As a little kid I looked up to my mother and thought that I would also be a veterinarian one day. I had since changed my mind about career choices, but I am still fascinated by the profession and realize that having to be an expert in such a large variety of animals and their organ morphology is not an easy task. I have not however anticipated going to one of the oldest veterinary schools in Paris, École nationale vétérinaire d’Alfort, for my NBB Paris Abroad program.
The trip was actually to the Musée Fragonard, a museum full of anatomical parts of animals (normal and oddities) preserved for the learning of veterinary students as well as the awe of the general public.
It was a fascinating trip and it was also great to recognize that by studying neuroscience in college, I have not completely strayed from the ideal job of 5-year-old Greti, she can still be proud of me, because even though with neuroscience the focus is more on humans, the issues are similar.
One of the more obvious connections was with conjoined twins:
Specifically, twins conjoined at the head are craniopagus twins and it is a rather interesting issue but a big problem when it happens in humans and separation may or may not be possible depending on which parts of the brain are shared.
I came across a case report paper on a partially successful (only one twin survived) elective operation of craniopagus twins sharing part of frontal and frontotemporal parts of their brain (Pai et al., 2018). It is also a longitudinal study since the twins were followed from birth (2002) till the recent publishing of the paper.
It was especially interesting to read about all the aesthetic considerations that needed to be taken for the little girls’ future quality of life as well as the neurological considerations of making sure that they would have the highest chance of survival with normal cognitive ability.
The veterinary student who was guiding us through the museum mentioned that surgical separations are much rarer on the animal side and surely aesthetics would be much less of a concern.
Another interesting part of the tour was not an oddity, but the normal intestines and appendix of a horse. The size of the organ surely made it odd to see though.
Though it is a vestigial organ in humans, in large herbivorous animals like horses the appendix stores many essential bacteria. And we also have bacteria in our gut.
Recently there has been a great spur of research in the neuroscience world on the effects of gut bacteria on our brain, and it is found to have a direct connection in stimulating the vagus nerve and an indirect one via producing human hormones (Galland, 2014).
So be careful what you eat!
In France we have been eating lots of cheese, hopefully that is good for our microbiome…
- Pai K, M., Naidu, R., Raja, A., Rai, Y., Kumar, N., & Kini, A. et al. (2018). Surgical nuances in the separation of craniopagus twins – Our experience and a follow up of 15 years. Neurology India, 66(2), 426. doi: 10.4103/0028-3886.227289
- Galland, L. (2014). The Gut Microbiome and the Brain. Journal Of Medicinal Food, 17(12), 1261-1272. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2014.7000