Oprah leaving = more lonely ladies = me realizing how pathetically obsessed we can get with our TV shows

May 24, 2011 by Anup Shah

The Body Odd – If you’re one of the zillions who is tearful over the thought of life without “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” now you have a scientific excuse for your sadness. (You get a scientific excuse! And you get a scientific excuse! And — OK, that’s enough.)

A recent study showed that when a favorite TV show goes off the air — even temporarily — its absence can leave the show’s most fanatical viewers feeling lonelier. In ‘Oprah’s’ case, we’re thinking the rather emotive women featured on the blog ‘Faces of the Last Season of Oprah’ will be among those having the hardest time dealing with the loss of the show, which ends its 25th and final season on Wednesday.

If you’re blue over losing Oprah — or the characters from shows-gone-by like “Lost” or “Arrested Development” — that feeling can be explained by a term coined in the 1950s by a pair of psychiatrists: You’ve developed a “parasocial,” or one-sided, relationship with the people that live inside your TV (or inside your computer screen, if Hulu is more your thing).


Last night Conan joked that Oprah will become a bored housewife who watches daytime television all day after she retires. I can’t say any show ending has left me feeling lonely. I think the closest I’ve gotten is when Michael Scott left The Office a few weeks back (even though that show’s kind of gone to shit). I definitely don’t think I’ll ever watch it the same way. So uh, yea maybe I too am prone to the ‘TV relationship.’  And for icing, this quote from one of the researchers in the article felt disturbingly accurate…

“We watch these shows, and we start to think of them like a friend.” Not to say many of us actually believe we’re friends with Oprah or other TV personalities; but the people in the media we choose to spend our time with likely have qualities we’d seek out in friendships. “It’s kind of the same things that drive real relationships with people,” (the researcher) explains.


Filed under: Sports/Pop Culture — @ 5:14 pm

Tuesday Pulse: May 24, 2011

by Anup Shah

Filed under: Daily Pulse — @ 2:40 pm

Growing brain cells in the lab? I’ll drink to that!

May 23, 2011 by Anup Shah

MSNBC – The most common brain cell, called the astrocyte, is often overlooked in the face of its cousin, the neuron. Researchers are finally realizing their importance and have, for the first time, been able to grow them in the lab.

“Not a lot of attention has been paid to these cells because human astrocytes have been hard to get,” study researcher Su-Chun Zhang, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But we can make billions or trillions of them from a single stem cell.”

Astrocytes are small, star-shaped cells in the brain that act like the neuron’s bodyguards, and because of that they play an important role in diseases of the central nervous system, including dementia. They are more common than neurons but have been hard to grow in the lab. Being able to study them could help researchers understand their role in normal brain functioning, and help find new treatments for disease.

Think about the potential here. I’m basically buying insurance for my brain cells. If I have a leaky roof (irregular blood flow), hell I’ve got this supply of astrocytes right here to keep my neurons protected. Am I protected from burglars (toxins) breaking into my house (brain). Well these lab-grown astrocytes should help do the trick. I’ll drink myself silly and wake up the next morning with a fresh supply of astrocytes to make sure my brain function is in no way impaired for work.

In all seriousness though, this is pretty huge. Think about any neurodegenerative disease: Alzheimer’s. Epilepsy. Parkinson’s. Multiple Sclerosis. Lou Gehrig’s disease. Or just regular old dementia in our grandparents. All of these can be protected against by a greater supply of astrocytes that will keep our neurons (the communication pathways in the brain) intact longer. And to think all it will take to make millions of astrocytes is a few stem cells.

Astrocytes (green star) facilitiating blood flow and nutrient/waste transfer from the blood vessel (yellow and red left) to the neuron (blue). Credit: MSNBC


Filed under: The Brain — Tags: , , — @ 5:45 pm

Shaq’s (mildly entertaining) Sleep Apnea

by Anup Shah

We all know that Shaquille O’Neal was of very little help to the Boston Celtics this year. But one area where Shaq has not been slacking is taking advantage of Boston’s incredible medical community.

It doesn’t surprise me though that someone as big as Shaq has sleep apnea. Someone with sleep apnea:

  • snores very loudly
  • stops breathing in their sleep
  • suffer from nighttime choking and gasping spells
  • experience excessive daytime sleepiness

According to Web MD, Shaq easily fits the first four risk factors for sleep apnea (male, overweight, over 40 – Shaq is now 39, and having a neck size larger than 17 inches). Seeing as how Shaq is still playing in the NBA, he probably has an active lifestyle that keeps the more dangerous effects from sleep apnea at bay (like diabetes, high BP and even heart problems). At least for now.

It also didn’t surprise me that Shaq asked “Can I wear this to the club?” about his sleep apnea mask. As serious as sleep apnea actually is, this dude can make anything funny.

But because this is a health blog and we love medical animations, I feel obligated to throw in a ‘less-entertaining-than-Shaq’ animation of how Shaq’s mask will keep his airway from collapsing:


Filed under: Sports/Pop Culture — @ 3:58 pm

Monday Pulse: May 23, 2011

by Anup Shah

“In one well-documented demonstration in 2008, Hof remained encased in a glass box filled with ice on a New York City street for 71 minutes, at that time a record. Doctors monitoring his vital signs said his body temperature descended gradually to 93.6 degrees as his heart rate rose slowly into the 120s. He didn’t shiver.”

Filed under: Daily Pulse — @ 1:42 pm

Monday Pulse: May 9, 2011

May 9, 2011 by Anup Shah

  • What better way to start the week than with a face transplant?
  • If there’s any evidence out there that we think WAY too much about our diet, it’s the smartphone apps and pedometers we use to track every burned calorie. Counting calories is exhausting…and probably a good reason why it’s so hard to actually stick with a diet plan.
  • Today is full of fake studies designed to prove a venal researcher’s whims and bring in some cash: 1. Winter conception leads to greater autism risk.  2. Gay men report a higher cancer rate (probably done by some homophobic researcher)  3. Immigrant kids get fat to fit in with everyone else (a bold conclusion based on the soft questions asked in the study)
  • Also, for all you paranoid helicopter moms: Bottle feeding at age 2 is a risk factor in obesity. Give me a break. Don’t take your kids to McDonalds every other day and your kid won’t get fat. Plain and simple.
  • And finally for the obvious story of the day: 12 healthy ways to cut your cancer risk. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be posting these stories if all I’m going to do is bash them. It’s just so obvious, I don’t know why these online publications find them worth publishing. OK on to something less cynical.
  • See now. THIS IS WHAT WE LOOK FOR. How do ear infections in kids affect the ability to taste? This isn’t just another study trying to prove the correlation between two unrelated phenomena. This is about two of your five senses (hearing and taste), all related to each other by the cranial nerves that come directly from the brain. So the relation here isn’t totally random.
  • This is cool. Especially if you’re a physics buff. How high energy beams from particle accelerators can be used to help fight cancer. See the video below if the concept of particle accelerators scares you:
Filed under: Daily Pulse — @ 11:35 am
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