In the first chapter of his book, Phantoms in the Brain, premier neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran quotes Sherlock Holmes: “I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routines of everyday life.”
It was this “Sherlock Holmes” aspect of science and medicine – of exploring the unusual and figuring out how things work – that ultimately led to Ramachandran’s successful career in neurology. When he first began to study neurology, the brain was largely unchartered territory. Why is it that some people see colors when they smell certain aromas? Why is it that some people can still feel their fingertips – even when their hands are missing? For Ramachandran, a lifetime of mysteries was waiting to be solved.
As a child growing up in India and Thailand, Ramachandran loved the beautiful simplicity of scientific experiments. Put an iron nail in a blue solution of copper sulfate, and iron becomes copper – like magic! As a neurologist, Ramachandran continued to embrace a low-tech and elegant approach to scientific study whenever possible. When one of his patients still felt the painfully-clenched fist of his severed hand, Ramachandran used a mirror to fool the patient into seeing his missing hand and the patient was then able to unclench it and feel relief.
Ramachandran explains the “grandmother test” to UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler: “If an elaborate theory can not predict what your grandmother knows using common sense, then it isn’t worth much.” Thus, the litmis test of a well-constructed experiment is two-fold: first, it should be simple enough to easily explain it to your grandmother so that she understands it; and second, she should say “Wow!” If it’s too complicated to explain and it doesn’t interest her, then try again.
Learn more about the incredible work of V.S. Ramachandran in our video archive of his work and lectures. New programs feature discussions on neurolology and our questions of self, along with an interview with UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler. From mystical sensory experiences, to phantom limbs, to art – go inside the mind with Ramachandran.
Browse all programs in the V.S. Ramachandran video archive.
If some medical care is good, more must be better. Right?
Unfortunately, this is often not the case. In fact, the opposite can be true—some measures of health are worse in areas where people receive more health services.
Join leaders in research and health policy at UCSF who highlight situations in which the overuse of medical care may result in harm and in which less care is likely to result in better health. It’s time to challenge the implicit belief, on the part of both clinicians and patients, that more is better.
See what you should know about risks and benefits of cancer screening, “routine” examinations, alternative medicine, drug prescriptions, cardiac testing and end-of-life care.
Bottom line for consumers – choose wisely, change the question from Why don’t you do that test? to Why did you do that test?, and challenge the belief that more is better.
Check out all the latest programs in High Value Medical Care: Why Sometimes Less is More:
High Value Medical Care: Why Sometimes Less is More
We Don’t Always Get High Value Medical Care: Examples from Cataract Surgery and Telemedicine
Cardiac Screening – Why Sometimes Less is More
Too Many Tests and Treatments: Why More is Not Always Better For Seniors
Radiation Safety and Medical Imaging
Antibiotics – When Less is More
Vitamins and Supplements: Less is More
Cancer Screening: When Less is More
Periodic Health Examination – Why Sometimes Less is More
What happens when prison sentences are reduced and non-violent criminals are set free? As UC Berkeley professor Steve Raphael argues, crime rates don’t rise and in some cases, they actually go down. Hear why alternatives to “tough on crime” sentencing guidelines can make communities safer as California and other states rethink their policies on punishment.
Watch Prison Reform: Alternatives to Mass Incarceration.
Browse more programs on The UC Public Policy Channel.
The keynotes from climate scientist Ralph Keeling and biologist Stephen Mayfield on the impacts of climate change on the ocean were terrific – but it was Rob Ruiz, the executive chef of The Land and Water Company who really stood out.
He talks here about how he traveled the world to observe local, sustainable sourcing and put what he learned to work in his Carlsbad restaurant. He credits the scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography for helping him select sustainable seafood for his menu and is proud to be recognized as a world leader for his commitment to ocean conservation. Clearly, he’s doing more than just talking the talk.
Watch Ruiz and the others as they engage with high school students in Blue Oceans, Sustainable Seafood, Humans and the Sea, the latest installment of STEAM Leadership Series.
The numbers tell the story. In Up From Poverty: Funding Solutions That Work, public policy analysts Hilary Hoynes and Rucker Johnson show how investments in pre-K programs, nutritional assistance, Medicaid and earned income tax credits provide solid and reliable paths out of poverty if properly funded.
They’ve done the research – check out their results in this eye-opening conversation with Henry E. Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.
Browse more programs from The UC Public Policy Channel.