Friday, March 14, 2008

Prepare to Have Your Mind Blown

This new video is already starting to circulate the internets. Even though it gets a little too New-Agey for me at times, it still nearly brought me to tears. Watch as a neuroanatomist recalls her harrowing personal experience with a stroke:


SuiginChou said...

I'm actually reading a book on neuroplasticity right now, and it has detailed several stories already about people rewiring their brains to work around functional deficits. One example was of a man who had a stroke in the 1960s, back when it was believed that failure to recover function in the first 4 days meant you were never going to recover, and he basically did what this woman in your TED video did -- he started from Square One, re-learned everything, and resumed his post at Columbia University in under 2 years.

The difference, however, between his story and hers is that she seemed to really demonize the left hemisphere and glorify the right one; yet really, I found her right hemisphere-only existence to be even more Hellish. Nirvana? Nirvana nothing! It'd be a fucking nightmare -- a personal Hell! -- to try to talk and only hear Charlie Brown adults; to not be able to read; to forget who you are; to not be able to tell Self apart from the rest of the world.

I dunno. I wanted to get into this video, honest I did, but she really turned me off by how much of a hippie she was and how trippy she got with the Nirvana bit. "Yeah, I get it, your stroke made you feel at peace. So what? Are you advocating we all lobotomize babies and chop off their left hemispheres?" Furthermore, the stories I am reading in my book suggest that such lobotomies would fail anyway -- that is to say, my sources tell me that she misinformed the audience when she claimed "the right brain does this, the left brain does that." That's the traditional view of localizationism, but the modern view of neuroplasticity holds that there is nothing instrinically special about right vs. left, occiptal vs. temporal, etc.

In fact, there's a story in my book about how there are three sister cortices in the brain -- the visual, auditory, and primary sensory [touch] -- and how any one of the three can substitute for the others, meaning that patients whose occipital cortex is fried (and so they go blind) can see again through hooking a camera up to a device that applies pressure to the back and that pressure is interpreted by the sensory cortex the exact same way light falling on the retina is interpreted by the visual cortex.

If you're interested, here's an introduction to the works of Dr. Bach-y-Rita: