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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ideas about the brain in a social context

I'm told a recent EEG came back "abnormal" with "diffuse slowing." Now I have to wait a month for my next appointment with the neurologist to find out what that means... I figure "diffuse" means it isn't just a localized area that is slow. Somehow it makes me feel better to know the problem isn't just in my head.... (Let the reader catch the tongue-in-cheek double-meaning.)

I believe the literal meaning of diffused slowing is that reactions to stimuli are slower than previously recorded. It is the implications of diffused slowing that require a neurologist's expertise to interpret.

For years it has been my opinion that the medical profession oversimplifies their interpretations of brain activity, because they only measure activity. They don't measure the brain's activity in terms of efficiency. I think quite possibly less can be more where brain activity is concerned: but not always, which means the process is too complex for meaningful assessment by purely physical means.

(iStockphoto LP, 2010)
I also suspect that synapses (the electro-chemical connections between nerves that the brain creates as it forms associations between experiences and successful responses) extend into other dimensions that we cannot directly observe (not that we won't eventually learn how to indirectly observe them). Further, I believe any transfer of information between cells, including cells and cell clusters that don't specialize in information processing, is functionally equivalent to the transfer of information that occurs within neural synapses. Consequently, I think whole-body health and memberships in a variety of communities with other people are just as essential to mental health as brain function.

I believe I can function as a "whole" person even without ideal brain health if I make use of my external connections with other people and with external sources of information. The only limitation I see with this model is the limitation of trust and trust-worthiness within these symbiotic connections (or social synapses, as I like to call them). I believe I still have a lot of good I can contribute to others. I just need to figure out how to make and maintain those appropriate co-beneficial connections: an economy of thought, if you will allow the analogy.

All of these speculations are without substantial research to support or refute them. If any readers are familiar with research that would relate to my speculations, please let me know by commenting here, or send an email if you prefer. (My "About" section provides a means to send a private email.)

See Also: Social networks matter: Friends increase the size of your brain.


iStockphoto LP. (Producer). (2010). Social network brain. [Web Drawing]. Retrieved from  

Johnson, E. M. (2011). Social networks matter: Friends increase the size of your brain.
          Scientific American, 2011(11.17), Retrieved from

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Yet another TBI Blog: braininjuryselfrehabilitation


In her own TBI Blog, BISR posts some "Simple tips on decision making when life is so indecisive after brain injury:"
The early years following injury may be difficult to make simple daily decisions.  Simple decisions are hard to make especially if you are given a number of choices. You may notice that many people with brain injuries cannot look at a menu in a restaurant.  They are overwhelmed with all the choices. (BISR, 2012)


BISR. (2012, November 09). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Another TBI Blog: TBI Recovery | Whyteferret's Blog

I stumbled upon another blog dedicated to TBI Recovery:

Recovery from TBI is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.  In order to keep going, I need hope and courage.  I may never be the same person, but I can still have a meaningful, happy, life.   Hope for recovery; courage to face the adversity and accept what comes.  Knowledge to understand TBI and what it means to my life.

TBI Recovery | Whyteferret's Blog:


Lydia H. (2012, March 14). [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Personal Injury Guide Book | Jacobs, Grudberg, Belt, Dow & Katz P.C. | New Haven, Connecticut

Rather than copy large sections of this website which enumerate common misconceptions about how to proceed with an insurance claim after an accident, I'm going to link to the article instead. Pay special notice to the list of "myths."

Personal Injury Guide Book | Jacobs, Grudberg, Belt, Dow & Katz P.C. | New Haven, Connecticut:

'via Blog this'

In case the link changes at some point in the future, this is a link my backup copy of the article.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Continuing Brain Injury Symptoms

Due to issues related to my ongoing attempts to get disability coverage, I am making a list of my continuing symptoms 17 months after the incident in which a car hit me.
Most bothersome on a day-to-day basis is extreme narcolepsy, feeling tired most of the time, with incidents of sudden unconsciousness, incidents of confusion and amnesia, and continuing incidents of lost gaps of time. Some of the initial symptoms, such as extreme vertigo have been replaced by lessor symptoms such as a "blank" sense of confusion when getting up suddenly or when seeing complex traffic motion on the road. 

Because of incidents of confusion, I have lost some of my independence. My daughter has full power of attorney and therefore must be involved when I make decisions that she could have to follow up. My kids have "threatened" that if I try bicycling for exercise my bicycle will "disappear." While I have found work-arounds for discalculia, and can often function nearly as well as I did before the accident, those periods of clarity are interrupted with disturbing periods of confusion. I still cannot organize work as I once did. I don't understand why, but a simple attempt to plan a job by outlining steps confuses me, and I invariably end up wandering from one unfinished project to another, accomplishing nothing until someone rescues me from my confusion by interrupting my cycles of jumping from one topic to another. This problem is difficult to communicate with others because the act of discussing the problem seems to hide the problem. Possibly some aspect of discussion provides just enough structure to prevent my mind from wandering so much. Sometimes I can write a useful essay (or blog post) in a single sitting, but usually I have to go over an essay many times before it is meaningful for others to read. 

On a good day, I sometimes feel as if I could try retaking the last class of my Master's program that was interrupted by my accident, but usually those times pass within a few hours, and they always pass when I try organizing notes to take action....

I'm really not offering any constructive suggestions in this post; I'm just reporting my experiences. Possibly I'll come up with some useful suggestions in the future, or at least have ideas for topics to be covered as I post resources.

I can always use suggestions from my readers. (hint)


Traumatic brain injury. (2012). [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from

Monday, November 5, 2012

Some thoughts about memory

“A clear conscience is the sure sign of a bad memory.” ("Quotes by Mark Twain", 2010)

As I was looking for a better reference for this Mark Twain quote, I encountered a number of cinical views about memory. Some were obviously false, but they caused me to ask myself what I believe is true regarding memory.

("Wikipedia: Memory," 2012)

I believe all memory boils down to a collection of sensory "tags" of sights, sounds, smells, and textures along with the ideas we associate with them. I believe what we call "event" memory is very short-term: fogotten forever within minutes of the experience. What we call long-term memory is actually a confabulation built from the tags we created for that event.

Memory therefore depends on our ability to be fully aware of each moment; consequently, distractions are the enemy. Remembering is literally "re" + "membering," or reconstructing the body of a memory from its tags. It requires having lots of available tags or points of reference, and preferably lots of different kinds of tags. If you are experiencing a moment you never want to forget, take a moment to notice your surroundings. What sounds to do you hear? What colors do you see? What fragrances do you detect? Take a picture. Make a recording. Write a note. What you write is not nearly as important as THAT you wrote. Enagage yourself fully in each moment, and you will never have a lack of associations with which to reconstruct that moment.

When you sit down to read, take the effort to notice your surroundings. If your surroundings don't provide tags for all of your senses, have a cup of coffee (or your favorite equivalent) to add aroma and flavor to the associations you will create as you read.

Read as quickly as you are able with comprehension, so that your mind focuses on ideas rather than words, and take frequent breaks to ruminate on what you have read. When you recognise you are forming an association, respect the process and let your mind wander a little (but not too much).

Don't neglect social connections (synapses) as tags for your memories. Even when brain damage destroys some of the tags we have associated to reconstruct events (and everyone is at least a little damaged), our shared tags are remembered by others, and by spending time with friends, over time we can replace some of those lost connections. Never neglect involving others as you form your memories. Talk about your day with someone every day.
Since every memory is a confabulation, make sure your important memories can be documented. Every person should keep some sort of journal. A journal does not have to be a reflection on the day. It can be as simple as keeping your old appointment books, or a dated scrapbook of old bits of paper you create and toss. Don't keep everything, but don't discard everything, but DO avoid clutter. What you keep must be organized, or it will distract you, and rob you your memories rather than supporting them. Whatever your process may be, the process of organizing your thoughts is more important than what you actually record.


"Quotes by Mark Twain." (2010). Quote factory. Retrieved from

(2012). Wikipedia: Memory. (2012). [Web Graphic]. Retrieved from