Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: Why your doctor may not be giving you the best possible treatment

21 June 2009

Why your doctor may not be giving you the best possible treatment

He may be a genius, but would you really want him as your personal physician?

The Last Psychiatrist recently ran a short, thoughtful piece on out-of-the-box medical treatments, and it's definitely worth reading in full. :

The New Yorker had a recent article on Ramachandran, the neurologist famous for discovering that phantom limb pain wasn't the result of damaged nerve endings in the stump, but of a brain malfunction: the brain had rewired itself to think that a stump was there. What needed to be done was to teach the brain that it wasn't there; or, more immediately, trick the brain into relaxing the fist that isn't there.

He did this by putting a mirror in front of the person, facing the good arm. Looked at from that side, it looked like you had two good arms. You would then clench and unclench your "two" fists, and the you/your brain would "see" the other hand (that wasn't really there) also unclenching. You'd feel as if the fist was relaxing, and the cramp would go away. Apparently, the results were sudden and profound.

I set up the mirror just as Ramachandran had described. At first she didn't really get it, she wiggled her fingers, and nothing was happening.

"What I want you to do," I ad libbed, "is look in the mirror, and imagine that your left hand is doing the exact same thing as your right, simultaneously." I showed her by opening and closing my fists. "In other words, open and close both of your fists."

I barely finished my sentence when her eyes popped wide. "Oh my God. Oh my God."

My eyes popped open, too-- it actually worked!

Sure, it worked, sure, she feels better, sure, she thinks I'm awesome. Why did it take me three years to try something I had known about for ten years with her?

Ramachandran's mirror technique is medical school stuff. Everyone knows it. Everyone. If you don't know it children on the street kick you in the shins. If you were in a coma during medical school then you still would have picked it up from a trillion other places, from Scientific American to Discover to Time Magazine.

Of course I knew the significance of the mirror. Of course I knew how to do it. I just never did. It never even occurred to me to do it.

There's more to the article, but I really shouldn't try to paraphrase the author's conclusion without giving you the opportunity to
read the whole thing.

reddit) (cross posted at appletree)

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Anonymous kiwi said...

Put politely = nonesense.
Put honestly = bollocks.

10:43 am  
Anonymous bootlean said...

I'll just politely say that it's from an anonymous writer who may or may not be qualified. I'll also add that until I hear from a proven qualified source confirming all that's been claimed, I'll have to treat it with a pinch of salt.

1:06 pm  
Anonymous ricdude said...

This is unsurprising. A person can even be tricked mentally into believing that actions being performed on a dummy are happening to them:

In fact, in the next few decades, with all the research being done in this field, it will probably even be possible to restore sight to the blind and movement to the quadriplegic, etc.

The major obstacle to this goal is not so much technical, but social: people have a hard time admitting to themselves that they are biological machines and so acceptance of brain-machine interfaces and similar beneficial interventions will be met with great public resistance.

One can only hope that people will stop selfishly indulging comforting superstitions about the mind and come to accept current scientific findings.

5:54 am  

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