Mysteries of the brain are the topic of Given Institute lecture | AspenTimes.com

Mysteries of the brain are the topic of Given Institute lecture

Aspen Times Staff Report

What part of the human brain adds, subtracts and multiplies? It turns out that a trained surgeon can point to that area, with great specificity.

And exactly where does the brain store the names of our relatives and the names of the streets in our town? It seems that all names and labels are gathered in the same part of the brain.

But how does the human brain translate thoughts into language?

Well, no one knows for sure, but tonight at The Given Institute, Dr. Ron Lesser will explore these and other questions as part of a presentation titled, “New Epilepsy Treatments: Exploring the Mysteries of the Brain.”

Dr. Lesser is a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. The free lecture is the second of six presentations offered this summer by top medical experts at The Given, located at 100 East Francis St. All lectures begin at 5:30 p.m., with refreshments offered at 5 p.m.

Dr. Lesser will talk about the nature of epilepsy, as well as well as new medications and surgical treatments that are now being used to treat the condition. Some new treatments are based on identifying very specific parts of the brain that cause epileptic symptoms and can subsequently be surgically removed.

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Part of this identification process relies on running low-intensity electrical currents through a series of “subdural electrodes,” or a net of electrodes that are placed between the skull and the brain.

In addition to locating tiny portions of the brain that contribute to epilepsy, this process also alters physical movements and language patterns and allows researchers to isolate a variety of brain functions.

“In the past, we’ve relied on a traditional map of motor function in the brain,” said Dr. Lesser. “As it turns out, the organization of motor function is much more complicated.”

Dr. Lesser will talk about what researchers have discovered over the years about how the brain is organized to control body movements. He’ll also talk about how language is organized in the brain.

Audience members may be surprised to learn that “naming” is a function that’s found in a very small and specific area of the brain – the names of the streets in your town, for example. A similarly discrete portion of the brain is set aside for mathematical calculations, as well as the seemingly simple ability to tell you right hand from your left hand, according to Dr. Lesser.

These and other “maps” of the brain will be the topic of Dr. Lesser’s lecture.

For more information, call 925-1057.