Monday, September 28, 2015

Where Did I Get the Idea for Half A Mind?

A friend, when he saw I had published my first book, emailed me, “Half A Mind…….Autobiography?    J

Although those who know me might expect that, no, my life was not the inspiration for the book.  It was actually another friend who recommended a novel, saying, ‘You’ll like it.  It is about brain plasticity gone wrong.’ 

If you are thinking, brain plasticity sounds vaguely familiar, but completely uninteresting, I can address the first issue. 

Unless you are employed in an academic or professional field that studies the human nervous system, you have most likely heard of brain plasticity in a news story.  Plasticity is the cure when a 2-year old falls from his bike, sustains a head injury that causes, for example, the loss of speech, but then develops speech again using a different part of the brain.  It is the nervous system re-wiring itself in order to replace a lost function.  And it has been credited with some remarkable recoveries.

I was intrigued.  How could the brain’s natural curative capabilities go wrong?  What events or technology would be needed to produce re-wiring?  What form would the maladaptation take?  I thought I had some promising hypotheses about the novel.

Then, I got a copy of the book and read it.  None of my guesses about it was correct…because the book was not about plasticity.  It did mention it, but the suspense was not from it.

As the book did not satisfy my curiosity, and perhaps increased it, I dug further into the research on neural re-wiring, only to find many of my hypotheses were much more than that.  They were techniques and technologies, in the labs and in the headlines.  To my surprise and my apprehension, our capabilities brought us closer to this neural demise than I had ever thought.  And the kernel for Half A Mind had taken form.

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