Freedom, from a neuron’s point of view

August 22, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Like any well-meaning science communicator, I’m on the lookout for new ways to communicate about my favourite topic, neuroscience.

Thalamus small view

The location of the thalamus (in red) in the human brain. Image is by Life Science Databases (LSDB). (CC-BY-SA-2.1-jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)), via Wikimedia Commons.

Images, like the view of the thalamus shown here, look great, but they need words, or a lot of background knowledge, to communicate their meaning.

So it’s back to words. But what kind of words? Well, it’s said that fiction’s a good way of communicating … in some cases anyway!

I’m not too keen on the idea that science is science and should steer well clear of anything that smacks of the humanities. People have quite enough tricks for emphasizing their differences, and feeling superior in consequence, without barricading intellectual endeavours into disciplinary silos. (I know, I know, talk about championing a lost cause!) Besides, neuroscientists are happy to use the visual arts to put their work across, so why not other art forms?

All fiction is in a sense concerned with brains’ activities, but not many authors have tried writing fiction about brains themselves. Pondering this one day, I thought: “Someone should write a short story about brains! I’d read it! Probably.” Then I went back to reading whatever exciting science article had just fallen out of my inbox and onto my to-do list.

Some time later this short story wandered into my brain. It made me smile, so I caught the thing and submitted it to a writing competition (Writers and Artists) on the theme of ‘freedom’, where, to my astonishment, it was short-listed. You can download it as a PDF here (‘Freedom’, by Neurotaylor). I’m posting it on this blog as an exercise in alternative methods of science communication.

And If you know of any great fiction about brains themselves, let me know.

Here’s the story, set out as a taster so the post isn’t too long. The whole thing’s around 2000 words.

***********************************************************************************

Freedom

Alright mate? You on the tour? Welcome to the department. I’m Alfie.

Ever been inside a brain before? No? That’s unusual, not many people start their visit here.

Fully booked, eh? Don’t apologise, mate, we’re used to it. People wanna see the bits they’ve heard of. It’s all, “Ooh, can we go to the prefrontal cortex?”, like that’s the only department that matters. I tell you, mate, without us those guys in prefrontal would be twiddling their dendrites and rotting.

Yeah, they don’t half play up to it though. You’ll see ’em later. All that, “Oh yes, it’s a great responsibility”, and banging on about their dopamine levels, as if the rest of us never get a sniff of dopamine. They don’t half try it on, that lot. They’re just passing messages, same as the rest of us.

Load of posers, if you ask me. Don’t tell ’em I said that.

Anyway, welcome to the Thalamus Department. Here in the LGN section –

[read on Continue Reading Freedom, from a neuron’s point of view…

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