Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Hey, Nice Split-Brain. Can I buy you dinner?"

A lot of months ago - it was April, to be exact - I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a trail study.

The clinical trial is one that's looking into a new kind of MRI. This new scan is non-invasive and can show 257 aspects of the brain's functioning. It can give great insight into how neurons are firing and how fibers are tracking after a traumatic brain injury... which can have huge implications for treatment and care.

Its called High Definition Fiber Tracking, HDFT for short (or sometimes it goes by the slang term 'woah that girl's brain is stunning!')

I framed one of the photos because,
did you have any idea I was so good looking inside?

Here is an article on some of the breakthrough work being done with HDFT, and I must say, I'm a huge fan of Dr Okonkwo.

While the thick packet of results was a bit disheartening, I had to remind myself, this is still a study and the brain is still an enigma. I have parts that are severed and very much broken. However, after getting clothes-lined out of a cattle car, I'm not shocked to see that there's damage.

It doesn't mean my brain hasn't or won't find new pathways. So I've decided to take the results not as a sentencing, but as this: fascinating and beautiful and full of potential.

the pictures are hard to understand,
but here is one of my broken parts you might be able to see...
my corpus callosum (the thing down the middle, allowing left and right to communicate) 
was torn in places and you can detect this by how the red strip in the center is short,
it doesn't extend fully to the top or bottom
(its cool, I'll just add a case of the ol' split brain to my long list of things).

There's a song by Frou Frou called "Let Go" and we listened to it on repeat junior year of college. In the lyrics they say "There's beauty in the breakdown." and for some reason that keeps coming to me when I see these lovely photographs. 

I'm sure if you had your head checked out by the new-fangled HDFT it would look nice, but I'm choosing to believe mine is just tops. Mostly because of the damage... because the sheering and the gaps that say to me yet again "I shouldn't be here - taking in air and looking at my own, gorgeous, messed-up brain - but I am. I'm here. And there's beauty in that breakdown." 


  1. Your broken brain is beautiful, my friend. And I continue to be at a loss for words to describe how thankful I am that it's still with us here on earth.

  2. Emily, this is SO COOL -- one of my good friends at UPMC handles all the media for high-definition fiber tracking, and I've had a chance to meet some of these doctors and researchers -- they do incredible work. Those images of your brain are absolutely gorgeous, and the fact that they can track these things makes me hopeful that they can fix these things eventually too :) You're right about that damage though -- its a good indication of just how amazing it is that you're here.

  3. I'm pretty sure that this is your brain on drugs. Probably acid.

  4. You ARE beautiful inside!