Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The strange case of the face and the brain

Sometimes my face refuses to follow orders from my brain. This usually happens after some exertion, like a bout of cough or prolonged laughter. Visitors may say that I look as if I might cry, leaving me bewildered. I can feel that my expression is not quite what I want it to be but I can't do anything about it. It is as if the messenger between the brain and the face is AWOL.

The impression that I am about to cry is accentuated by the fact that my natsultook'ah is not always a tear-free zone. Perhaps my stroke has weakened the muscles controlling my tear glands so my eyes tear up after some exertion like coughing or laughter. The nurse has to wipe my eyes often because I find it difficult to read due to the blur caused by the tears. Sometimes a new physiotherapist, on noticing the tears, will stop the exercise thinking that some movement was painful. The nurse will assure him that the tears have nothing to do with the movements.

In Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Matt Ridley describes the p53 molecule:
Let us take a closer look at the TP53 gene. It is 1,179 'letters' long, and encodes the recipe for a simple protein, p53, that is normally rapidly digested by other enzymes so that it has a half-life of only twenty minutes. In this state, p53 is inactive. But upon receipt of a signal, production of the protein increases rapidly and destruction of it almost ceases. Exactly what that signal is remains shrouded in mystery and confusion, but damage to DNA is part of it. Bits of broken DNA seem somehow to alert p53. Like a criminal task force or SWAT team, the molecule scrambles to action stations. What happens next is that p53 takes charge of the whole cell, like one of those characters played by Tommy Lee Jones or Harvey Keitel who arrives at the scene of an incident and says something like: 'FBI: we'll take over from here.'
In the scenario I described above, my face plays the role of Tommy Lee Jones and takes over the operations while my brain looks on helplessly like the local police chief. The only way I can rectify this is by sitting quietly for sometime. This conflict between the face and the brain reminds me of how a colleague used to describe his cross eyed boss- 'looking London seeing Tokyo'.


  1. Just wanted to let you know that we are still here, avid followers of your illuminating blog.

    Wishing you all a very happy 2010, let joy and peace be with you, always.

  2. Hi Vinitha,

    Wish you all the same.

  3. Kesu,

    Languagelog turned out to be a very interesting blog. Thanks.

    How abt a post or two on the blogs you frequent (and why)?

    And perhaps one more on the books you enjoy(ed)?

    Best wishes.