My performance-enhanced brain

Brain-enhanced Scarlett

Brain-enhanced Scarlett

Most conference presentations wash over my spongiform brain and swish straight down the drain. But one presentation at last month’s Australasian Medical Writers Association conference (forgive the plug) stuck in my mind, almost as if something had sealed up my brain drain (perhaps another plug?)

It was UNSW psychologist Jason Mazanov discussing performance enhancement in sport. He began with a fascinating thought experiment: ‘Imagine there was a drug that improved your performance as a doctor by 20 percent. Would you take it?’

Well yes, obviously, especially if it involved a double-shot macchiato delivery system. Late on a Friday, 20 percent would be conservative.

But then Mazanov asked whether, if it resulted in the same improvement permanently, we would choose to have a brain operation. His point was we don’t baulk at enhancement per se, but draw a line when it comes to the method. And everyone’s line is different.

His discussion moved on to Essendon footballers or something, but I was no longer listening, still distracted by his fascinating surgical option. Quite frankly, I didn’t know it was available.

After a quick online search, I phoned Pedro, a rogue brain surgeon, to discuss the procedure. He bamboozled me with the complexities – the guy was so brilliant, he could have been a rocket scientist.

Turns out Pedro underwent the performance enhancement surgery himself four years ago, and subsequently quit his job as one of those guys in fluoro vests who stand smoking next to road gangs.

Pedro was fast-tracked through med school, then soon admitted to two colleges – Brain Surgery (18 months at Royal Melbourne) and Orthopaedics (18 holes at Royal Melbourne).

“I don’t mean to boast, but I can now outperform you in every way.”

If you assumed you were reading a tale of my being done over by a fraudster, think again. Pedro operated on me last week—and it worked!

I am already 1.2 times smarter than you and fast catching up to ‘Lucy’ in that Scarlett Johansson brain-evolution film, even though I haven’t had my lips enhanced.

I’d describe exactly how Pedro did it, but your unenhanced 1.0 brain would start hurting. See, he first anastomosed a neoprene rubber disc to the crus of my fornix, then…oh hell, just think of it as inserting a plug.

I don’t mean to boast, but I can now outperform you in every way in the surgery. As soon as patients walked in the door yesterday, I was diagnosing diseases—including three rare ones. Tomorrow I’m billing them straight from the waiting room.

I’ve started vaccinating babies double-handed and last night I watched Dr House and solved everything before he did. Except lupus – who would have guessed?

In retrospect, it was probably a mistake to insist on watching five episodes with my wife back-to-back, particularly as I was the one facing the television.

Not sure she enjoys my enhanced intellect. I overheard her this morning on the phone to Pedro. Something about pulling the plug.

First published in Medical Observer, Oct 2014

About Dr Justin Coleman

Justin is a GP in Brisbane and Director of Education for GPs in the NT. He edits a medical journal and two medical textbooks, and is a medical writer and educator. Further details at
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4 Responses to My performance-enhanced brain

  1. jfbuckley1 says:

    You always write very well but this piece is particularly brilliant with a fantastic balance of fun, challenge and beautiful pun-style humour (back-to-back) – I am sure many would miss it. It is always what I loved about British humour vs US humour – no need for canned laughter and subtle joke stat some would get and some would not – no neon lights or arrows – just let it be there

    My favourite example was a Two Ronnies’ skit set in Paris. They were detectives of some sort, running, chasing a criminal. They ran along the road past a cross street which was street-signed as ’Rue de Remarques’. They did not slow down nor look at it; the camera did not zoom in. You either saw it or not and, if you saw it, got the joke or did not. It was not seen nor mentioned again.

    Anyway, I divert from praising you. Well done. I look forward to continued enjoyment with your next and future posts



  2. Jan Coleman says:

    Oh doctor, doctor, you just get better and better and are soaring so high above the rest of us (except for the voluptuous-lipped Scarlett who could out-pout you at ten paces.)

    We loved this one, too and you’ll have the Essendon footie team clamouring either at your door or for your blood. How wonderful this superb humour in these ‘flippant’ columns of yours punctuating our hugely serious world. Let’s hear it for /*YOU*/!

    Must talk over the w’end.



  3. Priyanka says:

    We should have tapped into this wit when we responded to a few of the NAP critics. Can you channel Pedro and reply to a few of the MJA and Conversation trolls?


  4. gingham says:

    Oh 1.2 brain I look forward to our next gig. As my finger just plucks the bass string and a semblance of a note begins, your synapses will light up, fingers will majestically traverse the fretboard. I will be the chord whisperer no more


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