Playing music requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision (which the left hemisphere is more involved in) with the novel and creative content (that the right hemisphere excels in). For these reasons, playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum - the bridge between the two hemispheres - allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. 

From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

2

Despite what you’ve been told, you aren’t ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’

The brain is more complex than corporate team-building exercises suggest, but the myth is unlikely to die anytime soon

From self-help and business success books to job applications and smartphone apps, the theory that the different halves of the human brain govern different skills and personality traits is a popular one. No doubt at some point in your life you’ve been schooled on “left-brained” and “right-brained” thinking – that people who use the right side of their brains most are more creative, spontaneous and subjective, while those who tap the left side more are more logical, detail-oriented and analytical.

Too bad it’s not true.

In a new two-year study published in the journal Plos One, University of Utah neuroscientists scanned the brains of more than 1,000 people, ages 7 to 29, while they were lying quietly or reading, measuring their functional lateralization – the specific mental processes taking place on each side of the brain. They broke the brain into 7,000 regions, and while they did uncover patterns for why a brain connection might be strongly left or right-lateralized, they found no evidence that the study participants had a stronger left or right-sided brain network.

Jeff Anderson, the study’s lead author and a professor of neuroradiology at the University of Utah says:

It’s absolutely true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain, language tends to be on the left, attention more on the right.

But the brain isn’t as clear-cut as the myth makes it out to be. For example, the right hemisphere is involved in processing some aspects of language, such as intonation and emphasis.

How, then, did the left-brained/right-brained theory take root? Experts suggest the myth dates back to the 1800s, when scientists discovered that an injury to one side of the brain caused a loss of specific abilities. The concept gained ground in the 1960s based on Nobel-prize-winning ”split-brain” work by neuropsychologists Robert Sperry, and Michael Gazzaniga. The researchers conducted studies with patients who had undergone surgery to cut the corpus callosum – the band of neural fibers that connect the hemispheres – as a last-resort treatment for epilepsy. They discovered that when the two sides of the brain weren’t able to communicate with each other, they responded differently to stimuli, indicating that the hemispheres have different functions.

Both of these bodies of research tout findings related to function; it was popular psychology enthusiasts who undoubtedly took this work a step further and pegged personality types to brain hemispheres.

According to Anderson:

The neuroscience community has never accepted the idea of ‘left-dominant’ or ‘right-dominant’ personality types. Lesion studies don’t support it, and the truth is that it would be highly inefficient for one half of the brain to consistently be more active than the other.

Yet, despite Anderson’s work and other studies that continue to disprove the idea that personality type is related to one or the other side of the brain being stronger, my guess is that the left-brained/right-brained vernacular isn’t going away anytime soon. Human society is built around categories, classifications and generalizations, and there’s something seductively simple about labeling yourself and others as either a logical left-brainer or a free-spirited right brainer.

Similar to the Myers-Briggs test – another widely used personality test with limited scientific evidence – the left-brained/right-brained thinker theory provides us with an explanation for why we are the way we are, and offers insights into where we fit into the world. It’s also a great conversation starter – and if used as a novelty, or a way to strengthen the “weaker half” of your brain, the myth is pretty harmless.

The problems start, however, when the left-brained/right-brained myth becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When your 12-year-old fills out an online personality test that pegs her as a “right-brainer” and she decides to skip her math homework – because the test told her she isn’t good with numbers – the persistence of this false dichotomy starts to become destructive. The same goes for the unemployed worker who forgoes applying for their dream job because the job description calls for creativity skills they think they may not have.

What research has yet to refute is the fact that the brain is remarkably malleable, even into late adulthood. It has an amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells, allowing us to continually learn new things and modify our behavior. Let’s not underestimate our potential by allowing a simplistic myth to obscure the complexity of how our brains really work.

Vault of the Skull Opened, Showing the Falx Cerebri and Tentorum

The falx cerebri is a strongly-arched section of dura mater which separates the two hemispheres of the brain. Combined with the tentorum ceribelli, it supports and separates the primary sections of the brain (cerebellum, right cerebrum, and left cerebrum). The large open section in the center of the meningeal conjugation is where the corpus callosum passes from one hemisphere of the brain to another.

Applied Anatomy. Gwilym Davis, translated by Erwin Faber, 1910.

2

Einstein’s Corpus Callosum Explains His Genius-Level Intellect

Einstein was undoubtedly one of the most influential physicists of all time, advancing concepts in quantum physics and gaining enormous notoriety for his theory of relativity. Einstein was also a keen philosopher, proclaiming that “… independence by philosophical insight is… the mark of distinction between mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker of truth.

It comes as no surprise that Einstein’s brain appears physiologically distinct from that of the average individual. A recent study has sought to explain the man’s genius-level intellect, in part, based a difference in a structure called the corpus callosum.

Einstein’s Autopsied Brain

Many have attempted to understand what inspired the German-born prodigy. A pathologist, named Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey, working at Princeton University, even attempted to establish whether there was a physiological trait that could explain the inner workings of Einstein’s extraordinary mind.

Einstein died from internal bleeding, following a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. In 1955, Harvey, who was responsible for conducting Einstein’s autopsy, removed his subject’s brain, without requesting the permission of his family. Harvey then preserved Einstein’s brain in formalin, before snapping a vast number of photographs. After documenting the details of the specimen, he carved it up into approximately 240 individual sections, with the principal ambition of allowing the scientific community to research what made Einstein so truly remarkable.

Harvey retained his photographs to write a book, which he was never able to finish. Following Harvey’s demise, his family decided to donate the images to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, during 2010.

Decades after Einstein’s departure, it seems scientists are finally able to figure out the mysteries of the great man’s brain.

The Corpus Callosum Study

The latest research study, entitled The Corpus Callosum of Albert Einstein’s Brain: Another Clue to His High Intelligence, was published in the research journal Brain.

The study demonstrated that the association between the left and right hemispheres of Einstein’s brain were atypical, with enhanced connection between these two parts. Evolutionary Anthropologist, Dean Falk, of Florida State University, collaborated on the project. Falk explains how the study offers greater insight into the illustrious physicist’s brain, improving upon prior research studies.

The part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres of the brain is known as the corpus callosum (A.K.A. the colossal commissure), a bundle of neuronal fibers that sits beneath the cerebral cortex, uniting the two hemispheres in the brains of higher order mammals.

The study, which was led by Weiwei Men of East China Normal University, managed to establish a novel technique to explore the “internal connectivity” of Einstein’s corpus callosum, for the very first time.

Using their new method, the team were able to determine the relative thickness of various subdivisions throughout length of the corpus callosum. These differences in thickness were then color-coded to provide the research group with an approximation for the number of neurons stretching between the left and rights hemispheres; a thicker corpus callosum suggests there to be a greater number of neurons.

In addition, different regions of the corpus callosum are implicated in specialist functions. For example, neurons situated at the front of this interlinking region of the brain are involved in movement of hands, whilst neurons running along its posterior are thought to be implicated in mental arithmetic.

The researchers applied their technique to compare Einstein’s corpus callosum to two sample groups, including one group of over a dozen elderly men, and another group of 52 men that were Einstein’s age in 1905. 1905 was a pivotal year in Albert Einstein’s life, publishing seminal articles on Brownian motion, the special theory of relativity, the photoelectric effect, as well as work that yielded the renowned E = mc2 formula.

Following their study, the researchers concluded that Einstein’s brain demonstrated more extensive connections at particular points along the corpus callosum. The team suggest this could, at least partially, explain some of Einstein’s supreme intellectual abilities.

Other Studies

Falk and his colleagues had investigated Einstein’s brain on a previous occasion, in 2012. Simply through analysis of Harvey’s autopsy photographs, the team were able to visibly identify features of Einstein’s brain that could be fundamental to the man’s intellect. They found greater intricacy and convolution patterns across certain regions of his brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex, the visual cortex and the parietal lobes.

The prefrontal cortex is critical to abstract thinking, decision-making and expression of personality traits, whilst the parietal lobe is involved in sense and motor function. Intriguingly, Falk’s group found that the somatosensory cortex, which receives sensory input information, was also increased in magnitude in an area that corresponded to his left hand. As Einstein was an avid violinist, after having been inspired by a number of Mozart’s pieces at age 13, the group drew a correlation between this enlarged cortical region and his musical aptitude.

According to Live Science, Sandra Witelson, a scientist based at McMaster University, who has performed prior studies into Einstein’s brain, explained the physiological difference in the physicist’s neural tissue:

“It’s not just that it’s bigger or smaller, it’s that the actual pattern is different… His anatomy is unique compared to every other photograph or drawing of a human brain that has ever been recorded.”

Marion C. Diamond and colleagues, working at the University of California, published an article in 1985, called on the brain of a scientist: Albert Einstein. Fascinatingly, after performing microscopic cell counts, they found Einstein had an exceedingly high ratio of glial cells (a non-neuronal support cell) to regular neuronal cells, in two parts of his brain.

It seems that Albert Einstein’s thicker corpus callosum may have been partly responsible for his genius-level intellect. However, it is likely that a combination of physiological factors played a part shaping the enigmatic theoretical physicist. The question is, will there ever be another extraordinary mind like Einstein’s?

Well-connected hemispheres of Einstein’s brain may have sparked brilliance

The left and right hemispheres of Albert Einstein’s brain were unusually well connected to each other and may have contributed to his brilliance, according to a new study conducted in part by Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk.

"This study, more than any other to date, really gets at the ‘inside’ of Einstein’s brain," Falk said. "It provides new information that helps make sense of what is known about the surface of Einstein’s brain."

The study, “The Corpus Callosum of Albert Einstein’s Brain: Another Clue to His High Intelligence,” was published in the journal Brain. Lead author Weiwei Men of East China Normal University’s Department of Physics developed a new technique to conduct the study, which is the first to detail Einstein’s corpus callosum, the brain’s largest bundle of fibers that connects the two cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication.

"This technique should be of interest to other researchers who study the brain’s all-important internal connectivity," Falk said.

Men’s technique measures and color-codes the varying thicknesses of subdivisions of the corpus callosum along its length, where nerves cross from one side of the brain to the other. These thicknesses indicate the number of nerves that cross and therefore how “connected” the two sides of the brain are in particular regions, which facilitate different functions depending on where the fibers cross along the length. For example, movement of the hands is represented toward the front and mental arithmetic along the back.

In particular, this new technique permitted registration and comparison of Einstein’s measurements with those of two samples — one of 15 elderly men and one of 52 men Einstein’s age in 1905. During his so-called “miracle year” at 26 years old, Einstein published four articles that contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics and changed the world’s views about space, time, mass and energy.

The research team’s findings show that Einstein had more extensive connections between certain parts of his cerebral hemispheres compared to both younger and older control groups.

The research of Einstein’s corpus callosum was initiated by Men, who requested the high-resolution photographs that Falk and other researchers published in 2012 of the inside surfaces of the two halves of Einstein’s brain. In addition to Men, the current research team included Falk, who served as second author; Tao Sun of the Washington University School of Medicine; and, from East China Normal University’s Department of Physics, Weibo Chen, Jianqi Li, Dazhi Yin, Lili Zang and Mingxia Fan.

(Image: National Museum of Health and Medicine)

2

The corpus callosum is a thick band of nerve fibers that divides the cerebrum into left and right hemispheres. It connects the left and right sides of the brain allowing for communication between both hemispheres. The corpus callosum transfers motor, sensory, and cognitive information between the brain hemispheres.

Function:

The corpus callosum is involved in several functions of the body including:

  • Communication Between Brain Hemispheres
  • Eye Movement
  • Maintaining the Balance of Arousal and Attention
  • Tactile Localization

Title: Starvation Diary No 2
Author: callosum
Pairing(s) or No Pairing: Zoro and Sanji nakamaship
Rating: T
Genre: Friendship/Angst
Complete/Ongoing: Complete
Oneshot/Multi-Chapter: Multi-chapter
Summary: Sanji’s worst nightmare comes true, but this time the Straw Hats won’t let their nakama bear it alone. Sanji/Everyone nakamaship. Sanji’s POV. Set post-Impel Down, in the New World. Complete!
Review: Usually, we see more in fics the consequences of Sanji’s time starving when he was young – his way of not letting anyone stay hungry –, but in this one we see how he’d deal with it happening once again, this time when he’s responsible of feeding his nakama. Sanji’s reactions are pretty spot on and the way the others act too. Zoro may be the other main character of the fic, but all the strawhats appear a lot and gain some focus. It’s really well developed and written, so it’s pretty good to read it. 

Links: FF.net

2

Alternative pathways let right and left communicate in early split brains

Humans who lack the corpus callosum, a bundle of 200 million fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain, have long fascinated physicians, neuroscientists and other curious minds. Now, a group of researchers puts an end to the Sperry’s paradox, which describes major differences between individuals born with reduced or absent brain connections and those who acquire this condition later in life.

During the last century, many patients have undergone a variety of brain surgeries in an attempt to alleviate all sorts of psychiatric maladies, from hysteria and depression (mainly in women) to schizophrenia and epilepsy. Early on, doctors believed that psychiatric patients suffered from aberrant wiring among different brain areas and that cutting the connections between these areas would help patients regain normal brain circuits as well as their mental health. For instance, since the 1940s, several patients with intractable epilepsy have been treated with callosotomy, a surgical procedure that severs part or most of the corpus callosum. Curiously, some individuals are already born without the corpus callosum, a condition known as callosal dysgenesis (CD).

In 1968, the neurobiologist Roger Sperry confirmed that both callosotomized and CD patients have either absent or massively diminished connections between brain hemispheres. However, these two types of patients show a paradoxical difference concerning the transfer of information between the two sides of their brains. While typical callosotomized patients suffer from a disconnection syndrome in which there is minor or no communication between the left and right brain hemispheres, in CD patients, the two hemispheres are in fact able to communicate with each other.

For instance, when an unseen object is held in the right hand and thus recognized by the left hemisphere, both callosotomized and CD individuals can easily name that object verbally, because it is the left hemisphere that most often dominates verbal language. However, when an object is held in the left hand and thus recognized by the right hemisphere, callosotomized patients fail to verbally name the object because the missing corpus callosum prevents the right hemisphere from communicating with theleft hemisphere. Conversely, CD patients have no difficulties in naming an unseen object regardless of the hand holding it.

The observation that the corpus callosum is the main connector between brain hemispheres earned Roger Sperry the Nobel Prize in 1981, but his own paradoxical discovery that CD patients do not present the classical disconnection syndrome observed in callosotomized patients remained unexplained until now.

In an article entitled “Structural and functional brain rewiring clarifies preserved inter-hemisphere transfer in humans born without the corpus callosum” and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a group of scientists from Rio de Janeiro and Oxford puts an end to Sperry’s paradox.

Previous work had led to the hypothesis that a defect in callosal formation would cause the brains of CD patients to create alternative pathways early on in life, but little was known about these potential pathways. The group led by Fernanda Tovar-Moll and Roberto Lent at the D’Or Institute for Research and Education and the Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, tested the brains of patients with CD using state of the art functional neuroimaging methods. The researchers were able to identify, morphologically describe and establish the function of two alternative pathways that help compensate for the lack of the corpus callosum. These pathways enable the transfer of complex tactile information between hemispheres, an ability missing in surgically callosotomized patients. Furthermore, by comparing six CD patients with 12 normal individuals, the group was able to demonstrate that CD patients present tactile recognition abilities similar to those observed in controls, indicating a functional role for these newly discovered brain pathways.

The authors believe that the development of alternative pathways results from the brain’s ability for long-distance plasticity and occurs in the utero during embryo development, which indicates that connections formed in the human brain early in development can be greatly modified, and most likely by environmental or genetic factors.

These findings will change the way we perceive the mechanisms of brain plasticity and may pave the way for a better understanding of a number of human disorders resulting from abnormal neuronal connections during embryonic development.

The split brain: A tale of two halves

In the first months after her surgery, shopping for groceries was infuriating. Standing in the supermarket aisle, Vicki would look at an item on the shelf and know that she wanted to place it in her trolley — but she couldn’t. “I’d reach with my right for the thing I wanted, but the left would come in and they’d kind of fight,” she says. “Almost like repelling magnets.” Picking out food for the week was a two-, sometimes three-hour ordeal. Getting dressed posed a similar challenge: Vicki couldn’t reconcile what she wanted to put on with what her hands were doing. Sometimes she ended up wearing three outfits at once. “I’d have to dump all the clothes on the bed, catch my breath and start again.”

In one crucial way, however, Vicki was better than her pre-surgery self. She was no longer racked by epileptic seizures that were so severe they had made her life close to unbearable. She once collapsed onto the bar of an old-fashioned oven, burning and scarring her back. “I really just couldn’t function,” she says. When, in 1978, her neurologist told her about a radical but dangerous surgery that might help, she barely hesitated. If the worst were to happen, she knew that her parents would take care of her young daughter. “But of course I worried,” she says. “When you get your brain split, it doesn’t grow back together.”

In June 1979, in a procedure that lasted nearly 10 hours, doctors created a firebreak to contain Vicki’s seizures by slicing through her corpus callosum, the bundle of neuronal fibres connecting the two sides of her brain. This drastic procedure, called a corpus callosotomy, disconnects the two sides of the neocortex, the home of language, conscious thought and movement control. Vicki’s supermarket predicament was the consequence of a brain that behaved in some ways as if it were two separate minds.

After about a year, Vicki’s difficulties abated. “I could get things together,” she says. For the most part she was herself: slicing vegetables, tying her shoe laces, playing cards, even waterskiing.

But what Vicki could never have known was that her surgery would turn her into an accidental superstar of neuroscience. She is one of fewer than a dozen ‘split-brain’ patients, whose brains and behaviours have been subject to countless hours of experiments, hundreds of scientific papers, and references in just about every psychology textbook of the past generation. And now their numbers are dwindling.

Through studies of this group, neuroscientists now know that the healthy brain can look like two markedly different machines, cabled together and exchanging a torrent of data. But when the primary cable is severed, information — a word, an object, a picture — presented to one hemisphere goes unnoticed in the other. Michael Gazzaniga, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the godfather of modern split-brain science, says that even after working with these patients for five decades, he still finds it thrilling to observe the disconnection effects first-hand. “You see a split-brain patient just doing a standard thing — you show him an image and he can’t say what it is. But he can pull that same object out of a grab-bag,” Gazzaniga says. “Your heart just races!”

Continue reading

Corpus Callosum

Unlike a great deal of you who have probably been waiting with bated breath for this book, I had no idea what I was delving into when I opened it. And I must say I was very impressed with what I found.

It is novels like this that remind me that women invented science fiction. That we were the first to birth these worlds of the probably improbable and put them into words.

Corpus Callosum is a story of life and death and the space that lies between. It follows a young woman named Jeanette and her sister, Joey, recently deceased. But kept to live on forever in a box that holds all her memory and personality in code. An imperfect chassis.

The thing that strikes me so deeply about this work is that it manages to exist where not very many writers of this genre place their stories. Usually in fiction that deals with the future, the created world and its technology have been nearly perfected. Any glitches or anomalies are rare and no one expects them. Corpus Callosum, on the other hand, is The Future: Version 1.0. The test run. Where technology hasn’t yet caught up to the majesty of the human mind and perfection is just a goal on a sheet of paper. 

Each moment spent with the sisters pulls you between the pedestrian goings on of every day life— like visiting family and reminiscing with friends and having a shag with an attractive man— and the horrifying repercussions of the second type of life that this future world offers. 

I enjoyed every second boxed up in the mind of Joey, and felt her resentment, fear and anger just as harshly as my own.

If you’re familiar with the discussions regarding AI, chassis, robotics, and the like, or looking for a compelling read I’d definitely give it a look.

Corpus Callosum is available free to tumblr users as a downloadable file: Here

But I’d also hop on over to Amazon to support Erika D. Price and leave a review. 

Corpus Callosum XXIX

image

In college, Joey picked classes like fruit from bulging trees. Her major was Undecided for years as she plucked off credits in sculpture, botany, photography, ethnography, welding, physical education.

It wasn’t flightiness; she bore deeply into each pursuit, dug a fresh groove in her brain where the knowledge from each discipline stayed forever.Her grades were high. She worked her hands to calluses, muddied them, taught them a bevy of skills. Jeanette worried she would never find a proper home. 

"I am home," she would say. Her kitchen table was covered in modeling toothpicks, architectural models, dried nubs of clay, and plants she was in the process of repotting. 

When she graduated (after shaping her many credits into a degree in general education), firefighting was the obvious choice. She needed to be on her feet, but she didn’t have the stomach to be an EMT or the amorality to be a cop. Teaching itself was obviously out of the question. Jeanette, who’d been out of school for a year by then, made her sister a LinkedIn profile and began forwarding job announcements, all of which set Joey’s teeth on edge. In the end she didn’t need to seek a job out. She was called.

One day, she was walking home from the gym and spotted a fellow runner slipping into the doors of a firehouse. From outside, Jeanette watched the firefighters high-five and stride carelessly into their kitchen. Dogs and cats and bulky uniforms were strewn everywhere. There was a flyer pasted on the window, advertising job openings. Simple as that. Joey passed the physical on the first try. 

Joey’s sister wanted her to have ambition.

 ”Firefighting is a part-time gig,” she said.

All that free time Joey had, slothing on the firehouse couch, staring at the ceiling and spinning records— couldn’t she apply that time to a career? 

"I’m doing what I want already," Joey said with a shrug. "It’s taken care of." 

"But don’t you want to feel some sense of…accomplishment?" 

Joey couldn’t explain it to her. She carried a child in her arms through the blazes. Doused a historical home and preserved its centuries-old wood and its thick, musty rugs. She’d taken a frail, elderly woman across a chasm of broken stairs, in a gloriously dilapidated factory the woman called home. There was accomplishment in all of it.

And there was accomplishment lingering in the hours of firehouse camaraderie, too. In the wasted hours spent driving to meet police at the site of 911 calls, many of which required no firefighting at all. There was accomplishment in the gentle gestures, like holding an oxygen mask to a gunshot victim’s face, or wrapping a car accident victim in a metallic blanket that crinkled in her hands. There was accomplishment in filling the animals’ food bowls, in dusting soot from her hair. In replacing the thick, python-like fire hoses with her callused hands. Every moment of it felt productive, sacred. 

Jeanette’s idea of excitement was standing on the outside of a stifled fire, in the safety of the sprinkled grass, a pen in her hand. Perhaps in telling people about the destruction she had seen, but only long after the flames had cooled and the more gruesomely damaged victims had been ferreted away. She wanted to be a witness, not a victim or a rescuer. 

Writers were like that. They wanted the story of the conflagration without having to sweat. They were better at describing it than living it. Whenever Joey tried to describe a firefight her words got ahead of her, lost suspense as she tumbled over-eagerly into the conclusion. Often she let Jeanette tell people her stories instead.

“Jeanette, tell them about the explosion in Skokie,” she’d say. Or, “There was a forest fire near the conservatory…Jeanette, go ahead.”  

"What are you gonna do when you’re old?" Jeanette asked once. They were at the park, stretching after a run along the lake. Joey’s knees were popping sonorously. 

"I’ll keep fighting as long as I can," Joey said. "Then I’ll ride the desk. Maybe train new recruits." 

Jeanette tensed her glutes and lowered, arms out and straight. “That’s the trajectory, huh.” 

"Yup." 

It wasn’t like Jeanette’s writing career was bubbling up, either. Writing for her college newspaper had turned into a post-graduate job selling classified ads. That turned into a job editing and formatting the classifieds for the city’s second most popular free alternative mag, which itself turned into a job writing ad copy for an agency Joey’d never heard of. When asked how she liked the gig, Jeanette simply replied that the people were nice. 

Joey watched her sister’s ass start to spread. Purplish marks began clinging to the skin under her eyes. The changes were subtle enough that Joey wondered if she’d imagined them.  Even still, it made her own future of “riding the desk” all the more portentous. 

Joey lived for the tactile. She loved the sense of her body strengthening and bounding into productive use. Nothing topped the severe ache she got at the end of the work day. When she was called into a burning building, weighed down with protective gear and equipment, the heat licking her face and neck, pluming slowly into her throat, she was happy. It felt for once like every cell in her body was being put to use, activated, tingling with energy and purpose. 

————

As she climbed the stairs, batting away the falling embers and chunks of cinder, Joey could hardly distinguish the heat of the flames from the burn of strenuous effort. She threw a leg over the side of the rails, dodged a pile of smoking wood and plaster, and pushed forward, up the stairs. There was an old woman and a toddler on the ninth floor, too weak to rescue themselves.

All Joey’s attention was focused on the moment. Her breath rushed and fogged up her mask as she hurled her body up, two or three stairs at a time, her gloved arms tucked in, pumping. She thought only of her body’s swift, tight movements up the stairs, and of the flames she had to dodge, and of the people above her, waiting for their salvation.

The debris rained down on her in greater and greater amounts, and smoke clouded her vision. Joey could hear the clatter of the other firefighters’ boots, and of their yelling, and of something panicked coming from her walkie talkie. It was all a din in the back of her mind. 

She was past the seventh floor and halfway to the next landing. Her pulse was snaking blood into her neck and temples at a rapid, but sustainable pace. There was a great sound of something crumbling, and Joey couldn’t see any more, and it grew hotter. 

Her lungs flooded with smoke and she stumbled. It was important, in such moments, not to lose control. Joey pushed past the dizzy feeling and moved toward the people who needed her. She liked to picture the people she needed to rescue, especially when her body began to flag. 

Her mind called forth a sweet-faced and grandmotherly woman, the likes of which Joey had never known firsthand. She pushed forward. Sweat pooled from every pore and seemed to almost bubble on her skin. 

It was the eighth floor that collapsed onto her. It came in several massive planks, smoldering with heat. Joey was immobilized and struck on the head, but not incapacitated. She saw the flames and detritus rain down, an orange hail marred with blackness. The pain pierced every cell, filled her with heat until they burst and ran, fluid pouring out of her and turning hot, becoming part of the fire itself. 

The smoke brought sweet release from the scalding, mind-searing pain. It licked at Joey’s nostrils and slunk into her chest, bubbling her insides, fusing her organs into one another. She went to touch her face and found nothing there. She approached her destruction with a dull, almost academic remove. Huh. This is what it feels like to be burned alive.

She tried to hold onto the accumulating facts as long as she could, studying the sounds and putrid smells of her body burning and coming apart. But soon the smoke overtook her, and delivered her into a detached slumber the likes of which she had never known before, and would never escape. 

————

Read from the beginning.

Kim Peek, The Real Rain Man

Kim Peek, who lent inspiration to the fictional character Raymond Babbitt—played by Dustin Hoffman—in the movie Rain Man, was a remarkable savant. A savant is an individual who—with little or no apparent effort—completes intellectual tasks that would be impossible for ordinary people to master.

Kim Peek’s special abilities started early, around the age of a year and a half. He could read both pages of an open book at once, one page with one eye and the other with the other eye. This style of reading continued until his dead in 2009. His reading comprehension was impressive. He would retain 98 percent of the information he read. Since he spent most of his days in the library with his dad, he quickly made it through thousands of books, encyclopedia and maps. He could read a thick book in an hour and remember just about anything in it. Because he could quickly absorb loads of information and recall it when necessary, his condition made him a living encyclopedia and a walking GPS. He could provide driving directions between almost any two cities in the world. He could also do calendar calculations (“which day was June 15, 1632?”) and remember old baseball scores and a vast amount of musical, historical and political facts. His memory abilities were astounding.

Unlike many individuals with savant syndrome, Kim Peek was not afflicted with autistic spectrum disorder. Though he was strongly introverted, he did not have difficulties with social understanding and communication. The main cause of his remarkable abilities seems to have been the lack of connections between his brain’s two hemispheres. An MRI scan revealed an absence of the corpus callosum, the anterior commissure and the hippocampal commissure, the parts of the neurological system that transfer information between hemispheres. In some sense Kim was a natural born split-brain patient.

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I was tagged by commonplacerfollowshisbrush.

1. Always post the rules
2. Answer the questions given to you
3. Write eleven new questions and tag eleven people to answer them next and remember to tell them you did
4. Don’t change the rules!

1. Would you like to be famous? For what? It would be cool to be a famous musician or writer.

2. We all have stories we tell over and over, so what are the stories you love to tell? Will you share one with me? Hmm, I’m not very good at telling stories… I will tell you about how I came to realize I was an introvert. In like grade 1, I belonged to this club of popular girls. We called it “The Peacekeepers’ Club”, and we would go around breaking up fights on the playground. One day my best friend got into a fight with the other girls and quit the club. I quit with her. Later on she went back to the club, and I tried to get back in too, but they wouldn’t let me. So I went walking around the playground by myself, making up stories in my head, and I realized I was much more comfortable doing this than playing with other kids. I remember, too, that I tried making stories about unicorns and fairies and things girls are “supposed” to like, but I had no interest in these things. I just cared about human relationships and drama.

3. What do people need to know about you before you consider letting them into your inner circle of close friends? I don’t really “consider letting people in”, it just happens when I find I can talk to someone at length about spiritual matters or my emotional life.

4. When you first encountered my Tumblr, what did you think of me? Has that changed much (or at all)? Welllll, I first encountered you on LiveJournal, like…4 and a half years ago. (Wow!) I thought you were nerdy, clever, interesting, respectable… Yeah. Hasn’t really changed.

5. What do you geek out about? The Myers-Briggs

6. Cats? Yes please!

7. Will you please tell me something you don’t usually tell others? I really like my own bodily smells, idk.

8. Will you please tell me something you love about yourself? My open-mindedness and honesty.

9. Do you have a favorite book? What is it? Why? Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour, An Introduction, By J.D. Salinger. Because I love his humour and lovingness, it’s just perfect.

10. How have you changed as a result of your time on Tumblr? Yes, definitely. I have learned so much and met so many good people, and had many good discussions on this site.

11. Do you have a favorite word or phrase? What is it? Why? Do names count? I really love the name Timothy. If I ever have a child, that is what I will name them.

M’kay, I’m tagging absurdreverie, pukingmercury, ashieyuxea, corpus—callosum, nobleghosts, wildnessliesinwait, rivyrxial, deep-meaningful-url, neelathamara, sunorphan, and progenyofpenitence.

Here are your questions:

1. Do you like your name? If not, what would you like it to be?

2. What song has been stuck in your head lately?

3. What is your favourite candy?

4. Do you prefer small towns or big cities?

5. Do you ever want to have children?

6. Do you have/want any tattoos? Of what?

7. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

8. What is your favourite fragrance?

9. What was the last book you read?

10. What is your favourite item of clothing that you own?

11. Do you have the heart of a child or the soul of a sage?

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