Tag Archives: brain imaging

“We Didn’t Start the Scanner”

Delightful three and a half minute video about the history of brain scanning, all to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. And how nice of the producers, they’ve included the lyrics! Oh, and of course you know that it is easier to memorize something if it is set to music. Anyone studying for a test on the time line of brain scanning…

The Cushing Center

Today I visited a holy grail, a place where over 400 brains from years and years ago are preserved in clear glass jars. These brains, and the accompanying photographs, journal entries, drawings, tools, bones, and mementos are all part of Harvey Cushing’s legacy in the field of neurosurgery.

Located in the basement of the Cushing/Whitney Yale Medical Center Library, The Cushing Center itself was a labor of love of a few people who understood the importance of Cushing’s hoard, and worked to bring it all back from the depths of a storage room, stashed away in the dark.

The sixth grade Science teacher at my school was responsible for my morning’s adventure. She takes each of her three sections to visit the Center, and she invited me along for today’s trek.

Upon entering the building and walking through the Library, I was immediately struck by the homage to information and learning. Perhaps it was the quiet, perhaps it was knowing where we were headed, perhaps it was the first room we entered, which was wood paneled with large, wooden card catalogs. We soon reached the stairs to The Cushing Center, of which the photo at the left is displayed large on the wall of the landing between the two sides of the stairway.

Pam had given us a very explicit assignment. Upon entering The Cushing Center we were to take a seat on the floor, look around for a few moments, and then begin writing or drawing and not stop till asked to do so. Supplied with clipboards of blank and lined paper, we each began moving our pencils. The kids were told that if they could not think of something to write, they should simply write the word “something” over and over until something else came to them. Here is what I wrote:

awe inspiring and humbled to walk into this sanctuary of the mind. though the minds are no longer living, they are doorways for us, the living, to see inside ourselves. that is a question I have long had – what does MY brain look like. it will not be possible to see and touch my brain, but I respect those who have offered their brains for the rest of us to learn from. at this summer’s FAMI workshop at Mr Sinai, we were asked to have a moment of silent respect for those who gave their bodies to science, so the rest of us – the living – could learn. so too, here in this sanctuary, these moments of quiet writing and reflection honor those whose brains we see.

so where am I? on the cool tiled floor of the Cushing Center in the basement of the Yale Medical School. curiously enough, the room’s architect is a parent at the school where I teach.

the warm burnt-sienna hues of the wood shelves and cabinets and backsplash welcome me with gentle arms, beckoning a visit with the 440 specimen jars. but they don’t feel like specimens to me – they are someone’s lasting physical container – preserved in fluid – but perhaps an inkling remains.

Among the many treasures in the room was an original first edition of De revolutionizes orbium caelestium by Nicolas Copernicus, published in Nuremberg in 1543 and purchased by Cushing in 1924. Cushing was an avid collector of books, still, it was a bit boggling to see an original book by Copernicus. I suppose no less boggling than comprehending that Cushing took out and documented at least 2000 brain tumors during his career as a neurosurgeon.

Falling into my lap

Things fell into my lap today due to the kindness of friends.

Thanks to @MartiWeston for sharing Time.com’s interactive timeline of an encapsulated history of trying to understand the human brain. The timeline looks at the brain through the lenses of ancient beliefs, anatomy, psychology, disorders and neuroscience.

And thanks to my new colleague, a Science teacher of 6th and 9th graders, for inviting me to join her class in November to tour the Cushing Center at Yale. The center houses the brains, notes and research findings from Dr Harvey Cushing, often referred to as “the father of modern neurosurgery”. I suspect this will be a hugely interesting exhibit and wonder if our 70 minutes will whet my curiosity or if a return trip will be needed!

Functional Anatomy for Movement & Injury

Yesterday, today and the next two days find me immersed in the FAMI (Functional Anatomy for Movement & Injury) workshop taking place at Mt Sinai Medical Center in New York City. There will be plenty of posts to come from this intensive and illuminating workshop, but for now, here’s a tiny peek from yesterday.

Stroke of Insight

Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk is the most viewed TED Talk to date, and this morning I shared it with my 81 year old Mom. I’ve suggested TED Talks to her in the past, and she’s watched them in the comfort of her own home on her own Mac, but this morning we watched together from the hospital bed where she is dealing with the fact that last week she had a stroke.

Indeed, my Mom had her own stroke of insight as she was aware of her body changing right beneath her. A week ago Saturday she asked me if she was walking okay, as she felt her feet were lagging a bit. She seemed to be walking with slightly less zest than usual, but no alarm bells went off in my mind. That was on Saturday, August 7. By the morning of Wednesday, August 11, she was positive something was not quite right. I am greeted every morning by an email from my Mom, and here is part of what she wrote that morning:

Feel a bit tired — after a good night’s sleep. Also, my legs are not holding me up similar to when I was in the hospital and sent hone with B-12, which I take every morning.

Will have to think abut this. Perhaps all I need is more walking. Well, I will give this some thought.

Later that morning my Mom fell, and then within about an hour’s time, she fell again. My Mom has a Lifeline in the form of a bracelet so all she has to do is push the button and help is on its way. With the second fall, the EMS folks insisted on taking her to the hospital (her preference was to lay down and take a nap), and she reluctantly agreed after lying down on her bed and seeing that Norma, one of the EMS folk, was going to pick her up. (My Mom may have a stubborn streak, but that’s nothing compared to the people from EMS!)

Again against her preference, we insisted she spend the night in the hospital, especially as the emergency room doctor had already admitted her for observation. The next morning, when Mom’s internist was able to come see her, Dr Lanman uttered the word “stroke” and that sent the hospital staff into action as they followed their stroke protocol. Several tests later, it was determined that my Mom had an ischemic (this simply means “lack of blood flow”) stroke and an evolutionary stroke. An evolutionary stroke means that the stroke takes place over time rather than happening all at once. In this case, it was still happening.

Dishearteningly, within two days of being admitted, we (including my Mom) watched as she gradually lost all ability to use her right arm and leg, and then a day later listened as her speech slowed down, words were lost, what she wanted to say and what came out did not match, and she began to be a little discombobulated. I noticed this morning that she didn’t initially see the scrambled egg on the breakfast plate; turns out that a stroke can cause “an inability to see one side of the visual field”, which might explain what happened. (Or else it could simply be that the lights were low…)

And my Mom knew all of this was happening as it was happening. She told me so. And she said:

Up till now, I never felt old. Now I feel old.

In the past two years she has had broken ribs, a broken right femur, a broken left femur, two hospital stays and became a widow in July, 2009. Yet she never felt old. Till now. She’s a righty and a skilled pianist. She’s also, as she has said (and I concur!), a strong cookie. She was, and remains, a stalwart fan of General Stanley McChrystal, and has often said that if she were younger, she would enlist. I told her that this same stubborn strength is what will help her to recover, and she has a goal of being able to dance at her youngest grandson’s bar mitzvah in 2012.

With that in mind, if all goes well this week, she will be transferred 15 minutes from my home to the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, where they have a Stroke Recovery Program. And we – she, my brother and me – will begin to learn more about stroke, the brain and the body.

Ready for Prime Time

[5/3 UPDATE: A number of my posts have referenced Frances Jenkins, and she is included in the slide show below. On March 1, 2010, NPR’s Morning Edition had a five minute interview with Jenkins about The Teen Brain: It’s Just Not Grown Up Yet.]

This is the slide show that will accompany three interactive sessions spread out over April and May with a class of high school students. The sessions will cover The Teen Brain, followed by the limbic system, and finishing with the impact of drugs and alcohol on the teen brain.

I tend to not include many transitions in slide shows, but the transitions in this slide show are part of the impact of the presentation, and wish they transferred upon the upload to slideshare. For instance, the revealing of slides 17 to 20 helps bring home the point of the limbic system, and slides 24 through 29 display one word at a time, each with an effect related to the meaning of the word. After each new word is displayed, the high schoolers will be using their laptops to take self-portraits of themselves making a face to represent the emotion.

Slideshare houses my presentations, though I have yet to figure out how to get the presentation notes to display. Below are the URLs for the video clips and web sites. Hmm, just thought of a creative exercise to use with my Presentation Communication class next fall – here is a slide show without the presentation notes, now you make up the oral component!

slide 5 video clip
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy994HpFudc

slide 8 video clip
http://www.loni.ucla.edu/~thompson/DEVEL/dynamic.html

All of the Frances Jensen video clips can be accessed from:
http://www.childrenshospital.org/patientsfamilies/Site1393/mainpageS1393P316sublevel357.html

slide 23 video clip comes from Tom Wujec’s TED Talk at:
http://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_on_3_ways_the_brain_creates_meaning.html

and the Wizard of Oz clip comes from:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOKK8mAkiUI

While not referenced in this presentation, I highly recommend Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk at:
http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

and for entertainment while learning, Pinky & the Brain explain the parts of the brain at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Li5nMsXg1Lk