Friday, 25 November 2016

Damson Cordial

Damson Cordial

  • 900g damsons
  • 1.2kg sugar
  • 1.2 litres of water
Wash and dry the damsons before halving and placing in a Kilner Jam pan.
Add the water to the pan then bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the contents through a muslin cloth into another pan
Add the sugar to the liquid and bring gently to a boil whilst stirring. When the sugar has dissolved, simmer for 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool before decanting into sterilised bottles. Dilute with water before serving.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Anne Rice Reveals Why She Brought the Vampire Lestat to the Realms of Atlantis

If you haven’t read Prince Lestat, Anne Rice’s most recent Vampire Chroniclesbook, a lot has changed for the tribe of the Undead. The vampires actually came together, entered the modern world, and formed a community with Lestat at its head. But with Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis, Rice is going to change everything people think they know about her world of vampires.
I’m honestly not trying to be hyperbolic here. Until Realms of Atlantis (available on 11/29), I hadn’t read a Vampire Chronicles book since 1988’s Queen of the Damned. I had snarkily assumed Realms of Atlantis would involve Lestat going in a submarine and meeting mermaids. Instead, it’s about Rice dropping a bomb on her most beloved, enduring creation, and taking it in a bold and, frankly, shocking new direction.
In fact, the events of Realms of Atlantis were so shocking I had to ask Rice herself about it. But since the book isn’t out yet, I’ve put the first, spoiler-freepart of that interview here; I’ll post the second half, which delves into the specifics of what happens in the book, next Tuesday.

io9: Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis is going to change everything that people think they know about your world of vampires. Are you at all concerned about how fans might react?
Anne Rice: There’s concern. How should I put it? I proceeded slowly. I did not want to throw out this massive explanation for the origins of the vampires and have it just be off the cuff. I really wanted it to be deeply felt.
I will write something that seems very exciting to me, and then I’m stuck with it. You know? The next book has to deal with it. It has to deal with what I said in the book before. And I’m keenly aware of that at this point. And I like that process of giving each story its full space and its full vigor, and in the next book having what was revealed by that in the story.
You had said you were done with the Vampire Chronicles, then returned to it in 2014 with Prince Lestat. What happened?
Rice: I felt I’d reached the end of what I could do with Lestat and his friends. They were so associated in my mind with despair, alienation, persecution... that type of thing. They were such powerful metaphors for the outsider. And the outcast in all of us, that they were really associated in my mind with pain, more than anything else. Pain and despair. And I had run out of what to say any more with them.
But what didn’t die for me—and never does die—is this sense of Lestat as real. And this enormous desire to get back to his world, and to be with him, and to approach the world through him. Finally after eight years, I was missing him badly and the stories were coming to mind, new ideas, new things. I wanted to get back to him. And I saw him in present time, right now, and the realities of the vampires coping in the world in present time and I saw all their questions again—but this time I saw answers and solutions and a positive way forward.
So I created a case for him becoming a prince. You know? He stops being the rebel, the loner. He stops being angry. And he steps forward and says, “Okay, I’ll help. The tribe of the Undead needs a leader right now, and that’s been framed in such a way I can respond. Okay. I’ll help. I’ll do it. I’ll be the leader.”
And the whole novel worked for me—in fact, it started a whole new kind of Vampire Chronicle for me. It was a major change. The other books are all distinct, they’re individual, they do different things… I’ll say they tackle different problems. But they have a lot in common. The tribe comes together, people love, people fight, people discover things, so maybe there’s a challenge, like the resurrection of the Queen of Kasha, who wants to destroy the world. They come together, they meet that challenge, but then they break apart and go away.
This changed with Prince Lestat. The tribe came together, all because this one person—this one vampire—said, “We are a tribe. We need parents. Help us.” And I was able to set up the court, which I loved. It made for a new kind of Vampire Chronicle.
When you started Prince Lestat, did you have the revelations of Realms of Atlantis in mind? Is this the second part of a grand plan?
Rice: I’d been struggling with the idea of a novel about Atlantis for a long time, and it wasn’t a vampire novel. I had decided it was a separate novel called Born for Atlantis, and it was about the same characters [in Realms] and how they’re related to Atlantis and their mission. I had hundreds of pages of that material. And I had a whole theory of how the lost kingdom [of Atlantis] came into being.
But it didn’t work. And I had almost given up on it, but at the same time it felt very alive to me, and the characters were really real characters to me. And suddenly, it occurred to me: “What if I saw a way to connect this with Lestat and the vampires?” I saw a way to bring them together.
And it really caught fire for me. All the problems just melted away. How to describe Atlantis from modern eyes, that solved itself. How to find a vocabulary to describe what Atlantis looked like to ancient people... well, I didn’t have to. Everything fell into place. And I was able to just go with my utter love of Atlantis mythology and my own new ideas as to what an Atlantis might have been like, what it offered the world... and also I got to bring up the question of why it was destroyed.
What makes you so interested in Atlantis?
A lot of Atlantis mythology has to do with the idea that Atlantis committed sin—some sort of original sin for which it was abandoned and lost. And I thought, “Why do we keep always coming up with that idea? Is it possible we’re ascending and not descending?” I really wanted to take that idea and suggest maybe Atlantis did not commit any original sin. Maybe it was simply destroyed for reasons beyond its control. And it instilled a great story.
This longing I had to give birth to that Atlantis story was totally fulfilled in this, and at the same time, Lestat’s deeply involved with all of this. He’s not simply on the periphery.
As always, every single one of my novels is some sort of metaphysical thriller—it’s all about the meaning of life, good and evil—and I was able to do that here. I was able to talk about the force of love and what love means and if there’s not a deep lesson in love that we’re just going to be unpacking forever.
So you didn’t have these major changes to the Vampire Chronicles mythos in mind when you returned to the series? 
Rice: No, I didn’t have a grand plan. Not when I wrote Prince Lestat. The plan was simply to bring him back and have him become the leader of the tribe and I really didn’t know what would happen next for him. That’s why it’s been a couple of years since [that book].
I was dealing with a lot of issues. He has an enemy in this vampire Roshamandes, who clearly is not going to give up wanting to destroy him. Lestat also has discovered the origins of the Talamasca, the secret, psychic scholars organization that I’ve been developing in these novels all these years. Then there was the idea that there are spirits walking amongst us who are so good at disguising themselves biologically that they pass for real people—even to an airport X-ray machine. So Lestat’s got all this to deal with.
But when I put the Atlantis story in there, all of that worked out. Everything came together. I don’t know why this happens with novels, you know... it’s part of the magic. You yield to the material, and the material brings you the solutions to the problems that you can’t maybe solve sitting at your desk, staring out the window.
Given how organically Realms of Atlantis came about, it’s kind of a bombshell, isn’t it?
Rice: Yeah, I do feel that way. And I hope it is. One of the things that happens when I talk about it on my Facebook page is that people react to the title. You get an interesting insight into their assumptions and their preconceptions, and they can say some wonderful things, and very generous things and inspiring things, but every now and then they say something quite negative.
I hope that when the book comes out, when those people read the book, they’ll reevaluate some of those negative assumptions. They’ve asked, “Why go there? Why would you do that? Why do you bring that in? What’s the point?” Kind of a dismissal up front. “I’m sorry to see you’re doing this, it sounds like a Tarzan book.” The truth is I love Tarzan books and I love making a title there that sounded like a Tarzan title. Because I wanted to announce the kind of full-dress, imaginative tale that would be told in this book. I consciously did that. I love that. I embrace that. I own that. Yeah, I hope it’s a bombshell.
I was going to say it sounded like the title of an Indiana Jones movie.
Rice: Well, I wanted that rollicking, storytelling feel to the title. Because I love that. I always have. And I love that almost more than I care to admit.
I hear a lot about the deep meaning of my work, but I don’t worry about the deep meaning anymore. I know it will be there. I know that I can trust my heart to put the deep meaning into the book. It’s not something that has to be injected with a syringe. It’s going to come. So I can focus on the rollicking storytelling and I have from the very first day that I became a published writer.
I believe that you have to give readers something that’s really enjoyable. You can’t expect them to read your deep thoughts on life and death if you’re boring. You know? That’s not fair. You have to give them spectacle as Aristotle called it. You have to give them great characters. You have to give them tale-telling, a plot. Pity catharsis. All that. I really, truly believe that. So, to me this novel is very, very, very much the embodiment of that.
As its title implies, Realms of Atlantis feels a bit more like an adventure than your previous stories. But without spoiling anything, it also incorporates a lot of science—much more anyone would suspect. Could you speak on that? 
Rice: Well, there’s always been that science thread. From the beginning, I presented them- as biologically real entities. You know, they don’t vanish. They can’t turn to mist and go through a keyhole. They can’t turn into wolves. They’re biological. They see their reflections in mirrors. And they live in a biological world. And the sun burns them, biologically. So this is a continuation of that, really. It’s a deeper exploration of what they are, really. Where they came from.
And behind all this is this notion of mine that the great, glittering Gods of the horror pantheon tend to be these biological entities, whether they are werewolves or ghosts or spirits or vampires. There’s a biology to them. It’s just a biology they won’t fully understand yet. It’s nanoparticles that we can’t see yet. But the subtle matter, the ectoplasm described by the 19th century psychics in England… that had to do with the idea of a physical, material reality there.
I love to play with that idea, to explore it. I try to find the biological explanation for what a spirit is. Or how a soul gets generated by consciousness and matter and creates a subtle body of nanoparticles that exist in the biological universe and then can, through energy, draw particles to clothe it and flesh itself out.
But you know, I’m really a complete idiot when it comes to science, so obviously, I’m talking about it in a poetic way almost all the time. I can’t really get into the head of my vampire doctor Fareed with his language. I always have to deal with Lestat’s limitations, because they’re my limitations.
Since it’s so hard to ask you specifics about Realms of Atlantis without spoiling something major, can you tell us what’s on next for Lestat?
Rice: Well, sometimes my view changes very dramatically, but right now we’re going right on. There are so many loose ends [at the end of Realms of Atlantis] and some many opportunities. Lestat will have to deal with those. I don’t want to give away everything that happens with his enemies at his court or his enemies in the tribe [of vampires], there’s a great potential for other enemies to rise. To challenge him. And there are all these new possibilities introduced by what they learned about Atlantis.
Let’s just put it that way, to not ruin the book for anybody. They learn a lot about Atlantis and that involves other entities. The vampires are also learning more and more about other entities, spirits, ghosts... whatever. There’s a lot of tension. And they’re in a world that’s negotiating power. I find that thrilling and I’d love to go into the next book involving some of the same characters here, and also get back to Atlantis. Who else might have survived Atlantis—again, there’s a problem with spoilers. You don’t want to give away too many.
Not to harp on it, but what happens in Realms of Atlantis will affect every other Vampire Chronicles book you wrote on a fundamental level. Are you at all worried the genie is out of the bottle?
Anne Rice: Well sure, and to me that’s exciting. I don’t even think of it like that. I think it’s exciting that there’s all this stuff on the table— there’s all this stuff to work with now.
My readers are always asking for specific characters, and they always want their stories. And I can’t satisfy that need. I can’t. I can’t write a book from the point-of-view of Gabrielle and another from this one and that one and so forth. And frankly, I don’t want to do any more strict memoirs that are just the story of a particular vampire.
I want to go forward with the whole tribe and I want to deal with what we got going on right now. I want to go on. So, I’m very excited about the next book flowing right out of this one.

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis will be available on November 29. 

Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites: Quickest ever lemon meringue pie

This is a cheat’s recipe. With no pastry and no long, complicated method for making the lemon filling, it is straightforward to prepare, and a lovely variation on the classic dish.

Serves 6
  • 75g (3oz) butter
  • 25g (1oz) demerara sugar
  • 175g (6oz) digestive biscuits, finely crushed (see tip below)
  • 1 x 394g tin of full-fat, sweetened condensed milk (see tip below)
  • 3 egg yolks (see tip below)
  • finely grated rind and juice of 2 large lemons
  • 3 egg whites (see tip below)
  • 175g (6oz) caster sugar

1 You will need a 23cm (9in) round, straight-sided or fluted ceramic tart dish, about 4cm (1½ in) deep. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
2 Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and biscuit crumbs. Press the mixture into the flan dish using the back of a spoon to bring the crumbs up around the sides of the dish and smooth the base in an even layer.
3 To make the filling, first pour the condensed milk into a bowl, then beat in the egg yolks, lemon rind and strained juice. The mixture will appear to thicken on standing, then loosen again as soon as it is stirred. This is caused by the combination of condensed milk and lemon juice and is nothing to worry about. Pour the mixture into the biscuit-lined dish.
4 Put the egg whites into a large, spotlessly clean, grease-free bowl and, preferably with an electric hand whisk, or using a balloon whisk otherwise, whisk the egg whites until they look like clouds. Now start adding the caster sugar, a teaspoon at a time, whisking well between each addition and with the electric whisk at full speed.
5 Spoon the meringue over the surface of the filling in separate blobs, then spread gently with the back of your spoon to cover the filling to the biscuit-lined edges. Lightly swirl the surface of the meringue, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until the meringue is pale golden. Set aside for about 30 minutes to allow the filling to firm up before serving warm.


● To crush the biscuits, place in a plastic bag, seal shut and use a rolling pin to bash to a fine crumb.
● Do make sure you use full-fat condensed milk, not light, or the filling will not set.
● It’s best to separate the eggs one at a time to minimise the possibility of contaminating the whole lot with egg yolk, as this will prevent the egg whites from whisking properly.

Read more:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Tracing the Roots of OCD in Pets and People

Animal behavior research at Tufts holds promise for better detection and treatment of the disorder
illustration of a dog and people
“If the genetic predisposition is there, these compulsive behaviors can be triggered by stress and myriad environmental factors,” says Nicholas Dodman. Illustration: Martin O’Neill
November 20, 2015

In 2011, science threw a curveball at Nicholas Dodman and Alice Moon-Fanelli. The two researchers were looking at bull terriers in hopes of finding the gene responsible for a debilitating behavior common in the breed. Up to 85 percent of any litter will compulsively chase their tails, sometimes to the point of savaging themselves or anyone who tries to interrupt them.
A statistical analysis of data, including sex, medical history and other behaviors found in 145 affected bull terriers and 188 “control” pets, revealed some surprises. The vast majority of affected dogs were males, and many had other strange behaviors or physical conditions that accompanied the tail chasing, such as explosive aggression, partial seizures, phobias, skin conditions, gastrointestinal issues, object fixation and a tendency to shy away from people and other dogs.
“How could we possibly explain this?” Dodman recalls wondering, before he realized there were similarities between these canine behaviors and autism in people. “The primary behavioral expression of autism in humans is that a child is slow to develop speech and other social behaviors,” says Dodman, head of the Behavior Clinic at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. “But if you weren’t able to factor speech into the equation, you may still observe repetitive behaviors like spinning, rocking or flapping hands, temper outbursts and sometimes seizures. Affected bull terriers show many of these behaviors.”
Indeed, when Dodman, Moon-Fanelli (another animal behaviorist then at Tufts) and researchers from the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences looked for biological similarities between the tail-chasing bull terriers and children diagnosed with autism, they found significantly elevated levels of two biomarkers in the children and the dogs. Their findings were published in Translational Psychiatry in October 2014.

Opioids and Horses

The notion that behavioral disorders in people and animals might share some commonalities has long met with skepticism in scientific circles. But Tufts researchers have helped dispel the doubts with evidence that has led to new treatments for people and pets, including a new drug to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans.
Dodman never intended to specialize in the animal mind. However, not long after he arrived at Tufts’ veterinary school in 1981, he received a call from Louis Shuster, a pharmacologist at Tufts School of Medicine who was studying drug abuse.
Shuster had read a scientific paper about racehorses becoming increasingly sensitive to the stimulant effects of morphine with every dose, instead of more tolerant to the drug, as is typical in people. He had observed the same bizarre phenomenon in rodents exposed to opioids and enlisted Dodman for a study that confirmed that exposure to morphine indeed led to similar behaviors in horses.
The morphine-induced equine behaviors—endlessly pacing the stall or digging at the ground—overlapped with what equestrians call “stall vices,” says Dodman. In animals, these abnormal, seemingly pointless and sometimes self-injurious behaviors are referred to as “stereotypies.”
Because stereotypies are common in horses kept stabled most of the time, Dodman wondered whether that might mean the horses were “self-medicating” to cope with the stress of confinement. “I thought the abnormal behavior could be due to nature’s own morphine: the endorphins.”
Shuster agreed, and they set out to determine whether a medication that blocks the body from responding to opioids and endorphins could rein in stall vices.

The Drug-Behavior Connection

They turned to Poker’s Queen Bee, a palomino mare that engaged in “cribbing,” a tooth-eroding behavior in which horses clamp down on a stall door or fence, tense their neck muscles and repeatedly gulp air. Dodman and Shuster plotted the incidence of the mare’s cribbing before and after she was injected, first with control doses of saline and then with the opioid-blocking drug naloxone, which is called Narcan when used to treat heroin overdoses in people.
The opioid blocker worked. “We could control the horse’s behavior by controlling its brain chemistry,” Dodman says. “We turned the infusion rate up, and the horse stopped cribbing. We turned it down, and it started cribbing again. It was the eureka moment that changed all our lives.”
Shuster shifted his research focus from the drugs of addiction to the behaviors of addiction. And Dodman found a new calling: treating animal behavior problems.
After working with horses through the 1980s, Dodman and Shuster started studying dogs with stereotypies, particularly those with lick granulomas, a condition in which pets create an open wound by endlessly licking their leg. Again the duo found that drugs that blocked the body from responding to opioids lessened the repetitive behavior.
In 1992, Judith L. Rapoport, a psychiatrist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), published The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Washing: The Experience and Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. “She went around the United States on a book tour, and when she got back to her office, she had all these messages from pet owners about their dogs engaging in similar behaviors,” says Dodman.
“Instead of pooh-poohing the idea, Rapoport did some research and found that the dogs responded to the same drugs used to treat OCD,” he says. “It appeared [that] what we were calling stereotypies in animals might be more accurately called compulsive disorders.”

Anxiety and OCD

Roughly 2 to 3 percent of people have some form of OCD, according to Dodman, who notes that animals can also suffer from a similar smorgasbord of compulsions. Border collies chase beams of light. Siamese cats won’t stop sucking on fabric or plastic. African grey parrots pluck themselves bald.
As in humans, compulsive behavior in animals often seems to be driven by genetics. “If the genetic predisposition is there, these behaviors can be triggered by stress and myriad environmental factors,” says Dodman.
For example, in a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior in August, Stephanie Borns-Weil, V07, identified a strong association between early weaning in Birman cats, a breed with a high genetic risk for a compulsive fabric-sucking disorder, and the development of that abnormal behavior.
In both animals and people, repetitive behaviors often stem from anxiety, and engaging in them appears to bring some relief, says Dodman. But the relief is fleeting, and the OCD loop is on an endless repeat. While treatment of people with OCD usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy, pets’ compulsive behavior is managed by environmental changes designed to reduce stress and a class of mood-stabilizing drugs that includes Prozac.
“It is stressful for an animal to be deprived of the opportunity to engage in its normal behavior patterns,” says Borns-Weil, now a behavior resident at Cummings School. At Tufts, she and Dodman work with owners to reduce pets’ stress by adding more exercise and otherwise enriching their lives to ward off anxiety caused by isolation and lack of stimulation.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications, such as clomipramine and fluoxetine (Prozac), are used to treat compulsive disorders in pets and people, Borns-Weil says. “Unfortunately, as in people, these medications do not always provide meaningful improvements in a compulsive pet’s quality of life,” she notes.

New OCD Drug

Dodman and Shuster, now a professor emeritus, have improved these animals’ lives by identifying a new OCD drug. When they studied opioid-blocking drugs in mice, dogs and horses, they realized that they also blocked NMDA receptors, which help the body process glutamate, a neurotransmitter that’s important for cognition, memory and learning.
When they tested drugs that block glutamate, such as dextromethorphan (found in cough medicine) or memantine (developed as an Alzheimer’s drug), on compulsive behaviors in genetically engineered mice and dogs with compulsive behaviors, the mice stopped their self-scratching, and many of the dogs showed a significant reduction in their compulsive behaviors.
The two approached Michael Jenike, head of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Institute at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, who was convinced enough to try memantine on a few of his patients who did not respond to SSRIs.
After the patients reported improvement in their symptoms, the three researchers conducted a study comparing 22 people with OCD receiving cognitive behavioral therapy with 22 OCD patients who also took memantine. Only the memantine-takers saw significant decreases in their OCD symptoms, according to their study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology in 2013. Tufts patented memantine as a new treatment for OCD, and psychiatrists are now using it alongside SSRIs in people with better results.
Despite those outcomes, most scientists who study human psychiatric conditions, including Jenike, will not entertain the idea of too many similarities between a behavior disorder in humans, a species that has landed on the moon, and one in dogs, a species known to sneak snacks from unguarded litterboxes. “I have a hard time with the concept of a dog biting on his leg and calling it OCD,” Jenike told Science magazine in 2010. “With OCD, you need to know what’s going on in the head. It’s kind of a big leap for me.”

A Simpler Route to the Genetic Roots

Nonetheless, pets—particularly purebred dogs—could play an important role in understanding which genes influence the brain and thus modify behavior in animals with compulsive tendencies.
“It’s become very clear over the past decade that although we have amazing new genomic and genetic tools, it’s still very difficult to find disease genes [in humans] for many neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly those associated with behavioral differences such as what we observe in autism,” says Matthew Huentelman, an associate professor in the Neurogenomics Division of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Arizona.
“So while we aren’t stopping our work in human beings, working in purebred animals should dramatically simplify things for us on the genetics side. By looking in the dog genome, essentially the job of finding that disease-causing gene is made 100 times—or even 1,000 times—easier.” (See “Cancer Genetics.”)
Pets’ inability to tell us what’s wrong may even be a plus in the search for the roots of our shared behavioral disorders, says Elaine Ostrander, chief of the Comparative Genomics Branch at the NIH.
While it’s easy to determine whether a person has a specific type of cancer, behavioral disorders aren’t always clear-cut because of other factors, such as age, medications taken, IQ and even a personal or family history of divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction or physical abuse.
“All those things ultimately affect some behavioral manifestations of disease, and boy, it is really hard to develop behavioral tests that strip them all away,” says Ostrander. “Now, add to that the fact that people often answer questionnaires according to how they perceive the questioner wants them to. Well, with dogs, we don’t have any of these issues.”

The Psychiatric Gene

Compulsive tendencies are about four times more prevalent in Dobermans than in adult humans, Nicholas Dodman says. Photo: iStockCompulsive tendencies are about four times more prevalent in Dobermans than in adult humans, Nicholas Dodman says. Photo: iStockTo help better understand the genetic underpinnings of compulsive disorders in pets and people, Dodman and a team of researchers from Tufts, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and the University of Massachusetts Medical School compared the genes of normal Doberman pinschers with those in the breed exhibiting compulsive disorders. Compulsive tendencies are about four times more prevalent in Dobermans than in adult humans, Dodman says, noting that up to 70 percent of pups in a litter might display such behaviors as flank-sucking.
The researchers were the first to identify a mutation in a canine behavior gene: CDH2 on chromosome 7. (This gene for a protein called neural cadherin is on chromosome 18 in humans, the so-called “psychiatric chromosome.”) CDH2 is responsible for the formation of neurons, synapses and NMDA receptors, which receive glutamate, the same neurotransmitter blocked by the Tufts-patented OCD drug. The study appeared in Molecular Psychiatry in 2010.
Earlier this year, Dodman led another genetics study involving Dobermans, this one examining pets that were unaffected, mildly affected or severely affected by compulsive flank-sucking. The study found that although the CDH2 gene on chromosome 7 puts dogs at risk of developing this behavior, a second serotonin-receptor gene on chromosome 34 influences the severity of the disorder.
“It’s no coincidence that we’ve gone fishing in these dogs’ genetic pool and picked out an NMDA and a serotonin gene—both related to the two OCD treatments that work for people and dogs,” says Dodman.
He says he’s even more excited about a Chinese study published in PLOS One in October 2014 about the genetic root of compulsive circling, a behavior common in the Belgian Malinois, a working dog that is very similar to German shepherds, a breed also known to circle compulsively.
“They found the same gene that we found in Dobermans—CDH2. We now have two completely different expressions of OCD in two completely different breeds with the same genetic causation,” he says. “From these findings we hope to investigate the pathways involved, and that may lead to new treatments.”

A Test for Autism

Now Dodman is using the animal model he started with—tail-chasing bull terriers—to investigate the genetics of autism.
He has teamed again with Huentelman and Ostrander, along with Edward Ginns from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. They hope the Canines, Kids and Autism Study, funded by the American Humane Association, will produce a genetic test for autism, which affects 1 in 68 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With such a tool, physicians could “hopefully identify kids who are at the highest risk for autism earlier than we have ever done before,” says Huentelman. “Research shows that the earlier you start behavioral therapy, the better the outcome those interventions have in terms of lessening the severity of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.”
Genevieve Rajewski can be reached at
A version of this article first appeared in Cummings Veterinary Medicine magazine.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Philip Pullman: William Blake and me

As an exhibition of Blake’s paintings opens in Oxford, Philip Pullman reflects on how his poetry has influenced and intoxicated him for more than 50 years


A detail from The House of Death, The Lazar House, by William Blake (1795). Photograph: the Fitzwilliam Museum, University/Amy Jugg

Philip Pullman

Friday 28 November 2014 11.00 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 20 September 2016 11.16 BST

Sometimes we find a poet, or a painter, or a musician who functions like a key that unlocks a part of ourselves we never knew was there. The experience is not like learning to appreciate something that we once found difficult or rebarbative, as we might conscientiously try to appreciate the worth of The Faerie Queene and decide that yes, on balance, it is full of interesting and admirable things. It’s a more visceral, physical sensation than that, and it comes most powerfully when we’re young. Something awakes that was asleep, doors open that were closed, lights come on in all the windows of a palace inside us, the existence of which we never suspected.

So it was with me in the early 1960s, at the age of 16, with William Blake. I came to Blake through Allen Ginsberg, whose Howl I read half aghast, half intoxicated. I knew who Blake was; I even had an early poem of his by heart (“How Sweet I Roam’d from Field to Field”); I must have come across “The Tyger” in some school anthology. But if Blake could inspire the sort of hellish rapture celebrated and howled about by Ginsberg, then he was the sort of poet I needed to read. Hellish rapture was exactly what I most wanted.

Accordingly, I searched for Blake in the nearest bookshop, which was WH Smith in Barmouth, in what used to be called Merionethshire. There was no Blake there. The local library didn’t help, either. It wasn’t until I went to London on a rare holiday visit that I found a Selected Blake in a small American paperback, edited by Ruthven Todd and published by Dell in their Laurel poetry series. If I’d bought it in the USA it would have cost 35c; I can’t remember what I paid for it in Foyles, but it must have been well under a pound. It’s on the table next to me now, battered, the cover coming apart, the cheap paper flimsy and yellowing. It’s the most precious book I have. A couple of years later I acquired, as a school prize, Geoffrey Keynes’s Nonesuch Press Complete Prose and Poetry of William Blake, a handsome hardback now almost as battered, almost as yellowed, almost as precious. But I could put the Dell Blake in my pocket, and for years I did.

Urizen measuring out the material world (c1794) from The Ancient of Days by William Blake. Photograph: The Gallery Collection/Corbis

Thanks to those books, and thanks to my encounter with Ginsberg, and thanks further back to the enlightened local education authority that sent a library van around to the secondary schools in Merionethshire so that I could choose from their shelves the anthology (Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry 1945-1960: still in print, still irreplaceable) that contained Howl – thanks to those things, I discovered what I believed in. My mind and my body reacted to certain lines from the Songs of Innocence and of Experience, from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, from “Auguries of Innocence”, from Europe, from America with the joyful immediacy of a flame leaping to meet a gas jet. What these things meant I didn’t quite know then, and I’m not sure I fully know now. There was no sober period of reflection, consideration, comparison, analysis: I didn’t have to work anything out. I knew they were true in the way I knew that I was alive. I had stumbled into a country in which I was not a stranger, whose language I spoke by instinct, whose habits and customs fitted me like my own skin.

That was 50 years ago. My opinions about many things have come and gone, changed and changed about, since then; I have believed in God, and then disbelieved; I have thought that certain writers and poets were incomparably great, and gradually found them less and less interesting, and finally commonplace; and the reverse has happened, too – I have found wonderful things, unexpected depths of treasure, in books and poems I had no patience to read properly before.

But those first impulses of certainty have never forsaken me, though I may have been untrue to them from time to time. Indeed, they have been joined by others, and I expect to go on reading Blake, and learning more, for as long as I live.

One such impulse of certainty concerns the nature of the world. Is it twofold, consisting of matter and spirit, or is it all one thing? Is dualism wrong, and if so, how do we account for consciousness? In the opening passage to Europe: A Prophecy, Blake recounts how he says to a fairy “Tell me, what is the material world, and is it dead?” In response the fairy promises to “shew you all alive / The world, where every particle of dust breathes forth its joy.” This is close to the philosophical position known as panpsychism, or the belief that everything is conscious, which has been argued back and forth for thousands of years. Unless we deny that consciousness exists at all, it seems that we have to believe either in a thing called “spirit” that does the consciousness, or that consciousness somehow emerges when matter reaches the sort of complexity we find in the human brain. Another possibility, which is what Blake’s fairy is describing here, is that matter is conscious itself.

But why shouldn’t it be? Why shouldn’t consciousness be a normal property of matter, like mass? Let every particle of dust breathe forth its joy. I don’t argue this, I perceive it.

Things that are living, whose bodies however small pulse with that same energy, are capable of even more joy than the particle of dust:

How do you know but ev’ry Birdthat cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight,clos’d by your senses five?
(The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

That perception carries a moral charge, which is most clearly expressed in “Auguries of Innocence”, a poem not published during Blake’s lifetime. I take it to be one of the greatest political poems in the language, for the way it insists on the right to life and freedom without qualification, uniting large things and small, and shows the moral connections between them:

A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fibre from the Brain does tear.
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spider’s enmity.

Each couplet is a hammer-blow in the cause of a justice that includes all creatures, and tells the truth about power: “Nought can deform the Human Race / Like to the Armour’s iron brace.”

And who can forget the last Labour government’s infatuation with gambling and super-casinos, embodied in a photograph of a secretary of state beaming broadly beside a roulette wheel? “The Whore & Gambler, by the State / Licenc’d, build that Nation’s Fate.”

Again, this is not a matter of arguing so much as of perceiving. It’s a matter of vision.

And when it comes to vision, we need to be able to see contrary things and believe them both true: “Without Contraries is no progression” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), despite the scorn of rationalists whose single vision rejects anything that is not logically coherent. Blake was hard on single vision:

Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me;
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God uskeep
From Single vision and Newtonssleep!
(“Letter to Thomas Butts”)

Fourfold vision is a state of ecstatic or mystical bliss. Threefold vision arises naturally from Beulah, which, in Blake’s mythology, is the place of poetic inspiration and dreams, “where Contrarieties are equally True” (Blake, Milton). Twofold vision is seeing not only with the eye, but through it, seeing contexts, associations, emotional meanings, connections. Single vision is the literal, rational, dissociated, uninflected view of the world characteristic, apparently, of the left hemisphere of the brain when the contextualising, empathetic, imaginative, emotionally involved right brain is disengaged or ignored. (I owe this observation to Roderick Tweedy’s remarkable The God of the Left Hemisphere(2012), and through that to Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary (2009), a profound examination of the differences between the left hemisphere of the brain and the right.)

Image credit: William Blake Christ in the Sepulchre, Guarded by Angels (1805). Courtesy of V&A Images

I believe this, too. Single vision is deadly. Those who exalt reason over every other faculty, who condemn those who don’t respond to life with logic but allow themselves to be swayed by emotion, or who maintain that other ways of seeing (the imaginative, the poetic, etc) are fine in their place but the scientific is the only true one, find this position ridiculous. But no symphony, no painting, no poem, no art at all was ever reasoned into existence, and I knew from my youth that art of some kind was going to be the preoccupation of my life. Single vision would not do. “I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create” (Blake, “Jerusalem”).

If I didn’t know that from experience when I was young, I know it now. We find the truth of it most forcibly when twofold or threefold vision fails, and we fall into the state described by that great Blakeian WB Yeats as “the will trying to do the work of the imagination”. It’s a condition, I dare say, in which most writers and artists have found themselves marooned from time to time. To get lost in that bleak state when inspiration fails is to find yourself only a step away from an even darker labyrinth, which goes by the entirely inadequate name of depression. A savage deadly heaviness, a desolation of the spirits, an evil gnawing at the very roots of our life: if we’re unlucky enough to feel that, we will know from experience that the opposite of that abominable condition is not happiness, but energy. “Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. Energy is Eternal Delight.” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). In its absence, goodness, intellect, beauty – and reason, too – are listless, useless phantoms pining for the blood of life. When I had the misfortune to fall under the oppression of melancholia (another inadequate word), one of the things to which I owed my escape was an edition of the letters of Bernard Shaw, where I found energy abounding. I have loved him ever since.

With twofold vision it’s possible to see how contrary things could be believed. With threefold vision, with the inspiration that comes from the unconscious, from Beulah, it’s possible to believe them. I have found over many years that my way of writing a story, from what used to be called the position of the omniscient narrator, allows me a freedom that writing in the first person doesn’t permit. It means the telling voice can inhabit a multitude of different imaginative states. The voice that tells my stories is not that of a person like myself, but that of a being who is credulous and sceptical simultaneously, is both male and female, sentimental and cynical, old and young, hopeful and fearful. It knows what has happened and what will happen, and it remains in pure ignorance of both. With all the passion in its heart it believes contrary things: it is equally overawed by science and by magic. To this being, logic and reason are pretty toys to play with, and invaluable tools to improve the construction of the castles and grottoes it creates in the air. It scoffs at ghosts, and fears them dreadfully, and loves to call them up at midnight, and then laughs at them. It knows that everything it does is folly, and loves it all the same.

And thanks to the genius of William Blake, it knows that “All deities reside in the human breast”, and that “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). And it thinks that those things are worth knowing.

• William Blake: Apprentice & Master, takes place at the Ashmolean, Oxford from 4 December to 1 March 2015.