Medicine & Health

Neurophilosophy

Category archives for Medicine & Health

THE dangers of obesity are very well known. Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the Western world. Gout is more common in overweight people, with the risk of developing the condition increasing in parallel with body weight. Obese people are…

THINKING of and saying a word is something that most of us do effortlessly many times a day. This involves a number of steps – we must select the appropriate word, decide on the proper tense, and also pronounce it correctly. The neural computations underlying these tasks are highly complex, and whether the brain performs…

THE vegetative and minimally conscious states are examples of what are referred to as disorders of consciousness. Patients in these conditions are more or less oblivious to goings-on in their surroundings – they exhibit few, if any, signs of conscious awareness, and are usually unable to communicate in any way. It is, therefore, extremely difficult…

Voluntary amputation and extra phantom limbs

If someone told you that they wanted to have a perfectly good leg amputated, or that they have three arms, when they clearly do not, you would probably be inclined to think that they are mentally disturbed. Psychiatrists, too, considered such conditions to be psychological in origin. Voluntary amputation, for example, was regarded as a…

The biggest medical breakthrough of the year

The top medical breakthrough of the year, according to TIME Magazine, is the creation of motor neurons from ALS patients. (Here are all 50 of the magazine’s Top 10 lists for 2008.) This work was carried out by researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities, and published in the journal Science back in August. I wrote…

The term body image was coined by the great neurologist Henry Head and refers to a mental representation of one’s physical appearance. Constructed by the brain from past experience and present sensations, the body image is a fundamental aspect of both self-awareness and self-identity, and can be disrupted in many conditions. Disruption of the body…

Removal of a parasitic worm from the brain

Fox 10 News has a rather gruesome story about the removal of a live parasitic worm from a woman’s brain, which is accompanied by a film clip  containing footage of the surgical procedure. As the film explains, the woman, who lives in Arizona, first started to experience flu-like symptoms, followed by numbness in her left…

Brain surgery with a banjo

The BBC has film footage of the legendary Bluegrass musician Eddie Adcock playing the banjo whilst having his brain operated on. Adcock is suffering from essential tremor, a progressive neurological condition characterised by tremors in the arms which appear during voluntary movements and which are thought to occur as a result of degeneration of cerebellar…

Knife plunged 5 inches into skull

These X-rays show a knife plunged into the skull of a 16-year-old boy from southeast London. Fortunately, his injuries were nowhere near as serious as they might have been – according to a police officer quoted in The Times, “the blade was a kitchen knife and because of that it was flexible and went around…

Exercise repairs radiotherapy-induced brain damage

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for adults and children who present with tumours in or close to the brain. In the last 20 years, advances in radiotherapy have significantly improved the prognosis for brain cancer patients. However, the resulting longer survival rates reveal that the therapy has deleterious effects on brain health – even…