Robots working in the O.R.

Replacing a joint has become so matter of fact. Baby boomers especially don’t think twice about replacing a knee, hip etc. if it means extending the amount of time that they are able to stay active. The first joint replacement, according to historians, was in 1890. It was a carved and machined piece of ivory which replaced the knee of a seventeen year-old. It was performed, by a German surgeon named Themistocles Gluck. Over the years, the material used has changed dramatically. Everything from metal, plastic, ceramics to titanium. In the decade, 1990-2000, new technology made plastics more durable. This eliminated wear and tear and eventual replacement of the joint again. Technology has progressed to the point where you enter an operating room and there may be a model of a bone implant superimposed on a 3-D model of the person’s joint. Robotic arms which are directed through a console are guided and controlled by the surgeon. The tiny robotic hands are able to bend and rotate with a greater range of motion. This enables the surgeon to operate by only making small incisions preserving more bone and soft tissue than a conventional open procedure. Less muscle damage translates to faster recovery. Greater accuracy can mean better alignment and balance after knee surgery and minimal leg difference after hip surgery. This also preserves the longevity of the replaced joint. Hopefully we will never replace the surgeon totally.

Why do you Look Familiar?

Our brains have the capacity to store and identify thousands of faces and retain a memory of them for years and years. The temporal lobe of the brain is responsible for face recognition which is why a person who suffers damage to this area has problems recognizing others. Most people will recognize a face they have come in contact with in the past even if they cannot remember the details of that person. Why is it that certain people can recall 1,000 faces while others have the capacity to remember as many as 10,000 faces? According to some small studies the average seems to be a recognition of 5,000. This is in spite of the fact that some people we see from the front, others at profile and some who have even changed their appearance. Current research is showing that it happens along the visual pathway on its way to the temporal cortex. This is where a group of neurons respond to body parts and faces. Some research is showing that there are six areas in this part of the brain called “Face Patches” which contain specific sets of neurons. What they are determining is that there is no particular preference for a particular face and that these particular neurons respond to certain features, appearance and shape. What it means is that as far as these face neurons are concerned, every face is the sum of separate parts and no one face is taken as a whole. In this way our brains do not have to store separate data on remembering each face but only certain features and dimensions which it rearranges every time it comes in contact with a familiar face.


Can walking in step with someone that you have absolutely no connection with bring you in sync with that person? It seems that people of the Roma ethnicity are discriminated against in Hungary. They are gypsies that have their origin in Northern India and entered Europe from the eighth to the tenth century. Research conducted in a Hungarian lab wanted to determine if walking in sync would alter the prejudice that was felt towards this minority. One week before the experiment began 70 Hungarians were asked to write about their attitude toward the Roma people online. When they arrived at the lab, they were introduced to a person of Roma descent and were asked to spend 5 minutes walking laps in a large room. Some were asked to walk in sync with their partner while others were asked to walk out of step. The study concluded that after walking in step for 5 minutes they felt closer to the person and even felt that they were more likable. There was an increase in empathy and a decrease in negative feelings. Other studies have shown that people who walk in step with each other are more likely to be cooperative with each other. There seems to be a connection made with those who we are in sync with as if we are on the same path. The result is a greater sense of belonging and connection to each other. Wouldn’t it be nice if something as simple as walking in step with someone could ease all prejudice and discrimination? I guess the feeling is like that of walking in someone’s shoes.


Is there a Downside to wearing a Mask during Exercise?

The pandemic has forced us to perform more of our activities outdoors. As a result, hiking, strolling, riding a bike or just jogging has become a challenge to practice social distancing. Most people feel that it is uncomfortable and harder to breathe wearing a mask while exercising. Many wonder if they are getting the same benefits that a good workout provides while wearing a mask. Two studies have shown that wearing a mask does not hinder the effects of vigorous training. An older study focused on health care workers and how masks affected their work and found that it did not. According to a new study Published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science it found little if any noticeable differences in heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiratory rates and current carbon dioxide levels. Sixteen participants were asked to ride stationary bikes in an uphill slant until they reached the point of exhaustion. The athletes performed 3 sessions and in one they were allowed to remove the masks. Test results showed no difference in all the above markers. A second study, with fourteen men and women was conducted in the same manner and published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health also found no difference in performance or difficulty in the results of wearing or not wearing a mask. The studies dealt mainly with cycling, but it is safe to say the same results would be found during any vigorous exercise. But it is important to remember that these studies were done with healthy individuals and may affect someone differently if they have breathing difficulties or are not very active differently.