In our lifetime | Mark’s Remarks

marksTo tell you the truth, there are days I can barely pay attention to the news. Isn’t that awful? But many of you know what I’m talking about. After a while, you want to just shake your head and say “forget it.”

As I’ve told you before, my students watch CNN news. I’m amazed at how much information they gain from the 10-minute newscast and I’m amazed at how much they really absorb and retain. Never underestimate children, I tell you.

One of the more interesting news clips was about three folks from the UK who have been poking around our brains for many years, trying to figure out what makes us tick, so to speak.

UK-based researcher professor John O’Keefe as well as May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser are sharing the prize. They actually discovered how our brain knows where we are and is able to navigate from one place to another. You might say, they discovered our built-in GPS system. Amazing.

These folks have been researching this type of stuff for quite some time. Their current discovery may shed light on why Alzheimer’s patients are unable to recognize their surroundings. This is a huge breakthrough for Alzheimer’s research. No wonder they won the prize, huh?

Just to give you some encouragement and understand the true meaning of perseverance: O’Keefe has been studying brain cells since 1971. Well, anyway, it was that year he first discovered how the brain’s internal positioning system really works. Glad he stuck to the task, aren’t you?

Then you’ve got the husband- wife Moser team. They both discovered a different “map area” of the brain that acts as a sort of nautical chart. This all happened in 2005. The “chart” is made up of things they call grid cells that make sort of a latitude-longitude chart. This judge distance and navigate around.

I’m sure it was cool when the Mosers and O’Keefe ran into each other and started comparing notes. They were probably very excited. Can you imagine trying to follow along with them if you were eavesdropping at a party or something? I’d probably nod my head a lot and then head for the dessert table. But it would have been cool to witness. That’s probably not even how it happened. I mean, they probably just read about one another and linked up over email or Skype or something.

This type of stuff makes you wonder: will there be a cure or at least huge strides in solving the mystery of Alzheimer’s? Furthermore, who else is out there working hard at uncovering other information about diseases that plague us these days? Makes you wonder if there will indeed be a cure found for some of them.

You might ask yourself how they figured some of this out. Well, apparently they studied rats and noticed how different cells start reacting when rats had a change of scenery or entered a different room.

Not to make light of the situation, but I wonder if the rats ever went to a different room and then forgot what they were in there for? I mean, that happens to a lot of us, doesn’t it? Wonder if there’s a connection.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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