Grab Bag The Eyes Have It:
The Consumer Electronics Show is running right now in Las Vegas. Much of what is shown there makes its way into the lives of mere mortals like us in the near future.
Like eye-controlled computing. Here’s what Time’s Techland had to say:
Forget the mouse, just look directly at whatever you want to manipulate on your screen. That’s the promise of Tobii’s eye-tracking technology. It won’t be affordable enough as a consumer product for a couple years but once it’s here, we may wonder how we ever lived without it. Try looking at something on your screen and then move your mouse cursor to the same spot. See how much faster your eyes move?
Availability: Medical use in about a year, consumer use about a year after that.
Read more: 12 coolest things at CES
Grab Bag Back Pain Revelation:
Remember when offices offering full body scans started popping up on street corners more than a decade ago? I remember being told by a wise doctor; “The technology is fine. It’s our interpretation of it that is going to present problems“.
Because we had no comparative studies of similar imaging, no body of evidence on which to rely, the medical community was and is often in the unfortunate position of over-diagnosing problems or attributing blame where none truly belongs, based on these new fantastically detailed images.
Take, for example, the issue of back pain. Every year Americans spend nearly $90 billion treating back pain. Yes. That’s billion with a “b”. That’s about what we spend on cancer treatment.
Journalist and neuroscience major Jonah Lehrer profiled this topic in Wired magazine. Here is an excerpt that might give you pause when considering an MRI to diagnose the cause of back pain:
The lower back is an exquisitely complicated area of the body, full of small bones, ligaments, spinal discs, and minor muscles. Then there’s the spinal cord itself, a thick cable of nerves that can be easily disturbed. There are so many moving parts in the back that doctors had difficulty figuring out what, exactly, was causing a person’s pain. As a result, patients were typically sent home with a prescription for bed rest.
This treatment plan, though simple, was still extremely effective. Even when nothing was done to the lower back, about 90 percent of people with back pain got better within six weeks. The body healed itself, the inflammation subsided, the nerve relaxed.
Over the next few decades, this hands-off approach to back pain remained the standard medical treatment. That all changed, however, with the introduction of magnetic resonance imaging in the late 1970s. These diagnostic machines use powerful magnets to generate stunningly detailed images of the body’s interior. Within a few years, the MRI machine became a crucial diagnostic tool.
The view afforded by MRI led to a new causal story: Back pain was the result of abnormalities in the spinal discs, those supple buffers between the vertebrae. The MRIs certainly supplied bleak evidence: Back pain was strongly correlated with seriously degenerated discs, which were in turn thought to cause inflammation of the local nerves. Consequently, doctors began administering epidurals to quiet the pain, and if it persisted they would surgically remove the damaged disc tissue.
But the vivid images were misleading. It turns out that disc abnormalities are typically not the cause of chronic back pain. The presence of such abnormalities is just as likely to be correlated with the absence of back problems, as a 1994 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed. The researchers imaged the spinal regions of 98 people with no back pain. The results were shocking: Two-thirds of normal patients exhibited “serious problems” like bulging or protruding tissue. In 38 percent of these patients, the MRI revealed multiple damaged discs. Nevertheless, none of these people were in pain. The study concluded that, in most cases, “the discovery of a bulge or protrusion on an MRI scan in a patient with low back pain may frequently be coincidental.”
Well, this is a bummer. My advice?
1. Think carefully about who is giving advice. If you call a roofer because you have a leak, he’ll be looking at your roof. If you call a plumber he’ll be looking at your plumbing. Are you speaking with an orthopedic, a chiropractor, a neurologist, a massage therapist, a surgeon…? Their answers can often be vastly different, as different as their training of diagnostics and treatment. So do plenty of internal investigation with your body before you pick up the phone.
2. Switch perspectives for a moment. Be sympathetic to the environment of the professional giving advice. They have numerous issues to consider when rendering opinions, just one of which is giving you the best possible advice. Sadly, they often have a ubiquitous insurance/legal cloud hanging over their decision-making process. Number crunching has given them stats and charts and “general” guidelines. If they don’t follow those, and you later take issue with that, they could be liable for malpractice. Trouble is, you’re not a chart or a graph or a number. So what’s diagnosed for many may not be right for you. And it may not have been right for a load of those that went before you, either, as was shown in this study on back pain.
3. Remember that you are not obliged to fill that prescription, take that x-ray, book that surgery. I’m not advocating a unilateral dismissal of rendered medical opinions, but I am encouraging you to be the most active and informed member of your healthcare team. Decisions are ultimately yours; in preventative behaviors, diagnoses, and treatments.
4. For back pain in particular…. SIT LESS. MOVE MORE.
Let me repeat… SIT LESS. MOVE MORE.
Sitting may be the worst thing we can do to our backs.
Grab Bag Tips and Tricks Part 1:
Got some of these sent to me recently… and they look pretty useful. I tried the first one here. Works like a charm, and preserves far more of the berry:
1. Hull strawberries with a straw:
2. Rub a walnut over scratches in furniture to disguise dings and scrapes:
3. Crayons on your TV or computer screen? Use WD40 to remove:
4. No browned apple slices here… cut the apple and put it back together with a rubber band:
5. Tidy up the linen cupboard by storing sheet sets inside their pillow cases:
6. Need to share your voice messages, recordings or music from your phone? Try using a bowl as an impromptu amplifier:
7. Store gift wrap up and out of the way by stretching wires across the walls of a closet near the ceiling:
8. Find small lost items like earrings by putting a stocking over the end of the vacuum hose:
Grab Bag “Moral Molecule”:
Make the world a better place through brain chemistry today. Paul Zak, PhD, shares how he discovered the “Moral Molecule” and how we can release more of it in ourselves and others:
Grab Bag Brain Game:
Sharpen your typing skills:
Grab Bag Funny Stuff:
To help save the economy, the Government will announce next month that the Immigration Department will start deporting seniors (instead of illegal’s) in order to lower Social Security and Medicare costs.
Older people are easier to catch and will not remember how to get back home.
I started to cry when I thought of you.
Then it dawned on me … oh, crap …
I’ll see you on the bus!