Monday, March 15, 2010

Are you blue or just blue? Some thoughts on the brain

 I just finished two books: The Brain That Changes Itself  by Norman Doidge and manufacturaing depression by Gary Greenberg (and no, I did not fail to capitalize the title; it is actually printed that way on the book. Maybe the author was too depressed to notice. arrrgh!).
The Brain That Changes Itself  is about neuroplasticity. Rather than becoming fixed at a early age, as is conventionally thought, the brain is capable of enormous change throughout life. The two most fascinating chapters focused on new treatments for stroke patients and disrupting OCD patterns.

Manufacturing depression (see, I had to re-write that without the capitol) begins with the history of the treatment of psychiatric problems up until what the author sees as the invention of depression. The history  of how mental problems came to be considered diseases was new to me. I was astounded to learn that some of the original drugs were derived from dye manufacture. The dye, methylene blue is the origin of Thorazine. I wonder if my mother knew that.
Another dye, summer blue, was the basis fror a drug used for treating depression.

And on Saturday I went to a lecture I thought was about photography but started with some details about what happens in the brain when we learn. Your brain is actually building material when you learn something and it take repeated practice to build the material. This explains why my head feels like I'm trying to push through mashed potatoes when I'm learning. There is a lot of work going on in there.

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