I’ve had a number of beloved friends who are lately posting ultrasound images of their soon-to-be born babies . . . I love seeing those little ones. I guess this is what you post when you get older and have epilepsy! But whether it’s an image of a child we have yet to meet in our world, or the inner workings of our brain, there is something truly miraculous and, to me, sacred, about being able to see the inner workings of ourselves. I’ve never understood how some religious types see science as being opposed to religion and spirituality. When I see a group of scientists and doctors who work collaboratively to create something like the image you see on the left, it’s like seeing a bit of God’s handiwork, first-hand.
This is one of the beautiful images from a functional MRI scan they did at the Mass General of the right side of my brain working away while I perform a word retrival task. The fMRI is an interesting process — you are in an MRI tube and they flash words and images on a screen and you “think” the answer. My biggest challenge during the fMRI was that I wanted to argue with them, or preach, about some of the things they were showing me, and they had to tell me not to move my mouth or throat. For example, one of the tasks they have you do is to show you a noun, and you have to “think” about whether it is abstract or concrete. The third noun they showed me was “church.” You can only imagine everything I had to say about this. Is “church” a concrete noun — in other words, a place, a building? Or is it abstract — the people, the energy, the relationships? Of course, it’s both/and, and I really wanted to preach the sermon, or at least share this with the MRI techs, right then and there. They kindly asked me, in nice Boston accents, to just “save the sermon for lata’ ” and try and think my way through to one response.
The scans seem to show that, while I have a dominant left temporal lobe, much of my language functioning has shifted into my right frontal lobe, all of which is confusing — they don’t really understand, fully, what this means. For over 80 percent of the population, language is exclusively in the left temporal lobe, where I have a lesion and seizures begin. However, it’s also encouraging, because it seems to indicate that my brain already has some plasticity and began this shift awhile ago. So next time you listen to me “go off” in a sermon or a yoga class, just blame it on my right dominant brain (and tell me, kindly, that you’ve heard enough, for now).