Neuromag July 2018 - Page 22

The Sirens ’ of Odysseus – or Sisyphus ’ Boulder : An ode to science and art

Written by Eduarda Streit Morsch
Society for Neuroscience Conference 2017 ; Washington DC , 15th November 2017 In the classical book of Homer , Odysseus had to cross the island of Anthemoessa to be reunited with his homeland . “ Dive thy ship swiftly past the island ”, Circe warned the Greek hero : for the island was home to beautiful – but tragic – creatures called Sirens . They were half mermaid , half bird ; and even more beautiful than the Siren ’ s face were their voices , which were able to lure numerous sailors to death .
Aware of the danger he was putting his men in , and acutely aware of the prophecy put on him , Odysseus told his men to fill their ears with beeswax to protect themselves from the lovely , wicked singing of the Sirens . Together with it , he ordered his men to tie him up on the ship ’ s mast and no matter what he would scream or beg , they were not to let him loose .
Upon hearing the chant of the creatures and their beautiful faces , Odysseus quivered , “ Come hither , come hither , brave Odysseus !” they called , and Odysseus pleaded to be released . His men only bound him tighter .
It is said that the Sirens die when they are not able to lure men to their final fate . After Odysseus ’ triumphant plan , it is believed that the Sirens indeed perished after their failure . This passage of the Odyssey can have its meaning extrapolated in many ways to modern daily life . For instance , a sudden burst of passion for someone unreachable or untouchable – Odysseus tied to the mast would be the passion itself , only to be released when logic once again takes over of one ’ s mind ( it can even be a literal rope and bondage , if in any case you are into that ...). One can even extrapolate to a mechanism of axonal regeneration after injury .
Yes , you heard it right ! In 2017 , Dr . Frank Bradke gave a lecture at the Society for Neuroscience about his work on axonal growth following injury . To make a long story short , he compared severed axons to Odysseus on the mast , unresponsive to growth arrest cues from the environment , these represented by the Sirens . The successful regeneration after injury would be then portrayed by the safe passage from the Anthemoessa islands .
Too great of an extrapolation ? Maybe . Or rather beautifully explained ? Yes , and please give me some more of that !
Ever since my interest in neuroscience arose , I have always tried to observe things happening at a second level of perception . I do not know exactly how to explain it , but I think there is a word that would maybe convey what I mean : apophenia , or , as Wikipedia describes it , “ The tendency to attribute meaning to perceived connections or patterns between seemingly unrelated things ” or “( implies ) an universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information ”.
We , human beings , are comfortable when we can find patterns in the random . Like the gambler ’ s fallacy or the pareidolia ( I wrote a text about the “ apparent ” anatomical findings in Michelangelo ’ s paintings : revistacapitolina . com . br / sobre-jesus-emtorradas ). We find meaning in these patterns and these artificial , made-up meanings can be considered our own little instinct of survival ( unless you are a nihilist , in which case you are now rolling your eyes at my own little idiosyncrasies ).
However , getting back on track – I always try to find a bridge between my personal interests ( art , writing , human behavior ) and the cold , sterile analytical side of science . Even though I am fascinated by axon growth and migration mechanisms , I confess I almost dozed off while Dr . Bradke delineated all the molecules , signaling pathways , and Taxol-induced stabilization of microtubules … but on the next
22 | NEUROMAG | July 2018
The Sirens’ of Odysseus – or Sisyphus’ Boulder: An ode to science and art Written by Eduarda Streit Morsch Society for Neuroscience Conference 2017; Washington DC, 15th November 2017 In the classical book of Homer, Odysseus had to cross the island of Anthemoessa to be reunited with his homeland. “Dive thy ship swiftly past the island”, Circe warned the Greek hero: for the island was home to beautiful – but tragic – creatures called Sirens. They were half mermaid, half bird; and even more beautiful than the Siren’s face were their voices, which were able to lure numerous sailors to death. Aware of the danger he was putting his men in, and acutely aware of the prophecy put on him, Odysseus told his men to fill their ears with beeswax to protect themselves from the lovely, wicked singing of the Sirens. Together with it, he ordered his men to tie him up on the ship’s mast and no matter what he would scream or beg, they were not to let him loose. Upon hearing the chant of the crea- tures and their beautiful faces, Od- ysseus quivered, “Come hither, come hither, brave Odysseus!” they called, and Odysseus pleaded to be released. His men only bound him tighter. It is said that the Sirens die when they are not able to lure men to their fi- nal fate. After Odysseus’ triumphant plan, it is believed that the Sirens in- deed perished after their failure. This passage of the Odyssey can have its meaning extrapolated in many ways to modern daily life. For in- stance, a sudden burst of passion for someone unreachable or untouchable – Odysseus tied to the mast would be the passion itself, only to be released when logic once again takes over of one’s mind (it can even be a literal 22 | NEUROMAG |July 2018 rope and bondage, if in any case you are into that...). One can even extrapo- late to a mechanism of axonal regen- eration after injury. Yes, you heard it right! In 2017, Dr. Frank Bradke gave a lecture at the Society for Neuroscience about his work on axonal growth following in- jury. To make a long story short, he compared severed axons to Odysseus on the mast, unresponsive to growth arrest cues from the environment, these represented by the Sirens. The successful regeneration after injury would be then portrayed by the safe passage from the Anthemoessa is- lands. Too great of an extrapolation? Maybe. Or rather beautifully explained? Yes, and please give me some more of that! Ever since my interest in neuroscience arose, I have always tried to o \B[\[[]HXۙ][و\\[ۋHۛ^XB^Z[] ]H[\H\Bܙ][X^XH۝^H]BYX[\[XK܋\Z\YXHKBܚX\] 8'H[[H]X]BYX[[\Z]YۛX[ۜ܂]\]Y[Y[Z[H[KB]Y['H܈8' [\Y\H[[]\[[X[[[HYZ]\[[H[ܛX][۸'KK[X[Z[\HYܝXB[H[[]\[B[KZHH[X\&\[XH܂H\ZYXH HܛHH^X]H8'\\[8'H[]ZX[[[š[ZX[[[&\Z[[Έ]\KB\][KK؜KZ\\Y[KBܜY\KH[YX[[[\B]\[\H\YXX[ XYK]\YX[[[HۜY\Y\ۂ]H[[و\][ [\[B\HHZ[\ [X\H[H\B[[\^Y\]^Hۈ]BY[[ܘ\Y\K]\][XۈX8$H[ B^\H[HYH]Y[^B\ۘ[[\\ \ ܚ][[X[Z][܊H[H \[H[[]KB[YHوY[K][YH[B\[]YH^ۈܛ[ZYܘKB[ۈYX[\\Hۙ\H[[ޙYٙ[HYH[[KB]Y[H[X[\Yۘ[[] B^\[^ Z[XYX[^][ۂوZXܛX[\)]ۈH^