Friday, April 24, 2009

Britain's chief medical attention-seeker is at it again

She quotes no proof of the evils of computers that she discusses because she has none. It is all just her speculation, full of "might be"s and "could be"s. She appears to have no children herself but somehow knows all about them. My son was a heavy computer user since he was a tot but he is now in adulthood very sociable and socially popular. He also has a degree in mathematics and is making good progress towards his doctorate in the subject. So a fat lot of harm heavy computer use did him! Computers can bring kids together. I have seen plenty of examples of it. The lonely nerd would probably be lonely anyway. The lady below needs to get out more. She might learn something. She has probably never even heard of a LAN party. If she had, her discussion below would not have been so unbalanced. As it is, she is just farting at the mouth below

Can you imagine a world without long-term relationships, where people are unable to understand the consequences of their actions or empathise with one another? Such conditions would not only hamper our happiness and prosperity - they could threaten our very survival. Yet this imagined existence isn't as far away as it seems. It is a plausible future. For we are developing an ever deeper dependence on websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Second Life - and these technologies can alter the way our minds work.

As a neuroscientist, I am aware of how susceptible our brains are to change - and our environment has changed drastically over the past decade. Most people spend at least two hours each day in front of a computer, and living this way will result in minds very different from those of past generations. Our brains are changing in unprecedented ways. We know the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to the outside world - this so-called 'plasticity' is famously illustrated by London taxi drivers who need to remember all the streets of the city, and whose part of the brain related to memory is generally bigger than in the rest of us as a result. Indeed, one of the most exciting concepts in neuroscience is that all experience leaves its mark on your brain.

But while adults' brains can change, it is children who are most at risk, for their brains are still growing - and may not have yet had a full range of experiences in three dimensions. Yet 99 per cent of children and young people use the internet, according to an Ofcom study. In 2005, the average time children spent online was 7.1 hours per week. By 2007, it had almost doubled to 13.8 hours. As an expert on the human brain, I am speaking out as I feel we need to protect the young.

Of course, this idea may not be welcomed - when someone first linked smoking and lung cancer, people didn't like that idea; some derided them because they enjoyed smoking. But parallels could well be drawn with this, and I believe similar precautionary thinking should be set in train, as in turn was needed for sunbathing and carbon emissions. We must take this issue of computers seriously because what could be more important than the brains of the next generation?

Three areas of computing are likely to have the most marked effect - social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, imagined online societies such as Second Life, and computer games.

Facebook turned five years old in February. Arguably, it marks a milestone and a highly significant change in our culture - millions of individuals worldwide are signing up for friendship through a screen. Half of young people aged eight to 17 have their own profile on a social networking site. But two basic, brain-based questions still need to be addressed. First, why are social networking sites growing? Secondly, what features of the young mind, if any, are threatened by them?

In modern life, the appeal of social networking sites to children is easy to understand. As many parents now consider playing outside too dangerous, a child confined to the home can find at the keyboard the kind of freedom of interaction that earlier generations took for granted in the three-dimensional world of the street. Though to many children screen life is even more appealing. Philip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, suggests that: 'Building a Facebook profile is one way that individuals can identify themselves, making them feel important and accepted.'

Social networking sites satisfy that basic human need to belong, as well as the ability to experience instant feedback and recognition from someone, somewhere, 24 hours a day. At the same time, this constant reassurance is coupled with a distancing from the stress of face-to-face, real-life conversation. Real-life chatting is, after all, far more perilous than in the cyber world as it occurs in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever responses, and it requires a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and even to physical chemicals such as pheromones.

None of these skills is required when chatting on a networking site. In fact, one user told me: 'You become less conscious of the individuals involved (including yourself), less inhibited, less embarrassed and less concerned about how you will be evaluated.' In other words, Facebook does not require the subtleties of social skill we need in the real world. Not only will this impair individuals' ability to communicate - and build relationships - it could completely change how conversation happens.

Maybe real conversation will give way to sanitised screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf. Perhaps future generations will recoil with similar horror at the messiness, unpredictability and personal involvement of real-time interaction.

Other aspects of brain development may also be in line for a makeover. One is attention span. If the young brain is exposed to a world of action and reaction, of instant screen images, such rapid interchange-might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales. It might be helpful to investigate whether the near total submersion of our culture in screen technologies over the past decade might in some way be linked to the threefold increase over this period in prescriptions for Methylphenidate, the drug prescribed for ADHD.

A second difference in the young 21st-century mind might be a marked preference for the here-and-now, where the immediacy of an experience trumps any regard for the consequences. After all, when you play a computer game, everything you do is reversible. You can switch it off or start again. But the idea that actions don't have consequences is a very bad lesson to learn, when in life they always do. And in games the emphasis is on the thrill of the moment. This type of activity can be compared with the thrill of compulsive gambling.

The third possible change is in empathy. This cannot develop through social networking because we are not aware of how other people are really feeling - we cannot pick up on body language when we are communicating through a screen. As a result, people could become almost autistic. One teacher wrote to me that she had witnessed a change over the 30 years she had been teaching in the ability of her pupils to understand other people and their emotions. She pointed out that previously, reading novels had been a good way of learning about how others feel and think....

More speculative rubbish here

Aspirin now under attack!

Kids worldwide have been given this stuff for generations -- but suddenly it's wrong. But again it's all speculation

Children under 16 should not be given the ulcer treatments Bonjela or Bonjela Cool mint gel because of potential health risks, the medicines watchdog warns today. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued a precautionary alert on pain relief gels for the mouth that contain salicylate salts. These have the same effect on the body as aspirin, which is not recommended for those under the age of 16.

Bonjela is among the pain relief gels that contain the salts, which have been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal condition in children. It is thought [There a lot of silly things thought. I have pretty silly thoughts myself at times] that a previous viral infection, such as flu or chickenpox, and exposure to aspirin could cause Reye’s syndrome, a metabolic disorder that can cause serious liver and brain damage.

The MHRA said that Bonjela’s adult formulations — designed to relieve the pain and swelling caused by mouth ulcers and denture and brace sores — were not recommended for children, but that Bonjela Teething Gel was safe. In a statement, the Agency added: “This is a precautionary measure only and there are no new safety concerns.

“The advice is being introduced due to a theoretical risk that these products could increase the possibility of a child developing Reye’s syndrome — a rare but serious condition,” the agency said. “There are a number of options and alternative treatments for pain associated with teething and mouth ulcers. If parents, carers or young people are unsure how best to treat these problems they should ask a GP, health visitor, dentist or pharmacist.” [Eating peanuts rapidly cures any mouth ulcers I get. So there's some free advice]

As of April 16, three suspected serious adverse drug reaction reports were received by the MHRA in association with the use of oral gels containing choline salicylate. All three cases were in children and all ended up in hospital. However, Reye’s syndrome was not confirmed in any child. The MHRA also received another four reports of vomiting or diarrhoea in children after the use of Bonjela, three of which related to the child being given the gel for teething pain. All made a full recovery.

June Raine, the MHRA’s director of vigilance and risk management of medicines, said the advice brought the products into line with others containing aspirin. “We are not aware of any confirmed cases but, when there are alternatives available, any risk is not worth taking. The new advice is to stop using these products in children and young people under 16, and to use alternative treatments.

“For infants with teething there is helpful advice in the Department of Health’s Birth to Five publication.” Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of Bonjela, said that it had redesigned packaging to make it easier for consumers to choose the right gel in light of the new recommendations. Bonjela and Bonjela Cool will now be clearly labelled Adults and Children over 16 and the packaging for Bonjela Teething Gel has also been changed. The company added: “There have been no confirmed cases of Reye’s syndrome associated with Bonjela or Bonjela Cool, which remain safe and effective treatments for adults and children 16 years and over.

“The MHRA’s new advice on oral salicylate gels for use in under-16s does not affect Bonjela Teething Gel . . . has been specially formulated to provide targeted relief without the use of salicylates.”


1 comment:

John A said...

So Bonjela, which comes in Adult and Infant/Child formulations, will now state which is which on the label. Just like aspirin.

Well, sort of: US maker St. Joseph's® was forced a couple of years ago to remove "Children's" from the name of its juvenile formulation (86mg, vs adult 350mg) - coincidentally, after many more doctors started prescribing it for adults as a daily preventative dose.