Ramachandran speaks on a few syndromes to help understand the brain. The first syndrome is Capgras Syndrome. The temporal lobes, frontal lobes, and parietal lobes together form the brain. Inside the inner surface of the temporal lobes is a little structure called the fusiform gyrus.
This is known as the face area of the brain, because when it’s damaged a person can no longer recognize faces. Capgras Syndrome is caused by damage to the fusiform gyrus. There are thirty areas in the back of your brain concerned with only vision. After your brain processes the vision, the message goes to a small structure called the fusiform gyrus, where your brain perceives faces. From the fusiform gyrus the message pours into a structure called the amygdala, which gauges the emotional magnitude of what you’re looking at.
The second syndrome Dr. Ramachandran speaks on is Capgras Delusion. This is described as a person who has endured a head injury, comes out of coma, and appears to be completely normal. However, the patient looks at someone they know, such as their father, and understands the person appears to look like their father but says he is an imposter. The wire from the visual areas to the emotional centers has been cut.
So, this patient has normal vision and emotions, but the wire connecting the two has been severed which causes the patient to have the delusion that his father is an imposter. Because there is a separate pathway from hearing centers to emotional centers, the patient can recognize their father as their father when talking on the phone, but not in person. The third syndrome discussed is Phantom Limb. This occurs when an arm or leg is amputated, but the person continues to realistically feel the existence of that missing limb.
One of the things found from doing experiments is that about half the patients with phantom limbs state they can still move the phantom. The other half however, claim the phantom limb is paralyzed and is severely painful. Reviewing case studies showed that people experiencing the paralyzed phantom limb had suffered from peripheral nerve injury causing paralysis before the amputation. So, before the amputation, after the peripheral nerve injury, the brain sends commands to the arm telling the arm to move, but the visual feedback is “No.
” This repetition gets wired into the circuitry of the brain, and this is known as learned paralysis. Because of the learned paralysis the patient will suffer once the limb is amputated causing the phantom limb pain. The last syndrome discussed is Synesthesia. It was discovered by Francis Galton in the nineteenth century. Synesthesia is eight times more common in artists, novelists, poets, and other creative people than in the general population. Synesthesia is the mingling of the senses.
Galden pointed out that certain people who appear to be completely normal had the same quality. When these people see a number, they match it to a color, or when they hear a tone they match it with a color. This distinct quality is said to be genetic. In the brain, the color and number area lie right next to each other. So, if there is an abnormal gene that causes the wiring to cross and the cross is between the number and color area, then you get number-color synesthesia.
The same is true for tone and color. Artists, novelists, and poets have the ability to engross in metaphorical thinking, forming a connection between apparently unrelated ideas. I find this study important because it could essentially help people.
Having to deal with these syndromes seems like they would be overwhelming to say the least. If the correct research is done, maybe there could be a way to reverse the damage causing the syndrome? This would allow people to get back to their normal life. I found the Phantom Limb syndrome most interesting because it hits close to home for me. My father was a double below the knee amputee.
We knew he suffered tremendous pain, but obviously was never able to understand the pain he endured after the amputations. Reviewing this study was helpful in understanding why he still had the pain afterwards.