Tag Archives: television

That is correct, Alex

image from famousfix.com

A 200 Year Old Mystery.

A chronic neurological disease characterized by movement disorders.

A complex medical condition with unknown origins and a wide variety of symptoms dependant on the individual.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?


(camera pans out to Alex Trebek and the Jeopardy game set)

“Yes! That is correct! That is  the question we were looking for!” declares host Alex Trebek. “And now, for perhaps our biggest challenge to date, what pray tell, might be the cure for Parkinson’s? Or, perhaps at the very least, the next breakthrough in treatment for this horrible condition. Let’s meet our new contestant….”

Suspenseful music builds. Drama ensues. Who will be revealed as the next Jeopardy contestant?

“We’ll be right back after these commercial messages”…


Interesting news coming out of Toronto and the Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) Movement Disorders Clinic (where I happen to be a patient).

Those of you who follow the popular game show Jeopardy in the U.S. will know that a few years ago, IBM built a computer to understand answers on Jeopardy and come up with the right questions. They gave this new “contestant” the moniker of Watson (think Sherlock Holmes’ “Elementary, my dear Watson”!). Since his appearance on the game show in 2011, IBM has expanded Watson’s talents, building on the algorithms that allow him to read and derive meaning from natural language. The computer system can pore through documents millions of times faster than any human. Among other functions, IBM adapted Watson for use in medicine.

TWH is the first hospital in Canada to use Watson for research in Parkinson’s. The centre has a track record of running clinical trials for off-label drug use, which means taking a drug approved for treatment of one condition and repurposing it for another. Researchers here believe Watson can help them speed up this process to find a cure for Parkinson’s.

This all began about a year ago when one of the patients at TWH, Jonathan Rezek, a 56-year-old IBM executive, pitched the idea during an examination with his doctor at the centre. As he noted, “Parkinson’s is a really slow moving disease. It’s hard to do research on it. So anything you can do to make research go faster is a positive.”

Rezek’s story, and the interesting trail that led to this unique deployment of Watson’s abilities, have been told in a April 15 2017 Toronto Star feature article  Can Watson, the Jeopardy champion, solve Parkinson’s?.  The article tracks the early development of Watson over 10 years ago as somewhat of a game-show novelty cum corporate data management promotional tool to an important medical research tool. Watson has, it is noted, ” the potential to manage the exploding increase in digital information, including electronic patient records and the thousands of scientific studies published every day.”

Here’s a brief excerpt on how Watson is being deployed in Toronto to tackle PD:

…(Watson) doesn’t know what to look for on its own. Doctors and scientists have to “train” Watson. In this instance, he was tasked with reading more than 20 million summaries of scientific studies that were available free online…researchers trained him to look for any mention of alpha-synuclein, a common brain protein that clumps together in Parkinson’s patients, an action that scientists think causes the disease. Watson then looked in the same text for a mention of an approved drug in Ontario.

“It really is the most simplistic strategy,” says Tom Mikkelsen, president and scientific director of the Ontari Brain Institute. “What it is looking for is the statistical nearness of the words.”Watson ranked the list of 52 drugs from best to worst… 21 of the drugs are worthy of further study, and of those, 16 had never been linked to Parkinson’s before. “I was asked the question one time, how would you approach this same problem that you’ve posed to Watson without Watson,” says (researcher) Visanji. “And the answer is we wouldn’t have. We couldn’t have physically done it.”

It’s a shortcut that could shave years off approval of a new drug to treat the disease, a process that typically takes at least a decade and costs millions of dollars. Typically, one in 10,000 drugs studied in the lab will make it to a clinical trial, a drop-off that scientists call the Valley of Death. “If there’s something out there that’s already gone through its toxicology testing; that’s gone into humans; that’s completely safe … then bingo,” says Visanji. “Why would you look for something else?”…

The next step for the team at Toronto Western, if they can find another $300,000 in funding, is to take Watson’s list of drugs and narrow the search even further. Scientists can look at patient data in Ontario to see if the incidence of Parkinson’s is lower in people on any of the 52 drugs, which could mean the drug is beneficial in some way. They’ll also test the best 20 or so candidates in the lab to see what effects they have on alpha-synuclein aggregation. The best candidate will be chosen for the off-label clinical trial. “You could get a clinical trial up and running in six months after we’ve picked the best candidate,” says Visanji. “I see this as something that could happen. It’s a reality. I really hope it does come from this. “And if it does, the short cut is insane.”


Crazy, eh?! Exciting stuff happening here! Cue the music…back to you Alex! Time to introduce our next contestant! All the way from Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Watson!! (Author’s note: I hope this is the right link…I’m still struggling with this new technology!) Click here and play!





She killed her man, buried him in a 12 ft hole in the backyard, covered it with a concrete patio, waited for the newly-acquired life insurance payout, while living in the Turks and Caicos with her young gay lover – Who would have expected that?


Being laid up after an accident, you tend to have some time on your hands. Too much time sometimes.

I don’t normally watch a lot of tv. When I do, I’m partial to a good series such as Six Feet Under, Luther or House of Cards. Or comedies such as This Hour has 22 minutes, Mr. D., etc. And of course, the news.

Recently, though, I’ve sunk to a new personal low. So low, I’m high! I’ve even enjoyed it! I’ve sort of become addicted to the NBC-produced show Dateline: Real Life Mysteries. The producers sure know how to work the audience and could easily stand accused of being melodramatic. The true-life and often times bizarre machinations of the characters draw you in. Or at least it has done so to the ailing-me.

With the assistance of a PVR (Personal Video Recorder), and TLC  (The Learning (??) Channel), I’ve been taping the 10 or so episodes that appear as repeats each week. The show has been around for 24 years and I’ve never watched it before so I’m somewhat concerned about what I’ve gotten myself into. Each episode is an hour long but, thanks to the PVR, I’m able to eliminate commercials and  the plot re-caps that follow each commercial break, as well as the plot-twist teasers that precede each commercial set. My guess is there’s about 30 minutes in each show once you eliminate that.

And what a wallop they manage to pack into those 30 minutes – the look-back at the budding high school romance, the blissful early years of a growing family, followed by the all-too-quick dulling of the romance, the ensuing dalliances, and the fateful conclusion. Or the caring but tormented employee. Or the dark stranger in the dark suburbs. The pillar of the community reduced to a crumple. No matter what the situation, you can always count on a few interesting twists and turns to accompany the sad and woeful circumstances the real-life characters find themselves in.

Some of you may be surprised to read me regaling such fare. I don’t think I’m necessarily taking the position of trumpeting the show or others of it’s ilk, but I am saying that I find it interesting that I’ve been drawn into it’s web. My sense is that the mundane and drudgery of being stuck inside as I recover, combined with the cold of winter, have created fertile grounds. Moreover, as the control or limitations brought on by PD exert themselves more forcibly, the invitation to “escape” and be parachuted into other’s lives in other exotic locales, is difficult to deny.

However, all is not lost. As I feel more able to get about, I already feel like I’m able to devote less time to tuning in to this show. As winter morphs into spring, which it inevitably will one day, I’m sure that the invitation to escape to the outdoors will be even harder to resist. And then, I’ll likely sever my relationship with Dateline. Sure, I may be drawn back for the proverbial fling or two in the years ahead, but I’ve learned a thing or two from this show that will keep me in good stead. First, you can never be sure of what lies ahead. Second, enjoy the every day “ordinariness” of every day- we don’t need the drama that so many folks from this show have in theirs. And third, if you ever want to commit a crime like murder, don’t google “how do you commit murder?” on your computer. Or read blogs with titles like this for that matter!

Ok, back to to Lester Holt and Keith Morrison for the conclusion of Killing in Kissimmee: Murder in the Misty Moody Moonlight.