Neurophilosophy

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 the pioneering work of Harvey Cushing, then continues with a discussion of Phineas Gage, the Yale physiologist Jose Delgado and the lobotomist Walter Freeman. Mosley also meets Howard Dully, who was lobotomized at the age of 12 by Freeman.

In one particularly interesting part of the program, Mosley accompanies Dully to Stanford University, and watches as he undergoes an fMRI scan (he is the first lobotomized patient to have a brain scan).

Towards the end, Mosley takes a look at recently developed techniques. He goes to UCL to volunteer as a subject in an experiment in which transcranial magnetic stimulation is used to disrupt motor function, and then meets a Parkinson’s patient who has been treated with deep brain stimulation.

Conspicuous by his absence is Wilder Penfield, another outstanding neurosurgeon who in the 1930s developed a ground-breaking technique called the Montreal procedure, in which abnormal brain tissue is identified by electrical stimulation of the brain of conscious patients. (I’m working on a piece about Penfield, so you can find out all about him later this week.)

(Thanks to Ross and Vaughan)

Comments

  1. #1 António Pedro Cunha
    August 25, 2008

    Nice show! Too bad it’s only for the UK. I guess I’ll be having to mine the web for the other part’s torrents when they air.

  2. #2 Mikhail Emelianov
    August 25, 2008

    Great show! Thanks for pointing it out – I wonder if I would be able to show it to my students, Americans, it seems, apart from gory films, are pretty squeamish about this kind of stuff, but still a great show – hope to see all five parts…

  3. #3 Luci
    August 26, 2008

    Thanks, Mo. This looks fascinating. And thanks to whomever brought streaming from concept to reality. TV abstainers still to love to watch the really good stuff. Not all Americans are brain surgery wimps, and some of us really do prefer hard science to ‘Hannibal’.

    My dad knew our temporal lobe hero Dr. Penfield for a space of time in the 50′s. I discovered him through a different path, and look forward to your take on Montreal’s finest hole in the head guy.

    Gage would never have been a neuroceleb if he had remained unmodified. Heck of a price to pay for the fifteen minutes, and to never know how often his damaged brain has been cited since.

  4. #4 António Pedro Cunha
    August 29, 2008

    Not related to the brain, but the second episode of the series is out, too… for those like me (who don’t live in the UK), you can download it from here or here.

    Btw, it’s about the heart, this time :)

    Blessed torrents!