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The Human Side of Brain Disease | Nine Magazine
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New Nine-produced national series on the mysteries of the human brain begins October 7.

You have heard us report on BrainWorks before; its history goes back years. What began as an annual TED-style lecture series about advances in neuroscience at Barnes-Jewish Hospital became medical science theater—a new way for the public to experience medicine and the human brain.

The December 2014 theatrical production was produced by Barnes- Jewish Hospital. It featured the play’s authors, Washington University neurosurgeons Dr. Albert H. Kim and Dr. Eric C. Leuthardt.

Nine Network televised segments of this performance for a 2015 special and broadened the reach of BrainWorks across Missouri and Illinois. The broadcast won a 2016 Regional Emmy for Best Informational/Instructional Program.

Now, a new edition of BrainWorks hits the airwaves nationally through American Public Television. Performed in July 2019 at the Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, Drs. Albert Kim and Eric Leuthardt teamed up with a cast of professional actors to guide audiences through the general pathology, symptoms, and challenges of four neurological disorders: Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, brain tumors, and stroke. Kim and Leuthardt worked with professional playwrights to write these engaging, educational one-act plays based on real-life patient stories.

“Medicine determines if we are healthy or unhealthy; medicine determines if we live or die,” said the play's director Seth Gordon. “To pair those questions with an art form that deals with human empathy and human behavior is something I’m proud to bring to the stage.”

One of the plays, "Rinse & Repeat," highlights the challenges, dedication and even humor involved in caring for someone with dementia. Another play, "Double Windsor," demonstrates how new therapies and emerging technologies, such as the brain-computer interface, are improving the lives of people who have experienced stroke and other traumatic brain injuries.

The play "X Marks the Spot" focuses on a mid-career professional whose personality undergoes profound changes caused by meningioma—a benign, treatable brain tumor. Finally, the play "Brain Interrupted" walks audiences through the neuroscience of adolescent epilepsy and discusses new brain-mapping technology that eases the suffering of those who live with seizures.

The series can be viewed at brainworkstheatre.org.


This article appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of Nine Magazine.