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Mike_Gauthier

NY Times - Mountain Climbing Bad for the Brain

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The report noted that about 20 percent of tourists to Colorado report acute mountain sickness, and complications arising from sports activities at high altitudes, such as the potentially fatal conditions of pulmonary and cerebral edema, are on the rise.

 

SICK, bro-brah!

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The NY Times is bad for the brain.

 

Don't you mean it hurts your brain? They do use big words sometimes.

 

But you can highlight any word in NY Times articles, and right-click it -- it'll define it for you!

 

Yay life!

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It seems like a statistically meaningless sample (19 climbers) and fairly minimal distinctions, but maybe the original article is more detailed than this summary. I'd like to see a distinction between people who climb to ~14,411 and Himalayan climbers -- my gut reaction is that spending time in the "death zone" would be likely to have much more of an effect than climbing up to the more civilized altitudes that true weekend warriors see.

 

 

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So do you think this is actually due to altitude or more to do with the fact that for weeks on end your brain is only stimulated by what's for dinner, who has to shovel next and should I put in another picket?

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It seems like a statistically meaningless sample (19 climbers) and fairly minimal distinctions, but maybe the original article is more detailed than this summary. I'd like to see a distinction between people who climb to ~14,411 and Himalayan climbers -- my gut reaction is that spending time in the "death zone" would be likely to have much more of an effect than climbing up to the more civilized altitudes that true weekend warriors see.

 

]...The climbers ranged in age from 31 to 52, with an average age of just under 38, and were used to climbing to altitudes of at least 4,000 meters (two-and-a-half miles, or over 13,000 feet) several times a year...[/i]

The article would seem to indicate that the study did include weekend warrior-type altitudes and levels of repetition.

 

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Who wants to live a boring "rat race" style life....not me. Climbing is fun, just as Scuba Diving is fun....oh, boxing causes brain damage...that's why Mike Tyson bites instead. We all die, and through climbing we can dream of the fountain of youth. As we march forward to a certain future of an intangible reality.

Edited by Joe_Poulton

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"Six of the nine climbers had lower than average scores on the Digit Symbol test, which measures executive functions. Three out of nine scored lower than average on memory tests, while four scored below average on a visual-motor function test."

 

OMG! The odds of that are...

 

...about 50/50.

 

 

I remember being at a seminar at UW Anesthesiology on just this topic ( before and after tests on an Everest expedition and simulated high altitude in a hypobaric chamber), with the amusement of doddering old fool Tom Hornbein's example being present.

 

I'll take my brain insults unsubtle, please, and my executive functions can manage a digit symbol ANY time.

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climbers are brain-damaged -- this is news to someone?

 

Speak for yourself :wave:, however my girlfriend might agree with you :shock:

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Here was another study about brain lesions caused by high altitude climbing:

Abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16443427

 

PURPOSE: There are only anecdotal and small reports on brain systematic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in mountain climbers. The purpose of our work is to study the risk of brain lesions in mountain climbers by means of conventional MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). METHODS: We recruited 35 climbers consecutively (12 were professional and 23 were amateur) in 4 expeditions without supplementary oxygen: 12 professionals and one amateur went up to Mt. Everest (8848 m), 8 amateurs to Mt. Aconcagua (6959 m), 7 amateurs to Mont Blanc (4810 m), and 7 amateurs to Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895 m). The mean age was 33.8 years (range: 22-46). All of them underwent general medical examination, standard blood tests, and MRI of the brain after the expeditions. MRI also was carried out in a control group of 20 healthy subjects. Single-voxel MR spectroscopy was carried out in 14 amateur subjects after the expeditions and in 10 healthy controls. As outcome measures, we evaluated changes in the hematocrit value, presence of cerebral lesions on MRI, as well as atrophy and dilatation of Virchow-Robin spaces, and differences in the metabolite ratios obtained from brain MRS in comparison with controls. RESULTS: Only 1 in 13 of the Everest climbers had a normal MRI; the amateur showed frontal subcortical lesions, and the remainder had cortical atrophy and enlargement of Virchow-Robin spaces but no lesions. Among the remaining amateurs, 13 showed symptoms of high-altitude illness, 5 had subcortical irreversible lesions, and 10 had innumerable widened Virchow-Robin spaces. Conversely, we did not see any lesions in the control group. We found no significant differences in the metabolite ratios between climbers and controls. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that there is enough evidence of brain damage after high altitude climbing; the amateur climbers seem to be at higher risk of suffering brain damage than professional climbers.

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i would have thought that there was ample evidence of brain damage among climbers here at this website: just check any one of the political discussions raging right now in "spray" and you'll see more than sufficient evidence of impaired executive functions, etc.

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Six of the nine climbers had lower than average scores on the Digit Symbol test, which measures executive functions. Three out of nine scored lower than average on memory tests, while four scored below average on a visual-motor function test. The study authors noted that the results “are most likely to be due to progressive, subtle brain insults caused by repeated high-altitude exposure.”
:confused:

 

Hopefully this is a blockheaded paraphrase of the article by the NY Times writer because 3 out of 9 and 4 out of nine scoring lower than average would, if anything, indicate that climbers are better off than the general population.

 

Though , as Andy points out, it really doesn't say much except that there is not good evidence to to say they are different. But it certainly would not indicate climbers being worse off.

 

Take the case of the only statistic appearing to indicate climbers are worse off, 6 of 9 worse on the DSST. If you randomly found 9 people and gave them the DSST (i.e. no special group, just any bunch of people), then the probability that 6 or more will score less than the average is about 25%, not really that unlikely. So this sample doesn't really provide clear evidence that climbers are different from the normal pool.

 

There's also the question of reverse causality. Data such as these (where they have no before versus after values for the subjects) cannot in themselves indicate causality, only association. If brain damage and high altitude climbing are linked by these data, it could indicate that either climbing causes brain damage, or conversely that brain damage influences one to be a high-altitude climber. That's comforting, right? :crazy:

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Turns out that it was a mistranslation. According to comments by people who probably read the actual paper instead of the NY Times piece, it was not 3 of 9 less than average, but rather 3 of 9 less than normal where below normal was defined as basically below the 5th percentile. So 3 of 9, 4 of 9 and especially 6 of 9 are all fairly damning.

 

My point on causality still stands though.

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So 3 of 9, 4 of 9 and especially 6 of 9 are all fairly damning.

So where do I fit in this mess???

jeri_ryan.jpg

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Climbing is stupid.

We should all stay in town, eat out, drink Miller light, and buy chips with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil to eat while we watch the game on weekends.

Drone on.

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