Empathic rats… and TV

Last week, out of the blue, I received the above video from Oxford Scientific Films. Well, maybe not entirely out of the blue but certainly long after I’d given the footage any thought. Let me explain. In spring of 2013, a producer from Oxford Scientific Films contacted me about filming our empathic rats for use in a documentary to be aired on BBC. I have a great deal of respect for BBC and despite the fact that rats are reluctant “movie stars,” I agreed. I knew that the production would be well done and I wanted our rats to gain the exposure that a BBC show could afford them. So on Sunday, July 7th, 2013, I met a crew at my laboratory. Filming went well. Victoria Huang and Amisha Gandhi, two University of Chicago undergraduates in my laboratory, had patiently worked with the rats. The rats were so mellow that they were completely non-plussed by the cameras and strangers. They were stars as you can see for yourself. The day was long but quite enjoyable. And we were even able to crowd together and listen to Andy Murray win Wimbledon. Our British visitors were happy and proud. The show was designed to highlight relationships between individuals from different species. Our work was included because the empathic feeling that links two rats is likely to be related to the feeling that connects two from different species. Originally, we heard that the show […]

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What if Beethoven had a cochlear implant?

Last week, I was at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra enjoying a program of Lutosławski (Musique funèbre), Beethoven (Piano Concerto No. 3), and Tchaikovsky (Symphony No. 6 aka Pathétique), conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi. I was thinking about the fact that Beethoven was deaf and wondering whether too much music had been his undoing. It is not uncommon that peoples’ individual […]

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Cochlear implants: one man’s experience

Recently, I was lucky enough to meet Tom Rice. Tom received a cochlear implant in October of 2013 and is open to sharing his nearly life-long experience with hearing loss. I am indebted to Tom for his willingness to talk about his experience and I stand in complete admiration for his generosity. I also want to thank Marlon Aguilar for producing the […]

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Our remarkable oculomotor system

Ryan McDonald and Andy Poulos (hidden) provide “oculomotor” control for two cameras. I wrote in a previous post about being confined to a tiny space as we film Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life. Now I am told that my confinement has been imposed upon me because I pace too much. Why would pacing be a problem? Well, […]

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The latest CTE news

I read with dismay the latest news that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been identified in a young man who played mostly amateur soccer. Patrick Grange played soccer throughout his childhood and in college and even in semi-pro leagues. He developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in his mid-20s and died at age 29. His brain was studied and the pathology reported is a grade 2 case (out of a 4-point scale) of CTE. Here I want to make two points. First, this news further deepens parents’ and young people’s dilemmas regarding sports. The most commonly played organized sport among youth in the world, even in the latecomer U.S., is soccer (or football in the parlance of the world outside of the U.S.). Much was made of Patrick Grange’s penchant for head-butting the ball. However, it is not clear at all that Mr Grange’s CTE was a result of his head-butting proclivities. His parents report that he suffered from at least 3 serious concussions. Regardless of which injuries were in the straw-pile that broke the camel’s back, I think that most parents recognize that soccer can be a dangerous sport. Weighing the positive physical and social benefits of team sports against the potential for future disability is a personal judgment call. The influence of future harm upon the final decision is greatly impacted by discounting as discussed in a previous post. The second point to be made here is the connection between […]

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