Saturday, July 31, 2010

Free IPAD Giveaway

Free IPAD giveaway sponsored by Vision Service Plan, an vision insurance company.  Apparently, the Vision companies and ophthamologists and optometrists are getting into social media in a big way and really want to drive traffic.   Although it is a bit ironic that they are giving away something that has a potential side effect to degrade vision.

If you read further on the VSP blog, Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, O.D. has an article about Eye Health for the Workplace where he warns about Visual Focusing Problems induced by computers:


The strain on your eyes when focusing on paper or a computer screen can become fatiguing over time. Some people have visual focusing and coordination problems that make reading or using a computer uncomfortable or cause headaches.  


Solution: Take frequent breaks (20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes of computer use, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds). You may also benefit from specific glasses prescribed for office work that help you focus at the correct distance.

But, you know, I still want one any how!
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Just a Quick Note... I think I am Starting to See Things in 3D

I am starting to see things in space.   Buildings are really "boxy" looking and cupolas on churches look really round.  I am starting to see pockets of space between buildings and trees.  It's really nice but also a bit overwhelming.  I will post more on this when I feel up for it.  Right now.  I am a bit tired from it.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Following My Nose

NoseImage via Wikipedia
Just saw Dr. Palmer, otolaryngologist specializing in the nose to start understanding why I can't smell very well.

I am getting good at giving medical histories now and presented a succinct discussion of my journey through the cortex and how I started looking up the nose.  For those of my gentle readers who have not been reading every post of this blog with bated breath like readers of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop, I will recap.  Unlike the readers of Dickens,  I don't believe that there are hordes of readers standing on the docks awaiting each installment so I will summarize the journey by saying that I started feeling inordinately disorganized and unfocused and got a diagnosis of Non Verbal Learning Disorder from a Neuropsychiatrist at Columbia Presbyterian.  I looked up the co-morbidities of NLD and found that there are an associated plethora of sensory integration problems involving vision, hearing, motor, balance and digestion.  Given that  I have problems in each area of the five senses so I thought that I would check out smell and taste.  Not many doctors care about a lack of the ability to smell.  I have told every General Practioner that I have seen throughout my adult life and they have all cheerfully ignored the problem.  A Nutritionist took it seriously enough to have me screened for vitamin D and zinc deficiency.  We found a lack of vitamin D and I started taking a supplement which helped my sense of smell a bit.

Why am I so concerned with smell?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why a VT Patient Plans to Get Married

My First CheckbookImage by mrbill via Flickr
A high school patient with severe developmental delays came to vision therapy yesterday. My colleague was doing a perceptual activity using attribute blocks which was frustrating our patient. His way of distracting us away from vision therapy is to chat about anything and everything -usually sports, video game releases, and television programs. Yesterday, though, he was complaining that he had done poorly on a test at school. 'What subject was the test in?' the therapist asked. 'Personal finance,' the patient answered. 'Isn't that where you learn to balance your check book?' asked the therapist. 'That is a really important class for you to do well in, right?' 'No, I don't like doing it,' said the patient. 'What will you do when you grow up? How will you know how much money you have?' 'That's why I'm going to get married so my wife can balance the checkbook,' he responded."
Eye Can Too! Read: Why a VT Patient Plans to Get Married: "


This patient is trying to compensating for an inability to track complex fields that is really important in balancing a checkbook or any activity that involves using a spreadsheet or filling in forms.  The therapist needs to show him how his lack of visual acuity extends to life skills.



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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

PSA: Internet and Closed Captioning Petittion

Hearing impairmentImage via Wikipedia

The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held a hearing
entitled H.R. 3101, the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video
Accessibility Act of 2009 on Thursday, June 10, 2010. The legislation would
update the communications laws to help ensure that individuals with vision,
hearing, and other disabilities are able to utilize fully broadband services and
equipment and better access video programming devices. While many people assume
that closed captioning is primarily for deaf people, this is simply not true.
Closed captioning is a huge aide in helping those affected by auditory
processing deficits (this is very common with autistic and dyslexic
populations). Closed captioning is a huge boon to aid with reading fluency and
vocabulary. http://tinyurl.com/386vqh9

Please do add your name to the group that supports this bill. The link is at
the end of the article.
-- From the APD maiing list


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Jigsaw Puzzles Develop Visual Perceptual Skills

Done jigsaw puzzle of historical map from 1639 y.Image via Wikipedia
"What visual skills are involved in doing a jigsaw puzzle?"

  1. Visual spatial relations is the ability to recognize patterns between the puzzle pieces. In a jigsaw puzzle you must recognize that some pieces have a straight edge, for example. Thus, they produce the outer frame of the puzzle.
  2. Visual closure is the ability to predict what an image will look like when you only see a portion of it. To solve a jigsaw puzzle you have to be able to visualize which pieces fit into openings made by the other pieces.
  3. Scanning the array of unused pieces is an eye movement skill. People with saccadic deficits will have difficulty finding the right jigsaw piece.
  4. Visual memory is the skill that allows a person to create a mental image and then refer to it. This skill must be in place when searching for pieces and when returning to the incomplete puzzle to place the selected piece.
  5. Visual attention is a basic skill that must be in place before the simplest puzzle can be completed. People who do not value the information received by their eyes will not do well at jigsaw puzzles. They tend to try to locate things by touch instead of by sight.
  6. The ability to transition between a central fixation with peripheral vision is necessary to complete any jigsaw puzzle. This skill is often very under-developed in individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Eye Can Too! Read: Jigsaw Puzzles Develop Visual Perceptual Skills:
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Top 12 Brain-Based Reasons Why Music as Therapy Works

This is an image taken from a typical PET acqu...Image via Wikipedia
Top 12 Brain-Based Reasons Why Music as Therapy Works
  1. Music is a core function in our brain.
  2. Our bodies entrain to rhythm.
  3. We have physiologic responses to music.
  4. Children (even infants) respond readily to music.
  5. Music taps into our emotions.
  6. Music helps improve our attention skills.
  7. Music uses shared neural circuits as speech.
  8. Music enhances learning.
  9. Music taps into our memories.
  10. Music is a social experience.
  11. Music is predictable, structured, and organized–and our brain likes it!
  12. Music is non-invasive, safe and motivating

Top 12 Brain-Based Reasons Why Music as Therapy Works | The Posit Science Blog


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Sunday, July 25, 2010

KAMUT Khorasan Wheat - Research

Kamut Brand Khorasan wheatImage via Wikipedia
KAMUT Khorasan Wheat - Research: "Since the introduction of the first pasta made with KAMUT brand khorasan wheat in 1988, many consumers with wheat sensitivities have reported that they are able to eat KAMUT  khorasan wheat. As a result of these initial reports research projects were sponsored to study allergenic responses of KAMUT  khorasan wheat versus modern wheat by the International Food Allergy Association located in Illinois, in the USA. Their research concluded that “For most people who are sensitive to wheat, products made with KAMUT khorasan wheat can be an excellent substitute for common wheat.” Since KAMUT  khorasan wheat contains gluten, it’s not recommended for people suffering from celiac disease."



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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are We There Yet? Vision Therapy Office Based Protocol

Description unavailableImage by Jocelyn Catterson via Flickr
During the course of vision therapy, there have been days  when I have been wondering how much more is there to go.  I feel like a child in a car asking, "Are We There Yet?".  So when I found this document,
Vision Therapy Office Based Protocol,  I was pretty happy to have a roadmap of the course of vision therapy.  This protocol lays out the exercises and the stages of therapy to which they correspond.   So, as I do exercises, I have some idea roughly of about how much more is left in the program. 
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Continuing to work on my Reading

A woman reading, in Biblioteca P├║blica de Sant...Image via Wikipedia
Continuing to work on my reading with the Dynamic Reader program.  I am reading about 220 words per minute.  220 words per minute is a high school level reading level. Instead of flashing chunks of words at me, Dynamic Reader is flashing whole lines.   This is a lot harder. 

I have to work at not verbalizing silently while I am reading.  This is very hard for me as I want to talk.

I am reading a lot about a lot of pop culture of the 1970's with the Dynamic Reader.  We have been reading about Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys, and Peanuts.  Kind of like reliving my childhood.
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The new British Computer Society logoImage via Wikipedia

You see, an Iphone really does make me happier!  A BCS study has just proven it.

We all need a few basic things in our life in order to be happy: access to clean water and food, shelter, health care, and relationships with friends and family. But once the necessities are met, what do people most desire?

Access to communication devices, according to a new study of 35,000 people around the world by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.

“Whether young or old, we’re all social beings, we all have a need for the things IT access facilitates,” researcher Paul Flatters told BBC News.


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Vision and Aging

Vision and Aging

Also include youtube video of 101 year old and the Brock String
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

EINKORN WHEAT - History, Nutritional Facts, Recipes, Gluten-Free Alternatives, and Where to Buy Einkorn

An ear of winter wheat.Image via Wikipedia
 "Here are seven fun facts I learned about the nutritional content and health benefits of einkorn wheat:

  1. Wheat gluten studies have found einkorn wheat may be non-toxic to suffers of gluten intolerance and celiacs disease
  2. Einkorn wheat has 14 chromosomes while modern wheats have 42 (Friendly to the body’s digestive system)
  3. Einkorn contains 3 to 4 times more beta-carotene than modern wheats (Boosts immunity, helps prevent cancer and heart disease)
  4. Einkorn contains 35 times more Vitamin A than modern wheats (Healthy eyes, reproductive organs and prevention of many cancers)
  5. Einkorn contains 3 to 4 times more lutein than modern wheats (Prevention of macular degeneration and cataracts)
  6. Einkorn contains 4-5 times more riboflavin than modern wheats (Used by the body to create energy and is an antioxidant that slows aging)
  7.  Einkorn is a “hulled” wheat, whereas modern wheats are not. The hull can protect the grain from stray chemical contamination and insects making it an easier grain to grow ORGANICALLY!"

EINKORN WHEAT - History, Nutritional Facts, Recipes, Gluten-Free Alternatives, and Where to Buy Einkorn:

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eye Movements & a Struggling Adult Reader Who Has an MBA

Eye ExaminationImage by Richardzinho via Flickr
"I asked my friend to cover one eye and to follow my pen as it moved in a slow arc in front of her eyes, up, down, across, and circling in toward her face. Then she covered the other eye and we repeated the activity. She had no problem making smooth eye movements to track the moving pen so her ocular pursuits look fine. She could even maintain a conversation while doing this activity. Next, one eye at a time again, I asked my friend to look at one pen and then, on my signal, jump her eye to another. She could not keep her fixation on the first object, nor could she accurately locate the second. When she visits a developmental optometrist for a thorough eye exam, I predict that she will receive a diagnosis of saccadic deficits. "
Eye Can Too! Read: Eye Movements & a Struggling Adult Reader Who Has an MBA



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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Big Dig and Executive Dysfunction

WDNR ScheduleImage via Wikipedia
Well, I've been cleaning and organizing like a Tazmanian devil. I am not always following a set schedule.  I had Toodledo'd with a list of things to do.  Toodledo magically prioritized my activities and created a schedule.     I cheerfully ignored that plan since straightening out and organizing my crap took much longer to do than what I had allocated in Toodledo.   Well, I can start Toodledo this week now that I have an organized house.  In case you don't know what Toodledo is, Toodledo is a GITD (Get It Done) app with an automatic scheduler for people like me who can't seem to figure out what to do first.

The first thing I did in this frenzy was Paper-krieg -- blitzkrieg on paper.  You know, we Americans go to war a lot.  I mean, there's the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, and the War on Drugs.  We militarize our rescue efforts in New Orleans after Katrina. We are trying to talk militarily about the cleanup of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  So, why not Paper-kreig?  So, armed with my iPhone I went into battle.

The first thing I did was to put all my important numbers -- bank cards, credit cards, shopping cards, auto vin #, license plate number, license number, etc in the Keeper on my iPhone.  The Keeper is an encrypted app that stores important info.    This is useful because I am continually reaching for cards that are never where I need them to be.

Next, I scanned in all my important papers into Evernote in my iPhone.  Now, they park  in the iPhone, backed up on my Mac and reside in a cloud somewhere in the Internet.  I threw out 1 1/2 recycling bins of papers that had been decorating my house: on the stand near my favorite chair, in my extra bedroom, in the master bedroom, on the desk in the office, on the floor in the office, on the file cabinet, in the inbox, under the inbox, and around the inbox.  So now, everything that comes in the mail gets looked at and  thrown out if its not esential, gets put in a Pending file if it's something that I need to take action on (like paying a bill), or gets scanned and then thrown out.

It feels healthy... kinda like I went to a spa and for a cleansing regime of tonics and detoxifiers.

All this took a lot longer than what I thought. Originally, I thought that this would take an afternoon. It took a week.  So Toodledo got put off.

All this paper organizing has been like the Big Dig in Boston where they put in the new subway line. Every step took way longer than planned.   Each day, I kept thinking I would finish that day.

My husband got inspired and started flinging his papers about.  We, then decided to do the nasty -- no, not that -- and move my husband's desk out of the bedroom and into the office.   We now have a place  in the bedroom where we can transform into a bit of a sitting room.  I need to stop slouching in bed while  typing on the computer.  Poor posture   craps out my neck and exacerbates my arthritis.  The living room furniture is too deep for me to sit in comfortably and I end up slouching.  We have a pleasant reading room that I use in the summer, but it is a bit too drafty in the winter.

Well, that involved undoing all my good housekeeping and tearing up the upstairs as we are not just moving any desk.  Never mind removing all the junk on the desk.   This is a whopping, big Steelcase desk with an overhead case.  So it's a huge deal to take apart and put back together again.  Plus, we had to  dismantle our network and my husband's PC and reassemble them again.

In the middle of this, my husband was near death from exhaustion.  Apparently, the push for organization had sucked the life blood out of him.  He started with an initial burst of enthusiasm and had stormed his junk with elan but began to flag in the winter slog through the Ardennes.  (I'm mixing metaphors here).   I think he felt like one of the Battling Bastards of the Bastogne.  Bloodied and crawling through the mounds of crap.

So what's this got to do with executive function?  I did a little self-evaluation here:   Plan, Marshall Resources, Organize, Execute, Evaluate.

 I did have a plan to do the other things which I entered into Toodledo.   I ignored most of those tasks and didn't get done what I wanted to. However, I am organized for next week. Inaccurate time estimation led to flawed  planning for cleaning.

Marshalling Resources and Organizing wasn't too bad for either the Paper-Kreig or the next cleanup.

Execution was satisfactory.  However,  I couldn't transition out of Paper-Kreig easily.  I had declared war.   I was in for the duration.  Sometimes it felt like the siege of Stalingrad ... and that if I just held out, victory would be around the corner.    I do notice that transitions are a problem.  I can become overly involved in something.  I just can't put it down and move on to the next tasks.  (Part of the problem with perseveration).    I did want to do my Toodledo list, but I just couldn't put it down.

Another problem is that I am an associative thinker and not a linear one.  I think that a lot of the task lists don't  work for me.  A lot of scheduling and planning techniques  just don't quite work for me either.   Transitioning from one disjoint task to the next is hard.  I do use lists  when I must. I just grit my teeth and work through them.  Being an associative thinker is perfect for when I want to be creative and when I want to synthesize but it is lousy for working through lists.

My lousy motor skills include problems in motor planning.  If you don't have a good body map and can't sequence what you are going to do next with your body, you can't  plan how to use your body's motor skills.     Clumsiness leads to poor planning.  The different therapies I have pursued rewire motor skills and affect  higher level cognition.  Tomatis/Balametrics therapy has improved a lot of things here and the Interactive Metronome will improve even more.  Change the Body.  Change the Mind.

The Interactive Metronome will also help my Auditory Processing Disorder.    I may do Fast Forward (a computerized therapy that retrains the brain on hearing), as well.  Part of Auditory Processing Disorder impacts executive function and organization.  Change the Body Change the Mind.

Also, my audiologist had recommended Brain Fitness by Posit Science... a brain game that uses a special protocol known as SAAGE that  improves the brain’s ability to receive, interpret, and store the information it receives from the senses.  SAAGE stands for Speed, Accuracy, Adaptibility, Generalizability, and Engagement.  So Executive Function will  increase further as I do more therapy.  However, you've  got to live in the mean time, so I am doing what I can.

On another note,  I do like to use pictures... I'm not autistic  unlike the famous scientist, Temple Gardin, who sees life like watching a video. However,  I don't work well with all text.... despite the blogging.
Vision therapy has  helped me regain my eyesight and use  visual thinking more often.  Since planning and organizing live in the visual spatial portion of the brain, I  am trying to visualize my day and my week.   It seems to help to visualize the schedule either in terms of blocks of time through out the week (i.e., visualize iCalendar or Outlook) or to visualize a clock with icons hanging off of it.

I still haven't overcome the executive dysfunction or  planning and organizational problems that first led me to seek help, but I think that I am progressing.  I think the physical therapy has helped me by reorganizing  my motor skills and motor planning ability.  Poor motor skills and motor planning   have adversely impacted higher cognitive functions such as organization.

So how will this flurry of organization be any different from others?  I don't know the answer yet.  In the past, I've gone through organizational cycles of massive cleanup, organization, and then lassitude. I've felt overwhelmed from trying to stay   organized.  Disintegration into indolence follows lassitude  and then a reprise of the whole cycle.  As day follows night and as night follows day,  so has my cleanup led to organization led to not keeping up with stuff and feeling overwhelmed and then deterioratng and  wallowing in a mess and then another bout of cleaning.

 Maybe there will be a bit of forward motion this time.   I think scanning things into my iPhone will eliminate a lot of clutter in my life.  A lot of clutter around the house results from papers not having a home.  So, I can put an end to the paper-Krieg.  A certain amount of not getting things done results from not knowing where my papers are so that I can address the task at hand. Sometimes, I am late because I don't have all my records together.

Using a calendar with reminders to a phone helps a lot. I still have to develop a sense of time and figure out how to transition to other activities.   More on this topic will  appear in a later post.

There's  a long way to go... but maybe between fighting off Paper-Krieg and having automated reminders there is a start.




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Monday, July 19, 2010

Am I Looking At You? APD and Eye Contact

Here's a few useful tips from the APDUK.org on communicating with someone with Auditory Processing Disorder:
  • Always ensure the learner with APD is looking at you when you speak to them this allows them to lip-read more easily, a common strategy in those with APD, and to ensure they know you are talking to them.
     Speak clearly and ensure they have understood what you have said, not just by repeating it back to you, which can be done without comprehension.

     Seat the learner with APD at the front of the class to allow them to lip-read what the teacher says more easily.

     Ensure that the learner has a clear view of any board used to provide written information.

     Always provide written information on the board when speaking and always provide written additional instructions on paper for the learner to refer to when they are attempting a piece of work. 
  • Try to explain the purpose of the task you want the learner to perform, as many APDs are visual spatial learners who respond better to the whole concept, rather than asking them to perform an abstract exercise                             
      E.g. if they are to practise spellings or “wr” words tell them the purpose is to distinguish them from “r” spelling words etc.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Samir Zeki's laws of the visual brain

Rendering of human brain.Image via Wikipedia
Samir Zeki's laws of the visual brain:
  1. Constancy:  Despite the changes that occur when processing visual stimuli (distance, viewing angle, illumination, etc.), the brain has the unique ability to retain knowledge of constant and essential properties of an object and discard irrelevant dynamic properties.    Similarly, a work of art does likewise.   Forms do not have an existence without a brain and the capacity for stored memory
  2. Abstraction:  Abstraction is the the hierarchical coordination where a general representation can be applied to many particulars, allowing the brain to efficiently process visual stimuli.  Art externalizes the practices of abstraction in the brain
Ramachandran proposes a series of heuristics that artists use consciously or unconsciously utilize to optimally stimulate the visual ares of the brain:
  1. Peak shift Principle:  In Peak Shift training,  animals respond better to exaggerated versions of the training stimuli.  Artists try to capture the essence of something to evoke a direct emotional response through  exaggerating such elements as shading, highlights, illumination, etc. 
  2. Isolation:  Isolating a single visual cue helps an animal direct its attention to allow itself to respond to a peak shift.  There is a need to isolate the desired visual form before that aspect is amplified.  This is why a sketch sometimes maybe more effective than a photograph, ie as in a cartoon.  The different enhancements to physical objects that intensify the pleasure of viewing result in the amplification of limbic system (the center of emotions in the brain) activation and reinforcement.
  3. Grouping:  Various means of grouping objects are used to delineate objects from the background.  Some of the techniques that we use in observing objects may have been genetically programmed from our early days when we had to be able to distinguish predators from a busy background, especially when a predator uses camouflage.  This occurs most efficiently when limbic reinforcement is fed back to early vision at every stage of visual processing leading up to the discovery of the object.   Constant emotional feedback helps the information discovery at each stage of a clue.
  4. Contrast:    Contrast is another means of eliminating clutter and focusing attention.
  5. Perceptual Problem Solving
  6. Visual Metaphor
  7. Symmetry
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cheaper Ways to Feel the Beat in the Real World


Tactile Metronome Persistence of VisionTactile Metronome Image by Mat_the_W via Flickr
As the Beat Goes On, LaDiDaDi Dee!

As many of you know, I have been doing Interactive Metronome (IM) therapy, but I am a believer in carrying my therapy over into the real world, so I have been looking for little assists.

I already have been using the Beatnik and that helps.  The Beatnik is an interactive drum that shows you when you are falling off the beat.  After my first session of IM, I've gotten a lot better at it.  The one difference between IM and the Beatnik is that there is a delay in the Beatnik so I don't know if my tap is on the beat right at the moment.  I can see a history so that helps a bit.

Of course, there is an iphone app for an interactive metronome that you can tap to a beat and get feedback on the go.

I also use the Bodybeat Metronome to clap hands or play my violin.  I get a pulse on the beat.  Really good with the violin on a slow say 40 beat per minute pulse.  I get a much better bowing...lot more control.

I saw that there is a Tactile Metronome for drummers that gives auditory feedback to let a drummer know if he is on the beat.

The Tactile Metronome uses multiplexed display circuitry to use three seven-segment digits with only 10 IO pins. It accomplishes this feat by turning the digits on and off rapidly, showing one at a time, but doing it so fast the human eye sees solid digits lit up. To take this picture, I shook the metronome in front of my camera. During the short time the shutter was open, 12 digits were displayed. Pretty cool stuff.


I tried dancing but I still can't keep to the beat.  So I will hold off on dance for a bit longer.  But, I did see a game that might work, Dance, Dance, Revolution.  You dance on a dance pad that gives feedback to a game station or a computer.

The whole point of this is to get a sense of internal rhythm.   Rhythm is really important in a wide variety of skills (Academic study on metronome).   Rhythm doesn't sit in one area of the brain but is located throughout the brain; so when you stimulate one, you stimulate others.

Internal Rhythm is really important for vision.  Functional/Developmental optometry has appreciated the value of time/rhythm from gross motor to the saccadic eye movements (small eye jumps) so important to all facets of learning. But, the most important value in metronome work is the automaticity that metronome work induces. It's what therapists call 'Loading the System."  The metronome is also used in reading drills to help a reader keep his place and not skip words.

Rhythm is also important for auditory processing.  It helps the SCAN C scores, especially the dichotic score (when you listen to different input in two ears).

Rhythm also helps a lot with motor skills both therapeutically in diseases such as Parkinsons but also with sports such as golf and hockey.  Apparently Interactive Metronome is rally hot on the PGA circuit.

I think getting a sense of internal rhythm is going to be important not only for fixing physical problems such as auditory processing but for mental illness as well.  There is some research going on with the use of the Interactive Metronome and schizophrenia.

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