The Human Brain

This week, I got to handle and observe some actual human brains as a part of a Neuroscience class that a friend of mine is taking! She invited me to slip-into the class, which was having a „Brain Demo,“ given by Professors John and Stephanie Cacioppo. We made sure to get seats in the front of the class in order to have a front-row view of the demonstration, but to my surprise, we were all given rubber gloves and encouraged to walk about the classroom and view the multiple different brains they had on display.

While Prof. John Cacioppo held a complete brain and instructed a group of students on the functioning of the ventricles, three layers of membrane, and different sections responsible for varying levels of motor control, his wife presented a sagittal section of the brain and encouraged students to feel (with their hands!) the different sections responsible for the social effects of loneliness and happiness. When I approached her, she thrust the brain piece into my hand and encouraged me to stick my finger into one of the crevices, in order to „feel where the spinal column connects.“

While obviously always vaguely aware that I had a brain, and that it was some kind-of meat-chunk up in my skull, I never thought of it as an actual organ which is constantly being coursed through by blood, salt-water, and electricity in order to allow me to perceive myself and the world around me. Another striking observation was the individual variation between the three different brains which were on display. All three were of different coloration, size, shape, and weight, some of the differences owing to the sex of their previous owner (weird concept, that of ownership), and some simply owning to natural differences in brains between people. Just as people have differently shaped bodies, so too are brains highly variable among individuals. Who knew!