When Daniel first walked into London’s National Hospital, ophthalmologist Michael Sanders could have had little idea that he would permanently alter our view of human consciousness.
Daniel turned up saying that he was half blind. Although he had healthy eyes, a brain operation to cure headaches seemed to have destroyed a region that was crucial for vision. The result was that almost everything to the left of his nose was invisible to him. It was as if he were looking out of a window, with the curtains drawn across half of his world.
And yet, as Sanders began testing him, he noticed something very strange: Daniel could reach out and grab Sanders’ hand, even when it must have fallen right behind his blind spot. It was as if some kind of “second sight” was guiding his behaviour, beyond his conscious awareness.
Intrigued, Sanders referred Daniel to the psychologists Elizabeth Warrington and Lawrence Weiskrantz, who confirmed the hunch with a series of clever tests. They placed a screen in front of Daniel’s blind spot, for instance, and asked him to point at a circle, when it appeared in different places. Daniel was adamant that he could not see a thing, but Weiskrantz persuaded him to just “take a guess”. Surprisingly, he was almost always right. Or Weiskrantz and Warrington would present a single line on the screen, and Daniel had to decide whether it was horizontal or vertical. Again, Daniel was adamant that nothing had appeared before his eyes, yet his accuracy was around 80%, much more than if he had been guessing randomly.
Dr. Kendra Fleagle Gorlitsky recalls the anguish she used to feel performing CPR on elderly, terminally ill patients.
“I felt like I was beating up people at the end of their life,” she says.
It looks nothing like what people see on TV. In real life, ribs often break and few survive the ordeal.
Gorlitsky now teaches medicine at the University of Southern California and says these early clinical experiences have stayed with her.
“I would be doing the CPR with tears coming down sometimes, and saying, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, goodbye.’ Because I knew it very likely was not going to be successful. It just seemed a terrible way to end someone’s life.”
Gorlitsky wants something different for herself and for her loved ones. And most other doctors do too: A Stanford University study shows almost 90 percent of doctors would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment if facing a terminal illness. Continue reading →
Sleeping on your side rather than your back or stomach might play a role in helping reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases, according to a new study.
Side sleeping opens a passage in the brain called the glymphatic pathway that dispels waste and other chemicals, say the researchers from Stony Brook University in the US.
“It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild – and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” says Dr Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester.
Office workers should abandon their chairs for half their working day to reduce their risk of heart attacks, cancer, or diabetes, according to new guidance recommending people spend at least two hours – and preferably four – a day on their feet.
Bosses should provide desks which people can stand at, and allow workers to have regular breaks to walk around, according to the new study, commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) and the Active Working Community Interest Company.
And companies should warn their employees that: “prolonged sitting, aggregated from work and in leisure time, may significantly and independently increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases and premature mortality,” says the expert guidance which is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Office workers should spend at least two hours a day “standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of 4 h,” recommends the first ever British guidance designed to curb the health risks of too much time sitting down.
Corn biscuits for breakfast; veggie dogs for lunch; okra, tomato and black-eyed peas for tea. It’s probably not a diet to tempt most Americans into shedding a few pounds.
But swapping westernised eating habits for the high-fibre diet of millions of people living in rural southern Africa could dramatically cut the risk of bowel cancer in the West, according to an innovative ‘diet swap’ study.
In research which saw 20 Americans switching diets with 20 South Africans living in rural Kwazulu, scientists saw dramatic effects on bowel cancer risk indicators after just two weeks.
A paralysed man has been able to walk again after a pioneering therapy that involved transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.
Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame.
The treatment, a world first, was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.
Details of the research are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.
BBC One’s Panorama programme had unique access to the project and spent a year charting the patient’s rehabilitation.
Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralysed after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in the 2010 attack.
He said walking again – with the support of a frame – was “an incredible feeling”, adding: “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again.”
A radical procedure that involves replacing a patient’s blood with cold salt water could retrieve people from the brink of death, says David Robson.
Rhee isn’t exaggerating. With Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland, College Park, he has shown that it’s possible to keep bodies in ‘suspended animation’ for hours at a time. The procedure, so far tested on animals, is about as radical as any medical procedure comes: it involves draining the body of its blood and cooling it more than 20C below normal body temperature.
Once the injury is fixed, blood is pumped once again through the veins, and the body is slowly warmed back up. “As the blood is pumped in, the body turns pink right away,” says Rhee. At a certain temperature, the heart flickers into life of its own accord. “It’s quite curious, at 30C the heart will beat once, as if out of nowhere, then again – then as it gets even warmer it picks up all by itself.” Astonishingly, the animals in their experiments show very few ill-effects once they’ve woken up. “They’d be groggy for a little bit but back to normal the day after,” says Tisherman. Continue reading →