Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Life Phantoms

Have been reading about Phantom Pains. Nothing to do with a hurt Phantom, squinting painfully through his purple mask  in the old comics. 

But these are supposed to be pains arising out of something that simply isn't there. In your body that is.

Typically experienced by someone, say, who has lost a limb  traumatically, and it has been amputated. And he still continues to feel all kinds of heat and unbearable pain in it, as if the limb is there.

Think of someone who , say, skidded , going very fast on a motorcycle in the rain, was thrown by the impact, but to complicate matters, his jacket got stuck on the handle bar etc, making his shoulder and arm muscles bear the brunt of the push and pull. The arm got badly dislocated, and the nerve connections between the upper arm and spine simply got yanked out.  (No, I am not making this up, but this is a true story.).  This resulted in the entire hand withering away, becoming useless,  when reattached back at the shoulder, and the man kept having unbearable pain, continuously in his bad arm, which was , for all purposes ,  nerve dead.     

Turns out that our nervous system functions in a convenient type hierarchy.  While the decision making properties of the Brain are supreme,  some of the instant decisions are left to what are called "nociceptive" neurons in the spinal column.

Remember how you sense the heat and instantly pull your hand away above a hot griddle , or refrain from touching it? Remember how you instinctively duck as you sense something useless being thrown at you ?  What happens, is, that in such cases, the nerve sensation travels up through the arm nerve-bunch (brachial plexus), and reaches the spinal neurons through further connections called ganglia.  These nociceptive neurons do some processing of the sensation, and act automatically, before relaying the pain message to the Brain . And they keep doing this all the time, whether we are aware of it or no. Like when we shift positions in a chair to enable circulation, or relieve strain on a particular muscle etc. We call this a reflex action.

The nociceptive neurons in the spinal cord, continue to be busy relaying pain messages to the brain, pretending they are  activating reflex actions in the limbs, even when the nervous infrastructure is completely bashed up as in the case of the fellow above.  This is the pain the brain processes, and the injured person feels.  The culprits are the nociceptive neurons, or should I say, now deceptive neurons , which have become slaves to habit, as such.

It has occurred to me that life around us is much similar to this.

We have a Head supreme person at the top , like a PM. He has all these levels of subordinates under him, all of whom, need to report to him, and sometimes they take decisions by themselves.  These could be bureaucrats, elected folks, regional heads, rural officers etc .  Even when there is sometimes no appreciable work, these guys pretend to be busy, creating a impression of work, simultaneously cheating the public in the process, by creating obstacles .  The public suffers, and the Head or the PM, continues to suffer under the misconception that his subordinates are doing truthful meaningful work.  Phantom problems (where there need to be none)  are created for the public, complicated by introduction of corrupt practices.

The question arises as to why the brain cannot take all the decisions and avoid the pesky nociceptive neurons.  The same as asking why everything cannot be handled by the PM or Head.

This will lead to long approach lines, or in the case of the body, long nerve fibres all creating chaos, connecting individually to the brain. Leaving a decision to the spinal neurons, without consulting the brain, would possibly be those few life saving seconds you needed....

And so we have a hierarchy.  Its the price we pay for evolution. For democracy. 

Unfortunately, we have no value for it.

Like middle managers pretending to the CEO of a company , to be busy with work, when there is none,  the spinal neurons  pass so many wrong,confused, and noise type signals to the CEO Brain, that the mind perceives this as a continuous constant pain in a limb , which has no sensory supply , because it is simply not there.

And so we are, as a people,  getting used to the mess created by corrupt phantoms , that complicate our lives, our law ad order and our safety.  Because democracy gives us freedom and we badly and irresponsibly abuse it.

Is there a solution ?

In medicine, there is. Neurosurgeons use cryosurgery or thermal surgery to kill off the spinal neurons left over from the accident. It's a very delicate surgery , done with a lot of care and finesse. Else there may be untold effects like paralysis or loss of one or more senses.

In life, we need to seek a solution, by proper investigation, honest decision makers, stiff punishments, and at all times, honest democracy.

Watching what is happening in our supreme legislatures, I sometimes wonder , whether this will be a sensitive careful surgery, or a random hit , hoping that magically , something improves.

If we only learned from our bodies.... 

1 comment:

  1. "Like middle managers pretending to the CEO of a company , to be busy with work, when there is none...."