Tag Archives: Anatomy

I Don’t Know Anything About Brains

The newest unit in my adventure called medical school is Neurosciences. After just three days, I have come to a couple of conclusions.

First, neuroscience is really hard. The content of the class itself is just very challenging. There are many anatomical structures to learn, pathways to memorize, and some fairly abstract concepts that need to be applied in order to really understand what’s going on. The class itself is going to be hard because we don’t take an exam until April, meaning we cover 5 weeks worth of material before taking any sort of evaluation. There is huge potential to fall behind before the test, and there will be too much material to catch back up.

Next, I have started to second guess my speaking skills. I have always thought that the neuron, the fundamental cell of the nervous system, was pronounced “nur-on”. In fact, I have never heard it pronounced any other way until Monday, when 4 separate neurologists called it a “nur-own”. Is this some sort of professional neuroscience thing to mark the pros from the outsiders? What’s going on? We need to ask the teaching staff to address this ASAP. Every time they confidently talk about nurrowns, i feel a little bit like a morrown.

Finally, I have realized that nobody really understands the brain. I don’t mean that we know nothing about it, just that we don’t understand it. Yes, we understand the areas of the brain that process certain information. We know tracts of the spinal cord and the types of sensations they relay. We even know the functions of the brainstem and midbrain. What no one really understands is how all of this happens. Even in “smaller” nuclei in the brain, there are something like a million neurons synapsing together. There is a huge body of scientific knowledge on what a neuron does and how it functions, but a complete lack of explanation as to how a billion neurons together create conscious thought. The brain is the most complex organ in the body, home to all of our higher orders of reasoning, memory, emotion, and thought. It’s amazing, but we still don’t actually understand it.

This is the first cool brain image Google brought me.

I was talking about this with my family last weekend. Have you ever seen a 30 second commercial for an antidepressant drug, followed by a full minute of side effects and warnings? It’s because we still don’t get the brain. Compare that drug to, say, an antibiotic. We know exactly how that antibiotic is metabolized, the effect it has on bacteria, side effects on the patient, and certain kinds of infections that can be more easily treated with that drug. An antidepressant is far more complicated. For an SSRI, for instance, we know what it is supposed to do, but this action causes a huge amount of side effects due to its action on the brain and neurotransmitter levels. Why would this drug cause suicidal tendencies in younger patients? Good question.

I really like studying neuroscience because I think humans have awesome brains. We have enormous brains, by the way. Why are babies born so young and relatively helpless? Because otherwise their enormous brains would be too big to squeeze through the birth canal. Our skeleton is designed to support a large skull full of brains, and our metabolism is geared to continually supply our brains with the energy it so desperately demands. The most spectacular part of our brains is the interconnections, or synapses. This is where the magic happens. This is why humans are so fundamentally different than any other animal. The interconnected nature of the brain is the reason we make music, paint pictures, write stories, love, hate, and want things. It’s the reason certain smells can evoke such vivid memories, and it’s the reason we can even undertake an effort to learn about our own amazing cognitive ability.

The best analogy for the enormous complexity of our brain is outer space. Even the word we use to describe it fails miserably to convey the entirety of what it actually is. Calling the universe space is like calling the ocean wet. Astronomers are still discovering more planets and stars in our very own galaxy, which is sort of like finding more furniture in your living room when set to the scale of the universe. Small wonder we don’t fully understand our own brains. I wonder if we even can. Even with the elaborate supercomputer sitting in my head (ok, more like an iPhone. Or a fax machine), I will never be able to actually understand how big the Earth is, and I will definitely fall far short of grasping the size of the solar system or galaxy. I don’t think it can be done, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Who knows, it could be my generation of neurologists that discovers ways of treating and curing Alzheimer’s disease. What’s the saying about effort? Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Time for me to wrap this up for the night. Thanks for reading! If you have read this far, you may be interested to know I will have a guest post featured on the Student Doctor Network next week. I am very appreciative of this opportunity to reach a wider audience. Also, their forums are incredibly helpful for any pre-meds who haven’t found their way over there yet. Just saying.

sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

The Anatomy of a Story

I  love stories. Ultimately, life is best expressed as a story. As long as people have gathered together, we have related to each other by telling stories. Our stories make us unique and form part of our personality and worldview.

But have you ever tried to create a story? I mean a real story, like a book or movie, even a short story written for a composition class in school. Have you ever created individual characters and let them live out their own little stories inside of your fictional world?

That’s one of the things I have been trying to do lately, specifically hoping to one day finish a novel of my own. I missed out completely on NaNoWriMo, thanks to medical school anatomy during November. I still wrote and brainstormed and thought about my book, even if only a little bit of it got written down.

So how is a story made? In my mind, I want to frame the whole story from beginning to end, then go in and fill in the details as a write. I want to “construct” the story, and then build it methodically. NaNoWriMo gave me a different idea, however. If I had completed NaNoWriMo, my story would be nurtured. I would start writing with a vague outline and ideas, then watch the story grow as I wrote it. To stick with the growth analogy, the story could then be trimmed and revised after it was fully grown in order to reach its final shape.

However it’s written, I have gained a lot of respect for great storytellers over the last few months as I labor on my silly little book. It took Tolkien something like two decades to finish The Lord of the Rings and have it completely published, but in that time he created a complete universe (including languages and cultures for multiple races) and set his story in his world. I have always enjoyed reading Tom Clancy’s thrillers, which were well known for being meticulously researched and technical, which made the stories more believable and enjoyable. I am slowly reading my way through the Game of Thrones books right now, and I can’t imagine how long it would take to create a sound plot that involves a huge cast of characters and multiple kingdoms (even though his main plot twist is to kill main characters every other chapter).

We each get to write our own story for our life, as well. I had a unique opportunity when I moved halfway across the country in the middle of high school. Because I had gone to school with the same people since kindergarten, I feel like I had acquired enough “labels” in my early high school years. You know how high school students can be. Halfway through high school I moved 1500 miles away and started at a completely different school. It was during that summer I realized that I could be whoever I wanted to be, as no one in this new city knew me at all. While I could have been anybody, I did some growing and maturing and just became myself (which is an entirely different story).

This brings me to my last point about stories, specifically our own stories about our pasts. I’m not convinced it’s the contents of our stories that matter, but the way we see and interpret them. I had a psychology professor tell me once that after every disaster, there are victims and there are survivors. After a hurricane (I’m pretty sure it was a hurricane), some people will have their lives shattered and never be the same. Others treat it like a setback and press on. I’m not sure what her point was after that, but I’m using that story to illustrate my point. There are people who are products of their environment, and there are people who overcome their circumstances and rise to greatness. I think the difference is in the way they told the story of their life.

Thanks for reading.

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Tales from Anatomy – The Long Post

I just finished anatomy. The last eight weeks have been a complete blur, but last Friday I took the final exam and most likely identified enough body parts to pass the class. I needed to get 38% on this final test in order to pass anatomy. Because of how hard the test was, I am not completely sure I got 38%, just reasonably sure. The test was hard. My score will likely be the lowest score I have every received in my life. Ever. On anything. To sum up my experience this final week of anatomy, I have to share this screencap someone posted on our Facebook page before the test. This should go on our class T-shirts.

I spent this last week studying hard, spending extra time in the lab, and cramming “high-yield” study tips. I studied with my dissection group, with random people, with lab TA’s, and anyone else who would help me. My wife quizzed me on insertions and innervations of muscles, and my little puppy was intent on helping however she could. Admittedly, she has a tiny brain and no thumbs, so she wasn’t much use. She’s mostly a ten inch tall Roomba (with a slightly lower chance of tumbling down the stairs to her death), trotting around the house and eating anything she finds on the floor. Even after all that studying, I still felt really dumb at the exam. Anatomy has a way of doing that to me. I would study all week on assigned materials, then drive in to take the practice exam on Sunday. Number 1 would say “What is this thing?” and I would have absolutely no idea. Was that even assigned to us?

I also realize I was fortunate during this class. First of all, I took a tough anatomy course in undergrad, so I was roughly familiar with most subjects. Second, I have a quick memory and uncanny ability to remember pointless details from lectures several weeks ago. We seem to get tested on pointless details all of the time, so I get those questions during the exam (most of the time). I also learned anatomy the hard way. I did the dissections, pored through atlases, and did the leg work required to learn relationships and functions. Compare that to a certain member of my lab group, who we will call Leo. Leo doesn’t dissect. Leo doesn’t even help his group during dissection. Instead, he drifts around the lab like a knowledge mosquito, stopping briefly at each groups table and learning a few factoids from each group. Then, during exam week, he becomes the king of mnemonics (more on those below). He has mnemonics for everything. He has primary, secondary, and tertiary mnemonics to remember his mnemonics. He confuses his mnemonics with others, and ultimately forget it all and have to relearn it. Also, he probably can’t problem solve as well when he mostly knows mnemonics.

There are two kinds of anatomy geniuses. The first kind was my dissection partner. He could study a picture and a cadaver, then somehow reconstruct everything into a mental, 3-dimensional structure that he could then picture anytime, from any angle. He was always oriented, and always knew where structures came from and where they were going. It must have been awesome to be him. The second kind of anatomy genius (and the kind I actually understand) are the ones who understand relationships. There is no intricate mental picture stored in their super-brains. Instead, they know where a structure is based on the structures that surround it. They can use the context to identify what a specific structure is, much like confirming the location of your house by locating your hoarder neighbors house. Yes I used to live next to a hoarder.

I also used mnemonics, which are tools to help you remember something. For example, there are 13 cranial nerves that every medical student must memorize. Here they are, in order: Olfactory, Optic, Oculomotor, Trochlear, Trigeminal, Abducens, Facial, Vestibulocochlear (auditory), Glossopharyngeal, Vagus, (Spinal) Accessory, and Hypoglossal.

Here they are demonstrated on a cartoon brain.

That’s quite a list to remember. Instead, we first memorized “On Old Olympus’ Towering Top, A Finn and German Viewed Some Hops”. We then knew the first letter for each nerve in order (OOOTTAFAGVSH). Any sentence works, really, as long as the letters fit that pattern. There are incredibly dirty mnemonics I won’t post here, and some creative ones involving Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and certain faculty members at the school. Everyone uses these to some extent, but I think students like Leo (not his actual name) ended up getting buried in mnemonics, so they are only somewhat helpful.

So what were my “takeaway lessons” from anatomy? I definitely liked it, enough that my interest in surgery has been validated. I enjoyed working with my hands and learning how knowledge of anatomy is applied to procedures and therapies. I also gained an appreciation for all of the material I still don’t know. We learned a vast amount of information in just eight weeks, and no one learned everything that was assigned to us. That amount of material isn’t necessarily unknowable, but it is probably unlearnable over the course of two months. I know that I will need to go back and re-learn critical areas during rotations, and should I decide to become a shoulder surgeon I will learn that anatomy at an even more detailed level. Lastly, I am even more amazed at the intricate design and daily function of our bodies. Even studying a single organ, like the kidney, is absolutely fascinating, totally reinforcing my decision to attend medical school.

Of course the good news of anatomy being done is that I can spend more time on my favorite activities, one of which is blogging! I have this entire week of Thanksgiving off, which will be completely glorious. There is nothing for me to study. Nothing at all. I will likely pick up the pace at which I post here, because I have a lot I want to discuss. I read some blogs that are easily categorized. There are “mommy blogs”, “medical school blogs”, “tech blogs”, “political blogs”, etc. While the general theme here will always be medical school, I can and will branch out write about whatever is on my mind. I’ve gotten a lot of support lately, despite my complete lack of regular posting, and I really appreciate it.

Two weeks ago I made the unfortunate decision to start reading Game of Thrones when my friend (so he calls himself) lent me the first book, which I promptly read in one week. Now I’m hooked, on book 2, and have thousands of pages left to read (and probably hundreds on main characters yet to die, if the next books are like the first). I am also doing a lot of outside reading on religion, so expect posts as I finish reading other religious texts. I realized that despite my college education and multiple classes on world religion, I had done little firsthand reading of any religious text besides the Bible, which I have read cover to cover multiple times. I am now working my way through the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Pearl of Great Price, with more to come afterwards. That was a good decision, since even my early readings were very interesting.

Of course I will also spend time playing Call of Duty, training my puppy, and eating at the new Chick-fil-a that opened RIGHT BY MY HOUSE. I may or may not have camped out and received 52 combo meals, which I am eager to claim for delicious free chicken. Finally, as I get ready to publish this post, I can see that all of the recommended posts from WordPress are posts that I wrote myself. Weird. I’ll leave you with another picture of my cute puppy.

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Thanks for reading! sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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Tales from Anatomy Part 3

As I near the final week of anatomy, several questions come to mind? First, where did October go? Where was I for that month? Oh right, the anatomy lab. Second, will I pass anatomy? As long as I am alive on the day of the final, I should do just fine. Third, what could I have done better in the beginning of the class to improve my study habits? This was me at the beginning of anatomy:

I was thinking about this a few nights ago as I sat in my backyard recycling (burning) all of the leaves and grass that are piled everywhere. The previous owners of our house left us many of these silly bushes:

As you may or may not know, these need to be trimmed down before winter each year. This left me with a pile of grass roughly the size of my SUV, which I set on the curb in the misguided hope that the trash guys would have mercy on me and take it all (along with our weekly ONE BAG of house trash). Of course they didn’t. They probably just laughed at me and drove off. So now I have a metric ton of freaking bush grass, plus my yard’s monopoly on all of the fallen leaves in my zip code. That’s why I was “recycling” the other night. I have lived in the country long enough that I’m perfectly fine with pushing it all in a big pile, dumping some gas on it, and burning it all at once. Since I now live in a metropolitan area, I have to “use a fire pit” and “have a hose ready” and “extinguish the neighbors tree”. Gosh. City people.

So I’m sitting outside recycling, and I am thinking about anatomy. Here is a typical day for me during the first few weeks of anatomy. I go in to campus and up to the anatomy lab around 8. I then attempt to learn something from Group B regarding the previous day’s dissection (if they didn’t destroy everything) or teach Group B what we learned (so that they can destroy it later that day). We all walk down for a few hours of lecture by professors that I don’t understand, and I spend most of the lectures surfing the internet on my phone or reading Game of Thrones under my desk (don’t judge me). I then troop back up to the lab, where I fumble around attempting to “dissect” the structures I “learned about” in lecture, and I have no idea what’s going on. Finally, late in the afternoon or early evening, I wearily return home, only to realize that I didn’t learn anything, so I have to start all over on that unit.

Here’s my NEW, IMPROVED plan! I wake up and don’t go to class. During the morning, I look at the unit we are going to cover for the day. I google stuff, look in my atlas, and familiarize myself with what the goal for the day is. Then I drive in to lab later in the morning, and I actually know where things are! I see a nerve and think “that must be the _______, since it’s immediately lateral to the ______”. That’s actually learning something. Previously, I would announce that I had most definitely found a “thing” and wait for a TA to come and ID it for me. After leaving dissection, I hop on the interweb and watch the lecture from that morning on double speed, but since I am familiar with the structures from dissection, it just helps me tie everything together, learn the innervations and blood supply, etc. It’s far more effective that the previous method

I’ll continue this for another week, after which I will have an incredibly glorious full week of Thanksgiving with no class at all. I expect to put together a few more anatomy posts over the next week or so, as well as some posts regarding some fun stuff that came up in the past few weeks. I’ll leave you with this cute picture of my dog eating a stick.

As always, thanks for reading!

sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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Habits

I have a Sunday afternoon ritual, one that has lasted for at least six years. After spending the morning at church and with the family, we get to the (potentially) best time of the week: Sunday afternoon. This wonderful time of the week can be spent doing whatever you want. Some of my favorites include napping, reading, cycling, watching football, and writing. This is why I can go an entire week without a post, but have a remarkable consistency on Sunday blogs. Unfortunately, none of these other activities are a habit for me on Sundays.

On most Sunday afternoons I come to terms with the assignments or exams due on Monday. I crack down and get started, only to be sidetracked by a blog or a funny YouTube video. During anatomy, we have a quiz or exam every Monday morning on the material from last week. That’s what I’m supposed to be studying for right now. During college I usually had lab reports due on Monday morning, and during Organic Chemistry the reports would regularly exceed 15 pages a week. One semester I completed a half-Ironman triathlon on Sunday morning, drove home during the afternoon, and then spent 3 hours that night finishing my lab report for the next day.

So I make a habit out of putting things off until Sunday afternoon, then trying to get them done quickly. It’s worked for me in the past, since I am usually pretty efficient and can pull a good grade out of last minute studying. I may have done myself in this last week, however. My birthday was last week, as well as the release of Call of Duty Ghosts, as well as some other extracurricular activities and generally gloomy weather that all combined to make me not very productive on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Now I have to dig myself out of this mess, which means time in the lab all weekend long and extra studying next week to catch up and stay caught up with new material. Yikes.

Thankfully, I have an awesome teacher to help me get caught up. In fact, she is probably the best teacher I have ever had, and I don’t even know her name. I’m talking about the cadaver I have been dissecting for the last month or so. Learning anatomy from textbooks and pictures is terrible. Learning anatomy in the lab doing dissection is awesome. We can learn with our hands, learn from our mistakes, and learn the critical relationships that could never be grasped by looking at a book. Whoever this lady was, she gave a great gift to our group of students.

A few days ago we held a memorial service for all of the 200 or cadavers donated to the medical school. All of the families came and packed into a Catholic church (which is super old, but beautiful). The medical students then honored those that gave their bodies through music, reflections, and a prayer from each of the religions represented in the class. It was really moving, and a great way to thank the families whose relatives donated their bodies. I volunteered as well, but didn’t do anything too special. I drove a golf cart from the parking garage to the memorial service for those who couldn’t walk. True story.

If you are driving one of these and wearing a suit with a nametag, you can go anywhere you want.

I have no idea who this lady was. How many kids did she have? What was she like? Was she a night owl or a morning person? Who were her friends? She is a complete mystery to me. The only things I know about her are that she made a generous decision to help students she would never meet, and she was selfless in her gift. That’s pretty special. What we received from her was the capsule of what was a person. We get the chance to look inside and see the structures that made her human. Ultimately, that’s the reason I am going into the lab on Sunday afternoon to study. I know that this chance I have is special, and I want to honor the people whose gifts gave me this chance.

Thanks for reading.

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Amazing Reasons You Stay Alive

Welcome to day 2 of NaBloPoMo! Today’s post discusses my favorite subject: our bodies. If you don’t consider yourself a “science person” please stick around because A) this is interesting B) it will make you sound smart someday in the future and C) I promise I will make it fun. It’s a longer post (at least 25 tweets long) but it’s worth it! Let’s go.

1- Exposure Control

Think about this. For all animals, exposure to the environment is both absolutely required for survival and incredibly dangerous. We MUST get food and oxygen from the environment, but we need to protect ourselves from all of the hot/cold temperatures, radiation, toxins, and dangerous aspects of our world. The main way we do this is generally called homeostasis, which I have talked about briefly before, but it essentially means maintaining a cozy internal environment regardless of what’s going on outside. Your skin does a fantastic job of keeping water in (or out), blocking most UV radiation, regulating temperature, etc. Everything inside your skin is air conditioned in the summer, heated in the winter, and packs a light sweater in the spring. Keep in mind that your skin is aided by many other organs/body parts, like your muscles, blood vessels, and organs themselves.

While we are nicely protected from the outside world, that has its downsides. Too much isolation and our ability to gather the necessary materials to survive is severely diminished. Like drinking through a stir straw when you’re really thirsty, you need access to the dangerous world to survive. Our bodies are able to give us both access AND protection. While our skin keeps most everything out, our main avenues for food and air are the intestines and lungs. We absorb these inside of our body, but it helps to think of the lungs and intestines as hollow tubes of “outside” that temporarily pass into our protected “insides”. The lungs have small sack-like structures called alveoli that fill with air and are surrounded by blood vessels. This is where we unload CO2 to breathe out and load up on O2 from outside. By doing this process via millions of alveoli, we have the surface area of a tennis court available for gas exchange in a lung the size of a softball (or youth league football).

This will be important here in a minute

Surface area is the key here. Trees have leaves with great surface areas to enable photosynthesis. Microbes need huge surface areas relative to their tiny size to obtain nutrients. Humans have a lousy exterior surface area compared to our size, and we can’t breathe through our skin like frogs. Gas exchange in the lungs occurs like two lines of people trying to simultaneously leave and enter a building through a revolving door. How do you speed that up? Build more doors. Our lungs are so good at gas exchange for the same reason Sonic has great ice in their drinks. The ice is crushed, so it melts more quickly, cools down your drink faster, and keeps it cooler than big old cubed ice. That reason is lots of surface area. Your small intestine is important for absorption of all the delicious food you eat, but it is actually about 22 feet long, allowing you to pull everything you need to survive from your dinner and get rid of the rest.

Recycling –

This is one of the things I have learned in medical school so far that has amazed me. Your body is incredibly efficient. The mechanisms by which we convert food to usable energy are very good. Compare that to a light bulb or car engine, both of which require tons of energy and turn just a fraction of their input to output (with most energy given off as heat). The other amazing part is that when a cell dies, it doesn’t get flushed and ejected overboard. Nope. The cell is degraded, chomped up by other cells that have a striking resemblance to Pac-Man, and it’s parts get sent to other cells for them to use. This efficiency is great for us as a species, but if you are reading this blog you won’t ever need these superpowers. I am sitting about 10 feet from about 30,000 calories worth of food, ready to be eaten. This efficiency is probably left over from the days when people had to work or hunt for food as a survival mechanism. Regardless, we are great at it.

Efficiency at work!

Brains!

What makes us unique as humans, compared to other animals? Brains! (maybe thumbs). Why do we have huge heads? Brains!

You get the idea. As humans, we have enormous skulls and enormous brains to keep inside them. Everything else comes naturally after that. I could go so many directions with this discussion, but I will stick to the highlights.

Humans give birth to helpless little useless babies, while other species give birth to babies that can walk on their own within hours. Why? Babies have huge heads and need to get out before their heads are too huge. Why? Brains.

I have actually used this picture in my blog TWICE now!!

Most of our senses are average at best, often terrible, compared to the rest of the animals. Our vision is decent, but many of us would be blind without glasses/contacts. Our sense of smell is bad. Our hearing runs from average to awful. Taste is pretty good, and our sense of touch varies. In addition, our bodies are quite fragile, we are comparatively weak, and we run slowly (but can run for a long time). So how are we at the top of the food chain? Brains!

Compared to any bird (or dragon), our sense of vision is pathetic. What makes us special is that our eyes feed data to an enormous visual cortex that interprets and understands the world around us in a way that is unmatched by any other animal. Without going in to detail about the mechanics of sight, it is interesting to me that we perceive two things incredibly well: contrast and movement.

Compared to any kind of dog, our sense of smell is terrible. Mine is especially terrible, after spending four weeks breathing formaldehyde fumes I really can’t smell much of anything. Our sense of smell is cool because it is unfiltered. Most of our senses (except smell) pass through a structure called the thalamus, an awesome part of the brain that decides what gets your attention and what doesn’t. My elbows have been sitting on my desk while I have been typing for around thirty minutes, but I didn’t realize it until I started typing about it because I was desensitized to it. The thalamus is like a filter/switchboard operator/control tower for the billions of signals fighting for your brains attention. Smells, however, get to skip that step. That’s why you can smell something, even faintly, and BAM!!! You can instantly remember some event from long ago with incredible clarity. Smelling things is like a nostalgia machine. I read a book about World War 2 veterans who talked about certain smells that would bring back powerful memories of terrifying moments in war and could induce panic attacks, even decades later. It’s a powerful sense.

A powerful sense with a weakness for Febreze

The last thing I want to touch on about our brain is the fact that we don’t really have any idea how it works. We understand what it’s made of (neurons). We know where it is. We also know what certain areas do (mainly by observing what stops working after an accident).What we don’t understand is how our billions of neurons can interconnect and give rise to a supercomputer. Computers are great at math and repetitive logic tasks, but their ability to interpret and assimilate information is no where near the ability of our brain to do the same thing. Our brains also give rise to a personality and emotions, and that doesn’t make sense. When did that mass of neurons develop the ability to love? How did you develop the ability to have compassion on others?  That’s where the mystery still is.

As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below or email my face directly at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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Brains, Blogging, and My Favorite Month of the Year

It’s Friday, the sun is shining, the leaves are brilliant shades of red and yellow, and November is just getting started! So many great things happen in November each year that it always makes for a great month. Allow me to walk you through some of these things by first backing up to yesterday.

It was fitting that our dissection of the skull and into the brain would be scheduled for October 31st. I spent the majority of the morning and afternoon carefully sawing, chiseling, and hammering my way through our cadaver’s skull. Eventually we were separated the brain itself from its protective covering (called dura mater) and removed it from the head as well. I think an appropriate amount of Frankenstein/Halloween jokes were made throughout the day. Personally, I thought this dissection was great. Not only did we get to use power tools, we also got to hold and examine the brain, the most intricate and beautiful organ in the body. One partner in my group was a little disturbed by the whole process, and I’m not actually sure where she was most of the time. The skull is quite thick, and the sawing process created lots of dust and a terrible smell (I thought it smelled like burnt hair and cheddar Sun Chips) that grossed many people out. The sawing part was tricky, since we didn’t want to cut too deep and turn our nice brain into a brain smoothie, but we also had to cut far enough to lift off the skull. I didn’t love the smell, but I thought the work was pretty cool. Side note: Chipotle was selling burritos for $3 if you wore a Halloween costume yesterday. I had a pair of scrubs in the car, which I realized doubled as a costume, and since I dissected straight through lunch my burrito for dinner was extra delicious. Yes, I just transitioned from brain smoothie to burritos in two sentences.

Another reason I love November is that my birthday is each year in November. I get less excited about presents every year (yet I also look forward to that….let’s be honest) and more excited about spending time with my family. Since I live farther from home now that I’m in medical school, I’m really looking forward to having my family come stay with me for part of the weekend to celebrate my birthday.

November is a bit of a sad month, because baseball is over, but also a happy month, because a whole new season kicks off. Yup. Gaming season. This pre-Christmas period is launch time for big budget video games that I enjoy playing, like Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield, and Call of Duty. Ever wonder why work/school is a little less crowded on the first Tuesday of November? Call of Duty came out, that’s why. Add in some time off for Thanksgiving, a few premature Christmas carols, and you’ve got a great month ahead of you.

There’s some other things going on this month that I would like to mention as well. You may or may not have heard of NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month. Each November, several hundred thousand authors attempt to write a full length novel (50,000 words) in one month. They register online and could potentially win prizes when they submit their finished story by midnight on November 30th. All genres are fair game. I don’t think I can honestly commit to writing 1,667 words a day while in medical school (I’m not sure I say that many words a day), but someday I’d like to try. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that the rush and pace help spark creativity. You essentially forget about editing and revisions and just dive in and write. That sounds like fun to me.

A more realistic goal is NaBloPoMo, AKA National Blog Posting Month. The challenge is to post once a day on your blog. The posts don’t have to be long or complicated. I’m pretty sure anything goes. I’m a firm believer in setting low expectations and then surprising yourself (just kidding) and this challenge is much more manageable than writing a novel this month. It takes just a quick glance to realize that despite blogging for nearly six months, I have only accumulated 29ish posts. Attempting to double that in a month will be challenging, to say the least.

I’ll wrap this up for today. I’m worried about my dog, who has chased her tail consistently for the last five minutes and looks a little bit dizzy. Thanks for reading. As always, feel free to leave a comment below or send it straight to my face at sortadrwordpress@gmail.com

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