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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Thoughts on the Police and NFL Scandals

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

Thoughts on the Police and NFL ScandalsIn recent months we have been sensitized once again to the problem of police violence perpetrated against men in their custody. The most famous cases persist in one’s memory—Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York, Ezell Ford in Los Angeles. And then there was also Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot in Cleveland. But there are the non-fatal cases as well that linger in memory: the woman kicked in the groin by a female officer while in custody; the man thrown on the ground with such force that his neck is broken. One reacts with revulsion to all these events.

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The Problem of Homelessness Among Veterans

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

 

The Problem of Homelessness Among VeteransWhy is there a problem of homelessness among veterans? Indeed there is a shortage of affordable housing in Los Angeles, but that is not the real issue here. Rather, we are confronted with a problem of the brain. Homeless veterans are not able to sustain relationships, and eventually they find themselves out on their own. The downward slide may take years. When the Director of the Salvation Army Bell Shelter (the largest shelter for formerly homeless veterans West of the Mississippi) was asked recently about whether he was seeing a lot of veterans of the recent wars, his answer was, “not yet.” By and large, they have not yet worn out their familial and other connections. But among those still suffering from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) years after return from combat, a gradual downward slide is the likely prospect.

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On Mindfulness

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

On MindfulnessFormer governor Pete Wilson of California has been quoted as saying, “I tried introspection once, and I didn’t like it.” He had been a Marine in his earlier life, and it is not entirely surprising that the mentality of a Marine would not settle easily into a meditation routine. I actually have a certain sympathy for his attitude because I seem to face a similar barrier when trying the mindfulness thing. I enjoy the fact that my brain seems to bubble up ideas all the time that I then find entertaining to pursue. Turning that off is really not an option, as seasoned meditators know. All that one can do is choose how one reacts to the appearance of such kindlings of thought. The meditator has practice in just letting the thought go without pursuing it. And here is where the problem lies.

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Virtual Reality

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

Virtual Reality
Developments in the virtual reality sphere were another highlight of the latest Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Matters were raised to a higher level of visibility even before the conference, when Facebook pumped $2B into Oculus. A billion here, a billion there; pretty soon you are talking about real money. As it happens, we took a look at an Oculus system a while back to evaluate its suitability for neurofeedback. It wasn’t long before each of us felt just a little woozy from the experience, and opted for going back to maneuver in the real rather than the virtual world.

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“The Next Big Thing”

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

Next Big Thing
A common concern among those paid to worry about the society in general, and the economy in particular, is what we may expect to see as the main driving force for change in the near future. The emerging sharing economy may be one of the best candidates for transformative change. And within the sharing economy, the ride-sharing outfit Uber may be the most visible example. Uber has been in the news lately because it received an infusion of investor funds that placed the implicit value of the company at some $40B. This is doubly startling when it is viewed against the company’s sales last year of a mere $1B.

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Veteran’s Day 2014

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

by Siegfried Othmer, PhD

Veterans Day
W hy is it that our nation has not made more progress in dealing with PTSD and TBI over all these years? Admittedly, the whole concept of PTSD only dates back to about 1980, which is rather astounding. But matters are even worse with regard to TBI. We’ve been living with automobile-involved head injuries in huge numbers for nearly a century; there are in addition the common occurrences of minor head injuries among children; and at the other end of the age range we confront all those falls among the elderly leading to minor traumatic brain injury. And yet there has been no real coming to grips with this problem until we confronted the conundrum of blast injury—injury without apparent direct impact on the brain—among our service members. One could well say that the field of medicine essentially ignored what is called ‘minor’ traumatic brain injury until the 21st century.

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