An ISIS video released in February 2015 shows 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians at a beach in Libya moments before they were beheaded.Reuters
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San Diego Free Press
DECEMBER 26, 2016 BY SOURCE
Maybe the real problem is a lack of positive paths to manhood
It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. We were said to be approaching the demise of a certain type of swaggering, predatory masculinity: let’s call him Homo Obnoxious.
As men like Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Anthony Weiner, and Billy Bush scrambled unsuccessfully to find cover in the old-boy bastions of privilege, Homo Obnoxious appeared to be lumbering around like a dinosaur under the weight of his own cultural baggage. His habitat was shrinking: it seemed as if men who defined themselves by devaluing women, putting down men who didn’t think like them and treating sexual relations — and most everything else — as power-tripping performances might be ready for mounting in a Museum of Masculinity Past.
Books like Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men hailed an era in which women, and men of a different mold, would rapidly pull ahead in every arena. In The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century, Jack Myers heralded a seismic shift in human relations. “We are entering a new age of female dominance and a reshaping of the male psyche, the male libido, and the male ego,” Myers wrote. “This is the new reality, and it will gain greater and greater momentum. Nothing in the history of humanity can prepare us for this newly upside-down world.”
Reality check: Homo Obnoxious is moving into the White House. The world is upside-down, but not for the reasons Myers anticipated.
The president-elect is signaling to boys across the country what it means to be a successful man. He gets more thuggish with each passing day, appointing knuckle-dragging members of his tribe to run the country. Meanwhile, alt-right dudes who cope with masculine anxiety by proclaiming superiority over women and people of color are feeling validated, enjoying influence they could hardly dream of a year ago. As one self-identified “neomasculine” blogger put it, “I’m in a state of exuberance that we now have a President who rates women on a 1-10 scale in the same way that we do and evaluates women by their appearance and feminine attitude.”
Yikes. But before we concede that toxic masculinity has suddenly reasserted itself as the dominant force in the cultural universe, let’s pause to take a breath. Let’s admit, for example, that although arenas of male experiences differ depending on where you live and how much money you have, Homo Obnoxious was never just a creature of any one party, class or region. The truth is that he is nurtured at every stage of an American boy’s journey into manhood, and without trying to understand what our society does to promote his development and how boys and men might be persuaded to reject his allure, he will continue his rampage across the land.
Let’s take a look at three breeding grounds where Homo Obnoxious cuts his teeth.
So many have a story like mine. It was a day soon after I had transferred to a new public high school in North Carolina. Two popular senior boys — baseball stars on a winning team — approached me across a crowded stair landing. I smiled, then felt rough hands shove me against the wall as the two sang obscene lyrics in my ear. That was not the last or the most violent encounter I had with Homo Obnoxious-in-training during my education.
Aggressive misogyny, of course, permeates many school sports teams, as the recent case of the men’s soccer team at Harvard illustrates. There, at America’s most hallowed university, a spreadsheet compiled by male players portraying members of the women’s team in degrading sexual terms was brought to light. A student explained the commonplace nature of the behavior to the New York Times: “I think Donald Trump is so extreme that we like to believe that these extreme incidents of sexism and discrimination are, like, isolated to him,” he said. “But it’s important to recognize that they’re just as rampant in our generation.”
Responding to recent revelations of decades-long sex abuse by both faculty and students at St. Georges, a New England prep school where Billy Bush was an ice hockey star, a former student described the warped sexual atmosphere and lack of guidance from adults in a letter to the rector of St. Paul’s, another elite prep school where a tradition of predatory sexual competition bred danger:
“I went to St. George’s School in the ’80s and am a heterosexual, success-oriented, competitive guy. I remember being self-conscious about my not getting any action while some of my male friends got tons. I felt less-than, like a loser when it came to girls and sex…Nowhere in my development …did any adult ever reinforce in me that it is all right to go at your own pace, that sex isn’t competition. The cultural norm was that sex was another place to be competitive, where you could be classified as a winner or a loser.”
Let’s think about that. When competition is the preferred mode of group interaction, it’s no wonder boys end up stuck with obsessions about the number of their sexual encounters and a tendency to degrade the objects of their pursuits.
In A Bigger Prize: Why Competition Isn’t Everything And How We Do Better, Margaret Heffernan discusses the destructive role that competition plays in American education and how it turns kids off of many potentially valuable collaborative activities. A large percentage end up not wanting to participate anything, including sports, in which being the winner or loser is everything.
Heffernan points out that if we teach kids that success is all about individual performance, they grow up to be what she calls “heroic soloists.” In relating to others, they tend to focus on what’s in it for them, suppressing the instinct to be generous or share credit or empathy. Our president-elect, steeped in the values of self-interest capitalism and competition in everything from football and beauty pageants to reality TV tournaments, is the epitome of a heroic soloist — one who has been rewarded richly in celebrity, power and money.
Teaching kids the value of creative collaboration and offering rational guidance on sexuality or gender relations at school has to be a part of cultivating a different path to manhood. American sex education, for example, if it is taught at all, often consists of either shaming abstinence lessons or alarming medical discussions of STDs and pregnancy, with little acknowledgment of the need to develop compassionate ways to express sexuality or the importance of challenging sexual stereotypes in media and culture. It doesn’t have to be that way; in a New York Times op-ed, Pamela Druckerman highlighted how topics like the complexity of love are openly discussed in French sex-ed, while Dutch teachers work to inculcate respect for people who don’t fit traditional sexual and gender molds.
If they don’t have blueprints of masculinity that allow for confidence and strength without domination in the playground and in the classroom, boys grow up thinking that a hero is somebody who is in everything solely for himself. This does not mean that we send male students to re-education boot camps, as certain right-wing pundits have warned is the true agenda of coastal elites. It means that adults take it upon themselves to guide students, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity, in imagining ways of being men that are not destructive to themselves and others. It means not shaming them because they are male, but rather encouraging them to develop pride in characteristics and values that are socially beneficial, like putting others before themselves, honesty and strength in caring and self-restraint. That would be a start.
When I arrived at the University of Georgia in 1988, a sophomore from my hometown issued a helpful warning not to ever hook up in a certain popular fraternity house. The guys, I was informed, videotaped girls through holes in the walls and watched the tapes together on Sunday morning. This foreshadowing of the age of digital shaming and abuse was my introduction to the group norms associated with Greek life. Some misogynist rituals were performed under the radar, but others were out in the open and normalized, from parties where lists trashing women in sexual terms were posted on walls to “mixers” with sororities in which fraternity guys inscribed phalluses and misogynist phrases on the T-shirts of freshman girls.
There is nothing wrong with guys wanting to hang out, share common interests and form lasting social bonds with one another. But as young men begin to leave home, there aren’t enough opportunities for them to do this in a way that breeds healthy, socially responsible attitudes and behavior. Beyond the sports field, college fraternities are another place where antisocial activity is too often the norm, a lot of it targeting women. The “Animal House” frat image grounded in the degradation of women, based on fraternity life at Dartmouth in the 1960s, has been ascendant for decades, linking manliness to out-drinking peers and egging them on in sexual exploits. (Was Donald Trump in a fraternity? Of course: he was a Phi Gam at Fordham.)
The negative image is based in reality. On alcohol consumption, a U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center survey shows that 75 percent of fraternity members engaged in heavy drinking, compared with 49 percent of other male students. Some — including many college presidents — have argued that since the drinking age was raised to 21, alcohol consumption has gone undercover, causing students to associate drinking with transgression and pushing it far from the supervision of older adults and more open social events. Lowering the drinking age, they suggest, might bring alcohol back into a more normalized atmosphere where students mix with older adults in supervisory roles, thus obviating the need for secretive binge-drinking and its attendant hazards and regression.
Some say fraternities should accept girls, and in a few cases, colleges have banned frats altogether, arguing that they are obsolete. At Amherst in Massachusetts, where fraternities were prohibited in 2014, students and faculty have discussed ways to create social groups that get rid of some of the destructive things associated with fraternities while providing the cohesiveness and sense of belonging that make them attractive, like residential communities with selective membership centered around a particular theme.
This is all well and good, but how likely is it to spread into regions of the country far flung from elite coastal universities? Places where fraternities have emerged as a way of attracting less affluent students to college with the promise of bonding and bacchanalia, to be translated into fundraising dollars after graduation?
College men — and young men who don’t go to college —need to have positive narratives that allow them to feel good about being men and being men together. Challenging sexual assault is important, but they need to learn much more than “no means no”: they need guidance in emotional honesty and intimacy, the challenges of navigating relationships and masculine ideals to strive for in which cultivating large numbers of women as hookups and drinking into oblivion are not the marks of masculine status. Beyond this, they need to see that life offers them more than the prospect of being a loser in the workforce that awaits them when schooling is done, and they also need opportunities to see that work in areas like caregiving, for example, are rich in positive masculine values. When a male nurse can be viewed as stronger and sexier than a Wall Street parasite, we will have gotten somewhere.
Popular culture reflects a hunger for a vision of masculinity that rejects Homo Obnoxious. Jesse Pinkman, the young meth cook in the TV series Breaking Bad, illustrates the despair of recession-era young men without decent job prospects who search for status, meaning, and self-worth. There’s a lot wrong with Jesse, but in his evolution as a character we see his growing resolve to form intimate, caring bonds with the women in his life and the men in his posse, too. The blockbuster franchise Fast and Furious shows the need for even the most testosterone-driven men — racecar drivers in this case — to develop respect and lasting relationships with the men and women in their social group.
These fictional guys hunt for alternatives to a brutal, global capitalist system that casts them as losers. They want to find the dignity that dissolves when we mire them in student debt, consign them to dead-end jobs and say, Oh well, globalization happens. If we continue to do this, they will bond together in ways that can quickly become dangerous to society as a whole, and they will look for outsider narratives that offer something more that the empty promise of upward mobility currently on offer from politicians who think that the paltry social safety net and worker protections currently in place are over-generous (politicians from both major parties). Sometimes, in the case of the white supremacist groups that have begun to creep out of the woodwork, that something will be very scary.
There has been a lot of recent research on how online porn and video games are helping to inculcate alienation and destructive patterns in boys and young men. Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s book Man (Dis)Connected): How Technology has Sabotaged What it Means to be Male provides insight onto how Homo Obnoxious gets his brain wired.
Zimbardo discusses how young male brains can become shaped at a cellular level in ways that inhibit their social development through excessive time spent on gaming and porn, even losing their ability to read the social cues of face-to-face contact. Many, he points out, are drawn to these realms as a seemingly safe and easy way to gain a sense of achievement that may not be available in the winner-take-all competition of school and the workforce. These virtual worlds are tailored to provide an addictive system of goals and rewards that produce guys who are afraid of intimacy. They end up eschewing real-world experiments that might result in rejection, and real-time spontaneity that leaves them disoriented and frightened. Drained of self-confidence, they search for narratives of manhood that provide at least the simulacrum of power and dignity.
Some go on to find self-help, intellectual and political forums online collectively termed “the manosphere.” Some of this has merged with the recently designated “alt-right.” In the more benign forums, we find guys like mild-mannered Brian Begin, co-founder of Fearless Man website, who invites guys to join a brotherhood of men who have learned the secret of confidence and self-love. A shy video gamer who found himself working in a miserable office cubicle and unable to talk to women, Begin eventually threw away his games and launched a self-help journey that revealed to him he needed to learn to “feel” — to experience emotions at a deep, visceral level and connect to others despite fear of rejection. Although Begin’s quest for dignified masculinity rests in part on the fantasy of making piles of money and dating beautiful women, his hunger for self-esteem and the experience of genuine emotion seems real, as does his impulse to see women as something other than a collection of body parts. He doesn’t want to be a nervous “beta” male, and while much of his rhetoric is traditionalist and half-baked, he is on to something in pointing to the critical need for connection. In his workshops, the first thing he does is to hug the men who participate.
Unfortunately, much in the manosphere openly promotes the far more noxious stuff, like sexual predation in the pickup community, where guys give each other creepy tips on “mind-controlling” women and duping them into sex. Other sites, like Mensactivism, boil with anger at feminists and take a paranoid stance against what they imagine is an epidemic of false rape claims and women who will take advantage of them at every opportunity. Mensactivism buzzes with articles like “Men are the downtrodden sex” and blogs expressing hope that a Trump presidency “could radically change colleges’ response to sexual assault.” In these sites, loneliness and fear are vented as rage — the rage that comes when people don’t know what to do with their suffering.
Yet for all the bluster and bullying on such sites, you don’t have to dig far to find clues to what is bothering these young men so profoundly at their core. The blogger who likes Trump’s rating system for women asks a series of questions in a meditation on so-called neomasculinity, which despite its name, is mostly a throwback to outdated myths of male superiority: “What code of morality or principles should guide men in their daily lives? Is there a deeper life meaning that can help us set better goals?” The answers he comes up with may be bitter and sad, but the questions themselves are not stupid, and they point to a lack of compass to give direction. Online, the lost boys find each other, making up the missing codes themselves out of a mixture of bravado, hurt and bitterness.
The road ahead
When I sat down to write this article just after Trump’s election, I felt angry and confused swallowing the reality that the country is going to be led by a man who brags about sexual assault. But gradually, I’ve come to feel something else, a sense that the Trump election may in part be a sign that a giant population of American men — particularly the Trump voters but also men across regions and classes — are in turmoil, and that most are looking for a way out. If we simply shout them down and disparage them, we can be pretty sure that the worst among them, the already-committed members of Tribe Homo Obnoxious, will gain strength, not lose it. Some are likely already too far down the road of hate for redemption, but I believe these are a small minority. The rest are struggling, watching, looking for signs, searching for stories that might give them a sense of a more positive path ahead.
Over Thanksgiving, I attended Sunday services at a conservative Southern Baptist megachurch in Raleigh, North Carolina, partly because I wanted to hear and see for myself what men in that context were thinking and talking about it — men who were the most likely in town to have voted for Trump. If I were to believe the assumptions of some of my liberal friends in New York, where I currently live, they would be spewing racial hatred, misogyny and homophobia — a seething collection of “toothless rednecks,” as one New Yorker put it on my Facebook page.
That’s not what I heard. The sermon was delivered by a young minister with the demeanor of a kindly basketball coach, one who was not afraid of emotions and wept at times as he spoke. His message, it seemed to me, was tailored to deliver balm to the heart of hurt manhood. God was the benign father and Christ was a brother — even a lover — who valued those gathered so deeply he would give his life for them. Men were presented as the ones who went out into the world while moms stayed home, a 1950s trope to be sure, but they were also asked to give up their self-centeredness, their narcissism. The minister urged them to see power as something that could be used to confront their own shortcomings, to serve and protect others. The solo adventurer was not vaunted here. Trump was not the emblem of the kind of masculinity valued here.
As much as I reject his outdated gender framework, the minister appeared a man with whom I shared some basic concerns—about the allure of consumerism, for example. He was not an alien, but a person trying to confront the ills of modern society, many of which bother me as much as him, though our emphasis and answers are different.
Men are confused, and how could they not be? Ever since the 1950s brought women into the workforce en masse, and the Pill released them from reproductive shackles in the ‘60s, a profound change in human relations has been happening in painful fits and starts. In the grand scheme of history, a few decades is an incredibly short amount of time to adjust to such a cataclysm. No wonder we’re still flailing about trying to figure out how to cope. Identity, expectations, culture and hormones are a complex dance. Social construction is a dynamic process, and hardly linear.
And let’s face it: Hillary Clinton’s election was not likely to bring a great gender renaissance in America, or any kind of renaissance for that matter. If Clinton were on her way to the White House, there is much reason to believe that ordinary men — and women— would see little improvements in their lives. That would be the case as long as those in charge are stuck in paradigms of dysfunctional capitalism and neoliberal blindness. Anger would continue to fester, and many working-class white men, in particular, would become even more entrenched in their reactionary rage.
As America’s boys see Trump acting out, some will feel their own worst instincts validated. But for others, the idea of “being a man” might mean distancing themselves from his kind of behavior. I do believe that men—and women—are less likely to assert power by denigrating and dominating others when they have a sense of real agency in their lives. It may not be helpful to talk about the end of men, or the rising dominance of women, but rather to remember that for all of us—men, women and transgender—our ability to manifest prosocial behavior depends a lot on having a sense of power and purpose in our lives. Growing inequality, the gig economy, strangling oligopolies, widespread poverty, a shrinking middle class, and government policies geared to appease the rich do not promote this outcome.
For those who reject Donald Trump, figuring out how to achieve a better life for everyone in our society instead of condemning “deplorables” is, in my opinion, a more productive way to go. The co-creation of a more peaceful and fulfilling world requires our most dedicated efforts in imagination, connection and listening to those who do not share our particular vision. Homo Obnoxious will only have the last word if we forget our common humanity.
You can always pep up your website with imagery on the killing and torture of me. Nobody cares. Cruelty towards men is accepted. But showing physical love of people below the age of 18 can earn a punishment much worse than that for torturing and killing a man. That's the world today. The result of feminism, the ideology by which ugly women want to protect their market value as sex objects by eliminating anything that undermines their hold on men.
France's prime minister has raised the terrifying specter of ISIS carrying out chemical or biological weapons attacks on the West, but international investigators have so far confirmed only a single use of mustard gas by the terror gang in the Middle East.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which enforces a global treaty, announced earlier this month that it had determined with "utmost confidence" that a "non-state actor" used the outlawed agent outside Aleppo, Syria, in August, likely killing a baby.
U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News that ISIS was the non-state actor. The OPCW is continuing to investigate other suspected uses of chemical weapons by ISIS.
ISIS trackers say its current arsenal includes weapons that are easily scavenged: mustard gas in Syria, which stockpiled hundreds of tons before agreeing to dispose of it two years ago, and chlorine that could be obtained from any water treatment facility in territory it has seized.
That seemed to be confirmed in a Tumblr post in August by high-profile ISIS fighter Israfil Yilmaz.
"It’s only acceptable when the regime or any other group uses chemical warfare against us?" he wrote.
"The regime uses chemical warfare on a regular basis these days, and nobody bats an eye — yet when IS captures it from them and uses it against them it’s all of a sudden a huge problem?
"Fight them the way they fight you."
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Iraqi and American intelligence officials believe ISIS is hell-bent on ramping up a chemical weapons program with help of scientists in the territory that forms its so-called caliphate.
An Iraqi politician, citing intelligence reports, told the AP that ISIS has recruited chemical experts Chechnya, Southeast Asia and Iraq, including some who once worked for Saddam Hussein. NBC News has not been able to confirm that assessment.
It's a nightmare scenario, as illustrated by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls' warning to Parliament that bullets and bombs could be replaced by something less tangible but just as deadly.
"We must not rule anything out," Valls said.
But intelligence officials in Washington caution that intent is a far cry from capability, particularly when it comes to more sophisticated weapons like nerve gas.
"We know they are pursuing chemical weapons, but we haven't seen anything beyond mustard and chlorine," said Patrick Martin, an Iraq expert with the Institute for the Study of War, a military research think tank in Washington.
He said that even with mustard gas, the damage has been limited because it's essentially just added to warheads and mortars.
"They don't deploy it on wide scales," Martin said. "Their delivery systems aren't that sophisticated."
But does ISIS have the ability to develop weapons that would pose a threat to the West going forward?
Martin said that's still unclear.
"Mosul [seized by ISIS in June] has a university and that theoretically has the lab facilities to deal with this. The difficulty they may face is in obtaining the raw materials," he said.
Retired Lt. Gen Richard Zahner, a former top military intelligence officer in Iraq, said that while al Qaeda was never able to launch a chemical weapons program, ISIS has greater financial resources.
"Even a few competent scientists and engineers, given the right motivation and a few material resources, can produce hazardous industrial and weapons-specific chemicals in limited quantities," he told the AP.
And the U.S. military has noted that ISIS has been able to lure scientists to its side. In January, U.S. Central Command announced that an airstrike had killed Abu Mailk, a chemical expert who had worked under Saddah Hussein.
"His death is expected to temporarily degrade and disrupt the terrorist network and diminish ISIL's (ISIS') ability to potentially produce and use chemical weapons against innocent people," the statement said.
Terrorists are developing a new tactics. Instead of killing victims, they just castrate them, and let them live on. Planned for Swedish and Norwegian men. Perpetrators will just get 6 months in jail.
Pro-rape campaigner Roosh V has cancelled a series of meetings around the world amid fears over the 'safety and privacy' of the men who attend.
The self-styled 'anti-feminist', whose real name is Daryush Valizadeh, had set up gatherings in cities in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.
But in a new post on his website last night, the American apologised to his supporters for having to 'let them down' by cancelling the controversial meetings.
He wrote: "I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be made private in time.
"While I can’t stop men who want to continue meeting in private groups, there will be no official Return Of Kings meetups. The listing page has been scrubbed of all locations.
"I apologize to all the supporters who are let down by my decision."
It is understood that a number of the planned gatherings had already been moved to a private property - possibly due to the number of men expected to attend, or for safety reasons.
And while Roosh V is concerned about his members' safety, women in some cities have voiced their own concerns online about the 'neo-masculinist' gatherings.
They have warned other females to 'try not to go anywhere alone' this weekend, The Guardian reports.
The cancellation of Roosh V's meetings comes as more than 25,000 people have signed a petition to ban the 'anti-feminist' from holding meetings in the UK.
The petition against him was started on campaign site 38 degrees and calls on police and crime commissioners, local police forces and the Government to stop Roosh V in his tracks.
It says: "Supporters of known 'legal rape' advocate and 'neo-masculinist' misogynist creator of 'Return of the Kings' Roosh V will congregate on Saturday 6 February, in eight UK cities: Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Shrewsbury and London.
"As he spreads his hateful speech and guides people on how to exploit, manipulate and rape women, he's putting the welfare of women at risk. He needs to be stopped by all genders, within our communities.
"Having written a number of jaw-droppingly offensive blog posts and published books, Roosh V believes that men should stop asking for permission, and that alpha males should slowly break down the confidence in women to get what they want.
"He is a hugely dangerous individual. His fans have extensive forums online, detailing where to 'pick up the easiest girls' in each city, naming bars, venues and strategies.
"Roosh V needs to be stopped. Please sign."
Another petition to ban the leader from holding an event in Cardiff on Saturday has so far gained more than 7,000 signatures and dubs Valizadeh an 'evil man'. It also posts a link to an article about him.
On his website, believed to have had a million visitors, Roosh V claims a solution for rape charges against men would be to “make rape legal if done on private property.”
“I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds,” he wrote.
Cardiff petition signatory Briony J was unimpressed.
“Rape legal on private property?” she said.
“You could be lying in your own bed at night, have your home broken into, and be raped and that’d be legal? I don’t think so.”
Only straight men will be allowed to attend the meeting, and women attempting to enter the event will be filmed and broadcast on his global “anti-feminist” network.
“Sounds like he’s inciting crime – how can that be allowed?” Peter J said.
Valizadeh’s books include “Bang: The Pickup Bible That Helps You Get More Lays.”
“My niece is at uni in Cardiff,” Julie D said on 38 Degrees.
“I want her and all women to be safe. This filth needs not to come to this country.”
And Paul S claimed “those who preach hate are as evil as the terrorist who pulls the trigger.”
The self-proclaimed “anti-feminist” is followed by tens of thousands of supporters on social media, and regularly posts articles campaigning against rape laws and feminism.
His website is believed to be have been visited by more than one million people worldwide.
South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said he has written to the Home Secretary Theresa May asking her to consider the petition.
He said: “It has been brought to my attention that an individual who appears to intend to cause harassment and distress in the furtherance of his agenda – and to encourage and incite others to do so – is encouraging people to gather in Cardiff for purposes that are both unpleasant and potentially unlawful.
“I am reassured that South Wales Police are taking the operational policing issues seriously in reviewing risk and protecting the public.
“I have written to the Home Secretary to ask her to urgently consider the petition.
“It may make sense for people to petition the Home Secretary, who has powers to act in relation to a ban on entering the country, which I do not have, or to petition parliament to secure a debate.”
It's not the food that you put into your mouth that makes you fat. It's the food that you put into your stomach. Try the Serge Kreutz diet and learn how to differentiate.
Slow brain waves reveal precisely when a patient loses awareness while under anesthesia, and could prevent the small percentage of cases in which patients are "awake" during surgery.
Being aware of what's happening during surgery and even feeling the pain seems like an unthinkable nightmare. Isn't that what anesthesia is for?
But it does happen in up to one percent of surgeries involving high-risk patients, according to research published in 2011, and affects between 20,000 and 40,000 patients annually in the U.S. alone. Now, scientists from the University of Oxford in the U.K. believe they've found a way to put an end to this disturbing statistic.
Using EEG brain monitoring and MRI imaging scans, the researchers discovered that people lost awareness when low-frequency electrical waves, also called “slow waves,” enveloped the brain. When the waves reached a plateau, sensory signals no longer reached the thalamocortical regions, which are the parts of the brain linked to conscious awareness.
“Awareness in anesthesia is a 'never event'—it isn't good enough for it to be rare,” Roisin Ní Mhuircheartaigh, one of the researchers, told Healthline. “Our goal is to allow anesthesiologists to look at a patient's brain activity and know with confidence that [he or she] is safely asleep.”
The researchers have applied for a patent on their findings and are looking into developing better monitoring equipment for patients under anesthesia. They are the second group of scientists this year to do so. Earlier this year, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University published their findings on slow waves and unconsciousness.
“They looked at EEG, too, but have focused on the relationship between slow waves and alpha activity,” Catherine Warnaby, another Oxford researcher, told Healthline. “A key difference is that we have looked at slow wave saturation and have the FMRI evidence to support that this state represents a state of perception loss.” Changing the Standards for Anesthesia
Warnaby stressed that anesthesia is very safe, but little is known about how it works in the brain. In patients with severe health problems, too much anesthesia can adversely affect their heart or lungs. Elderly patients may experience severe confusion after an operation if given too much anesthesia.
“We think that this has great potential to become an individualized marker for delivering anesthesia during surgery,” Warnaby said. “If we can prove further that this saturation relates to the point where people lose awareness of the outside world, it may change the way that anesthetics are delivered worldwide. Anesthesiologists would be able to give anesthetics to achieve this saturation level and know that they were giving each individual just the right amount of the drug.”
Learn About the Risks and Benefits of Anesthesia During Delivery »
The research could also help resolve other riddles of the brain, Warnaby added. "Our findings could have implications for all sorts of altered states and disorders of consciousness, such as locked-in syndrome or persistent vegetative state."
In both the Oxford and U.S. research, scientists experimented with the common anesthetic, propofol.
There are EEG monitors available to assess the depth of anesthesia, although there isn't much evidence that these methods are better than traditional monitoring at reducing awareness during surgery, Warnaby said.
The next step is to perform further experiments to recreate a surgical setting. Researchers will look at how other drugs used during surgery—such as painkillers—affect slow waves during anesthesia.
“Depending on the operation, anesthesiologists have to give drugs that block muscle function, 'paralyzing drugs,'” Mhuircheartaigh said. “If inadequate anesthetic drugs are given while the patient can't move to let us know they're awake, awareness can occur.”
Like Warnaby, Mhuircheartaigh stressed the rarity of these cases, especially in healthy people. “However, rare isn't good enough,” she told Healthline. “We hope that by looking at this key process in the brain we can be sure that the patient can't perceive any surgery.”
It's not that we would be madly in love with Donald Trump. But he may just ruin the US. That would be much welcomed in all corners of the world.
Feminism is the enemy of successful men. Let millions of Arabs migrate to Europe. That will give feminists second thoughts.
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