Brain gifts for Christmas

I was thinking about gifts and was reminded about a public lecture I heard in Oxford by Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Laureate. It was called ‘Great Ideas in Biology’ (here is a similar talk). Nurse talked passionately about great ideas such as the cell – the simplest unit exhibiting the characteristics of life, the gene – the basis of who we are, evolution by natural selection and ideas of bringing it all together – a notion which we would perhaps put under the heading of the neuromatrix.But these are more than ideas – these are gifts from science and in particular from the world of neurobiology. And the gifts keep rolling in. We often say “we know more about how the brain works, and how pain is made in the last 10 years than in the thousand years before.” The gifts of knowledge include:

  • Mirror neurones – neurones which fire when watching, and imagining activity.
  • The remarkable role of glial cells in the cord and brain making us ponder that pain is a sort of immune inspired, sterile, inflammation in the brain.
  • The astonishing brain plasticity that we kind of thought was there but had no idea of its magnitude.
  • The daily arrival of new neurones in our brain, also in the elderly (neurogenesis).

And it goes on and on. My favourite gift was always the synapse – a delicious knowledge gift only 100 years or so old.

Power-up these knowledge gifts
If you take the gifts, but also take some time to think, chat with a few mates and maybe open a shiraz or cabernet, then these basic science gifts will power another level of gift – neurophilosophy and paradigm shifts. Examples like the brain as a neuroimmune organ, mirror neurones underlying a universal consciousness as we feel what others feel (empathy), a neuroscience powered-up, biopsychosocial approach and the neuromatrix as a critical paradigm to engage the neuroplasticity gifts.

And the gifts are special – nothing is asked in return, but my feeling is that the rehab community can always do more to take and reshape the gifts in the form of therapy for those who need it.

I do still want brightly coloured socks and a new fishing rod though! Happy Christmas all, David

Come along to share NOI’s 21 years! is now 20 years old – we’ll be back next year and for those making the trip to the NOI 2012 conference there will be heaps of knowledge gifts for you – check the programme!

Paul Nurse ‘Great Ideas of Biology’ Lecture [1 hr separated into chapters]
NOI 2012 Conference Programme [initial release, Dec 2011]
Keep healthy, keep moving! A great short factanimation
A PT petition you should probably sign



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