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The second piece I was actually asked to do in our stroke series – this one looks at rehabilitation research but I was also interested in how such research actually gets implemented.

Wellcome Trust Blog

Acute emergency treatment for the loss of oxygen to parts of the brain as a result of a stroke can be standardised – our brains respond in a certain way, and the same treatments will have similar effects in most patients. But the nature of stroke is that, depending on precisely where it happens and how severe it is, essentially the same kind of event in the brain can lead to very different problems afterwards.

Photo of a walking rehabilitation clinicHelping someone to recover their ability to function in the world after a stroke has to be personalised because every stroke patient is left with a different set of abilities. It is not surprising, therefore, that those who do research into new techniques and practices for rehabilitation emphasise the importance of individual patients, as Michael Regnier has been finding out.

Marion Walker puts patients at the heart of everything she does. Having trained as an…

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While researching risk factors for stroke, I found out that more and more researchers are getting interested in the links between small vessel vascular disease and dementia – I got interested too…

Wellcome Trust Blog

For decades, stroke and dementia were treated quite separately in the UK, both clinically and in research, despite both being diseases of the brain. Dementia – especially Alzheimer’s disease – had been claimed by the psychiatrists and neurologists, while stroke remained in general medicine or geriatrics.

Today, scientists and doctors are becoming ever more aware of the links between stroke and dementia. The same risk factors apply to both diseases, implying some degree of common mechanism in their development. Michael Regnier asks Professor Rob Stewart whether stroke and dementia could be different manifestations of the same underlying disease.

“Anyone with any vascular risk factor – higher blood pressure, diabetes, higher cholesterol and so on – is also at risk of Alzheimer’s,” says Professor Rob Stewart, an old-age psychiatrist based at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.

Stewart has a long-standing research interest in dementia and its relationship to…

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I interviewed Shah Ebrahim for my feature on predicting and preventing stroke but he was such an interesting guy that we gave him a slot all to himself…

Wellcome Trust Blog

A geriatrician and stroke specialist by training, Professor Shah Ebrahim researches risk factors for cardiovascular disease and has a particular interest in prevention strategies. He splits his time between India and the UK, where he is Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Michael Regnier went to meet him.

In his office at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor Shah Ebrahim quotes Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses over a cup of tea: “Paranoia, for the exile, is a prerequisite of survival.”

For Shah, this is an apt description of his own experience of going to live in India. “I’ve become very paranoid,” he admits. “You have to be constantly aware of what’s going on. But to what extent is it actually a safety mechanism to avoid getting into trouble, and at what point does your level of paranoia become a disease?”

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May was Action on Stroke month in the UK, and the Wellcome Trust decided to run a series of features, infographics and videos about various aspects of stroke. I was commissioned to write two features – ended up contributing five pieces to the series: this was the first…

Wellcome Trust Blog

Stroke stampThere will be about 150 000 strokes in the UK in 2012, among a population of 62 million. Crude arithmetic suggests your chance of having a stroke this year is, therefore, 0.24 per cent. But a variety of factors can make us more – or less – likely to experience stroke. Is it possible to put a number on an individual’s risk? And if you found out you were at high risk, what could you do about it? Michael Regnier investigates.

A blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. Without their blood supply, brain cells are left gasping for oxygen. They die, breaking neural circuits and shutting down brain functions. Every stroke is different but whatever the precise effects are, they begin immediately.

Strokes are sudden but many of the disease processes that precede them take a long time to develop. This is why age is the most…

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Reblogging

So today I discovered the ‘Reblog’ button on WordPress. I’ve reblogged some of my posts from the year so far – from the Wellcome Trust blog and my own Certain Confusion blog – just to provide some content should anyone end up here. I’ll try to not do it in such a glut in future!

My favourite piece of science writing. Or is it?

Wellcome Trust Blog

The 2012 Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize, in association with the Guardian and the Observer, opened last week, so between now and the competition deadline on 25 April, we’ll be hearing from established science writers about a piece of science writing they admire and what makes it so good. In the second in the series, also published on the Guardian website, Wellcome Trust science writer Michael Regnier waxes lyrical about literary experiments.

My favourite piece of science writing is a poem by French avant-garde writer Raymond QueneauLe Chant du Styrène (The Song of Styrene) was written in 1958 as commentary for a promotional film commissioned by French company Pechiney, but I first read it as a standalone poem and immediately fell in love with it.

I liked the idea of a poem – written in alexandrine rhyming couplets – about the manufacture of plastics. I…

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Anticipating some extra interest when the Guardian piece was published, I wrote this as a little introduction of sorts to me, the writer. But it brought some latent ideas to the fore….

A Certain Confusion

A Guardian editorial towards the start of the year praised brevity. It ended: “We have run out of words before we have run out of space.”

A boon of a blog is, of course, that the space never runs out. This is, of course, a mixed blessing. And in an age that now seems determined to fetishise the ‘long read‘ form, perhaps as a way to kick against the perceived lack of attention span and news ‘bites’ of modern (online) culture, the art of writing short might be getting short shrift – except on Twitter, thanks to its 140-character limit.

I’m never going to be pithy – I am too fond of prolix digressions – but I admire the writer who stops when they have run out of words for the topic at hand, rather than for any constraints of space afforded them by commission or convention.

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