• Question: why did you want to be a brain scientist?

    Asked by chanbvblover1 to Hannah on 16 Jun 2013. This question was also asked by jacobj.
    • Photo: Hannah Brotherton

      Hannah Brotherton answered on 16 Jun 2013:

      Our brains are extraordinary. Even though every animal in the world has a brain, each one has a different shape and size. This is the same amongst humans. Athough we have the ‘same’ anatomical brain, we are all so unique. A musician will have a larger cerebellum (posh word for part of the brain) which allows the person to remember large pieces of music. An athlete has a large motor(physical movement) part of the brain. But the first thing that I couldn’t understand as a kid was where are our thoughts made in our brain. Did animals have thoughts as well? Simple questions like this got me curious about the brain and the differences there are between animals and humans. So I started reading and watching programmes about brains.

      But after a while, one thing got me really interested….. our brains can heal themselves. They are ‘plastic’. In people who have had a stroke, their brain has been deprived of blood for a short period of time. Not enough oxygen to the brain damages it, and this is what causes the symptoms of stroke (slurred speech, limb, paralysis of one side of the body). However, with training such as speech therapy, physical exercise, the person can regain their normal body functions. How does this happen if the part of the brain that controls these is damaged? The brain ‘recruits’ other parts of the brain to take over. So, in stroke patients, if we image their brain using imaging equipment, we will notice that their speech now involves parts of the brain not normally involved with speaking. The brain healed itself. This is like growing a new arm, if we lost the first one. It just doesn’t happen. But the brain, in a sense can do just that, we just don’t get to see it.

      Another thing that got me interested was that the brain does not feel pain. This is why you can see people in brain operations, awake at the operating table talking to the surgeon. The surgeon can touch different parts of the brain, for instance speech, and when they ask the patient to speak they will see changes in their speech. Again, no other part of our body does not feel pain (although I would like this, because I wish I couldn’t feel injections). When I was at school, I could not understand why the brain was so unique. This is why I wanted to become a brain scientist. I wanted to explore something so unique , which is still not fully understood to this day.