Caveat lector: This blog is where I try out new ideas. I will often be wrong, but that's the point.

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Real-time Q&As are intense

Sorry for the self-promotional nature of this post, but I wanted to talk about a novel, interesting experience.

A little over a week ago, my research examining how people with prefrontal stroke compensate for brain damage was profiled in a piece in the Washington Post. As with all my research, I did a lay post explaining that work here before.

Bradley Voytek Washington Post

The whole media experience happened very quickly, but was pretty cool. You'll notice that the Washington Post article is actually focused on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and what we know about how the brain recovers from trauma (like from a gunshot wound). The article was written by Dr. David Brown, a physician affiliated with The Johns Hopkins Medical School and a staff writer for the Post. Dr. Brown was amazing to talk to about this, and I was honored to be discussed alongside such great neurologists such as Maurizio Corbetta, Michael Yochelson, and my PhD advisor, Robert Knight (seriously, I really was honored, that's not just me blowing smoke).

It was also really cool to work with the Washington Post staff to translate one of the figures from my Neuron paper into a more publicly friendly format. The graphic above (found here) was made by Bonnie Berkowitz, and very accurately shows our model for compensatory functioning.

It's fascinating to see my work in the press, although I'm learning that the nature of my research often means that it will be profiled mainly for tragic reasons.

After I heard about Rep. Giffords' surgical hemicraniectomy, I wrote a blog post about what that surgery means (and also posted it to Quora, where it got a huge reception).

I wrote about this topic because it related to some of the research I'd previously done when working with patients who had had the same surgery as Rep. Giffords (a hemicraniectomy).

What's interesting to me is that the Washington Post contacted me about my recovery work independent of my hemicraniectomy research. Obviously the press sees how important recovery research is on patients with brain trauma. Obviously people who require a hemicraniectomy have had some sort of neurotrauma. Working with these kinds of patients it that exact reason why I wanted to learn more about recovery.

Anyway, so after the Post piece was finished, I was asked to take part in a live Q&A session on their site.

For a little over an hour I answered as many questions as I could. All text-based. I logged into their site (and was immediately confronted with a big picture of BRAD, the same one from the Berkeley press release about my work).


Bradley Voytek Washington Post

After my initial amusement at that, I saw the question queue. Oof. Tons of questions! I started with the questions at the top (the earliest ones), but some of them were far too personal to address. There's a lot of people in pain, or with loved ones in pain, out there who just want answers. Who just want some help. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the fortitude for a medical career, and this experience reinforced that.

Anyway, I managed to answer 14 questions in the time I had. Overall it was a great experience, but really intense. By the time I was finished I was pretty exhausted. That said, I'd be happy to do something like that again.

As an aside: I did the entire thing--starting at 9am my time--from a coffee shop in Berkeley. Modern technology is pretty cool.

ResearchBlogging.orgVoytek B, Davis M, Yago E, Barceló F, Vogel EK, & Knight RT (2010). Dynamic neuroplasticity after human prefrontal cortex damage. Neuron, 68 (3), 401-8 PMID: 21040843


  1. Good stuff Bradley. Its good to see the media actually checking their articles with the scientists involved with the research.

    Talking to relatives about brain injured loved ones can be really hard. I'm just about to write up one of my studies in which I've interviewed a bunch of families about living with a brain injured relative.

    I don't think I'd have the fortitude to do a neuroscience PhD, but if you guys do the neuroscience, us neuropsychologists can read it and explain it to the brain injured people and their families :)