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The following multi-part poem was inspired by the following passage:

“Pongileoni’s bowing and the scraping of the anonymous fiddlers had shaken the air in the great hall, had set the glass of the windows looking on to it vibrating: and this in turn had shaken the air in Lord Edwards’ apartment on the further side. The shaking air rattled Lord Edwards’ membrana typani; the interlocked malleus, incus, and stirrup bones were set in motion so as to agitate the membrane of the oval window and raise an infinitesimal storm in the fluid of the labyrinth. The hairy endings of the auditory nerve shuddered like weeds in a rough sea; a vast number of obscure miracles were performed in the brain, and Lord Edwards ecstatically whispered ‘Bach!’

 - Aldous L. Huxley, Point Counter Point, Pg. 32

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Neurobiology lecture

&

 The Hungover Student


 

By: Mike Karlovich


Written June 2015

[Attention Lost; Attention Found]

The marveling student 

was sitting front and center

amidst a mystifying

undergraduate neurobiology lecture on the auditory system 

when mid-sentence

a student’s serious slouch in the back-corner of the classroom

invaded the professor’s periphery

promptly abducting her speech-intention -

causing a brief digression from the lesson…

 

[The Calling]

 

The sound waves of the professor 

repeating their 

name aloud again and again

attempting to recapture the attention

of this lost sleepy student 

combined with the subtle tapping

of the bored foot a psychology student 

gazing down at the clock on her phone

to jostle so fluidly the airy sea

of this sacred-learning-place ---

inspiring the matter-elements of the classroom,

each object in their own unique resonance

to compress and rarify with the breathable space

at varying frequencies but constant pace

and these pressure waves swim to

rhythmically beat the threads

of the ear-covering wool hat encapped

upon the mentally-absent fool with desk drowned in drool

whose silly overuse of alcoholic GABA agonists

the night prior had presently efferently deafened him

to seven-tenths hung-over sleep…

 

[Audition]

 

And now still unbeknownst

 to the semi-conscious perceiver “itself” –

the psych student’s subtle tapping 

and professor’s pressure waves

surfed down both ear canals like a ringing bell,

oscillating – relatively more intensely ipsilaterally -

both of the hungover student’s tympanic membranes –

where there, symmetrically cloned within each

lateral side

the three little drummer bones:

the interlocked malleus, incus and stirrup

like a Rube Goldberg device

are set into motion

so as to shake their oval window’s membrane

and summon within the aqueous-gelatin matrix of

the spiral-frequency-mapped labyrinths

an imperceptible tempest

sending those millions of microscopic filaments

arranged chronologically for logarithmically scaled frequency sensitivity

into a gated-spring-loaded frenzy

of negative feedback

with ions on a driving-force-driven

Sisyphean transmembrane journey

toward their

ever elusive electrochemical equilibria,

and this Mobius nature of the ions’ transmembrane journey

so selflessly contributes to power

the relentless ribbon synapses who

using the awesome bio-physics

of their evolutionarily formed functions

send coded afferent shocks of

tonically released glutamate so as to excite

the many countless spiral ganglion cells who

sum together bilaterally to become

the lovely auditory-cochlear nerves;

just like -

crickets hidden in unobtrusive mass

chirping each a separate tone 

together to sing sound’s symphony

amidst the mental leaves of neural grass -

setting into further coincidental motion

a myriad of synapses from both ears

to the ancient medulla oblongata

where now there the freshly transduced pressure waves are processed into

frequency codes by the dorsal cochlear nuclei and further then into

timing and intensity codes so ingeniously

by the medial and lateral olivary nuclei

(with contralateral assistance from the Medial nucleus of the trapezoid body), respectively,

where now once processed by the second-order

neurons of the ventral cochlear nucleus

the unconscious signals

are sent

to synapse onto the inferior colliculi

so as to compose with the medial geniculate nuclei

an electrochemical symphony for the auditory cortices,

which upon hearing this symphony

performs then so effortlessly

a miraculously vast number of obscurely intermingled computational mysteries

hierarchically executed

virtually instantaneously

within columnar maps organized tonotopically

and interwoven jungles-gyms of integrated circuitry

that decode the ‘crypted pressure waves

in that barely conscious hungover brain

constructing the subconscious perception of the repetition

of the professor chanting the name:

“Aldous…Aldous…Aldous…wake up!”

and the neural codes revealed the sound

to be coming from straight ahead...

 

[Reaction]

 

Somehow or another –

like hearing one’s name across the room

of that cocktail party

 everyone truly wanted to be at -

the professor’s utterances abruptly broke the efferent trance:

capturing and opening Aldous’s hearing-door-of-perception,

arousing commanding-motor-neurons to communicate

and mediate a flexor-tensor yin-yang

that lengthens his spine into a postured line

lending then his head to lift

which caused the aqueous gel-matrix

in the semicircular canals

to equally and oppositely shift –

inspiring the calcium-carbonate crystals –

those earth-centered otoliths

of the saccule and utricle

-who with acceleration do love to rock n’ roll

allow then to unfold

increased afferent activity to flow

exciting the principle cells of the vestibular

nuclei of the brain-stem,

which in turn domino to excite

motor neurons of the ipsilateral medial

and contralateral lateral recti

to command the ciliary

muscles to appropriately align the visual field

so that Aldous’s eyeballs

are now in proper place

to perform the mirror optical show

of miracles the eyes both so reliably do…


 

[Vision]

 

Aldous’s photoreceptors of his opened eyes

now hyperpolarize

with the incoming classroom light

reducing the amount of glutamate

tonically unleashed from those awesome ribbon synapses

altering the graded potentials

that are laterally inhibited

by cells arranged horizontally

until the remaining signals

are shuttled down

the retinal bipolar cells

where the graded signals

are relayed and transformed

into action potentials coding

photon-points in space

that saltatorily fly

passively down the retinal ganglia

which do amalgam to become

the magno and parvocellular pathways

of the optic nerves who on a chiasma journey

carrying motion, color, forms, and position

information separately eventually synapse

onto the lateral geniculate nuclei

where color, form, position, and motion

are still all coded separately in fields of

similar retinotopic spatial receptivity…

 

Which then with geniculate fibers that terminate

to layer 4c of the primary visual cortices

where the signals are relayed to –

simple-cells who hypothetically stitch together

to become excitatory and inhibitory

complex cell pairs which end

on end-stopped complex cells –

who – all three together – stich

the coded retina-born points of space

into monocularly dominated columns

of receptive fields selectively sensitive

to the specific orientation of edges, contrast, and corners,

where there the signals venture through

the striate laterally via the constellations

of stellate cells and explore

the higher visual cortices

via neuronal pyramids

who combine into circuits that

flow

to create the so-called ventral

pathway which integrates

the coded mosaic of electric-chemical impulses

to become the visible form

standing

in front of the whiteboard

staring back at Aldous,

and the desks in his retina’s periphery

registered through the dorsal pathway

a storm of cognitive computations that recognize

and identify

the scene he is seeing 

is the classroom - -

not his bed or some other space;

while simultaneously

the ventral pathway

performed further elaboration

with the hippocampus and fusiform gyrus to

recognize the foveal target up front

as the neurobiology

professor with a not-so-happy face…


 

[Conscious Perception]

 

Then suddenly becoming conscious

of the evoked activity arising

from the cutaneous receptors

on Aldous’s mouth’s skin

 reacting to the cool air

that had passed over

his drool-covered upper lip

a jiffy prior when he had quickly

straightened-out his sleepy-slouch

because the signals from the wet lip

were delivered to the brain-stem

and like a game of telephone the afferent signals

were whispered

on their way to the

grand intersection of the

sensuous universe: the thalamus,

where there the coded sensations

made their way to the registered-regions of the

Homunculi-maps representing his upper lips

and smoothly coordinated

so elegantly with many integrated

servo-loops known and unknown to science presently

a pattern of code that

Aldous’s motor neurons descending motor pathway 

use to initiate and execute

a flexor-extensor dance to carry out

the wiping of the hung-over drool off of his upper-mouth…


 

[A Much Needed Breath]


 

Where then now – 

the chemoreceptors in the carotid arteries

sensed carbon dioxide

accumulating from all this metabolic activity 

carried out from

having been woken up by the professor repeating the sounds of his name,

and had sat up straight with eyes

opened and focused on the face

of the individual he has recognized as “professor”,

and the afferent sense of the moisture

on his philtrum and its surround

inspiring the descending motor

pathways to choreograph

the intricate muscle-dance so as to wipe his lip with his hand

and so, oh so faithfully the carotid arteries 

sent messages to the brainstem

to expel the accumulating toxin

and to invite in more consciousness-fuel:

the holy dioxygen molecule;

and so

as the neural-story goes

the brainstem let the spinal cord know

to remind the medulla and the pons

to sing a song of harmonious

pattern-generation to inspire

the alpha motor neurons within phrenic nerves to

relax the intercostal muscles and

contract the diaphragmatic dome

as to permit yet another cycle of respiration…


 

[Conscious Behavior]


 

Whence then now ready to make a peep

Somehow still now so mysteriously

Aldous set the gears in motion 

so he could intentionally speak;

voluntarily initiating a synchronous

contraction and relaxation of many muscles so

he himself — this hungover star-dust-born fool

could unleash the magnificent power of the language pathways

to consciously say aloud like a tool,

“I’m sorry professor,

I missed that,

can you repeat what you just said?”

To with which the professor so seriously replied,

“Sure, Mr. Huxley, I was trying to wake you up

 so you wouldn’t miss my lecture,

on obtaining recordings

from the chemoelectric song birds

who secretly nest deep

in the neural circus-trees

of the poetic

mountain-jungles of consciousness and cognition…”

 

At this response

 

the bored psych student with foot still tapping 

looked back down at the clock on her phone

 covering her empty notebook,

and seeing not even a minute has past

since she looked last 

she rolled her eyes glaring a look of dismay

releasing from her diaphragm a frustrated sigh

--- yet another audible pressure wave…

 

[Meta-cognition and creativity]

 

The marveling student 

sitting front and center 

beamed a smile

at this whole scene

 and laughed inside 

at the psych student’s bored sigh,

then looked up ahead

at the chalkboard covered in jargony terma, models,

equations and figures flooding him with blissful curiosity;

he then continued using his brain

as he consciously decided to digress his attention

from the lesson

and began creating a poem 

about how he feels the endlessness of the brain

and the majesty of an intellect that’s sane

‘nd further how the joy of the neuroscientist 

arises from the experience

of the nature of the brain

mediating the investigation

of the brain’s nature 

by observing, studying, and experimenting upon itself 

to probe into how the brain naturally is, behaves, and operates

and its own role in ultimately producing 

the experience of conscious life being-in-itself the brain being-itself ----

all in hopes so as to penetrate that lofty vault of knowledge and wisdom

that thrives within…

 

[Class Dismissed]