What America can learn from Nordic police

‘The Nordic countries… have both enormously smaller police departments and prison systems than the United States, and much less violent crime, especially murders. Emulating their basic approach could allow American cities to cleanse themselves of police abuse and still enjoy lower crime….’

— Via The Week

Death due to sleep deprivation is linked to the gut

The morbidity and mortality of sleep deprivation has long been recognized. A new study in the journal Cell by researchers from the Harvard Medical School finds that some of the damage may be mediated by an unexpected culprit — oxidative stress caused by a buildup of the molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the gut. In sleep-deprived fruit flies and mice, at least, the effects can be reversed, even with continuing sleep deprivation, by aggressive use of any of 11 various antioxidants including melatonin, lipoid acid, and NAD. These antioxidants did not extend the lifespan or improve the health of non-sleep deprived control subjects. 

 

— Via Big Think

The neurobiology of social distance: Why loneliness may be the biggest threat to survival and longevity

‘Never before have we experienced social isolation on a massive scale as we have during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. A new paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explores the wide-ranging, negative consequences that social isolation has on our psychological well-being and physical health, including decreased life span. The paper was co-authored by Associate Professor Danilo Bzdok (McGill University and Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute) and Emeritus Professor Robin Dunbar (University of Oxford)….’

— Via Neuroscience News

Psilocybin Seems to Turn Down ‘Ego Center’ in Brain

The claustrum, a thin sheet of neurons deep within the cortex with extremely rich and global input and output connections to myriad other brain regions, has been suspected by neuroscientists of being the seat of consciousness. Because of its location in the brain, the claustrum has been difficult to access or assess. Now a new study from Johns Hopkins, utilizing a new functional MRI (fMRI) technique developed for the purpose, demonstrates a downturn in activity in the claustrum after psilocybin use as compared with taking a placebo. This may be the neural basis of the reduced sense of self or ego, and feeling of connection to the cosmos, in psychedelic experiences. Now the researchers plan to examine claustral activity in various psychiatric disorders such as depression and psychosis as well as assess the effect of other psychedelic substances on its function. 

— Via Psych Central

Police brutality: A historian explains how racist policing took over US cities

Khalil Muhammad, a professor of history, race, and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and author of the book The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, documents a century of systemic police racism in America. Essentially, he explains that, after the abolition of slavery in 1865, white supremicists in the South quickly turned to an ideology that criminalized expressions of black freedom, economic and social rights. In a vicious circle, the resultant higher rates of black incarceration reinforce the idea of black criminality, resulting in more incarcerations, etc. We saw the relentless consolidation of a set of facts ‘proving’ that black people have a crime problem. Those who were not imprisoned could be kept working in a subordinate way perpetuating their exploitation. 

The idea of black criminality justified segregation, especially after the great migration northward, where justice tended to rely more on policing rather than its vigilante basis in the South. Black people in white spaces became presumptively suspect and ipso facto policing black communities was necessary to prevent crime and protect white privilege in America.

— Via Vox

Mandela’s Sermon

Blessed are the dehumanized
for they have nothing to lose
but their patience

False gods killed the poet in me. Now
I dig graves
with artistic precision

© 2002, Keorapetse Kgositsile

Via Poetry International

Covid-19 Can Persist at Least Several Months

Interesting article by one of my favorite science writers, Ed Yong, in The Atlantic starts out as a review of the “long-haulers” whose Covid symptoms don’t get better as expected. As an aside keep in mind that this does not mean that symptomatic people are still contagious, i.e. shedding virus. One of the big things we still don’t know about this disease are which symptoms come directly from viral devastation of various organs and which from the resultant immune response from the body.

But the interesting part of the article for me is Yong’s mapping of long-haul Covid infection to so-called medical gaslighting — the profession’s downplaying of patients’ physical complaints as being “all in their head” or caused by stress, especially in women and, as Yong points out, in communities of color. There is a long history of mysterious illnesses — most notably chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis in the UK) and fibromyalgia — of unclear causes, debilitating chronic symptoms, and no clear treatments.

Clusters of ME/CFS have followed many infectious outbreaks and even those medical professionals who take them seriously and do not dismiss them as purely psychiatric syndromes may be forgiven for failing to recognize that they probably cannot be reduced to being merely longterm or chronic variants of their mother diseases. Long ago I wrote a book chapter on controversial syndromes on the medical-psychiatric borderline. I focused on chronic fatigue syndrome and was guilty as charged myself, reviewing the data that it was essentially chronic Epstein-Barr virus infection. And in recent years I have lectured and taught about what some of us have described as chronic Lyme disease. Not that I am any kind of expert on these conditions. In fact, that is exactly the point — that this should be in the domain of the immunologists or infectious disease specialists rather than the psychiatrists. It is too soon to see if my non-psychiatric colleagues will begin sending post-Covid patients to us to treat postviral syndrome symptoms as if they are “just” emotional reactions.

Dealing with a novel medical condition which the world had never seen even six months ago should humble healthcare providers by highlighting how much we operate in the realms of mystery and ignorance. On the front lines, the dizzying pace of refining our approach in the face of such a moving target has been unprecedented. The unfortunate cases in which Covid infection appears to simply not go away may actually help us to finally realize that there may be a common syndrome affecting some with systemic infectious diseases. Much as we have stopped diagnosing or teaching about chronic Epstein-Barr, we should perhaps stop considering entites like “chronic Lyme” or “long-haul Covid” to be distinct entities and acknowledge the commonalities.

Several teams of investigators are already planning studies of Covid infection survivors to see if any become ME/CFS patients. A unifying conception would help stigmatized patients and might actually point the way to elucidating underlying mechanisms that might facilitate therapeutic interventions, And, established as having real, albeit complicated, causes, maybe psychiatrists like me should stop considering them to be in our province, the province of “all in the head”, at all? Mental health providers are going to have their hands full as it is helping with the devastating neuropsychiatric and emotional consequences of this pandemic.

As Yong concludes:

Perhaps COVID-19 will … galvanize an even larger survivor cohort. Perhaps, collectively, they can push for a better understanding of neglected chronic diseases, and an acceptance of truths that the existing disability community have long known. That health and sickness are not binary. That medicine is as much about listening to patients’ subjective experiences as it is about analyzing their organs. That being a survivor is something you must also survive.

Effrontery Without Limits: Trump Presumes to Speak for George Floyd

‘Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, ‘There’s a great thing that’s happening for our country,’” President Trump said in the Rose Garden Friday, celebrating a May unemployment report that showed “only” 21 million people — 13.3 percent of the workforce — out of work.

“This is a great day for him, it’s a great day for everybody,” Trump continued. “This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

For about the millionth time in the past four years, America asks: What the hell is he talking about?

Trump has long presumed to speak for the dead and their thoughts as they “look down” at us. But implying, as Trump appeared to do, that George Floyd is having “a great day” in the afterlife because of the May jobs report? Trump’s effrontery has no end….’

— Dana Millbank writing in The Washington Post