Friday, March 20, 2009

Brains vs Minds

My Brain on Caffeine

"Well, how can you talk if you haven't got a brain?" she asked.
"I don't know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking." he replied.
excerpt from a conversation between a man of straw and a runaway from Kansas

I once had a Japanese student who was actually from Japan. His father, a fisherman in a small village, had saved enough money for his son to attend an American university. This student was one of the most attentive I have had the privilege to teach. He often stayed after class to ask questions, he would stop me in the library to speak further. If he saw me walking across campus or having coffee in the student center he would make a point to speak to me. He took copious notes, in Japanese. His English was broken, usually aided by a handheld electronic translator. But not everything is translatable. Try explaining the expression 'tongue in cheek' to someone from another culture and language. I even used hand signals and facial expressions, to no avail. (Thank goodness I didn't use the Southern colloquialism 'boogered up'). He was extremely intelligent, and determined to learn, in spite of communication issues. I think he wanted to make his father proud.

Last year I participated in a clinical study conducted by Wake Forest. The researchers were looking for the effects of caffeine on the brain. I drink coffee. Alot. So, I was a good candidate. During the study my brain was scanned 4 times, twice fully loaded with coffee, twice deprived (72 hour caffeine fast prior to scan). My body does not like being deprived of coffee. So, the doctors have images of my brain but none of my mind. It is still being renewed.

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