Tokoloshe wired into our brains?

Hold the bricks: the concept of the tokoloshe may have its roots in the primordial neurology of the human brain, experts have suggested.

The theory has been put forward by KwaZulu-Natal neurologist Dr Anand Moodley in a letter co-authored by Canadian neuropsychologist Neil Fournier in the latest issue of the South African Medical Journal.

The tokoloshe, in African mythology, is a diminutive human-like creature with a large head and big eyes, often blamed for mischief or evil deeds.

Raising one’s bed by placing it on bricks is said to offer protection against it.

Moodley and Fournier said the key to the tokoloshe could lie in a part of the brain called the indusium griseum, two thin strips of grey matter that had no known function in adults.

They said neuroscientists had suggested the indusium griseum could be the “embryonic equivalent”, in a foetus, of the hippocampus in the adult brain.

In adults, the hippocampus housed short-term and spatial memory, including a somatotopic or map-like “representation” of the person’s body.

The hippocampus was particularly susceptible to overstimulation by the brain’s electrical signals.

Stimulation of the indusium griseum in an adult, they said, could therefore conceivably result in a throwback to a self-image of a tiny person stored by the foetus on that part of the brain.

“The outcome would be visual hallucinations of a small humanoid with a large head, big eyes and a small body,” they said.

“Temporal lobe epileptics are known to have formed hallucinations that include a human form of varying sizes.”

They said it had often been argued that the search for answers to age-old conundrums could not always be found in scientific study, and that beliefs “are just what they are” and should be left alone.

“But this instance does beg the questions: could the tokoloshe be the experience of a stimulated indusium griseum?

“And do we here in Africa have a pre-programmed tokoloshe homunculus [miniature human] waiting to be activated in times of distress, dreamlike states or during a seizure?”—Sapa

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