Archive Page 2

Modern Day Phineas Gage


Phineas P. Gage (July 9?, 1823 – May 21?, 1860) was a railroad worker remembered for his incredible survival of a traumatic brain injury which destroyed one or both of his frontal lobes, and for the injury’s reported effects on his personality and social functioning—effects said to be so profound that friends said he was “no longer Gage.” His case played a role in the development of the understanding of the localization of brain function, and was among the first to suggest that damage to the frontal lobes can affect personality and behavior.

Street Anatomy reports on a modern day equivalent:

According to a case report in the European Journal of Neurosurgery, a 49 year-old Native American male presented to the emergency room complaining of soreness in the left cheek and eye area after being hit in the face 6 hours earlier by an assailant.

A physical examination only showed a 5m cut below his left eye with some periorbital edema, but a CT scan showed a cylindrical foreign body coursing from the left orbit to the right thalamus.

Under general anesthesia an incision was made near the man’s eyelid. The surgeon searched around and then carefully pulled out the proximal end of what appeared to be a wooden object.

The wooden object turned out to be a 10.5cm–long paintbrush, shoved in bristles first!

Amazingly the patient was discharged neurologically and ophthamologically intact.

The pictures are even more impressive:

Our body’s resilience never ceases to amaze.


Genetic Nondescrimination Act

was just passed into law.  Health insurance companies won’t be able to discriminate based on genetic testing.

(via SciAm)

Transgender pointed out…

this article and photographs of the incredible skill and artfulness involved in one person’s transformation from a man to a woman.

I don’t know which methods were used in the creation of this particular neovagina, but surely this is art of the highest caliber. Sculpture in flesh tissue and nerve bundles.

I find gender identity disorder so fascinating because it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. I’ve also got profound sympathy for the prejudice, confusion, and self doubt they must encounter. Gender identity is probably the earliest label we affix to a child; the first question on everyone’s lips is “Is it a boy or a girl?” It’s gotta take a lot of courage to undergo a sex change surgery, hormone replacement therapy, and countless hours of counseling to reassign yourself. If you haven’t seen Transamerica, please do.

(quote via Clusterflock)

Bard on the Brain

Mozart helps healing:

The study itself was fairly simple. The researchers fitted 10 postsurgical intensive-care patients with headphones, and in the hour just after the patients’ sedation was lifted, 5 were treated to gentle Mozart piano music while 5 heard nothing.

The patients listening to music showed several responses that Dr. Conrad expected, based on other studies: reduced blood pressure and heart rate, less need for pain medication and a 20 percent drop in two important stress hormones, epinephrine and interleukin-6, or IL-6. Amid these expected responses was the study’s new finding: a 50 percent jump in pituitary growth hormone.

(via The Frontal Cortex)


I love this picture:

(Via Clusterflock from YahooNews)

New Brain Imaging Technique

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brains have two characteristic findings: senile plaques and neurofibulary tangles. While the complete mechanism of AD is unknown, the plaques– aggregations of beta-amyloid proteins and glial cells — are at the very least diagnostically significant.

The plaques and the tangles eventually cause gross atrophy in particular anatomic regions:

Definitive diagnosis, though, requires an invasive biopsy. As such, histology is usually done postmortem and yields slides like this:

Placques in an AD brain.  Note the big circular globs in the middle and upper part of the picture.

AD plaques. Note the globular structures in the middle and on top.

Atrophy is only obvious in late-stage AD and functional differences are suggestive at best. It’d be great if we could florescently tag proteins/genes in brains like we can everywhere else in the body. Unfortunately, brains are typically off-limits due to the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

Harvard researchers, though, decided to try anyways. They attached a MRI probe to a short DNA sequence that is complemtary to a protein expressed in glial cells (the same kind of cells that aggregate around the plaques in AD are made of) and eyedropped it into rats. They then injured the rats via puncture wound and/or stroke to bypass the BBB and induce glial cell localization. Low and behold, the MRIs effectively reported a biopsy confirmed aggregation of glial cells.

It’d be interesting for them to try it with a beta-amyloid DNA sequence attached to the probe. Their methodology could prove useful in the early detection of AD (and other diseases) provided they find a way to bypass the BBB without injuring people.



Visit Neuroanthropology and Wired for descriptions of what you’re seeing.