In her new book, The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind, Barbara Lipska describes surviving cancer that had spread to her brain, and how the illness changed her cognition, character and, ultimately, her understanding of the mental illnesses she studies.
One spring morning in 2015, Barbara Lipska got up as usual, dyed her hair and went for a jog in her suburban Virginia neighbourhood.
But when she returned from a much longer than expected run, her husband Mirek was completely taken aback.
“I was lost in my own neighbourhood,” Lipska says. “The hair dye that I put in my hair that morning dripped down my neck. I looked like a monster when I came back home.”
Although she now lucidly recalls that moment, at the time she was oblivious to her unusual appearance and behaviour.
Lipska studies the neuroscience of mental illness and brain development at the National Institute of Mental Health. In her work she’s examined the molecular structure of the brains of people who were so afflicted with schizophrenia or other disorders that they took their own lives.
And for two months in 2015, she developed similar symptoms of dementia and schizophrenia — only to learn they were the effects of cancerous tumours, growing in her brain.
With thanks to NPR for the interview.