Via The Japan Times: ‘To date, Iran is the only country in the region actually fighting against Islamic State on both fronts, the one in Syria defending Bashar Assad’s government, which Iran has supported since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, and the other front in Iraq opposing the Sunni Islamic State. On the face of it, this suggests that a strategic alliance of Iran with the United States might benefit both.
In Washington last week, Sen. Rand Paul went on record as declaring on Buzzfeed that “If we were to get rid of Assad, it would be a jihadist wonderland in Syria.” He sees Syria and Iran as the “the two allies” who together would have the means, ability and motivation “to wipe out ISIS.”
But Barack Obama and John Kerry — and above all, both parties in the American Congress — are not interested.’
William Pfaff is an American journalist who focuses on foreign policy. His latest book is “The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy”
Via io9: ‘New research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but rather a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each of them with its own set of symptoms. The finding could result in improved diagnosis and treatment, while also shedding light on how genes work together to cause complex disorders.
…Complex diseases like schizophrenia may be influenced by hundreds or thousands of genetic variants that interact with one another in complicated and dynamic ways, leading to what scientists call “multifaceted genetic architectures.” Now, thanks to the work of investigators at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the genetic architecture for schizophrenia is starting to take shape.
…So, for example, hallucinations and delusions were associated with one set of DNA variations, that carried a 95% risk of schizophrenia. Another symptom, disorganized speech and behavior, was found to carry a 100% risk with another set of DNA.
…When it comes to schizophrenia and other complex conditions, individual genes have only a weak and inconsistent association (which is why it’s often silly to look for single-gene factors). But groups of interacting gene clusters create an extremely high and consistent risk of illness — in this case, on the order of 70% to 100%. It’s nearly impossible for people with these precise genetic variations to avoid the condition. In all, the researchers found no less than 42 clusters of genetic variations that significantly increase the risk of schizophrenia. “…What was missing was the idea that these genes don’t act independently. They work in concert to disrupt the brain’s structure and function, and that results in the illness.” ‘
As a clinical psychiatrist focusing on patients with this condition, this is a confirmation of my certainty about the heterogeneity of schizophrenia. When you try to do research on characteristics, causes, or treatment approaches to a diverse group of people sharing little beyond a diagnosis, it is no wonder that no strong conclusions emerge.
Via Psych News Alert: ‘The results, published in BMJ, showed that past use of benzodiazepines for three months or more was associated with an increased risk—up to 51%—for AD. The association increased even more with longer exposure to the anxiolytic. In addition, the use of long-acting forms of benzodiazepines increased risk for AD by 19 percent more than that of the short-acting. Results were sustained after adjusting for anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.“Benzodiazepines are known to be associated with an increased risk of worsening cognition…even in cognitively normal elderly subjects,” said Davangere Devanand, M.D., director of the geriatric psychiatry program at Columbia University, in an interview with Psychiatric News…’
The researchers, and the reaction to the study, focused on the potential pharmacological basis for the finding. But I have a different thought. There is substantial evidence that maintaining mental agility and stimulation can ward off the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. But chronic anxiolytic medication users are generally chronically anxious and risk-averse, thus probably less prone to continue to challenge themselves mentally.
Via Nautilus: ‘Knowledge about aliens might be as dangerous as the aliens themselves.’
Via io9: ‘If unconventional therapies like acupuncture can make patients feel better by bringing them a vague sense of well being, why not let them? Some scientists say we shouldn’t.’
The referendum is finally here, next Thursday, Sept. 18th. As a lover of Scotland, I have closely followed the issue. James Fallow, via The Atlantic, writes:
‘As advertised, I don’t plan to host an open-ended forum on the merits of the Scottish independence vote. If you’d like to see the Scottish government’s white paper supporting a Yes vote, go here. If you’ve missed Paul Krugman’s economic argument against it “Spain without the sunshine”, it’s here. If you’d like to know what the term “devo max” means, you can go here. Essentially, it’s much-increased Scottish autonomy within the U.K. If you’d like an apparently serious sky-is-falling argument that the Russians will invade Scotland if it votes Yes, you can find it here. But to round out the arguments, in one omnibus update, here are reader messages from four distinct perspectives.’
Via Dazed: ‘After his biggest success, he suffered a huge flop and ditched acting for four years to study philosophy in Paris…’