The Mind-Body Interface

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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Well, this is one way of showing that I attended first-year philosophy seminars: Draw on the thoughts of Plato and Aristotle, then leap two millennia to Descartes. I never studied history, but I’m actually far more comfortable with it!

Also, I don’t think I’ve ever built a column based on the writings of a fellow columnist, but Multiple Sclerosis News Today‘s Tamara Sellman and her column, “Need to Know: Does Brain Matter Matter?” sparked my curiosity.

That column, published on Nov. 7, 2019, is about the effects of MS on our brains. It’s a concise synopsis of our synapses. (I’m so pleased with that line that I’d have a celebratory lie-down if I wasn’t pushing deadlines again!) I came across it in my role as a Multiple Sclerosis News Today Forums moderator.

I’m aware that we have more than 800 members of the MS forums, but I’m paid to get involved every working day of the week. It’s a brilliant resource, as quite a few of us are trying to pull together the threads of all of the research out there. Most days, I learn something new about our mysterious world of MS.

I found myself writing oodles about brain preservation instead of the normal short, sharp response.

So, as I’d written the basis of a column, I thought I’d reproduce it here, where I think and hope it will reach a wider audience.

First, I think “brain training” games look more like a way of flogging (British for “selling”) apps than anything else. If you derive fun from them, fair enough, but I think that’s probably about it.

I’ve also had a full course of the disease-modifying therapy Lemtrada (alemtuzumab). Though my time with Lemtrada was truly horrendous, there is still an upside: It delays brain shrinkage. Brain shrinkage is usually faster for MSers, but after Lemtrada, our brains amazingly shrink more slowly than those of the general population. At 62, this a definite plus for me.

Then there is this: “Bilingual brains are more resilient to dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease.” Connectivity in the brain creates more protection. I’m pretty sure that if you’re a true polyglot, it is even better!

Since writing the above sentence, new research has indicated that this may also be true for MS patients. 

Sheesh, everything moves so quickly. It’s only been a week and already new evidence is out there!

I also have this to add to the mix: I can’t speak a second language other than rudimentary German. Mind you that if I try to ask for a beer in a French bar, if I’m not careful, the German comes out. Too many beers, and I must hope they are at least good European Union citizens.

On the brink of Brexit, obviously we British are not! My mother was Austrian but stopped teaching me German before I went to school so that I wouldn’t be bullied. That was in the early ’60s, and the war was still fresh.

However, it looks like doing professional comedy might have a similar effect as learning a language. It seems that comedians’ brains become wired differently than those of others.

So, here’s a joke I wrote about football many years ago that fits. As I work in satire, this gag is far too old to ever get an outing again. But hey, it makes the zeitgeist — it’s being recycled!

When Roy Hodgson was the manager of the England national football team, he spoke five languages. Scouser (a person from Liverpool) Wayne Rooney was his star player. Unfortunately for Hodgson, though he spoke all of those languages, none of them was Rooney!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Christopher avatar


Um, what exactly is your article about? I was hoping to learn something about the ‘mind-body connection,’ but there was nothing there but a reference to another article and attempts at humor. I am also not certain what Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes have to do with this article. The article is just really confusing.

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Um, if memory serves the mind-body interface is about consciousness. As we have no more clue about what it is now than those philosophers knew - there is no answer. Sorry - was it a tease?
The article is about 'Brain Preservation' so I thought I'd start it with some great minds!


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