Every waking moment, every waking hour, every minute our hearts beat. It is a vibration of contractions inside our chests, it’s hard to imagine this beating heart causes our brain to beat too. We can picture our heart moving but somehow our brain has become a static picture but nature does not produce quiet tissue, everything inside of us moves. Everything has a shape, every cell, every tissue, everything has a shape in motion. Somehow Nature keeps track of all of this shape sensing. It boggles my mind.
The heart pulse squeezes blood into the openings at the bottom of the brain case, the carotid artery on each side, passing through its own little tunnel or foramen. The pulse effect of each of these carotid entry zones triggers our brains to pulse in synchrony with the heart pulse. One of the most protected zones in the body, in terms of importance is at this level of what we call the floor of the brain. This floor has at its center, as if a stairway opening, the passage for the brain stem becoming the spinal cord. This floor opening permitting the medulla to transition away from the brain is at the center of the vortex when a brain concussion occurs. Picture standing above the floor as architecturally, the brain self rotates on the rebound of a major strike/deceleration force to the head. What is so totally destructive with a concussion is the medulla zone becoming twisted, as if you were wringing a towel, that is why I have termed my research project as: cerebrovortex. I could have called it brain spin but that sounds too simple, I wanted the complexity of a storm, like a hurricane shape on a weather map, a distinct shape, a hurricane vortex. In a special way, our brain vortices, it’s a very destructive storm, a shape distorting storm within the brain, twisting itself around upon the medulla. In science we are always trying to link cause with effect, it’s the effect we are after in terms of predicting what will happen. A vorticing medulla is at the cause of a concussion. It’s taken me twenty years to use my mind’s eye to see this internal mini hurricane, which is a shape distortion effect from the brain,both hemispheres rotating about the central axis of the medulla. The brain does not like to be twisted out of shape, it’s this distortion of twisting tension that becomes the cause for metabolic effects we can now track after a concussion. Nature responds to stretch, which is shape change effects. Specific effects like bone changes.
That’s one of the novel tissues we can watch for changes after the concussion has happened to a person. Starting this January here at McGill our little group of researchers, including Drs Tamimi, and Murshed, plus Andersen and myself will be getting to the basics of the biology of bone changes following concussions. Orthopedic surgeons have noticed for over five decades that fractures heal faster when there is head trauma also involved. Somehow not one of these surgeons stopped to ponder the obvious question: why does bone heal faster with head trauma, what is the cause?
Our bones move, they move as the stars move in the sky but both at an imperceptible change of direction. Bones are deceptive- we think we have them as if girders of steel inside of us. Once we are fully grown how could it be that our bones change, aren’t they fixed like a bridge? I’ll now go back to the brain floor to make a point. Through the medulla zone, like a stairway that promotes signal traffic to occur in either direction through the opening, this back and forth traffic is happening within the medulla onto many major control systems. Huge control systems, life threatening control systems, in terms of vulnerability if sufficiently damaged, like our breathing regulation, our heart beating regulation, our bone metabolism system. These traffic systems are organized to pass through the brain floor, their output can be viewed as an acute balance of traffic, serious traffic especially the central major breathing control, central heart beat pacing control, bone absorption/resorption control. Imagine a see-saw of control balance involving the medulla traffic as a yin-yang type of balance. The balance is moving about an axis always centering itself, swing this way, then swing that way, it becomes a control of position about this imaginary axis. It’s a critical control because once the centering capacity gets too damaged, one side drops lower than the other. All kinds of compensation things are attempted to reestablish the balance point. Unfortunately once the critical tipping point, which Malcolm Gladwell has so exquisitely introduced into the English language has been surpassed, an destabilizing slide becomes a fall into oblivion. The entire system crashes. Since the lungs and the heart can both involved, the crash could be fatal. This sympathetic/parasympathetic balancing point rather than a tipping point is at the control center of life, it is at a most crucial juncture. The balancing point involves the teeter totter traffic of the sympathetic system versus the parasympathetic system. This balance system of central brain traffic is our study focus onto bone changes following concussions, which is at the guts of our working hypothesis.
Basically bone rebuilds itself all the time, without us being aware involving a very dynamic balance of growth versus reduction. Think of a tree limb. How to think of growth cycles in Nature? Let’s look at trees. We see growth rings in a cross cut of a felled tree. Each growing season adds another ring. Nature provides a reduction dynamic in the form of forest fires to control the balance of growth. As long as the tree is not destroyed that was the dynamic balance achieved in ancient North American forests, that existed in our country before the arrival of humans, perhaps forty thousand years ago. It is this Gaia Nature balance of growth versus fire that Native peoples understand intuitively yet the European descendants that arrived much later are slowly coming to appreciate.
Despite the impression of our bones feeling strong like metal they are a dynamic of growth- laying down of bone versus resorption -removal of bone. These reactions happen within specific cells, the osteoblasts for bone growth, and the osteoclasts for bone resorption. If we are the observer, what is the most important reference point to pay attention to? For example at a fracture site, is the repair derived from local traffic (osteoblasts versus osteoclasts) in terms of knitting the bone separation together or is central traffic (at the medulla zones) also causing the bone edges to come together? Or is it both local and central traffic acting together to bring about the repair? This is the very nature of our exploration working hypothesis into bone changes happening after concussions. These preliminary experiments will start in January, I can’t wait to watch the bone traffic patterns.