Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cerebrum 2008!

Today, I noticed that one of my favorite science writers, Carl Zimmer, has written the forward to a new brain book coming out April 4: Cerebrum 2008: Emerging Ideas in Brain Science. From the description:

The featured articles offer thought-provoking analyses of the human brain and its untapped possibilities, touching on topics as diverse as how discoveries in brain science can help us design better the best nursing facilities for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the risks and rewards of new drugs based on living cells, why remembering our past is essential to planning the future, and when we can and should use drugs to control our emotional lives. Top scientists and scholars—including acclaimed science writer Carl Zimmer, psychiatrist Paul M. McHugh, neurologist Michael Selzer, and neurobiologist Vivan Teichberg—clearly and concisely explain these and many other exciting developments on the horizon.

The articles have been culled from Cerebrum's Web edition. Looks like an interesting collection!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Power Drill Brain Surgery

BoingBoing brought Dr. Henry Marsh, a 58-year-old British neurosurgeon, to my attention. Without access to compressed air medical drills, he and his Ukrainian colleague, Dr. Igor Petrovich, have resorted to using a Bosch 9.6 volt cordless power drill to perform brain surgery in the Ukraine. At times, the "handyman" drill batteries have drained halfway through surgery, but otherwise, the technology has proved effective.

Dr. Marsh says:

I have used the Bosch drill myself when I’ve been operating with Igor. It’s exactly the drill that you could have in your garden shed. He bought it at a do-it-yourself shop.

For more, see the Anorak news.

The Curative Properties of Radium

Today, we take Airborne to cure the common cold. In the 1930s, we turned to radium for its restorative properties. Here are some nice photos from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities Collection:

Interior View - Standard Radium Emanatorium; patients being treated.

Standard Radium Emanator, Office Style for treating one person.

For more fascinating and historical images, see the Standard Chemical Company Photo Album (ca. 1915-1920)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Journey Round My Skull

In Volume LV, Number 4 of the New York Review of Books, Oliver Sacks recommends Frigyes Karinthy's memoir, A Journey Round My Skull. Born in 1887 in Budapest, Karinthy was a Hungarian writer well known for his wit when, at the age of 48, he began hearing trains roar through his head. As Sacks writes, "The hallucinatory train noises soon became a fixture in Karinthy's life. He started to hear them regularly, at seven o'clock each evening, whether he was in his favorite cafe or anywhere else." The hallucinations soon became more intense. He saw mirrors move; the ground appeared to roll away beneath him. Sack's lets Karinthy elaborate:

And yet everything, myself included, seemed to have lost its grip on reality. The tables remained in their usual places, two men were just walking across the cafe, and in front of me I saw the familiar water-jug and match-box. yet in some eerie and alarming way they had all become accidental, as if they happened to be where they were purely by chance, and might just as well be anywhere else.

He was soon diagnosed with a brain tumor, and the book goes on to detail a first person account of early 20th century brain surgery--from the perspective of the patient. For more details, read Sack's great article.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Today I saw the proposed cover of Dr. Olaf! Which reminded me that my mom designed a cover for the book almost exactly a year ago. I wanted to post it here, because it is very cool. Here it is:

The colorful twists are proteins. And though the skull lacks a brain, it once had one.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Brain, Body, and Soul

The Economist reviews what appears to be an excellent new book on the human brain, PORTRAIT OF THE BRAIN. From the review:

Adam Zeman draws on literature, the history of science, and his practice as a consultant neurologist to paint a portrait which, like the brain itself, is elegantly arranged. A chapter apiece is devoted to each of the organ's structures, building up from atom to psyche, and rounded off with a chapter on the soul.

The book tells the stories of patients with a variety of neurological disorders, from epilepsy and chronic fatigue to narcolepsy and compulsive fidgeting. It even has a chapter on Creutzfeldt-Jakob, a rare and incurable degenerative neurological disorder, which makes an appearance in Dr. Olaf as well!

Thanks to Kathy for passing along the link!