NOTICE: Posting schedule is irregular. I hope to get back to a regular schedule as the day-job allows.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

HUMOR: Credo of a Mad Scientist [Full link to blog for email clients.]

[Note:  My schedule is basically swamped with work-stuff and preparation for professional meetings, so I'm going to have to stay on an irregular schedule for now.  So here's a bit of fun in the meantime!]

Credo of a Mad Scientist:

1. First do no harm... unless you absolutely have to in order to advance your evil agenda!

2. No laughing, cackling or making the MWAhahahaha! sound... at least not for more than 15 seconds at a time. And frequency must be not more than once per hour.

3. Do not explain your evil plan to the plucky hero while you have him at your mercy. Kill first, explain later.

4. Do NOT, under any circumstances use Big Red Buttons ™ to operate the off switch or self-destruct for your evil end-of-world machine.

5. Do not secure your evil end-of-world machine with a laptop and 6-character password. 4096-bit encryption is so much more reliable.

6. Do not base your password on the names of your dog, cat or mad scientists from history. Avoid prime numbers, Fibonacci sequences or any other easy-to-crack sequence. You are evil – come up with an evil password!

7. Safety First! File down all of the sharp edges and projections on your lab equipment and evil weapons, keep all dangerous chemicals locked in appropriate safety cabinets.

8. Do not allow minions or Hero's to mix dangerous chemicals without reference to the appropriate Material Safety Data Sheets!

9. Make sure that all of your Hero traps have failsafes – so that you do not get trapped by them when the Hero escapes.

10. Ensure that the biometric remote control for the trap failsafes is carried somewhere that it will always be on your body – preferably implanted so that it cannot fall out of your pocket.

11. Beware of minions – if you let them learn too much, they may turn on you.

12. Do not recruit minions. Clone them.

13. Beware of clones.

14. Dormant volcanos do not make good hiding places for secret evil hideouts. Some do-good Hero is always managing to make them un-dormant.

15. South Sea islands with palm trees, fresh water and nice beaches will do nicely for a base of operations.

16. Be nice to the locals, otherwise they may turn on you.

17. Beware of clowns.

18. Piranhas and sharks are too messy. Shoot the Hero and then toss him in a room with some carrion beetles. Clean-up is much easier that way.

19. Chlorine Triflouride will do in a pinch.

20. Hyperintelligent mutant Lab Rats make good minions, but their paws have trouble with doors.

21. Avoid making Lab Rats too intelligent – they may decide to take over *your* job instead!

22. The only super power anyone has ever gained from the bite of a radioactive animal or insect is a nasty wound and a high fever.

23. Mutating the digestive tract of monkeys so that they can fling explosive poo is a BAD IDEA!

24. Capes are not a good fashion accessory, they may keep you warm in cold weather, but they tend to catch on objects when you are chasing (or running from) Hero's.

25. Invest in a good pair of running shoes.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The GUIDE: PTSD is an EFFECT, not a CAUSE [Full link to blog for email clients.]

On Facebook recently, I was tagged to comment on a thread in which someone remarked in passing that "PTSD caused [unnamed relative] to do [inappropriate act]."

Clearly I am highly abridging the text for the person's privacy, but I was tagged in to comment on the idea that PTSD caused the behavior.  This is a common tendency in popular culture – from the movie "Rambo" in which PTSD 'caused' the character John Rambo to commit violent acts, to the dangerous medical tendency to consider PTSD as a 'mental disorder' as an excuse to deny fundamental rights.  Given that PTSD is of considerable research interest to me, I have adapted my comments to the current blog and installment of The Lab Rats' Guide to the Brain:


PTSD is a disorder with strong physiological basis that result in effects generally revealed through personality.  It is characterized by memory disorder (flashbacks or triggered memory with a strong emotional content), generalized anxiety, hypersensitivity to certain audiovisual or sensory stimuli reminiscent of the traumatic stress event, depression (sometimes bipolar), attention deficit, etc.  Further, there is an alteration in how brain and body react (physiologically) to future stressful incidents. 
We now know that PTSD in particular, and stress in general, result in a change in the normal balance of neurotransmitter and receptor subtypes.  There are 7 primary neurotransmitters and about a dozen secondary neurotransmitters, and as many as 15 distinct receptor subtypes for each neurotransmitter - thus the balance of neurotransmitter synthesis and release, as well as the ratios of receptors and their regulation are important to brain function.

It is no more accurate to state that PTSD caused a person to commit rape than it is to say that depression caused a person to suicide or that schizophrenia caused a person to commit murder.  Rather, imbalances of mental state alter the "censor" that each of us has regarding actions that are or are not socially acceptable.  We all have random thoughts and urges that we (usually) immediately set aside because we know that such urges are inappropriate.  However, when the "censor" is affected, the urge is not immediately suppressed.

Virtually everyone has had the urge - when wronged by someone - to take revenge.  The schizophrenic, literally being of "split mind." does not apply the social norm and commits some act of violence.  We get temporarily depressed and think "What if I weren't here?  So-and-so would really regret it then!"  The normal person gets a cup of coffee or a cigarette and moves on to other things, but the depressed person acts on the impulse and commits suicide.  The PTSD reaction is much more likely to manifest in the realm of anxiety and stress (especially "over-reaction").  A sleeping person rolls over and touches his/her companion, startling them awake and triggering a violent PTSD-related response resulting in an ER visit for broken nose and concussion.  A non-sensitized person simply rolls over and goes back to sleep, but for the PTSD sufferer, the "filter" that says "home" & "safe" never really engages, and all sudden events are perceived as possible threats.

Now, it is possible for a person to have more than one disorder, such as anger disorder plus PTSD or schizophrenia plus PTSD.  With such combinations we do speak of the disorder 'causing' the behavior, but again, it is not the PTSD, but the underlying condition that 'allows' (not causes) the person to act on impulses that they would ordinarily ignore or suppress.  The terms "psychopath" and "sociopath" have fallen out of favor among psychologists and psychiatrists – favoring instead the catch-all term "personality disorder."  However, the older term both refer in common to individuals that do not understand or care about social norms – or at least care whether their actions violate those norms. 
The choice to commit an act of exhibitionism or violence was not itself caused by the PTSD.  Having PTSD may have allowed the person to act on the impulses.  Having another type of psychological or personality disorder would certainly compound the problem. 


The reason researchers and psych types stress these issues is that it is very important to understand all of the contributing effects (and consequences) of an action.  Successful treatment of a mental disorder requires that medical professionals accurately describe which symptoms and actions are due to which disease – that way, as treatment progresses, they know which effects and side effects are appropriate. 

On the other hand, a diagnosis of PTSD is often a stigma, often resulting in loss of respect, jobs, family and even certain rights as a citizen.  Partly this is because of misdiagnoses, and part due to the tendency to attribute any and all "bad" behavior to PTSD.  We owe it to our soldiers and fellows not to abuse the term!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday FUNNY [Full link to blog for email clients.]

During a dangerous factory explosion that occurred in China, a Monkey was recorded on the camera saving a puppy from the explosion site, He held the dog as he ran out of the factory. 

Pretty neat, huh?

So, one of my lab techs sent this to me and said:  'Hey Boss, maybe we should get a dog for work... of course it would have to be a 'Lab'."


On another day I got this:

Monkey orchids.  *Someone* has too much time on their hands, if they actually *bred* (or modified) orchids to get this effect.

A different tech sent me this:

and this:

Now mind you, these aren't exactly the studies I do - but the folks in my lab know I appreciate good LabRat humor. 

Finally, I got this, sent to me by several different members of my lab staff...


To which all I have to say is... Yes.

Happy Monday!  I'll be back later this week with more new content!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Civic Duty [Full link to blog for email clients.]

Sorry folks, I've been behind in getting material ready for the blog.  I was called to Jury Duty starting today, and was using the "surplus" time last week to prepare for the prospect of being away from work for several days.  I've been excused after one day, so I am getting back on schedule.

I'll try to catch up by Wednesday!