Brain scientists wonder about many things. Besides obvious mysteries like whether or not we'll ever solve the problem of consciousness, there's also the perennial question of why we're so underrepresented in the romance genre.
Think about it. When was the last time you went through a checkout aisle and saw a Nora Roberts with a dreamy fMRI technician on the cover? The sad truth is, our research generally has more sex appeal than we do.
So when I heard about the Love at First Sight Blogfest, I knew it was my responsibility to up the percentage of steamy brain scientist love stories available. So without further ado, I present:
A 100% Absolutely and Completely Realisitic Neuroscience Love Scene
He rushed in five minutes before scantime, hauling a laptop bag over one shoulder and flashing an apologetic grin.
“Sorry I’m late. I went to the wrong scanner.”
She forced a polite smile but didn't try too hard to hide her annoyance. “The patient’s name is Alicia. I've explained the procedure, and she’s in the bathroom changing. Can you help me set up?”
“Sure.” He strode past her only to stop outside the control room door. “I don't think I know the combination.”
“Four eight three.” The panel flashed green, and the lock clicked.
“Four eight three,” he muttered as he followed her in.
“You’ve scanned before?”
“Yes, but we used a GE system at Stanford, not the Siemens.” He reached into his pockets, fishing out cell phone, keys, and wallet and dumping them onto the back table. She glanced at his shirt pocket and scanned his waist for a belt before demetaling herself as well. Both of them paused at next doorway, automatically patting their hip and back pockets before entering the air conditioned scanner room.
“And this is the magnet,” she said over the soft thrum of the helium pump. The scanner took up a good portion of the room, a giant horizontal cylinder with a man-sized bore.
She pointed at the bottom cabinet as she walked by. “The linens are in
there.” He opened it, bending his lanky frame in half to peer inside. By the time she finished plugging in the headcoil, he had covered the scanner bed with new sheets, readied a pillow, and placed a packet of earplugs for the patient on top. She felt slightly guilty about her rudeness earlier. The imaging center was notoriously hard to navigate.
A knock sounded from the control room. “That's probably the patient.”
He stayed out of the way as she performed the final safety checks, gave instructions to Alicia and rolled her into the scanner. “Squeeze the emergency ball if you need us,” she told her as they returned to the control room.
She settled in front of the scanner controls and dove straight into the preliminary scans. A low mechanical buzz came through the intercom, and a grainy brain image loaded onto the screen. Halfway through setting up the next scan, she paused.
“Sorry I'm not explaining more, but we're running late and this is a long paradigm. I'll try to walk you through next time.”
“No problem. I'll just look over your shoulder.”
“Thanks.” For a few minutes, there was no sound except for keyboard, mouse, and the low pitched scanner noise.
“How many subjects have you run on this paradigm?” he asked when her typing slowed.
“Seven.” She scanned the screen, double checking the parameters. “The pilots were promising, but now the group analysis doesn't show any activation. I'll try a few more before I give up.”
“Well, we'll keep our fingers crossed then.”
The scanner made a high pitched, repetitive trill as it began its functional runs. She monitored the display for a few more moments before speaking again. “To be honest, I think I'm shooting myself in the foot by using SPM's volume based normalization. The VWFA is variable enough as it is. I really should look at it again with--”
“Surface based normalization.”
She cocked her head and glanced in his direction. He looked down at his hands. When he spoke again, his voice was soft. “I feel the same. Exactly the same, in fact, about volume based normalization. It doesn't make sense why we still stick with it--”
“When surface based normalization is so obviously superior.” Impulsively, she swiveled her chair to face him. Their eyes met.
In the next room, the scanner continued to sing.
* * * * *
Whew (*fanning self*). That's about all I can handle for now. And now you have some insight into the love lives of neuroscientists.
Thanks to Simon Larter for alerting me to the blogfest, Courtney Reese for hosting, Lady Glamis, whose recent bit of flash fiction inspired the ending line, and Good Omens for inspiring the second to last paragraph.
Be sure to check out the other entries in the Blogfest for some less nerdy fun.