Category Archives: Medicine

When does the brain stop developing?

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As early as 5 years of age, our brains have reached 90% of their potential volume. However, we all know that our brains continue to develop for many years; in fact, our brains continue evolving until death. So why then, do many people worry about cognitive decline with aging, and are their fears misplaced?

While it is evident and typical that specific cognitive functions decline with age, this is not necessarily associated with a cease in brain growth or weakened memory formation. General intelligence is complicated. It can be subdivided into two categories: crystallized and fluid intelligence.

Fluid intelligence allows you to solve problems without experience or knowledge—this type of intelligence peaks early in adulthood and declines later in life. Crystalized intelligence uses experience and prior knowledge to assess future relationships. This type of intelligence increases until approximately 60 years of age and then declines slightly. Therefore, skills like vocabulary, comprehension of new information, and arithmetic improve long after the brain ceases to grow in size and remain relatively stable throughout life. Other crystalized skills, such as conflict resolution and emotional regulation can continue to improve beyond 60 years of age.

The brain is an evolving organ as our lives go on. There might not be a moment in which our brains operate at maximum cognitive function in every specific area. So, next time you lose your keys, remember that just because your brain has stopped growing does not mean that your cognitive function is declining.

Antibody Testing For COVID-19

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There’s a lot of talk about antibody levels as a measure of immunity against COVID-19 after infection or vaccination. This clashes with the knowledge that the immune system remembers prior invaders and can be reactivated if there is a new exposure. 

Antibodies are proteins the body uses to recognize foreign substances that should not be in your blood and flag down immune cells to destroy the invader. When a pathogen, such as a virus or bacterium, enters the body, the immune system is triggered to produce more antibodies. Vaccines often work by introducing an unharmful or artificial part of a pathogen into your body to make it produce antibodies. The level of antibodies may wane, but the B-type immune cells remember and can ramp up production of the invader returns. 

 Antibody tests detect whether a specific antibody is currently circulating in your body which is generally considered a marker of recent infection of immunization. Initially, COVID-19 antibody testing was used as one measure of whether or not a person had been infected with the virus. However, because it can take 1 to 3 weeks after the initial infection for antibodies to be measurable in your body, the tests are not used to detect a recent or active infection.  

The way antibody tests are often discussed in the media gives the impression that circulating antibodies are a measure of immunity against the virus. The real measure is whether or not your immune system is capable of mounting a new response to the virus, not whether a response is currently underway.  Circulating antibodies are a marker of an active immune response. 

So, antibody testing cannot tell you if your body is capable of producing an effective immune response against COVID-19. You may be able to mount a strong response even if you have no measurable antibodies in your blood.

Daily Use of Over-the-Counter Pain Medication

Advil vs. Tylenol. Which to Use, and When - WSJ

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Prachi Shah

Two of the most common medications for alleviation of pain, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil), are used daily by many people with pain from arthritis, tendinopathy, back pain, and other persistent conditions, but is it safe to use these drugs daily? 

Ibuprofen acts in the body by directly preventing the conversion of arachidonic acid to prostaglandin H-5– an important signal to the brain indicating that there may be damage to the body. Since your brain stops receiving the message indicating damage, you stop feeling pain. Aspirin has a slightly different effect on a molecular level, but the same result. Since prostaglandins play a role in blood coagulation and protecting the digestive tract lining, the regular use of ibuprofen or aspirin can cause irritation of the digestive tract and an increased risk of bleeding. Some people get gastrointestinal symptoms with just one or two doses of ibuprofen or aspirin, but that might not be an indication of damage. 

Acetaminophen is thought to work somewhere in the central nervous system,  interrupting the “pain message”’ closer to the brain, but no exact mechanism has been determined yet. Acetaminophen is digested in the liver, and although the majority of it is digested and excreted normally, a small amount is converted to a toxic byproduct. So, if too much acetaminophen is administered too quickly, the toxic byproduct can build to dangerous levels. There are numerous stories of people inadvertently overdosing on acetaminophen, which can damage the liver to the point that it no longer functions. This also means that acetaminophen in combination with other things that harm the liver, such as excessive alcohol, can be dangerous.

While the use of high doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can cause liver and kidney damage, the risk of this is small. These are some of the most widely used and safest medications known. Most pills contain only a fraction of the dose needed to cause damage. For example, a standard ibuprofen tablet contains roughly 200 mg of ibuprofen. A dangerous level in an average adult is upwards of 3,200 mg (or 16 pills) in one day or 800 mg (four pills) at once. 

All medicines merit caution. Experts recommend the following tips for safe pain alleviation:

  1. Make sure to know all the possible sources of acetaminophen ingested in one day. It is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter remedies and has multiple brand names, so it’s important to check the ingredient list before taking multiple medications.
  2. Take  as little as possible, and make sure to check the recommended dosage. The maximum amount of medication that is safe varies by factors such as size, sex, and medical conditions. 
  3. Avoid mixing medications/substances. This includes drinking alcohol while taking these medications, as well as asking a health provider about which over-the-counter medications are safe to take along with prescribed medications. 

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, can be available and affordable treatments to help alleviate simple aches and pains. They can be taken on a daily basis if one is careful.,cause%20problems%2C%E2%80%9D%20he%20adds