Brain Disease Book Authors | Connecting Point | Dec. 1, 2014


we are talking now with doctor allen
Roper he is a professor at Harvard Medical School in a clinician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in
Boston he is in a rather just Brian David Burrell is an instructor
lecturer in mathematics and statistics at U mass Amherst and the he is also author of a book
called postcards from the brain together these gentlemen arco authors up
reaching down the rabbit hole a renowned urologist
explains the mystery and drama a brain disease what what an amazing
title what a perfect I don’t you realize as you read the book as you go through how perfect that title is the brain it presents such difficult symptom so
often with disease I guess sometimes it’s easy fairly
direct with the cats can you literally can’t see something that’s happening the brain but
not always and that’s where the mystery drama comes in it is indeed you have to use the organ
to give you information about what’s going on in its subject to changes that are very very difficult to
break through so you have to learn to talk to the sick brain brand umbrella let me ask you to come in first but I’m
sure both have you will want to the thing that struck me what an interesting
commingling have talents and disciplines medical
science and urology doctor robert math and statistics in
your case how did they come together in what you
both doing what you do doctor a particularly and what you both tell us about in down
the rabbit hole well the mathematics and statistics
doesn’t play heavily into this book and and I its almost an accident that we came together
at all that book you referred to postcards from
the brain museum was a something I Roche because I love
these investigations into Einstein’s brain about fifteen years ago and I I thought that was rather unfortunate
for my students to come to believe that there’s a math
brain and there are non math brains but on so my sensibilities really were not specifically
mathematical in coming to this it was really my interest in Neurology
from that previous project and the it it was a chance encounter I between the two of us that
led to an invitation to come and visit the hospital and and
look around and and see if there might be a book their which there was you wanna be labor it and we we certainly won’t let doctor
opera speak again very quickly but I know someone the publicity pieces
about the book mention you do statistical research with Nero scientific applications that that phrase is just loaded with so much
what what does it mean well in this case it just means that I’m
working with data I from I epileptic patients and also some sleep data so I there again nothing specifically to do
with the our time together in the hospital but it
was interesting background to have to be able to see not in this sorters I remote setting I love a U-mass from just working with data
having no idea what the patient to like to actually going into the hospital and
sitting by the bedside with the doctors with the neurology team
and seeing the readout on the EG and seeing
the scans so I that was interesting for me not to approach it so much from a statistical
point of view but from a human point of view what are the real stories behind that
data and doctor over that that’s really the
thing that struck me in this book this this is not a clinical study in and
i know you’ve authored in that area as well this is the people who are impacted by these mysterious dramatic things that
happen inside the cranium that happened to the
brain well just like fiction that tell stories about human
nature that can’t be easily put into narrative we wanted the
stories of these patients and their illnesses to speak for themselves and I
hope they do on one of my goals and how our goals in
this book was to show that I the romanticism nation of illness and
particularly brain illness doesn’t quite capture how
raw India’s to have a problem that affects speech motion thinking and so on and when you
get in proximity to those problems something very special was exposed about the brain and about human nature
in a brain disease effects who we are unlike pretty much anything i mean
granite any serious be were dove disease to any
other side it is frightening is it if shaking but when it’s your brain its it’s your
heart you so it’s who you are it is indeed it creates tremendous
vulnerability and a produces unique stories I even ones that are self-referential
like the hysterics in the book where the brain in
a way is producing its own illness but again it comes back to the fact that
their is a narrative that emerges from every one of these patients that tells a
particular story gives insight into what’s going on with in the human being
and miscibility I feel like this feeds back to what you
were just saying about the fascination love being in a hospital room seeing the EG seeing what every year you know seeing
it the flesh in blood the people impacted by what
maybe can be kinda calmly written down on a
paper and that was my role really because II tag along with it a team and quite
often these teams have 678 people there the residence does the
attending physician I physicians assistant and at least for about a year and a half two
year period myself have and when they noticed South
focused everybody was on dealing with that patient and I had
the luxury of looking around and seeing what was going on I’m seeing interactions between people on
the team I the staff the family’s I I think might my impression was that the doctors are too busy keeping people
alive to stand back and think wow what a great
story this might be so I felt it was my role to I to take in I the personalities to take in I’m the setting something that the resident really
didn’t didn’t have any time to to focus on himself doctor over let let
me dry into some love that will really with the time we
have maybe one of the stories in it you tell many very personal stories you delve
into Parkinson’s disease in particular and what that does to people and how it
changes them and while it’s not generally in
love itself fatal it certainly is berry very serious and
life changing it is one of the diseases that are
really is life-altering on many levels because it creates
difficulty with motion and daily life little things like shaving
and dressing are impeded but it also can have mental affects that
are somewhat unique to Parkinson’s and in
the book we contrast a woman is a long-standing friend a mine
quest fairly advanced Parkinson’s with Michael J Fox and his Parkinson’s and where their had
short of converts and divergent it makes for an
interesting contrast in what parkinson’s can do to different
people it also speaks to the special relationship between disease and the
individual patient cannot separate them what it does to
them and what it does to their lives is
manifest through them so each story is different a few years
ago we did a program with a a new row surgeon medical show here that we did
regularly at the time and I remember the thing that struck me
the time is this doctor said to me you know the more we learn about the
brain the more I feel we learn we don’t know
and the mysteries am using the word mysteries are there
and real I hope we learn more in the years to
come I think that’s very valid because the vocabulary for really understanding mental life and brain life is just being
developed well gentleman we appreciate the book it
is fascinating we appreciate you both being with us
today thank you thank you very much like interest

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