Poetry repairing damaged nerves, whatever can that mean? A neuroscientist attempting to make the old neuron young again, what do they have in common?
Nothing really as they differ very much in their approach and therein lies the conflict. Or is there really a conflict between one’s spiritual faith and faith in the rigor of science?
“I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door.
I’ve been knocking from the inside.”- Rumi
Karen Cavanaugh, can now walk, well, walk and whirl. An accident six years ago found her waking up in the hospital to the abysmal news that she would never walk again from her team of physicians. The article talks about a verse of poetry that she remembered while in the hospital that lead her to strongly believe that she would be able to walk again. She followed the verse of poetry from the mystical Persian poet Rumi in an attempt to understand more about him and discovered ‘Sufism’, a mystical branch of Islam. Despite the sad prognosis, she is now able to walk and whirl. Click on her name to read the original Huffington post article.
Sunil Gandhi, a neurobiologist and his team, at the University of California Irvine, published a study in the journal The Neuron, that shows the possibility of restoring plasticity to the brain to repair blindness in adult mice. He did this transplanting embryonic GABA inhibitory neurons into the visual cortex of the adult mouse. What is GABA you might ask?
Well, it is a neurotransmitter that is responsible in most cases for inhibitory responses and any neuron whose main output is GABA is known as a GABAergic neuron.
In both stories, the end goal is to get neurons to fire again, to restore the connection that was once lost. For Karen, it was to get her brain to speak again to her legs through the damaged nerves that contain thousands of neurons. She was able to do so through her spiritual faith according to the article.
For Gandhi, he is attempting to restore the ‘plasticity’ of old/damaged neurons by replacing them with young ones to restore the integral network in the visual cortex, thereby restoring visual perception for the adult mouse. He was able to do so, using the best of scientific techniques available to his neurobiology team.
Can you really argue that both people don’t have the same level of faith or belief in what they hold to be true?
Cogito, ergo sum, different directions leading to the same goal. In the end, we are what we believe or think to be true, said Descartes a greek philosopher at a time when religious or spiritual faith and science were both involved in the pursuit of truth.
So, if you are banking on spiritual faith for healing, it is a powerful force and I can’t as a person of science argue against something I cannot see or measure, but, for the rest, rest assured, you have neuroscientists and doctors all working together to figure out what we can’t see deep inside our wonderful brain.