Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mom's Education on Tuesdays and Thursdays

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am not an unschooler. Rather I am a graduate student with formal classes and labs, running from North Campus to Main and back again, listening to lectures, symposia and working in lab.

Today was my full day at the "U." This morning, I was running late because I had to drop Bruce off at Sandia as his car is in the shop.

So I arrived at the Basic Medical Sciences Building just a few minutes before Neuro A&P lecture. The first half-hour was a presentation of a paper. The paper itself was poorly written and the diagrams were not adequately explained. The student presenting it had looked up other papers by the authors and did a great job of enlightening us on what the diagrams actually met. The discussion and conclusion of the paper, about the interactions of Bipolar "Off" cells and Bipolar "On" cells with each other and horizontal and finally ganglion cells in the retina were very interesting. Then Dr. Partridge gave a lecture about neural pathways from the retina to the lateral geniculate nucleaus and to V1 in the occipital cortex. On the way, we learned about how the cells work that provide us with edge recognition, color vision, and depth perception, as well as non-imaging systems like the autonomic systems that control the dialation of the pupils in response to amount of light. This stuff probably sounds a little dry, but it is actually quite fascinating. It is amazing how all of this works.

After class, it was time for the dash to main campus. And today it was really a dash, because I had to stop by my advisor's office to pick up a signed form for the travel grant proposal I am working on getting for the NAGC Annual Conference I am presenting at in Minneapolis. From there, I stopped by the Office of Graduate Studies to turn it in and then across the construction to the Psychology Building for Psychological Evaluations: Intelligence and Neuropsychological Assessment.

Today, Dr. Yeo finished discussing the subtests of the Weschler Adult Intelligence Scales (WAIS-III). That took most of the class period. However, with five minutes to go, he posed a question about whether or not we agreed with Weschler's definition of intelligence as it is presented in the test. Whoa! He should know never to pose such a question with 5 minutes to go. Thirteen minutes later, and three minutes before I was supposed to be back on North Campus for Neurosciences Seminar, he finally dismissed. Not that I noticed until the end--the question was intriguing and the discussion more so.

Then it was time for a truly mad dash back to Basic Medical Sciences. Good thing I know a few short cuts! I arrived sweating and panting after the speaker had been introduced and she had launched into her talk. I picked up in medias res. The talk was a good one on some recent work with Neuronal Stem Cells and their effect on epithelial cells in the brain. It appears that the stem cells make several factors that promote the regeneration and survival of epithelial cells after ischemic and other low-oxygen accidents in the brain. I enjoyed it and the questions from senior researchers after. This is truly fascinating stuff!

When the seminar was over, my tummy rudely reminded me that I had burned a lot of glucose that morning and needed to replenish my energy supplies. So it was back to main campus, to get something to eat and then read the dissection manual about today's brain dissection. I still cannot read the manual and eat at the same time, so I enjoyed some of Ursula K. LeGuin's short stories in Changing Planes while I ate my California Rolls at the Student Union. After two-and-a-half trips from North Campus to Main and back, I felt a stong need for a latte. I can drink that and study the dissection manual--which has good photographs of the dissections. Too soon, though, it was time to make the trek back to North Campus. No more dashes today, thank goodness!

At Basic Medical Sciences--BSMB for short--I found my fellow classmates in the lounge outside the old dissection lab on the third floor. We were joking about the coming work, donning our lab coats and gloves, and for those of us who have a hard time with phenol--masks.
Then the elevator bell sounded and out came Dr. Cunningham pushing a cart.

"I've got your brains!" she announced.

"I wondered where mine went..." quipped one of us.

"Dr. Cunningham, can I have a complete brain transplant? I've had difficulties with my basal ganglia all day!"

Today it was indeed a dissection to expose the deep structures of the brain. We removed the top of the right frontal lobe and worked down to the Cingulus--a bundle of nerve fibers that associate many parts of the cortex. We could see the Cingulate gyrus that is superior to it, as well as the Cingulate sulchus in the left frontal cortex. Then we dissected down to the corpus collosum, and then removed the gray matter to see the Extreme Capsule, and medial to that, the Claustrum, and then the External capsule, and medial to that the ...well you get the idea.

When we exposed the right lateral ventricle, my partner and I saw that ours was rather small. So our specimen was from someone who was younger than most, since the brain shrinks as a person ages, enlarging the ventricles. That's kind of sad. I felt like saying "thanks" to the person who donated his/her brain so we could learn. That was a quiet thanks. Some people don't like to think a lot about where these brains came from until the whole dissection is over.

Finally, we were done. I always leave with the smell of phenol in my nostrils. I really like to go right home and take a shower, but today I had to pick up Bruce at the Home Depot just outside the KAFB gate. Then it was two errands before home, a shower and something to eat.

What a long day!

But I get to sleep a little later tomorrow. Then it's work with N., down-load some papers, and get ready for Shabbat!

Right now it is well and truly Guinness time!


denise said...

Very cool.

It sounds like you enjoyed returning this fall.

Ahhh, I do love lectures and labs and running from class to class myself! :)

Beth said...

Goodness gracious, what a day!

I am reading about women in the 1920s Klan. Very, very interesting stuff. No brains to dissect, though!

Amie said...

Wow, that is some heavy material. Guess that's why it graduate school though.

momof3feistykids said...

Fascinating! I love the courses you're taking.