This is a science story that I first heard about a year ago I guess and one that I recently revisited so I thought I’d share it here. It’s from a podcast called Radiolab, the episode was called Famous Tumors. In it they talked to a Neurologist, Dr. Orrin Devinsky, who does some interesting research (some of his work is referenced in this paper on ecstatic epileptic seizures) and he told the story of a man with a strange relationship to safety pins. Ever since he was a child this man would orgasm when he looked at a safety pin. The shinier the safety pin, or the more of them then the better the orgasm. He eventually got married but found he was having less sex with his wife as the safety pins were more fulfilling. Sometimes he just had to think about safety pins, not even see them. Time went on and this man started having seizures, so EEG’s were run and a benign tumor was found in his temporal lobe (the temporal lobe is a part of your brain roughly behind your eyes). The tumour was successfully removed and the seizures stopped, a great success. But after the operation his relationship with safety pins also disappeared. He no longer orgasmed when he saw them or held them, there was no reaction at all and it seems that this was a result of the presence of the tumor. Which for me is a nice way to question what do we feeling and thoughts are really ours or what is real and what is just the product of biology or brain chemicals, and is there a difference?

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