The Check-Up: A Computer to Crunch A Diagnosis

IBM's Watson to help doctors, patients and insurers make better decisions. Plus, dad's testosterone levels and night-owl nightmares—today's health headlines

• Did you see that Jeopardy! episode where a computer battled two brainy contestants—and won? The computer’s name is Watson, if you didn’t know, and looks like he’s about to start a new career in health care. IBM, which created Watson, announced yesterday that health-insurance company WellPoint is drafting the super computer to help doctors make decisions about treatments and drugs, and offer odds for how effective such courses might be. The computer could also make sense of insurance policies, determining what’s covered and what’s not in complicated cases. And Watson could help patients, too, recommending doctors who are particularly adept at treating a certain illness. How would you feel taking advice from a computer? Watson was created to make “human-like decisions based on split-second data analysis,” according to NPR, which posted a video that explains how Watson works. Go watch it, then tell me what you think.

• Here’s some potentially not-so-good news for all the dads out there. The New York Times reports that testosterone levels in guys drop after they become parents. “And the more he gets involved in caring for his children—changing diapers, jiggling the boy or girl on his knee, reading ‘Goodnight Moon’ for the umpteenth time—the lower his testosterone drops.” This is apparently a good thing by evolutionary standards because it means that “male paternal care is important”—so much so that the body actually mounts a response to it—and it might make American males realize “we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring,” according to a Harvard professor who commented on the study. So … bright side?

• Have a lot of nightmares? A new study found that night owls are “are significantly more likely to suffer from poor sleep quality, daytime sleepiness and disturbing nightmares than early birds,” says MSNBC. It’s because of sleep patterns, and how your body clock gets messed up when you go to bed late and sleep in. “Epidemiological studies have found that nearly nine in 10 adults report having at least one nightmare in the previous year … with 2 percent to 6 percent reporting weekly nightmares.” Sheesh. Guess what time I’m going to bed tonight?