Tuesday, May 31, 2011


A person's sex is biological, primarily determined by XX or XY. A person's gender is largely a social construct, or what being of one sex or the other "means."

This may be old news, but it's interesting nonetheless. A couple in Canada decided to withhold their newborn's gender from the world and him/herself. The idea is to let the child discover his/her own gender and decide for him/herself. It's an interesting "experiment," to say the least, and one that has drawn a lot of controversy.

Personally, I think the child will be all right. S/he will figure out gender, as it's been shown that a child's concept of gender is innate and becomes cemented by the time they're 4 or so. A child "knows" if they're a girl or boy. But what does it "mean?" That can be challenged.

I'm not sure I agree with the way the parents are withholding the child's gender from the child and the world. I think they'd be better off treating the child in such away to avoid gendered stereotypes. Because, honestly, gender stereotypes (to me) seem to be getting less distinct and less important. But maybe that's just me. There's a related article on masculinity that's an interesting read.

On a completely different note, I came across this recently:

Oh to have a body half as good as that, lol. Yeah, it's totally unrealistic for the vast majority of us to ever have a body remotely like that. And I can accept that. Doesn't mean I/we can't try to get halfway there (which, honestly, is more than good enough). :-P

Btw, Chris Fawcett is HOT. It's mostly his eyes to me, and less his body.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Homunculus of Touch

Argh. Been feeling kind of defeated lately with these frustrating qbank questions. Overall I'm improving somewhat, but my scores are erratic - they spike up and then plummet and then spike again. Anyway, after studying neurology for the better part of a day, I managed to pull off a 71% on a block of neuro questions! Not sure how that happened, as I generally consider neuro to be one of my weaker areas.

Somewhat related, one of the most interesting things I remembered learning while going through neuro was the somatosensory homunculus. You see, sensation is unevenly distributed throughout our bodies and our brains form a somatosensory homunculus of it on the pre-frontal cortex. It's rather interesting. So think, what are the most sensitive parts of your body? Now look at the distribution of the somatosensory cortex:

Does it match what you thought? You'll notice that the face and hands are far over-represented. The fingers, lips, and face are more sensitive than pretty much any other part of the body. Do you notice the genitals? Hint: it's by the feet. Interesting that it comprises such a small part of the homunculus. A drawing of the somatosensory homunculus would be like this:

So I find it kind of funny how we put so much focus and attention on the penis and genitals. Yeah, sure, it's pretty sensitive given its body surface area (more so than, say, the legs), but it pales in comparison to the hands, lips, and face. One would probably expected the homunculus to be more like this:

Lol, right? Well, apparently, some recent-ish studies kind of hint that the homunculus actually is a bit more like this last version (the things you find on Google, lol). In 2005, Kell et al. attempted to update the somatosensory homunculus for males - chiefly that genital sensation is not near the feet in the somatosensory cortex, but closer to where it'd be on the body. In 2007, Sorrells et al. reported that 5 of the most sensitive parts of the penis is removed during circumcision (so it's curious, and incorrect, that the homunculus above is circumcised).

Of course, one has to wonder, what about women? It's been presumed that the number of genital nerve endings in men and women are about equal; however, there just aren't that many such studies out there done on women. There are numbers floating around in the internet (with no source that I can pin down) stating that the glans clitoris (basically the entire clitoris) has about 8000 nerve endings, whereas the glans penis (head of the penis) has about 4000; presumably, the other 4000 nerve endings are distributed along the shaft. Furthermore, the foreskin has about 10,000 to 20,000 nerve endings (and the clitoral hood somewhere around there but perhaps a little less).

What does all this mean? Who knows. Everyone experiences sensation different anyhow. Sure, there are objective ways to test sensation: 2-point discrimination, temperature, fine touch, coarse touch, vibration, etc. And there are different nerves that sense different things (apparently the foreskin has a bunch of the kind that detect fine touch and vibration). But what it all "means" is another thing entirely. I mean, though the hands are sensitive, they're not particularly sensual, am I right?

Anywho, I'm rambling. I hope you were entertained and curiosity piqued. :-P

Monday, May 23, 2011

Like a Fiend

So . . . how're you all doing? It's been almost a month since I last blogged. o_O

Been a brutal month, of sorts. Finished finals (passed all my classes, phew!), took the weekend off (mostly), then began studying like a fiend for the behemoth known as Step 1 of the USMLE Board Exam.

I've been slowly pushing past the burnt out phase - that lasted about 4 days longer than I could really afford. As is, I study probably about 6-8 hours a day, on average. That's not enough. I need to get upwards of about 12 hours a day. The exam itself is 8 hours long. Ugh. Only 2.5 weeks away, eep! I must resist the urge to reschedule my exam for a later date.

Other than that, nothing special. Took a couple hours off from studying to celebrate my b-day with a few friends a couple days ago. Had teppanyaki for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. It was good. :-) Now, what do you think 9 med students talk about when they're all studying for the same beastly exam? The exam, of course. That dominated our conversations. Yeah.

On a completely unrelated note, I saw the following commercial on TV today:

I thought it was pretty sweet.