Although many of you know me as the Shark Girl, at heart I really am a neuroscientist (just a shark neuroscientist. You know, normal). The brain absolutely fascinates me – particularly the brain of species we know so little about. No matter what an animal does or how it perceives its environment or reacts to it, it’s all controlled and modulated by the brain (in short: brains rock).
I lecture a fair bit in neuroscience, trying to translate my fascination to my students and make a topic that can sometimes be intimidating more accessible. One area I spend a lot of time discussing is the concept of a homunculus. And no, I didn’t just sneeze.
In general terms, every region of our body is represented by its own region in a part of our brain called the somatosensory cortex. And there’s a specific order to it – sort of like a map of our sensory and motor systems. So, a cortical homunculus is a physical representation of our body within our brain.
But what makes it really interesting, is that certain regions of our body aren’t playing fair and are taking up more than their share of space. In other words, areas where we need high sensitivity – like our hands for example – have a large representation, while areas of where we need less acuity, like our hip, have less. The relative space they occupy in our brain is somewhat proportional to how important they are. Animals have homunculi too – if you were to look at the brain of a cat, there would be a large representation of their whiskers and paws (and quite possibly superiority…). It is almost like a big, shining neon sign pointing to what a particular animal relies on the most.
So, why the sudden science lesson this morning? I can’t help but see parts of myself in certain garments. And as I slipped this beautiful vintage tribal print dress from Mill Street Vintage over my head this morning, I was struck by how well the print resembles the folds hidden in our cortex, and even the limbs it controls. Intertwined, orchestrating our movements, keeping our secrets. Perhaps strange to some, but I kind of like that I have my very own ‘brain’ dress.
Vintage and neuroscience. That’s just me.
The brain is wider than the sky.
As I was preparing myself for a day of processing brain tissue, sipping coffee and getting my butt in gear, it got me thinking. Perhaps the secrets to all that we hold dear are hidden in our brains. We always focus on the heart, but I’m not sure we shouldn’t be focusing a bit north of there in tandem. The two are inextricably linked after all…
I feel fairly certain that if someone were to spy on my heart’s homunculus, they would see a disproportionate reflection of my love for vintage dresses… A large chunk dedicated to coffee consumption. To the terror I feel even thinking about seeing a horror movie. The waking up early and sense of direction parts would be minuscule, overshadowed by broadway musical song lyrics, the ability to walk in heels, and whiskey snobbery.
Forgetting wearing your heart on your sleeve. I wear my heart on my brain…
Dress: Mill Street Vintage (similar modern or vintage here, here & here)
Necklace: Bettina Darling (similar here & here)
Belt: Alannah Hill (similar)
Handbag: Cloth Magpie (similar here & here)
Shoes: Brian Atwood, thrifted (similar here & here)