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Spatial Perception - Is your surgeon left or right brained?

Posted Jun 18 2009 1:03am

At right is the mind-bending work, Bond of Union, by M.C. Escher, who made a career of challenging his audience's spatial perception. I thought about this artist when I was thinking/daydreaming about how to make better incisions for tummy tuck operations on weight loss patients. The key to those operations is trying to figure out ways to equalize differing lengths of skin with your incision over a cylindrical object (your trunk) while compensating for it's movement and elastic properties.

I saw reference to spatial relations and how we percieve them on the Freakonomics blog. Freakonomics was a best-selling book in 2005 written by a University of Chicago economist who applies economic models to mundane things which will leave you thinking about things like you never did before.

The picture below links to an animation of a dancer rotating which is supposed to be a proxy for whether you're left or right brain "dominant".

Left brainers (who see the dancer rotating counter-clockwise )are supposed to be stereotypical logic-oriented, better at math and 3-d spatial relations, and overall more conservative.

Right brainers (who see the dancer rotating clockwise ) are more intuitive, imaginative, risk-taking, and artistic-minded.

Click on the picture to start the animation in a new window.


They say you can make yourself reverse the spin you perceive if you concentrate properly (much like the state you have to get in to see those "magic picture" images). I see the dancer going clockwise most of the time, and I'm pretty convinced that the image reverses itself on some interval to see it the other way.

I'm dismissive of the right vs. left brain dichotomy, at least in a rigid view of it. There's philosophic debates in Plastic Surgery about measurements versus "artistic taste" when performing procedures. I find that argument tedious. Much like an artist, athlete, or even a pool hustler we actually do process these spatial and ma thematic relationships internally, so in some sense it's all about the math. Recording or marking that (when possible) seems likely to achieve reproducible, predictable, and quantifiable results. Complicating all that analysis is that in Plastic Surgery are the variables that are outside of our control - scarring, contracture, elasticity, gravity, atrophy, and motion.


Rob
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