All In The Mind: An Absolutely Must Listen Neuroscience Podcast
‘All In The Mind’ is a radio show/podcast hosted on Australia Broadcasting Corporation‘s (ABC) Radio National. The subject matter of the show is ‘An exploration of all things mental.’ Each episode deep dives into concepts of Neuroscience such as Autism, Mental Health, and Memory.
I discovered the show using the Pocket Cast app but you can get it at iTunes and other podcast platforms. As I scrolled through the list of episodes, the title ‘A Stroke Of Reality’ instantly grabbed my attention. My father is a stroke victim and I’ve always wanted to know more about the causes of a stroke. Within 28 minutes of listening to this informative podcast, I felt I had a much better understanding.
The true story of young actor and stroke sufferer Luke Webb
This show originally aired on the 4th September 2016 and was hosted by Lynne Malcom. Featured guests are Dr. Caleb Ferguson from the Sydney University of Technology, Stroke Foundation CEO Dr. Sharon McGowan, and stroke sufferer Luke Webb.
The synopsis of the show begins with the startling revelation that strokes can happen at any age. After a brief intro, we hear a first-hand account of how 20-year-old Luke Webb suffered a stroke.
During some leisure time with friends, Luke recalls feeling ‘smoky’ as he describes it. He sensibly opted to get checked up at the hospital. After two hours of check-ups, Luke started to feel the right side of his face drooping and his speech slurring. Then he was unable to raise his right arm. We learn from this that these are the three key signs someone is having a stroke. So that’s:
- Face drooping.
- Slurred Speech.
- Inability to fully raise either arm.
As Dr. Sharon McGowan points out later in the show, should you see or experience any of these signs, call an ambulance immediately.
Dr. McGowan continues with another very important point about the time-scale for effectively treating a stroke:
“Every stroke is a medical emergency……..optimally we need to treat stroke within four and a half hours”
Going back to Luke’s real life account, he was sent to a bigger hospital to have an MRI scan. It was from this scan the medical staff detected a clot in Luke’s brain which had remarkably flushed itself out. In Luke’s own words:
“I was very, very lucky, from the MRI they could tell I had had a clot but it had flushed itself out, ….I remember before and after but I don’t remember (a) lot of in-between, it was really hazy… then I remember waking up that afternoon in a rickety old 40-year-old bed in a geriatric ward, and I couldn’t move my right side, I couldn’t move my leg, my arm. My tongue was hanging out of my mouth….. that’s really all I (can) remember”.
It turns out that Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) as a result of sustained air travel caused Luke’s stroke. It is worth noting that DVT can also be brought on by sedentary lifestyle and obesity.
What is a stroke?
Next, Lynne Malcom asks Dr. McGowan what exactly is a stroke to which she answers:
“…a stroke in its very simplest form is an attack on the brain. So a stroke affects your brain and it cuts off the blood supply to the brain, and that can either be from a burst blood vessel in your head or it can be from a blocked blood vessel in your head. So there are two types of stroke. A blocked blood vessel is the majority, it’s about 80% of strokes, and a burst blood vessel is the other 20%”
What increases risk of stroke?
Obesity and sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of stroke. Diabetes and high blood pressure are other warning signs to watch out for
How to decrease the risk of stroke
A healthy diet and regular exercise can help decrease the risk of stroke
The Effects Of A Stroke
Dr. McGowan goes on to explain that the effects of stroke vary considerably according to circumstances. Strokes can be fatal in some cases and in most cases will leave the victim with a cognitive and/or physical disability either temporarily or permanently. Factors that affect the severity of stroke include the type of stroke and how quickly a stroke victim receives treatment.
Advances in Neuroscience that are changing how stroke is treated
We are introduced to Dr. Caleb Ferguson, Stroke Foundation ambassador and Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. He explains about a new type of treatment called ‘thrombolysis’ which has been around for a decade or so:
“…a therapy that is an anticoagulant drug, so blood thinning therapy. It’s given through an infusion into a patient’s vein, and it’s given as a bolus or an immediate injection, but then as an infusion thereafter for a set amount of time. And that will thin the blood with an aim or an objective really to dissolve that clot that exists in ischaemic stroke”.
The term ‘ischaemic’ refers to the more common cause of stroke, the blocked blood vessel in the head.
Dr. Ferguson further mentions a second new type of treatment known as ’embolectomy’
“One of the new novel therapies that is available as well is clot retrieval or embolectomy for stroke. And this is quite an exciting therapy that’s available only in select centres, primarily at the moment within metropolitan areas in the major cities within Australia. Just to explain a little bit about what embolectomy or clot retrieval is, so it’s quite similar to what we would do at the moment for a heart attack in terms of retrieving a clot through an artery. This is a procedure whereby patients would undergo an invasive procedure where they would have a sheath inserted, usually in the groin, in the artery there, and this sheath is fed up into the artery within the brain, and it’s almost like a cork screw type device that the interventional neuroradiologist can retrieve that clot and pull that out in that way. So it’s very exciting and that shows a lot of promise to improve patient outcome”.
What The Stroke Foundation does for stroke victims
The Stroke Foundation in Australia provides information and support for stroke victims and their families. The foundation launched a website called ‘Enable Me’ offering resources and tips on recovery and rehabilitation from stroke plus a portal for healthcare workers and stroke survivors to connect, meet up and form strong relationships. They also have a number of other sites focused on educating both health professionals and the public about stroke.
Major stroke charities in the U.K & U.S
A quick google search brought up the Stroke Association in the U.K and the National Stroke Association in the U.S. Both charities offer a comprehensive set of resources on stroke, stroke advocacy, and stroke prevention.
I learned a great deal from this podcast. I’ll be going back to listen to more episodes of this highly informative and educational series that unlocks the mysteries of the human brain. As mentioned earlier on, there is a wealth of knowledge readily available via ‘All In The Mind’ on mental health. The show is an invaluable tool in understanding such vital issues which affect so many of us.
You can listen to All In The Mind ‘A Stroke Of Reality’ and other episodes via the link below or on your preferred podcast app.
Find out more about stroke on the NHS website
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