Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dramatic Breakthrough: Learning to Juggle May Help Fight MS

early Egyptian juggling art :en:fr:Image:Jongl...

British researchers have discovered that learning to juggle three balls may help MS patients fight the ravages of the disease.

Oh, boy! If they'd only learned this seven years ago, when I was first diagnosed, not only would I undoubtedly still be walking, but I'd probably be working in Las Vegas with the Cirque du Soleil. Alas, now I'm shit out of luck, because I don't think I could learn to juggle with only one working arm. The problems of one man shouldn't diminish the fantastic implications of this discovery, though. Why stop at learning to juggle three harmless little balls? Certainly, juggling something more difficult than balls, like chainsaws, or flaming swords, or angry raccoons, or flaming angry raccoons strapped to chainsaws, would require even more dexterity and concentration, and thus be a far more powerful mechanism for myelin repair.

I wonder why the researchers chose juggling? How shortsighted of them. Surely other, more challenging circus activities would be of much greater therapeutic value. If focusing the mind to learn juggling can help MS patients, can you imagine what lion taming could do? Or how about learning to be the man on the flying trapeze? I could probably do that even now, in my relatively advanced state of disability. My legs are so stiff from spasticity, they could just hang me upside down from the bar and give me a push every now and then. If this didn't improve my condition, they could always stick a wire up my backside and a lightbulb in my mouth, and put me to good use as a chandelier. After seven or eight hours of swinging back and forth, though, I'm positive I'd regain all of my lost functionality, and be able to do a mean Lindy, high leg kicks and all. And forget about merely treating MS, attempting to do a high wire act would almost certainly be a cure, especially if they forced patients to walk the wire without a net. If learning to tight rope walk didn't cure them, then falling 150 feet to the ground surely would. Extensive peer reviewed research has clearly demonstrated that death definitely cures MS,.

Uh-Oh, I just thought of a problem with this theory, a fly in the ointment that I don't think the researchers even considered. Maybe it's not the act of learning to juggle that's therapeutic, but the sheer joy one experiences at the very prospect of living the circus life that causes the brain to heal itself. Maybe if MS patients simply adopted circus personas, we would have this disease licked in no time. I can see it now, MS patients the world over, struggling, limping, and driving around in their wheelchairs and scooters , all wearing orange fright wigs, red plastic noses, and oversized exploding shoes. At the very least, it would make time spent in the neurologist's office waiting room a lot more interesting.

But wait a minute, if people with MS started dressing like clowns, how could anyone tell the researchers apart from the patients?

(In all fairness, the research that was conducted is scientifically valid, and demonstrates that the human brain has a capacity for plasticity. The researchers showed that when healthy patients learn a complex physical task, such as juggling, there is a measurable increase of the white matter in their brains. Since one of the most injurious actions of MS is the destruction of white matter (myelin), the researchers postulate that this discovery may lead to future treatments for MS.

It's the idiots who write the headlines that really deserve lampooning. And harpooning...)

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  1. DH convinced (kinda) my sister he'd been in the circus after his skill on shore trampolines and juggling wowed her. Back then I could do lots of stuff, but despites attempts I was not good at either. Although I have red frizzy hair, I'm not very funny. I'm doomed!!

  2. LOL This is so true though, any skill that makes your brain multi task, focus, act involuntarily to incoming info can only build the brain. I throw socks back and forth to my caregivers, they think it is a joke but I felt it was doing something good for my brain, NOW! I have science to back me up!! Such a simple thing to do too. Start with sock catching/tossing. (If juggling is too hard.)

  3. A circus persona? I'm in! But I'm not sure my elephant would fit through the door to my neurologist's waiting room.

  4. So circus folk must not get MS! Quick, alert the media! Although this could be a ploy to sell more Wii circus games.... Just to be on the safe side I'm going to go join up right now!

  5. I've been able to juggle for years and it doesn't seem to help:( Oh well, I guess my juggling won't cure me....:)

  6. HELP

    Hi Marc:

    I live in Toronto, Canada and my sister has been diagnosed with MS. I'm scared that she is not getting the best possible medical advice. I found a post of yours on another site (URL below) that you suggested BOSTON as having the best doctors for this. We want her to see the best Dr. in the world that specializes in this. Can you please advise who has the reputation as being the top in this field?

    Thank you very much! (this my first blog i have ever responded i'm not sure if this is the right etiquette on this.

    My name: Aron Schulman. My email address is:

    Thanks again.

  7. i thought you might be interested to read this. A study was done in a area hospital/ university with MS and veins. the results were interesting.

  8. Kicker-if you've already got the red hair, you're already one third on the way to a cure...

    Diane-it is important to keep mentally and physically active, as much as possible. It's very easy to fold in on your self when suffering from this disease, and even if the physical stuff does not repair your myelin, interacting with others keeps us part of the game...

    Maegan-glad you found the post interesting...

    zoom-well, then, you neurologist is just going to have to have his doors made wider. Must be rough having to clean up after an elephant, though...

    anonymous-better hurry, I think Ringling Brothers is looking for a few MS patients as we speak...

    John-angry raccoons, yes. The beauty of it is that the simple act of juggling them makes them angry...

    wildstar-oh well, I guess there always has to be at least one contrarian in a crowd...

    Aron-so sorry to hear about your sister, I sent you an e-mail with some suggestions...

    pfrox9-thanks for the link, I am familiar with this research. I'm becoming convinced that this new theory may revolutionize the thinking about MS...

  9. I was given a chainsaw one Christmas (talk about being 1/3 of way there!!!) but DH, DD, DS laughed heartily, took it away, have never seen it since. I'm doomed I tell you, doomed.

  10. Hi Marc:

    Thanks for your response that you'd send an email for my sis!! I didn't get anything.....:(...
    my email is (in case you sent it to the wrong one...i'll Phonetically spell out my email address: alfred larry bob underscore

    Thanks so much again!!


  11. A note of thanks to Marc in his thorough and very caring help for my sister. Very much appreciated.

    Thank you Marc!


  12. Hi Marc,
    Loved the post, laughed so much I cried and could hardly read as my glasses were sprayed with laughter tears.
    Dreadful arms cramps and could hardly breath properly cos of laughing so much.
    Great post, thanks for posting.
    Have a good day tomorrow.