Disclaimer: if you are easily disturbed by whimsical thought experiments involving potential accidental self-mutilation, you read this node entirely at your own risk. Otherwise, enjoy! =^)

Today I was watching The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time in some years (the DVD is nice... but I digress), and towards the middle of the movie, there is a part where the undead Mad Scientist type flips open the top of his skull like it's a lid or something, and scratches or rubs his brain in confusion.

At that point I had a rather unsettling thought.

It started with idle speculation about how it would feel to just lightly run your hand over the surface of your brain, assuming that it could be done in relative safety. Would you feel a tingling sensation? Maybe a crawling feeling down your spine?

That's when the disturbing part hit me.

What if, in the course of this hypothetical brain massage, you accidentally touched the part of your brain that controlled the muscle movements in your hand and arm? Suddenly that light touch causes your fingers to uncontrollably plunge deep inside your brain, instantly killing or at least horribly incapacitating you.

I suppose the logical conclusion to make is simply, don't touch your brain. If you absolutely can't resist the temptation, have a friend do it.

And make sure they wash their hands!

Brains don't have nerve terminations, or at least, no touch sensitive ones.

For this reason, it is possible to perform brain surgery with a local anaesthesia. Neurologists frequently use this technique to cure epilepsy patients who don’t react well to standard treatment. The procedure consists of the surgeon sending small electrical impulses into specific regions of the brain to see how it reacts. Once the problematic region is localized, they evaluate to see if it can be safely removed and proceed as needed. It takes an awake patient to perform this operation because he may have to answer specific questions regarding the way his brain reacts to stimuli.

I can only imagine how comfortable it is to have one’s skull opened with some surgical saw…And the noise…

As radlab0 pointed out: During the "smashing the skull open phase" (craniotomy), the patient is actually put asleep to alleviate the creepiness of it all.

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