A book that we’ve recently acquired is Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang’s Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life (whew, what a subtitle!). I’m a sucker for dumbed-down medical facts (this is why I watch a lot of Discovery Health, much to my husband’s chagrin), so naturally I found this book to be a goldmine. It’s also filled with funny turns of phrase. I’m pretty much in love with this book.
Here are some of my favorite nuggets from the first chapter, which is about how brain function is perceived, especially in the movies:
According to Aamodt and Wang, the memory loss in the movie Memento is extremely accurate; Leonard, the main character, has severe antero-grade amnesia: “The symptoms suffered by Leonard are similar to those experienced by people with damage to the hippocampus and related structures. The hippocampus is a horn-shaped structure that in humans is about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger” (14).
However, the authors take umbrage regarding the memory loss in 50 First Dates: “Drew Barrymore plays a character who collects new memories each day and then discards them all overnight, clearing the way for a brand-new beginning the next day. In this way she is able to tolerate more than one date with Adam Sandler. This pattern—the ability to store memories but subsequently lose them on a selective, timed basis—exists only in the imaginations of scriptwriters who get their knowledge of the brain from other scriptwriters” (10).
You will be pleased to know that the brain-eating scene in Hannibal is pretty accurate, though: “In a more realistic (but totally revolting) depiction of brain injury, we have the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001), in which gradual invasion (oh, let’s not mince words—the cutting up and cooking of a person’s brain) causes progressive loss of function. Putting aside the difficulty of carrying out such brain surgery without killing the patient, here at least we have a situation in which damage to the brain leads to proportional loss of function” (14).
If I got this much out of the first 14 pages, I can’t wait to read the rest of it. Welcome to Your Brain is available here at MLC if you want to check it out!
Aamodt, Sandra, and Sam Wang. Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. Bloomsbury, 2008.