Sunday, 21 February 2010

Everyone (but particularly Elton when it comes to my Mum) Hurts - sometime

Acetylcholine (ACh) a neurotransmitter, has been shown to be the most important inducer of REM sleep. I mention this as on my flight back from India on Tuesday, when I was trying to sleep, I took advantage of Emirates extensive CD collection and spent a couple of relaxing hours listening to some very fine music. REM was one of the groups I listened to. They produced one of my all time top 10 favourite songs: Everybody Hurts. This is song to be found on their most popular CD Automatic for the People.

Everybody Hurts, was the song chosen by the music entrepreneur Simon Cowell as a way many famous pop and rock stars (and Susan Boyle) could help raise money for the victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti. It sold 453000 copies in the first week of its release and looks lightly to become the best ever selling single of all time – more of which later – but first back to ACh.

ACh was formally identified in 1914 by the pharmacologist Henry Dale. His work explored the action of ACh on heart tissue. It was later confirmed as a neurotransmitter by the Father of Neuroscience and fellow pharmacologist Otto Loewi. Both Henry and Otto received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1936 for their work.

On going work in this area has shown that damage to the cholinergic (ACh producing) system in the brain is associated with the memory deficits characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a unique brain disorder that affects the parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language. Alzheimer’s usually begins after the age of 60.

Elton John, who although originally thought to be involved in recording the REM song for Haiti, for some reason didn’t contribute. Elton is 62.

In an interview this week, Elton said that ‘I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems’. This is from a man who likes to dress up in Donald Duck costumes. Unlike the two scientists Henry and Otto it is difficult to see how such contributions increase our understanding about humanity, society and the human condition.

Elton made these comments in the magazine Parade. In the article he talks about the death of John Lennon, Princess Diana, Gianni Versace and Michael Jackson. In his characteristically PC oblivious way he notes that ‘Two of them were shot outside their houses. None of this would have happened if they hadn’t been famous. Fame attracts lunatics’.

‘I never had a bodyguard until Gianni died. I don’t like celebrity anymore’

Yeah Right!

Sitting here watching the snow fall, it all feels a long way from last Sunday morning where I was writing my blog in Chennai and the temperature was 30C. I knew I was well and truly back in the good old UK when I read about the Jobcentre in Newcastle who refused to accept an advertisement for a ‘Junior Stylist’ at a local hairdresser. Apparently the term was seen to be discriminatory against older people. Having visited my hairdresser today, I am reliably informed the term ‘junior’ refers to someone’s level of experience not their age. Such indiscriminate interpretation of what is discrimination appears to be a national issue. In Norfolk, Nicole Mamo also tried to place an advertisement for a domestic cleaner on her local Jobcentre Plus website. The advertisement ended by stating that applicants for the post ‘must be very reliable and hard-working’. She was told that her advertisement could not be displayed. A Jobcentre Plus worker claimed that the word ‘reliable’ meant they could be sued for discriminating against unreliable workers!

Finally, and coincidently given last weeks blog, many CONGRATULATIONS to Amy Williams for getting her Gold Medal at the winter Olympics.