Sunday, October 28, 2012

My mind holds the key

"You should write"

(after the standard sympathies) That was P's first reaction when I told her that I had just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in my mid 30s. P was a close mentor for me in graduate school and remains one of the very small number of people that I have told about my condition.

P recognized that I am in a rare situation: Although I work in another subfield, I am a neuroscientist with PD. I am a professor running a neuroscience research laboratory at a US institution. Not a day goes by that I don't think about the brain and how it works and what happens when it doesn't. Now I am getting a ringside seat to watch my body very slowly begin to disobey my will. This is not because of a problem with my arm, but rather with my brain. Nonetheless, the effect is similar.

If that sounds like I am invoking a homunculus, it is intentional. For me it raises fascinating questions about the relationship of the mind and the brain, the subjective experience of neurological illness, and what defines us as human beings. That is in large measure what this blog is about.

In future posts, I will talk about how it emerged, the emotional effects, and what it's like to live in the PD closet, all mixed with the science of the disease and maybe a sprinkling of philosophy. Hopefully you will find my therapy entertaining.

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