Therapy Vs. Medication: or How I learned to Stop Drugging and Love the Analysis

I recently got into a heated discussion with someone about whether or not she needed to take Zoloft for her mood problems. This was one of those people with an attitude of holier than thou so I knew from the start that I wasn’t going to convince her of anything, but I continued anyway. The discussion started with me saying something about how Therapy is more effective than drugs, and she disagreed. She told me, and I quote, “I need Zoloft cause I have a chemical imbalance in the brain.”

Now I’m not saying that people don’t have chemical imbalances, but this girl quickly told me she’d never even went to a doctor (I wonder then how she got a hold of Zoloft, but then again parents are helpful intermediaries). “Never been to a doctor? Then how can you know!” Probably a mistake on my part, as she then flailed off on a tangent about how she knows there’s something wrong with her and Zoloft is the only thing that helps her and, this next part is the key to my post today, she feels horrible without taking it.

That brings us to today’s topic: Is Therapy ultimately more effective than Medication, or vice versa?

I’ve been doing some research into a wide array of different disorders; OCD, Depression, Shizophrenia, to name a few, and seeing if the efficacy of therapeutic treatment aids the patient more than medication. Those of you interested only in the conclusion should scroll to the bottom.

Case One: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (or how habits make you crazy!)

You see this spot here? This spot, you see it?! Get me some Windex dammit!

In the case for Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, therapy seemed to be a more effective treatment than medication, if combined with what Psychologists have called the Exposure and Ritual Prevention method (EX/RP). Exposure and Ritual Prevention therapy consists of the patient slowly being introduced to stimuli they would otherwise avoid. So a patient that is afraid of getting dirty might slowly be introduced to dirty things.

One study from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine in 2002 found that groups showing moderately severe OCD symptoms that were given SRI’s along with therapy were equal to or less than the group that was given therapy alone. The number of individuals who were given therapy alone who showed significant change totaled 23, while the SRI combination only totaled 20.

However, it seems that if the OCD patients are also suffering from anxiety or depression, these levels do not decrease with EX/RP, but instead would require a different form of therapy.

Therapy 1: Medication 0

Case Two: Depression (or how many licks does it take to get to the center of an Emo Kid?)

Even good ‘old Pugs here knows what really solves Depression

As far as depression is concerned therapy also seems to help more-so than the usual method of medication. According to a study done in 2009, children who were given mood stabilizers and SRI’s took longer to overcome their symptoms than those given Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The findings of that study actually showed that…

  1. The treatment didn’t take as long as medicated treatment
  2. Parent relationships improved far more with children in CBT than medication.
  3. They were less likely to need any form of psychotropic drug or otherwise treatment
  4. …and most important it was LESS costly (PROFIT!!!)

In adults it was found from another study done in 2008 that over a 2 year period adults showed either marked improvement or equivalent improvement over medication. Seeing as how therapy ultimately is more cost-effective, I would say therapy again wins the battle here.

Therapy 2: Medication 0

Case Three: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or won’t someone please shut my kid up!)

Your typical A.D.H.D. mindset humorously shown through 50’s propaganda

As far as ADHD is concerned it seems that medication can help depending on whether or not they have ever been in therapy. One study in 2008 clearly showed that children suffering from ADHD who had never had therapy did worse in school, whereas those that were given a medication regiment did far better. However, this study did not judge the effectiveness of therapy without medication.

For those results I turn to another study done in 2000 in New South Wales in Australia. This study reexamined previous results of medication and therapy vs. strictly CBT. There was little to know difference in either result, other than medication being needed less in the combined method than would’ve been without.

An actual graph created by a member of Miss Anazi’s Funtime Sunday School and Ball Pit

I’ll give meds a little credit for this one I guess. I found that most studies haven’t studied whether therapy vs. medication treatment is more effective in treating ADHD. It seems a combination of the two works best.

Therapy 3: Medication ½

Conclusion (or thank God I don’t have to read anymore)

I only really touched on a few topics here; I didn’t look too deeply into therapy for psychotic disorders or personality disorders. I know from what I learned in classes it seems that medication works best for psychotic disorders and therapy for most personality disorders, but I would love to see some studies done in this. Maybe I’ll write a follow-up sometime when I manage to dig some things up.

The conclusion though of these three seems to suggest that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the trump card of Psychological healing. While medication has been shown to aid individuals, Therapy is usually less-expensive and just as or more effective than medication. Most Psych officials would probably say a mix of the two is best – but from my personal experience I think therapy is the best solution. Medication seems to be more of a lazily engineered way of getting better, which I guess fits more with the American Lifestyle. Still, if Time is Money in our culture, and Meds cost more, and therapy has shown faster treatment – it should go without saying that therapy is your best route.

Besides, if Americans are so addicted to a quick fix and medication despite it offering little to no help – why all the marketing schemes? Just market something simple and straightforward, like the following…


Virgin Galactic – Can you hear me Major Tom?

It seems we won’t have to wait too far to be shot up into space, or I suppose the better word would be flown. Virgin Galactic, a branch of the Virgin Group owned by Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, plans to start flying people into space by 2015 for a measly 200,000$. Ok, so maybe it’s not THAT measly, but considering it’s going to be one of the first commercial airlines (or spacelines?) to fly you into space, it’s not that ridiculous.

The vehicle they’ve developed, titled the Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two, is a very science fiction looking aircraft designed to be hauled by the WhiteKnightII, another aircraft shaped strangely like a WWII bomber.

The Galactic II
The WhiteKnightII seen dropping the Galactic II.

The total cost will run 200,000$ with a 20,000$ deposit. The actual flight plan consists of a 3.5 hour flight total, with about 6 minutes of weightlessness.  NASA in February of 2007 also signed a memorandum of understanding, showing a possible collaboration between the two companies.

It seems the 2015 date is still on schedule as Virgin has successfully flown the Galactic II on it’s first solo flight as of last night. It was still carried 45,000ft. into the air by the White Knight II, but last night was the first successful flight where it was released from it’s carrier. It flew for a solid 11 minutes unaided by the White Knight II before landing.
Makes me wonder though if Virgin Records will have any say in some music on the flight. It’d add a little bit of charm I think, so long as you’re not playing Bowie’s Space Oddity… something about playing a song about a crashing spacecraft on a spacecraft that doesn’t sit well with superstition.
…maybe that’s just me.

Evolution vs. Belief – The Differences of Theories and Esoterics

So today I saw one of my favorite Simpsons intro’s ever. I had seen it before but just recently came across it again. Here’s the clip for those who are curious.

After watching it, I thought I’d cover some things with Evolution. Like religion, it can get controversial – if you’re religious. Evolution is often times called the theory that destroyed religion, but I don’t really see it that way. Only 12.7% of the world is Non-religious, which makes up only 800 million people. But if you look at the statistics of people that believe in evolution, it’s about 4/10 people, or 40% (which I find to be pretty gross to be honest).

Many scientists actually believe in a higher power, which is not too well known. However, why do only a rough 40% of people believe in Evolution? Well, I think the problem might be a mix of things. Let’s start breaking it down.

  1. 1. The Terms. I think a big problem is the confusion of terms with Evolution as well as other scientific theories. You never hear anyone saying anything that sounds remotely like “The evidence for evolution suggests the theory is correct.” Instead what you get is all kind of people, scientists, average people, and religious dogma’s alike using the word ‘believe’ with scientific theories. I did it up above, even I have the problem! I think people get very confused with Science in that you have to believe the theory. It’s never a question of evidence, but a question of personal opinion, which laughs in the face of science! Science takes facts and forms hypotheses out of facts, you don’t believe in Science – you trust in science because it creates the most valid view of the world around us.
  2. 2. Confusion of the meaning of a theory. I hear often of people saying that science never proves anything, it only disproves. I think what people miss when they say this is that that is the whole point! I had this discussion in the past with a good friend of mine, that science never sets out to prove itself right, rather it’s quite the opposite. All the greatest theories have set out to prove themselves wrong. A lot of people have trouble understanding this concept. Why would someone ever want to prove themselves wrong? The truth is that by doing so you get a lot more answers about how the world works – because you’re looking for the truth, not for what you’d like to be the truth. Theories are not the truth, they are simply the best answer to explain certain phenomena, and scientists welcome competing theories that can prove those standard theories wrong. Evolution, the Big Bang, Quantum Theory, Relativity: They await the day that a better theory is set forth to explain them.
  3. 3. Personal Dogma. A lot of Evolution’s issue is that it laughs in the face of personal wishes or perceptions of how the world is. This correlates with No. 2, some people just hate to be wrong. People are raised certain ways, shaped certain ways through their environment, to become certain people with certain beliefs. To try to change that takes a major amount of willpower on the person; it is up to them to change it. For religious believers, evolution seems to disagree with a lot of the dogma they were raised believing, and it takes a strong character to change or mold their beliefs around evolution.

This is just a few of the issues I see. I’m sure if I kept at it I could come up with hundreds. I realize that people are different and have different sets of beliefs, but I don’t see the theory of Evolution as a system of belief, rather it is simply a theory to explain the world, one that works far better than any other theory. Evolution does have holes, but it’s nothing that the theories of evolution couldn’t explain later, after we’ve acquired more information. It might not correlate well with your personal beliefs, but a belief is something esoteric, opinionated, and incorporeal. You can’t prove a belief. You can’t put beliefs to the test. If I showed you all the ways in which a belief was wrong, you still have every right to believe what you had believed in the first place. I think that people constantly, without meaning to, believe things that aren’t measurable – and that is their right – but it is still silly from my perspective to believe in something that disagrees with what we know to be the most true.

I was wondering what might have caused a person to have such strange beliefs, not necessarily religious but any esoteric thought; Astrology, witchcraft, numerology, etc. All of these things I find fascinating and fun, but at the same time I don’t believe a word of what they tell me. If I read a horoscope I might laugh, but I never take it seriously. There’s too much P.T. Barnum with them. Still, there are a large proportion of people that believe in these things, and it took an interesting talk by Michael Shermer at TED for me to realize what exactly could cause these strange ideas and beliefs.

The big thing he explains is that human beings as a means of survival developed a way to understand the world. Our ability to see patterns, was a way to explain away the world surrounding us, and thus led us to better adaptability. As Shermer points out, if you were an ancient hominid and saw a rusting in the grass, it would be better for you to assume that a predator was there than the wind, as one could likely kill you. This is a sensing of patterns. You saw a pattern (rustling of the grass), and to make sense of it you explained it away. Those that explained the phenomenon by assuming it was a predator lived, those that thought it was the wind died.

We still use patterns today, and probably will for the rest of human existence. Pattern sensing is what mathematicians use to solve complex problems, it’s what helps stock market brokers to play the market, and it’s what helps us navigate the road when driving. A side-effect of pattern sensing however, is the ability to sense patterns that aren’t there, or that are meaningless.

An example of pattern seeking behavior in the sky. What do you see?

It’s both a strength and a curse, and the scientific method has aided us in drawing a line between what patterns are real and which are false. There are many unexplainable phenomena still left in the world and many things to still be figured out.

I want to leave you with two quotes by Albert Einstein that is relevant to this post.

“Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.”

All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike-and yet it is the most precious thing we have”

…to be continued.

The Thinnest Material Ever – Graphene

No not graphite, Graphene, the thinnest material ever created has won two physicists the Nobel Prize in Physics. It’s 100 times stronger than steel, 1 atom thick, and is made by the same materials that make-up that number 2 pencil you needed for all those college Scantron tests. The winners of the award, Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim, two Russian physicists pictured here respectively.

Graphene is about as two-dimensional as you can get in our world of lengths, widths, and heights. It is made up of a string of carbon atoms only one atom thick, packed together to form a honeycomb like shape. Graphene is also transparent, which makes it a perfect candidate for applications in touch-screens, solar cells, and light panels just to name a few. It also has a great potential to create new material that can be used for any number of things, from advanced carbon fibers to new innovative electronics.

Graphene as seen through a transmission electron microscope
Graphene has been a seven year long project for the two Nobel Laureates, along with a strange experiment involving magnetic fields and levitating frogs (This actually won Geim the Ignoble award, which is far more prestigious than the Noble in my opinion).
Graphene is being hailed as highly similar to when the first polymers were developed, which later revolutionized the world via plastics. However, plastics took nearly 100 years to come on the scene since the discovery of polymers, will we have to wait that long as well?

Probably not. Technology and the application thereof have increased at such an alarming rate I wouldn’t be surprised to see Graphene being used in designs next year. Moore’s Law contends that the rate of computer transistors roughly doubles every two years. Many scientists have started speculating that we’re running out of room for Moore’s Law with silicon based transistors. This is where Graphene comes in. IBM is already using it to create transistors with on/off rates that far exceed that of silicon, thus perpetuating Moore’s Law further into the future. So… that computer you just paid 1000$ for is going to be very obsolete soon.

The Future of Silicon Computers
Whatever the application of Graphene is tomorrow, it’s guaranteed to accelerate our lives somehow. Congratulations to Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim on their work, now get back to that levitation experiment and figure out how to make Hovercrafts(not to be confused by hoverrounds.) 

The God Helmet – Jesus Christ at the Flick of a Switch!

Last week I brought you a post on Richard P. Feynman, this week we’re jumping straight into a more controversial topic: Religion. So everyone grab your crosses and throw on your Tallit’s, because this is going to be a fun one.

Religion is one of the most complicated of human experiences to begin to question (and the most likely to give you a tax exemption). You start to run into all sorts of problems that only philosophers, poets, and Max von Sydow in The Exorcist seem equipped to answer.

Father Dyer – First Missionary on Mars

It has been only a few years since science has progressed to the point where it can start answering the deeper questions that arise in Religion, such as “What causes a religious experience?”, “Can religious experience be manipulated in the laboratory?”, or “Is there a God at all?” While Stephen Hawking in his new book, The Grand Design, seems to be the only one willing to tackle the last question, one other scientist in particular has searched for the answer to the other two. His name is Dr. Michael A. Persinger, founder of a new field of neurology called neurotheology and inventor of a device that seems to initiate these spiritual experiences without the mass amount of devotion and donations respectively. The only organization that can claim this ability comes from Scientology, which we all know to be nothing more than Science Fiction at best.

Persinger, who has at one time attempted to explain away little green men and UFO’s through geophysical perturbations (not completely unheard of I suppose), invented a device in the 1980’s aimed at roughing the feathers of scientists and theologians alike about questions of God and the power of the human mind. And what was his idea? Shoot complex magnetic fields into an individual’s temporal lobes, inducing a religious experience (and costing Canadian Healthcare hundreds of dollars in cancer treatment). The result of his experiments produced this contraption…

…The God Helmet!
Of course this helmet doesn’t only produce religious experience. The helmet produces effects ranging anywhere from out-of-body experience, to the perceived presence (the feeling that someone is in the room with you, even though you’re alone), to God talking to you directly. It has caused people to believe in spiritual and esoteric beings, as well as completely denounce them. So you could say this is the most spiritually-scientific neutral device ever created. It’s like the Switzerland of spiritual devices!
Where there’s God or claim of one, you’re sure to find two things: fanatics and Richard Dawkins (not to confuse the two). Dawkins is the top evolutionary biologist in his field, but more than that he’s one of the major proponents of the Atheist movement, and often times called “The Most Atheist Man on the Planet”. Dawkins was invited in to test out the helmet, claiming that if he became a devout believer due to the helmet, his wife had threatened to leave him. Here is the clip of the spiritually numb Dawkins tackling Persinger’s God Helmet.

As you can see, Dawkins is immune to the charms of this device. While he did claim to have felt… fuzzy …He reported nothing stranger than a feeling he might experience when really tired. So here, we see already that Persinger’s experiment failed. However, stranger is the instance where Michael Shermer attempted the same feat. Shermer is editor to Skeptic magazine, and one of the more popular skeptics there are. Here is a clip of Shermer’s encounters with this strange device.

Shermer, as you could see, did encounter an out-of-body and sensed presence experience.

Since Persinger invented the device he has tested it on numerous people from many different backgrounds. The tests have more than often shown an effect on the wearer of some kind of paranormal experience. To explain away the results of the kind that Dawkins added, Persinger had his subjects take a psychological exam of sorts to find out how temporally sensitive a person might be. More often than not, those with high temporal lobe sensitivity felt effects (Dawkins had an embarrassingly low sensitivity, although I’m sure he’d be quite proud of it).

Many evolutionary biologists have tried to explain the reason for religion in human evolution, and Persinger’s experiments have revived those efforts. Some theories contend that paranormal experience and religious experience was our early efforts to explain the world around us, far before we had the vocal chords to sound out the letter “Y”.

Whatever the reason for religious experience, it’s there. Some people like it, some don’t, some live by it, and some kill for it. It’s unlikely that religious and paranormal experience will ever be rid of; but we might someday have answers into why they occur and their importance on the human species. Persinger is certainly sending us a message that not everyone is afraid to research such controversial topics – and challenge them directly.

Richard P. Feynman – Crazy as he is Genius

I’ve recently had a fixed interest into Richard P. Feynman, winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics (along with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga) for his work in the development of quantum electrodynamics, because of some lecture videos I found on YouTube. He died exactly a year and one day after I was born (whether or not that had anything to do with it we’ll leave to speculation) on February 15, 1988.

I’ve come to discover that this guy is a genius, with every meaning of the word, but he’s also a little well… crazy. I just read his most recent book; “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out” and this caused me to search the net for anything on him. It was via YouTube that I found this clever little video of the guy playing bongo’s and singing about how much he just needs to have his Orange Juice, seen here..

As you can see, Feynman obviously suffered from disturbed sleep, a side effect of ingesting far too much Vitamin C. And what fruit has such a whopping amount of Vitamin C…? Do you really need me to tell you? I’ll give you a hint…

In all seriousness though Feynman has done a lot of great things for scientific discovery, despite having a rather adequate IQ of 125(I mean jeez I have an IQ of 128 according to He grew up not just knowing what something is, but more importantly what something isn’t. When confronted by a boy that his father “didn’t teach him anything” because Feynman couldn’t say what kind of bird a Brown Throated Thrush was, Feynman laughed knowing this to be opposite. You see, Feynman’s father had not only taught him the name of the bird in English, but also in Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, etc. and only through this process did his father teach Feynman that he knew nothing about the bird by knowing its name.

This is an example of the kind of man Feynman was raised into being. He didn’t do things through conventional or traditional means, but rather was eccentric, crazy, and went against the norms of society. He was an explorer of the deepest nature. He adopted at a young age the philosophy that you should never care what other people think, because everyone else is most likely wrong.

Richard Feynman when he was younger worked in Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project. While he had no desire at all to design a weapon of such magnitude that it can produce such frightening images as this…

He was adamant in realizing that it could very easily be done by Nazi Germany, which no one likes a bomb that is shaped like Hitler’s Mustache falling from the sky. So Feynman joined Los Alamos, not as one of the most important scientific figures there, but rather as one of the biggest wastes of space in the compound. Throughout his time there he practiced his art of safe cracking, had constant mathematical competitions with the guests, and practiced his philosophy by telling people exactly what he thought of a situation. He managed to afford a position of group leader in Hans Bethe’s theoretical division, and while there met some of the most prestigious names in Science such as; Niels Bohr, Hans Bethe, and Oppenhiemer. Bohr often would seek him out personally because all the other mathematicians were too captivated by Bohr to argue with him. He was so arrogant in his knowledge of nuclear physics that when they finally tested Gadget (the name of the bomb used in the Trinity test) he was the only one to not where radioactive glasses, knowing that his eyes would be safe from the UV rays behind a simple truck windshield. He was therefore the only person to actually witness the first man made nuclear explosion unaided.

Shortly after Los Alamos, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. Feynman is often quoted in saying that the people at Los Alamos, the men who worked on the bomb, eventually forgot their reasons for making it (himself included) and only focused on the fun of figuring out the problems. I suppose you can’t stop the Mathematician and Engineers problem solving disease. After the war, Feynman said himself that he couldn’t see the point in the creation of anything, knowing full well that the bomb was out there, ready to be used, and could at any moment destroy all we create.

Another important mess he was involved in was the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster of January 28, 1986. He was a part of the committee to investigate what went wrong with the launch, why it exploded, and how it could be prevented in the future. Feynman quickly realized that no one on the committee ever actually did anything to discover what happened, it was more like a big bureaucratic party, where there’s plenty of coke, insults and shouting, but nothing getting done, similar to what we see here…

So Feynman, in his realization that he was the only intelligent person on the committee started snooping around. He became rather like Dick Tracy, minus the fashionable yellow raincoat (probably so he didn’t scare little girls into thinking he was a child molester). He quickly discovered that there was a major miscommunication between the engineers at the bottom working on the shuttle and the managers at the top. He discovered that the managers had given the shuttle a 1/100000 chance of failure (which means a launch every day for 300 years without a mistake; which also means NASA is very very very very very unlucky.) while the engineers gave a more realistic 1/100 launch failure.

He also discovered on of the main proponents of the shuttle, the famous O-ring, could fail under certain temperatures during launch. It is often said that one of the engineers said that they shouldn’t have launched the shuttle because the temperatures were too low, and had we listened to little Joe Plumber at the bottom the disaster could have been prevented (This however, does not reflect on the election of 2008, as Joe Plumber 2008 is a pompous retard). Feynman demonstrated the failure of the O-ring under low temperatures live using only a glass of ice water.

Truly, Richard Feynman was pretty crazy. He didn’t hold still for anyone, and when he knew that he should act on something he did it with such precision and intelligence that people couldn’t help but let him get away with it. He revolutionized the world with his work in quantum electrodynamics, and thanks to a challenge to computer scientists he helped drive the world into Nanotechnology and Quantum Computing (we’re still kind of waiting for this one Feynman). Either way, his crazy antics and can-do attitude has truly turned the world on it’s head, and that’s why I’ve had this obsession with him recently.

And now for the nerds, an inspiring talk with Feynman on the beauty of a flower…

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