Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Neural Depolarization?

So, when I hear the term "neural depolarization", I immediately think of a neuron firing an action potential, which is actually called neuronal depolarization.  Apparently Google agrees with me, as it suggested "neuronal depolarization" when I started typing "neural depolarization" into the toolbar, but, if you commit, you will find out that "neural" depolarization is some sort of new age quackery.  I will refer you to an article by Stephen Barrett M.D. over at quackwatch, which is where I found out about this nonsense, and where, if you skip ahead to the end, you will see the following:
"NDP (neural depolarization) is a minor variety of "energy medicine," whose practitioners claim to heal by modifying the alleged flow of nonmaterial (non-measurable) "energy" throughout the body. NDP's practitioners also offer what they describe as nutritional and spiritual advice. They claim to be effective against a wide range of diseases, including cancer, even though no scientific studies have substantiated or even investigated such claims. The attention they give to clients may produce symptomatic relief, but I see no reason to believe that NDP itself can influence the course of any disease or that its advocates are qualified to give health advice."
 As for my google search, I could only bring myself to look at the first page that comes up, where I found several instances of bogus information:
"Every cell of our body has at it’s core a nerve, that is why we are able to feel."
While I believe that the author did not mean the literal core of our cells (where we would most likely, though not always, find a nucleus), this statement is still simply false.  First of all "nerve" can refer either to a "nerve fiber" which is a collection of axons (the long cable part of a neuron), or a "nerve cell" (a neuron).  Now, many cells in the body are not affiliated with nerve cells (or fibers), for example blood and lymph cells in the circulation most certainly do not have a "nerve" at their core, the red blood cells don't even have a nucleus, and they only come into contact with a "nerve" when they are dropping off oxygen and picking up carbon dioxide.  Additionally, how do neurons, or "nerve" cells, themselves have nerves at their core?  Even if we assume that this statement is meant to apply only to the skin, typically one neuron serves many, many cells of the skin (where most of the cells in the upper layers of the epidermis, don't even come into contact with the nerve endings).  But let's move on...

"...we have all cut a finger, at one time or the other, which has healed.   The cells regenerate, the skin closes up, and within a few days the finger looks and functions like nothing is amiss.    This is a simplistic and very basic example, but nevertheless an example, of self healing. This self-healing ability is true for every cell of every organ of our body." 
Again, this is simply not true... certain cells and organs have a very hard time regenerating, like the brain and the heart, this is why strokes and heart attacks are so debilitating and in many cases deadly, because these organs do a poor job of repairing themselves, and most certainly do not heal like a cut finger or a broken bone.
The site goes on to claim that we need to treat our cells with "positive, loving thoughts" and that negative thoughts are toxic to our cells.  It then goes on to claim that these toxic events cause our "nerves" to become polarized, and that this polarization is bad, which is why "neural depolarization" is supposedly good.  It even goes so far as to claim that these polarized cells are the "root cause of all pain and disease that we experience".  That's ALL pain and disease!  (from Alzheimer's to Zelwegger's). Okay, whenever someone tells you there is ONLY ONE underlying cause to ALL disease, you get to loudly claim "Bullshit!" And as for that cause being the fact that your nerve cells are polarized, well that's just ridiculous.  Almost all of your nerve cells are in a constant state of being polarized at all times, waiting to be depolarized when they are used to send a signal.  In fact, your brain devotes lots of energy to keeping your neurons in an almost permanent state of polarization (and your brain uses about 20 percent of the total energy you will use).  In fact, I don't see how you could think, move, or do anything at all, if it weren't for the fact that your neurons remained polarized at rest.  Anyway, I could go on about how ridiculous this is, but I guess the point is, if someone tries to sell you on "neural depolarization", hold on to your wallet as tight as you can and run!

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