Dr. Q on What Made Him Who He Is
Twenty years ago, Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa hopped a border fence from Mexico into the United States and became a migrant farm worker, living in the fields in a broken-down camper he bought for $300. When told he would probably be a farm worker for the rest of his life, he signed up for English classes at a community college, where one of his teachers encouraged him to apply to UC-Berkeley. There, he developed a passion for science, and showed remarkable aptitude. He went on to Harvard Medical School and graduated with honors, followed by a residency in neurosurgery at UC-San Francisco, where he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and stem cell biology. He later received the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Ronald Bittner Award. Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa is now an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Oncology at Johns Hopkins and serves as the Director of the brain tumor program at the The Johns Hopkins Bayview campus. There, his focus is on the surgical treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumors, with an emphasis on motor and speech mapping during surgery.
Topic: April 14, 1989.
Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa: The question comes up, what makes us who we are, and many times is there a particular experience that can make you be who you are, that can define your future? I had many of these experiences, but one particular that stands out in my mind is April 14, 1989, where I was working as a migrant- actually as a welder and as a painter in a railroad company.
This is after I had left the fields and now this time I was a legal, or a documented worker, and I was learning English at night and I was working on the railroad, and I'm doing all these things; multitasking, as I always have. And one day as I am working on the top of this 35,000 gallon liquefied petroleum tank, I see myself at the bottom of this tank; within a matter of seconds, just like a lightening bolt, just went down, lost control and I see myself at the bottom. My life unfolded in front of my eyes, and I see the light at the end of the tunnel on top.
And somehow my coworkers were able to get me out of there. And when I woke up I see myself in this hospital bed, surrounded by my father, my brother-in-law and a physician all dressed in white. And this is probably one of the most powerful experiences I have in my own personal interactions with physicians, that sort of defined my future. It gave me the strength and it gave me the vision, continued to give me the vision, for me to one day become who I am today, a combination, a rare breed between being a physician and a scientist, all in the same field.
Question: How did you decide to study the human brain?
Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa: How do you decide that the sun is going to come out one day? How do you decide that at night you're going to see the stars? Many times we don't make those kind of decisions. I think destiny brings us together, destiny and faith brings a field to a human being, and that's I think that's what happened to me. What happened to me is that I went on to medical school, and as I'm trying to find my way around-- sometimes I wonder if instead neurosurgery and science found me and then we actually developed that kind of relationship.
Sure, I think about the people who had an influence on my life, my mentors. Some of them were neuroscientists, some of them were brain surgeons. And I look back and undoubtedly their passion for what they did, their mentorship and admiration for others, their mentorship for me, that dedication, that determination, that resilience that they demonstrated throughout their training is something that I could relate to. And suddenly I see myself immersed in this field, which is now a combination of neurosurgery and brain tumor stem cell research.
Question: Do you remember the first time you saw the human brain in surgery?
Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa: Absolutely. Do I remember the first time that I saw that beautiful organ, which is the brain, pulsating? As I walk into the operating room-- I remember just walking in with Dr. Peter Black at the Brigham and Women's. He was doing an awake craniotomy and I see this beautiful organ, and I was mesmerized, I was just captivated. I couldn't believe it that that organ was pulsating, was moving up and down with such a beautiful rhythm.
It was in beautiful colors, and it would just allow me to imagine what the unexplored frontier was like. This organ that makes us be who we are, allow us to interact everyday. The perfect machine, the perfect computer, the perfect design, was right in front of my eyes, and people were given the privilege and the honor of touching it, every day. And I just fell in love with this and I just couldn't believe that one day I was going to be doing exactly the same thing.
Question: Does the responsibility of your work ever intimidate you?
Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa: It is intimidating every day to think that I'm doing this work, I tell you. As I go between the operating room and the laboratory I am filled with fears. But I always tell my students, it's not fear that matters, it's how we respond to that fear. And the way that I respond to that fear is with that incredible amount of adrenaline, that incredible amount of concentration that comes in the operating room, that comes outside of the operating room as I design experiments; all those actions that one can take to bring all those fears together, and they explode, and they allow us to do what we do every day.
So it's okay to be afraid. I mean, as a matter of fact you want to be afraid because if you're not afraid then you are dangerous to your patients. You have to be conservative and you have to be aggressive when you need to be aggressive. You have to design your experiments. You have to think about the people who allow you to bring that tissue from the operating room into the laboratory, and you have to be respectful, not only of the brain, but of the privilege and the responsibility that you have been given.
Recorded on: July 2, 2008
Dr. Q recalls the day that changed his life forever and how it sent him on the path toward a life studying the mysteries of the brain
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- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
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Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
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- Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
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Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>