A preening fish, a boy making waves, and other oddities of consciousness

An eclectic selection of pieces on consciousness, cognition, and brain injury

For years, I’ve been collecting articles that have fascinated (and distracted­) me–from the web, by email, and in newspapers. The ones I chose here are a mixed-bag, on a variety of subjects, and among my favorites. Enjoy!

Brain Injury and the Civil Right We Don’t Think About
Joseph J. Fins, The New York Times

“We now can anticipate that there are large numbers of people…who have the potential to communicate but are sequestered — indeed, segregated — in chronic care, isolated and abandoned by society.” (Fins, J.J.) See also:

Joseph J. Fins’ Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics and the Struggle for Consciousness
Arthur L. Caplan, Ph.D, Book review in Cerebrum

Rights Come to Mind is a wonderful book; perhaps the best book ever to emerge from the young field of neuroethics…. Like any provocative book, Fins’ work offers plenty to argue about…. I may well be wrong, but without this thoughtful, compassionate, and principled book, I would never have realized my obligation to worry about who is right.” (Caplan, A.L.)

The First Concussion Crisis: Head Injury and Evidence in Early American Football
E.M. Harrison, SM. American Journal of Public Health.

“The present Rugby game of football as played in this country is a very risky pastime, carrying nearly the same risk that a soldier [assumes] on the battle field. (1893, The New York Times)

Fish Have Feelings, Too: The Inner Lives Of Our “Underwater Cousins.”
Interview with Jonathan Balcombe by Terry Gross, NPR Fresh Air

“In his new bookBalcombe presents evidence that fish have a conscious awareness–or ‘sentience’–that allows them to experience pain, recognize individual humans and have memory.” (Gross, T.)

For the Boy Who Makes Waves
Joe Blair. The New York Times

“Can I, being alive at this time, love this boy? Can I listen to him? Can I be a good father to this boy?” (Blair, J.)

Science of Time: What makes our internal clock tick?
Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times

The interval of time that we perceive as now, “may help explain why attention might be the most important — and most fragile — part of our internal clocks.” (Healy, M.) It is also most likely to be altered by neurological illness or brain injury.

This Is Your Brain on Silence: Contrary to popular belief, peace and quiet is all about the noise in your head
Daniel A. Gross. Nautilus

“Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, it appears, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence.” (Gross, D.A.)

Striking a nerve: TBI up close and personal
Maria Romanas, MedPage Today

“A physician who suffered a severe head injury as a teenager pleads for a new approach to treatment and rehabilitation.” (Gever, J., MedPage Today)

Becoming Disabled: Roughly one in five Americans live with a disability. So where is our pride movement?

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, The New York Times

“Becoming disabled means moving from isolation to community, from ignorance to knowledge about who we are, from exclusion to access, and from shame to pride.” (Garland-Thomson, R.)

Last, but not least…

I am compelled to include this book by A.R. Luria, the “most significant and fertile neuropsychologist of his time.” (Oliver Sacks, from the Foreword). Luria was a prolific scholar and author of “classical science,” but this book is something else. It is, in his words, “romantic science”–the living reality of one patient, a soldier returning from World War II with severe brain injury.

The Man with a Shattered World: The History of a Brain Wound, by A. R. Luria

“It is a remarkable document, affecting in its simplicity, its pain, its inexorable determination.”  – Time

“The product of…two remarkable men, one a world authority on the brain, the other his unfortunate brain-damaged patient…a fascinating and valuable review of the strange but precise working of the brain for both the general reader and the scientist.”  – Library Journal

“Science became poetry.”  – Oliver Sacks