Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things don't happen in New Zealand any more

We used to have events here, but then with the rise of the global economy it became more cost-efficient to import our news from other countries where they can manufacture it more cheaply, on account of economies of scale. This is why local newspapers are filled primarily with advertisements stories about events in Europe or the US -- or events in the past, which can provide news even more cheaply, though I worry whether it is a renewable resource.

Thus the local fish-wrap has followed the lead of newspapers in the UK and the US by reporting that in 2006, in Belgium, a guy was diagnosed as conscious but paralysed, 23 years after the crash that paralysed him. Allegedly he is suffering from locked-in syndrome, which is probably a misprint, since it would make more sense as "locked-out syndrome" -- the silly bunt forgot his password for motor control.

We were further treated to excerpts from an interview the guy gave to the German trash tabloid Der Spiegel. Disappointingly, it turns out that the interview was done using Facilitated Communication, otherwise known as a Ouija board. The disappointing aspect here is the missed opportunity... he is quoted as spelling out boring stuff about meditating to pass the time, when the person channelling his messages could have made up a load of far more interesting persiflage about flying unicorns and cities of singing flame in the Land Beyond the White Light.

Apparently the recognition of Houben's conscious state involved "a state-of-the-art scanning system". Naturally I would like to know more, because (a) distinguishing conscious from unconscious brain activity using EEGs and so on and so on is notoriously difficult (which is why anaesthesiologists get the big bucks), and (b) everyone likes machines that go 'ping'. Especially state-of-the-art ones. Imagine the shame if someone were thought to be in a coma, and their conscious state was recognised using last year's equipment.

If you try to track down more details, the Wikipedia pages on Houben and on the neurologist Steven Laureys both refer you to a paper in the journal BMC Neurology, a vanity-press journal (we don't need your steenkin' peer reviewing!) from the BioMed Central stable.* So I read the paper, but LIFE IS FULL OF DISAPPOINTMENTS: there is no mention of the Houben case.**

Further research is necessary.
*BMC are in bad odour in the academic world for spamming and generally being gobshites.

** Laureys and co-authors rediagnosed cases of vegetative state and minimally-conscious state using their own observations of the patients' eye movements. Executive summary: for patients in a vegetative state according to their doctors' clinical judgements, 41% were actually in a minimally-conscious state according to Laureys and only need more coffee, therefore HA HA our methods must be right and clinical judgements are wrong.


mikey said...

What, some kind of national self-consciousness about the daily reports of Weta attacks? Ahh, to somehow return to a simpler time.

Go ahead and mock his 'meditation' if you will, Dok, but he learned to have like six hour orgasms. Something to be said for becoming an ascetic, one way or another.

"State of the Art" is always a marketing term. It's notoriously abused, because to be honest, nobody actually KNOWS what the state of any given art might be at any given time. I mean, arguably, the state of the art for lunar travel was forty years ago. And all the buzz in processors is around CULV and Atom and Tegra and ARM, slower, dumber, cooler, less power consumption and lower cost. So the state of the art in microprocessors has actually declined over the last three years. Or something.

So lemme get this straight. They're not even bothering to use a fixed paper in which they included the case in question? These people ought to stick to medicine, they suck and cons...

Smut Clyde said...

I for one think mikey should become a facilitated-communication facilitator. This would add a great deal of circumstantial vividness to the reveries and mind-games reported by apparently comatose patients.

They're not even bothering to use a fixed paper in which they included the case in question?

Laureys started the wiki page on himself but he's no longer in charge of it. Some other contributor added a section about the Houben case, and decided to cite an irrelevant and embarrassingly bad paper as the source for more information.

mikey said...

Come on, say it.

SAY the words. You can do it.

What's your checking account number? You can tell me, I'm right here with you.

So let's do a visualization exercise, mmmkay? Great.

Visualize your account number. Now, and this is going to be hard, we're going to have to figure out a way to, you know, 'cross the gap'. Like we've talked about before. You just need to trust me. Now, what we have to do is work this down, narrowing the options. First digit - odd or even?

Substance McGravitas said...

Did you get the bit about Houben's "plan" to write a book?

I'll wait for mikey's version.

Smut Clyde said...

The bidding for the movie rights must be already underway.
The only products of the Belgian movie industry that come immediately to mind are "Man Bites Dog" and "The Ordeal". This does not bode well.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

...both refer you to a paper in the journal BMC Neurology, a vanity-press journal (we don't need your steenkin' peer reviewing!) from the BioMed Central stable.*

Related to Emusevier, no doubt.

Smut Clyde said...

I'd forgotten about the Arsevier story.