Stories tagged BODY WORLDS


Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.Coutesy lissame
Hiccup cure: One of the many homemade variety.
Coutesy lissame

One of the unexpected pleasures I’ve had in working in Body Worlds have been discussions about hiccups. There are several plastinated bodies that show the diaphragm -- the usual instigator of hiccups -- very well.

Along with those discussions have been a ton of comments from visitors about how they stop their hiccups. So I put it to you Science Buzz readers…what is your cure for hiccups?

Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's Anatomy
Where's my diaphragm: Torso showing location of diaphragm. Courtesey Gray's AnatomyCourtesy Gray's Anatomy

I’ve been surprised at how few people actually know what happens in their body when they have the hiccups, so let’s cover that first.
The diaphragm is a large muscle that stretches across your entire torso, just below your lungs. It moves up and down to help your lungs inhale and exhale the air you breathe.

A hiccup occurs when the diaphragm experiences a spasm. You’ve probably felt your arm or leg muscles spasm, when they kind of twitch without you doing anything to make that happen. When the diaphragm spasms, it causes a quick intake of breath. But that breath is stopped quickly because the vocal cords in your throat close. The resulting turbulence of air in your throat makes the sound of a hiccup.

So why does the diaphragm spasm? One of the main causes is a full stomach. Factors leading to a full stomach that can lead to hiccups include eating too much food too fast, drinking too much alcohol, swallowing too much air, smoking, a sudden change in stomach temperature (like drinking a hot beverage after a cold beverage) or emotional stress or excitement.

In most cases, hiccups go away in just a few minutes. If they go on for a longer period of time, your abdomen may start to hurt. In rare instances, hiccups can last for more than 48 hours. Those persistent hiccups are usually a sign of more serious health problems and should be checked on by a doctor. Those conditions could include a problem with the central nervous system; problems in the body’s chemistry for kidney functions or hyperventilating; irradiation of the nerves in the head, neck or chest; anesthesia or surgery; mental health problems.

The best cures for regular forms of hiccups involve increasing the level of carbon dioxide in your blood. So how do you think you can do that?


Pancreas: Courtesy Wikipedia Images

Where and more importantly, what is the function of the pancreas? This question has come up numerous times while working in Gunther van Hagens’ BODY WORLDS.

The pancreas lies within the abdominopelvic cavity in the J-shaped loop between the stomach and the small intestine. Abdominopelvic means just how it sounds; a region including the abdominal cavity as well as the pelvic cavity. The pancreas lies posterior to the stomach, extending laterally from the duodenum toward the spleen.

Physical Characteristics
The human pancreas is a slender, pale (pinkish gray) organ with a nodular (lumpy) consistency. A pancreas has a length of about fifteen centimeters (six inches) and weighs about eighty grams (three ounces). The organ has a head (closest to the duodenum), body and a tail (reaching towards the spleen). A thin, transparent capsule of connective tissue wraps the entire organ.

Major Ducts
The pancreas has two major ducts: the pancreatic duct and the accessory pancreatic duct. The accessory pancreatic duct is a small branch extending from the pancreatic duct. The ducts deliver digestive enzymes and buffers to the duodenum.

The pancreas has two distinct functions; one endocrine and the other exocrine. Pancreas endocrine cells secrete insulin and glucagons into the bloodstream. The exocrine cells include the acinar cells and the epithelial cells which line pancreas ducts. Together, the exocrine cells create pancreatic juice (an alkaline mixture of digestive enzymes, water and ions). These enzymes do most of the digestive work in the small intestine, breaking down food particles for absorption. Every day, the pancreas secretes about 1,000 ml (1 qt.) of pancreatic juice.

Source: Martini, F.H. (2004) Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology: 6th Edition.


Today's Pioneer Press contains a letter to the editor from Ms. Sheila Steiner, of River Falls, Wisconsin. She writes:

"Would an anatomist in the U.S. have been allowed to skin a human body and fill it with plastic, pose it, and put it on display for a viewer fee simply because prior permission had been granted by the now deceased?

I cannot help but wonder how those who knew the living person think and feel about having their former loved one plasticized and on display.

It is reminiscent of an exhibit in Mexico where corpses were taken from graves and displayed to show how they had been preserved through minerals in the Earth.

It deeply troubles and saddens me to know that we have lost respect for the living as well as the dead. And we explain our unethical behavior as "an incredible learning opportunity".

Please skip the Body Worlds exhibit. Use your 20 dollars to feed the hungry or to buy a good anatomy book for a school."

Steiner's is a perfectly legitimate opinion, but what do you think? Whether you're here in the museum, and you've actually seen the exhibit, or you're visiting via the Internet, we want to know what you're thinking and feeling about the Body Worlds exhibit.

Did you find it gross? Beautiful? Disturbing? Fascinating? Moving? A little of each? Tell us about it.

Want to discuss the ethics of it? During the run of the exhibit, we're featuring four experts from our Advisory Committee (a Catholic theologian, a Hmong physician, a medical ethicist, and a body donation program director) to help answer questions and provide perspectives. Paul Wojda, a theology professor at St. Thomas University, is the first in this series. Ask him your questions!


Delve into BODY WORLDS through the lenses of religion, art, and medicine. Experience the human drama of BODY WORLDS. The Science Museum of Minnesota presents three community forums on topics germane to this internationally acclaimed exhibition. Moderated by Science Museum of Minnesota President, Dr. Eric Jolly.

  • Where: 3D Cinema Auditorium at the Science Museum of Minnesota
  • Cost: $30 per forum (non-members); $22 per forum (members). Includes entry to BODY WORLDS and museum exhibitions. Admission the the forums ONLY is available for $13 (non-members), $12 (members). (Stories Behind Organ and Body Donation is FREE!)
  • REGISTER NOW: (651) 221-9444 or (800) 221-9444

Religious Views of the Human Body and Soul In and After Death
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Moderated by Science Museum of Minnesota President, Dr. Eric Jolly

As science advances, we know more about our bodies and how they work, but there are still questions for most of us about what happens in death and how to treat the dead. Religions offer their own perspectives on whether there is a soul and how it is related to the physical body. Is the soul part of the body or separate; can it be diminished when we remove a limb or an organ? Religious leaders and theologians will help us contemplate and compare the variety of religious belief systems about the body and soul and how BODY WORLDS fit into these schema.

Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, Senior Rabbi, Temple Israel; Paul Wojda, Ph.D., University of St. Thomas; Brother Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota

Stories Behind Organ and Body Donation
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

When you get your driver's license, you have the option to become an organ donor. What's the difference between organ or tissue donation and whole body donation? What really happens to bodies donated to science? The BODY WORLDS exhibition raises the community's awareness about body donation. Organ donors, donors' families, and recipients will share their experiences of receiving donated organs and the personal meaning of donating one's body for science. Guests will be required to reserve a complimentary ticket in advance.

David Lee, Director, Anatomy Bequest Program, Medical School, University of Minnesota; Dr. Frazier Eales, Life Source

Human Body in Art: In the Anatomy Theater/Wrestling with the Real
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Moderated by Science Museum of Minnesota President, Dr. Eric Jolly

Much of the consternation about the touring exhibition, BODY WORLDS, hinges on the "realness" of the bodies on display. This talk will focus on the use of the actual body by artists since the 1940s, highlighting various artistic strategies and the possible cultural meanings of such use of the body. We will examine both the artists' intentions and the responses of the viewing public who in the end are forced to wrestle with the often disturbing reality of the re-contextualized human body.

Michael Gaudio, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Minnesota; Diane Mullin, Ph.D., Associate Curator, Weisman Art Museum