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Krista and Tatiana Hogan turning 4.5
May 26, 2011 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Krista Hogan and Tatiana Hogan are craniopagus conjoined twins joined at the top, backs, and sides of their heads who are astonishing researchers single page (NYT) with their apparent extraordinary cognitive connection to each other. Since their parents decision not to separate them due to the extreme risks involved, researchers have hoped that they could teach us more about how the brain works, and now they are old enough to tell us about it.
posted by Blasdelb (42 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
The one thing I couldn't comprehend from the article: "Krista is allergic to canned corn; Tatiana is not." How is this possible? Surely they share an immune system. Maybe someone is unclear on the definition of "allergy."
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:03 AM on May 26, 2011


So fascinating. It'll be interesting to watch them grow up. Some questions that immediately come to mind:

-Will they learn more than other students at school (they apparently share more than sensory experiences, but received information as well?) Could they become geniuses?
-Will they be unusually empathetic and understanding of experiences outside of their own, due to the unique way their bodies and minds are adapting? What are the implications of that? Will they have important things to reveal about the nature of duality?
-How will dating and marriage work (legally and otherwise?)
-Once they get older, how will they react to drugs/alcohol? What happens if one of them enjoys those experiences but the other doesn't?
posted by naju at 10:04 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read this yesterday and it's fascinating. There was also a link or mention of Neuroself.com somewhere in the mess of articles I read about this, a blog about consciousness, and I am working my way through that as well.
posted by Nattie at 10:04 AM on May 26, 2011


“I am stuck,” Krista told me one afternoon, pausing as she and her sister made their way back to the bathroom, where they wanted to play with the faucets. She tapped the portion of the head that she shares with her sister. And does she like being stuck? “I love I am stuck,” she said. She smiled. She had the dreamy look of someone romantically infatuated. “I love my lovely sissy,” she said.

This part made me tear up. "I love I am stuck." It's just the sweetest, simplest expression of love that I've ever encountered.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 10:12 AM on May 26, 2011 [14 favorites]


Wild story. Fascinating how their brains have adapted to the situation.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:12 AM on May 26, 2011


Naju: I can't speak to the rest of the questions (which are all interesting) but this article popped up yesterday when I was already in the midst of a bunch of reading about the brain, and from what I've read it can already be problematic for the brain to mediate between the left and right hemispheres alone, much less an extra brain. People who have less lateralization in the brain -- that is, people who handle some typically right or left brain functions more evenly between the hemispheres than usual -- actually have some difficulties with things like dyslexia and stuttering and the like. There is probably a good reason, after all, that we evolved to have lateral brains with a bridge of communication between them. However, this is a big generalization, and sometimes difficulties are offset by proclivities for other things, or the brain learns ways to work around the interference.

The case of these girls brings that to mind, except on a larger scale. I could more easily imagine that having two brains connected might create more interference to deal with than it would create genius powers, or perhaps it could do both -- but it will all depend. Maybe being connected at the thalamus has certain advantages or disadvantages compared to being connected elsewhere. At the very least they seem at least healthy now, which alone seems like a miracle. I'm very excited to see how they develop.
posted by Nattie at 10:14 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The human spirit and human nature are always infinitely touching and moving. We always seem to have this amazing choice between judging something or marveling at it. I was going to say hats off to Tatiana and Krista, and then realized that was in very poor taste, but I wrote it anyway.
posted by Xurando at 10:17 AM on May 26, 2011


Arisophanes was right!
posted by Schmucko at 10:18 AM on May 26, 2011


er, ArisTophanes, I know that...
posted by Schmucko at 10:19 AM on May 26, 2011


enlarged to show texture: You missed or glossed over the other twin saying "I am stuck" with a sad look on her face...they both don't always think it's sweet and precious.
posted by Kokopuff at 10:26 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Hensel twins are still alive as well.
posted by mkb at 10:26 AM on May 26, 2011


Related to the phenomena of individuals with less-than-typical lateralization of brain functions sometimes having problems, this bit caught my eye:
The girls’ brains are so unusually formed that doctors could not predict what their development would be like: each girl has an unusually short corpus callosum, the neural band that allows the brain’s two cerebral hemispheres to communicate, and in each girl, the two cerebral hemispheres also differ in size, with Tatiana’s left sphere and Krista’s right significantly smaller than is typical.
I'm wondering what "unusually short" refers to here; if it means each girl's brains are more less hemispherically divided than neurotypical ones are. If it's less, is the shared neural bridge something that'll lead to them actually lateralizing functions between each other, as opposed to between a normal singleton brain's halves? Just fascinating all around; I hope they live a long and healthy life, both for obvious reasons, and them gaining increasing ability to articulate what their experience is actually like.
posted by Drastic at 10:29 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


video of the Hensel twins who are dicephalic parapagus twins
posted by Blasdelb at 10:36 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watched the documentary about them a while ago and it's great to see an update on this. Thanks!
posted by cerbous at 10:43 AM on May 26, 2011


Kokopuff: I neither missed it nor glossed over it. The story is equal parts heartbreaking and joyous. These girls have an extraordinarily difficult life ahead of them, in ways that they (and we) cannot possibly comprehend right now. Part of what makes that line so moving for me is that it is a moment of simple beauty in the midst of complexity and pain.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 10:57 AM on May 26, 2011


Gives new meaning to the question "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
posted by gottabefunky at 11:02 AM on May 26, 2011


This is really interesting. Thanks!

Although I thought that the two little girls were going to be doing astonishing research!
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:03 AM on May 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


oh man - I hope Tatiana's heart can keep going! Man, it's gotta be so hard. Love their spirit :)
posted by symbioid at 11:09 AM on May 26, 2011


I love the comments:
But it does break my heart when I hear that they are allowed to drink juice in their crib (presumably with no subsequent tooth brushing). Juice is acidic and full of sugar and will lead to cavities and all kinds of dental problems and dental problems cause other medical issues. Will the doctors who are about to perform dental surgery on the girls please, please, please tell the family that the only thing the girls should drink in bed after toothbrushing is water.
I sometimes want to live in a world where I worry about things like this!
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:10 AM on May 26, 2011 [13 favorites]


If they share brain functions, that raises for me the general question of individuality. How many shared brain tasks can two humans have and still, actually, be two humans? Interesting case.
posted by spaltavian at 11:10 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is indeed quite a fascinating phenomenon, but I think that we shouldn't lose sight of something else that's important: those are two rockin' mohawks on the guy and the kid in that family photo.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:25 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


With the Neuroself blog linked through the article, I've found a new addition for my RSS feeds, and a new short duration personal favorite quote of the day: "Brains are set up to chase selves, but not be them."
posted by Drastic at 11:27 AM on May 26, 2011


Krista likes ketchup, and Tatiana does not, something the family discovered when Tatiana tried to scrape the condiment off her own tongue, even when she was not eating it.

That is a trip.
posted by rtha at 11:29 AM on May 26, 2011


While simultaneously tearing up, watching them makes my neck ache.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:35 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whoa. That is incredible. Frankly, as they get older I hope they are curious about their own neurology and consent to testing because this is absolutely fascinating!
posted by Sophie1 at 11:54 AM on May 26, 2011


"Frankly, as they get older I hope they are curious about their own neurology and consent to testing because this is absolutely fascinating!"

Actually, I hope that as they get older they get curious about their own neurology and become neurologists or similar, since they may well have unique insights in how neural interconnections and the brain work.
posted by Blackanvil at 12:15 PM on May 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Currently reading Embassytown. Quick, someone teach them Language!
posted by BungaDunga at 12:15 PM on May 26, 2011


I just started reading Embassytown and had the same thought. Wild.
posted by X-Himy at 12:23 PM on May 26, 2011


Beyond being stuck, they do look very happy with each other. I love this picture simply for the comfort she/they find in holding each other's hand during their experience.
posted by stormpooper at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cracked up when the one girl was elbowing her sister. At least she was probably gentle about it!
posted by orme at 12:55 PM on May 26, 2011


I sometimes want to live in a world where I worry about things like this!

Sure, it's not like dental health is important or anything.
posted by EmGeeJay at 1:02 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're right, I think that dental health is totally unimportant. That was the point of my comment. Good catch.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:22 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]


davidjmcgee: "I thought that the two little girls were going to be doing astonishing research!"

yeah, quite the crash blossom there
posted by idiopath at 1:41 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoa! This is amazing and sad, then amazing again.

"If they share brain functions, that raises for me the general question of individuality. How many shared brain tasks can two humans have and still, actually, be two humans?"

That's a really good question. It's probably too early to say anything definitive, but the NYT article suggests they have at least two modes of interconnection: involuntary sensation, like when one eats ketchup and the other tastes it - and voluntary coordination, like when they walk and manipulate objects. The sensations come through whether they want them or not, and (imo) it must make life difficult being continually distracted by alien feelings. But the coordination seems to be pleasant, or at least something they want to do. Maybe it makes life easier when they speak and move in a synchronized fashion. Less distracting, anyway.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:42 PM on May 26, 2011


Look, that was overly snarky. My point is that these people have been through a high-risk pregnancy and surgical delivery; endless medical treatments, tests, and care for children who are a medical and neurological anomaly; and on top of that, the everyday difficulties of life like

where do I find clothes for conjoined twins? (no onsies that go over the head!)
how do I burp them safely? (can't just put them over your shoulder!)
how do I get a crib that fits them?
how do I safely transport them in a car? (not likely to be many carseats made for conjoined twins but you still need to get them to those doctor's appointments in Vancouver!)

They have dealt with these issues with grace and love.

And still, someone will find a way that they are parenting incorrectly. Not just incorrectly, in a way that's heartbreaking. You have to admire the complete and utter lack of perspective going on there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:44 PM on May 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


Well, maybe they were referring to this re: teeth and juice:

Tatiana’s teeth are in such bad shape that she is scheduled for surgery this summer.

That can't be an easy undertaking when two people possibly have to be anesthitized for surgery on one. Yes, the family has many extra burdens because of caring for conjoined twins, but the eye issue and dental health are burdens that could be reduced by being a little more vigilant.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:36 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have to admire the complete and utter lack of perspective going on there.

We know that night-time juice and milk bottles can cause serious dental problems for kids. In this case it's resulted in a child having to undergo dental surgery at the age of 4. I've seen the results of night-time bottles (jacked-up teeth, constant trips to the dentist for caps and replacement caps) and I'm totally OK with living in a world where people are sad that a kid needs to have surgery because some basic dental advice wasn't heeded.
posted by stefanie at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is so fascinating! There's so many neat tests you could do here...really simple stuff like asking one to count backwards from 100 out loud while the other counts forwards. Or reads. Or has to solve a simple math problem. Or the stroop test. Or I wonder if they can easily perform tasks with opposing reference point orientations...like can one arrange objects geo-centrically while the other arranges similar objects with ego-centric reference...or what about in reference to the other twin's ego-centric orientation? How is their kinesthetic sense? What about when they *both* have their eyes closed? Then there's the whole philosophical side of things...the notion of the embodied mind. Culpability, responsibility and morality. How does guilt work? Punishment? Love?

It's endless and I could really go on forever with ideas here. I can't wait to see and hear all the wonderful things they have to share with the rest of us as they grow up.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:38 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know some kids who are joined at the tops of their head. They're pretty cool and they do karate together. They pull off some moves that you can only do if you're joined at the top of the head with another person.
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:29 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's easy to get excited about the possibilities as an outsider, but they deserve to live their lives without being the object of research if they desire so.
posted by ersatz at 5:26 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The one thing I couldn't comprehend from the article: "Krista is allergic to canned corn; Tatiana is not." How is this possible? Surely they share an immune system. Maybe someone is unclear on the definition of "allergy."
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:03 AM on May 26 [+] [!]


I'm no doctor myself, but it seems unlikely that histamine passes through the blood-brain barrier in the first place.
posted by xdvesper at 7:45 PM on May 26, 2011


> I'm totally OK with living in a world where people are sad that a kid needs to have surgery because some basic dental advice wasn't heeded

Oh good Lord. These parents have bigger fish to fry.

Sure it would be wonderful if the girls always brushed their teeth, didn't drink juice, and had bulletproof enamel, but sometimes things aren't perfect. Let's not make sad faces at the parents for their failure to try just a little bit harder.

P.S. Yes, my child is scheduled to have dental surgery for an issue that an uninformed person would think is totally trivial, how could you tell?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:54 PM on May 27, 2011


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