Is Anybody Home?

OR… The Ballad of H. pylori.

The guy who invented the frontal lobotomy got a Nobel Prize for figuring out a quick and inexpensive way of making people with profound mental illness much easier to handle.  In retrospect it doesn’t appear to have been such a good idea.  Today we drug people who are hard to handle into oblivion.  It’s kind of a variation on the same theme but nowhere near as messy.  Back in 2005 two researchers from Australia got the Nobel Prize for figuring out that the bacteria H. pylori caused stomach ulcers and that antibiotics would cure the whole problem.  Unfortunately, as with the frontal lobotomy, it appears that the Nobel committee may just have hit the Jackpot once again.

Research has recently shown that the stomach behaves differently after a course of antibiotics eradicates resident H. pylori.  For one, after a meal, levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone secreted in the stomach, are supposed to fall. But in subjects without H. pylori, the amount of ghrelin in the bloodstream held steady, in essence telling the brain to keep eating.  Experimental animals given antibiotics in the same dosage as american children with “ear infections” had marked increases in body fat even though their diets remained the same. (Indeed, farmers have long given antibiotics to livestock to promote weight gain without increasing caloric intake.)  Researchers at New York University have found an inverse correlation between H. pylori infection and childhood-onset asthma, hay fever and skin allergies.  Researchers in Switzerland and Germany have reported that mice given H. pylori actually are protected against asthma.

“If some twisted genius vaporized all 10 trillion cells in your body — along with the hair, the fingernails, and other tissue they create — it would not leave empty space behind. A body-shaped cloud made of bacteria, viruses, and other former stowaways would hover briefly in the air. The cloud would outline your skin, delineate your lungs, trace your digestive tract. You might be gone for good, but your shadow biosphere would remain.” 

The 100 Trillion micro-organisms “Left Behind” are anything but our enemies.  Without them we could not live and, we are learning, tampering with their balance in the cavalier fashion most people are accustom to may prove to be the root cause of some of the most deadly and expensive health problems faced by our modern society.  Asthma kills more than a quarter million people every year.  Obesity, especially in children, and the myriad of other health problems obesity directly causes contribute in a big way to the unsustainable cost of our so called “modern” health care system.  Mental problems, digestive problems, cardiovascular problems, cancer….. “We’re just beginning to learn the effects our micro-biome has on us, but it’s clear that they can be profound. Certain species help digest food and synthesize vitamins; others guide the immune system.”

    George Washington died of a throat abscess.  His physicians, the finest medical minds of the day, treated him with advanced bloodletting techniques in the hope that the evil humors causing the disease could be purged from his body.   The ironic thing is this…. If  instead of using their scalpels to open blood vessels in his  arm, to let out the bad humors, they had instead asked George to “open wide” and, with the same implement, punctured the abscess in the back of his throat the Father of our Country might just have recovered and gone on to complete the construction of his garden at Mount Vernon.  George was a hell of a gardener in case you didn’t know.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Is Anybody Home?

  1. freeze43

    And as such, science must be allowed to always continue, always push, always question.

  2. freeze43

    I am good Mrs. Neutron, how are you?
    I’m actually going to the smell art museum in New York for my next vacation, I doubt I would find myself in a creation museum, and if I was there I’d likely get thrown out quicker still.

    Science is important for all stuff! Science today would certainly of healed George Washington, science of tomorrow will certainly cure AIDS. Even less “material” things such as the psyche can be appropriately be explored by science.

  3. freeze43

    I got pun-ished there.
    As it stands, I’m an olfactory psychologist in the real world so I thought looking at the perfume industry’s take on approaching generating odors would be interesting. But yeah that’s the place

  4. An olfactory psychologist? This must be my lucky day.

    For a short time I owned a restaurant/bar. We cooked everything in peanut oil and when I was dumping out the used oil it occurred to me that I really should go into ANOTHER business.
    So many of the young couples I meet today consist of a normal guy and a girl who boldly declares “I don’t cook.” So, if I purchased a boatload of small fancy bottles and filled them with high-end used cooking oil I bet I would make a killing. If nothing else husbands would buy it as a gag gift for their non-cooking wives.
    …”I know you can’t cook, but, at least you can smell like you do.”

    “Ode de la BaCon” and “Rib-Eye No. 9” would be two of our biggest sellers. Smell is SO important! I married my wife 43 years ago because of the way she smelled. She never used perfume and doesn’t to this day. If she did it would break my heart. I would feel like she was a stranger. I once went on a blind date with a heavy girl. She smelled slightly like warm baloney. To this day I can’t smell baloney without thinking of her.
    I think a young girl with a little dab of “Ode de la BaCon” behind her ears would be almost irresistible to the average single guy.

  5. freeze43

    dear lord.

    Erm… probably wouldn’t work. Oil by its nature, changes and mucks around. Eventually what would happen is that the people wearing the oil would get use to it, meaning they would need more and more, making them more and more unattractive to anyone else.

    If you do want to smell like bacon in a more calm setting, the best advice I can give you is to eat bacon. Everything you eat (or smoke) comes out through your pores.

    And I appreciate your acknowledgement on the importance of smell 🙂
    Did you know that olfaction has a section of brain totally based on odor memory? In addition, this type of memory last longer and is more resilient than any other memory, and starts off far before visual or verbal too. I hope to make a mental disorder test based off one’s sense of smell someday.

    • Of course I understand and acknowledge the importance of smell! Why do you think the Olfactory Nerve is considered the 1st Cranial Nerve of the 12?

      To put it bluntly… humans and smell go way back. It is no coincidence that members of the opposite sex find the smell of genetically suitable mates FAR more attractive than potential mating partners that are genetically more closely related to them. (yuck)
      All that aside, I still don’t understand why my “Ode de la BaCon” would suffer from habituation any faster than Channel No.5 Of course one should “eat bacon”, that goes without saying, but, a woman who smelled like bacon… now, that would be something.

      I do like your idea of a test for mental disorders based of smell. I would offer for your consideration an alternative based on my personal experience. I have been poisoned by “bad clams” and other tainted bivalves on numerous occasions. Once, after a luncheon with colleagues on Cape Cod, I collapsed in a LSD like stupor caused by the ingestion of 3 dozen clams contaminated by “Red Tide”. Oh Boy was that fun. But, I digress. At this advanced point in my life I can, as a result of past close encounters, “smell” a bad clam from about a mile and three quarters away. My olfactory bulbs go all a-twitter and I get the shakes. [A similar thing happens to me with tequila, but, that’s another story for another time.]

      So, I hypothesize for your consideration, the possibility that nurses, doctors and caregivers for those with mental illness “may possibly” have the ability to “smell” crazy far better than the average person because of repeated past exposure. It almost stands to reason. I myself, living in Central Virginia, have been exposed to such a high population percentage of Republicans and Fundamentalist Christians for so many years that I have no problem identifying them in the dark and across a large room. They smell something like Mormons that have been left out of the refrigerator too long, but, nowhere near as strong as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
      If I were you I would seek a PhD based upon this AND your original ideas. You could do for stink what Oliver Sacks did for music. Write a book and join the immortals of science.

  6. freeze43

    Lol I think you took my sentence back asswards.

    Information from the olfactory bulb goes direct to the rhinencelaphon, which is responsible for emotions (hence why perfumes are so important). However, if one’s emotional comprehension is all over the place, so too will be the interpreted odor signal, meaning that if someone says it’s chocolate, someone with schizophrenia could say it’s strawberries.

    And you can actually be quite blase about it. For instance, children with autism have a markedly poorer ability to smell peppermint. Tests to evaluate other mental differences are few, but given the right odors and testing methods, anything could be assessed.

  7. freeze43

    Oh and different odors adapt at different levels. Food odors universally become adapted very very quickly (otherwise we would smell on our skin what we have eaten in the last 72 hours- not pleasant.

  8. freeze43….. Do people with autism have poor ability to “smell” peppermint… or poor ability to “recognize” peppermint? I understood it was the latter and thought to be a result of right brain issues.
    I am aware that poor olfactory ability is considered predictive, or can be, for schizophrenia.
    I bet dogs can smell if you are crazy or not… if properly trained. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people can too, and do, but, beneath the level of conscious awareness. I still think it would be interesting to see if someone who has worked with many schizophrenics could pick an unidentified schizophrenic out of a group of normal people while blindfolded.

    • freeze43

      right brain/left brain dichotomy is a bit of a hit and miss affair. It’s a little complicated, but it is in the detection of the peppermint as well as their ability to identify it- central (i.e. brain processing) and peripheral (that is, the actual Olfactory Receptor Neurons; ORNs) that are affected. Not surprising if one expects a general neuronal difference caused by genetic (or I suppose in this case, epigenetic) factors.

      It is possible that schizophrenics have an odor different to that of most other people, but whether it would be a difference due to diet and habitat, rather than pheromone et al. I’m not really sure. We are still up in the air as to whether humans emit what we would classify as pheromones; its still a vast explored area despite it being right in the middle of our faces.

      If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that schizophrenics would have varying degrees of identification at different times, given the imbalances of neurotransmitters etc. Buried in mind, the sort of “test a schizophrenics sense of smell” idea I have can actually predict schizophrenia for later in life. A smell test that was recently created, when administered at a young age, can predict late onset depression better than any other method including psychiatry and MRI scans.

      I have heard somewhere that dogs can predict when their owners are going to have heart attacks, and can detect things like fear etc. based on smell. Perhaps, with a dog’s nose, it wouldn’t be a big leap.

  9. freeze43…
    * So many fascinating avenues to explore and so little time.

    I can envision a futuristic diagnostic clinic packed with canines of every shape and size.

    [“Well Doctor, what did the tests show?”]

    They were somewhat inconclusive Mr. Jones. Initially, from the way Bootsie was sniffing and trying to lick your feet, we suspected adult onset diabetes. Now, I’m afraid, from the way Ajax was sniffing your ass, we are suggesting an immediate colonoscopy to rule out anything really nasty.

    In humans, the whole Jacobson’s organ business fascinates me.

    (bact to top)*

    • freeze43

      The whole olfactory sector is like wandering down a hall of an ancient and extinct but highly advanced civilization, looking for parts to make your spaceship work. Half the stuff is ornate, some of it is nearly working but busted, other things are basic and operable, some things behave unpredictably thanks to the years of decay. Further still, your spaceship has different needs to what the technology was made for, making the whole jury-rigging process a rather complicated state of affairs.

      Small wonder why comparatively few people research it when compared to the eye or ear.

  10. freeze43

    Oh nice Ajax reference- the blind and tricked warrior 🙂

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