Assessing elemental mercury vapor exposure from cultural and religious practices.
Use of elemental mercury in certain cultural and religious practices can cause high exposures to mercury vapor. Uses include sprinkling mercury on the floor of a home or car, burning it in a candle, and mixing it with perfume. Some uses can produce indoor air mercury concentrations one or two orders of magnitude above occupational exposure limits. Exposures resulting from other uses, such as infrequent use of a small bead of mercury, could be well below currently recognized risk levels. Metallic mercury is available at almost all of the 15 botanicas visited in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, but botanica personnel often deny having mercury for sale when approached by outsiders to these religious and cultural traditions. Actions by public health authorities have driven the mercury trade underground in some locations. Interviews indicate that mercury users are aware that mercury is hazardous, but are not aware of the inhalation exposure risk. We argue against a crackdown by health authorities because it could drive the practices further underground, because high-risk practices may be rare, and because uninformed government intervention could have unfortunate political and civic side effects for some Caribbean and Latin American immigrant groups. We recommend an outreach and education program involving religious and community leaders, botanica personnel, and other mercury users. (+info)
Frog secretions and hunting magic in the upper Amazon: identification of a peptide that interacts with an adenosine receptor.
A frog used for "hunting magic" by several groups of Panoan-speaking Indians in the borderline between Brazil and Peru is identified as Phyllomedusa bicolor. This frog's skin secretion, which the Indians introduce into the body through fresh burns, is rich in peptides. These include vasoactive peptides, opioid peptides, and a peptide that we have named adenoregulin, with the sequence GLWSKIKEVGKEAAKAAAKAAGKAALGAVSEAV as determined from mass spectrometry and Edman degradation. The natural peptide may contain a D amino acid residue, since it is not identical in chromatographic properties to the synthetic peptide. Adenoregulin enhances binding of agonists to A1 adenosine receptors; it is accompanied in the skin secretion by peptides that inhibit binding. The vasoactive peptide sauvagine, the opioid peptides, and adenoregulin and related peptides affect behavior in mice and presumably contribute to the behavioral sequelae observed in humans. (+info)
A MRI study of fusiform gyrus in schizotypal personality disorder.
The fusiform gyrus is important for face and object recognition, is abnormal in schizophrenia, but has not been studied in schizotypal personality disorder (SPD). Thin-slice MR images showed no differences, either in right, left or total fusiform gyri volumes, between subjects with SPD (N=21) and normal controls (N=19). However, there was a correlation between severity of illusions and magical thinking suffered by the SPD subjects and smaller right fusiform gyrus volumes. This suggests that future studies may be useful in determining the functional competence of this gyrus in SPD. (+info)
Nonstereotyped responding in positive schizotypy after a single dose of levodopa.
Stereotyped behavior and left-sided orientation biases, associated with the dopamine (DA) system, were observed in populations of the schizophrenia spectrum disorders. We investigated whether heightened DA concentrations influence both side biases and stereotyped responding in a visuo-motor computer task, in which 90, 180, and 270 degrees rotated objects had to be brought into a target position. To account for the role of the schizophrenia spectrum, task performance was also analyzed as a function of healthy participants' high or low magical ideation (MI), a positive schizotypal feature. The first 36 participants (20 women) remained substance free. In a second sample, 20 men received levodopa and 20 men a placebo in a double-blind procedure. Results showed that high MI scorers responded more stereotyped than low MI scorers, without being specifically biased towards the left side. Rotation preferences toward one or the other side made high MI scorers less flexible for objects efficiently to be rotated into the opposite direction. This inflexibility may reflect impaired left hemisphere functioning. Unexpectedly, in the levodopa group, high MI scorers performed superior to low MI scorers. Since DA actions appear to follow an inverted U-shape function, the 'low' performing high MI scorers profited from the enhanced DA availability. Our observation in the levodopa group points to a dissociation between schizotypy and schizophrenia: while cognitive improvement in schizophrenia can occur after treatment with atypical neuroleptic agents, in our positive schizotypal participants a DA agonist resulted in improved task performance. This dissociation may point to protective neurochemical mechanisms preventing healthy schizotypes from developing full-blown psychotic symptoms. (+info)
Traditional use of the Andean flicker (Colaptes rupicola) as a galactagogue in the Peruvian Andes.
This paper explores the use of the dried meat and feathers of the Andean Flicker (Colaptes rupicola) to increase the milk supply of nursing women and domestic animals in the Andes. The treatment is of preColumbian origin, but continues to be used in some areas, including the village in the southern Peruvian highlands where I do ethnographic research. I explore the factors giving rise to and sustaining the practice, relate it to other galactagogues used in the Andes and to the use of birds in ethnomedical and ethnoveterinary treatments in general, and situate it within the general tendency in the Andes and elsewhere to replicate human relations in the treatment of valuable livestock. The bird's use as a galactagogue appears to be motivated by both metaphorical associations and its perceived efficacy, and conceptually blends human and animal healthcare domains. (+info)
Holiday review. Duty of care to the undiagnosed patient: ethical imperative, or just a load of Hogwarts?
With the restoration of You-Know-Who to full corporeal form, the practice of the dark arts may lead to multitudes being charmed, befuddled and confounded. At present, muggle ethics dictate that aid may be rendered in a life-or limb-threatening situation, but the margins are blurred when neither is at stake. Muggle and wizard healers, fearful of being labelled ambulance chasers, may shy away from approaching those who remain blissfully unaware of their illnesses. We describe 4 case studies in which we intervened as muggle healers, to salutary effect. The afflicted were healed or helped, without bringing the weight of the Ministries of Magic or Magical Healing upon us. We advocate a spirit of cooperation between muggle and magical folk, mindful of the strengths that the healing arts from each community have to offer. As long as the intent is beneficent, healers or even the wizard or muggle on the street may intervene and render aid to the afflicted. (+info)
Assessing insight in schizophrenia: East meets West.
BACKGROUND: Lack of insight has been observed in people with schizophrenia across cultures but assessment of insight must take into account prevailing illness models. AIMS: To determine whether culturally specific and Western biomedical interpretations of insight and psychosis can be reconciled. METHOD: Patients with schizophrenia (n=131) were assessed during their first contact with psychiatric services in Vellore, South India. Patients' explanatory models, psychopathology and insight were investigated using a standard schedule translated into Tamil. RESULTS: Supernatural explanations of symptoms were frequent. Some insight dimensions were weakly associated (inversely) with severity of symptoms whereas preserved insight was associated with anxiety, help-seeking and perception of change. Willingness to attribute symptoms to disease, in others and in one's self, but not to supernatural forces was strongly associated with insight. CONCLUSIONS: The relationship between insight, awareness of illness and other clinical variables is similar in South India to elsewhere. However, the assessment of insight might have failed to capture locally accepted explanatory frameworks. An inclusive conceptual model which emphasises help-seeking is recommended. (+info)
Women healers of the middle ages: selected aspects of their history.
The stellar role of women as healers during the Middle Ages has received some attention from medical historians but remains little known or appreciated. In the three centuries preceding the Renaissance, this role was heightened by two roughly parallel developments. The first was the evolution of European universities and their professional schools that, for the most part, systematically excluded women as students, thereby creating a legal male monopoly of the practice of medicine. Ineligible as healers, women waged a lengthy battle to maintain their right to care for the sick and injured. The 1322 case of Jacqueline Felicie, one of many healers charged with illegally practicing medicine, raises serious questions about the motives of male physicians in discrediting these women as incompetent and dangerous. The second development was the campaign--promoted by the church and supported by both clerical and civil authorities--to brand women healers as witches. Perhaps the church perceived these women, with their special, often esoteric, healing skills, as a threat to its supremacy in the lives of its parishioners. The result was the brutal persecution of unknown numbers of mostly peasant women. (+info)