On a Few Thoughts

Monday Musings” for Monday March 24, 2014

Volume IV, No. 168


On Magic, Memory, Wrong Diagnosis, Origin of Inoculation, and What to do for Depression

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*

Luther and Erasmus

Recently, we observed the 88th birthday of a good friend at a luncheon. The toast was the story of Luther (Nov 10, 1481-Feb 18, 1546) and Erasmus (Oct 27, 1466 to July 12, 1536), two fierce competitors (but good friends). Erasmus who was quite a few years older than Luther was debating the existence of ‘Miracle” and “Magic” with Luther. After many exchanges of letters, with a sense of exhaustion, Erasmus tersely wrote to Luther, ”Boy, Of course there is magic and miracle.  You get magic and miracle when you combine intellect and industry ” Yes, “smarts” and “hard work” produce magic and miracle…. I think Erasmus was thinking of our honoree. Happy birthday!

 Digital Learning

 Promulgation and promotion of digital learning, and creation DigiLearn as reported in news media including New York Times and the Wall Street journal are all meritorious. But idealizing DigiLearn as a powerful instrument that nurtures imagination as opposed to memorization that discourages imagination is a disservice. This view is scientifically flawed and untenable. In neuroscience and neurobiology, we know that those areas of the brain, including the limbic system, association cortex and nucleus coeruleus that are responsible for memory and storing of information are strengthened by memorizing facts. The same centers are also responsible for strengthening the power of imagination, creativity and innovation. These centers work together to enhance both memory and imagination. Memorization complements and enhances imagination. Please do not malign memorization and do not deprive our children from receiving the gift of knowledge through activating the memory centers of their brain. All the computers and artificial intelligence floating around will never replace memorizing epic poems of Homer, Dante, Faust and Milton.

 Krauthammer’s Wrong Diagnosis

I usually agree with the opinions of my respected colleague turned journalist, Dr. Charles Krauthammer. His style shaped by his training as a physician, to cut through symptoms and look for the correct diagnosis(es) and cause(s) of America’s ills, is most gratifying. But his  March 14 syndicated column in Washington Post and other papers “An Action Plan to Stop Putin”, while making recommendations to cure our current ills do not go deeply enough to make the correct diagnosis before offering suggestions and remedies.

The basic problem with America’s repeated failures in foreign affairs is that our European and Middle Eastern allies no longer respect the office of American Presidency or the current person who occupies the post. I hear derogation, mockery and condescension from ordinary citizens of foreign nations about US presidency. We should address that basic malady before offering remedies.

 The Origins of Inoculation and Vaccination

For the readers who are contemplating to travel to Turkey, here is a historical aside: It is about Turkish women of many centuries ago. It explains the character and intellectual capacity, with Baconian and Lockian power of inductive reasoning and empirical observation of Turkish women of the middle ages. These women were most likely illiterate. The story has to do with inoculation against smallpox. These women observed that they can sell their daughters into slavery for a higher price if they were unmarked by the scars of smallpox. They noted that mild cases of smallpox provided lifelong immunity to the disease and limited the scarring. So they exposed their young daughters to benign cases of smallpox. This practice was carried out hundreds of years before Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and Robert Koch (1843-1910) introduced inoculation  and vaccination to modern medicine. Voltaire while exiled to England in Les Lettres philosophiques has written extensively about powers of observation, inductive reasoning and empirical knowledge.

 Treating Depression with Good Thoughts

Worth  reading. I will be writing about how empirical data are showing that good thoughts, good words and good deeds(Zarathustra’s Motto) not only elevate mood and restore dopamine levels of the brain, but actually changes the morphology of the brain. This is the essence of Eshgh, the Sufi love. Thinking good thoughts suffuses brain with good hormones like dopamine and indoleamine…Exciting stuff to think about and write about….

POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.


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