Neurophilosophy

Archives for August, 2008

Wilder Penfield, Neural Cartographer

The patient lies on the operating table, with the right side of his body raised slightly. The anaesthetist sterilizes his scalp and injects it with Nupercaine to produce analgesia – the patient will remain fully conscious throughout the procedure. Behind the surgical drapes, three large incisions are made in his scalp. A large flap of…

Cutting out the stone of madness

At Bioephemera, Jessica has a fascinating post about depictions of madness in 15th-17th century art, during which time mental illness was popularly attributed to the presence of a “stone of madness” (or “stone of folly”) in the head. One of the earliest depictions of this is found in the above painting, Hieronymous Bosch’s The Cure…

Iron Lady’s brain is rusting

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has dementia. In her forthcoming book, which is serialized in the Mail on Sunday (a paper which, I hasten to add, I do not read), Carol Thatcher reveals that her mother’s mental faculties have been in decline for the past 7 years: When she learned Latin at school, she…

Post a comment, win a prize

In an effort to get you, my readers, to actively participate in this blog, and also because some of you have been so generous in the past, I’ve decided to offer prizes to those of you who leave comments. I will send a recently published science book to the reader who posts the most interesting,…

Blood, guts & brains

The BBC has produced an interesting series called Blood and Guts about the modern history of surgery and the first episode, which is about neurosurgery, is now available online at the BBC iPlayer website. (For those outside the U.K., it is also available as a torrent.) Presented by surgeon Michael Mosley, the program begins with…

Hendrix at Woodstock

Here’s some awesome footage of the one and only Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock. At around 11 minutes in, he plays the guitar with his teeth. Yes…with his teeth. And it still sounds great. Some of the hippies at the event take a much-needed dip in a lake, so the film does contain a tiny…

The smell of fear

NEARLY 70 years ago, Karl von Frisch described the alarm response in a species of small freshwater fish called the European minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus). Frisch, who was one of the founders ethology – the scientific study of animal behaviour – demonstrated that when a minnow was eaten by a predator, a chemical released from its…

UCL to host new brain research institute

Clay rendered three-dimensional model of the UCL campus, created by Andrew Hudson-Smith of the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, using SketchUp and 3DMax. Nature News reports that UCL will host a centre of excellence for neuroscience research: University College London (UCL) will host the new centre, after beating rival universities Oxford and Cambridge, Nature has…

Stroke can be extremely debilitating, but if the damage is not too severe, and appropriate rehabilitation is administered, the brain can reorganize itself to compensate for the loss of function. This reorganization can occur because the brain remains ‘plastic’ throughout life; it leads to recovery, but can also have unexpected consequences. Something very unexpected happened…

Harvey Cushing photo journal

Harvey Cushing (1869-1939) is considered to be the father of modern neurological surgery. In the early part of the 20th century, he developed basic techniques and instruments for operating on the brain and, as a result, founded the discipline as a distinct surgical speciality. Before Cushing began his career, brain tumours were considered to be…