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Brain Cells

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Floppit
179013.  Wed May 30, 2007 7:20 am Reply with quote

I was saddened by the presentation of the information that alcohol does not kill brain cells. Not because I see any benefit in myth but because there was little to balance the 'snippet' of information. To quote from the Science Daily reference given above:

Quote:
"When used in excess, alcohol damages brain structure and function. Alcoholics have impairments in the ability to reason, plan or remember,"


There are positives strides being made in learning about brain recovery - there'll need to be as between 1991 and 2001 alcohol related deaths have doubled. With the Royal College of Physicians arguing for a ban on advertising and reporting a growing drinking problem in children (including child liver cirrhosis statistics), this is more than moralising panic.
http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/alcohol.asp

The Lancet.Vol.369. March 24 2007 contained a report measuring harm done by various mind altering substances which found alcohol 'nearly as harmful as heroin' (See link below for summary).
http://www.ias.org.uk/resources/publications/alcoholalert/alert200701/al200701_p8.html

I think by providing a well chosen fraction of information this subject has been dangerously misrepresented at a time when medical community is openly asking for recognition of the harm alcohol frequently causes.

It's made me very sceptical of how QI represents 'facts'.

 
samivel
179026.  Wed May 30, 2007 7:42 am Reply with quote

QI doesn't claim to be a health documentary.

 
eggshaped
179030.  Wed May 30, 2007 7:49 am Reply with quote

Hi Floppit, and thanks for your feedback.

I was the elf originally responsible for this question; as you will see from my original post above, I said:

Quote:
While there is no doubt at all that alcohol abuse can cause serious damage, not least to the brain, there is no evidence that these problems are down specifically to the death of cells


As you say, this is an important point, and while I can't specifically remember the recording, it will likely have been in Stephen's notes. Because of the nature of QI, sometimes researched points are not mentioned or cut out of the final edit - we never quite know which direction questions will go. In this instance, the subject flowed to beer-goggles and a general teasing of Stephen before it was possible to go into as much detail as we might otherwise.

I can understand your frustration, and hope that a) your faith in QI hasn't been knocked too much, and b) that you stay around on these boards and join in with the discussions.

 
Floppit
179082.  Wed May 30, 2007 9:22 am Reply with quote

Thank you eggshaped for a very polite and prompt comment. Thanks for the welcome too, at the moment I feel as though I am here by accident though!

I watched the episode last night as a repeat and agree that the conversation did lead towards beer goggles and teasing. Obviously I can't know what might have been said if it hadn't.

What concerned me enough to seek out discussion was that the 'shock value' of disputing a widely accepted fact came from splitting some very fine hairs in a way that gave the appearence of alcohol as less neurologically damaging than believed.

I accept that this appearence was perhaps in part due to the combination of the discussion and the visual backdrop of 'cheers' as the group raised their glasses and that this probably wasn't intentional. I also accept that QI isn't presented as a medical programme, however in this instance it was 'presenting' it's information as medical fact and with that I believe rests a degree of responsibility.

In fairness, more is learned about the effects of alcohol at a rapid rate as it touches on thresholds of science, not just in neurology but also in genetics and social research. I did smile at myself when I realised I cited information from a month or two ago when the programme was released a year or so ago!

It's been a good lesson to me as a person who considers myself quite sceptical - I didn't realise quite how much I had trusted QI until now. I think it's a healthy thing to realise how easy it is to see a few areas of the media as impartial and accurate.

It's a compliment that I honestly believe QI has an impact on the perception of facts, however the truer that is the more ethical questions it raises, especially in the realm of shocking medical facts.

 
eggshaped
179093.  Wed May 30, 2007 9:49 am Reply with quote

You'd be surprised how many patrons of this website were originally brought here because of a quibble they had about the show.

Of course we always try to present facts as fairly and correctly as possible, but sometimes due to the constraints of being an entertainment show things can be lost or hidden. This is perhaps more conspicuous with serious topic like alcohol abuse, but I hope that you realise that it wasn't our intention to trivialise such a subject - rather to put to bed a tired cliché about "killing brain cells".

In fact, to show that we do try to balance things out, in another show in the D-series we talk about the fact that men who drink alcohol lose their inhibitions quicker than women - however we later add "women are more prone to alcohol related brain and liver damage"

Furthermore, you will no doubt find QI a wholly more enjoyable experience in the future if you take each question with a small amount of healthy scepticism and follow up anything you question with your own research. For instance, I was reading this week about how magnets may help to regenerate brain cells.

 
Sim-1
179952.  Sat Jun 02, 2007 10:07 pm Reply with quote

I find this subject very curious because I am currently doing cognitive biology this year at uni and we have been taught that by the time you are 3 years old you will have all the brain cells you will have throughout your life. We have also been taught that alcohol doesnt directly kill brain cells it causes the protective layer around the brain to swell which makes the brain cells die. From what I have read of your sources (and I admit I skimmed) the conclusion that it only stops brain cells regrowing has been from testing on animals other than humans. So possibly if my information is correct drinking alcohol will only make brain cells stop regenerating in the under 3s? In which case my advice would be to stop spiking your childs bottle... Or do you have evidence that brain cells do continue to grow after infancy?

 
eggshaped
180087.  Mon Jun 04, 2007 3:31 am Reply with quote

Quote:
I am currently doing cognitive biology this year at uni and we have been taught that by the time you are 3 years old you will have all the brain cells you will have throughout your life.


I'm afraid you have been taught incorrectly.

Check out the work of Fred Gage, who, in the 90s, showed that the authodoxy was wrong.

link

 
Sim-1
180126.  Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:39 am Reply with quote

Damn! Good to know my moneys going towards a useless education lol

 
eggshaped
180131.  Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:55 am Reply with quote

Why not challenge those teaching you Sim? And see what they come back with.

and then let us know if they come up with any quite interesting reply.

 
eggshaped
180848.  Thu Jun 07, 2007 2:25 am Reply with quote

More brain cell research here

 
Laughing Feet
206866.  Tue Sep 04, 2007 8:59 pm Reply with quote

Yes, but ...hmph .. see ... I used to (hic) .. and then there was ... what was I saying? Oh, yes ... you're my best mate, pal... I love you, I do ...

<sorry, couldn't resist>

 
Laughing Feet
206867.  Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:19 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
we have been taught that by the time you are 3 years old you will have all the brain cells you will have throughout your life.


Taking an empirical approach, and speaking as a laymen:
The size of my own cranium has increased measurably since I was a three-year-old. Assuming that standard brain cells have a natural finite individual size, then it would be an obvious assumption that there would need to be more of these cells present to fill the capacity of the larger cranium. Or is it the case that the increased size of the head is due to a thickening of the surrounding bone tissue - or to an increase in some sort of fluid or sac containing the original number of 3-year-old brain cells?

 
Sim-1
206883.  Wed Sep 05, 2007 1:06 am Reply with quote

Laughing Feet wrote:
Quote:
we have been taught that by the time you are 3 years old you will have all the brain cells you will have throughout your life.


Taking an empirical approach, and speaking as a laymen:
The size of my own cranium has increased measurably since I was a three-year-old. Assuming that standard brain cells have a natural finite individual size, then it would be an obvious assumption that there would need to be more of these cells present to fill the capacity of the larger cranium. Or is it the case that the increased size of the head is due to a thickening of the surrounding bone tissue - or to an increase in some sort of fluid or sac containing the original number of 3-year-old brain cells?


I think I must elaborate a bit on what they are teaching (despite that this site has provided evidence to put this into serious question). They are not saying that you never regenerate cells in the brain, anyone who has studied biology would know that is a rediculous statement to make. Rather that you have developed all the 'neurons' you will have throughout your life by the time you are approx 3 and these will not regenerate. Neurons are the cells that conduct nerve impulses and send information from the brain to the rest of the body through axons and dentrites. They are commonly refered to as 'brain cells' even though they are not the only cells you have in your brain.

 
obical
219097.  Wed Oct 10, 2007 7:01 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
Perhaps a more fruitful (and crisper) question in comedy terms would be simply:

What effect does alcohol have on your brain?



The Book Of General Ignorance says that alcohol doesn't kill brain cells, it just stops them growing as quickly as the should. Also a migrane is caused by dehydration which makes the brain shrink slightly, causing it to "tug" on the protective membrane surrounding it. Thats what the pain is when you've been out drinking too much!

 
rjmyth
219347.  Wed Oct 10, 2007 7:47 pm Reply with quote

education it seems isnt so much about teaching us te facts but more about teaching us to learn. i remember through all my science lessons being told things which later were told to be false. in fact my a level chemistry teacher even said well truly this isnt correct but the board wants us to tell it this way just for a levels. shocking

 

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