My new brain column: Snapping neurons

By Carl Zimmer | August 18, 2010 11:54 am

My new column about the brain has just gone up on the Discover web site. In it, I take a look at what happens when our brains get stretched, smushed, and otherwise injured. Brains don’t break like bones or rip like skin. Their injuries lurk down in the realm of molecules. And perhaps that’s where scientists will find a way to treat brain injuries. Check it out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Brains, Writing Elsewhere

Comments (5)

  1. The long-term effects of chronic brain injury is especially apparent in athletes, especially boxers. Actual cases of dementia pugilistica seem less common than you might think though considering how many professional athletes there are out there. There may be protective factors at work that keep repeated head injuries from being too debilitating.

    http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2009/11/the-michigan-wildcat.html

    http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2009/10/nfl-union-forms-concussion-committee.html

  2. Carl, I know this is already a humongous topic without expanding it even more, but I heard a very harrowing story from a woman I met yesterday at the Y, and am hoping that you might address PTSD and other mental illnesses as well, which are every bit as devastating as physical brain damage.

    The story: This woman’s husband luckily escaped the 9/11 attacks with his life, but developed such severe PTSD that even after years of treatment by the best specialists, beat his wife, the woman who told me the story, practically to death. This phenomenon of “murderous rage” is a frightening manifestation of PTSD. This was 3 years ago. Her doctors told her that there is no medical explanation as to why she’s still alive – she’s quite remarkable herself. She told me that before 9/11, her husband never displayed any rage or violence toward her.

    Keep up the good work.

    Miriam

  3. “…allows them to send signals by drawing in negatively charged sodium atoms” — that should be, “possitively charged sodium atoms”.

  4. Erg, this is what comes of hitting ‘submit’ before the morning coffee has kicked in. *Positively*, not possitively. :)

  5. Laura Neville

    In psychiatric care there is finally increased recognition of the importance of traumatic brain injury/insults to the brain- at least in terms of diagnosis, treatment and understanding of a person’s current functioning level ( in my current work locale anyway). That being said- I wonder how many of us lost function after a series of unfortunate childhood accidents/events? Just an interesting thought…for some of us!

    Excellent article, by the way-thanks for all the research and thought put into it.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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