Source: Wikimedia Commons | Nobu Tamura People have long pondered what consciousness actually is. Consciousness seems very different from other biological functions—like some sort of nonmaterial essence within our heads. Thoughts and feelings seem ethereal, untethered from anything physical. Self-awareness seems like a phenomenon utterly divorced from anything that could possibly be produced by cells comprised of physical particles. People used to think of life itself that way too, and many still do. But biologists solved the enigma of what makes things alive mid-way through the twentieth century, the foundations of that understanding having been built over the preceding century. Before that, living things were believed to possess some sort of animating essence that accounted for their difference from inanimate matter. People could not imagine how the same material particles that comprise inanimate matter could be arranged in such a way as to make something alive , without … [Read more...] about What Actually Is Consciousness, and How Did It Evolve?
How the states got their shapes
Going into the third calendar month of working from home (WFH) for many Americans, the novelty has started to wear thin. But behavioral science insights can help us improve our home workspaces and habits. Last month I shared the first part of my Balanced Checklist : a behavioral-science-based tool you can use to craft a home workspace supporting well-being and productivity . Having covered Biophilia , Atmospheric conditions, Layout, and Amenities, we’ll now move on to look at Noise, Cohesion, Energy, and Design. Noise . Moderating noise levels and content is essential to successful WFH. But the ideal conditions will depend on the type of work you’re doing, and may even vary throughout the day. While this is a multifaceted topic, the gist is that silence is most productive for higher cognitive processing and complex verbal processes (e. g . data analysis or report writing). But music or other moderate, continuous background noise may be more motivating, both for creative … [Read more...] about Balancing Your Home Workspace for Well-Being and Productivity
Key Points: Hearing that they have "degenerative disc disease" can frighten many people into pursuing spinal surgery. But rather than being pathological, degenerating discs and decreased spinal flexibility are normal parts of aging—and may not be responsible for any pain that the patient is experiencing. Surgery can be helpful for some patients with structural spinal problems. But it comes with risks and positive outcomes aren't guaranteed; thus, it should only be pursued when absolutely necessary. Surgeries being performed for axial neck, thoracic, and low back pain on normally aging spines was a major reason I quit my spinal surgery practice in 2019. Not only was the success rate low, patients were often much worse after the surgeries and few physicians were willing to take care of them. At the same time, I was witnessing hundreds of patients consistently break free from chronic pain using evidence-based treatments and they usually did not require surgery. … [Read more...] about Spine Surgery: Proceed at Your Own Risk
Source: Uniraniano, CC 4.0, Wikimedia Hippocrates said, “First, do no harm.” That time-honored entreaty has implications far beyond medicine. But let’s start there. Medicine. As with all bumper-sticker advice, it’s simplistic. Sometimes, it's wise to choose to harm a patient in hopes of preventing worse harm. For example, surgeons cut out a cancer in hopes of preventing metastasis. Dentists perform a root canal to prevent more serious infection. Physical therapists ask patients to do painful exercises to avoid the sequela of atrophy. On the other hand, sometimes, physicians’ craving for understanding and to avoid being accused of inadequately responding motivates them to order tests and treatments that have poor cost-benefit. An obvious example is suggesting that a Stage 4 cancer patient undergo high-side-effect/low-payoff chemotherapy. Perhaps less obvious is when a doctor orders a test, the results of which would be interesting but doesn’t suggest a worthwhile treatment. … [Read more...] about “First Do No Harm”
Source: Elia Pellegrini/Unsplash I mentioned several months back that I’m writing in fits and starts my memoir. I’ve actually be ‘trying’ to write it for at least a decade. I know Yoda – 'Do or Do Not. There is no try.' But I beg to differ in this case. Or maybe you’re right. I ‘do’ but I have ‘do’ well. I haven’t been happy with the ‘do’ that I have done. I guess you could l call ‘do doo’. Oh dear. Anyway…I wanted to let in on why it’s been so hard for me. Maybe you can offer some insight, support or ideas. Why has it been so difficult for me to write? Well, my mental illness (perhaps like some other people’s) is a big yarn ball of psychotic and spiritual experiences. I’m trying to tease them apart; make sense of them. I’m wanting to shed light on the intersection of spiritual experience and mental illness; the struggle I had and still have of knowing my mental illness and extraordinary experiences can co-exist without minimizing either. When I’ve written my plays, I … [Read more...] about Is There Something Spiritual about Psychosis?