Archive | November, 2011

Evidence-based Treatment

19 Nov

I read this article the other day on the success of treatment for juveniles in justice populations.  It’s pretty solid, and has to do with a lot of what I worked on at TASC this summer.

Because here’s the deal: we can’t fix everything with science. Yet. (I would argue for that “Yet.” Some people would argue “Ever.” Some people also smoke cigarettes and don’t wear seatbelts and watch American Idol and pronounce it “nuculer.” Only a person standing at the precise intersection of arrogance and ignorance could possibly believe that science will ever stop changing and improving and discovering new things.)

So: We can’t fix everything with science yet, but we can help. A reduction, as per the article, from 15.5% of juvenile offenders (a problematic word, but let’s press on) committing violent felonies to only 4.3% of those who underwent the treatment committing violent felonies isn’t perfect, but it’s not nothing. The fact that the treatment has proven to be effective for as long as I’ve been alive is also pretty promising.

I was, though, a little bemused by the repeated use of the term “evidence-based treatment.” I mean, as opposed to what? I understand that it’s generally just shorthand for “treatments that have been thoroughly studied and are based on scientific premises,” but really, that raises the question: What other kinds of treatments are people trying?  Treatments that have not been thoroughly objectively studied and that are not based on scientific premises? Non-evidence-based treatment?

It’s as simple as this: We have science; use science. The day someone can explain to me why that is complicated will be the day I can truly claim to understand the human brain.

Back to rambling

13 Nov

You know when you haven’t blogged for a month due to a cold that was probably in reality the plague and all of your midterms happening at once and the unwise but totally necessary decision to spend a weekend in Disneyland and then Halloween evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer and a couple hundred close friends? And THEN you know when it’s your birthday and your grandparents call you up to sing to you and your grandma chides you for not blogging after she told everyone about your blog?

I mean, sure. I think we all know the feeling.

This semester has been insane. Mostly with the neurobiology. But here’s the thing: I’ve been learning amazing things that I should so totally be telling the world about. Like, for instance, you know the temporal lobe?

Now you do. (It's green.)

Apparently, at least according to one of my professors, it was so named because it corresponds to the temples, where people tend to go gray, denoting the passage of time — hence, temporal. And somehow I’ve gone four years without learning this, or making the connection between temporal lobes and temporal anomalies and Temporal Dominoes. It’s wonderful and ridiculous and makes me feel slightly dense.

Or, did you know that your olfactory bulb (responsible for your sense of smell) has no direct input to your frontal lobe, which is why you can’t reconstruct a smell in your memory the same way you can a face.  (Try it.  When I say “Think of Abraham Lincoln,” you can see Abraham Lincoln in your mind’s eye — or most people can.  When I say “Think of the smell of apple pie,” you can come up with various sensory cues, but you can’t reconstruct it in the same realistic way.  No, you can’t.  Even if you think you can, you can’t.  Trust me.)

Anyway, I’m actually still here and alive and all, and the world is an amazing place, and there is snow and a Soyuz launch in Baikonur tonight, and I am graduating in six months. And that about sums up the past month of my life. Hopefully I’ll have slightly more time to write up real science-y things going into winter break and my final semester.

(Hi Gram and Papa!)