Media George Bush = Drunk Rat?
posted by December 29 at 7:20 PMon
Slog tipper Josh detects a series of digs directed at George W. Bush in Paul Steinberg’s op-ed in today’s New York Times. The op-ed is about the long-term impact of binge drinking on rats and the possible implications for human binge-drinkers, current or long-since reformed. And Steinberg’s piece, writes Josh, uses several phrases that—well, let’s just go to the source. But first here’s the experiment…
When put into a tub of water and forced to continue swimming until they find a platform on which to stand, the sober former binge-drinking rats and the normal control rats (who had never been exposed to alcohol) learned how to find the platform equally well. But when the experimenters abruptly moved the platform, the two groups of rats had remarkably different performances. The rats without previous exposure to alcohol, after some brief circling, were able to find the new location. The former binge-drinking rats, however, were unable to find the new platform; they became confused and kept circling the site of the old platform.
Hm… so rats that were binge drinkers have difficultly adapting to new information or changing circumstances on the ground/in the tub. Hmm. Back to Steinberg’s op-ed:
The more we have binged—and the younger we have started to binge—the more we experience significant, though often subtle, effects on the brain and cognition.”… The binges activate an inflammatory response in rat brains rather than a pure regrowth of normal neuronal cells. Even after longstanding sobriety this inflammatory response translates into a tendency to stay the course , a diminished capacity for relearning and maladaptive decision-making…
The forebrain—specifically the orbitofrontal cortex, which uses associative information to envision future outcomes—can be significantly damaged by binge drinking… One can easily fail to recognize the ultimate consequences of one’s actions …
Does the research on rats have relevance for the more complex brains and behavior of humans? We have come to think so… we not only learn specific skills during these years, with our brains having developed more fully, we also learn in a more subtle way how to deal with ambiguity. Ambiguity comes into play when the goalposts are moved. Can we change course? Can we deal with this ambiguity and with nuances?
Our Dear Leader, of course, is a recovered—supposedly—boozer who, despite years of sobriety, has difficulties changing course, dealing with ambiguity, and the fruits of his seriously maladaptive decision-making processes are everywhere to be seen.
But this line is the real real kicker, says Josh:
The one piece of good news is that exercise has been shown to stimulate the regrowth and development of normal neural tissue in former alcohol-drinking mice.
Is this op-ed coded? Am I the only one reading it this way? “Stay the course” is a peculiarly evocative phrase right now. “Change course,” too. Lack of foresight? Check. Lack of nuance? Check. But what’s with the bizarre orthogonal pivot onto exercise? Could this explain why it is so frequently observed that Bush is an obsessive exercise freak?
Perhaps. But seeing as Steinberg’s point is that exercise repairs the damage done by binge drinking, and seeing as Bush, despite his avid exercise routine, retains a strong tendency to stay a failed course, shows no capacity for relearning, and continues to demonstrate his maladaptive decision-making skills, I’d say it’s a coincidence. Unless Steinberg intended to offer the president a subtle compliment, which seems unlikely.
But Josh makes a persuasive case…