Thursday, 19 May 2011

Building Your Brain - Inside the Human Body

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Thursday 19th May, 9pm BBC One

I've been hooked on this series since it started. Episode one, aptly named 'Creation', included sperm wars and the eerily alien-like assembling of a human face.

Last weeks episode 'First to last' reflected on the journey our bodies take through life. It is one of the most poignant science documentaries I've seen in a long time, mostly because of the highly controversial final sequence. This showed the last moments of 84 year old Gerald as his body succumbed to cancer and died.

“I’m not frightened. I believe it will not be just like cutting off tape with some scissors. It might be, but either way I just have blind trust I shall not disappear completely. I’m grateful for each day and in the morning I always say ‘thank you for another day’.” 

The scene bravely features CGI graphics, but these are seamlessly integrated so as to not  intrude on the solemn moment. They help to explain, from a scientific perspective, what is happening as Gerald’s body closes down. Michael Mosley's hushed narration befits the scene and accords Gerald due respect. If you've ever watched someone die then this films powerful finale will be hard hitting. It may be painful to watch, but it helps to remind us of the wonders and vulnerability of the human body.

"The death of a loved one is a hugely significant moment in all our lives, but not something to be feared. I watched my own father die. Just before the end he decided to start singing. He sang for several minutes and then he stopped and he was gone. I'm so glad I was there and the time I spent with him before his death are among the many memories that I treasure." - Michael Mosley

Building Your Brain

This week it's all about the brain. Michael Mosley traces our development from birth to adulthood, and reveals that this human organ is so sophisticated it takes more than twenty years to mature. We see how new-born Phoebe makes sense of the world, and how one-year-old Angelina copes with just half a functioning brain. We discover how Moken sea Gypsy children train themselves to see clearly underwater, and meet a Vietnamese girl who speaks 11 different languages.

Michael shows his own teenagers remarkable scans which reveal just how many brain connections we lose between the ages of 11 and 20. This remodelling is an essential part of growing up, and helps explain teen behaviour and their tendency to take risks - as illustrated by Stephanie, the world's youngest stock car racer at the age of 13. BBC programme Page.

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