Thursday, 20 September 2007

I have an enormous optic chiasm

Paul Pierre Broca was a French surgeon and anatomist, with degrees in literature, maths and physics too. In 1861, he described two patients who had lost the ability to speak. After they died, he examined their brains, figured out which bits were knackered and planted his flag there. Recently, these brains, which had been pickled in alcohol (which I'm sure partly explains the original loss of speaking) were scanned using new technology, and it was found that the damage was NOT in Broca's area, but was quite widespread and different in each case.

So should Broca's area be renamed? Or even moved? Mais non! as he would have said, being French and all. For this is the man who also proposed "Broca's rule", viz. that a man should weigh as many kilos as he is centimetres more than one meter. By jingo, he's right! Which means that every centimetre of my body, starting roughly with the tops of my thighs, must weight about one kilogram. I'm not sure whether to be horrified or delighted, so I shall be neither.

A more contemporary brain expert is Dan Hodgins of Flint, Michigan, where he is some kind of educational advisor. He's recently been noted for his claim that in girls' brains, "the crockus is four times larger than in boys". Some people seem surprised by this claim based on the trifling technicality that it doesn't even exist. When pressed, Hodgins claimed it was named after a Dr Alfred Crockus. Who also doesn't exist.

However, I'm with Hodgins on this one: if we limit our claims about neuroscience merely to those brain regions that exist, then we are hobbling ourselves necessarily. This needless entrammelling is a classical sign of people with an under-developed habenular nucleus. Those of us with larger habenular nuclei, which I'm sure includes Hodgins, are quite prepared to go beyond mere observation of reality when we need to win an argument. For example, I have an enormous optic chiasm. If you stand on one side, you can't even see the other side. Admittedly, that's partly due to the high cloud density in the area because of excess moisture in my infundibulum. What they don't teach you at school (and, frankly, shouldn't) is the importance of maintaining a tiny uncinate fasciculus. This can be achieved through a series of meditation/filing exercises: just close your eyes, and visually sort all of your body parts into alphabetic order for 15-20 minutes a day. I do. It does me wonders. To do the rest of the world wonders, I recommend changing your olfactory bulb if you haven't already done so, especially in these times of climate change worries. Use a low-energy replacement, such as a middle temporal gyrus, or even an inferior temporal gyrus, if you don't mind making that little extra sacrifice for the good of humankind.

Thank you.

1 comment:

Auntie Em said...

Your enormous optic chiasm is what first attracted me to you, all those years ago!