Saturday, October 13, 2007

High altitude exertion will damage your brain

John Hawks quotes R. Douglas Fields:
John Hawks Anthropology Weblog : 2007 09

.... The body is remarkably resilient--does the brain recover from these mountaineering wounds? To answer this important question, the researchers re-examined the same climbers three years after the expedition, with no other high-altitude climbing intervening. In all cases, the brain damage was still evident on the second brain scan.

Still, Aconcagua is one of the world's highest mountains -- in the top 100. Mont Blanc, in the Alps, is less extreme. With a summit at 4810 meters, it is climbed each year by thousands of mountaineers who probably do not expect injury to their 'second favorite organ,' to use Woody Allen's nomenclature for the brain. Yet the researchers found that of seven climbers reaching the summit of Mount Blanc, two returned with enlarged VR spaces.
Hawks notes: "the altitude of Mont Blanc is substantially lower than the Everest base camp at 5500 meters."

Better imaging technologies now show that high altitude exertion will cause significant irreversible brain damage in many people, very high altitude extertion will damage all brains.



George said...

Yes - it is true. I have seen evidence of this: each year people damage their brains running up and down Pikes Peak (14115). The proof that this is causing brain damage is that they actually sign up to do this thing again. And they pay to do it.

John Gordon said...

Have you ever done that? I know you're an insane runner.

This year is the 53RD RUNNING!

"During the next 10 miles, as you gain almost 6,000 vertical feet, your legs, lungs, heart and mind will be worn to a ragged nothingness. But it won’t be until your last three miles, with still over 2,000' of vertical to go, that you will realize where the Marathon got its moniker—America’s Ultimate Challenge.

There’s a reason trees don’t bother growing above 12,000' on Pikes Peak. They can’t! Makes one wonder if trees are smarter than runners. Above treeline most runners take 30 minutes or more, some much more, just to cover a mile. What little air remains can’t satisfy the endless stream of zombies hoping only to survive their next step—a death march right out of a scene from Dawn of the Dead. Adding insult to injury, it might start to snow!

Then, if you are on the deluxe tour, you run back down for the second half of the Marathon. Along the way protruding rocks are waiting to send you crashing to the ground mangling flesh and only temporarily masking the pain of blood filled blisters. Meanwhile, the temperature has often risen by more than 30 degrees since the race start. After all, it’s always best to cook raw meat."

Wow. 53 runnings. I wonder how many have died!

It's about 1000 feet below Mont Blanc's 15,700 feet...