Torture in Mexico reaching catastrophic levels

La Jornada: According to Amnesty International, Mexico’s torture epidemic continues, reaching “catastrophic levels in the past year, with more than double the number of reports at the federal level of suffocation, rape and other sexual abuse, electric shocks and beatings.”

In the report, [.pdf full English text] AI stated that the number of complaints for torture more than doubled between 2013 and 2014, from 1,164 to 2,403, according to the Attorney General’s Office…

…It was asked why President Enrique Peña Nieto has not launched an initiative in Congress for a general law on torture, as a first step in addressing the crisis, when he said he would. The deadline for the Legislature to approve the initiative is in less than three months (January 2016) and it has not yet been delivered…

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director AI, said: “A strong general law against torture, which means more than words and ensures justice for the victims, would be a good first step for Mexico to recover from the deep crisis of human rights in which it is immersed.”

She added that it was hard to imagine a year ago that Mexico’s torture crisis could get any worse, and now we see that that is exactly what happened as the government continues to ignore a crisis it created.

AI noted in its report that the President’s commitment to the law is a major step forward, but these paper promises have not been accompanied by concrete results that would translate into a change in people’s lives.

Same as it ever was. Not just in Mexico, not just in Israel, not just in offshore prisons run by the United States. The mentality of many “freedom-loving” democracies often finds excuses for torture.

Cannabis mouth spray aids MS patients

An oral cannabis spray (Sativex) is delivering the same amount of benefit as seen in clinical trials for relieving spasticity associated with MS, according to interim results from two observational Italian studies.

The MOVE 2 study showed modest but statistically significant improvement in spasticity scores…over 3 months among 322 patients who added Sativex to standard anti-spasticity drugs and/or physical therapy, according to Maria Trojano, MD, and colleagues.

The SA.FE Study, led by Francesco Patti, MD, found similar results, with about 40% of 547 patients showing at least a 30% improvement…at 6 months…

Sativex is a 50:50 mixture of the cannabis components THC and cannabidiol, sprayed into the mouth daily to help control spasticity symptoms. It was approved in Italy for marketing in mid-2013 on the basis of randomized trials showing a benefit over placebo, primarily in patient-reported measures. Those findings led the American Academy of Neurology last year to declare that Sativex appeared effective in patients’ subjective judgment…

Because clinical trials usually enroll carefully selected patients, with many exclusions and close monitoring of those enrolled, there are often questions about the relevance of these results in real-world patients. Hence, the MOVE 2 and SA.FE studies were started to examine how Sativex is working in routine practice environments.

More clinical details in the article. The important detail for Americans is a federal government that refuses to leave anti-science and irrelevant ideology behind. Levels of effectiveness are only meaningful in that minority of states that have moved into the 21st Century with prescriptive medical marijuana. And they still run the risk of witch hunts.

Learning your way around — changes your brain

Fifteen years ago, a study showed that the brains of London cab drivers had an enlargement in the hippocampus, a brain area associated with navigation. But questions remained: Did the experience of navigating London’s complex system of streets change their brains, or did only the people with larger hippocampi succeed in becoming cab drivers?

Now, Carnegie Mellon University scientists have determined that learning detailed navigation information causes the hippocampal brain changes. Published in NeuroImage, Tim Keller and Marcel Just show that brief navigation training changes a person’s brain tissue and improves how that changed tissue communicates with other brain areas involved with navigation. The findings establish a critical link between structural and functional brain alterations that happen during spatial learning. They also illustrate that the changes are related to how neural activity synchronizes – or communicates – between the hippocampus and other regions that are important for navigation understanding and learning…

…Said Keller…”Our findings provide a better understanding of what causes the hippocampal changes and how they are related to communication across a network of areas involved in learning and representing cognitive maps of the world around us.”

To examine how the hippocampus changes, Keller and Just recruited 28 young adults with little experience playing action video games. For 45 minutes, the participants played a driving simulation game. One group practiced maneuvering along the same route 20 times. The control group drove for the same amount of time, but along 20 different routes. Before and after each training session, each participant’s brain was scanned using diffusion-weighted imaging which measures water molecule movement in the brain, and functional magnetic resonance imaging which analyzes brain activity.

The researchers found that the group that practiced the same route over and over — the spatial learning group — increased their speed at completing the driving task more than the group practicing on different routes, indicating that they learned something specific about the spatial layout of the virtual environment. The spatial learning group also improved their ability to order a sequence of random pictures taken along the route and to draw a 2-D map representing the route…

“The new discovery is that microscopic changes in the hippocampus are accompanied by rapid changes in the way the structure communicates with the rest of the brain,” said Just…”We’re excited that these results show what re-wiring as a result of learning might refer to. We now know, at least for this type of spatial learning, which area changes its structure and how it changes its communication with the rest of the brain.”

I had an acquaintance who spend decades as a cabby in Boston – another cluster of cowpaths and village-linking-footpaths that became an urban network. Though not on the scale of London. Upon retiring, he embarked on a methodical round-the-world tour that took two years.

I wonder if there’s an additional connection between the persistence of use extending beyond economic need?