photographs on the brain



“The Thatcher Effect, also known as the Thatcher illusion, illustrates that the brain can’t properly process a photo of a face that is upside down. The interesting part is that the brain thinks it can so you get a confident feeling that everything is alright, until you turn it over.”(

“The Thatcher effect or Thatcher illusion is a phenomenon where it becomes more difficult to detect local feature changes in an upside-down face, despite identical changes being obvious in an upright face. It is named after the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on whose photograph the effect was first and most famously demonstrated.” (Wikipedia)

The brain is conditioned to see what it expects to see rather than what is presented with. No matter how obvious it is, the brain will still think what it sees must be right. (sounds too familiar, doesn’t it?)

And you read my writing upside down.

Photographs of William W. Keen’s successful operation to remove a brain tumor from a 26-year old patient, 1887. The patient was a carriage maker who exhibited symptoms of severe headaches, seizures, and partial blindness; he also had a history of a head injury and was prone to aphasia.

Owing to Keen’s demands at that proper antiseptic measures were taken for the operation (including removing the carpet and cleaning walls and ceiling), the tumor was removed after a two hour operation. Despite some complications with wound closure and cerebrospinal fluid leak, the patient lived for thirty years, even donating his brain to his surgeon for anatomical study.

Journal of the American Medical Association, 1918.

Jamie stood quite still, feeling his heart beat, watching. It was one of those strange moments that came to him rarely, but never left. A moment that stamped itself on heart and brain, instantly recallable in every detail, for all of his life.
There was no telling what made these moments different from any other, though he knew them when they came. He had seen sights more gruesome and more beautiful by far, and been left with no more than a fleeting muddle of their memory. But these—the still moments, as he called them to himself—they came with no warning, to print a random image of the most common things inside his brain, indelible. They were like the photographs that Claire had brought him, save that the moments carried with them more than vision.
He had one of his father, smeared and muddy, sitting on the wall of a cow byre, a cold Scottish wind lifting his dark hair. He could call that one up and smell the dry hay and the scent of manure, feel his own fingers chilled by the wind, and his heart warmed by the light in his father’s eyes.
He had such glimpses of Claire, of his sister, of Ian…small moments clipped out of time and perfectly preserved by some odd alchemy of memory, fixed in his mind like an insect in amber. And now he had another.
For so long as he lived, he could recall this moment. He could feel the cold wind on his face, and the crackling feel of the hair on his thighs, half singed by the fire. He could smell the rich odor of trout fried in cornmeal, and feel the tiny prick of a swallowed bone, hair-thin in his throat.
He could hear the dark quiet of the forest behind, and the soft rush of the stream nearby. And forever now he would remember the firelight golden on the sweet bold face of his son.
“Deo gratias,” he murmured, and realized that he had spoken aloud only when the boy turned toward him, startled. “What?”
“Nothing.” To cover the moment, he turned away and took down his half-dry plaid from the bush. Even soaking wet,
Highland wool would keep in a man’s heat, and shelter him from cold.“
DRUMS of AUTUMN- Diana Gabaldon