Medicine & Health

Neurophilosophy

Category archives for Medicine & Health

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…

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…

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…

1960s Ritalin ad

This advertisement for Ritalin comes from a 1966 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is widely – and controversially – prescribed to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The drug is an amphetamine-like stimulant which blocks reuptake of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) in the prefrontal cortex.…

The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs, or roadside bombs) has led to an increase in the numbers of troops sustaining traumatic brain injury during military service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such injuries are caused by the high pressure shock waves generated by the explosions, which cause rapid head movements, such that the brain is…

Lunch with Heather Perry

Last month, I travelled to Bristol to meet 37-year-old Heather Perry, one of a very small number of people to have voluntarily undergone trepanation for non-medical reasons. As we ate a pub lunch, I asked Heather about her experience. Below is a transcript of our conversation.

Depression is a common neuropsychiatric disorder which affects at least 1 in 7 adults. The condition can have a major effect on patients’ quality of life, and is a major cause of both disability and suicide. Many patients with depression can be treated effectively with antidepressant medications, such as the specific serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI)…