The Spinal Trigeminal Nucleus Caudalis

It’s still a process, not a map. So of course my first meeting with the materials did not go as planned (more below). The good news is I have my first piece! Meet your Spinal trigeminal nucleus caudalis! (This link gives the larger context. You don’t need it.)

Here is the context for that piece so that you know where it is in your head. This is not something that you can just google to find an easy picture of unfortunately because these are delicate brain structures that don’t tend to get individual attention in surgery very often (from what I can discern). You can’t actually find a picture of this ganglia dissected out. I guess these tissues tend to not be represented in that manner very often.

This piece spans the region around your first to second vertebrae, and is probably not much bigger than a pencil. Remember that this is one sub piece of a larger group of ganglia that collectively make up the Spinal Trigeminal Nucleus (bottom to top, caudalis, interpolaris, and oralis sections). Above all that you still have three more trigeminal ganglia, the “Main” Trigeminal Nucleus (crude touch, discriminative touch), the Mesencephalic Trigeminal Nucleus (proprioception:”place-in-space” for the face) and the Trigeminal Motor Nucleus (controlling your face).

I realize that the brightly colored glittery monstrosity is not really what you would expect to see associated with brain science, but I like to get things really conceptually simple if possible. I think it works and if my particular choices on appearance don’t work in the long run I can always change it. Besides, I don’t know if I really think much of someone who might get scared away by brain science just because I chose to involve glitter. Here is a breakdown of the information in the piece.

*The yellow color is what I chose for the general Somatosensory system (Pain, temperature, touch, and “place in space”) that acts as a part of your “sensory suit”. Structures having to do with this system will be yellow.

*Running from bottom to top are seven green paper clips (bottom) and three silver ones (top) with the ends sticking out from the plastic resulting in twenty places for a pipe cleaner to attached.

*There is red and orange glitter glued to the surface of the ganglion to represent the information that the structure processes (picture, not diagram).

*The Green paperclips indicate excitatory connections from the primary axons arriving from the trigeminal ganglion that carry the pain and temperature information from the face. Seven is not a random number! You have seven Dermatomes in your head and neck that are arranged like an onion from your nose back and I thought it would be a good idea to have that information represented.

*The Silver paper clips represent connections that exist, but with unknown logic. There are direct connections between the STN Caudalis and the Contact Zone with the Interpolaris (the Vi/Vc GCZ that I has to incorperate as a design element), there are connections with the Vi and Vo sub-ganglia. There may also be connections with the motor nucleus so I may be adding features.

*The pipe cleaners are yellow (somatosensory) and represent the primary sensory afferents (the first data wire sending a signal) for Pain (red beads) or temperature (orange beads) sense.

So what this piece does, is to take the the incoming pain and temperature information from the face, eyes, mouth, teeth, larynx, and sinuses (from one side for each ganglion), and and passes it on to your thalamus and your cerebral cortex where your conscious sensation of these will take place. This piece does this in a way that creates a literal physical map of your face/etc in how the information is passed along. This is called somatotopy (preserving the physical location information as the information goes from one part of the brain to another). In your Primary Motor Cortex and Primary Somatosensory Cortex your entire body is represented, in physically distinguishable form.

Parts to be added!

I knew that I needed to get used to modifying pieces while they are on the model so I have not yet added the secondary somatosensory afferents (the second data wire) that move the signal from the Spinal Trigeminal Nucleus to the Thalamus (specifically the VPM, the ventral posterior medial nucleus of the thalamus). I will be experimenting with attaching paperclips to the dorsal (rear in humans) part of the piece so I can have those connections.

Technical issues.

So any plan of attack that exists gets altered when it meets reality. My attempt to understand and convey the brain was no different. First, here are some 25g test pieces that I made to see how well the dyes worked on the InstaMorph. I put 25g of plastic beads into a short mason jar with three drops of dye and one tablespoon of water. This was put in a pan of water set to 3.5 (~160-170F) on the stove. This was done with the red, blue, yellow and black dyes. After a half an hour I folded the plastic about 15x (after washing my hands) to mix everything up and put it back in the water if needed. The results were what could be expected with randomly buying plastic and dyes.

Yellow

This worked the best. So at least I was lucky enough to be able to build my first piece. This only needed the three drops, and only needed to be folded the one 15x session.

Blue and Red

These had similar issues. The dye does not stick to the InstaMorph as well. I ended up folding in two 15x sessions, and cutting grooves into the surface of the pieces so they would have more surface area contact with the plastic. You can tell when the dye will not stick as well when there is dye left in the small pool of water in the mason jar. Over time I had some dye stick to the plastic, and some stick to the glass in the jar. However it looks like I will be able to use them, I just need to remember to incubate longer or add more dye to the jar.

Black

Yeah. So since black is the absence of all color, a lazy ( but normally fine) way to make black dye is to mix the primary colors because that way the object absorbs all color resulting in a black appearance (you don’t really see color, you see the unabsorbed visible light reflecting off of objects). That can result in problems…

I don’t want to spend more money at the moment so I might try finely ground activated charcoal…

The weird stuff.

This should have been built a week ago but the strangest thing happened. I got ritualistic about building the first piece. I don’t really have any other way to explain it. Since I have spent the last two months with this brain modeling among my primary interests, the act of bringing it into reality made me get emotionally sensitive about it in weird ways. I did not want to do it unless that was the only thing I was going to do that day (no other distractions). I got anti-social (I have mostly stayed away from internet social areas and real-life social areas). It also distracted me in other areas of my life that has caused some disruption (My hobby needs to be de-emphasized a bit). I guess this has meant more to me than I thought…

Next!

I can’t really do time tables anymore because while I am finally building a routine, I need to make that routine compatible with my life. If I am truly pushing against something that nature was uh, nice enough to give me access to, I have to start admitting some realities. It is having some kind of psychological impact. It’s minor at this point but I am getting more forgetful lately. I have a hypothesis that if TS is giving me some kind of altered access to rule-governed forms of language processing, over-reliance on that form can make me lazy with associational memory. I was always bad with names, phone numbers and such. But now when I get into more heated internet “discussions” I have started dropping bits of sentence structure and confusing others. I have not read enough about grammar structure to analyze copies of these discussions, but what I have allowed myself to think about makes me thing there is a weird blurring of categorical information, and lack of transitions. I have a problem giving people context. That makes me feel like a jerk…

1. As I have mentioned off and on, I am building a legend page to go with this effort that is actually supposed to work like a guide so that anyone could in principle do what I am doing. The reason that I decided to set it up this way is because back when I first started this, I realized that just drawing, sketching, and building pieces of the brain made a huge difference in my ability to internalize the information. Not only does it get me to remember what each piece is or does, but my brain seems better able to snap everything I read into an appropriate context. Lots of little things have become easier to conceptualize. For example I can see how the shapes and paths I am seeing were laid down by development. Also the way that incoming information is changed from a locational organization, to a computational organization after the primary sensory ganglia (Trigeminal Ganglion in this case) puts how everything is organized into a different picture and renders all the meaty bits more sensible because I am managing to uproot my assumptions about the brain from the limitations that my mind has put on it.

The mind is not nearly as mysterious as I was led to believe…

2. While I should look some more, I have yet to find any information on the internet about Tourette Syndrome or ADHD from the point of view of someone who not only has it, but can read the scientific literature as deeply as I can (I know they exist, I just need to find them). That makes me feel like I have a duty to present it in all it’s meaty glory with detailed citation lists way too long for the internet. Normally anyway. Since I’m still pretending that Tourettes is letting me translate information differently, I aim to make all that complicated crap sensible to everybody. Right now one short bit on google-fu is too little for me. I have mostly been waiting because the longer I took to build the first piece, the harder it was to think about TS or ADHD pages. I have a lot to say about both and I’m eager to see if it looks as impressive on a page as it does in my head. I’ve been wrong before.

3. The “Philosophy Grinder”. A couple of weeks ago I was going to do a post about me and philosophy. That has been boiling in my head for a while and that weird idea is now something I want to call the Philosophy Grinder. This is a very preliminary idea, but the gist is this. The information that your brain turns into your mind has very specific logical routes,l characteristics, and consequences to how our minds work. What would happen if one were to make a way to line up a philosophy next to the reality of how we process our reality? There are very real differences between associational and rule-based aspects to our social minds. There are very real biases that we place on the information that comes in and how we apply assumptions to it. There are many many more things that could be discovered if such a comparison could be made. I have not yet put the information into a single picture, but these five images contain most of the general idea in outline.

4. Next piece? I’m not sure. If I went to the thalamus from the STNVc I would learn more. But I will give in to a sense of completeness and finish the Other four parts of the STN.

I guess I will Post a few more images from the process for now and hopefully I will have a legend up as soon as I can.

Am I really ready?

I’m finding it hard to believe, but I think I’m finally ready. I have re-done the fine details of this over and over to make sure that it all makes sense and there is not a better way. I have been disappointed in how long it took me to get here because I have been unhappy with how the information was synthesized together and how I would have to describe it on the legend page. So I have been combining and simplifying over and over to make it as generalized and accurate as possible. I think it’s finally done. The process anyway (at least until I have to consider cortex and epigenetics more carefully).

Here is a shot of the spreadsheet for now. I try to upload a copy of it tonight after putting in the rest of the relevant links in. I like the idea of having a file handy for critics.

On the Left side is some general information on the details that I am representing. On the Right side is a box arrangement with some creative cell filling to indicate wires and processing centers. The positioning is relative to how it will be in the model. The pink regions are to indicate different anatomical directions. The blue bar is showing the most general structure. The Yellow boxes are either somatosensory ganglia or neurons. The Orange box represents the receptive field (where the sensation comes from and what it is) for the temperature and pain sense, and the blue boxes represents the touch sense (which is spread between the Vo and Vi sub-ganglia that they call “Pars Interpolaris” and “Pars Caudalis”). The yellow boxes on the right are the destinations of the secondary neurons that reside in the ganglia. The grey box represents the Ganglial Contact Zone (they just call it the Vi/Vo transition zone) that I needed to add as an element. I do not know if there is a GCZ between the Vo and Vi portions of the STN but I will be leaving place holders in the spreadsheet until farther notice.

On the left side of a ganglia/GCZ box I put any inputs to that body and in nearby cells I have receptor/cell type information that I will choose a bead for if necessary (cell type for sure due to message speed being an important factor).

I am also changing the box border colors when appropriate (inhibitory/excitatory signals, etc…). It’s going to get some tweaks because I think I can represent some of that better but at least I have a final piece spreadsheet!

Colors

The system that the Spinal Trigeminal Nucleus functions within is the somatosensory system (above). I chose to make somatosensory structures (pipe cleaner and plastic) yellow because that is an indicator of an “alert” color that might not be bad choice.

I chose to make pain sense a red bead (wire) or red glitter (processing center). I chose to make Temperature sense an orange bead or orange glitter. I chose to make touch a blue bead or blue glitter.

I want to get the legend up so I will put this in , finish the legend, and then add pictures of the finished STN (2/3 of it anyway, I’m doing Vo next). I just hope that I don’t get really picky about how it looks. I’m going to try to do a good job of course, but the last three weeks have been a bit ridiculous. There are few things that I have been as picky about…

It’s weird. I don’t know if I am doing anything unusual here but I have definitely seen some interesting things happen as I have worked on this. It feels like I’m doing something I could call “analogical thinking” where I’m just blurring things a bit in my head and looking for shared elements when I think about all of this, and how to convey the information. This also happens when I am researching and reading the material. Or maybe prying open an “analogical aperture” might be the right word? I’m still trying to figure this out and a lot of the impressions that I get about what is being written about my head are not things that I can really talk about with enough authority yet. I don’t like to carelessly discuss science.

I have seen my physical tics undergo some changes that have actually forced me to slow down as well. Since I started all this typing I have developed hand and knuckle related tics. Also when I am particularly engrossed in what I am doing sometimes I catch myself doing a particularly elaborate thing that goes from my neck all the way down to one arm. The finger ones are concerning me because I am getting sore knuckles. I am investigating Tai-Chi as a means to gain some more physical awareness so that I can perhaps get better at moving these tics around to less sensitive areas.

At least I hope that is possible. The literature I have read about Tourette syndrome suggests that the tics might be the result of emotional signatures in the cerebral cortex that were left unerased from some sort of generalized rule-making procedure. Coincidental encounters between current cortex activity and the old stuff may result in tics that are essentially partial memories of previous actions, or inappropriately placed memory signatures. The rule based aspects of our language system are historically based off of an evolutionary “copying” of the rule-based parts of the motor system. It’s looking to me like there is a point where the person with Tourettes chooses how to focus the “TO DO” urge. Some choose sports and music with their respective rules to throw the urge at. Maybe others can access a different system that has to do with the rules that determine our symbolic thought processes. Hopefully one of the professionals that I am emailing will be willing to take a look at all this at some point.