On the train back down from upstate yesterday, across from me sat a mom and her son — about 6 months old. Per the suggestion of my critical care professor and because I’m rotating with pediatric neurology right now, I observed the young boy as he cried from hunger, fed a bit, then played with his mom. I thought of the thoughts and neural connections buzzing through his brain in that moment. His curious eyes darted around studying the faces of passengers, realizing that they’re faces and we’re people. He squinted when light shone through the autumn trees whistling by outside the window. He grasped at hair and clothes and with his clumsy fingers, instinctively bringing them to his mouth. As his mom lifted him by the shoulders, he pulled his legs underneath him to strengthen his hip and knee extensors. He heard his mom’s teasing voice chanting “I’m gonna get ya! I’m gonna get ya!” and his brain captured this pattern of vibrating air molecules as samples of language for future decoding. Baby brains are outright miracles. Continue reading Bad Brains
“What mazes there are in this world. The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models… None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.”
So writes Anthony Doerr in “All the Light We Cannot See,” a brilliant novel that won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It’s the book I’ve been reading this week and (sadly) the only novel I’ve read all year. Between my shifts at the hospital, I crack open the covers, unfurl the pages, and fall into the universe that Doerr spins with his sharp sentences. I follow two characters, two unusual children in extraordinary circumstances: Werner, a scrawny albino orphan prodigy conscripted by the Nazis for his mastery of radios and who fights to retain his humanity; and Marie-Laure, a blind French girl hiding in a walled seaside city who becomes a vulnerable courier and a dreamer. For hours at a time, the book’s words transport me into the vividly bleak fictional realities of two children in the maelstrom of World War II. Continue reading Imagination in the Stroke Ward
Last weekend, I took a train upstate to Storm King Art Center and the nearby Schunemuck State Park. It was a solitary trip by design, and it gave me a lot of time and space — about 8 hours and 23 miles — with nothing but the vibrant autumn trees, my music, and chilly air to keep me company. Well… rather, it let me spend some quality time reflecting upon my Brain and Mind.