There is a gap between understanding and researching.
It is a rare occurrence when a scientist bridges this gap, experiencing the very concept they are studying.
This exact narrative occurred to Daniel J. Levitin, an American-Canadian cognitive psychologist, musician, Stanford professor, and author or book This is Your Brain On Music.
Levitin takes a very strategically approach during the initial hit, feeling where the hit was, in which brain section, and was able to identify the cause of the squishy sensation – “his prefrontal cortex pushing against the viscous fluid that keeps it from the bone of my skull.” It was fascinating to see his ability to self-diagnose even in a concussed state.
Later, the traumatic brain injury worsens. Levin has difficulty speaking, “expecting the words I needed to magically appear.” This is a testament to the skills we take for granted, being able to walk up the stairs, open a water bottle, speak. Only once they are gone do we realize how important and critical they are to our well-being.
Then, the sleeping difficulties began. At first, it meant awakening in the darkness for an hour or two. By the twenty-third day, Levin says he became “a full-fledged insomniac.”
Waves of emotion would wash over Levin, one second he was crying, then laughing, then normal. Throughout his recovery, he wrote his observations on his mental state in a journal.
Six months later, he had felt significantly healthier. Effects still lingered, from a loss of stamina to speaking difficulties, yet it showed Levitin the exact concept he was studying. Bridging this gap is a rare occurrence, and it builds empathy within scientific professionals. It is easy to view research as simple facts, yet it is important to remember the people and the real suffering these victims go through.
This article connected with me on a very personal level. Many of my siblings suffered from concussions and felt similar symptoms to Levitin. They could not stand loud noises and lived in a dark room all day. I watched their personalities change, they became irritable, tired, and lethargic.
I could not help but ask myself, why were these changes occurring? Neuroscience was my answer, it was the key to understanding the world around me. I slowly watched my older sisters heal, they stopped complaining of headaches and could do their homework for longer durations of time. Soon they were their vibrant selves again. It was then I realized how magical the brain was, despite being hit immensely hard, it was able to heal itself.
Feel free to read Dr. Levitin’s article published in The New Yorker: Article