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Archive for the ‘Health & Medicine’ Category

Editor's Blog

October 7, 2013

Last week, I wrote that the new view frames aging as an active process in which the body attacks its own healthy tissues. Much of this damage appears avoidable, if only we kept churning out the same hormones we did when we were young, instead of changing to a less effective mix as we get older. Some of these chemical signals that turn on in old age seem directly to trigger the destruction, as if “on purpose”. There are four processes that seem to be the main culprits: inflammation, immune derangement, cell suicide (or apoptosis) and telomere shortening. They make promising targets for new anti-aging research.

September 20, 2013

When it comes to calories, inefficiency is the name of the game.

We know that less weight is healthier and leads to longer life, but the desire to eat runs deep, and dieting through willpower works for almost no one. So we look for tricks that will let us eat more and weigh less. Two articles from Scientific American this month are most enlightening. One demonstrates that the number of calories we extract from food varies widely from the standard method as reported on the label. The other recounts ways in which some foods triggers hormonal signals that say “burn me!” while others tell the body to “store me as fat!”

September 3, 2013

One of the oldest and best-established theories of aging holds that we age because of oxidative damage. In the classic version, the body exploits high-energy chemistry based on oxidation for an energy supply at the cellular level, but this involves constant exposure to these high-energy species and the free radicals that are their by-products, species which can attack sensitive biomolecules. Damage to these molecules accumulates over a lifetime, so the story goes, and makes the body gradually less able to maintain its balance. I’ve argued against the general idea that aging is an accumulation of damage, because of evidence that it is an active process, closely regulated like everything else about life. But new to me this week is a version of the theory by Spanish physiologist Gustavo Barja, in which some of the same chemistry is described as an active program of self-destruction. Barja argues that the process of burning fuel to produce energy can be extremely clean or it can be rather dirty. It is the “leakage” of free radicals during the process that causes the damage of aging, and this leakage can be quite fast, or it can be almost nil. Leakage is tightly-regulated in a way that determines life span. This is a unique lens through which to view aging. What does it help us to understand?

August 19, 2013

If I meditate, will I live longer?

May 18, 2013

Two dozen leading experts in the brain recently converged for a daylong meeting at Stanford University. The meeting focused on a review of the current state of research and scientific knowledge related to software products and approaches that aim to defend against age-related cognitive decline. This meeting follows a similar meeting held five years ago which resulted in the 2008 Expert Consensus on Brain Health.

April 4, 2013

The availability of a range of new psychotropic agents raises the possibility that these will be used for enhancement purposes (smart pills, happy pills, and pep pills). The enhancement debate soon raises questions in philosophy of medicine and psychiatry (eg, what is a disorder?), and this debate in turn raises fundament questions in philosophy of language, science, and ethics. In this paper, a naturalistic conceptual framework is proposed for addressing these issues. This framework begins by contrasting classical and critical concepts of categories, and then puts forward an integrative position that is based on cognitive-affective research. This position can in turn be used to consider the debate between pharmacological Calvinism (which may adopt a moral metaphor of disorder) and psychotropic utopianism (which may emphasize a medical metaphor of disorder). I argue that psychiatric treatment of serious psychiatric disorders is justified, and that psychotropics are an acceptable kind of intervention. The use of psychotropics for sub-threshold phenomena requires a judicious weighing of the relevant facts (which are often sparse) and values.

March 12, 2013

Nick Bostrom interviewed at AGI 12 by Adam A. Ford

January 25, 2013

Get involved with the Denigma Project, a “Collaborative Resource for Gerontology” and revolutionize aging research.

January 18, 2013

Ben and Natasha discuss cyborgs, the future of the human body, H+ TV , and Natasha's new book.

December 13, 2012

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine are testing the first "brain pacemaker", a device which provides for deep brain stimulation, for Alzheimer's patients.

Ben Goertzel and Hugo de Garis
January 18th, 2011

Ben Goertzel converses with Hugo de Garis on his transhumanist argument for the reality of a Creator.

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