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Dramatic Breakthrough: Learning to Juggle May Help Fight MS

Posted Oct 13 2009 10:04pm

early Egyptian juggling art :en:fr:Image:Jongl...

British researchers have discovered that learning to juggle three balls may help MS patients fight the ravages of the disease.

Actually, what they discovered is that when healthy patients learn a complex task, such as juggling, there is a measurable increase of the white matter in their brains. Since one of the most injurious actions of MS is the destruction of white matter (myelin), the researchers postulate that this discovery may lead to future treatments for MS.

Oh, boy! If they'd only learned this seven years ago, when I was first diagnosed, not only would I undoubtedly still be walking, but I'd probably be working in Las Vegas with the Cirque du Soleil. Alas, now I'm shit out of luck, because I don't think I could learn to juggle with only one working arm. The problems of one man shouldn't diminish the fantastic implications of this discovery, though. Why stop at learning to juggle three harmless little balls? Certainly, juggling something more difficult than balls, like chainsaws, or flaming swords, or angry raccoons, or flaming angry raccoons carrying chainsaws, would require even more dexterity and concentration, and thus be a far more powerful mechanism for myelin repair.

I wonder why the researchers chose juggling? How shortsighted of them. Surely other, more challenging circus activities would be of much greater therapeutic value. If focusing the mind to learn juggling can help MS patients, can you imagine what lion taming could do? Or how about learning to be the man on the flying trapeze? I could probably do that even now, in my relatively advanced state of disability. My legs are so stiff from spasticity, they could just hang me upside down from the bar and give me a push every now and then. If this didn't improve my condition, they could always stick a wire up my butt and the lightbulb in my mouth, and put me to good use as a chandelier. After seven or eight hours of swinging back and forth, though, I'm positive I'd regain all of my lost functionality, and be able to do a mean rumba, high leg kicks and all. And forget about merely treating MS, attempting to do a high wire act would almost certainly be a cure, especially if they forced patients to walk the wire without a net. If learning to tight rope walk didn't cure them, then falling 150 feet to the ground surely would. Extensive research has clearly demonstrated that death definitely cures MS, along with a host of other ills.

Uh-Oh, I just thought of a problem with this theory, a fly in the ointment that I don't think the researchers even considered. Maybe it's not the act of learning to juggle that's therapeutic, but the sheer joy one experiences at the very prospect of living the circus life that causes the brain to heal itself. Maybe if MS patients simply adopted circus personas, we would have this disease licked in no time. I can see it now, MS patients the world over, struggling, limping, and driving around in their wheelchairs and scooters , all wearing orange fright wigs, red plastic noses, and oversized exploding shoes. At the very least, it would make visits to the neurologist's office a lot more interesting. But wait a minute, if we started dressing like clowns, what would the researchers wear?

(In all fairness, the research that was conducted is scientifically valid, and demonstrates that the brain has a capacity for plasticity. It's the idiots who write the headlines that really deserve lampooning. And harpooning...)

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