Dr William Feindel 1918-2014


I am eternally indebted to Dr William Feindel for guiding my early research when he revealed personally to me, by recalling an operative observation from the side of pioneering neurosurgeon,  Dr Wilder Penfield during an early 1930 brain surgery that became a beacon of insight as it oriented forward the sweep beam of a lighthouse pointing the way into the gloom of night, lighting my way to discovery. Dr Feindel told me, “When Penfield grabbed the dura mater with his Adson forceps that 1930 morning a seizure triggered instantaneously. What we didn’t comprehend was how the seizure triggered when the dura tissue envelope was pulled .” Recall from your Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Anatomy days the dura mater is the intimate covering surrounding the brain, the tough outer covering of the meninges.


Dura Mater: Latin terms meaning [tough mother]. The dura mater is the outermost of the three meninges. It is quite tough, forming a sac containing the spinal cord and brain, known as the dural sac or thecal sac. The image, from a book by Andreas Vesalius, shows a head with the dura mater in situ.

During his tenure as The Montreal Neurological Institute affectionately called The Neuro’s director from 1972 to 1984, Dr. Feindel largely introduced revolutionary brain scanning tools to Canada, acquiring the country’s first CAT, MR and PET units. In 1984, the tools were combined into the McConnell Brain Imaging Centre, a unit that established The Neuro as one of the world’s leading brain-imaging facilities. Under Dr. Feindel’s direction, The Neuro doubled in size with the construction of two new wings, the Penfield Pavilion and the Webster Pavilion. McGill inaugurated the William Feindel Chair in Neuro-Oncology in 2001 with the support of the Clive Baxter Memorial Fund.” -The McGill Reporter-March 2014

snook trolling rig 003The simplest most elegant of human contact is the grasp of index finger with the thumb. Such pinching by pulling onto the dura surface of the brain was what Feindel described to me, still puzzled in wonder fifty years later. It would still take me a couple of decades to understand the connections to his observations. Penfield and Fenstermacher reported in the medical journal Brain in 1930, what Penfield described as ‘brain pull,’ or tissue traction perhaps increased tension as a better term of description of inner pre-stress within scarring paths of trajectories of objects making their way into the brain as part of brain trauma occurring also with glioblastoma tumours pulling by distorting surrounding brain tissue until the inner strain became strong enough that a surgeon’s tug at the dura could trigger a seizure.

Here’s where things get magical. Let’s invoke a great scientist, Sir Isaac Newton thinking during a long convalescence.

Newton perplexed at the effect of gravity at a distance assumed a vacuum in between, as if gravity attracts over a distance not pursuing by occupying  thru that distance. He was not aware of field theory that gravity inhabits a field acting as a force acting with direction. I will now call what Dr Feindel described to me the Fenstermacher-Penfield-Feindel Field (FPF Field) within the brain. Since gravity is present within the brain structure the force of pinching a portion is felt both at the local distance and the long distance at the same time. This FPF Field occupies the directed force that orients the entire sensing apparatus of the brain. How so the observer might query? Think of the brain field as a traction sensitive field of tensional integrity felt only in the attachments within the structure.


If you watch this video think of the scarring within a section of the brain pulling tighter. Amazingly this is the field distortion of space-time as gravity distorts the sample space. Blogger, SHANE describes this geometrical visualization, as,  ” G-field script is an attempt to visualize the units of space-time as they are distorted by a gravity type field. Given that each ‘cube’ represents a unit of space-time, greatly enlarged for this purpose, the distortions of each said unit will continue until the geometry can no longer represent a ‘cube’ type space, at which point the ‘cube’ will vanish. If at a later time I plan to add additions to the script to uphold a change in geometry from a standard eight point geometric shape to one that can support seven or fewer points as well as adding mass value which will increase the strength of field generated by the attractor point for each unit of space-time that has collapsed onto the attractor point. This video is a top view of the change in the quantity of space-time units and how they are distorted over time.

Watching this animation over and over here are some thoughts: What we do not have yet in our repertoire of brain imaging data sets is how tensegrity maps floating tension/compression actually move what is their range of motion? To trigger a seizure means the entire loaded space within the tissue atmosphere of the brain mass deforms past a set point to trigger, the tipping point of changed critical tension/compression. So portions of the elastic deformation occur toward a cascade of gene changes as receptor  zones are reconfigured.

The brain pull Penfield described is in effect the balanced tension/compression a la Snelson that I have been trying to describe in previous http://www.cerebrovortex.com essays. The tensegrity within the brain tissue can trigger electrically at the mechanical tension tipping point when scar tissue has contracted to the degree where the fingers of a surgeon like Dr Penfield probing the epileptic brain at the tension envelope surrounding the brain is integral to the tension necessary to collapse into a seizure state when massive loss of sensing occurs especially loss of consciousness.

Donald Ingber Founder of Wyss Institute at Harvard University holding tensegrity models

Donald Ingber Founder of Wyss Institute at Harvard University holding tensegrity models

According to Wyss Institute founder Donald Ingber, working at Harvard University, elegantly describes in Scholarpedia:” Tensegrity is a design principle that applies when a discontinuous set of compression elements is opposed and balanced by a continuous tensile force, thereby creating an internal prestress that stabilizes the entire structure.”


Kenneth Snelson perched -on-tower-from-International-Journal-of-Space-Structures

Kenneth Snelson perched -on-tower-from-International-Journal-of-Space-StructuresThe first person to grasp then build a structure based on tensegrity was one of Fuller student’s Kenneth Snelson who built a structure in 1948. “Using two X-shaped wooden struts suspended in air by a taut nylon cable, Snelson captured the defining features of tensegrity:” The idea that only one man got to the understanding first pervades the history of science. It is the classic tale of great minds getting to the same problem independently. Fuller was more skilled as a salesman to promote the idea but Snelson built structures around the world to blossom forth the idea of such novel structures.

  1. Pervasive tension and a separation of rigid elements. In Snelson’s now iconic structure, the compression-resistant struts do not touch but instead are individually lifted, each embraced and interconnected by a system of continuously tensed cables, a condition that Snelson and Fuller called “continuous tension, discontinuous compression.”
  2. Stable. Though ethereal in appearance—its wooden Xs appear almost to float—Snelson’s sculpture is remarkably stable, despite its minimal use of rigid elements. This stability is due to the fact that tensile and compressive components are, at all times, in mechanical equilibrium.
  3. Prestressed. This mechanical equilibrium results from the way the compression and tensile components interact to bring out each other’s essential nature: the cables pull in on both ends of the struts, while the struts push out and stretch the cables. The result is that each element in a tensegrity structure is already stressed—the compression elements are already compressed, the tensile elements already tensed—and they are stressed by each other, a condition known as “self-stress” or “prestress.”
  4. Resilient. While they are stabilized by prestress, tensegrity structures are also exquisitely responsive to outside perturbation. Their components immediately reorient when the structure is deformed, and they do so reversibly and without breaking.
  5. Globally Integrated. Because the components are so intimately interconnected, what is felt by one is felt by all, producing a truly holistic structure.
  6. Modular. Though complete on its own, a tensegrity structure can combine with other such structures to form a larger tensegrity system. In these systems, individual tensegrity units can be disrupted without compromising overall system integrity.
  7. Hierarchical. In fact, smaller tensegrity structures may function as compressive or tensile components in a larger tensegrity system, which in turn may perform a similar function in still larger systems
Snelson 1948 X-Module sculpture

Snelson 1948 X-Module sculpture

Loop back to those 1930 observations cited by  Dr Feindel, the brain pull that had changed within the brain. Now the 2012 descriptions by Ingber have a more pertinent ring to them. But what is also being described here in what I must insist are the first attempts at shape sensing since the core of this discussion is about self-awareness about consciousness that is somehow involved in this structure this architecture of design at the center of our brain performing. Surprisingly what Ingber omitted from the tensegrity description is the ability to build the tensegrity shape without gravity. But there is a duality of building both with gravity and without gravity. “Snelson’s X-structure unlocked a world in which structures could be flexible and firm, holistic and hierarchical. Over the past 60 years, artists, engineers, and architects have used the lessons of tensegrity to build previously impossible structures—space frames, deployable moon-base shelters, as well as sky-piercing sculptures—helping to realize Fuller’s vision of a universe filled with man-made tensegrity structures.” We have a choice to build in gravity or to build without gravity, the tensional integrity is the only way to accomplish both !

Buckminister Fuller holding geodesic tensegrity sphere

Buckminister Fuller holding geodesic tensegrity sphere

When we combine MRI with oriented tracts within the brain we see cable like structures like rope strands, something not familiar to Dr Feindel in 1930 as this kind of combination imaging technology did not exist yet. But you can appreciate the description of ‘brain pull’ as tension on the tracts within the anatomy as the result of inner brain tissue scarring.

tracts of MRI

“Snelson would later argue that tensegrity is a principle that is realized only through man-made objects. But Fuller’s vision rested on the conviction that Nature builds using tensegrity. Indeed, the human frame with its many tensile muscles, ligaments, and tendons pulling up on the rigid bones of the body, thereby stabilizing and supporting them against the force of gravity, is a prime example of tensegrity at work. In the last few decades, scientists have shown that tensegrity is a fundamental design principle of Nature, operating at the level of organs, tissues, cells, and even molecules (Ingber, 1998). Their discoveries are leading to a whole new array of man-made tensegrity structures, this time at the micro- and even the nano-scales.”

So now we have the magical link between the brain between the dura. The holistic connectedness between local shape linking into dynamic interactions throughout the entire shape within the brain. Shape is signalling as shape changes. But shape behaves always within a gravity field so that is the analogy of warping shape both occurring within their field of influence.

Another of the defining features describing tensegrity is the ability to convert its description into the language of mathematics. I will not introduce equations at this point since that will rupture the conversation. But this conversion gets the idea of both mathematical tensegrity into the public domain where all good science must be understood at its essence. Now if Nature makes such a definite emphasis on the gravity field don’t you think that field would not be calibrated for the function to be optimal for the usage of its owner? That’s where yawing comes in: we yawn to orient to the direction of gravity as the essential vestibular reflex. Astronauts in the first few nights of adaptation with micro–gravity stop the deep breath inspiration pacing within their brain from chest/intercostal and diaphragm muscles transforming into pacing of the abdominal muscles, their yawning frequency diminishes at the same time. Autistic children within the womb of their mother don’t elaborate the yawning reflex neither when they are born. The autistic child performs as if outside in a micro gravity space-flight sensing vestibular deranged field yet very much on a gravity based planet.

Original photograph of a stick-and-string tensegrity model containing a smaller tensegrity at its center that is connected to the surface by black elastic thread (not visible against black background), which Ingber used to present his cellular tensegrity theory.  This model is unanchored and therefore both the ‘cell’ and ‘nucleus’ take on round forms, much as observed in living cells. [Image: Don Ingber.]

Original photograph of a stick-and-string tensegrity model containing a smaller tensegrity at its center that is connected to the surface by black elastic thread (not visible against black background), which Ingber used to present his cellular tensegrity theory. This model is unanchored and therefore both the ‘cell’ and ‘nucleus’ take on round forms, much as observed in living cells. [Image: Don Ingber.]

Such are the tantalizing clues that guide us trying to understand our consciousness why we yawn. Why a special conversation two decades ago from Dr Feindel lights such a long light of illumination. The Penfield-Fenstermacher-Feindel Field of brain tissue triggers at the grasp of the forceps, the trigger is within the tension integrity collapse of a seizure. The shape of the brain- the shape is shape sensing.

So a final grateful thank you so much Dr Feindel for sharing the wonder of the ‘brain pull.’ Thank you for acting as a wise beacon of direction towards my inquisitiveness, letting me learn to learn to explore.


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Montreal Grandmother, Agnes Kent was saved by Raul Wallenberg from certain death, when he provided papers for her and her Mom to escape away from the Nazis. Today when asked what that escape meant, she replied,"Remind people, that while statesmen and whole countries remained silent and did nothing, a single individual chose to act, with ramifications that proved enormous. Similar choices confront us today. Write that simple truth she said, it can never be repeated often enough because the world keeps forgetting it."
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