The Pulse – Dec. 12 2014

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    Hate to break it to you, but your fitbit is old news. Electronic brain stimulation (think battery-powered headbands that help improve the function of your mind) looks poised to be the next wave in wearable technology. These so-called “neuromodulation devices” rely on a small current of electricity to tweak a user’s cognition and mood, but they create a lot of questions as well, like, could an employer or your parents make you wear one? Todd Bookman looks for some answers.

    For almost half of those who suffer from depression, the current medical regimes design to keep it at bay are ineffective. But an anesthesia drug called Ketamine has emerged as an option for those suffering with no end in sight. In fact, it’s already being employed in a few clinics around the country, and the results are promising, but with no federal oversight, so experts wonder if it’s doing more harm than good. Pulse host Maiken Scott introduces us to his new medical frontier.

    Last week, the Centers for Disease Control announced that this year’s flu shot may offer less protection than expected. The dominant virus this year has “drifted,” meaning it’s morphed into a form that the current flu vaccine doesn’t protect well against. This has flu shot skeptics feeling vindicated, and, as Taunya English reports, it’s left doctors scrambling for the right way to talk about the vaccine.

    Imagine there was a form of amnesia that caused everybody to forget about you and who you are. Or what if you had a wound that got worse with each dark thought or bad deed you commit. Or you woke up in the morning and suddenly had your neighbor’s ailment, and your neighbor had yours? These are some of the maladies described in a new book called “The Afflictions,” a fictional encyclopedia of imaginary diseases written by a physician. Peter Crimmins reports what fiction can tell us about medicine.

    Originally, David Casarett thought he wanted to be an ER doctor, but once in medical school, he quickly realized that world wasn’t for him. Instead, he became a palliative care physician, helping patients who are very ill or at the end of their lives. He’s spent a lot of time thinking about the transition between life and death, and he’s written a new book on techniques that seemingly create a path from one to the other. Casarett and host Maiken Scott discuss the evolution of modern resuscitation techniques and the sometimes difficult options that come along with them.

    In this week’s Patient File, we hear from Melissa Meade, a PhD candidate in communication at Temple University. But that goal was almost derailed seven years ago when she suffered a series of three strokes over the course of a day and a half. Her experience has a lot to do with the challenges of language in our brains, so we asked neuroscientist Myrna Schwartz to join us in a follow-up conversation about speech aphasia and how our brains bounce back from strokes.

    The Pulse just celebrated its first birthday! So, we threw ourselves a party and enacted a live version of the program. If you couldn’t be with us that night, we wanted to share one highlight from the event—an interview with Ken Lacovara, a paleontologist at Drexel university who found a huge dinosaur…Dreadnoughtus. Following that, we asked reporter Carolyn Beeler to visit Lacovara in his workshop as he crated the dino bones for their return trip to Argentina, where he found them over a decade ago.

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