Free Lunch For Life will soon be doing an illustrated series on weird delusions and syndromes. Â There’s a lot that can go wrong with the brain, and I’ve always been fascinated by this. Â Now, this isn’t just multiple personalities or depression. Â There are delusions that affect people by making them think that their loved ones have been invaded by body snatchers. Â Other delusions involve the sufferer denying the ownership of limbs, exploding heads, or the strong belief that they are the living dead. Â Although, some of these illustrations will be humorous, we are (believe it or not) approaching these cases with the utmost respect. Â One of the inspirations for this project is a man that I respect very much.
Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran
Neurologist, Dr. Vilayanur Ramachandran has distinguished himself through his work in the fields of behavioral psychology and psychophysics. Â Ramachandran has a way of being intellectually engaging without coming off as being pedantic. Â His talks and writings are accessible, but you don’t feel like he’s watered anything down for the sake of getting his message across. Â In the Ted Talk video below, he discusses what brain damage can teach us about the roles and connections between different parts of the brain. Â I think his work will continue to bring people to a better understanding of what goes on in the pile of goo we call a brain.
Here is this mass of jelly. Â [A] 3 pound mass of jelly you can hold in the palm of your hand. Â And it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space. Â It can contemplate the meaning of infinity and it can contemplate itself contemplating on the meaning of infinity.
What I found interesting, was his work with patients experiencing phantom limbs. Â Sometimes amputees feel as if the missing limb is still attached to the body (phantom limb). Â It’s hell for many patients because they will feel pain, tingling, itching, clenching, or flailing of the phantom limb among other inconvenient sensations. Â To help alleviate this, Dr. Ramachandran invented a mirror box, a box with two holes side-by-side, and a mirror in the center.
The patient places their hand through one side, and the phantom through the other. Â When they view the mirror from the angle that their hand is in, it tricks their brain into perceiving the reflection as the opposite hand, the phantom. Â When this happens, their pain is relieved temporarily. Â He had a patient take the mirror box home with him to practice, and it was successful in ridding the patient of the phantom limb and accompanying pain. Â However, the patient said that he then had phantom fingers dangling from his shoulder. Â All this, not from something that cost a few million dollars, but from a contraption that took about 3 bucks to make.
Ramachandran’s video is only 23 minutes long. Â Watch it. Â He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.