Most of us never think about our brain.
Of course, that’s ironic. It’s like asking our taste buds to critique a cow-tongue sandwich.
Yet, our brain deserves our attention and respect. On its own, the brain maintains our heart rate, respiration and digestion, and answers our attempts to think, reason and comprehend abstract thoughts (such as posing a question to our taste buds).
I figure my relationship with my brain is fairly common — I like my brain, don’t really understand it, and assume I’m either much smarter or dumber than I think.
I appreciate my brain more, thanks to a unique project in Bloomington, created by the fascinating mind of Terre Haute native Jill Bolte Taylor. As I walked the town square there Wednesday afternoon, I felt smarter. I studied a few of the 22 anatomically correct, fiberglass, 5-foot-tall replicas of the human brain, decorated by artists and placed at locations around Bloomington and the Indiana University campus.
For example, the figurine in front of the John Waldron Arts Center (at Fourth and Walnut streets) features giant headphones and musical elements such as melted vinyl albums and sheet music.
Like all the other brain sculptures, this one has a list of five brain facts. No. 4 boosted my self-esteem, as a guitar player: “Musicians often develop a larger corpus callosum than nonmusicians, resulting in more rapid communication between the left and right hemispheres.”
The display, labeled Brain Extravaganza, was unveiled a couple weeks ago and will remain in place around downtown Bloomington until October. It is the brainchild, pun intended, of Taylor, a world-renowned and Harvard-trained neuroanatomist who grew up in Terre Haute and graduated from Terre Haute South Vigo High School in 1977.
She is widely recognized as the author of The New York Times bestseller, “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey,” and the subject of a prospective movie by Sony Pictures and director Ron Howard. The book details the devastating stroke Taylor suffered in 1996 and her recovery, aided by her devoted mother.
That difficult episode provided Taylor an inside look at the human organ she’d spent years researching. Today, she is not only healed, but enlightened.
“It has been a profoundly educational experience,” Taylor said, “and I walk away, amazed with this incredible, beautiful organ, and what it can do, when it’s functioning well.”
As national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, Taylor will speak around the country throughout May, which is Stroke Awareness Month. She also lectures at schools, fundraisers, colleges and community events, carrying along real, preserved human brains. In each case, the brains cause people to “squirm, of course,” she said. “Some love ’em. Some hate ’em, and it’s my goal at the end of the day to have more of them love ’em than hate ’em.”
By contrast, the brain sculptures cause onlookers to gaze, chuckle and snap photos with their cellphones. “They’re engaging with the project,” Taylor said. They learn, too. They can’t help but learn, considering how misunderstood the brain is among the general public.
Take the common perception that we use only 5, 10 or 20 percent of our brain, and if we could just tap into that idle percentage, we’d be geniuses. It’s a total myth. Brain cells stay busy.
“If it’s a cell and it’s alive in your head, you’re using it,” Taylor explained. “We just don’t know what it’s doing.”
A few brain cells were up to no good earlier this month, when nine of the 22 brains were vandalized. The damaged sculptures included, once again ironically, the “sleep and pain” brain. Four of its eight lightning bolts, meant to symbolize pain, were broken off.
Taylor said the destruction symbolizes the importance of the project.
In the case of the male mind, testosterone can overwhelm decision-making, and lead to destructive behavior. “And then, you throw a little drugs-and-alcohol into the brain, and then what happens to inhibitions?” she asked, rhetorically.
Taylor and organizers are not going to replace the broken elements. They are a reminder of the need for us to continue studying, researching and caring for the human brain and its functions, and malfunctions.
“It’s a beautiful thing,” Taylor said, “Especially when it’s working well, and when it’s not working well, we need to consider what we can do to help it recover its function.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of us never think about our brain.
- Local & Bistate
Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands
CHICAGO (AP) — Fast food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.
4 doctors arrested after Indiana clinic raids
CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say four doctors have been arrested on charges of improperly prescribing a drug used to treat painkiller addiction from several Indiana offices.
Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster
SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana is building a new $22 million roller coaster that it says will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop and four inversions.
Indianapolis pulls future support for Amtrak line
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — City officials in Indianapolis have cast the future of an Amtrak passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago into doubt after deciding not to provide any additional money to subsidize that line.
Pence leading annual governor’s motorcycle ride
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence is leading the annual governor’s motorcycle ride from the Statehouse through southern Indiana.
State asks judge to delay right-to-work ruling
CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana attorney general’s office has asked a judge to put on hold his order striking down the state’s right-to-work law.
Voices from Auschwitz: Ties that bind
A message that has spread like wildfire across Europe can easily translate to America.
Minimum wage frozen after 5 years
Thursday marked the fifth anniversary since the federal minimum wage was increased, a wage U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez contends should again be raised.
ISU, CANDLES join to ‘illuminate the world’
Indiana State University and CANDLES Holocaust Museum are joining forces to educate current and future generations about the Holocaust, genocide and related issues.
50 years later, still business as usual
Junior Achievement of the Wabash Valley marked its 50th anniversary hosting a luau Thursday at the Ohio Building in Terre Haute.
Two semis collide; one driver injured
A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital Thursday after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.
Valley talent returns for show tonight
Local musical collective Lunes Domingo is scheduled to be back at The Verve tonight to perform the last installment of its 2014 series.
Police find 2 meth labs in 1 house
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday arrested a Staunton man and a Terre Haute woman on felony charges of manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine.
Police say man broke into prison building
A man living at a Carlisle motel has been arrested for trespassing and criminal mischief after he allegedly kicked in a prison building door.
Driver airlifted to Methodist after I-70 crash
A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital today after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.
Lunes Domingo, Bear Foote Jackson at The Verve July 25
Local musical collective Lunes Domingo will be back at The Verve on Friday, July 25, to perform the last installment of their 2014 series. Cost is $3.
West T Water Works issues boil order
The West Terre Haute Water Works announced this morning that a boil order is in effect until further notice for the community of West Terre Haute and Sugar Creek Township.
Grease fire closes Terre Haute restaurant for short time
A grease fire closed the Golden Corral for about three hours on Wednesday.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 24, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
Bloomington helping with beer brewery’s project
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — The city of Bloomington is helping a beer brewery with an expansion of its downtown restaurant and bar.
Family: Teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks
PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren’t achieved without taking chances.
A trade, a home up for sale
The first house constructed in “The Trades” subdivision now has a “for sale” sign in the front yard.
Health care provider details 150 job cuts
The reduction of 150 employees in Union Health System by the end of this year will come from support staff, employees who do not have direct patient-care duties, hospital administrators said Wednesday.
MARK BENNETT: Giving new voice to Ehrmann’s words
Max Ehrmann’s bronze face may break into a grin soon.
SCHOOL BOARD: Incumbents each seek next term
As expected, four Vigo County School Board incumbents filed for re-election Wednesday.
Making his case to the people
Indiana state treasurer hopeful Mike Boland says that if elected, he intends to be a “small-city, small-town state treasurer.”
Union Hospital cuts to come from support staff
The reduction of 150 employees in Union Health System by the end of this year will come from support staff, employees who do not have direct patient care duties, hospital administrators said today.
Ex-employee says prison workers had sex on desk
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Indiana’s prison agency mistreated a female employee when it shrugged off her complaints about workers having sex on her desk and later fired her for having an affair with an official.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 23, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Tuesday and Wednesday, based on jail records.
Police say 2 killed in SW Indiana murder-suicide
BICKNELL, Ind. (AP) — Police say a man was fatally shot during an argument in a southwestern Indiana town and that the suspected gunman later killed himself while officers were pursuing him.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands