Sunday, June 26, 2005

A fantastic argument for killing as many of your brain cells as possible

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Science marched on this week, right past the Hollywood Walk of Fame. According to an Associated Press story, a study by the California Institute of Technology found that "individual brain cells 'recognize' famous people."

This group of eggheads was trying to figure out how brain cells store memories. Specifically, they wanted to know if Angelina Jolie was a smokin' hottie at the sub-molecular level. So scientists isolated individual brain cells, wired them with electrodes and sat the cells in front of flash cards. Afterward, the brain cells filled out a multi-page questionnaire and were paid $50 and a coupon to Subway for their time.

"In one case, a single cell was activated by different photos of [Halle] Berry, including some in her 'Catwoman' costume," the story states. This means that individual brain cells -- not just regions of the brain -- could figure out who Halle Berry was, even if placed in shitty-ass movies.

The story continues: "Nobody would have predicted that conceptual information relating to [Jennifer] Aniston, for example, would be signaled so clearly by single cells." This makes sense to me -- now that she's broken up with Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston is also single.

But the study, recently published in the journal Nature, had even more profound results. "In one participant, one brain cell responded both to Aniston and to Lisa Kudrow, her co-star on the TV hit 'Friends.'" One scientist, Charles Connor of Johns Hopkins University, called it "a tantalizing glimpse at how neurons represent concepts like membership in the cast of 'Friends.'" That's great. Say, how's that cancer thing going, you fucking criminals?

Anyhoo, this study has far-reaching complications. For one, it explains how human beings are able to follow that steadily mutating half-plastic androgynous man-thing through his annual moltings and transformations, yet still understand him as "Michael Jackson." It also means that Tom Cruise will not go away, no matter how hard I try to forget him. He's encoded in my brain cells somewhere, man. When I see him being squirted with water by a prankster or soiling his pants with excitement over having a new girlfriend, there's a cell in my brain that pulls itself away from the nachos long enough to write all that bullshit down.

Even if I never watched TV again, Tom Cruise is still going to be there, stuck in my head. Years from now, I'll have forgotten my multiplication tables. But there'll be a couple of brain cells saying to each other, "Remember when Tom Cruise went crazy with the Scientology and jumped on Oprah's couch?"

Naturally, an important study like this brings up more questions than answers. Like these:


Q.: How can I get involved with scientific research on how your brain cells react to celebs? I'm a college science student looking for a way to write off my subscription to US Weekly as a business expense.

A.: Ask again later. This advanced study is so new that many research facilities haven't yet begun to explore celebrity-specific brain chemistry. If you really want to watch TV all day and study the brain, your best option would be to double-major in neurobiology and liberal arts.

Q.: I have trouble keeping straight which one is Mary-Kate Olsen and which one is Ashley Olsen. Is my brain broken?

A.: It is decidedly so. The differences in the Olsen twins should be obvious, as one is suffering from anorexia and the other weighs a healthy 71 pounds.

Q.: I'm curious -- do celebrities' brain cells react the same way when they see pictures of regular people?

A.: My sources say no. First, celebrities don't have what we normally refer to as "brains." Rather, their skulls contain a very small sac filled with fluid -- bioelectric chemicals mixed with Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew...it depends on the endorsements.

This cranial fluid picks up DirecTV and beams television directly to their retinas. The celebrities, therefore, constantly live under the belief that they're on camera and getting paid top dollar to play along, plus residuals. This is why they do weird stuff all the time. For the ratings. This is also why they often wear their hair in strange ways -- it helps with the satellite reception.

So when celebrities meet non-celebrities, like you or me or Chevy Chase, they interpret them as "extras," or as being "with the caterer."

Q.: Are there any plans by advertisers to exploit this new phenomenomenomenonom?

A.: All signs point to yes. Scientists have recently conducted an experiment stimulating the brain cells that recognize Jessica Alba with heavy doses of gamma radiation emitted from advertising satellites high above the earth. Surveys showed those tested experienced a strange sensation, like being repeatedly poked with a stick shaped like Jessica Alba.

Q.: So what would happen if, like, one day I see Lindsay Lohan on the television, but she's dating Jessica Simpson's husband, Nick Lachey, but Jessica says Britney Spears stole her man, because Kevin Federline's just after her money, which is wicked strange because Ashlee Simpson and Hilary Duff just went through the same thing over Jesse McCartney?

A.: Reply hazy -- try again.

Q.: OK. First there's Lindsay Lohan, then there's Jessica Simpson, sister of Ashlee, who's supposed to be on the outs with Britney over Nick, even though he's going after Hilary Duff, who was secretly recruited by Tom Cruise into Scientology --

A.: Ehh, cannot predict now. Or ever. I suggest you "medicate" the cells in your brain that remember the intimate details of all those teenybopper bimbos and mimbos. Six beers and a nap should do the trick.

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