Monday, November 19, 2012

"Warm Fuzzies"

I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) this morning...the host was interviewing a neurologist who was explaining some dramatic new approaches to rehabilitating folks who have suffered muscle and skeletal injuries as a result of war injury and traffic accidents.   What the researchers found was that, by stimulating selective regions of the brain, they were able to restore muscle function and movement previously lost through trauma.

Ironically, they discovered these regions through experiments with how the brain responds to music!  It seems that when we hear music, especially music that we associate with a life experience, i.e. a nostalgic moment, music that was being played during your first kiss, your first dance, etc, is scored on the brain, just as it would be on a page of sheet music!  And that "cranial scoring", along with the memory of that moment,  is there for immediate recall!

Of course we all knew that, didn't we!  How many times have you heard a song that took you back to a time when you first heard it?  Many.  That's why music is such a magical thing!

Anyway, neurological researchers are now putting patients through medical scanners and observing brain activity as they listen to music!  They can then locate areas of the brain that are responsive to these experiential stimuli, then apply neurological therapy techniques, combine it with physical therapy, and achieve amazing rehab success in getting muscles to perform the way they did before injury!

I always love learning these little tidbits of knowledge.  No, I'll never be a neurologist, nor, God forbid, I should ever need to participate in rehab, but information such as this seems to fill up those little pockets of curiosity that I always seem to carry around with me.

And being me, I always seem to want to explore other avenues of a particular theory, so, not having had my breakfast this morning, I began thinking about how food, and the warm fuzzies associated with a good meal, might also be scored on our brain in some similar way.

For example, even now, I can smell my mom cooking supper.  The distinct smells of cornbread in the oven, a simmering pot of pinto beans, and the sizzle of crispy fried potatoes in an iron skillet are as real to me now as they were then.

Might researchers some day hook us all up to a "drool meter" and measure how profusely we slobber over the smells emanating from the kitchen?  "Okay, Dr. Smith.."drop that New York strip on the grill and let's see if we can't get this guy's salivary glands pumping real good!".  "Hey, Dr. Jones..have you got that batch of cinnamon rolls ready for the oven?"..."we really need to take the nasal dilation when patient x gets a whiff of those!"

Whoops!  Gotta go stomach's growling and I think I smell fresh coffee, toast and a couple of fried eggs....

1 comment:

  1. I heard somewhere along the way that our sense of smell was one of or the most powerful of all as far as our memory of events goes. I would agree with that, and unfortunately for me smells of good food are the trigger. Now it's a perpetual fight with me and the bathroom scale because of it.