Archive for the 'medical_science' Category Podcast 9

Saturday, January 7th, 2006

Here you go: Podcast 9. Featuring:

  • Bush’s illegal eavesdropping.
  • Moments of clarity.
  • High-end podcast special effects: An actual train. Heh.
  • Movie reviews (Chronicles of Narnia, King Kong, and a little Love, Actually).
  • Almost (but not quite) watching my daughter die. (Update: Please understand that I’m talking about her hospitalization several years ago, not anything that happened recently. Apologies for freaking out my non-podcast-enabled sister M’Liz.)

I actually recorded it a week or so ago, but didn’t have time to delete the “uhms” and stuff until now.

Tyra Bank’s (Natural) Breasts

Friday, October 14th, 2005

Hm. My fixation on Plamegate and Bush’s resulting facial tics has definitely left my coverage severely imbalanced. How else to explain my having missed this story? Model Tyra Banks gets nasty rumor off chest on TV.

[Plastic surgeon Garth] Fischer said, “I’ve performed approximately 8,000 breast implant surgeries, I’ve examined you, I’ve reviewed your sonogram… and Tyra Banks has natural breasts.”

Brain Differences in Compulsive Liars

Saturday, October 1st, 2005

Kevin Drum pointed me to this item I’d missed in the LA Times: Study: Adept liars’ brains are built differently.

People who habitually lie and cheat — pathological liars — appear to have much more white matter, which speeds communication between neurons, in the prefrontal cortex than normal people, the researchers found. They also have fewer actual neurons.

The differences affect a portion of the brain, located just behind the forehead, that enables people to feel remorse, learn moral behavior and plan complex strategies.

The surplus of connections between neurons might enable these people to be more adept at the complex neural networking that underlies deceit.

Lying is hard work and these brains may be better equipped to handle it, the researchers said.

“Lying is cognitively complex,” said USC psychologist Adrian Raine, the senior scientist on the research project. “It is not easy to lie. It is certainly more difficult than telling the truth. Some people have a biological advantage in lying. It gives them a slight edge.”

The researchers recruited 108 volunteers, then sorted them into groups based on psychological tests designed to determine how often they lied. The volunteers were then scanned using magnetic structural imaging to obtain detailed anatomical images of their brain tissue.

The group of compulsive liars had 25.7% more white matter in the prefrontal cortex and 14.2% less gray matter than the normal control group.

Gould’s ‘The Median Isn’t the Message’

Friday, September 30th, 2005

I hadn’t read this before, but came across it the other day, and liked it. By the late Stephen Jay Gould, an essay describing his initial diagnosis with cancer, and what he came to realize about what the mortality statistics for his condition actually indicated: The median isn’t the message.

Thinking Without a Brain

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

I could while away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain
And my head, I’d be scratchin’
While my thoughts were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain.

I’ve just finished reading Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, and it’s had me thinking about the non-neurological component of intelligence.

Dawkins’ book is a journey backwards through our ancestors, cast as a pilgrimage to the “Canterbury” of the remotest common ancestor shared by all life on earth. It’s an interesting journey, in part because of the way it emphasizes the literal truth of the notion that all life is related. Reading the book puts you in the position of imagining what it was actually like to be a pre-human hominid, a shrew-like early mammal, a proto-vertebrate, a worm, an amoeba, a bacterium.

In the ‘later’ (that is to say, earlier) stages of that journey, you’re inhabiting a body that doesn’t have much in the way of a brain. And yet, despite their lack of big cerebral cortexes and the resulting large vocabularies that would let them do things like post rambling conceptual pieces on their weblogs, “simpler” organisms seem to have some pretty interesting abilities that are analogous to what we like to think of as the characteristically “human” manifestation of intelligence.

I also just finished reading Jeremy Narby’s Intelligence in Nature. Narby writes in his book about Martin Giurfa of the Centre of Animal Cognition Research in France, who, along with four co-authors, published The concept of ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ in an insect. In Giurfa’s experiment, bees were trained to enter a simple Y-shaped maze that had been marked at the entrance with a particular color. Inside the maze was a branching point where the bee was required to choose between two paths. One path, which led to the food reward, was marked with the same color that had been used at the entrance to the maze, while the other was marked with a different color. Bees learned to choose the correct path, and continued to do so when a different kind of marker (black and white stripes oriented in various directions) was substituted for the colored markers. When the experimental conditions were reversed, rewarding bees for choosing the inner passage marked with a symbol that was different than the entrance symbol, the bees again learned to choose the correct path. “Thus,” write Giurfa et al., “not only can bees learn specific objects and their physical parameters, but they can also master abstract inter-relationships, such as sameness and difference.”

Narby also talks about slime molds, which in part of their life cycle resemble huge colonial assemblages of one-celled individuals who have fused their cytoplasm into a single enormous (well, by unicellular standards) cell containing thousand of nuclei. Narby visited Japanese scientist Toshiyuki Nakagaki, whose studies have shown that slime molds can “solve” a simple maze, arranging their bodies to lie along the shortest path between two food items placed in opposite corners (see Slime mould solves maze puzzle).

Plants, too, manifest something that could arguably be called intelligence. We hyperactive denizens of kingdom Animalia aren’t really wired to notice it, but on longer time scales plants adapt and respond to their environment, and research has shown that they actually respond surprisingly quickly (albeit in ways not easily visible) to outside stimuli of various kinds — all without benefit of brains, or even individual nerve cells.

Narby visits with Scottish scientist Tony Trewavas, who has been making waves in recent years by publishing studies describing what he refers to as “plant intelligence”. (See Root and branch intelligence and Aspects of plant intelligence.) For example, Trewavas talks about earlier research by CK Kelly showing that dodder, a parasitic plant that takes the form of bright orange twining tendrils (and which I happened to be checking out a couple of days ago while taking a hike in the Caprinteria salt marsh with my son), can quickly discriminate between a “good” host and a poor one, “choosing” in a matter of an hour or two how much of its resources to devote to a particular new host plant.

All of which brings me to the item I actually wanted to talk about when I started this posting: Scientists experiment with ‘trust’ hormone. It’s an article describing recent research into how the hormone oxytocin, which I’m mainly familiar with from its medical use in stimulating contractions during childbirth, can render people more trusting.

Oxytocin is secreted in brain tissue and synthesized by the hypothalamus. This small, but crucial feature located deep in the brain controls biological reactions like hunger, thirst and body temperature, as well as visceral fight-or-flight reactions associated with powerful, basic emotions like fear and anger.

For years oxytocin was considered to be a straightforward reproductive hormone found in both sexes. In both humans and animals, this chemical messenger stimulates uterine contractions in labor and induces milk production. In both women and men, oxytocin is released during sex, too.

Then, elevated concentrations of the hormone also were found in cerebrospinal fluid during and after birth, and experiments showed it was involved in the biochemistry of attachment. It’s a sensible conclusion, given that babies require years of care and the body needs to motivate mothers for the demanding task of childrearing.

In recent years, scientists have wondered whether oxytocin also is generally involved with other aspects of bonding behavior – and specifically whether it stimulates trust.

The article goes on to describe how researchers dosed experimental subjects with oxytocin, then had them play a simple investment game that revealed the level of trust they were willing to extend to a randomly assigned trading partner. Those who got the hormone were dramatically more trusting.

Researchers said they are performing a new round of experiments using brain imaging. “Now that we know that oxytocin has behavioral effects,” Fehr said, “we want to know the brain circuits behind these effects.”

I’m sure there’s more to learn about how the brain is involved in all this, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that it necessarily plays the most important role. Brains are a relatively recent innovation. For most of our collective history of living on the planet we haven’t had them — yet we’ve been intelligently negotiating our environment the whole time, presumably through the same sorts of complex chemical interactions that underlie the “intelligent” behavior of our distant relatives, the slime molds and dodder plants.

Okay. Done rambling for now.

California Organ Donors Database – FINALLY!

Monday, April 4th, 2005

I’m normally all about the quirky, offbeat, absurd news – but not today, this is important:

The myth is that once you signed up to be a donor at the Department of Motor Vehicles, your name and data went into a central registry. Not so. There never was such a registry, making it uncertain that such preferences were noticed or honored. Donor networks say less than 10 percent of the driver’s licenses with dots are produced when needed. Often the person dying doesn’t have a license along when brought to a hospital, and relatives don’t always know that the individual signed up to donate organs.

Starting today, there is an official Organ and Tissue Donor Registry for the state of California. This is a really great program, the kind of program that can really save lives — too bad bureaucratic shit prevented it from going into effect 4 years ago.

If you live in California please consider registering, and if you ever get a chance thank Sen. Jackie Speier.

Terri Schiavo, R.I.P.

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

I’m forced (in this case, the term seems more apt than usual) to wonder if Terri Schiavo’s death this morning means there will be no more entries added to the darkly funny (albeit horrible) Terri Schiavo’s blog.

(Thanks — I think — to valued contributor Sven for the latter link.)

On a more serious note, I’m also forced to wonder if the public aftertaste from this will, in fact, benefit Bush and the rest of the Culture of Life panderers. The fact that they “lost,” on the surface, doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t benefit politically. This may well have been a no-lose scenario from the get-go for them, just as it was a no-win scenario for those who actually cared about Terri Schiavo’s welfare.

Anyway, clean up the elephant poop and bring on the next act. This part of the circus is over.

Last Terri Schiavo Post for the Morning

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

After all the pro-Terri stuff I linked to earlier, I wanted to post something that comes closer to my own current take on the case: The Terri Schiavo information page. It’s by Florida lawyer Matt Conigliaro, and he really knows his Terri Schiavo law. He also has a balanced, thoughtful attitude toward all the craziness that’s been going on lately.

The facts of this case are terribly sad, but they are not hard to understand. There’s really nothing to be confused about, and as best I can tell, nothing’s been overlooked by anyone.

Sensible, fact-based information. What a concept.

Arlington Pediatric’s Unfortunate Logo

Friday, March 25th, 2005

Via Boing Boing, via Fark: Arlington Pediatric Center.


Update: Original image appears to be dead, but here’s the logo that lent it its humor:

More Obsessive Raving About Terri Schiavo

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Obviously, just about everyone is weighing in on Terri Schiavo. I finally gave in and posted a single item about her, and bam! I had more comments than I’ve seen in a long time. Attention junkie that I am, there’s no way I can turn away from catnip like that. So here you go: A quick round-up of the more intelligent stuff I’ve read about Terri this morning:

From the LA Times (login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works): Parents’ side has vilified husband. It covers some of those entertaining, but apparently baseless, charges against Michael Schiavo that our own TeacherVet, among others, has been slinging around. (Still waiting for some sources on those, TeacherVet.)

As long as you’re succumbing to the LA Times’s login requirement, you could check out this item, too: Doctor says examination changed his mind. Gives about the strongest case a mainstream outlet is going to give for putting the tube back in. But I think on balance it still fails to sway me. Note the parts about Dr. Cheshire’s background and presumed biases.

Although disagreement about the Schiavo case runs deep, there are signs that the country is coalescing around the position that Congress and Bush should have stayed out of it. See this brief Kevin Drum item linking to a couple of recent polls, the latest one showing 82% support for that position: Terri Schiavo and the limits of cynicism, part 2.

A medical opinion contrasting with the right-to-life views of Dr. Cheshire is provided by Dr. Ronald Cranford, as interviewed by weblog Pekin Prattles and summarized by Rivka of Respectful of Otters: I swear this is my last Schiavo post.

(Update: I also caught this very interesting comment on the above Rivka item. Commenter CaseyL makes a strong case that what the Christian right is doing in this case isn’t so much an assault on personal liberty as it is an assault on the entire tradition of evidence-based determination of truth that is the legacy of the Enlightenment.)

Finally, let’s emerge from the primordial ooze of commentary by the common Everyman (Everydoctor) in the street, and get some more-evolved viewpoints from the academic philosopher set.

First up, Philosoraptor performs a thought experiment: Bush said the other day, “…in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life.” Fair enough, says Philosoraptor; while he doesn’t necessarily agree, he acknowledges that the position may have merit. But if one really believes that, it will apply in other areas besides the Terri Schiavo case. How is Bush doing in those areas? Bush, erring on the side of life.

And finally, Tim Burke at Swarthmore seems to agree with me in seeing signs of our nation’s approaching political apocalypse in the grandstanding being engaged in by our national leadership. Maybe I’m taking him farther than he’d want to be taken, but read the piece and see what you think. Shame:

If they had shame, they’d be embarrassed, chagrined, mortified that the highest legislative body in the country and the President of the United States can find the time to have a special Sunday session and work out high-level compromises to save a single life, any single life. How about all the other people who died last week who could have been saved? What about the people who don’t have quality health care who died or were hurt? Why not have a Sunday session to help them pay their bills? Why not have a Sunday session to help a man who’s losing his house, help a woman who can’t buy her medications, help a child who can’t get enough food to eat? What makes Terry Schiavo Citizen Number 1, the sleeping princess whom the King has decreed shall receive every benevolence in his power to grant? It isn’t even a serendipity that the King’s eyes happened to alight on her as he passed by. Serendipity I could deal with: if the President happens to read a letter from some poor schmuck and it touches his heartstrings and he wants to quietly do something, he tells an aide to look into it, he puts a twenty in a White House envelope and sends it on, ok, it happens. Serendipity wouldn’t be shameful.

This is, and it’s being done so brazenly that I think it suggests that the point of ultimate shamelessness is fast approaching. When it does, if it already has, then there really will be very little for anyone to do besides mockery and silence, besides accept our second-class citizenship in a country owned and operated by plutocrats for the religious right.

Okay. I’m done now. Terri Schiavo, rest in peace.

Terri Schiavo: Horsewoman of the Apocalypse

Monday, March 21st, 2005

A friend popped into the virtual world I inhabit the other day and complained about being unable to escape the face of Terri Schiavo, what with every channel on TV being filled with her vacant stare.

Whew, I thought. Thank you, TiVO.

I watch relatively little TV these days, and what I do watch tends to be aggressively pre-screened and narrowly selected: movie DVDs, mostly, along with some Daily Show, some What Not to Wear (the Stacy-and-Clinton version; Trinny and Suzanna are too catty for my tastes, and the Cinderella storyline doesn’t work for me when ‘after’ looks as bad as before, at least to my American eyes), some Letterman, some Ellen, a little basketball. Most of the time, the big, stupid media obsessions are like moths beating their wings futilely against the closed window of my inner life.

But the Terri Schiavo story, thanks to the spectacle of the Torture Party in Congress suspending the business of the nation so they can address the issue, and Fearless Leader actually interrupting his Crawford vacation to rush back to Washington (something he couldn’t be bothered to do even for grave threats of imminent al Qaeda attack during the late summer of 2001), has managed to burst my bubble of isolation.


Okay. Since this has been deemed by the Master Control Program to be the story that will consume my attention, what am I to make of it?

The best summing-up I’ve found is this one from Obsidian Wings’ hilzoy: Terri Schiavo. Among the unanticipated ironies I found there: The woman whose forced feeding has become a national obsession suffered her original cardiac arrest due to a chemical imbalance that was the result of bulimia. With the gallons of ink being spilled on this story, why has that fact so far escaped my notice?

For more on Schiavo’s medical condition, there’s Doctor Rivka of Respectful of Otters: Terri Schiavo, part I: The medical post.

The Republican machine that is attempting to raise political capital with this issue is being blatantly, cynically dishonest. The Christian right, those red-state values voters, believe they are fostering a “culture of life” in calling for the tube to be stuck back down Schiavo’s throat. They believe, based on some heavily edited video, that the random grimaces, blinks, and grins being produced by her reptilian hindbrain are possibly a response to her mother’s face, a spoken word. They believe there’s a chance that the person who was Terri Schiavo is trapped inside there, somewhere, and that her immoral, godless husband is trying to kill that good woman.

In that belief, they display a faith-based morality that is a credit to their upbringing. They also display a crushing, abject ignorance. It’s the same sort of ignorance that let Bush conflate Iraq with al Qaeda in the run-up to war, and to now be hailing his own fabulous “success” in bringing democracy to the Middle East.

So the Christian right has an excuse: They don’t know any better. But the Republicans grandly posturing as defenders of Terri in order to curry favor with the ignorant have no such excuse. They know what they’re doing.

As do we in the reality-based community. We know exactly what they’re doing. They’re pandering for votes, in the process ignoring the duty they have to lead the country wisely and thoughtfully.

It’s a sign of the Last Days, I think. Not necessarily in the Biblical-prophecy sense, but in the Fall-of-Rome sense. When leaders stop trying to make capable, wise decisions, and devolve instead to offering increasingly blatant bread and circuses, the end of empire is not far off.

Maybe these folks have it right: The coming of deindustrial society: A practical response. Maybe Bush is really just a symptom of a larger disease, a small manifestation of our collective denial of the doom foreseen thirty years ago in The Limits to Growth.

One last irony before I go: hilzoy explains that the Terry Schiavo case is really about incompetence, in the medical/legal sense. Her capacity to make decisions is gone, long gone, but her body lives on. What process will we, as a society, use to reach decisions on her behalf? And now she becomes the poster-girl for the Bush presidency, which is itself a monument to incompetence of another sort. Bush the legacy, the indifferent student whose whole career has been a serial upward failure, aggressively denying his own inadequacy, daring you to find fault with him, while making bonehead mistake after bonehead mistake. And we, via our collective political will, putting the feeding tube back down his throat, keeping the illusion alive.

When I tell myself that my country can be saved, that catastrophe can be averted, am I praying for a miracle that can’t possibly come? Am I hoping for the cerebrospinal fluid that has replaced my country’s cerebral cortex to magically turn itself back into a functioning democracy? Do I honestly expect that the Tom Delay Congress, the William Rehnquist Supreme Court, and (especially) the George Bush/Karl Rove presidency, are going to spontaneously morph back into a government of, by, and for the people?

Baby Girl Has ‘Parasitic’ Head Removed

Monday, February 21st, 2005

This story creeps me out, kinda, but I find it hard to ignore nevertheless. From MSN, via Boing Boing: Baby stable after second head removed.

It’s not clear to me from the article, but the impression they give is that the second head was more or less aware:

The head that was removed from Manar had been capable of smiling and blinking but not independent life, doctors said.

I wonder what would have happened to the parasitic twin if she wasn’t removed. She didn’t have lungs, and wouldn’t have been able to speak, or go through a lot of other normal child development. Maybe she, and her host, wouldn’t have even survived. But I wonder about the medical ethics of deciding to, in essence, murder the partial individual in question. If the second head had been allowed to live long enough, and if she could have achieved the means of communicating with the outside world, what would she have said about the question of whether or not she should be killed to give her host twin a chance of a better life?

Is the “capable of independent life” thing a pointer to the relevant area of medical ethics, with the thinking on the part of the doctors being that, like an unborn fetus, a parasitic head that could not survive on its own definitionally doesn’t fall under the protections of their professional oaths?

I’m not trying to start an argument here. I’m just legitimately curious about the issue, having never heard of such a case before.

In my initial version of this posting, I was referring to the second head with the pronoun “it.” Only after thinking for a bit did I decide that I should dignify the individual in question with “she,” and had to go back to edit myself. I note that the author of the Reuters story linked to above was careful to avoid that conundrum by always referring to “the second head,” “the second twin,” and “the conjoined organ,” never using a pronoun. That seems significant to me, somehow.

It’s probably the case that the conjoined twins would not have been able to live beyond a certain age. Certainly the surviving one has a much better shot at what most people would consider a normal life with the parasitic twin removed. It may well be that killing the parasitic twin was the right thing to do.

But the article sure seems to go out of its way to describe the event as if that wasn’t what actually happened. And that feels to me like it might be fundamentally dishonest.

I don’t really know. But I invite others’ opinions on the subject.

Man Fails To Notice Four-Inch Nail in His Skull

Sunday, January 16th, 2005

I’m trying to figure out how you fail to notice something like this happening to you: Nail found embedded in construction worker’s skull.

David Sedaris’ Boil

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

I’ve felt a certain bond with David Sedaris ever since he almost got me killed. I was driving to work on the 405 freeway, negotiating the South Bay curve on the southbound side, in the fast lane next to the concrete divider (this was before the carpool lane was added — there’s a carpool lane there now, right?). And I was listening to Morning Edition, and they were playing Sedaris reading from The Santa Land Diaries. (I’m linking here to an expanded version of it that was part of a later This American Life episode. It’s a RealAudio stream, which I hate, but in this case it’s worth putting up with the technological suck to get the hilarious content. Sedaris begins at 4:41.)

It was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, and I came fairly close to slamming into the center divider, which would have been interesting, in that I would have made a scuff mark matching the one I’d made on the northbound side shortly after getting my driver’s license a few years earlier. But I guess that’s a story for another time.

One more digression before I get to the actual link this item is about: I finally saw Elf, with Will Ferrell. It was actually pretty good, thanks to (as Adam pointed out in his review at Words Mean Things) Will Ferrell’s complete commitment to selling the joke, at whatever cost.

David Sedaris’ little sister Amy is in the cast of Elf (as Adam also pointed out), and since the movie could well be taken as a riff on Sedaris’ earlier comic mining of his department store elf experience (though they were careful to mix things up by putting Will Ferrell in Gimbel’s, rather than Macy’s), I was alert for any explicit references to The Santa Land Diaries.

And there it was! It came when Ferrell’s Buddy was meeting Zooey Deschanel’s Jovie, as she was decorating the tree. At one point she shoots him a suspicious glance and says, “Did Crumpet put you up to this?” (Crumpet was Sedaris’ elf name at Macy’s.)

Okay. I think I’ve purged most of the mental debris that crowded into my brain when I saw this item by Sedaris in The New Yorker: Old faithful. It’s got nothing to do with elves, or Christmas, but it’s good stuff. Go read it! Thanks.

A Little Christmas Carol

Saturday, December 11th, 2004

So, my sister mentioned to me in email the other day that could do with some holiday spirit. And then Hiro mentioned this item, and it seemed to me that it made a nice counterpoint to that recent Henry Waxman report about the disinformation being spread in government-sponsored abstinence programs. So here you go, sis: The 12 STIs of Christmas.

Happy holidays from!

Anaphylaxis of the Heart

Thursday, November 18th, 2004

From Liza Sabater, whom I just now discovered via her enviable googlerank for the phrase “george bush sally hemmings,” an uplifting story that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been to the emergency room with an allergy-constricted airway: For love and turkey.

Pathologizing Conservatism – or – It’s Not A Lifestyle Choice

Thursday, October 21st, 2004

Props to my buddy mark for pointing to this piece, which documents that conservatives don’t choose to be the way they are, it’s genetic. Normally, I’d brush this off as a “Net Kooks” rant, but they do cite some respectible research. The conclusion’s drawn in the article should defintiely be questioned, but there is some scientific merit to the discussion.

This article also contains the “Quote of the Week” as far as I’m concerned…

Whether it be an unfortunate evolutionary holdover or a mental disease transmitted by our parents—the science is apparently still up in the air—academic researchers have surely amassed enough evidence of psychopathology that conservatism can listed in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Reasonable people, such as the distinguished academic researchers cited here, will no doubt agree that until effective treatments can be developed, we should reconsider whether sufferers of conservatism, like other mental defectives, should be allowed freely to exercise the franchise.

Martha Mendoza’s Dead Fetus

Sunday, September 12th, 2004

From Ms. Magazine comes this succinct example of why having a president who bases his decisions solely on political calculation, rather than considering what experts think about the impact the resulting policies will have, may not be the best way to run a country: Between a woman and her doctor.

Link via Rivka of Respectful of Otters.

Positively HIV Positive … Or Maybe Not.

Saturday, August 28th, 2004

It just goes to show, you can’t get too many second opinions. Jim Malone was diagnosed HIV+ and then later told it was all a mistake. What makes this really disturbing is that after his initial diagnosis, he began treatment at a VA Hospital which conducted their own test and confirmed he was negative, but: “It appears he was never informed of the negative result” — that was 8 years ago.

Down a Sixpack, Tell Your Doctor: Lose Your Driver’s License

Tuesday, July 13th, 2004

From the Patriot News of Harrisburg, PA: Beer drinker fights to get driver’s license back.

LEBANON – Keith Emerich regrets telling his doctors the truth.

The Lebanon man told doctors who were treating him for an irregular heartbeat that he drinks six to 10 beers a day. If not for his admission in February, Emerich, 44, said he would still have his driver’s license.

The state Department of Transportation recalled Emerich’s license as of April 1 because he was reported by a physician as having a medical condition that impairs his driving ability. Emerich’s medical condition, according to PennDOT, is substance abuse.