While doing research for my senior thesis project for my bachelors degree I came across a quote by Emerson Pugh that humbled me to the mystery and power of the human brain: “If the human brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t.” In recognizing that our specific difference as human is gauged by our brains ability to sense, integrate and respond to stimuli, Pugh surrenders the power of human cognition to its underlying biological processes, all the while acknowledging the complexity of the brain as well. I lost my best friend in second grade to an undiagnosed brain aneurysm and found myself frightened at the vulnerability of life in regards to neurological pathology, trauma and the like. From that day on, I had always said I wanted to be doctor and help children and others. My drive to help and heal others expanded over the years by volunteering and working with patients in various medical settings. With my experience ranging from private behavioral therapy for children with autism, in-home hospice and hospital aide care, through to experiences from the rescue squad and in the emergency room, I have seen neuropathology and neurological trauma alter and take so many lives that for almost 13 years I was intimidated by the complexity and vulnerability of the human body, specifically the mind and brain.
It was not until I started my internship in an epilepsy research lab in Berlin that I began to appreciate the overwhelming strength of the brain to adapt and recover, all the while gaining confidence in my ability to understand neuroscience research. Before this internship, I had only seen the brain in a pathological state on a CT scan or obliterated in a traumatic emergency; however, the medical treatment and research being done at this facility was on an entirely different level than I had ever experienced. With the use of video cameras, CT scans, EEGs and even subdural electrode EEG monitoring and surgery, physicians and researchers were attempting to isolate and treat pathological areas of the brain that were causing patients’ epileptic conditions. These men and women quickly became my idols. What I had found from these experiences is that the body works in a way much differently, in my opinion, than we are accustomed to believe and therefore have truncated our ability to understand how the human form works.
By studying neurology on the level of electrical activity in a region of the brain through an EEG and fMRI these researchers and clinicians had to not only recognize pathology in what appeared to be a normal brain in all other aspects, but then study how it should normally function to design research and technologies on how to fix it. It appeared as though my colleagues were playing a game of shoots and ladders, with every successful climb leading them down a path to the bottom of yet a new area of inquiry. After observing how driven these men and women were to figure out new treatments and diagnostic methods, I came to study much on my own in hopes to understand the brain at this level and how it would ultimately “control” the body. Our researchers found that the major deficit in these normal looking brains on the macro level was their density of the neurotransmitter GABA on a molecular level. From this research I began to not see the human form as cells stuck together to make tissue, but as a 3D framework of many chemical structures and reactions that I had spent too much time overlooking in the area reflexive control and natural homeostatic balance. With the understanding that electricity flows in the path of least resistance or highest conductance, the brain is a fatty conductor, and that we absorb and dissipate electrical activity in the body, I had began an experience that would ultimately change my career path and the way I thought of the human brain and body while monitoring patients on EEG and fMRI.
Upon returning from Germany, I was sure that I would be spending the rest of my life studying some form of neuroscience, and have found myself drawn towards autism, epilepsy and the physiological mechanisms of conditioning and cognition in the human form, mostly in the form of addiction and mental illness. These fields force their researchers to push themselves to their maximum capacity in an attempt to keep up-to-date with the most current medical and scientific studies, all the while formulating their own hypotheses and research designs to add to the field. While this may be intimidating and frightening to some, my past experiences have led me to understand and openly accept the challenges of working with and healing the human form. Although modern medicine holds no place for backing natural therapies as stand alone “treatments”, the documented and observed experiences of individuals undergoing these forms of healing say otherwise.
I currently am studying for my masters degree to teach human anatomy and physiology with a program at New York Chiropractic college and seek to get back into the biochemistry side of research after spending many years studying and working in the clinical setting. I have found benefits to looking into alternative medicine techniques for working with some practitioners in my past and have noticed many of them speak to using plant based extracts and products for many physical and spiritual healing techniques. What I have found as my education and familiarity with biochemistry and human anatomy has expanded is many of these plant based “folk” remedies have very similar chemical constituents to many pharmacy drugs that are being developed and used. When looking at other plant based extracts and oil isolations being used I feel that the biochemical engineering field needs someone to take bioassays, extracts and sampling to attempt to find these related comparisons and run them against many of the chemical repositories that are generated from synthetic sources.
It has been the history that essential oil extracts are widely used in holistic and other ancient healing paradigms with great success, yet with the inability for an essential oil to be specifically isolated and patented there are few clinical trials used to prove their use in the modern health paradigm; however, it is interesting to find that in studies with grafted pancreatic and breast cancer cells mice that ingest extracts of frankincense oil show apoptosis and tumor suppression. I ask the question of why there are no clinical trials are being done or extra research in the chemical compounds that are in these oils. I feel if we are to advance life and medicine that we should start in looking at the natural surroundings that nurtured and assisted to develop the human form to this level that we currently live at. I seek to help expand this understanding in my process of developing supportive research for natural healing and plant-based pharmaceuticals via scientific inquiry.