The Purple Mind: A Case Study

Date and Time: Monday, May 3, 1926, 5:43am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 350 grams; the subject’s cerebral cortex is strong, but still growing. Neurotransmitters and synapses are operating at a normal, healthy level. Her brain, pink and soft, like the blanket she is swaddled in, is protected by the skull that pushed through into this world. The subject is unable to understand that after 12 hours of labor, she is born Theresa May Heinze early Monday morning at the Baltimore City Hospital. She is unable to comprehend that German and Irish blood runs through her veins; that she has an older sister named Doris and an Irish hag of a grandmother waiting for her at their row-home on Conchlan Street.

Date and Time: Sunday, May 8, 1926, 3:23am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 350.04 grams; the interior frontal gyrus, located in the cerebrum, has developed enough for Theresa to respond to her mother’s Irish lullaby. Theresa coos comfortably at her mother’s sounds, but she does not comprehend the Gaelic lyrics; she only reacts to their rhythmic tones.

Date and Time: Saturday, July 3, 1926 7:54pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 450.27 grams; the piriform cortex is operating at full capacity, allowing the olfactory bulbs in Theresa’s nose to make her aware of the smell of tobacco coming from her father’s cigar. She is able to inhale the nicotine, but unable to understand that the tobacco is slowly killing her father. Marion wanted a son, but a girl will do just fine.

Date and Time: Monday, July 5, 1928, 11:06am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 907.124 grams; Broca’s area of the brain has increased in operation. It has developed more synapses, allowing the brain to become more interconnected, resulting in Theresa’ increased production of vocabulary. Theresa loves to sing, it’s what her father looks forward to the most when he comes home after working at the Domino Sugar Factory across the harbor. She sings along with her grandmother: Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral. That’s an Irish lullaby. Her grandmother misses the old country.

Date and Time: Friday, May 3, 1929, 4:45pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 952.44 grams; synaptic density in the prefrontal cortex reaches it peak in Theresa’s third year of life, resulting in complex cognitive abilities to improve. Theresa can now understand cause and effect. Her younger sister Mary will celebrate her first birthday in two weeks. She was named after her grandmother. Theresa accidentally wakes her sister up after she laughs too loudly. Mary wails. Her grandmother strikes Theresa. She will never wake Mary up again.

Date and Time: Wednesday, October 25, 1944, 9:39pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1304.15 grams; stimulation in Theresa’s amygdala is increased due to the oxytocin levels in her body – a result of Frankie from down the street kissing her for the first time outside of Harry’s Soda Shop.

Date and Time: Wednesday, October 25, 1944, 9:47pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1304.14 grams; Theresa’s prefrontal cortex, which produces the emotion of sadness when heigtened, experienced increased activity. Frankie tells Theresa he’s going to Germany.

Date and Time: Wednesday, February 14, 1945, 1:04pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1360.74 grams; the hypothalmus releases a large amount of dopamine into Theresa’s nervous system. She receives a letter from Frankie. It says something about winning the Battle of the Bulge. He asks to marry her in Morse Code.

Date and Time: Sunday, July 25, 1965, 5:43am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1350.69 grams; Theresa’s brain is starting regain some of its clarity from pregnancy brain after giving birth to her and Frankie’s ‘accident’ – Melissa, their sweet honeybee. It’s been 16 years since Theresa’s gave birth for her first time. She forgot what the pain felt like.

Date and Time: Saturday, May 3, 1980, 6:17am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1350.60 grams; The subject’s brain has seen a stagnated amount of brain cell production in the frontal cortex. Her honeybee comes to wish Theresa a happy birthday before she has to head to varsity field hockey practice. Theresa doesn’t remember how old she is.

Date and Time: Saturday, October 31, 1998, 11:34pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1325.43 grams; The subject’s brain is releasing a standard amount of serotonin and dopamine each month. It’s plateaued, but Theresa is content. Neurons are not firing as rapidly as they used to. She is slow to the doorbell. Two princesses come to the door and call her Mom Mom. She accidentally calls them by their mother’s name – new little honeybees.

Date and Time: Sunday, April 9, 2000, 3:02am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1301.03 grams; Theresa’s hippocampus is shrinking. People with small hippocampus are solemn. Frankie is gone – asbestos caked in his lungs. No homecoming. No more letters. .. / .-.. — …- . / -.– — ..- He is gone.

Date and Time: Thursday, November 15, 2002, 2:03am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1295.92 grams; The house is hollow, empty, like her hippocampus. Synapses are disappearing. They built the house together, by the sea, many years after dreaming for it. He never lived there.

Date and Time: Friday, November 15, 2002, 4:30pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1295.02; The cortex is beginning to shrink, threatening Theresa’s ability to plan. She does not recognize the woman on her doorstep. She looks like Frankie. Could this be her sweet honeybee? Theresa is unsure.

Date and Time: Tuesday, March 16, 2004, 11:15am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1265.51; The subject undergoes her first PET scan. They say the red parts of Theresa’s brain are alive, the purple parts . . . dead. An aggressive form of dementia they say. Alzheimer’s possibly. The scan can’t see the dead tangle of nerve cells or the plaque building up through her cortex, causing her to lose everything, but Theresa can feel it.

Date and Time: Thursday, December 25, 2014, 7:03pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1254.21 grams; Theresa coos at the tan baby, a result of changing times and surviving generations, but they don’t let her hold him despite having raised her own brood. They worry she’ll drop him. Embarressed and confused, Theresa walks away. More neurons die. Grey matter shrivels.

Date and Time: Friday, January 2, 2015, 2:18am

Brain Weight and Condtions: 1234.17 grams; The subject’s fusiform gyrus, the area of the temporal lobe dedicated to facial recognition has deteriorated significantly. Her confused moans wake up the whole household. Theresa doesn’t understand: what’s a honeybee?

Date and Time: Monday, February 17, 2015, 8:30am

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1215.49 grams; Theresa’s last scan revealed more purple than red. Someone who looks like her sweet honeybee leaves her in a strange place. A black woman wears pajamas. Her cells die, so does her past.

Date and Time: May 3, 2015, 11:45pm

Brain Weight and Conditions: 1200.01 grams; The subject’s brain has severely shrunk. Hollow, brittle, it looks like a piece of dried out coral. The subject’s cortex struggles to function. A moment passes – Theresa’s mind escapes the brain. There is a purple haze surrounding her – a moment of clarity. She recognizes her sweet honeybee. She looks just like Frankie. They say peace is near. Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral. That’s an Irish lullaby.

The Purple Mind: A Case Study

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