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PTSD Breakthrough?: It’s Not Science Just Because Someone Says So

It infuriates me when someone misappropriates the word “science” to promote treatments that are not actually based on science. I have just read a book entitled The PTSD Breakthrough: The Revolutionary Science-Based Compass Reset Program by Dr. Frank Lawlis, a psychologist who is the chief content advisor for Dr Phil and The Doctors. There is very little science in the book and references are not provided. It amounts to an indiscriminate catalog of everything Dr. Lawlis can imagine that might help post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients. 

He describes recent brain imaging studies suggesting that signs of traumatic brain injury are associated with PTSD.  He thinks PTSD can no longer be considered a psychological condition, but must be approached as a complex biological, physical, psychological, and spiritual condition. He says many of these patients have brain damage. He says 

Odd as it may seem, a very loud noise can actually cause mild to moderate brain damage. The strong sound waves continue to cause inflammation in the brain and may cause the immune system to backfire, creating more damage as the signals of cell injury reverberate through the body. Exposure to strong pesticides or heavy metals (such as mercury, tin, and copper), and even some food allergies, can also have a devastating effect on the brain. 

His program consists of six steps:

  1. Nurturing and healing the brain
    1. Hyperbaric chamber (he claims that this is one of the most effective treatments for PTSD, but I couldn’t find any evidence to support that claim)
    2. Vitamins and minerals
    3. Sleep
  2. Cleansing the brain of toxins and poisons
    1. Diet
    2. Supplements (a long list including vitamin C, selenium, ginseng, organic iodine, etc. – you’re not intended to use them all, but to somehow choose which ones are right for you)
    3. Colon cleansing
  3. Making reconnections and taking control of the disoriented brain
    1. Breathing (through alternate nostrils)
    2. Physical exercise
    3. Rhythm and harmony (beat drums, find your “power song”)
    4. Mental exercise
    5. Blue light
  4. Relinquishing fear and rage
    1. Desensitization
    2. The BAUD (a patented bioacoustical utilization device developed by Dr. Lawlis  )
    3. Biofeedback
    4. Smells (a sort of aromatherapy)
    5. Cognitive behavioral therapy
    6. Journal writing
  5. Creating a new beginning
    1. Among other things, pick an animal to symbolize you, and decide which color best represents you.
  6. Reestablishing your internal compass
    1. Among other things, go on a vision quest like some American Indians used to do: spend 7 days alone with no intake but water until a symbol appears in your consciousness. 

Patients are encouraged to love themselves and to pick from these methods to effect their own recovery. Interspersed throughout the book are questionnaires to assess your stress level, quality of sleep, etc. They are the same kind of unvalidated questionnaires that are often found in popular magazines. 

There is a little bit of science in the book, but he doesn’t provide references, and most of what he writes is not supported by any peer-reviewed studies. Much of it is pure fantasy.    

He says

…the research on chewing gum to relieve stress is pretty impressive. The act of chewing gum pumps healing blood into the frontal lobe, where executive functions are controlled, and into your temporal lobe, where stressful emotions are found. There is clear evidence that stress is reduced by as much as 50 percent by chewing gum, and you may gain some IQ points while you’re at it.

 There are some studies showing chewing gum reduces stress, like this one funded by a gum manufacturer  but I wouldn’t characterize the research as “clear evidence” or “50%” or “increasing the IQ” or as “pretty impressive.” 

How’s this for a “science based” recommendation?:

Another easy technique you can do is to use a powerful mouth rinse. If you have bacteria working in your gums, it can create bad results for the rest of your body. Anything you eat can be affected by this [sic] bacteria, and you don’t want any bad guys holding up the train to recovery. 

What does “science” mean to Dr. Lawlis? Apparently, as Humpty Dumpty told Alice in Through the Looking Glass, it “means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’” 

He has anecdotes of patients who responded to some of these methods, but he has no data to show that his methods produce better outcomes than other methods. PTSD is a difficult condition to treat, and offering hope for recovery is a good thing; but offering false hopes for untested treatments under the pretense that they are “science” is reprehensible. The sad thing is that suffering patients may delay getting professional help while they experiment with useless detoxification rituals, chewing gum, and pop psychology nonsense. 

The cover proclaims “The Groundbreaking Program Officially Endorsed and Advocated by Dr. Phil McGraw.” As if to say, forget the scientific literature: if Dr. Phil endorses it, that’s all we need to know. The old “appeal to authority.” And what an authority! Dr. Lawlis is Dr. Phil’s “chief content advisor,” so he presumably advised Dr. Phil that the compass reset program was worth endorsing. Anyway, real science doesn’t need endorsement: evidence is self-endorsing.

Posted in: Book & movie reviews, Neuroscience/Mental Health

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35 thoughts on “PTSD Breakthrough?: It’s Not Science Just Because Someone Says So

  1. Tsuken says:

    What the?? What is it with woo-meisters and enemas? It’s almost guaranteed, no matter what the condition, it can apparently be helped by shooting a bunch of water up your behind.

    PTSD is one of the most problematic of our diagnoses, and is far too driven by – and vulnerable to – ideology. This is just another example, though a particularly bad one, and potentially one of the more dangerous, being endorsed by that horrid lump of quasi-psychological bollocks named Dr Phil. :-/

  2. Jurjen S. says:

    Good grief, this is almost beyond belief in its stupidity. I particularly bridled at the bit about “relinquishing fear and rage,” as if just about any PTSD wouldn’t love to be able to do that. It’s reminiscent of the bit Steve Martin did on SNL about how “You can be a millionaire (and never pay taxes)”: “First, get a million dollars…”

    Okay, it seems a little odd that I would bridle at that bit, given the utter garbage that the rest of the plan consisted of, but I’d argue that that is because it was only part of the program that came even close to actually addressing the problem, and then, all it offers is “to overcome the problem, first overcome the problem, and then…”

  3. nybgrus says:

    I’m a bit lost here… maybe my science is not strong enough. What is the mechanism behind loud noises causing permanent brain damage?

    Also, chewing gum to increase flow to the frontal and temporal lobes? Is the notion that the increased tension in the temporalis and masseter will cause more blood to flow through the internal rather then external carotid thus increasing the flow to the ACA and MCA? If so, would clenching your teeth for prolonged periods be more effective? Also, as I recall from neuro block, aren’t emotions generated by the limbic system, not stored? And the limbic system is not in the temporal lobe, but in the midbrain….

    And I will just never understand people. They rail against the “medical establishment” as being wholly evil and not to be trusted. But you put one fat douche who looks like a walrus on Oprah and the next thing you know what he says is gospel.

    And I agree with tsuken – CAM and pseudo-science have a complete anal fixation. There just has to be some liquid you can pump up your keister that will cure everything. When the the seat of disease move from the liver to the colon??

    And of course, as is always the case with EVERY CAM quackery out there, at least ONE part of the treatment involves something patented by the author. And they rail against us claiming we are driven by money and always trying to sell them crap. Yet in the UK and Australia, out of pocket CAM spending is on the order of 1/3 to 1/2 of the total healthcare expenditure. And in the States it is a multi-BILLION dollar industry.

    How can they not see the disconnect and perversity?

  4. Who has PTSD these days? Is this intended as treatment for shell-shock or for a thwarted life of quiet desperation?

    If we’re talking about stressed returning soldiers, there could be harm in promoting remedies that won‘t help and could hurt. I don’t know if this book would be appealing to that group of people, though.

    If we’re talking about the stress of living a small, thwarted life then yes, most of the suggestions in the book are probably useful at the small, thwarted scale. I’m kind of looking forward to the apocalypse* in a way. Hunger and poverty, and people and institutions who hoard fuel and water in visible and concrete ways will kind of reframe the issues. Less fun than the 1960s revolutionary spirit; probably more like the 1910s to 30s communal projects: the WCTU, labour organizing, woman suffrage.

    *oil and water both being much less available than they are now

  5. RE the mystery of colon cleansing: You do realize that going for a colonic irrigation is essentially a paid sexual encounter, right? Some therapists will actually give you a good spanking once they’ve filled your colon. (All therapeutic, of course. It’s important to promote circulation and detoxification.) I can easily imagine coming away from a treatment feeling all light and glowy.

    Which sheds some light on self-administered cleansing as well.

  6. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    “Dr. Lawlis is Dr. Phil’s “chief content advisor,” so he presumably advised Dr. Phil that the compass reset program was worth endorsing.”

    Good example of “Begging the Question”.

  7. DavidCT says:

    Does the book have the “as seen on TV” sticker on it. After reading through the various treatments I am sure the patient will feel better. It works in much the same way as stopping will make you feel better if you have been beating your head against the wall.

    Unfortunately, frequent repetition of woo “scientific” principles in various media, lets them take on a reality of their own with the tenacity of many urban myths. Helping the spread of quackademics is the present situation where purveyors of this nonsense are not held accountable for the damage they eventually cause.

  8. Harriet – when I saw the title of your blog I thought it was going to be about this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11373280

    Have you seen this yet? Any thoughts?

  9. nybgrus – regarding a very loud noise causing brain injury.

    I kinda assumed that he was talking about how a percussive blast, such as caused by a IED, can cause traumatic brain injury. But it is strange to refer to a percussive blast as a “very loud noise.” so maybe I’m wrong.

    Regarding supplements for PTSD

    A while ago my husband was having a hard time sleeping. While he typically can have some mild work/stress related insomnia, this time it was much worse.

    I asked him, have you been taking anything new? He replied, ‘only these vitamins’. When I checked out the vitamins I noticed that they were some sort of vitamin for manly health and included a few herbal remedies on top of the typical vitamins/mineral selection. There herbs included, saw palmetto, some things I never heard of, and gingseng. I thought, hmm, isn’t gingseng supposed to be “energizing”?

    Looking up side effects of gingseng in Wikipedia…

    “According to a Sports Nutrition FAQ published by UMass Amherst, one of P. ginseng’s most common side-effects is the inability to sleep.[22] However, other sources state that ginseng causes no sleep difficulties.[23] Other side-effects can include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, epistaxis[24], high blood pressure, low blood pressure, and mastalgia.[25] Ginseng may also lead to induction of mania in depressed patients who mix it with antidepressants.[26]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginseng#cite_note-25

    Does it seem like a good idea to suggest this herb to someone with PTSD, particularity someone with combined PTSD, TBI?

    Good article Harriet Hall, thanks!

  10. LovleAnjel says:

    “Who has PTSD these days? Is this intended as treatment for shell-shock or for a thwarted life of quiet desperation?”

    Non-military sufferers include people who have suffered violent or traumatic events such as rape, assault, auto or plane accidents, robberies, home invasions, ect. ect.

    Nobody claims PTSD on a life of quiet desperation.

  11. daedalus2u says:

    I read the BBC item and I don’t see there is any great insight there. We know that PTSD is a dissociative state. That is what the constricted affect comes from. Dissociation is an extremely common, almost universal response to trauma.

    A time delay between left and right light detection is interesting. I don’t think such a difference is seen in evoked potentials, but it may be that no one has looked for it. I would like to see fMRI of that.

    Switching between left and right visual fields is reminiscent of EMDR. When that was tried on me (it didn’t work), my conceptualization of how it was supposed to work was by “mapping” traumatic memories back and forth from one hemisphere to the other, only the commonalities that can be “mapped” to both hemispheres can be retained. That might work for superficial trauma’s (to the extent that any trauma can be “superficial”) that are recent in time, I don’t think it would work for very deep seated traumas, traumas that have been instantiated for many years or decades. I think those require less superficial treatments.

  12. LovleAnjel,

    That’s what I was wondering. There are fads for diagnoses and PTSD is having a moment. I’m pretty sure the diagnosis is being overgeneralized outside the clinical context but I don’t know to what extent. If it isn’t being extended to quiet desperation that’s definitely a good thing.

    It wouldn’t be hard to overextend. Remember Candida? “Take this simple test to see if you are at risk for yeast overgrowth. 1) Have you ever eaten sugar? 2) Have you ever been stressed? 3) Are you ever tired? If you answer Yes to one or more questions, you may be suffering from Candidaiasis.” Or childhood sexual abuse. “Take this simple test to see if you may have been sexually abused. 1) Are your childhood memories incomplete? 2) Are you ever irritable? 3) Do you ever have problems in your romantic relationships? If you answer Yes to one or more questions, you might have been sexually assaulted as a child.”

    I can easily imagine something similar for PTSD. “Take this simple test to see if you may have PTSD. 1) Has anything bad ever happened to you? 2) Have you ever had a nightmare? 3) Are your emotions ever numbed or disproportionately strong? If you answer Yes to one or more questions, you may have PTSD.”

    Genuine PTSD is really awful. I know someone who has it a little and when he’s reliving an event he’s completely beyond reach. It’s quite dramatic. These days he still has nightmares but if he were still regularly “checking out” and into a relived event I’m not sure how bearable his life would be.

  13. Todd W. says:

    “a very loud noise can cause mild to moderate brain damage…

    3. Rhythm and harmony (beat drums, find your “power song”)”

    Loud noises can cause brain damage, so treat it with loud noises! Is he a homeopath, as well?

    Re: How a loud noise could cause brain damage, a sufficiently loud noise (e.g., the percussive blast mentioned by micheleinmichigan, or a sonic boom) could create a strong pressure wave that, if occurring close enough to the person’s head, could possibly cause some physical trauma. But saying that a loud noise can cause brain damage is just a wee bit misleading.

    Getting back to the drums to treat PTSD, I could see some situations where drumming could possibly cause a flashback or anxiety, depending on the nature of the episode that caused the PTSD.

    About the only science-based treatment listed, I think, is probably CBT. There are certainly other things that could help (getting sleep is good, since anxiety may interrupt or shorten sleep; exercise is also a good idea; and journal writing can help, but it’s usually part of psychotherapy, if I’m not mistaken).

    The biggest problem I see is that he suggests treating yourself. Without some professional help and guidance, that could lead to potentially very bad results.

  14. LovleAnjel says:

    Alison,

    I see the potential for self-diagnosis as well. I hate those magazine quizzes. Was a drug recently approved for PTSD? Usually magazine & TV ads contribute to an upswing in self-diagnosing. A main character on Law & Order was diagnosed with PTSD last season, I wonder if that helped.

    A lot of the stuff this guy recommends reminds me of the self-helping at the beginning of Fight Club. You know, “find your power animal”. Bullocks.

  15. aaronupnorth says:

    LovleAnjel has it exactly right, a fair amount of this program is from the movie Fight Club (which is also a great how to guide for starting a cult). All I could think of when I read the items from Lawlis’ program was Marla (that tourist!) standing in the ice cave, smoking, and saying breathe.

    Yet another book designed to extract money from vulnerable people. Now if you’ll excuse me, me and my power animal (flying squirrel) were dancing to our theme song (Take on Me by Aha!).

    Dr. J

  16. KB says:

    I have TMJ problems. I prefer to use my pain-free-chewing time to eat food with calories.

  17. So what we are saying is that IKEA can cure PTSD?

  18. nybgrus says:

    Yes, I can understand how concussive blasts can cause brain damage – if your proximity to a large explosion is close enough to, say, render you unconscious or even just stun you I would concede the point. However, our dear author writes:

    “Odd as it may seem, a very loud noise can actually cause mild to moderate brain damage. ”

    Besides the fact that it would be strange to refer to a concussive blast rendering you stunned or knocked out as a “very loud noise” he sets the tone by stating “odd as it may seem” – indicating these are noises you may have opportunity to hear. And that is what I was getting at… it isn’t the NOISE that can cause brain damage, but the pressure wave associated with an explosion.

    As for ginseng – if I recall correctly there isn’t any data showing it does particularly much of anything is there? I apologize, but I don’t have the time (or desire really) to do a search on it, but for whatever reason I just seem to recall most of the claims of ginseng being disproven…. anyone have insight on that one?

  19. daedalus2u says:

    The idea that a loud noise could cause brain damage is just wrong, unless he means that hearing damage from loud noises are brain damage (which technically it could be, but that isn’t what he means).

    However something else might be going on. I am putting a link here, but it is kind of a woo-woo-ish site, so don’t hold it against me.

    http://www.traumasoma.com/home.html

    He has some interesting ideas, and in particular the idea that “whiplash” is more of a PTSD-type reaction to a psychological trauma than a physical injury. This fits with my understanding of physiology, in particular that the triggering of the “fight or flight” state is the triggering of a state of low NO (to disinhibit cytochrome c oxidase to maximize aerobic ATP production). When your body feels the need to trigger the “fight or flight” state, it can do so, in a heartbeat if the need is severe enough. If a bear came crashing through your wall, you would be in a state of hyper arousal in a very short period of time. Physiology accomplishes this by releasing things like adrenalin which generate superoxide and lower NO levels (among other things), triggering fight or flight and diverting ATP resources away from basal metabolic activities and into fight or flight pathways, voluntary muscle, racing heart, massive blood sugar increase, and so on.

    A loud noise does not cause brain damage, but if it triggers fight or flight, and then the fight or flight state is not resolved, then the consequences might look like “brain damage” to someone naive (like Lawlis) who sees PTSD and CFS as consequences of “brain damage” to be “cured” with enemas.

    There is a lot of press recently about TBI in the context of IEDs and many of those service people with TBI also have PTSD and CFS. Who wouldn’t get PTSD from being in a war-zone and then being treated as shabbily as the US VA treats veterans with PTSD? (sorry for the political interlude) Lawlis may be trying to make his woo more sciencey (and charge more money for it) by making a connection to real people who have real TBI and real PTSD so he can better scam the gullible who have money.

    Just to be clear, I don’t consider PTSD to be at all psychological, I see it as purely physiological, but not from any kind of “damage”, I see it as a normal and expected response to severe and life threatening traumatic stress, acute or prolonged. Being hypervigilant, unable to sleep, dissociated, with a hair trigger temper, could just save your life in a war zone.

    I see it as rather ironic that Lawlis talks about PTSD being non-psychological but then he has only placebo-type woo to treat it.

  20. Caro says:

    Yeah. PTSD. The only sufferers (grand total of two) I know of are victims of sexual assault. I’m not sure about whether it’s a fad diagnosis or what, all I do know is that those people I know are pretty damn broken, and it’s quite painful to watch the damage their illness does to them and those around them. I don’t like vulnerable people like that being targeted by quacks. They deserve better.

  21. Xplodyncow says:

    Detox regimens seem popular. But where are the de-woo regimens?

  22. nybgrus – loud noises – I see your point. With my weak science background, I was equating a sound wave with a shock wave, my mistake.

    I think that to those of us who don’t have a science (physics) background it does seem “odd” that any kind of blast wave that doesn’t include the head being hit by an object can cause brain trauma. But that is very subjective, I won’t attempt to argue what seems odd to who.

    If fact it seems to me that Lawlis’ language is just blurry enough to lead many people to the same misconceptions I came to. I wonder if it’s intentional or it just comes naturally to him.

  23. Harriet Hall says:

    Steve,

    I had not seen the “flashing lights” article. My first impression is that it sounds pretty bogus. I don’t think the statements about hypnosis and lateralization are valid. You’re our expert in neurology: please give us your opinion.

  24. Wolfy says:

    Very interesting.

    Frank Lawlis:

    Mix one part Nick Gonzalez (steps 1,2,3) with one part Stuart Smalley (steps 4,5,6), shaken not stirred.

    The resulting concoction is quacktastic!

  25. Calli Arcale says:

    nybgrus:

    And that is what I was getting at… it isn’t the NOISE that can cause brain damage, but the pressure wave associated with an explosion.

    Nitpick: the noise *is* a pressure wave. That’s all sound is. But I believe the kinds of compression waves that are causing TBIs in Iraq and Afghanistan tend to be infrasonic — you can hear stuff during the explosion, but the real killer waves are outside the normal range of human hearing, and can even do significant damage while sparing the victim’s hearing.

    Sounds of sufficient volume can even interfere with themselves. I have some friends who were lucky enough to witness Saturn V launches. The sound of five J-1 engines is, in a real sense, louder than the loudest possible sound — air has a maximum carrying capacity, and if this is exceeded, the sound waves sort of pile up, producing a rather strange effect that is captured on some of the films of the Saturn launches, if you know what you’re listening for. At a distance of 3-5 miles, it’s impressive. On the pad, it would potentially be fatal; the acoustic environment on the pad was enough to shatter concrete until they added the sound suppression system (which dumps huge amounts of water through the launch platform and into the flame trench).

  26. JMB says:

    Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy uses sound waves of increasing pressure to fractionate kidney stones. The potential complication of renal hemorrhage is well known. But I think the frequencies and pressures used in ESWL would be reflected by the skull, diminishing any ill effects (I don’t recommend trying it). However, the pressures produced by explosion of modern weapons far exceeds pressures used in ESWL, and blast pressure fronts are hypersonic wave fronts for some distance. The extreme pressures associated with modern explosives can easily damage the brain, in those that survive the heat and shrapnel because of cover. From anecdotal reports, most of the soldiers suffering brain injuries have been blown around, suffering secondary collisions with either the interior of the vehicle or external objects.

  27. nybgrus says:

    @calli: yes – you are indeed correct, and I realized the lack of precision in my language. To be more clear, I meant that the sound perceived is not able to cause brain damage – that can damage your hair cells in the cochlea or potentially the distal portions of the cochlear nerve, but not anything further. However the concussive force of a sufficiently large blast (or sound, since they are equivalent) could cause direct damage.

    So yes, I think we are all in agreement that the concussive force of blasts can cause trauma but that a perceived sound cannot. I still think that Lawlis’ language would certainly be interpreted by readers as the perceived sound causing brain damage.

    But perhaps we have bashed this point into the ground enough. LOL… sorry for my confusing post.

  28. Calli Arcale – thanks for the layman’s explanation. It’s good to start out the day learning something.

    Alison Cummins has a good point regarding the expanding diagnoses criteria. Just from experience with international adoption, I’ve occasionally encounters the perception that because all internationally adopted (and/or foster) children have experienced a traumatic event and attachment disruption, that any untoward behavior must be a manifestation of an attachment disorder or PTSD. I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that is the case. While it is good to be aware of an increased risk for PTSD and have a list of specific signs to watch for in children who have experience trauma, an assumed diagnoses opens the door for inappropriate treatment and misdiagnoses.

    As far as I understand, research does show that only a portion (percentage is variable) of those experiencing a traumatic event will experience PTSD. Here’s a link that seems to have a good summary for adults. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a similar one for children. Facts about PTSD. http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/facts-about-ptsd/

  29. daedalus2u says:

    Sound waves and shock waves are fundamentally different. Sound waves are essentially linear, that is they add and subtract to each other linearly. They consist of a high pressure part and a low pressure part that travels through a medium. If the medium is a gas like air, the minimum pressure is zero, complete vacuum. In non-gases the minimum pressure can be negative (for example a metal bar under tension has a negative internal pressure, liquids can support negative pressures until they cavitate).

    A shock wave is fundamentally non-linear. Where a sound wave is like a sine wave, where the properties of the medium are invariant after the sound wave has passed, a shock wave is a step function. The properties of the medium change discontinuously across the step. The step is only a few molecules thick, a few mean-free-paths in air. All the energy of the shock wave is in that layer a few molecules thick. In a sound wave the energy is spread out over the whole wave.

    That discontinuity is why shock waves are so damaging. The shock moves at the speed of sound in the shocked material, that is the material behind the shock wave, not in front of it. There is no “warning”, the shock hits something before the something has a chance to react to the shock. When the something is a solid, the something doesn’t have a chance to move and distribute the load of the shock. This is why shock waves are so damaging and structures cannot be constructed strong enough to withstand shocks. The shock wave puts loads on the material faster than the material can distribute those loads (that force distribution happens at the speed of sound in the unshocked material), so a material can fail even before the shock has passed through it. .

    A shock in living tissue disrupts it and kills it. Living tissue has the acoustic properties essentially of water, so shocks in air don’t necessarily lead to shocks in the denser materials the shock hits. Some of the energy is reflected and some is absorbed and converted into a high amplitude sound wave instead of remaining a shock. I think that is the mechanism of the TBI caused by IEDs, the individual gets hit by a shock in air, the shock gets converted into a sound wave at their surface and the sound wave of such a high magnitude still does bad things (mostly because living tissue is not homogeneous, sound has different velocities in water, lipid, bone, tendon, etc. and so there is differential movement of different tissues as the high amplitude sound wave propagates through the tissues and those differential movements cause damage to structures on the length scale of the differential movements. Things like axons especially.

    TBI from shocks would have effects. There might not be any blood, blood would only appear if blood vessels were broken and they are kind of big and elastic so they might not. Breaking of axons would have effects on cognition, but there is so much redundancy in the brain it might be hard to detect right away. But that redundancy is finite and eventually it would show up either through more damage, or as the person gets older and the redundancy gets used to maintain function. Once the redundancy is gone, function declines pretty rapidly. I think this is what a lot of football players and boxers see when they get older, the TBI they had when young catches up with them.

  30. Calli Arcale says:

    A good point, daedalus2u, that shock waves are not the same as your typical sound wave. They’re both pressure waves, though, and they can both cause damage. Sound can indeed shatter things, and it doesn’t need to be audible sound to do it, though the actual perception of the sound is irrelevant — the damage is more direct than that.

    TBIs caused by shock waves are a hot area of research right now. It’s kind of the silver lining out of all the injuries our soldiers are suffering; they are contributing heavily to science by facilitating study of this often subtle condition.

    This is why shock waves are so damaging and structures cannot be constructed strong enough to withstand shocks.

    Oh, never say “cannot” to an engineer. ;-) Structures can certainly be built to withstand shocks, especially considering that shocks come in many different sizes. There will always be a limit, however, and sometimes it is simpler to make some components frangible, so they take the damage in order to spare the larger structure.

  31. daedalus2u says:

    I stand by my statememt. The shock from a small shaped charge can be made such that no material object can withstand it. If you make the object large enough, the damage may be limited to a small part of it, but there is damage. It is not like non-shock loads which objects can be made to withstand with no damage. You could build a structure that could lift a million tons with no damage. You can’t build an object that would withstand a small shaped charge.

  32. JMB says:

    The bottom line is that the statement

    Odd as it may seem, a very loud noise can actually cause mild to moderate brain damage. The strong sound waves continue to cause inflammation in the brain and may cause the immune system to backfire, creating more damage as the signals of cell injury reverberate through the body.

    is a deceptive oversimplification of the basic science. Otherwise, we would recognize PTSD in people who frequent heavy metal rock concerts. Tissue damage from high pressure sound waves usually occur at resonant frequencies (resonant with the internal structures of the body) higher that what is audible. Tissue damage from hypersonic pressure waves is dependent on the peak pressure, far higher pressures than produced from the sound of the explosion we hear. The direction of the oversimplification increases the plausibility of the recommended treatment. This is very similar to how the oversimplification of the model of health as a function of nutrition and inverse of calories, is used to justify the purchase of preparations of extracts. Simplification for the purposes of education is acceptable, so long as the simplification does not magnify the plausibility of an advocated treatment beyond the science (basic or clinical science).

  33. Calli Arcale says:

    daedalus2u — we’re getting into semantics here. You said “cannot be made to withstand”, you didn’t say “with no part taking any appreciable damage”. You also didn’t specify a shaped charge made to cause damage to any material, you just said shock. Plenty of shocks are absorbed by devices every day; in many cases, that’s something they’re specifically designed to do. Could there be a shock that would defeat them? Absolutely — no structure can be invulnerable to all shocks. But to imply (as it seemed you were, perhaps unintentionally) that any shock at all is definitely going to cause damage to any structure at all is not reasonable, and that was my point, which I also stand by.

  34. daedalus2u says:

    Could you give an example of something that absorbs a true shock? Even small shocks can cause surface damage. Cavitation damage is an example of shock damage.

    When an object is stressed, unless the stress stays below the elastic limit, the object is damaged. In a shock loading situation, the strength of the material doesn’t matter very much, only its inertia.

    Heat shields withstand extreme heat, but they do so by ablation. You can design structures to withstand shocks by ablation too.

    Perhaps I used a bit of hyperbole ;) but there is a world of difference between shock waves and pressure waves. That was what one of the things that ultimately lead to the downfall of fixed fortifications and castles. There is no material that you can build something out of that will be able to withstand shock wave attack without damage. Steel that is feet thick will be damaged by shaped charges of only an ounce.

  35. mom75 says:

    A few years ago, I gave birth to a baby girl. While pregnant, I was taking Paxil, a type of anti depressant. At the time, I had no idea the risks it involved for my baby–brain and spinal cord injury, heart injury/defects, abnormally shaped head/skull, club foot, PPHN (persistent pumlonary hypertension), along with many other side effects. I was searching for information on the side effects/possible injuries and I came across an very helpful website that not only has information/answers about Paxil, but numerous other drugs/medicines as well. Luckily, my little girl turned out to be healthy, but it’s a very scary thought, so I wanted to share this website with anyone else who might have taken Paxil or has any other questions/problems with other medications: http://www.drugrecalls.com

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