Can brains explode?Posted: October 13, 2011
My brain feels full, like it is going to burst. It is like an overflowing bucket, under seige from hundreds of cackling goblins pouring more water into it – or a super volcano lurking ominously below the surface, threatening to burst at any moment.
So I found myself wondering if brains can actually explode. If you keep pouring stuff into your brain, can it really accommodate it or will it just pop? Well, realistically, what is most likely to happen when your head is full and showing signs of leakage is that you will get stressed out, anxious, depressed, and find it impossible to sleep. In fact, insomnia is the equivalent of the leaking water from my bucket brain – what won’t sink in during the day seeps out at night.
But this is all a bit serious isn’t it? What you want to know is whether brains can explode. Alarmingly, it seems they can. Wikipedia says:
Exploding head syndrome is a parasomnia condition that causes the sufferer occasionally to experience a tremendously loud noise as originating from within his or her own head, usually described as the sound of an explosion, roar, gunshot, loud voices or screams, a ringing noise, or the sound of electrical arcing (buzzing).
Wow, that sounds truly disturbing. My own brain, while struggling to contain its wriggling, hyperactive contents, at least stops short of blasting me senseless with unexpected loud noises.
Moving on from explosions, here is my second big question: do brains have a mind of their own?
Sounds like a riddle, but here’s why I ask – my brain does things I don’t want it to do. It is both my greatest attribute and my worst enemy. A day and night with my brain is like going on a wild ride on a magic bus driven by a chimpanzee. You just never know where you will end up. It could be somewhere sublime or hilarious, or dark and terrifying. It could be an alpine meadow with blue skies and singing larks, or it could be a freezing cave, swarming with unseen terrors.
My brain thinks of things that other people don’t think of. It thinks of things I’m not even sure I’ve thought of myself. And while this can be an exciting blessing when it’s on good form, it’s bad news when its evil twin comes to town. Let’s call this evil twin Paul Brookes – the twisted, misspelt alter-ego of the real me, Paul Brook.
Paul Brookes takes the vivid imagination of his almost-namesake and crafts big, fat lumps of worry from it. He finds a hint of self-doubt and gleefully magnifies it. He unearths unhelpful memories and plays them on repeat. Nasty Paul Brookes.
Brookes is a hungry boy. He always wants feeding. He is like the biggest bird with the most wide-open beak in the nest, guzzling twice his share of caterpillars while his sibling shivers behind him, squawking feebly.
But – and forgive me for going back to my Star Wars analogies – Brookes’s powers are weakening. A new hope, the mentally malnourished Brook, is slowly rising from the shadows. His time will come. Before then, there are mighty battles to be fought.
If there’s going to be an explosion, I fully intend Brookes to be first in the firing line. Especially as, reading this back, he has made me sound like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings books.