It’s Week Three of the Tuesday Three Hours Of Section And Lecture, and if you’re anything like me, you forget to take your Adderall in the morning and the ADD kicks in around Hour Two (and you know it’s really TBI but they have the same number of letters so they’re almost the same thing). You stop taking notes because it’s far too much to keep up with the lecture and presentation and diverting student questions all at once, but you’ll review the slides tomorrow and you’ve done Parkinson’s before, so it’s no big deal if you have to freshen up on the Molecular Pathway Of The Week later on Boylston with cocoa and cream.
Right now a word has caught your attention. It’s not a hybrid like some others, like neuroscience, neurotransmitter, or dysfunction. No, it’s a word made from only Greek roots, like those you’ve learned when you were a child, like dinosaur, haploid, or metamorphosis. You’ve seen it before (because you’ve done Parkinson’s before) but you wonder if you really know bradykinesia, like, really, know its origin and evolution. You’ve done Latin and Greek so you know that brady- comes from βραδὺ and -kinesia derives from -kinesis, which is from κίνησις. Put together, bradykinesia roughly translates to slow movement (like a Largo but not really) and since bradykinesia is a condition where one is slow to start moving, it all makes perfect sense.
But then you remember the Largo in your hands and the ritardandos are grave as they slip from your fingers and you wonder if the Latin is related to the Greek because the Latins are known to borrow liberally from the Hellenics (or maybe Virgil was just the most annoying about it). You are Jack’s complete lack of surprise when you learn that largo is Italian meaning broad and that it comes from the Latin largō, which could be the dative singular or ablative plural of largus, which means large. (You are also Jack’s ego-affirming pretension when you see that the latter is a descendent of the former.) You broaden the space between the notes to slow the speed, so it all makes perfect sense still.
The real question, however, is whether the Latin tardus is related to the Greek βραδὺ. Alas, the academy doesn’t know. But you manage to find a very interesting name for a very interesting creature, the tardigrade, which is a polyextremophile, and immediately you couldn’t be bothered with that hybrid construction because an organism that can withstand both extremes of temperatures and pressure as well as heavy doses of radiation, all while dehydrated and in outer space, is just the coolest thing ever.
Its name comes from the Latin tardus but it also comes the Latin gradior, so it roughly translates to slow step, and we’re back again to slow movement and Parkinson’s and finally you are starting to understand just what the lecture has been about this past hour. Parkinson’s is characterized by an acclamation of α-synuclein into aggregates called Lewy bodies and the oligomers disrupt the integrity of the mitochondrial membranes so the organelles gain toxic function. The question is why there is only cell death in substantia nigra pars compacta, but you assume that will be answered next week—same PCD-time, same PCD-channel.
Now class is over and you are so done with Parkinson’s and you are so ready to get your dopamine on. It’s almost Valentine’s so you think that you will spend some quiet time with some wine and chocolate, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll stay out until 4 AM on Wednesday, charm some free bourbon on Thursday, and fuck during office hours on Friday. Finally, on Saturday, you’ll remember to put the Adderall somewhere obvious so you’ll take it first thing in the morning because while this has been a lovely and interesting and educational diversion, this is also the most long-winded way ever to say that if my most recent challenge is only my lack of focus, then I really must have it really good.