The intensity of a monk’s meditation states befuddles science

“While his brain was probed by the fMRI, Mingyur (a Buddhist monk) followed the instruction to engage compassion. Once again the minds of everyone watching in the control room felt as though they had stopped. The reason: Mingyur’s brain circuitry for empathy rose to an activity level 700 to 800 times greater than it had been in the rest period just before.”

“Such an extreme increase befuddles science; the intensity with which those states were activated in Mingyur’s brain far exceeds any that had ever been seen in ‘normal’ people. The closest resemblance is for epileptic seizures, but those episodes last brief seconds, not for a full minute. And besides, brains are controlled by seizures, in contrast to Mingyur’s display of intentionally controlling his brain activity.”

~ from a story about brainwave tests of a monk in 2002

Counting medical procedures

I had trouble getting to sleep last night, so instead of counting sheep I decided to count how many times doctors have performed invasive procedures on me. I counted 22 invasive procedures, including six operations. I’ve also had at least four MRIs and nine CT scans. I was thinking of this because I have at least two more procedures coming up in the first quarter of 2018.

A scientific study to capture images of your brain on LSD published information about a scientific study to capture images of your brain on LSD. Quotes from the article:

“Nutt’s study ... was the first to use brain imaging to show the effects of LSD ... it showed that the drug weakens the rhythm of alpha brainwaves, which are known to be stronger in humans than other animals, and are considered a signature of high-level consciousness.”

“The study also found that LSD causes brain activity to become less coordinated in regions that make up the brain’s ‘default mode network,’ which is responsible for maintaining a stable sense of self. The greater the drug’s effect on the brain, the more participants experienced ego-dissolution, where the self melds with world around you.”

From the accompanying video: “LSD can also make people lose their sense of self ... as the higher-level network disintegrates, and normally estranged parts of the brain begin to interact, people’s thoughts and the outside world start to feel like the same thing.”

“Nonimmunologic histamine releasers other degranulation triggers” (mast cell diseases)

This is a list of “Nonimmunologic histamine releasers other degranulation triggers” from the Mastocytosis Society of Canada. Please see their website for more information about Mastocytosis triggers.

I just read that mast cell diseases are inherited, and this list makes me wonder if this comes from my dad’s side of the family. I know that he was allergic to quinine, which is on this list, and if I remember the story right, one of his brothers died when given a radioactive dye during an MRI or CT Scan. I got very sick the last time I was given dye during an MRI, and immediately broke out in hives.

fMRI software bugs upend years of research

I’ve seen several articles about major software bugs (and a lack of testing) recently, and one of them is related to MRI/fMRI image processing. From this article at

When you see a claim that “scientists know when you're about to move an arm: these images prove it”, they're interpreting what they're told by the statistical software.

A whole pile of “this is how your brain looks like” fMRI-based science has been potentially invalidated because someone finally got around to checking the data.

MRI relieved femoral artery pain after coronary angiogram

As a note for any doctors or medical students/researchers out there, I had a pelvic MRI 72 hours after a coronary angiogram, and the MRI dramatically reduced my femoral artery pain. I don’t know if the MRI just helped with the symptoms, or did something that helped heal the wound, but the pain relief was significant. On the way into the MRI I was walking very slow, and on the way out I could walk at a normal pace. If anyone reads this, I hope that’s a helpful hint for someone else out there.

For more information on this, here’s my story of a possible heart attack, nuclear stress test, coronary angiogram, a pheochromocytoma, and an MRI.

In a related note, I found this bandage on the place where the doctors went in on my femoral artery.

My week in review

FWIW, my week leading up to the Memorial Day weekend went like this:

Tuesday: Went to the liver doctor, he said my numbers are greatly improved, no worries, keep up the good work. A couple of hours later I started having chest pain, and eventually went to the ER. Their first two tests didn’t show any heart issues, but they wanted me to take a stress test the next day.

Lack of blood flow to three “deep white matter” locations

As I mentioned yesterday, I had an MRI recently, and the doctors noted that there is a lack of blood flow to three “deep white matter” locations. I think the three white spots in the middle/top of this MRI image are what they’re referring to, but I don’t know for sure yet. What I have learned is that the “gray matter” is on the outside of the brain, and the white matter is on the inside.