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Science on the brain; Stroke survivor investigates pioneering neuroscience and the ethics behind it.


Lotje Sodderland was a healthy 34-year-old when she suffered a stroke which almost killed her and left her with permanent brain damage.

Now, five years on, she has made a documentary on the work of neuroscience pioneer scientists who use the latest knowledge to repair "broken" brains. She examines the risks and rewards of fixing something we don't yet fully understand.

Her journey began in November 2011 when she was a documentary producer living in London.

Lotje said: "It was a Sunday night, and I'd been working hard to meet a deadline. In the evening, I went to the pub with friends then went home. I lived by myself at the time, and I woke up in the dark, with this pain in my head.

"Because my brain had already started to haemorrhage, I wasn't able to understand what was happening, apart from a feeling of very raw, direct pain and fear.

"Then I had this moment of clarity, where I knew how to put clothes on, and walked down four flights of stairs and out of the door. I walked into a hotel opposite my house, and tried to ask for help, but I couldn't speak, so I just started opening my mouth. I made my way to the bathroom and lost consciousness, and that's when somebody called an ambulance.

"I was admitted to the Royal London Hospital where they did the MRI and then performed the emergency surgery."

The cause of Lotje's stroke was a malformation of blood vessels in her brain which had been there since she was born. It could have gone off at any time.

She said: "The damage was to the part of my brain that deals with language and perception.

"Reading, writing, speaking, thinking, as well as how you see and experience the world, is all located in that bit of the brain. So when I woke up it was a very different world to the one I'd left.

"Eventually things just started to improve. Now I can't really read, but I can write, and I live a very peaceful and meaningful life. " Lotje filmed her recovery, mainly to help her retain information and communicate with her friends. Clips from those recordings feature in the film, along with a number of extraordinary people.

They include Deidre, who has had Parkinson's for 10 years, and John who is on the autistic spectrum. Both underwent radical surgery.

Lotje said: "Deidre's body was constantly making involuntary movements. She had pioneering surgery using a computer to get into a bit of the brain a human would never be able to get to.

"This slightly radical scientist offered John the opportunity to have his brain zapped and potentially experience empathy. I don't think he thought it would do anything. Then, driving home after a zapping session, he heard a song on the radio, and his emotional floodgates opened.

"But then the experiment started to have a very negative impact. He'd become somebody he wasn't used to being. He got divorced and lost his family.

"His story really reflects what the film is about: Each individual has a unique personality and sense of self. Should there be an ethical code that limits the way we experiment on the brain? Should we be messing around with this fundamental organ that's so key to our sense of self?" n Can You Rebuild My Brain? is on Channel 4, Tuesday, 10pm.


Scientists are researching new ways to treat the human brain

JOURNEY Film maker Lotje shares footage of her recovery from stroke
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 28, 2018
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