And so ends medical school

This self-indulgent little spiel was conceived after my audiobook ran dry during a long drive south from Stoke on Trent. I’ve neglected this blog for far too long, and felt the end of my medical school career warranted some brief mention. Anyway…

I’m about to become a doctor. I graduate on Thursday the 7th of July, and am given my provisional registration with the General Medical Council on the 25th July 2016. This will mark a rather extreme transition of state, from the infamously carefree life of a student, to all the responsibilities and expectations of “being a doctor”.

As I approach this stark threshold, I’ve been looking over some of the angsty reflections I’d indulged in as a teenager (thankfully before I was given a blog), and it’s been a bit like bumping into an incredibly inebriated version of yourself a few hours before you leave for a party.

I am writing this in part so that Dr Low of 2022 can look back on what was on the mind of Mr Low of 2016 in (presumably) the same way. A lot more seems to have happened in the 6 years of medical school than the half dozen years preceding it – whose meagre highlights were video games, music and the romantic tact of an adolescent whose best (read: only) line was “I’m in a band…?”.

Since then, my repertoire of emotional and romantic discourse has expanded hugely. I’ve managed to get this far with Mei partly on the back of “I won’t always be this useless – I’ll be a doctor in a short while, and I’ve heard they’re great!”

Dinner table talk – albeit some that can cause the more soft stomached of my friends and family to groan, has certainly improved. I’ve seen internal organs inadvertently delivered via C-section, only to be frantically reinserted (twice) by incredulous obstetricians. I’ve called over doctors to help resuscitate a patient we’d previously declared dead after 6 rounds of unsuccessful CPR, when I noticed he’d started breathing again of his own accord. I’ve helped out a man stabbed at Kentish Town station, and had to explain to my flatmates why I was covered in blood, and “no it isn’t mine”, and “no you don’t have to keep glancing at the nearest exit”.

All in all, it’s all been rather exciting, and if you or someone you know want to embark on the process of becoming a doctor, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Medical school can be a great way for sheltered white heterosexual cis-males to gain a sense of perspective in this exciting world.

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Sleep

I hope to revisit sleep and dreams at a later point, but here is a brief crack at providing something interesting before I delve into exam season, and is the first piece I have written particularly for the purposes of this blog! Enjoy.

Almost every single organism we know of, from bacteria to blue whales has a some manner of circadian rhythm, and all of those with a brain have some manner of equivalent to sleeping.

While the simplest explanation for why we must sleep is that we become sleepy, sleep deprivation is eventually 100% fatal. A study into sleep deprivation in rodents was conducted, and within two weeks, every single subject died. When autopsies were conducted, nothing was found to be obviously wrong, except for the tell-tale signs of not breathing and zero blood pressure, commonly found in things that are not alive.

But beyond this perhaps ethically troubling experiment, a rare condition exists in humans by the name of fatal familial insomnia. It will come as no surprise to the more attentive reader that this too is invariably fatal, and is a condition caused by prion buildup in the brain leading to progressive deterioration of the ability to sleep. Death usually follows within 7 to 36 months of the onset of symptoms, which progresses from a state of partial insomnia leading to panic attacks and hallucinations, to total insomnia leading to dementia and death.

What is sleep? I think of myself as a consciousness generated by my own neuroanatomy, so when I am unconscious, to an extent you could argue that I no longer exist. You could use an analogy with the image produced on a computer screen as the conscious awareness produced y the unknown workings of a humming desktop computer. The screen will go into standby after a while, but the overall hum of the computer will not disappear entirely.

The analogy, while perhaps already a strain, ought not be taken much further. Computer screens will turn themselves off to prevent ‘burn in’, and while an interesting case could be made to apply this analogy to the mind, the reality is that scientists are still struggling to provide a definitive reason for why we need to sleep, or indeed point to the mechanisms through which insomnia causes immune suppression, depression, and even death.

Massive thank you to Mei Mac!!

Hello!

So this website was set up on my behalf by the apparently tech savy Mei Mac, without my knowledge, permission or consent.
That being said….

It’s so cool! I’d been urged in the past by friends to get into blogging, but in her infinite wisdom, she was aware that I’d never get round to it without a kick up the bum. Now that my bum is sufficiently kicked, I’m really looking forward to musing about consciousness, and I’ll also be sharing any thoughts I have about developments in the neuroscience world.

I’ll probably take a while to get into the swing of this blogging business on account of exam stuff, and I hope to buck up the standard of my writing for anyone who enjoys what I blab about. So watch this space.

Mei definitely got one thing right.
Brains are fucking cool.