June 25, 2016

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2: Musical Sublimation of Pain

We sometimes feel isolated and ignored by others regarding either achievements or personality. I also had such an experience that my works had been put aside and not recognized, which led me to depression as Sergei Rachmoaninoff had suffered from serious depression as well after his first Symphony was unsuccessfully premiered and discouraged by severe criticisms. With the help of psychotherapy treatments by Dr. Dahl, he successfully escaped from depression and became confident for his capability as a composer. He started to compose the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, and it was successfully premiered and greatly praised by the audiences. Needless to say, he won reputation as a composer around the world. It might be because of such a background in his life that the Piano concerto have been beneficial for me to heal my depression and reduce stress from criticisms. 

The second movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2 is the most beautiful and romantic part in the concerto. It starts playing with solemn sound just like opening a Pandora's box filled with secrets. But it is soon followed by tranquil melodies, entering with flutes and clarinets, which is reminiscent of the beautiful memories in the past. The composer might intend to express his irresistible yearning for either his homeland Russia or romantic days before his marriage with Vera who had troubles with him [1]. In this part, the pianist looks like lapsing into a state of nostalgic sweetness. The movement is then extensively developed by strings, just as soothing and singing a lullaby to a baby at a serene beach. Followed by bassoons and horns, the music is accelerated by piano; although this part brings to mind my past anguished and melancholic time, it is definitely one of parts moving me. It finally arrives at its climax with fast but understated rhythm of piano, and the original theme introduced in the first movement is repeated, and ended with sensitive fingers to the keyboard with E major. It is the most touching part in this movement, like a fantasy in which all my inexpressible pain, sorrow and depression, engraved in past memories, are sublimated to a new start filled with comfort, joy and peace, as the pianist hits the keys strongly but assertively. Digressing a little bit, my favorite pianists who played this concerto could be listed as Anna Fedorova, Denis Matsuev, and Evgeny Kissin.

1. Chad Hille, Rachmaninoff's Works for Piano and Orchestra, Classy Classical, Sep 2005.

Boris Celebrates both Churchill and Brexit?

I found the book, titled "Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History", in a book store. I thought it is so paradoxical that Boris Johnson, who leaded the campaign for Brexit, the British leave from European Union (EU), published a book acclaiming Sir Winston Churchill who first advocated the “United States of Europe”.

June 24, 2016

How Does the Placenta Look Like?

The human placenta is a maternal organ which has an important role in supplying oxygen as well as nutrients to the fetus through umbilical cord during pregnancy. It composes of fetal and maternal components (known as Decidua basalis). As shown in the below figure, fetal vessels spread over the placental surface of the fetal side. Therefore, the fetal side is almost occupied by significant fetal arterial and venous blood flows.

The fetal side of the placenta (taken from the department of pathology)
The maternal side of the placenta (taken from the department of pathology)
Those fetal vessels branch out and finally form a complex structure of villous trees which are grouped in the unit known as 'cotyledons' which look discriminated by valleys in the maternal side. The maternal bloods are supplied in the intervillous space through spiral arteries in decidua of the maternal side which is attached to the uterine wall. Oxygen and other gases are transported through fetal chorionic villi which broadly contact with maternal blood. Our dissection study of the placenta shows that the structural complexity of villous trees, as depicted in the below figure, makes it hard to anatomically distinguish between fetal and maternal compartments of the placenta through visual inspection. In spite of the difficulty, recent studies show the feasibility of figuring out placental structure and functions using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques.

Further readings
  1. Dekan, S. & Linduska, N., 2011. Normal and Pathological Placental Development: MRI and Pathology. In D. Prayer, ed. Fetal MRI. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 403–442.
  2. Benirschke, K., Burton, G.J. & Baergen, R.N., 2012. Pathology of the Human Placenta, Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  3. You. W, 2016. Novel technology for functional MRI of the moving fetus, Brain in God.
  4. You. W, 2016. A Talk on Fetal fMRI at SPIE Medical Imaging, Brain in God.

April 11, 2016

Love a very small one

4“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? ; 5And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. ; 6When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ ; 7In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! (Luke 15:4-7)
It is a genuine love to cherish a very small one. Although I had made tremendous achievements so far, I should lament even for my extremely small sin made today. Forget whatever might be full of either glorious memories or terrible misdeeds accumulated over the past, and just concentrate on this moment. As Jesus Christ forgave all my sins, save me who was a lost sheep and gave me an eternal life, forgive my enemies and love the most humble neighbors although they have seriously tormented me with bitter pains.

April 10, 2016

Novel technology for functional MRI of the moving fetus

The overview of preprocessing for hyperoxia fMRI of the placenta and fetal brain.
Inadequate supply of oxygen to the fetus may compromise fetal health and well-being. Recently, the effects of maternal oxygen supply on fetal brain oxygenation have been explored using blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). A challenge with unsedated in vivo fetal fMRI is fetal motion, which seriously perturbs fMRI data quality and reliable data analysis.

I and my colleagues working at the Developing Brain Research Laboratory in Children's National Medical Center recently published a paper, titled "Robust preprocessing for stimulus-based functional MRI of the moving fetus" in the Journal of Medical Imaging. The article had been selected as a 'featured article' in the Journal of Medical Imaging from April to June, 2016. The paper presents a robust method for correcting motion artifact from fMRI data of the fetal brain and placenta acquired during maternal hyperoxia. The method was designed to provide the most optimal performance in the given stimulus paradigm (see Figure 1). Spurious data which remain not corrected due to high motion were automatically detected, and additionally corrected through statistical estimation. Our experimental results demonstrate that the proposed method was effective in mitigating the motion artifacts and beneficial for clinical applications in high-risk fetuses. This paper provides an important technical foundation for non-invasive quantification of fetal brain-placenta function.