The will is there but its power… is deficient …there seems to exist some hidden power, something that is playing tricks… in a measure thwarting and perverting the wills designs… taking things into its own hands, and keeping the poor victim in a continual jigger. - 1872, George Huntington “On Chorea”(pictured)
Imagine going to a supermarket to get a flu vaccine – you awake 5 days later, you develop a stutter, you can no longer walk, your arms develop a flailing, the ingrained unconscious routine of swallowing becomes difficult, and you develop a british accent. You’ve never been to England.
This more or less what happened to an individual a few years ago.
What’s unique is she was a professional cheerleader for the largest grossing National Football team – the Washington Redskins. Her career was shattered and video of her odd gait has been ridiculed and made jokes on by the ignorant masses.
What’s so interesting about this case is it has happened before – on numerous occasions. The 1980s saw individuals develop Parkinson disease like symptoms from tainted LSD. The 1920s saw one of the most mysterious diseases to hit the human race – a pathogen whose cause was unknown, lead to its victims freezing in place – as if turning them into fictional statues. They also slept for days on end. The medical name is encephalitis lethargica – literally ‘the sleeping sickness’.
How is any of this possible?
When you woke up this morning to get out of bed, your legs didn’t receive a simple nerve impulse from nerve cells in the motor cortex. The common idea is that nerve fibers drop ‘acetylcholine’ on muscle fibers, this leads to the muscle shortening (‘what contraction is’) and it moves. Movement, instead, is counterintuitive.
What allows mammals and many other organisms to move is an ‘ever on’ pathway which works nonstop, a constant supply of dopamine in the Basal Ganglia (a horned like structure in the midbrain, its beautiful) is communicating with further down stream fibers, upstream, a constant inhibitory signal is stopping this excitatory signal from going thru. (oddly, your by default ‘always moving, without this constant inhibition). When you want to move, you excite cells which inhibit these inhibition cells. Loss of these dopa cells responsible ( a genetic disease) is why Michael J Fox and others have spontaneous flailings – this is what Huntington’s disease is - the nervous system is unable to generate ‘stop’ signals from the default network, allowing random excitatory movements to go thru.
(me – you can think of Huntington’s as how the brain actually works, our evolutionary ancestors probably developed some pathway/circuit that made the organism always move, only later did some inhibitory add on come along that allowed control).
Anyway, just knowing how the brain works with movement shows that enigmas like ‘the sleeping sickness’/ the case of the cheerleader/tainted LSD sufferer/Huntington’s disease patients are really characteristics symptoms from select deficits in the brain – totally explainable and interesting in themselves. Diseases and curiosities like this are interesting because t also shows how the brain normally works. (120 years ago Faraday mused on ‘How marvelously we stand upon this world.. it is here we are born bred and live.. and view this with an entire absence of wonder.. never questioning how it is we move from place to place. Well here’s part of the wonder). The cheerleaders development of a ‘british accent’ is probably not an accent but something going on with the region responsible for speech patterns, nevertheless how the ‘vaccine’ caused this is interesting.
People forget vaccines are misnomers – a flu shot is actually just giving the person the virus, it’s just the settlings are controlled and the strain is less malignant. The immune system will work to recognize the foreign invader (thanks supermarket), create a ‘recognition’ protein and begin making antibodies. The reason people don’t need to know the ‘shot idea’ is a misnomer is because when the virus is encountered again, the immune system already has developed a recognition sequence. (My intro biology professor was amazed and so interested in how encountering one virus when your 12 can be ‘remembered’ 60 years later, and how the encounter leads to the growth of immune cell workers with recognition sites for that pathogen.. forever patrolling your body until you die, just waiting to encounter the pathogen again in order to exchange blows.)
You can catch the segment of the woman if you search ‘20/20 Desiree Jennings’ on google.
Interesting thoughts, but knowledge for its own sake may not lead to celebrity or beautiful women, but it shines light on the curious affair we call ‘human existence’ and at worst, keeps us away from the thoughts of the vulgar who characterize Jennings misfortune as a ‘fake’ or ‘the work of the devil’. People forget the best treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is through brain electrocution, which is really just creating brain forest fires, their just induced seizures. The miracle is the symptoms go away, but the nerve cell universe is forever altered and shattered. Also consider 30% of the people we see on a day to day basis today would probably be deemed a) crazy b) put into a mental institution of c) dead 300 years ago - that’s probably the % of people who are on some type of oral medication for mental illness. (I could write pages on this.) One last gold piece for you – the Hippocratic oath is the medical gospel for doctors and people of medicine (part of it is etched on one of the buildings on campus). It’s contents are more like a rant, in which Hippocrates is mainly arguing against dissenters, suggesting that seizures are not the mark of the devil of curse by god, but physical mishaps in the brain. (how interesting to see the same ideas replayed on 20/20 over 2,000 years later, instead of on seizures its thru motor deficits from a cheerleader).
update: Pictured: I took the quote from Huntington because he appreciates the enigma of the situation. Someone can just say 'oh, ok, it's just Huntington's disease'. No it's not. The mystery as to how you and I move, how people can be held in place like statues, how people can lose the ability to move or control their arms, even how most organisms move is revealed through this mechanism.
On 20/20: There was 'some Doctor' consulted on 20/20 for the woman, and he used hodgpodge pseudoscience and said it was 'psychogenic' as the problem. This is the 'real doctor' who is making up for the 'fake doctors'. First of all, he has to know how the pathogen (somehow from the vaccine) altered specifics at the cell level in the brain, specifically what's causing what. Huntington's disease is a clumpy protein which gets in the way of microtubules in dopaminergic cells in the dorsal striatum - it's actually a protein. It's 'clumpy' because of a nucleotide error, which affects the structure of the protein, leading to the messing up (somehow) of the cell highways (microtubules) in the cell universe (nerve cells).. leading to the nerve cell's collapse (it's believed), leading to loss of basal activity in at the circuit level in the primary motor pathway, leading to spontaneous action potentials going thru the whatever the destination is. Try that level of explanation (molecular, intracellular, to circuit, to systems) to the explaination this doctor gave - he says 'psychogenic' - is what explains her curious symptoms.
Also this knowledge makes it more interesting - how could an odd working protein mess up a whole cell - and why does some 'tubes' running across it mess it up? What does that say about the cell highway, how does it work? What's going on it there? So many more questions that add to the mystery of how 1 cell works, just based on knowing about the Huntington protein. The asshole doctor basically said nothing about Nature. The 20/20 producers should've just given him a check, allowed him to maintain his public apperance and 'honors' and then wait for him to die because he will not be remembered.