Tag Archives: Health

Can You Really Be Addicted to Video Games?

Charlie Bracke can’t remember a time when he wasn’t into video games. When he was 5, he loved playing Wolfenstein 3D, a crude, cartoonish computer game in which a player tries to escape a Nazi prison by navigating virtual labyrinths while mowing down enemies. In his teenage years, he became obsessed with more sophisticated shooters and a new generation of online games that allowed thousands of players to inhabit sprawling fantasy worlds. Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls — he would spend as much as 12 hours a day in these imaginary realms, building cities and fortifications, fighting in epic battles and hunting for treasure.

During his childhood, Bracke’s passion for video games, like that of most young Americans, didn’t cause him any serious problems. At school, he got along with just about everyone and maintained straight A’s. His homework was easy enough that he could complete it on the bus or in class, which allowed him to maximize the time he spent gaming. After school, he would often play video games for hours with his cousin and a small group of close friends before going home for dinner. Then he would head to the den and play on the family computer for a few more hours before bed. When his parents complained, he told them it was no different from their habit of watching TV every night. Besides, he was doing his homework and getting good grades — what more did they want? They relented.

When Bracke went to Indiana University Bloomington, everything changed. If he skipped class or played games until 3 in the morning, no one seemed to care. And only he had access to his grades. After a difficult breakup with a longtime high school girlfriend and the death of his grandmother, Bracke sank into a period of severe depression. He started seeing a therapist and taking antidepressants, but by his junior year, he was playing video games all day and seldom leaving his room. He strategically ignored knocks at the door and text messages from friends to make it seem as though he were at class. Eventually, he was failing most of his courses, so he dropped out and moved back in with his parents in Ossian, Ind., a town of about 3,000 people, where he got a job at Pizza Hut.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 5, 2019 in Reportages


Tags: ,

Krijg je echt geen koeienoren van een prik?

Rebecca Chandler praat op opgewonden toon terwijl ze door de gangen van het Renaissance Hotel in Washington D.C. loopt. Het is begin maart 2019, het belangrijkste vakcongres over vaccins is gaande. De Amerikaanse arts en vaccinveiligheidsexpert heeft zojuist een presentatie gehouden over haar werk in het Uppsala Monitoringscentrum voor Geneesmiddelenbewaking van de Wereldgezondheidsorganisatie (who) in Zweden, maar dat is niet wat haar opwinding veroorzaakt. ‘Er hangt iets in de lucht’, zegt ze terwijl ze op de roltrap richting lobby stapt. ‘Er lijkt een andere kijk op zeldzame vaccinbijwerkingen te ontstaan.’

Chandlers visie op vaccinveiligheid veranderde voorgoed in 2009. Ze werkte toen nog bij de Zweedse evenknie van ons landelijke bijwerkingencentrum Lareb en zag tijdens haar zwangerschapsverlof in het nieuws de gevallen van narcolepsie (slaapziekte) verschijnen, die in verband werden gebracht met het vaccin tegen de Mexicaanse griep. Als infectieziekten-arts was ze altijd uitgesproken voorstander geweest van vaccineren en destijds kon ze als jonge moeder niet wachten om haar eigen kinderen te laten vaccineren, vertelt ze. ‘Ik ben nog steeds ontzettend pro, maar we kunnen er als het over vaccinatie gaat niet meer simpelweg van blijven uitgaan dat alle mensen gelijk zijn.’

Verschillende onderzoeken hebben inmiddels aangetoond, vertelt Chandler, dat er naast een grote groep die normaal reageert ook twee heel kleine andere groepen zijn: ‘Een die te weinig reageert en dus onvoldoende afweer opbouwt – bij een hoge vaccinatiegraad geen ramp – en een andere die overreageert, wat leidt tot bijwerkingen, die in uitzonderlijke gevallen ernstig kunnen zijn.’

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 31, 2019 in Reportages



Spot the psychopath

Psychopath. The word conjures up the image of a cold-blooded killer, or perhaps a fiendishly clever but heartless egoist. There’s Ted Bundy, who in the 1970s abducted women, killed them, and had sex with their decomposing bodies. Or Hannibal Lecter from the film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), who cunningly escaped his various confinements and ended up eating the people he despised. In the popular imagination, psychopaths are the incarnation of evil. However, for an increasing number of researchers, such people are ill, not evil – victims of their own deranged minds. So just what are psychopaths, and what is wrong with them?

According to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist – first devised in the 1970s by the Canadian criminal psychologist Robert Hare and since revised and widely used for diagnosis – psychopaths are selfish, glib and irresponsible. They have poor impulse control, are antisocial from a young age, and lack the ability to feel empathy, guilt and remorse. Psychopaths steal, lie and cheat, and have no respect for other people, social norms or the law. In some cases, they torture defenceless animals, assault other children or attempt to kill their siblings or parents. If caught, they fail to take responsibility for their actions, but tend to blame others, their upbringing or ‘the system’. According to some recent calculations, more than 90 per cent of male psychopaths in the United States are in prison, on parole or otherwise involved with the criminal justice system. Considering that psychopaths are thought to make up only around 1 per cent of the general population, that number is staggering. Because of this close link to criminality, psychopathy used to be known as ‘moral insanity’.


Leave a comment

Posted by on September 30, 2019 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

This could be why you’re depressed and anxious

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 20, 2019 in Uncategorized



The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages

Last May, Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia, a doctoral candidate at the Max
Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, in the Dutch city of Nijmegen,
flew to Malta for a week to learn Maltese. He had a hefty grammar book
in his backpack, but he didn’t plan to open it unless he had to. “We’ll
do this as I would in the Amazon,” he told me, referring to his
fieldwork as a linguist. Our plan was for me to observe how he went
about learning a new language, starting with “hello” and “thank you.”

is a twenty-seven-year-old Peruvian with a baby face and spiky dark
hair. A friend had given him a new pair of earrings, which he wore on
Malta with funky tank tops and a chain necklace. He looked like any
other laid-back young tourist, except for the intense focus—all senses
cocked—with which he takes in a new environment. Linguistics is a
formidably cerebral discipline. At a conference in Nijmegen that had
preceded our trip to Malta, there were papers on “the anatomical
similarities in the phonatory apparati of humans and harbor seals” and
“hippocampal-dependent declarative memory,” along with a
neuropsychological analysis of speech and sound processing in the brains
of beatboxers. Rojas-Berscia’s Ph.D. research, with the Shawi people of
the Peruvian rain forest, doesn’t involve fMRI data or computer
modelling, but it is still arcane to a layperson. “I’m developing a
theory of language change called the Flux Approach,” he explained one
evening, at a country inn outside the city, over the delicious pannenkoeken
(pancakes) that are a local specialty. “A flux is a dynamism that
involves a social fact and an impact, either functionally or formally,
in linguistic competence.”

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 13, 2019 in Reportages


Tags: ,

Can CBD Really Do All That?

When Catherine Jacobson first heard about the promise of cannabis, she was at wits’ end. Her 3-year-old son, Ben, had suffered from epileptic seizures since he was 3 months old, a result of a brain malformation called polymicrogyria. Over the years, Jacobson and her husband, Aaron, have tried giving him at least 16 different drugs, but none provided lasting relief. They lived with the grim prognosis that their son — whose cognitive abilities never advanced beyond those of a 1-year-old — would likely continue to endure seizures until the cumulative brain injuries led to his death.

In early 2012, when Jacobson learned about cannabis at a conference organized by the Epilepsy Therapy Project, she felt a flicker of hope. The meeting, in downtown San Francisco, was unlike others she had attended, which were usually geared toward lab scientists and not directly focused on helping patients. This gathering aimed to get new treatments into patients’ hands as quickly as possible. Attendees weren’t just scientists and people from the pharmaceutical industry. They also included, on one day of the event, families of patients with epilepsy.


Leave a comment

Posted by on August 9, 2019 in North America, Reportages


Tags: , ,

Why Didn’t Chernobyl Kill All the Plants?

Chernobyl has become a byword for catastrophe. The 1986 nuclear disaster, recently brought back into the public eye by the hugely popular TV show of the same name, caused thousands of cancers, turned a once populous area into a ghost city, and resulted in the setting up of an exclusion zone 2600km² in size.

But Chernobyl’s exclusion zone isn’t devoid of life. Wolves, boars and bears have returned to the lush forests surrounding the old nuclear plant. And when it comes to vegetation, all but the most vulnerable and exposed plant life never died in the first place, and even in the most radioactive areas of the zone, vegetation was recovering within three years.

Humans and other mammals and birds would have been killed many times over by the radiation that plants in the most contaminated areas received. So why is plant life so resilient to radiation and nuclear disaster?

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 8, 2019 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

The other opioid crisis

Dr M. R. Rajagopal has been called the “father of palliative care in
India”. He has spent more than two decades doing clinical work and
advocacy to improve care for the dying and those suffering from
life-threatening illnesses. The use of opioids for pain relief is
crucial to this work. Yet he has had to fight to prescribe them,
including amending the country’s legislation. “Only a tiny, tiny
minority of people in India have access to pain relief,” he says. “We
have people travelling as far as 300km to get their refill of morphine
prescriptions. There are many states where it is totally unavailable.”
According to Human Rights Watch, 96 per cent of needy patients in India
can’t access opioids. Now Rajagopal is worried that the dependency
crisis in the US will harm the slow progress being made in India.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Asia, Reportages


Tags: ,

Something is wrong on the internet

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 6, 2019 in Reportages


Tags: , , , ,

The prison inside: Japan’s hikikomori lack relationships, not physical spaces

Fifty-three-year-old Kenji Yamase doesn’t fit the traditional image of a hikikomori, but then perceptions of Japan’s social recluses are changing.

“People think of hikikomori as being lazy young people with
personality problems who stay in their rooms all the time playing video
games,” says Yamase, who lives with his 87-year-old mother and has been a
recluse on and off for the past 30 years.

“But the reality is that most hikikomori are people who can’t get
back into society after straying off the path at some point,” he says.
“They have been forced into withdrawal. It isn’t that they’re shutting
themselves away — it’s more like they’re being forced to shut themselves

A hikikomori is defined by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry
as someone who has remained isolated at home for at least six
consecutive months without going to school or work, and rarely interacts
with people from outside their own immediate family.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 3, 2019 in Asia


Tags: ,