Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Simplified diagnostics

Research from Columbia (1) indicates that impairment in odor identification portends cognitive decline and possibly Alzheimer's disease. This appears to dominate more prevalent PET and MRI scans for the diagnosis of these ailments. This is a constant reminder that humans are far from mastering the workings of the organ they carry on their shoulders by engineering and scientific means and simpler measurements of inputs and outputs dominate such mechanics.

The human brain has been an enigma. It consumes vast amounts of energy and often produces little utility - either to the immediate host or to society at large. It effectively delegates routine affairs to the vast Central Nervous System attached to it by a thread and maintains a small garbage collection mechanism within itself to keep track of the estate it manages, automatically. Often, it gets bored and shows signs of over-design, a quirk of evolution that endowed it with vast processing power by incorporating quantum computing in a small and efficient space. Lack of large memory has allowed it to venture into the production of heuristics and showing signs of intelligence. But acceleration in technology and society has stretched it, lending some functions of importance irrelevant and elevating the irrelevant to importance.

Its decline is painful to close observers but not necessarily so for the host, herself. In a regime that disallows rolling back time, the objective function has to be minimizing pain - physical or emotional. A system that pragmatically allows such an outcome by its own deterioration can only be considered good. Diagnostics that does not require cutting open the delicate organ or injecting it with radioactive materials may be the best, for the recognition of the start of decline of this beautiful machine is not necessarily good for the host nor for close observers.

(1) http://esciencenews.com/articles/2016/07/27/smell.test.may.predict.early.stages.alzheimers.disease