New calendar shows university's 'big brains'

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I love wall calendars.

The months aren't so exciting, but the photographs are usually great. They evoke a mood or capture a moment of history or a family portrait.

There are all sorts of calendars from the funny to the sublime.

But until now I've never heard of one that featured "Big Brains."

A new calendar will feature artistically enhanced brain scans of University of Illinois campus administrators, faculty, staff and students.

It's stuff like this that gives true meaning to higher education in the United States.

"It's a mix of being somewhat whimsical, with a nod to science and the things we do on this campus," Tracey Wszalek, associate director of the Beckman Institute's Biomedical Imaging Center, told the Associated Press.

Each calendar image will highlight a particular brain region or function that each person uses in his or her job.

The brain image of the assistant to the university president will emphasize an area of the brain used for multitasking

The scan of chancellor Richard Herman's brain will feature blood vessels to illustrate how he is connected to all areas of the campus.

The illustration of a food-science professor will have layered images of her brain arranged in the shape of a food pyramid.

The calendar models reportedly loved showing off their brains. "They are like kids in a candy shop because we let them take a picture home," said Wszalek. "Everybody loves a picture of their brain."

I'm not so sure about that. I know a lot of people who don't like to be photographed even at family gatherings.

Scanning brains might be a bad idea at some family reunions. It could be a little scary to show off cousin Carl's brain even if it is artistically enhanced.

Most parents wouldn't want to see scans of their teenagers' brains. It would only prove more terrifying.

I also wonder just how many students want to see their professors' brain scans, much less their own.

Still, the calendar idea may catch on.

Think of it, we could have a calendar of the brain scans of professional umpires and referees.

This might sell if you showcased the brains of those umpires and referees who blew the call in the big game. Of course, they may confuse the dates. But the notoriety alone could draw buyers.

Brain-scan images could give new character to all those calendars of cheerleaders.

Can you imagine a calendar depicting the brain scans of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders? It would be interesting to see how they compare to the Rams' cheerleaders.

Then there is the Supreme Court. We could sell calendars showing off the brains of the high court.

Court observers could spend weeks scrutinizing the brain scans in an effort to predict how the judges would rule on the controversial issues of the day.

Of course, none of us probably want to seen brain scans of our political leaders -- Republican or Democrat.

Most Americans aren't sure politicians have brains. And they sure don't see want to get up-close-and-personal with those who have politics on the brain.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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