Category: Physiology

Speak to us of Houses

Then a mason came forth and said, Speak to us of Houses. And the Prophet answered and said:

Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls. For even as you have home-comings in your twilight, so has the wanderer in you, the ever distant and alone.

Your house is your larger body.

It grows in the sun and sleeps in the stillness of the night; and it is not dreamless. Does not your house dream? and dreaming, leave the city for grove or hill-top? Would that I could gather your houses into my hand, and like a sower scatter them in forest and meadow. Would the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

But these things are not yet to be.

In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields. And tell me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses? And what is it you guard with fastened doors? Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power? Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind? Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain? Tell me, have you these in your houses? Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house as a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master?

Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires. Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron. It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh. It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels. Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.

But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed. Your house shall not be an anchor but a mast. It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye. You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down. You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living. And though of magnificence and splendour, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing. For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.

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Insulin

Is neat.

Once I had an experience helping a kid at a debate tournament take his insulin. It was one of the scariest moments I’ve ever experienced, for a number of reasons.

How to explain this. Hm.

For starters, I have no idea what debate tournaments are about. Or what debate is really about. I have never debated, participated in Mock Trial, or even witnessed a formal debate (let alone participated in or witnessed a formal debate tournament) (let alone judged one). And somehow, despite that, this story begins with my traveling to a nearby city to judge a high-school debate tournament. A friend asked if I could stand-in as a judge for a debate tournament because he thought I’d do an OK job. Something to do with me being great at arguing with him – it seemed, well….Weird. Having agreed, and having dragged myself to a random school somewhere in MN on a Saturday in November, I found myself in a large cafeteria with hundreds of suit-clad kids. I was chilly. There were cans of soda, powerades, and bottled waters to drink. Everything smelled really clean and like it had been freshly vacuumed. Again, weird.

The debates around the school were timed. Lincoln-Douglas in their style, and seemingly extreme in their demands, these mini-events had (via some sort of career-scented tractor beam) pulled in the young professionals of tomorrow from all over the country. A ton of school buses sat outside. It was all honestly pretty intimidating. A handful of color-coded maps each depicted the locations and times of the dozens of debate events. During the middle period of the day (just during/after lunch) perhaps 95% of the kids ran off for their respective debates, leaving the cafeteria entirely empty. It’s (again,) weird how loud hundreds of suit-clad kids can be and how quiet a large linoleum can be once they filter out. One kid, munching down on his food some 5 or 6 tables over, remained after just a few minutes.

I was sipping on some blue powerade as the sound of a small body vomiting smacked my ears with baseball-type force. Again. A third time. My hand quivered and my stomach fell across my shoes (not literally) upon hearing it – vomiting really isn’t my thing – and I pitied whichever person, likely that kid some 5 or 6 tables over, was having the gut attack. As a younger person I was on the swim and cross country and track teams and hated more than anything to take a bus out to a competition. The feeling of sitting in a foreign school around 11:14am on a weekend, waiting to be judged against my peers, wrung out my stomach like a sock each time. So I could feel this kid’s pain – a fourth time – and, after he puked a fifth time, I began to get concerned. I remember thinking Five is a fuck-ton.

On turning around to face the bright cafeteria – there were skylights, and the place had an even and frosty glow – I saw the young boy aforementioned gripped to a garbage can for dear life. The garbage can was the rolling kind, with 4 wheels and a height of maybe 3 feet 6 inches. He was small and appeared to be on his heels as wretch-fest #6 commenced. His diaphragm and entire upper body lurched, as if some invisible tentacles were sucking him violently into the garbage can. Fuck: this was no nausea or performance anxiety. Something was seriously wrong. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Another thing I remembered from childhood was my sincere desire to be left alone whenever I was vomiting. How to approach while also giving the kid his necessary space?

Cornering my body a bit (rather than facing the kid square on) I edged up slowly, waving timidly with a hand and offering a bashful and solemn ‘hey’ of a smile. He made eye contact with me as the tentacles gripped him and tugged again. “Hey dude, just so you know I’m Ian and I’m an EMT, so if you need anything lemme know, and if you want me to leave you alone I c-“

“I’m type 1, my last A1C was fine but I’m at least over 300 right now and my pump is broken. Can you help me? (pukes)

[translation: I have type 1 diabetes and am having a blood sugar crisis. My last check-up at the doctor’s was ok. But right now my blood sugar is dangerously high and my insulin pump, which I need to fix my blood sugar, is broken.]

Before continuing this story I figure I’ll leave you with a bit of history. Read up, teach yourself a bit about what to expect with diabetes (you might run into some crises yourself someday, if you haven’t before) and then I’ll write the rest of this story down

https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news_landing_page/first-use-of-insulin-in-treatment-of-diabetes-88-years-ago-today

Amygdala regulation

Ain’t easy. Especially on low sleep. I recently stumbled upon some literature describing the relationship between the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. Specifically it went over the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdalae. Will have to come back here & post the link(s) but wanted to jot this down here, as it’s timely & highly relevant to mood disorders.

Sleep is a fickle thing & it seems that quality and duration of sleep is related to one’s ability to keep their amygdala functioning well. The absence of good quality sleep of proper duration can lead one to experience impulsiveness, out-of-control distractibility and responsiveness to irrelevant stimuli, and immense irritability. Take it from me: the vast gulf between being contented & calm or being a murderous monster can be crossed, in part, by hitting the hay.

Ishi no ue ni mo san nen

Where is undergraduate neuroscience headed? One small slice of this predictive pie has been gobbled up by my advisor, Eric Wiertelak. He’s consumed & produced much undergraduate neuroscience work over the years and been largely involved in the related publications. Here’s one (of several) writings on the subject-

Warming to the Changing Face of Neuroscience and Neuroscience Education

Where undergraduate neuroscience is headed is a hugely important question. This field will be changing rapidly and it will be interesting to keep track of it over time. Should one care about the future of the healthcare industry, politics, the arts, and technology one should also be interested in the nature of neuroscience education. Again- it’s not just biology, psychology, computer science, and bad hollywood movies riding the neuroscience train – the arts in general, economics, social media, and even education itself are all headed new directions suggested by brain research. Undergraduates are often beginning lifelong journeys into these fields and it can be pretty interesting to look into how that group of people is studying the mind directly. I have never been involved in JUNE (and may never be) but enjoy seeing this tiny article from Eric.

We shouldn’t train engineers only to build toys but also to solve problems using those toys. A liberal arts approach offers to neuroscience what the well-rounded engineer also needs: which is a perspective on how to use their problem-solving tools to help other people.

F&c% you, NAC

And no, I don’t mean N-Acetyl Cysteine. I’m talking about the nucleus accumbens. This devilish bit of brain tissue is one that seeks for its larger meat-sack the experience of reward and short-term pleasure. To be honest the NAC isn’t the only zone related to that tendency: the frontal striatum and a few other areas are instrumental as well. To finally reach the end of the fall semester a bit bruised and battered reveals to me that my own proclivity for pressuring pleasure to pop up in the present is pretty problematic.

So the quest now is to develop skills and habits that enable the delay of gratification. In order to conduct this oversized ganglion through larger and longer movements I’ll be getting in touch with some professionals in the area who focus on this issue specifically. How exciting! Will post updates as that moves along. Here’s some soul food for any of you mind-wanderers wondering what to read about to get a sense of the issue.

Delay of gratification in childhood linked to cortical interactions with the nucleus accumbens

Frontostriatal White Matter Integrity Predicts Development of Delay of Gratification: A Longitudinal Study.

Reduced delay of gratification and effortful control among young children with autism spectrum disorders