Friday, July 25, 2014

Best Post of January 2014 -- The Alzheimer Conundrum: New Book Challenges Long-Held Assumptions

Margaret Lock, PhD
The next in our Best of the Month series comes from January 16, 2014: 
Professor Margaret Lock supplies an ethnographic account of Alzheimer disease in her recent book, The Alzheimer Conundrum. Lock furnishes a comprehensive description of the events leading up to the recasting of the phenomenon of Alzheimer’s as a condition to be prevented. The author challenges traditional assumptions and statistics about Alzheimer’s and takes us on a journey from the disease’s original clinical case through the vacillations in the science world and the media regarding possible causes, diagnostics, biomarkers, genetics and cures. She questions prevalence estimates for the impending “Alzheimer’s epidemic” that has been forecast with great assurance by some interest groups. Lock raises provocative questions that extend beyond the realm of Alzheimer disease, such as: When is a disease not a disease? When is pathology normal? When does a natural entity become pathological? Worth a read for those of us who are charged with the responsibility of ultimately diagnosing Alzheimer disease at autopsy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"In a decade, the only people who are still playing football will be African-Americans and working class people." - Sociologist Harry Edwards

Harry Edwards, PhD
The public health policy debate (in which neuropathologists are inevitably enmeshed by virtue their involvement in the diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has taken on a new socio-economic ramification. I was reading an article this morning about NFL-player DeSean Jackson in the July 7th issue of ESPN The Magazine when I came across a provocative insight from sociologist Harry Edwards based on recent studies showing that white families and wealthier families are more informed about football-related concussions than their non-white and poor counterparts. Edwards had this to say about the changing demographics of football: "In a decade, the only people who are still playing football will be African-Americans and working class people."  Just as boxing was once embraced by Ivy League athletes but in recent decades dismissed as barbaric, football will one day be relegated to the underclass and only appreciated as a spectator sport among middle-class white people. Unsettling, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Best Post of December 2013: What Happened to Neuropathology in 1946

The next in our 'Best of the Month' series is from December 3, 2013. Since posting, three readers posted comments speculating as to what indeed did happen to neuropathology in 1946. See comments after the post below:

What happened to neuropathology in 1946?

The esteemed Dr. Jim Mandell and his son were recently playing with the amazing Google Books Ngram Viewer. Google Ngram searches a huge corpus of books for the mention of a particular search term. It then graphs the frequency with which that term appears over time. On a whim, the Mandell's entered the search term "neuropathologist". Here's the resulting graph:

I couldn't fit the y-axis label in the picture, but it ranges from 0% up to 0.00000300%. Dr. Mandell challenges his neuropathology colleagues to explain the sharp spike in the usage of "neuropathologist" around 1946-47. Please enter your speculations in the comment section. Dr. Mandell also points out the lamentable fact that it "appears we are past our peak".
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Gabrielle Yeaney said...
Not sure if I'm on to something but ...in 1946--certification in pathology was formally recognized, CAP was founded and in 1947--first stereotactic neurosurgical procedure performed. In the early 1940s, AMA recognized pathology as practice of medicine (1943);first neurosurgical training programs and American board of Neurological surgery established. Bernd Scheithauer was born in 1946. Maybe he started publishing at a very early age :) Thanks for the blog
jd said...
JNEN began in 1942.
shipcolldoc said...
It is likely just because WW II was over and a lot of medicine-related terminology other than war trauma would have come to the fore.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

3D print of white matter "captures a sense of delicate complexity that evokes a sense of wonder about the brain"

Creating an accurate 3D model of the brain's white matter for Philadelphia's Franklin Institute was a project no 3D printing company would tackle -- until 3D Systems (Rock Hill, SC) agreed to take it on. Here is an image of the finished project, which took about 210 hours to print out:

Interviewed for the tech website CNET, Franklin Institute chief bioscientist and lead exhibit developer Dr Jayatri Das said that the model "has really become one of the iconic pieces of the exhibit. Its sheer aesthetic beauty takes your breath away and transforms the exhibit space," said . "The fact that it comes from real data adds a level of authenticity to the science that we are presenting. But even if you don't quite understand what it shows, it captures a sense of delicate complexity that evokes a sense of wonder about the brain."

Thanks to the illustrious Dr. Doug Shevlin for informing me of this remarkable feat of engineering which, in his words, sits at "the intersection of neuroscience, computers and 3D printing".