Category Archives: science

Hedy Lamarr, The Mortal Body, & The Art of Being Spaced-Out

A POST FROM JANUARY I NEVER POSTED:

Rough time on Monday morning. The plan was to do a LOT of clip shooting, as I haven’t done a single shoot this month. Instead, I have been doing a lot of planning, so that this can be the year when I change my life. Unfortunately, I see a huge conflict of interests. Changing my life involves much pro-activity, an extremely focused mindset, and lots of learning. Doing this, I inhabit a VERY different brain space than is required for shooting clips, an activity which is only successful if I’m not inhabiting any brain space At ALL.

As Hedy Lamarr once said, “It’s easy to look glamorous. Just stand still and look stupid.” The point of the clips is not to project, “I am having thoughts about coding and writing! I am having opinions on culture!” The point of clips is to project, “There’s not a thought in my head that doesn’t involve sitting here smoking this cigarette.”

Hedy Lamarr was what they called in her day “a smart cookie”. She knew how to walk the tight-wire of body vs mind, and she walked it extremely well.  She played the infamous Biblical femme fatale in Cecil B. DeMille‘s Samson and Delilah. the third-biggest grossing film of its time. Variety wrote, “Hedy Lamarr never has been more eye-filling and makes of Delilah a convincing minx.” You’d never imagine from that sentence that she was also responsible for the spread spectrum techniques that are today used in Bluetooth technology.  At the beginning of World War II, she and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes which used frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology to thwart jamming by the Axis powers. Both Lamarr and Antheil were posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. 

Sadly, I am no Hedy Lamarr. Walking that line is much more difficult for me. Part of it is the switching back and forth between opposing mindsets, yes. It’s not as simple as hemisphere jumping. Even though a hop over to the right brain takes the mind away from logic, analysis and static information, it’s isn’t necessarily the right place to hang out when shooting clips. There’s still lots of thought going on inside the right side, the content is just different. It’s the domain of Art and Music, creativity and flow, stimulated by new ideas and novel ideas and works, constantly turning things all about and extracting inspiration from that marrow. It’s pretty far away from sitting still and looking like you’ve not a care nor thought in the world.

Wait, Annie – isn’t shooting clips a creative thing to do? Couldn’t there be some use for this right brain specialty in what you’re doing? Sadly, no, I have not found that to be true. What I have to shoot is fairly specific, and does not leave much room for elaboration. Plus, all of my instincts are off-brand. No one watches my clips for my sense of humor, and they sure as hell don’t watch them for the production design (believe me, because the “set” I have to work with lost its novelty years ago, and there’s no funds to upgrade the situation). They watch my clips to watch me smoke. And I’m at the point where I cannot reinvent the wheel. It’s time for me to do something else, and it’s been that time for years now. Nonetheless, until I have a larger chunk of knowledge under my belt, until those new skills I’m learning are a legitimate part of my wheelhouse, I have to keep doing this. I’m at the point financially where I need one of those “poor barrels”. But I can’t afford a poor barrel. Now that my rent’s gone up, I can’t really even afford to keep eating.

There is never a moment in time where I am not thinking about something from all angles. The tenor of my thoughts and the tides of my emotions do not naturally lend themselves to controlling the expression on my face to reach a specific and marketable end. Trying to hit all the marks of “Pretty” takes me a lot of concentration and thought, without a lot of payoff in the end result. The square peg despairs because it never fits into round holes, it’s impossible to fit into round holes, but the only way it can survive is to fit into a round hole. This condition creates the perfect hothouse for a self-annihilating inner narrative to flourish.

I am ill-suited to do the thing that I absolutely MUST do to survive, and in doing it, I keep myself held back from doing something I WOULD be good at, a situation Joseph Heller called the Catch-22.

Rock, me, hard place.

 

 

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Astaxanthin and Camp Hippo

There are so many reverse perks in mental illness – “reverse perks” being something that you get for free that actually sucks – and now there is one more to add to the list: a shrunken hippocampus. Before you picture a shrunken hippopotamus head, let me explain that the hippocampus, it has been widely reported, decreases in mass in people having depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the like. The hippocampus affects, among other things, cognition, learning, and memory. These things are super-important for more reasons than could be listed here, and so as those of us with mental illness get older, our hippocampi get smaller – and we experience cognitive deficits, brain fog, short term memory loss, and learning disabilities in addition to our already full plate of crazy. It’s disheartening – particularly because the longer you live with these illnesses, the more (it is hoped) you have learned about how to manage them or at least minimize fallout for yourself, but if you start losing the ability to think, well, it just kind of fucks up everything you might be trying to do. Like survive.

Enter Astaxanthin. It’s an anti-oxidant which is 6,000 (yes, six thousand) times more potent than Vitamin C, which is going to be good for your brain right off the bat because as someone with mental illness you will have more oxidative stress and more free radicals gamboling around in there like they own the joint. So Point One. Point Two is even more heartening: It was recently discovered, as reported by ScienceDaily.com, that mice given astaxanthin for four weeks showed increased neuroplasticity and increased neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Which means that the stuff in their hippocampi (Hippo Camp! Where Hippos go for summer) started to work better, and then NEW stuff started to grow, meaning new brain cells, increasing the hippocampal volume and thus being a great pre-emptive strike, in my opinion, to combat the accelerated entropy that is going on in there, at Camp Hippo, which is what I’m going to be calling my hippocampus from now on. You are welcome to call your own hippocampus Camp Hippo as well, if that is something you would find soothing.

Anyway. I have no idea what dosage is appropriate. Capsules are available in 2, 4, and 12 mg sizes. Due to certain aspects of my personality having to do with impulse control and moderation, I want to go 12 mg. I’ve been taking 4 mg for the past month. Do I notice a difference? I am taking a break from my studies so I can’t speak to the effect it has on my learning, but I do seem to have an improvement in short term memory, which is helping my ADHD because ripples. (Shoot me because I just used “because ____” as an explanation for something. I have become the thing I hate. And don’t you hate when that happens?)

ASTAXANTHIN. Check it out. I recommend it. No one paid me to do so. (Someone, please pay me to do so.) For now, this is a Public Service Announcement.

I’m off to think up a song for Camp Hippo.

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On Dopamine, From May

It effects everything.

A chemical in the brain typically associated with cognition, movement and reward-motivation behavior — among others — may also play a role in promoting chronic pain, according to new research. The chemical, dopamine, sets the stage for many important brain functions, but the mechanisms that cause it to contribute to chronic pain are less well understood. Study here.

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It’s All About the Dopamine, Baby

A new study by Neil Harrison and colleagues published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that a brain reward center, the striatum, may be directly affected by inflammation and that striatal change is related to the emergence of illness behaviors.

dopamine

Dopamine

It all comes down to the reward center and dopamine, always. Vindication once again. I have these hypotheses about things and then studies come out that validate them. It happens a lot. I told a doctor years ago I had an overactive limbic system and she scoffed. And of course now research has come out that bears out that hunch, that yeah, an overactive limbic system is a thing, your amygdala freaking out is definitely a thing.  Another doctor laughed when I said an fMRI would show important info about my mental illness – LAUGHED. And then of course it came out in studies that gee, fMRI is precisely the technology to use, they can see illness on an fMRI, a brain of a bipolar person is markedly, physically different in several ways than that of a “normal” person. Surprise surprise. I mean, really? Yes, of course it is. Because there’s this weird thing about mental illnesses, in that they originate in the organic brain. Not the mind, mind you. The brain, itself. As in, that grey and white thing in your noggin that inhabits the world of the physical. The meatball in meatspace. Because for all of our knowledge, some people still think that mental illness is a character flaw. And act accordingly towards those who have it. Philistines, I think they’re called.

Anyway. Normal. What a word. Normal is synonymous with average, incidentally. The norm, the average, it means the same thing, doesn’t it? Not to get into an etymological discussion, but seeing as how I do in fact have large amounts of inflammation in my blood (per my latest blood tests), more than likely due to the abscessed tooth at least in part, and from stress (which itself can cause inflammation, dontchaknow ), I am thus in possession of a deprived reward center – and my natural state is that of a deprived dopamine system anyway, so in short, besides being flat-line anhedonic, I am also a bit grouchy, so I think I can call this out, this so-called normalcy, and say, normal is that which does not stand out.  (Jeebus, that was all ONE SENTENCE. Talk about RUN-ON.)

Not that standing out is such a great thing. It can be an uncomfortable thing. And this is why my blog is called Everything I Say Is Wrong, Maybe. Because sometimes I have two contradictory thoughts at the same time that try to cancel each other out, and both seem equally valid, but I choose the one side, and then the other side comes up and says, Hey, you forgot something. You could be wr-wr-wr-wrong. Caveat, schmaveat. (Yiddish Latin is now also a thing.)

Well, whatever. The important thing here is not my blather, but rather, the reward system is hijacked by inflammation. Which is why chronic pain patients, for instance, have co-morbid depression in most cases. Inflammation leads to depression, says this study. Of course, there are many other roads to depression, which is so horribly named, because people mix it up with feeling “bummed out” over something situational, like “gee, I’m so depressed my team lost the game”, when that’s not actually the same thing. But calling it depression makes it easier to think it is, that people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, as the saying goes.

You assume I have boots, should be the standard reply to that. It’s like Marie Antoinette all over again. No, we don’t have cake. We don’t have boots. And we don’t have that convenient ivory tower, either. Yes, we have no bananas, we just are bananas. Pass the mucuna pruriens, please. Because the D2 receptor seems to have a lot to do with that. A tiny, microscopic thing could make you crash your car into a tree on purpose! Something that you need a microscope to look at rules my life! Isn’t that amazing? So a tiny microscopic organic thingy is responsible for whether you’re happy or sad or, like me, flat-line. Thanks, D2! Let me shower you with Abilify. But not too much – tardive dyskinesia is not our friend, after all. And myoclonic jerks are not my favorite thing.

Of course, there may be co-conspirators. Let’s not heap all the blame on D2, as there are other (named) dopamine receptors, and I will say publicly that I personally feel norepinephrine is involved in the avolition part – I’m saying there is a direct cause-effect to lack of norepinephrine and lack of motivation, even though most people count motivation as a dopamine thing. Personal experience and experimentation with my norepinephrine and dopamine levels tells me otherwise.

Yeah, shrinks just fucking love me. I go in and tell them, this is what I need.  Not, can you help me? They can’t help me. They can only provide a service that will make life a tolerable evil. Like the common cold, there is no cure for the sickness known as Time. But there are things that can relieve the symptoms, temporarily. Some better than others.

If you’ve made it this far through this rambling diatribe, I congratulate you. I admire your bravery and resolve. Now go do whatever you can to lower your levels of inflammation – anti-inflammatory diet is a good start, but watch out for those NSAIDs, they’ll kill your kidneys. (No one ever listens when I tell them that, and some people even get mad, like how dare I try to make sure they don’t die. So now I post unsolicited advice on my blog and if you want it you may have it, but if you don’t, luckily for you this blog post is over.)

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