher degrees of positive group behaviors when facing a common adversity. Can we do even better and rewire our brains to be this way all the time, with or without a crisis?
Reflections on Burning Man
My cognitive function has been significantly altered since suffering a series of major hockey-related concussions during my 20s. We didn’t know much about concussions back then. However, even today’s “conservative approach” and “concussion protocol” may too turn out to be another round of false security that we will further regret in the future.
While it may protect against direct impact, helmets do little to protect against the various secondary physical forces (example: shearing forces of differential tissue deceleration) that can cause permanent neuroanatomic damage to the brain, including those found in TBI, diffuse axonal injury and CTE. Spuriously, the vast majority of people who eventually will end up with CTE can look normal by every imaging and blood tests for decades after the injury; thus, normal tests in the early years can be misleadingly reassuring.
On a separate note, in the last 3 MRIs shown to me by friends whose kids suffered sports-related concussions that were bad enough to miss school time, I noticed an anatomic shape variation in a part of the brain that regulates mood, memory, vision, sleep and headache. As a radiologist, I have never seen it described in the medical literature and my neurologist colleague at Stanford hadn’t heard of it either. Since these cases did not have baseline scans, I don’t know if the concussion caused this variation. I also don’t know if the kids had this particular variation before the trauma — it can be congenital — and this predisposed them to manifest more severe symptoms after impact. It’s too small a sample size for me to be concerned at this point, but I’m going to look for this finding in MRIs of other kids that develop concussions, and if the pattern persists, I may fund a formal study at Stanford.
I am concerned how little we know about the biology of concussions in 2017.
Homeostatic capacity—a concept analogous to resilience, strength, buffer, robustness, antifragility, and antifrailty—is the efficiency of an autoregulatory system to maintain functional homeostasis against ubiquitous stressors and entropy. The interaction of homeostatic capacity and stressors determines health. We envision a model for healthy, functional longevity based on evaluating and improving homeostatic capacity.
Homeostasis is a relatively stable state of equilibrium. Homeostatic capacity (or allostatic capacity, buffering capacity, compensatory capacity, or autoregulatory capacity) is the efficiency of an autoregulatory system to maintain functional homeostasis. The interaction of homeostatic capacity and stressors determines health. We envision a model for healthy, functional longevity based on evaluating and improving homeostatic capacity.
We can try to combat the fake news culture by:
- Regulating media, forcing them to stop
- Asking media to stop
Obviously, these are not viable solutions. Regulating media would be censorship. If existing news outlets policed themselves, other fake news sites would arise like to fill the gap and lure the unwitting.
Another option is for us to take responsibility for seeking truth rather than taking the bait of headlines that fit our pre-existing worldviews. Yet the latter tendency is precisely what evolution selected and is difficult to override. Media outlets dedicated to fact-checking and balanced editorials are themselves subject to bias. Moreover, people generally don’t seek those features in the first place or they process the information through biased mental models. Primary sources, even when available, are rarely offered or sought.
There is no tidy solution and that’s troubling.
Aging & Longevity Grand Challenge
As the inaugural challenge in its Grand Challenges in Health and
Medicine initiative, the National Academy of Medicine will seek to
transform the future of human aging and longevity by catalyzing
innovation and progress.
Human beings are living longer than ever before, thanks to dramatic
advances in medicine, public health, and economic and social progress. Exciting innovations in science and technology have potential to improve quality of life as we age — and even extend the lifespan. As the world’s aging population approaches a tipping point, accompanied by unsustainable health care costs and social burden, it has never been more urgent to support the next breakthroughs in healthy aging.