“Curiouser and Curiouser”
“Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” says Lewis Carroll’s Alice after experiencing a sudden, disorienting growth spurt.
While she meditates on this philosophical conundrum, her body changes again. The girl shrinks. I have asked myself the same question many times, often in relation to the perceptual alterations, peculiar feelings, and exquisite sensitivities of the migraine state. Who in the world am I? Am “I” merely malfunctioning brain meat? In “The Astonishing Hypothesis” Francis Crick (famous for his discovery of the DNA double helix with James Watson) wrote, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are, in fact, no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” Mind is matter, Crick argued. All of human life can be reduced to neurons.
There is a migraine aura phenomenon named after Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s (Lewis Caroll’s) story of myriad transformations: Alice in Wonderland syndrome. The afflicted person perceives herself, or parts of herself, ballooning or diminishing in size. The neurological terms for the peculiar sensations of growing and shrinking are macroscopy and microscopy. Dodgson was a migraineur. He was also known to take laudanum. It seems more than possible that he had experienced at least some of the somatic oddities that he visited upon his young heroine. Read the rest of the post.