The hand as the human outer brain

Margaret Kaye of Australia has a deep understanding about increasing loast function in the hand. . She has generously shared with us her extensive article about working with three people with difficulties with their hands: a 6-year-old boy with Cerebral Palsy, a computer worker with frozen shoulder, and a musician with focal dystonia.

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Study-FM and Parkinson's

The following was from MedScape, May 28, 2015. I will re-edit it to make it more readable to the regular reader. --rob

PALM SPRINGS, California — An exercise program based on the Feldenkrais Method can improve the mood and quality of life among people with Parkinson's disease, a new study shows.

By damaging neurologic functioning, Parkinson's disease often diminishes quality of life and leads to depression.

"The Feldenkrais Method uses easy movement and breath control and flexibility and balance to facilitate more control in the whole body," said first author Lavinia Teixeira-Machado, PT, PhD, from the Education in Health Department, Federal University of Sergipe in Sergipe, Brazil. "I use it in cerebral palsy, autism, and Down syndrome."

"We reduced the isolation," said Dr Teixeira-Machado toldMedscape Medical News. "It's very interesting."

She presented the finding here at the American Pain Society (APS) 34th Annual Scientific Meeting.

Whole-Body Exercise

To see whether the Feldenkrais Method could help with Parkinson's disease, Dr Teixeira-Machado and her colleagues administered the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Parkinson's Disease Quality of Life (PDQL) questionnaire, and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) to 36 people with Parkinson's.

They excluded four people from further study because of cognitive impairment, cardiopathy, or advanced impairment. Two others declined to participate.

The researchers then randomly assigned 15 of the patients to instruction in exercises based on the Feldenkrais Method. The remaining 15 got educational lectures. Both groups attended 50 one-hour sessions, with two sessions given per week.

The patients had an average age of 61 years, an average weight of 64 kg, an average height of 159 cm, and an average body mass index of 26 kg/m2. These measures did not statistically significantly differ between the two groups.

The groups were also statistically similar at baseline on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rate Scale Part III (UPDRS III), the MMSE, and the BDI.

After the 50 sessions, the researchers tested the patients once again on the PDQL and the BDI. The group receiving Feldenkrais instruction improved significantly on both quality of life and depression while the control group got slightly worse on both scales.

 

The change in the Feldenkrais group compared with baseline was statistically significant for both PDQL (P = .004) and BDI (P = .0005).

The differences between the Feldenkrais group and the control group were also statistically significant for both PDQL (P = .002) and BDI (P = .05).

"People with Parkinson's have all kinds of trouble with movement, so if we can modify that it would be great," said Kathleen Sulka, PT, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

 

But other exercise programs have also proved beneficial for people with Parkinson's disease, she said, so she would like to see a larger study in which some patients practiced the Feldenkrais Method and others practiced different exercises.

"I see this as a wonderful pilot study," she told Medscape Medical News.

The study was funded by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Cientifico e Tecnológico. Dr Teixeira-Machado and Dr Sulka have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Pain Society (APS) 34th Annual Scientific Meeting. Presented May 14, 2015.

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Our computer Brain-or is it?

computer brainAbout a year ago,  Gary Marcus wrote an article for the New York Times titled,  Face It, Your Brain Is a Computer. Dr. Marcus is eminently qualified to present this perspective as he is a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University, and the editor of “The Future of the Brain”.

He opens his essay, 

SCIENCE has a poor track record when it comes to comparing our brains to the technology of the day. Descartes thought that the brain was a kind of hydraulic pump, propelling the spirits of the nervous system through the body. Freud compared the brain to a steam engine. The neuroscientist Karl Pribram likened it to a holographic storage device.

Many neuroscientists today would add to this list of failed comparisons the idea that the brain is a computer — just another analogy without a lot of substance. Some of them actively deny that there is much useful in the idea; most simply ignore it.

He argues, "Too many scientists have given up on the computer analogy, and far too little has been offered in its place. In my view, the analogy is due for a rethink."

(click to read his essay)

 

This week we have another essay, this one  by  Dr. Robert Epstein, who attempts to convince us that 

neuron soup?Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Robert Epstein is no slouch. He is a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in California. He is the author of 15 books, and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today.  You'd think we should listen carefully to him, with these kinds of credentials.(click to read his article) . But read on. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

 

But his article seems to have generated a lot of argument. It's kind of like angry bees.

wigglythingSoon after, Sergio Graziosi had a delightful review of the the flaws, titled, Robert Epstein’s empty essay. (click to read). 

Sergio seems to have a very broad background and seems to be particularly motivated to debunk anti-science or shallow-science articles. He has some very interesting points to counter the arguments of Dr Epstein. To clarify his mood in writing the article he says, 'Sometimes reading a flawed argument triggers my rage, I really do get angry, a phenomenon that invariably surprises and amuses me. What follows is my attempt to use my anger in a constructive way, it may include elements of a jerk reaction*, but I’ll try to keep my emotions in check."

Julie Lee

The next article is by Julie Lee, a PhD student in Neuroscience in UCL. In her blog, titled, "The Not-So-Empty Brain, or Lessons Against Confusing the IP Metaphor. Julie's review is more of an analysis of the faulty logic in Epstein's article. It has some good points, and is worth a read (click to follow).

She summarized her thoughts as: "Epstein’s well-publicised argument is poorly argued as it conflates two orthogonal stances, (1) the information processing metaphor, and (2) the very much non-metaphoric computational theory of mind. Even if these were the same, Epstein frequently contradicts his anti-representational stance with logical inconsistencies. "

 

jeffThe final article gets back to the computer-brain conumdrum, and si titled, "Yes, Your Brain Certainly Is a Computer" Jeffrey Shallit opens his article with a conversation:

- Did you hear the news, Victoria? Over in the States those clever Yanks have invented a flying machine!

- A flying machine! Good heavens! What kind of feathers does it have?

- Feathers? It has no feathers.

- Well, then, it cannot fly. Everyone knows that things that fly have feathers. It is preposterous to claim that something can fly without them.

Shallit pulls no punches. "The most recent foolishness along these lines was penned by psychologist Robert Epstein" and finished with, 'I don't know why people like Epstein feel the need to deny things for which the evidence is so overwhelming. He behaves like a creationist in denying evolution. And like creationists, he apparently has no training in a very relevant field (here, computer science) but still wants to pontificate on it. When intelligent people behave so stupidly, it makes me sad."

In between are some interesting arguments as well as some irrefutable truths. Also particularly interesting is the comments after his article. (click to read more)

Dr.Shallit is a computer scientistnumber theorist, a noted advocate for civil liberties on the Internet, and a noted critic of intelligent design. He is currently a Professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo and is a Distinguished Scientist (2008)

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Parkinsons Disease and Feldenkrais

Many people with  Parkinson's Disease are finding that the Feldenkrais Method can be a useful way to find new ways to regain movement.

Ernie Adams wrote, "For a person with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), the natural rhythm and flow of perception, feeling, and movement is disrupted. There is a disconnection between the intention to move and the ability to start or complete an action. Routine automatic behaviors, such as those involved in walking, speaking, breathing, swallowing, and facial expression, become difficult or unavailable." 

He continues, "Many people with PD are frustrated with the typical generic prescriptions..."

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