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TEDxLAU hosts an exploration of the human brain

Physicians and educators at LAU’s School of Medicine delve into the nature, detection, and long-term impacts of brain disorders.

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Sarah Kawtharani introducing the topic and professors to the audience.

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Dr. Reshdi Ahdab suggests that while lost neurones - post-stroke - cannot be recovered, new ones can form new connections and enable a full recovery.

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Dr. Baddoura noted that the stigma surrounding mental illness has lessened significantly in Lebanon.

“The brain is a wonder of creation, a complex organ, that has been studied extensively, and yet we are still unable to fully understand it,” said LAU student of medicine Sarah Kawtharani as she welcomed LAU students to the latest TEDxLAU Salon at the Gulbenkian Theatre.

“The brain can malfunction in different ways, and we are gathered today to gain insight into how and why that happens,” added Kawtharani, speaking to an audience of students from LAU and other universities across the disciplines. Offering insights and responses to questions were neurologist Rechdi Ahdab and psychiatrist Charles Baddoura, both physicians and educators at the Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine.

The screening of a TED Talk by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor preceded a discussion with Dr. Ahdab about strokes and their effects. In her talk, “My stroke of insight,” Taylor describes the experience of detachment from her physical self and the calm she felt while suffering a stroke. Her message is one of love and peace as she encourages the audience to embrace the consciousness of the right hemisphere of their brain—which she refers to as a deep inner-peace circuitry—at least as much as the left.

Commenting on Taylor’s talk, Ahdab referred to her explanation of the functions of the brain and its left and right hemispheres as too simplistic, and suggested that she probably suffered a seizure and not a stroke. “I have seen thousands of stroke patients. What she describes—the euphoria and depersonalization—are likely related to epilepsy and could be the result of a temporal lobe seizure.”

A lively discussion about the detection, treatment and long-term impacts of strokes ensued, during which Ahdab explained that the brain—with its millions of unused neurons—can be trained so that, while lost neurons cannot be recovered, new ones can form new connections and enable a full recovery after a stroke.

Alzheimer’s, cell regeneration and hydrocephalies were among the topics students raised questions about and discussed before the screening of a TED talk by Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, New York, Andrew Solomon. In the talk, “Depression, the secret we share,” Solomon describes in detail how he suffers from and manages with depression. “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.”

Dr. Baddoura was asked a multitude of questions by eager and curious young minds following the screening. Is depression over-diagnosed, asked one. “No, it is under-diagnosed I believe,” said the doctor, noting however that the stigma surrounding mental illness had lessened significantly both in Lebanon and around the world in recent decades. “Lebanon offers more support to those with mild depression than Europe,” he added. “Because our personal and family ties are stronger.”

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