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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Schizophrenic Sycnchronicity 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had a summer job at the NIH doing schizophrenia research. It was a lot of fun, and very interesting, and I thought that was what I wanted to do for a career. Then I discovered that I actually didn't want to (a) go to med school, or (b) spend my life in a lab. But before that, I got to be involved with tons of fascinating research, including one project examining the cholinergic system in schizophrenics.

Yesterday morning I got a surprise in my inbox: a near-final manuscript of the paper on the work I did all those years ago,
Reduced density of cholinergic interneurons in the ventral striatum in schizophrenia: an in situ hybridization study.
I had a few parts in the experiment. The first was doing in situ hybridizations on neuroleptic-treated rats, which we used to control for treatment effects on the schizophrenic human brains. When you're looking for the basic pathophysiology of a condition, the part that's inherent to the disease, it's important to make sure there are as few competing variables as possible. Since almost any diagnosed schizophrenic has been medicated at some point before they die, we wanted to be sure that any changes we found in their brains were due to the disease, not to the treatment. So, we treated rats with common antipsychotic medication, and then examined their brains the same way we did the humans'...and found that there was no drug effect on our target. Yay. I also assisted in analyzing the results of the hybridizations on human samples: counting silver-stained mRNA strands under a microscope. Very tedious, but interesting nonetheless. And now (finally) getting published!

The synchronicity bit comes because yesterday evening, I went to the comedy open-mic at SoHo, where the show was made very interesting by some crazy guy talking nonsense and harassing the performers, many of whom took the opportunity to liven up their sets by making fun of him, and some of whom eventually tired of his antics and kicked his ass out the door.

So, my day began and ended with crazy people.

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