Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ripped from the headlines: Brain Collector Seeks Trump-Like Donors to Probe Personality

This header on Bloomberg -  a caption certainly worthy of The National Enquirer – proved irresistible to anyone with the least of click through urges. Let alone mine.

The article was on a University of California -San Diego scientist doing research on that most fascinating of subjects, the human brain.

Since, even at my advanced age, I haven’t yet given up on the notion of doing something meaningful with my life, I’m hoping that neurologist Jacopo Annese will consider my brain for collection, my personality for probe.

Thus, I’m putting this out there: take my brain, please.

I am no Donald Trump. I never played a flying monkey in the “Wizard of Oz”.  And I'm not like the woman in Iowa who can’t experience fear. I get (well, mostly) why those are brains you’re after.

Still, I do have a reasonably good brain and a reasonably good personality. Plus a completely excellent memory – both on the concrete, physical detail side of things, and the emotional level. Just ask me what I wore for the first day of kindergarten (a not especially fetching gold and brown number). And how I felt on that first day when I realized that the patrol line left by a different door than the one I came in on (panicked that my mother and brother, who were walking down to meet me, wouldn’t know where I was; relieved when, as I attempted to scoot back into Gates Lane School, I was taken in hand by Yvonne LaChappelle, an eighth grader who lived on our street. She made sure I found my mother and Tom.).

Anyway, Annese is doing interesting work out at UCal-San Diego, running the brain bank. Which is actually called the Brain Observatory, a far more interesting moniker, in my book.

Not that I have a book, exactly. I mean, I do and I don’t.

Anyway, the Brain Observatory:

… begun six years ago, is creating novel technologies and strategies to help researchers study how personality, memories, emotions and other traits are reflected within the brain’s chemical and electrical signaling systems. Success, Annese said, depends largely on the depth of information shared by the bank’s donors. (Source this section and the one below: Bloomberg)

Annese wants The Donald because he’s had a colorful and interesting life.

The ideal is “someone with an interesting life, a politician or businessman whose biography has already been written,” he said in a telephone interview. “We want to write the last few chapters of their biography in neurological terms.”

Having someone who’s already got stuff written down by and about them apparently saves a lot of up front work. Then there’s The Apprentice, and the playing footsie with a run for president material.

My video trail is non-existent, but I do have a (digital) paper trail:  nearly five years worth of blog posts, and many of them do contain autobiographical threads. (C.f., first day of kindergarten.)

(As an aside, I’m not some ultra-feminist looking for affronts. But looking for a “businessman whose biography has already been written.”? Jacopo? Jacopo, Jacopo. I’m not going to say it was interesting  - in truth, I couldn’t make it through my free copy. But that’s pretty much been true of most business puffographies. Just think about Jack. But Carly Fiorina has had an interesting career, and did put a memoir out a few years back.  And now that I think of it, she’s a two-fer: person of business and politico wannabe. She may not be as flamboyant or household word-y as Trump, but I do imagine she’s got a fairly XL ego. And her hair’s better than his. Ditto Meg Whitman, another two-fer. So lose that businessman thang, why don’t you.)

Anyway, I was hopeful when I saw the donate tab on the Brain Observatory web site. But “donate” is just looking for money – the chrome piggy bank should have been a giveaway there.

But I did find out a bit more about what they’re looking for – information, that I found somewhat encouraging:

The library will also include cases of ordinary, healthy people, because it is not feasible to characterize brain disease without a clear understanding of how the brain matures normally during life. We strive to preserve and examine as many cases as possible. This is an extremely labor-intensive and expensive process, but we believe this work is both timely and necessary to provide the knowledge to support current neuroscientific research. (Source: Brain Observatory.)

Well, I’m ordinary. Especially compared to someone who played a winged monkey in W of O, another person who’s fearless, and then, of course, Donald Trump. Yup, I am more or less ordinary.

Maybe less ordinary, rather than more ordinary. While I didn’t play a winged monkey, I did have the lead (Christmas Fairy) in the fourth grade Christmas Play, “Carol of the Bells.” And, as for work, I did spend one summer in a combat boot factory, so all my jobs weren’t perfectly B-school prosaic.

No, I’m not fearless. There are heights, bed bugs, clowns, and being trapped somewhere without anything to read. But I’m not a complete scaredy cat.

And my hair, frankly, trumps Trump’s. What is with these rich folks – not just Trump, think Kelly Ripa – who can’t afford decent dye jobs.

“With a growing group of living, willing donors, we can really catalog many aspects of behavior and personality,” Annese said. “You never know what’s going to be important.”

Well, being able to remember what you wore the first day of kindergarten could end up being pretty darned important.

But I’ll just quickly and simply summarize my case: good memory, good personality, good health, lots of biographical material floating around in digital format (and a lot more in neurological format).

Dr. Annese: take my brain, please.

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