Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016 - (Page 12)
Barriers via Technology
by Karishma Muthukumar
AS THE BELL RINGS AND STUDENTS POUR INTO THE HALLWAY, YOU SPY YOUR FRIEND. "SEE YOU IN CLUB?"
YOU CALL TO HER. "YES!" SHE MOUTHS OVER THE CROWD. EVERY DAY, WE EXCHANGE INFORMATION WITH
CLASSMATES, FRIENDS, AND FAMILY MEMBERS ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCES, FEELINGS, AND MOTIVATIONS. SUCH
INTERACTIONS ARE SO AUTOMATIC WE DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT THEM. BUT IMAGINE HOW LIFE WOULD BE
WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO MOVE OR SPEAK.
ow would it feel to be locked inside your own body, unable to
reach out or communicate? This is exactly the situation faced
by people with Locked-in Syndrome (LiS), a neurological disorder
caused by damage to a part of the brain known as the pons.
The Amazing Brain
My interest in neuroscience began at age 13, when I started reading
articles in science magazines my parents subscribed to. With the
arrival of each new issue of Nature or Scientific American, I explored
concepts such as the primitive brain and the brain's inner clock
responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles. I also read books,
including The Tell-Tale Brain by V. S. Ramachandran. I was particularly fascinated by Ramachandran's description of a therapy for
phantom limb pain, which occurs when a person's sensory system
insists on the existence of a limb that has been amputated. In this
therapy, a mirror is placed next to the remaining limb. Performing
exercises with the intact limb, the patient seems to see the "missing"
limb moving, alleviating the pain.
In the spring of my freshman year, I took an online course from
Coursera called Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life. The very first lecture was based on the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a patient with LiS who dictated his entire memoir, The
Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by blinking his eyes. I was mesmerized.
That summer, while volunteering at Children's Hospital of Orange
County, I learned about the possibility of exploring my interest in neuroscience in an unlikely setting: a conference that focused on innovations in pediatric medicine. Children's Hospital was one of the sponsors of the conference, which was called PEDIATRICS 2040: Trends
and Innovations for the Next 25 Years. The conference was seeking
abstracts on seven themes. Physicians, researchers, and even students
were encouraged to submit completed works, works in progress, or
just an idea that could inspire an innovation. One winner from each
category would receive an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the conference in Laguna Niguel, California, where they would present their
abstract to an audience of physicians and medical students.
A n "Aha" Moment
I wanted to submit a creative entry, one that would wow the judges.
I explored possible solutions to the problem of computer vision syndrome, which occurs as we spend increasingly longer periods of
time in front of screens, but found that there were already multiple
research initiatives underway. Because I wanted to present a novel
solution, I began searching online for a new avenue to pursue. That's
when I came across Locked-in Syndrome. Reading about it rekindled my fascination with the condition, and I decided to focus my
efforts on giving patients with LiS a voice.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016
In My Own Words Karl Deisseroth, Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry, Stanford University
Mind Brain Philosophy and neuroscience at CTY
A Meeting of the Minds at the National Brain Bee
Mind over Matter Overcoming communication barriers via technology
A Fish of a Different Color My neuroscience internship
Immersed in Brain Science Summer research at Rockefeller University
Brain Training Four graduate students share their research
Prime Time for Brain Science Exciting new findings, from brain maps to mindfulness
Making the Connection Teaching kids about mind, media, and health
Selected Opportunities and Resources
Pitch Perfect The lure of rugby
My Stress-Free Adventure Scuba, sailing, and discovery
Off the Shelf Review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant
Exploring Career Options Interview with neuropsychologist
One Step Ahead Ten commandments for college success
Planning Ahead for College Can your dream school become a reality?
Students Review New York University
Creative Minds Imagine Fiction contest winners
Mark Your Calendar
Mind + Brain Philosophy and neuroscience at CTY
Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016