I am Bond, James Bond and I know Neuroscience #007 #neuroscience #science #movies #PTSD

Imagine my surprise last night, when I saw a healthy dose of neuroscience specifically neuroanatomy in the latest installment of the #007 franchise. The movie had a limited release last night with it playing at all theaters in America today. The reviews are already out, so I am not in much danger of ruining the plot for anyone, and I will try my best not to.

Enter Fusiform gyrus

Role: Allows Bond’s brain to recognize faces, well, for Bond, the faces of those beautiful Bond women.

Imagine your world if your brain was functioning normally in every aspect except for facial recognition. You don’t recognize anyone and everyone is a stranger to you even though you see them and interact with them.

Fusiform gyrus
Fusiform gyrus

Now, in the movie, a menacing drill goes into Bond’s head, with the evil head of Spectre literally bringing a new meaning to the sentence,” I am the man in your head.” He wanted to punish Bond by taking away his ability to remember faces, a horrible punishment if your memories of people in your life are important to you.

Then again, there are probably some faces you would like to forget, but that has deep implications on moral and ethical level. Other movies that dealt with this subject include Jim Carrey’s Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind.

So, the question is as we get closer each day to understanding the brain at a deeper level is, do we want the ability to control our memories?

It is an important area of research in PTSD, to prevent the harmful effects of really traumatic memories.

The sickening feeling you feel in your stomach when you suddenly see a picture of your ex or someone who hurt you deeply is a physiological reaction coming from the brain because of the association of terrible memories with the image or person.

Traumatic memories whether you would like to admit it or not, do shape us and affect us deeply at our sub conscious level.

Check out this journal article on PTSD research http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11682-015-9444-y

Now, back to the movie :), I cannot tell you if the needle went exactly in the right place or what happens next but do go check out the movie.

Spectre (2015) first show
Spectre (2015) first show

An espresso and neuroscience. #researchsaves

20150924_163545The espresso, smooth if prepared well with just enough bitterness to wake you up to the jolt of energy about to come, once the caffeine molecules start antagonizing the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system.

The antagonistic effect of caffeine on these receptors gives you the ‘energy boost’ your brain is craving. Yes, I used the word craving because caffeine is the most unregulated psychoactive nervous stimulant with respect to the quantities it is consumed at, in the world.

While sipping this beautiful cup of doppio, I came across this article posted in the Journal of Neuro-engineering and Rehabilitation which talks about the possibility of setting up an external interface to help a paralyzed man walk again or gain ‘motor’ control over his lower limbs.

The caffeine boost from the doppio is working and I can feel the effects of the stimulant slashing through the mid-afternoon drowsiness, but there are thousands of people for whom this communication between the central and the peripheral nervous system is broken and by extension, the nerves and the muscles. It is akin to having an engine that sends out a signal but due to a bad transmission, the wheels do not turn or the brakes do not stop.

While spinal cord injury research is ongoing in its attempt to repair a broken nerve or restore the communication, it is easier said than done, however, as my hashtag always says, #researchsaves and a majority of this blog will be devoted to talking about science and its insurmountable role in saving lives.

One interesting approach as pointed out in this paper, is to bypass the broken region in the nervous system by having a brain to computer interface that can receive the signal from the brain and then relay it to the muscle.

Now keep in mind, just because you restore the electrical circuit or connection between the brain and the muscle through this interface, the muscles still need to be conditioned to receive the electrical response and act accordingly.

Who remembers the scene from The Matrix(1999) in which Neo escapes from the matrix for the first time after spending his entire life to that point in a jelly filled cocoon?

He spent a good amount of time in a chamber getting all his muscles conditioned to respond to the neural stimulation from his brain which for the first time was actually reaching his muscles unlike the dream like stage he was in till that point.

The paper points towards promising research which one day I hope can help people who have broken spinal cords or some neural communication problem to be able to gain or regain control of their muscles.

Well, I think I need a recharge, do click on the link in the article to read the paper and feel free to share this article with the hashtag #researchsaves