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October 4, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: Why I don't feel your pain


Long story short: The apparent lack of empathy is acquired — not genetic.

Shankar Vedantam's October 1, 2007 Washington Post story about how physicians learn to not feel bad when they hurt you was interesting, and follows.

    Physicians Learn to Suppress Empathy Reaction, Study Shows

    Seeing another person subjected to an awful fate — eaten alive by a shark, say, or jumping from a burning building — it's difficult not to flinch. This automatic response of empathy is triggered by the activation of a brain circuit that includes regions known as the anterior insula, periaqueductal gray and anterior cingulate cortex.

    Scientists in Taiwan and Chicago recently asked a simple question: What happens to that response in the brains of physicians, who inflict pain on patients during medical procedures?

    Fourteen physicians and fourteen people who were not doctors recently had their brains scanned as they watched videos of acupuncture procedures. While the non-medical volunteers showed a strong activation of the brain regions involved in the empathy circuit, the physicians did not, according to a study to be published in next week's issue of Current Biology. It was led by Yawei Cheng of Taipei's National Yang-Ming University.

    The physicians, instead, showed activation in their prefrontal cortex, in brain areas related to thinking and control of emotions.

    "They have learned through their training and practice to keep a detached perspective; without such a mechanism, performing their practice could be overwhelming or distressing, and as a consequence impair their ability to be of assistance for their patients," said co-author Jean Decety, professor in psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago.


Here is a link to a summary of the article in Current Biology cited above; the summary itself (by the authors) follows.

    Expertise Modulates the Perception of Pain in Others

    Perceiving the pain of others activates a large part of the pain matrix in the observer. Because this shared neural representation can lead to empathy or personal distress, regulatory mechanisms must operate in people who inflict painful procedures in their practice with patient populations in order to prevent their distress from impairing their ability to be of assistance. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging MRI study, physicians who practice acupuncture were compared to naive participants while observing animated visual stimuli depicting needles being inserted into different body parts, including the mouth region, hands, and feet. Results indicate that the anterior insula somatosensory cortex, periaqueducal gray, and anterior cingulate cortex were significantly activated in the control group, but not in the expert group, who instead showed activation of the medial and superior prefrontal cortices and the temporoparietal junction, involved in emotion regulation and theory of mind.


Constant readers may recall a March 7, 2007 post in which I wrote, "... a raw, honest and unflinching report about how little us doctors care about you — and why, if you're to get the very best results possible, that apparently inhuman, cold attitude is not an option but, rather, a necessity.

"Long story short: If your neurosurgeon is psychologically devastated when a patient dies on the table and then finds her- or himself unable to sleep that night, well, that's all very warm and caring — but what if you're the first case on the schedule the next morning?"

I was inundated by email about my poor attitude following that post.

Maybe this one will help you understand why my seeming indifference can save your life.

On another note, maybe the fact that I can't stand movie scenes where someone gets gored or beaten up or even shoots up, and that I avoid horror movies like the plague, means that I'm not really a doctor after all.

Could've fooled me.

October 4, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Yoga Socks


From the website:

    Yoga Socks

    Ideal for public places like gyms and yoga studios, these socks give you a barefoot feeling while protecting your feet.

    Your toes remain exposed so you can grip during exercise, but everything else is covered.

    Knit from soft-as-silk, sweat-absorbing, antibacterial bamboo, socks have special nonslip soles so your feet won’t slide out from under you.

    Unisex sizes S (ladies’ 4–7), M (ladies’ 7–10, men’s 6–9), and L (ladies’ 10–13, men’s 9–12).

    Set includes one pair each of Flesh/Blue [pictured above] and Black/Black.

    Arrives in a mesh drawstring bag.

    Machine wash.

Two pair as described above cost $29.95.

October 4, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brian Eno's 'Music for Airports'


It was about 29 years ago today (1978, to be more precise) that Brian Eno "penned a few meditative compositions designed to keep the blood pressure down when the nice folks at United would send your luggage to Dallas instead of Dulles," wrote Chris Richards in a September 2, 2007 Washington Post story about the genesis of the music; the article follows.

    How Brian Eno Helped Travelers Check Their Emotional Baggage

    Can anything soothe the cranky air traveler, that wretched soul suffering in the purgatory of a 14-hour holdover at O'Hare?

    Xanax? Cinnabon?

    What about music?

    In 1978, Brian Eno thought so.

    So he penned a few meditative compositions designed to keep the blood pressure down when the nice folks at United would accidentally send your luggage to Dallas instead of Dulles. Those four slices of sublime sonic vapor make up Eno's now-legendary "Ambient 1: Music for Airports," an album that taught an entire generation of musicians to consider music as a texture. But as a summer of historic airport delays reaches its tangled climax this Labor Day weekend, the album's legacy still resonates at the terminal.

    Eno's name might be fuzzy, but you know his work. The 59-year-old British musician has produced big albums for David Bowie ("Low," "Heroes") and colossal albums for U2 ("Joshua Tree," "Achtung Baby"). But Eno's artistry is even more ubiquitous than those musicians': He's the guy who composed that cascading trill for Microsoft back in the '90s — the one you hear when you turn on your PC.

    Before all that, he was just a refugee from glam rock troupe Roxy Music who found himself curiously drawn to Muzak. Eno embraced the idea of sound as part of one's physical environment, but balked every time he paused for a closer listen. ("Feelings?" Blech!) He wanted to hear Muzak of a higher caliber — innocuous aural atmospheres that could pacify the eardrums without turning the brain to marshmallow. In the liner notes of "Airports," he asserts that "ambient" music "must be as ignorable as it is interesting."

    Prophetic words, dude.

    To the iPod generation 30 years later, nearly all music has become ambient music. Our commutes, our house chores, our cardio routines all demand their own respective soundtracks, leaving little time to actually sit and listen to much of anything. Isn't Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" really just "Music for Afternoon Dog Walk"? Or Spoon's latest "Music for Dishwashing?"

    The idea makes sense to the marketing gurus at Nike. Last year, the sneaker behemoth teamed up with iTunes to launch "Nike+Original Run," a series of workout mixes designed for joggers by electronica duo the Crystal Method, dance-punk group LCD Soundsystem and rapper-producer Aesop Rock.

    But where those recordings aim to raise your pulse, "Music for Airports" aims to lower it. The recording itself still sounds weightless and untethered, as if Eno discovered a way to translate sound into perfume. The album's first cut, "1/1," layers separate loops of a simple piano phrase for 16 blissful minutes. The other tracks are just as serene, creating a slow-motion soundscape populated by women who sing like synthesizers and synthesizers that murmur like timid horns.

    There's little evidence that it ever caught on at airports, though it was played for a month at New York's La Guardia in 1981. Today, most airports are too busy broadcasting a steady stream of security warnings, maybe with a few gurgling pop hits between announcements.

    "Music for Airports" was composed in an era when air travel was still a romantic affair — a far cry from today's paranoia drill, where getting through security becomes a shoeless, beltless, helpless exercise in humility. In this light, Eno's ambient breakthrough feels more vital — and functional — than ever.

    Next time you find yourself stuck in line, stuck in security, stuck in Atlanta — break out the iPod and let "Music for Airports" provide some sonic succor.

    They can take our shampoo, but they can't take our ear buds.


"Music for Airports" will set you back $13.99 at Amazon.

Chance that William Gibson has heard "Music for Airports?"


October 4, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Flat Whisk


From the website:

    Flat Whisk

    For stirring sauces and gravies, this professional-quality tool is an essential element of any cook’s batterie de cuisine.

    The curved flexible wire head stirs sauces as they thicken while also pressing out lumps, ensuring smooth results.

    The stainless-steel whisk is dishwasher safe.

    10" long.




October 4, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MorphWorld: Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty into Jason Taylor


The 36-year-old first term mayor and last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year, just turned 33:


whad'ya think?

October 4, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Motorcycle Wall Clock


A little something to liven up the old cubicle, what?

From the website:

    Motorcycle Wall Clock

    Motorcycle Wall Clock roars down the pike with authentic sounds every hour on the hour!

    Detailed replica of a real, mean, racing machine is a conversation piece and one cool way to keep time.

    Accurate quartz timepiece has easy-to-read numbers, sweep second hand and built-in hang hook.

    Uses 3 AA batteries (not included).

    9" x 8" x 4-1/2"D.


October 4, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to get a UPC (Universal Product Code)


Many retailers require a product to have one before they'll sell it.

If you're like me you haven't a clue how to go about getting one.

That's why they invented the Wall Street Journal.

In the September 4, 2007 issue Kelly Spors's "Small Talk" column featured a Q&A on the subject, which follows.

    How Do I Get a UPC?

    Q: I am starting a small business and will have one product that I plan to sell to retail outfits. I have found that many retailers will require my product to have a universal product code. How do I get a UPC?

    A: UPCs — the 12-digit numbers that appear under the barcodes on many U.S. products — are given out by GS1 US, a nonprofit group that sets standards for international commerce.

    Here's how it works: Businesses pay to join GS1 US, and in exchange, it assigns each member its own identification number that appears as the first part of its UPC.

    Companies usually need different UPC codes for each product they sell, even if it is just a different size. So companies will add more numbers to their GS1-issued identification code to identify each of their products. Each UPC can be used to produce a specific barcode that can then be printed out and attached to products or, ideally, incorporated into the product design so that it is easily scanned at the register.

    But going this route isn't exactly cheap. For membership in GS1 US, you must pay an initial fee of least $750 and then an annual maintenance fee of at least $150. The fees depend on the number of unique products you sell, along with your annual revenue. A membership form can be filled out online on GS1's Web site, www.gs1us.org.

    Another option: Some Internet-based companies, including buyabarcode.com, now resell UPC codes for less than $100, so small companies don't have to pay to join GS1 themselves.


    You will be paying for the use of that company's identification number — not your own. That means your products' UPC will begin with another company's ID number. It can be a fine solution if you are cash-strapped or working with small or independent retailers — if the retailers don't mind — and just selling one or two products.

    But it won't work if you're planning to sell through major retailers because they generally require product makers to have their own identification numbers.

October 4, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Drapery and Curtain Vacuum Attachment

Could be most useful.

I mean, you're not very likely to remove your drapes or curtains or whatever window treatments you have up and then take them in for cleaning.


From the website:

    Drapery Vacuum Attachment

    Safely whisks away dust from drapes, bedspreads and furniture — roller prevents fabric from getting sucked into the vacuum.

    Fits most standard vacuum nozzle heads to rid curtains of dust, dirt, loose pet hair and allergens.

    Durable, for years of use.

    12-1/2 x 2-1/2".



October 4, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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