Executive Functions

Dr Bungawalla was waiting already when Sami opened the Transfer Station. Why was he so early? What was the hurry?

Lucerne’s veteran doctor drove to the trash area first, disposed of a few bags, on to the recycling bins, ceremonially depositing paper, card, metal, glass, and cartons in appropriate receptacles, and then came over to the new 3D Unit, called 3DU.

“Hello Sami, how are you? Good, good. I didn’t know you were running the Transfer Station.”

“Well, only for today. I am officially in charge of 3DU, but the other guy is attending a family funeral, so I am managing waste and recycling operations too. It’s mostly automated, pretty straightforward. Anyway, Doctor, what can I do for you?”

Dr Bungawalla shifted and smiled. This motion had put his patients at ease for forty years. He had discovered that moving his head from side to side whilst holding a fixed grin amused infant patients, and then he tried it with adult patients. Now it provided a gentle reassurance to all.

“I wanted to develop a project with AMP Co., something of great personal interest. Alfred said The Authority has declared his lab a National Strategic Asset, and nationalized his business. He told me to come here instead; he said you would help me.”

Sami had visited the Doctor’s office a couple of times this year but never got past the fearsome receptionist, who had given him practical advice and sent him home. It was great to finally meet Dr Bungawalla. What a sweet man. Why are the nicest people always surrounded by the fiercest? Maybe they require protection.

“What’s the project, Doctor?”

“Well, I have some brain scans from the MRI machine. They are all on this data stick. Can you please model them for me?”

“Sure, I’ll put them through the CAD systems and send them on to the 3D printer. Please tell me the key aspects, facets and dynamics involved, so I can highlight them in the system parameters.”

Dr Bungawalla handed over the stick. The file stated Confidential: file not to be removed from lab.

Dr Bungawalla looked embarrassed. “I am the confidante in question. You are allowed to proceed.” He pulled out a pen. “I will write some key concepts down for you.”

He wrote:

Lateralisation (left and right brain dominant functions)

Protection (thick skull bones, cerebrospinal fluid, blood-brain barrier)

4 lobes (frontal, parietal, temporal, occipital)

Functional divisions – cytoarchitecture – topography – cognition – weight – language – pathology – metabolism

Executive functions (self control – planning – reasoning – abstract thought)

Functional vs. anatomical definition

Encephalization Quotient

Neural tissue (closed head injuries, poisoning, infection, psychiatric conditions, degenerative disorders)

48 hours later, Dr Bungawalla picked up his brain model. Sami had added special circuitry as requested, powered by lithium cells. Flickering lights within the transparent model made it seem like a lamp.

Alone at night, Dr Bungawalla watched it crackle with activity as his own brain and body declined. His life had changed since he had self-diagnosed Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases. Every spark of life was now more precious.

He watched his thoughts.

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