Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the human body: take 2

The brain. How amazing is the brain? Last year I started reading a book by one of our graduating medical students. It's The Three Pound Enigma, by Shannon Moffett. Shannon explains the brain through descriptions of her own interactions with neurosurgeons, patients, and research. The patients' experiences are amazing, but even more amazing is the way she describes the intricacies of the brain in ways that even I can understand. It's not meant to be a thrilling page-turner, but it definitely keeps my attention.

I have had two MRIs of my brain in my life (which, by the way, I find completely relaxing and actually fall asleep during). Right after I had the second done, the MRI technicial said, "Have you ever seen your brain?" What kind of a question is that? Who actually gets to see their brain? So he actually showed me the cross-section pictures the MRI took of my brain. It was the coolest thing ever. He started on one side and scrolled through--it was like we were literally going through my brain from one side to the other (or back to front or top to bottom--I can't remember). And yes, it was all there.

Not my brain. I should see if I can get a picture of my MRI.

The body and the way it works is fascinating. But the mysteries that still surround the functions of the brain are mind boggling. There is so much we don't know.

The brain scares me more than anything else. Break an arm and it will most likely heal. Break your brain? A whole different story. Working at a medical school, I get to read through a lot of personal statements (the "essays" they write to submit with their residency applications). One student in the past wrote about a patient he encountered who came to the hospital with a self-diagnosed case of schizophrenia. For some reason that blew me away. Can you imagine diagnosing yourself with schizophrenia? All the psychiatry students wrote about their touching experiences with these patients, and it made me think. Depression, anziety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, addiction. They are all very real and very scary.

Last month I attended a depression workshop at Kaiser. Have you ever seen how many health and wellness classes they offer? I find it fascinating. I learned so much in that two-hour session. We even got to take a little test that measures our depression severity. I scored a 2 on of a scale of 0-19+. That meant I'm not at all depressed. But I could have told you that without the test. :) The class was so incredibly informative, and I think everyone should take it. You never know when a friend, family member, or even you might start showing signs of depression. It's like recognizing the signs of a heart attack. Best to catch it early. Knowledge is power, right?

Assuming no mental disorders, what about personalities? How do they interact with our brains? How exactly do our spiritual beings interact with our physical beings? Did we have the exact same personalities in the preexistence before we received bodies? Did the addition of a brain filled with hormones alter our personalities? Would our personalities have the same fundamental characteristics even if we had been raised in a different environment? Each of the kids in my family have very distinct personalities. Sometimes our personalities clash and cause tension, but most of the time it's just amusing.

I took the Kiersey Temperament Sorter (like the Myers Briggs personality test). I'd like to take the Myers Briggs and see if it gives the same results. It's kind of creepy how interpretations of your 4-letter "type" can really describe you. Granted, it's not exact--there are exceptions, but it's not that far off, either. What made me one type and my sister another? Do our personality types change over time or do we just manifest them differently?

This is your brain. This is your brain on Homer. Any questions?

So many questions. So much to learn. So little interest in actually figuring it all out. I think I'll just let people like Shannon do the research and I'll learn through them.


LJ said...

mmmm. . . I thought the human head weighed eight pounds? Is the rest my skull, or was that cute little kid totally wrong?

5keelers said...

Molly-I love to read your blog. You should write a book. Your blogs brighten my day! Thank you for sharing. By the way my good friend had a baby last week and named her Molly. I told her about you and the one other Molly I know and that her little girl was lucky to have that name...I now now three Molly's and I think they are all Fab!!! Corrin

The Wades said...

one of my favorite classes in college was the four week brain section of my psychology 1010 class at the u. cannot tell you how fascinating it was to learn about brain synapses and myolin sheaths and their effect on how you felt. thanks for the reminder, molly. great post.

Molly said...

Thanks, Corrin! I absolutely love my name. Wouldn't trade it for anything Except maybe for a billion dollars--I mean, who wouldn't?

Molly said...

Oh, and Lenessa, the human head may weigh 8 pounds, but the brain alone weighs 3 pounds (give or take, of course).