Five minutes with neurosurgeon Katrina Firlik

BrainMattersCover.jpgNeurosurgeon and author Dr Katrina Firlik has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her interest in brain surgery and neuroscience.

She also tells me that her new book (featured previously on Mind Hacks) has been released in the UK under the name Brain Matters (ISBN 0297848070).

Apparently, she will be in the UK to talk about her work in the near future, so we’ll post details as soon as we know them.

Anyway, on to the interview…

firlik_nytimes.jpgWhy neurosurgery?

What could be more interesting than the brain? Once I realized that, there were only a few career possibilities in medicine: neurology, neurosurgery, or psychiatry. I liked the mechanical aspects of neurosurgery, and the more immediate results of the work.

You’ve observed the behavioural, emotional, cognitive and physical effects of brain changes in numerous patients. Is there anything that still amazes you in your day-to-day work?

Observing a head injury victim awaken from a coma. As to what exactly goes on in the brain to mediate this flip of the switch, we’re still not sure.

What recent development in neurosurgery have you been most excited about?

The possibility of enhancing neuroplasticity via cortical stimulation. A clinical trial is underway to use such technology to enhance recovery following stroke.

What is the most important thing you’ve learnt from your work so far?

An older brain can learn new tricks. Plasticity is not exclusive to young brains.

Name three underrated things.

Seatbelts in New York City cabs.
The influence of the mind in controlling pain.
The world of Japanese cuisine beyond sushi.

If you’re interested in a career in neurosurgery or just want to find out more about the specialty, you could do far worse than checking out the neurosurgery section on the British Medical Journal Careers website.

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