Monthly Archives: February 2009

Eternal sunshine of the fearless mind – memory drug

A drug has been been developed to erase painful memories – remind you of anything?

The Dutch study released today says the power of such memories could be dampened when a person thinks about the traumatic events after taking the drugs.

The theory goes: the drug, beta-adrenergic receptor blockers, work by changing the way the frightening memories are stored. Each time a memory is recalled it changes a little, and the new version is recorded in the long-term memory stash via brain chemical fluctuations in a process called reconsolidation. The beta-blockers could interfere with the brain chemicals, blocking reconsolidation of the emotional component of the memory, but leaving the rest of the memory intact.

Although scientists have welcomed the new drug and the healing qualities it brings, it does make you think about the downside of zapping bits of memory away.

True, for people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder this is the miracle medicine, the condition is frightening and takes years of immensely expensive psycho therapy to begin to let go of those horrid images.

But like the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, how far away is Lacuna Inc from becoming a reality.

It is no coincidence the news of this new scientific breakthrough was revealed today, the day after Valentines.
The leap from frizzling fearful memories to emotional ones is not too far away now.

Our link between memory and behaviour is too important, our character is formed by what we live and what we remember. It is not for nothing the saying goes: “For what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” In the film memories are erased, but we only see the painful memories built on love being wiped out, there is no mention about the memory of fear. We can live with the fear of spiders, heights and other phobias but the impulsive reaction to get rid of the memory of a broken heart  will always be stronger.

I wonder how many more people are going to start buying the widely available blood pressure pills in the hopes that it might cure them of their painful memory, administrating their own medicine recreating the Dutch study in the hope that all those bad days would go away.

The dangers of erasing memories are beautiful portrayed in this film, one of my favourite films of all time.

Scientific breakthroughs will always be welcome but even for the best medical intentions it doesn’t stop a new crop of quacks from arising and taking advantage of the highly-marketable research and of susceptible people.


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Bloody good eggs

I am so happy,  apparently eggs have been declared healthy or if not the posterchild for healthy at least good enough to be ate more than three times a week.

I love eggs – boiled, broiled, poached, fried, on little sticks, on my chips, on my rice, looooove it. (Although not as much as I love yoghurt).

People have been limiting themselves to three eggs a week, I say people and not we simply because I eat triple that in half a month, (the other half is spent eating yoghurt).

Now new research from the university of Surrey has come to light discrediting the earlier research that chained people to only three eegs a week because of their apparent high content of saturated fats.

So, I’m prclaiming today Egg Day – go home and eat an egg, lick it, chomp in to it, slurp it, anyway you want.

Here’s a suggestion:

Huevos rancheros You could get purist about this and do it with chorizo and panache, or do it like scrambled eggs – only add thyme and adobo paste, scramble them and serve with salsa over the top

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Ray of light with

As a newspaper journalist my heart races in dread every time I read a piece on newspaper decline and another round of job cuts (and these alerts come at me every day from all the range of sources I read).

So it was refreshingly heartening to read about the start-up of a new website that tries to dispel concerns about the crisis of newspapers that it’s dying., of course another US -run site, has been developed by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.’s publisher Donna Barrett, Brian Tierney, publisher and CEO of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News; Randy Siegel, president and publisher of Parade Publications, and Jay Smith, former president of Cox Newspapers.

The website, which discusses the future of newspapers, will probably be used in the end as a form of research marketing tool, but I say bring it  on as long as it saves my preferred media medium.

The latest piece from the New York Times Executive Editor looks at the demise of quality journalism, and the growing demand for it, which in turn could explain the  dwindling popularity and respect for journalists. By quality journalism he means the kind that involves experienced reporters going places, bearing witness, digging into records, developing sources, checking and double-checking, backed by editors who try to enforce high standards.

The supply of this kind of journalism is declining because it is hard, expensive, sometimes dangerous work. The traditional practitioners of this craft — mainly newspapers — have been downsizing or declaring bankruptcy. The wonderful florescence of communication ignited by the Internet contains countless voices riffing on the journalism of others but not so many that do serious reporting of their own. Hence the dwindling supply.

I have previously lamented the little support journalists had from editors, publishers, owners and in a way  from the public itself in giving us the tools to be exemplary investigative reporters digging away to uncover the truth.

Look at the uproar The Times caused in the House of Lords by uncovering that Lords could be bought! This was a beautiful piece of journalism – the digging, following through in a project that took a year to materialise, debate within the House of Commons.

Barrett says that the group’s message is simple; that newspaper readership is in fact growing when you take into account combined print and online audience, that newspapers have the public trust in terms of truth and accuracy, that advertisers still invest in newspapers because of their guaranteed results and that as watchdogs against crime and corruption newspapers form an essential part of the democratic system.

However, there are some fatal flaws in this argument.  Combining print and on-line readership undoubtedly shows an increase, but this does nothing to counter the most common argument that it is print which is suffering at the expense of its online rival.  Moreover, whilst advertisers are still continuing to invest there is no denying the fact that there has been a steep drop in advertising revenue this year, as Reuters’ Robert Macmillan points out.

The bottom line is: we need a bit of good news in these hardening times when the number of journalism jobs are steadily decreasing never mind talking about the quality of the paper. We must not forget, or ignore the declining downward trend of the newspaper but it is heartening to hear the executives with some clout in the field are looking at smallest ray of sunshine and trying to bring back those sunny days.

P.S. Hope they are having the same conversation in Britain, otherwise I predict a typical US-bound brain drain.





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