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Thursday, January 13, 2022


In December of 2019 I was dx'd with Parkinson's Disease. I had started to notice symptoms in 2017 during my late daughter's cancer struggle. Chalked it up at the time to the stress of dealing with all of that.

Back about 4 months ago I finally opted to start on the standard med for it—carbidopa/levodopa, aka "Sinemet" (150/600 mg daily, split in 3 doses of 2 tabs each). It's a neurotransmitter loss mitigation Rx. Palliative.
A bit rough on the stomach, though my major ongoing side-effect has been that of light-headedness / loss of balance. Elevated fall risk stuff. I've had a few doozies. I can see "lights out" one of these times should I slip at the top of the stairs.
Oh, well...

I'd fought my way from my August 2018 open heart surgery all the way back to the basketball court, and had pretty much gotten my game back. Then on March 13th, 2020 they had to close our gym in Towson. It remains shuttered.

Last week I ran out of Sinemet. I wasn't paying sufficient attention to my remaining stash. I went a day and a half without it before my refill arrived. Yeah, it sux in terms of side-effects, but I now can really tell its positive effect. Settled the tremors right back down noticeably.

Whatever. Everyone should have my problems.

to wit,

…While I was recovering from surgery, the pathology report came back and the news was bad—it wasn’t a benign teratoma after all, but rather a malignant cancer called synovial sarcoma. Because of its location, embedded in my heart wall, the surgeon could not remove all of the cancer cells. Doing so would have rendered my heart unable to pump blood. The oncologist told me to expect to live an additional six to 18 months…

Shit. (Click the title for the full article.)

Then buy his book. It is wonderful.

Not kidding.
WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT the individual genetic and developmental differences that impact the sensory portions of our nervous systems, it’s remarkable that we can agree on a shared reality at all…

…Each of us operates from a different perception of the world and a different perception of ourselves.

A portion of the individual variation in sensory systems is innate. But those innate effects are elaborated and magnified with time as we accumulate experiences, expectations, and memories, filtered through and in turn modifying those very same sensory systems. In this way, the interacting forces of heredity, experience, plasticity, and development resonate to make us unique.

Linden, David. Unique (pp. 253-254). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
We have a new winner in the "Best Place to Hide a $100 Bill From Donald Trump" awards.
How we become unique is one of the deepest questions that we can ask. The answers, where they exist, have profound implications, and not just for internet dating. They inform how we think about morality, public policy, faith, health care, education, and the law. For example: If a behavioral trait like aggression has a heritable component, then are people born with a biological predisposition toward it less legally culpable for their violent acts? Another question: If we know that poverty reduces the heritability of a valued human trait like height, should we, as a society, seek to reduce the inequities that impede people from fulfilling their genetic capacity? These are the types of questions where the science of human individuality can inform discussion.

Although investigating the origins of individuality is not just an endeavor for biologists—cultural anthropologists, artists, historians, linguists, literary theorists, philosophers, psychologists, and many others have a seat at this table—many of this topic’s most important aspects involve fundamental questions about the development, genetics, and plasticity of the nervous system. The good news is that recent scientific findings are illuminating this question in ways that are exciting and sometimes counterintuitive. The better news is that it doesn’t just boil down to the same tiresome nature-versus-nurture debate that has been impeding progress and boring people for years. Genes are built to be modified by experience. That experience is not just the obvious stuff, like how your parents raised you, but more complicated and fascinating things like the diseases you’ve had (or those that your mother had while she was carrying you in utero), the foods you’ve eaten, the bacteria that reside in your body, the weather during your early development, and the long reach of culture and technology.

So, let’s dig into the science. It can be controversial stuff. Questions about the origins of human individuality speak directly to who we are. They challenge our concepts of nation, gender, and race. They are inherently political and incite strong passions. For over 150 years, from the high colonial era to the present, these arguments have separated the political Right from the Left more clearly than any issue of policy.

Given this fraught backdrop, I’ll do my best to play it straight and synthesize the current scientific consensus (where it exists), explain the debates, and point out where the sidewalk of our understanding simply ends…
[pp 6-7]
I sorely want David to defy the odds and survive. Read his book and you will agree.
"WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT the individual genetic and developmental differences that impact the sensory portions of our nervous systems, it’s remarkable that we can agree on a shared reality at all."
Yeah. I am reminded of some David Eagleman.
…If you’ve ever doubted the significance of brain plasticity, rest assured that its tendrils reach from the individual to the society.

Because of livewiring, we are each a vessel of space and time. We drop into a particular spot on the world and vacuum in the details of that spot. We become, in essence, a recording device for our moment in the world.

When you meet an older person and feel shocked by the opinions or worldview she holds, you can try to empathize with her as a recording device for her window of time and her set of experiences. Someday your brain will be that time-ossified snapshot that frustrates the next generation.

Here’s a nugget from my vessel: I remember a song produced in 1985 called “We Are the World.” Dozens of superstar musicians performed it to raise money for impoverished children in Africa. The theme was that each of us shares responsibility for the well-being of everyone. Looking back on the song now, I can’t help but see another interpretation through my lens as a neuroscientist. We generally go through life thinking there’s me and there’s the world. But as we’ve seen in this book, who you are emerges from everything you’ve interacted with: your environment, all of your experiences, your friends, your enemies, your culture, your belief system, your era—all of it. Although we value statements such as “he’s his own man” or “she’s an independent thinker,” there is in fact no way to separate yourself from the rich context in which you’re embedded. There is no you without the external. Your beliefs and dogmas and aspirations are shaped by it, inside and out, like a sculpture from a block of marble. Thanks to livewiring, each of us is the world.

Eagleman, David. Livewired (pp. 244-245). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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