Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Peacock Inaugural Lecture (next week)


Next week I am giving the advertised lecture above to officially "kick start" my 5 year term as the Sir Edward Peacock Professor of Political Theory at my home institution Queen's University.  

This lecture, and the research chair, is a great honour and I have been working on refining the lecture for the past number of months.  It will survey a host of topics and ideas I have been working on over the past number of years concerning the intellectual history of public health, advances in geroscience and insights from communication science concerning the challenges of engaging in science communication and advocacy in the modern context of limited attention spans and a media bias towards negativity.  

I start with this passage from my favorite 20th century philosopher, John Dewey:

I then unpack some of the lessons we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of the ways imagination and idealism are invoked in the medical sciences, drawing on the details of this recent paper. 

After addressing imagination in medical science, I turn to the topic of political imagination, noting the challenges with framing science in today's polarized and hyper-distracted arena of politics.  The dominant paradigm of the medical sciences is the "War Against Disease" (Winslow 1903), so I detail the limitations of continuing down that same path for today's aging populations.  While doing so I work towards developing "frames" I hope will convince the audience that the aspiration of healthy aging is critical for today's aging population.

I finish the talk by showing the video abstract of my recent paper in Aging Cell on climate science and geroscience, as a way of illustrating how insights from political communication can be harnessed to effectively communicative the importance of healthy aging.  Should be a fun event!



Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Mimics of fasting study

The latest issue of Nature Communication has this study out today.   The abstract:

In mice, periodic cycles of a fasting mimicking diet (FMD) protect normal cells while killing damaged cells including cancer and autoimmune cells, reduce inflammation, promote multi-system regeneration, and extend longevity. Here, we performed secondary and exploratory analysis of blood samples from a randomized clinical trial (NCT02158897) and show that 3 FMD cycles in adult study participants are associated with reduced insulin resistance and other pre-diabetes markers, lower hepatic fat (as determined by magnetic resonance imaging) and increased lymphoid to myeloid ratio: an indicator of immune system age. Based on a validated measure of biological age predictive of morbidity and mortality, 3 FMD cycles were associated with a decrease of 2.5 years in median biological age, independent of weight loss. Nearly identical findings resulted from  a second clinical study (NCT04150159). Together these results provide initial support for beneficial effects of the FMD on multiple cardiometabolic risk factors and biomarkers of biological age.



Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Latest Article


My latest piece in Royal Society's Open Science is now published.  A sample:

For the past 3+ years, medical researchers, the media, the general public and policy makers have focused their idealism and imagination on managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Herter’s JAMA Address has significance for both the COVID-19 pandemic and the aspirations of medical science in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era. The latter ought to prioritize the science of healthy ageing so that older populations can enjoy more years of healthy life (healthspan) versus making incremental increases invlifespan by extending the period of time managing multi-morbidity, frailty and disability.



Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Music and Aging

The International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has this interesting study on how music can help protect brain health as we age.  Some details:

This study found that playing a musical instrument was associated with improved working memory and executive function in older adults, while singing and overall musical ability was also associated with more favourable performance. Continuing engagement with music into later life is also associated with better working memory function. Although more research is needed to investigate this relationship, our findings suggest that promoting the exposure to music during life can increase cognitive reserve and reduce the risk of cognitive impairment in older age. 



Monday, January 08, 2024

Royal Society Open Science Paper Accepted

The Royal Society (UK) dates back to the 1660s, and the Society has published science articles for over 350 years. I was thrilled to receive the news that my Science, Society and Policy article submission has been accepted for publication in the Society’s Open Science journal.  The article addresses the role of idealism and imagination in the medical sciences in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era of today’s aging world.  I will post the link to the paper once it comes out in a few weeks. 

Above is a brief video about the Royal Society, including details of their Open Science journal.



Saturday, January 06, 2024

Psychedelics and PTSD in Soldiers

Nature news has this interesting story about using psychedelic drugs to enhance the emotional resilience of soldiers to blunt the trauma of conflict. A sample from the report on the study (published in Nature Medicine):

The researchers found that one month after treatment, participants had average reductions of 88% in PTSD symptoms, 87% in depression symptoms and 81% in anxiety symptoms. On average, participants had mild-to-moderate disability before treatment and no disability one month after treatment, as assessed by a survey about their cognition, mobility and other functions.

None of the participants experienced cardiac side effects. The study is a “proof of concept” that proper screening and administration can lower the risk of harmful side effects, Steenkamp says. Williams and his colleagues are now looking to study whether the drug can confer a long-term benefit and are using neuroimaging and biomarkers to assess how the drug works.

The news item notes that the study builds on mice research into expanding the neural plasticity period of the brain. Ethics must keep up with science. I addressed these issues in this book chapter. This topic raises many interesting issues in ethics and psychology.



Wednesday, December 27, 2023

New Textbook (completed)

My survey of the history of Western political philosophy (@110, 000 words), with a focus on its contemporary relevance, has been sent off to the publisher for production.  

This new book builds on a quarter of a century of my teaching this subject, though the serious writing on this book started back in 2020.

Hopefully the book will be out in print in 2024.