‘Graphic Medicine’ Exhibition Opens at NLM

Artist and author Ellen Forney served as guest
Artist and author Ellen Forney served as guest curator of the NLM graphic medicine exhibition.

In an era when digital info rules and hightech is titan, an emerging approach in health communication is leading us literally back to the drawing board. “Graphic medicine”—a field using comics to convey messages about wellness and illness—has burgeoned over the last decade and a new installation at the National Library of Medicine is giving it a close-up.

“In this day and age when we are so focused at NIH on data-driven discovery, to realize a whole new genre as data is out there waiting for us is extremely exciting,” said NLM director Dr. Patricia Flatley Brennan, opening a special public program recently in conjunction with the exhibition, “Graphic Medicine: Ill-Conceived & Well-Drawn.”

The term graphic medicine isn’t exactly new. Welsh physician-artist-writer Ian Williams coined the phrase in 2007 to describe the comics—images sequentially paired with words to tell a story—that he and others were creating to depict their experiences in health care. A website he developed using the term caught the attention of like-minded artists, writers, care providers and educators whose professional and personal lives had also led them to communicate medical topics through comics. They held the first conference on comics and medicine in 2010. That launched the graphic medicine movement.

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Neuroscientist Takes a Gamble on Happiness

Dr. Robb Rutledge
Dr. Robb Rutledge

Are you happy now? That probably depends on many things including recent events, your choices and expectations. As circumstances change over time, so might your mood. Given certain variables, can we predict how emotions might fluctuate?

Neuroscientist Dr. Robb Rutledge is studying what determines our emotional state, specifically whether we can predict mood changes over time. This research may provide insights into the emotional states and decisions of people with depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.

Rutledge, principal research associate at University College London’s Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, built a mathematical model to sum up happiness in terms of rewards and expectations. Think of it as a roll of the dice. The building excitement of whether you’ll win a bet and the resultant gain or loss can mimic the oscillating moods inherent in certain mental disorders.

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