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NIH Record

Neurologist Jonathan Cole Lectures on Face

Jonathan Cole -- physician, neurologist, and author of the new book About Face -- will speak on Friday, Nov. 20 at noon in the Natcher Conference Center. His talk, sponsored by NIDCR, will focus, in his words, "on a natural history of the face and an unnatural history of those who live without it."

A clinical neurophysiologist at Poole Hospital and senior lecturer in clinical neuroscience at Southampton University, Great Britain, Cole's research interest lies in what is special about the face and what happens when neurological conditions make expression or comprehension of the face unavailable. In the words of physician and author Oliver Sacks, Cole's recent book, About Face, is "...a remarkable book, the first comprehensive exploration of the face, and a fascinating one, which combines the clinical and the human, the biological and the cultural, in an altogether original way."

In his NIH lecture, Cole will explore the themes in his book, covering studies of blind, autistic and neurologically impaired persons, including those with Möbius syndrome, in which individuals are born with a total inability to move their facial muscles or make facial expressions. Cole suggests that it is only by studying such personal narratives of loss that we can understand facial function and something of what all our faces reflect. Drawing on work in neurology, human development, anthropology, philosophy and the arts, he will discuss the biological evolution of the face, the mechanics of expression and perception, and the importance of the face in the development of emotion and communication.

Cole received both his undergraduate and masters degrees from Oxford University. Following completion of his medical training in London in 1978, he interned for 3 years and then returned to Oxford where he completed a doctorate in sensory physio-logy in 1984. His next move was to the University of Southampton, where he began conducting research on pain control. It was at this time that he developed a particular interest in motor control and encountered a patient with a large fiber sensory neuropathy who had no perception of touch, movement or position sense below the neck. Cole's biographical account of this "deafferented" man, Pride and a Daily Marathon, was published by MIT Press in 1995. The book formed the basis of an account used by Peter Brook in his play, The Man Who, which toured Europe and later came to New York. Cole also helped write and narrate a BBC television documentary on the same subject, entitled The Man Who Lost His Body, which was broadcast in October 1997.

Cole is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, a member of the Physiological Society, and serves on the council of the British Society for Clinical Neurophysiology.


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