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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Resource: CaringBridge: Personal health journals: What to share

How do you decide what information to share about your health or caregiver experience?
Sona Mehring, founder of, a "platform for personal health journals," expresses her thoughts on the value of journaling, and what information is appropriate to share.

Read her WebMD blog post in "A Different Normal: Living with a Chronic Condition" where she discusses Health Journaling: How To Decide What to Share
In her blog post, Sona Mehring references another blog on the benefits of medical journaling from 

Her CaringBridge platform is a useful resource for patients and caregivers. Check out this resource.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Get Smart: Fight Chaos (a real message with a little humor: ok, an attempt at humor)

A "Smart phone" can useful
for "control."
All the gadgets in the world won't help managing life with TBI if clutter and chaos undermine our efforts.

The second law of thermodynamics guarantees that of the bad things that can happen to us all, the one thing that is certain is increasing chaos. Chaos is the only "plan" that manages its own progress automatically, and so chaos is everyone's default "plan" whenever no other plan exists. Chaos, unchecked, eventually results in death. Chaos is what always happens whenever "nothing" happens. Chaos never rests.

As the 1960's sitcom illustrated, it does not take a lot of skill or effort to fight chaos, but it does take consistent effort. When you feel you've "missed it by that much," at least you were fighting. This is a battle that is won by the agent who keeps showing up. Meet every challenge from chaos with the same positive attitude expressed by Maxwell Smart, who kept on fighting the good fight"...and loving it."  ...would you believe "and liking it?" Ok, keeping it up, and NOT liking it very much.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Two brain injury resources

Have you heard of Lumosity? - TBI SURVIVORS NETWORK:

'via Blog this'

I have just discovered these two brain injury resources today. The TBI Survivor's Network website provides resources for victims of TBI and their familes. Lumosity is a website that provides a set of tools designed to rebuild neural connections that have been lost due to TBI. Having no experience yet with either website, I'm just reporting they exist for now. I have provisionally joined both, and I will post my thoughts about each as I gain more experience.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some thoughts about logic and passion

Image courtesy of shutterstock

Over the years one of my areas of fascination has been artificial intelligence, and designing algorithms that mimic organic intelligence. Consequently, another fascination has been with how organic intelligence works. In this context, my brain injury has inspired the following speculation:

I have observed that organic intelligence follows one simple form of logic: A goes with B. It does not matter how A and B are related, or whether they are in fact related, as long as there is some sense in which B is found when A is involved, or conversely that B is never found if A is involved.

As I have implemented artificial intelligence principles in programs, they seem to find their best usefulness when looking for ways to locate information quickly. I found two ways to use comparisons to locate information quickly. The fastest way to find information quickly is when a mathematical relationship exists in which B can be derived or approximated from A. Mathematical relationships are not always obvious. Sometimes they are even coincidental. Organic intelligence makes no such distinctions, so AI should not care either. The next fastest way to find information quickly uses an estimation “tree” in which A goes with J (roughly central to the lower half of the alphabet) which goes with E which goes with C which goes with B. Five levels of association are usually not necessary in an estimation tree, because the trees are not designed to weigh all choices equally. Additionally, most estimations use mathematical relationships to estimate more wisely than random chance would allow. We know there are more C and S choices than J or Q choices, so we can weigh our guesses with that information. We can filter the possible choices to examine in a number of ways. In the estimation tree example above, a number of assumptions were made about the kind of data that would be searched. We “knew” that A and B are letters of the alphabet, which enabled us to exclude many other considerations.

In software, AI is used in specifically defined contexts. The brain similarly has ways of pre-filtering information. Visual information goes to one area of the brain. Auditory information goes to another area. Organic intelligence has many such hard-wired filters, and similar filters that develop over time through experience. These hard-wired filters enable us to avoid meaningless comparisons, but sometimes A is a letter of the alphabet, and sometimes it can be a number, so decisions must be made each time a filter is used about whether each filter is appropriate to the context.

rebuilding broken connections
When a brain is injured, some of these filters and connections are broken, forcing the brain to make extra decisions about the information it processes. This extra decision-making requires and can overload short-term memory, which can effectively stop the decision process, or create distraction “loops” in which the need to retrieve additional information at one step “overwrites” the decision process with a new decision process involved in retrieving information that will never be used because it's context was lost. A distraction loop is completed when the same external input re-triggers use of the same broken decision tree.

Keep in mind, all of this speculation is based on the experience of a programmer fascinated with AI, not based on any knowledge or research, but I have been able to write extremely fast index searching algorithms based on this model.

Since my accident, I have been using this model to consciously direct my thoughts to recognize and avoid broken thought paths, and to build new memories and associations. I expect that my conscious efforts will “prime the pump” and eventually enable my brain’s automatic processes to take over. Time will tell whether my approach will be successful.

I would add one more dimension to this discussion, that logic is “cold.” It does not care about values. However I am a warm-blooded creature with preferences and passions. Not all success can be defined in logical terms. Some choices can and maybe should be made on purely emotional grounds, but always with a watchful eye to avoid self-deception.

Ideally I would complete this thought with some profound principle, but I don’t have any profound ideas in this area: only a recognition that some “fallacies” create their own logic. Live human beings CHOOSE their beliefs. There is no logical difference between paranoia and optimism, yet one brings hope and the other destroys it. Some decisions are made because they feel better than the alternative, and that’s OK.

Articles that influenced this post:

Hagel, J. (2012). Reason with me: Why passion alone won’t save us. Design MindPassion(16), Retrieved from

Jana, R. (2012). The paradox of passion: Psychologist scott barry kaufman talks about the fine line between motivation and obsession. Frog: Design MindPassion(16), Retrieved from

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This is how is how it feels....

(I just posted this comment on Facebook, and it seemed appropriate to include it in this blog.)

Going nowhere fast
This post is really for me rather than for anyone else. It is to document a problem that happens from time to time, not quite frequently enough for me to identify it as a pattern. [...but then how do I KNOW it's not frequent...?] Once again, I started out looking up information to complete a project I was working on, only to stumble upon information related to another project. I spent the last hour completing the last hour completing that other project. Now I feel lost. All I know is that the original project was important. I can't recall what it was. I can't even recall what it was that I completed. I was feeling a real sense of accomplishment a few minutes ago. Why? What did I accomplish? This is what it feels like to have deficient short-term memory.

(I'm aware I repeated myself in the last paragraph. It's how I wrote it. I'm leaving it as evidence of the problem I was writing to describe.)

Image Reference:

McKenzie, R. T. (Videographer). (2012). Blatchford, coppinger, karwalski, treadmill push off court squash mental toughness.. . [Web Video]. Retrieved from

Friday, December 14, 2012

JNS - Journal of Neurosurgery -

JNS - Journal of Neurosurgery -:

'via Blog this'

Conclusions. Although mean diffusivity and fractional anisotropy abnormalities in these patients with TBI were too subtle to be detected with the whole-brain histogram analysis, they are present in brain areas that are frequent sites of DAI. Because diffusion tensor imaging changes are present at both early and late time points following injury, they may represent an early indicator and a prognostic measure of subsequent brain damage. (Inglese, Makani, Johnson, Cohen, Silver, Gonen & Grossman, 2005) 
In plain English, standard MRI's may miss early warnings of brain damage, that a more specific imaging method could have provided, possibly enabling subsequent damage to be avoided.

Subsequent damage to white brain matter can interfere with the ability to organize work and is associated with OCD tendencies. (Lochner, Fouché, du Plessis, Spottiswoode, Seedat, Fineberg, Chamberlain & Stein, 2012)


Inglese, M., Makani, S., Johnson, G., Cohen, B. A., Silver, J. A., Gonen, O., & Grossman, R. I.

          (2005). Diffuse axonal injury in mild traumatic brain injury: a diffusion tensor imaging study.
          JNS Journal of Neurosurgery103(2), 298-303. doi: 10.3171/jns.2005.103.2.0298

Lochner, C., Fouché, J., du Plessis, S., Spottiswoode, B., Seedat, S., Fineberg, N.,
          Chamberlain, S. R., & Stein, D. J. (2012). Evidence for fractional anisotropy and mean 

          diffusivity white matter abnormalities in the internal capsule and cingulum in patients with 
          obsessive–compulsive disorder. J Psychiatry Neurosci, 37(3), 193-199. 
          doi: 10.1503/jpn.110059

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stay hungry my friends

By now nearly everyone has heard the slogan "Stay Thirsty my Friends." (2012) The principle behind the advertising slogan is sound. If we seek quality over quantity, we find fulfillment and not just satiation. One of the medications that were prescribed to help me focus is known to cause weight gain, and I have gained 40 lbs since starting the medication. I discussed this unpleasant side-effect with my doctor, who told me there is no easy answer except the obvious, to eat less and do more.

"Doing more" is how I got injured in the first place! I not only have to ensure I can exercise safely, I must also exercise in a way that assures others I will be safe. For the time being, that means my favorite exercise, bicycling, is off the table. I'm not going to offer suggestions about exercise today. I only want to make the point that the BEST exercise is the one you actually do, whatever that may be. Find that activity that you love to do, and do it regularly.

"Eating less" seems easier than it is. In my experience, saying "no" to something creates an obsession for it. I have found moderation and discrimination are far more effective than abstention when it comes to controlling appetite. Self control involves adopting a different attitude toward eating in general, and distinguishing between what is needed and what is craved.

The attitude I have found most profitable in controlling eating is seeking a little of the best foods, eating the healthiest foods when hungriest, and the choicest foods in small quantity, with the choice to always remain a little hungry, so the best foods can be fully appreciated. How do I maintain that attitude? I use an altered version of this advertising slogan:
"Stay hungry my friends."


DosEquis. (2012). Dos equis: Stay thirsty my friend [Web].
          Retrieved from