Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ya gotta believe.

You know, ya gotta believe... very inspiring movie about a woman who overcame difficulty.  I won't spoil the polot. 
Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting for Hurricane Irene by Tweaking the Brain

While waiting for Hurricane Irene to blow through, I have been doing what people generally do while waiting for a storm to blow by.... You know there is that feeling of anxiety as the storm brews, as the clouds move, and the animals scurry towards shelter.  You take your precautions-- in my case, not so many, because we are self-sufficient here in my home-- mostly, thanks to the CSA, a large freezer in the garage, and a general  philosophy of keeping a well-stocked pantry. 

We did go to the farm and bring in the harvest before the storm -- that is to say, we went early and picked up our veggies.  We sloshed through the muddy fields and got a wonderful assortment of sunflowers.  I never knew there were so many colors other than yellow.  We have orange  sunflowers, black sunflowers, brown sunflowers and purple sunflowers.  They really brighten up the house on a gloomy day.

The next obvious thing to do is to eat.  We went to the Amish market near town and I bought some Clear Gel.  Clear gel is used by the Amish in their pies to thicken up pie filling.   It thickens without giving that starchy taste.  Flour can make your filling cloudy.  Cornstarch may break down and become watery.  ClearJel leaves the filling crystal clear, and kind of, well, jelling.  I think I will break out some peaches in the freezer in my garage and bake up some gluten free peach pie.

I don't have to worry too much about Irene because I am not near the shore.  I worry a bit about my boat but it will be OK because the upper Chesapeake Bay won't get hit too hard.   I worry a bit about one of my relatives in Colonial Beach near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay but so far she seems to be doing OK.

So, the next obvious thing to do is to play a game to pass the time.  Well, you know me.  It won't be a common ordinary every day game like Scrabble--oh no, it's going to be a Brain Game.

My physical therapist had recommended Brain Train's "Captain's Log".  No, it has nothing to do with Captain's Kirk's Log for the Starship Enterprise.  And it has nothing to do with the app that you can get for the iPhone.   It is a cognitive training program.  It is timed so you have to respond quickly.  A lot of it is exercising to rules.  A whole series of tests seem to be exercising some of the same things that I got tested on in my neuropsych evaluation.  Some of it seems to be exercising many of the things on the Stroop test that I didn't do well on like identifying a rule, following a rule, determining when a rule had changed, and matching that change.

The game is very challenging visually.  My eyes often hurt after doing it.  Also, I get a bit tired from it and end up taking a nap afterwards.  I also find that I have to enter a nonverbal world in order to be able to do the game at the speed that the game wants me to play it.  All too often in the past, I would verbalize and compensate.  Now I have to scan and figure it out in another section of my brain. 

Another interesting thing about the game is that it has a variety of target audiences: ADHD, autism, psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, etc.  What is interesting is the amelioration of psychiatric disorders through cognitive rehab.  Some of Captain's Log seems similar to another computer game, PssCogSci, that has done rehab for schizophrenics.  It makes me wonder what the relationship of the mind to the emotions is. 

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Lobster Roll

Lobster RollImage by IslesPunkFan via FlickrWas bad and got into bread on my birthday.  Well, just a little bit.  With the price of lobster so low, you can get lobster rolls in new york city for not so much.  Had a most delicious lobster roll and paid for it with a tummy ache later.    I found something I can use to negate the lobster roll -- glutenease, but I just hadn't taken it. 

But the lobster was so good..... brought back fond memories of growing up on Cape Cod.

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IBM Produces Working Prototypes Of A Brain On A Chip -- And Gets It To Play Pong | TPM Idea Lab

Brain on a Chip?  It's here already.  A lot of transhumanists have been proposing the idea of an augmented humanity, i.e. a melding of humans with electronic devices.
 Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase
DARPA has already been looking at exoskeletons that people could strap on and easily pickup 100 lbs of weight or artificial limbs that allow runners to run at high speeds.

One of the more interesting thoughts is augmenting the brain.  There is a very interesting article about IBM producing a prototype of a brain on a chip that plays pong.  What is really interesting about this article is not that the fact that the chip can play pong but how the chip plays pong as  the chip can  adapt to types of information that it wasn't specifically programmed to expect unlike most current information processing architectures. This new architecture is a digital neuron and synapse. Each "core," or processing engine, has computing, communication and memory functions.   What makes these chips unique is that memory and the processor are very closely brought together. There's a massive, massive amount of parallelism.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

I have been thinking a good bit about consciousness these days and connectedness to the greater world. On the one hand, I suppose there has been a lack of connectedness that has been part of my life.  However, as my body starts to work better, I have been wondering to what end?  What's the point of perceiving things?  What is this thing called awareness or consciousness?

Many of these thoughts have occurred when I have been walking in the woods and I have started pondering my relationship to nature.
One of the things that has struck me is the consciousness that is shared by animals. There are a lot of serious neuroscientists that are convinced that animals share at least some level of consciousness. In fact, we, humans, could learn a lot from animals. According to Vanessa Woods, "When it comes to emotional intelligence, bonobos put the human world to shame."The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the on...Image via Wikipedia

For my Gentle Readers who are not up on all things bonobo, Bonobos are close relatives of the chimpanzees but with striking differences in their social and emotional lives. Woods believes that "chimpanzees are wonderful. They have the ability to experience love and grief and possibly even empathy. And they have these amazing political lives. But, just like us, they have this dark side. They hunt each other, they kill each other, they have war. They beat their females, they kill their infants. So they are a reflection of ourselves. But bonobos, who are equally closely related to us, they have something that we don't. They have a way to maintain peace in their groups. And we really need to find out more about the psychological and emotional lives of bonobos so that we can learn how to do the same thing... So chimpanzees and humans, if we sort of see someone as not belonging to part of our group—so with chimpanzees it could be an enemy male in their territory, with humans, it's people of a different sports team, or religion, or race—we really have trouble overcoming our emotions. We have these involuntary reactions. It's really part of our biology. Bonobos don't have that. So emotionally, when they hear the voice of a stranger, or they see a stranger, I mean, they're much more likely to groom them for half an hour and have sex with them than to attack them. And this is something that I think is really important to look at."

Interestingly enough, Woods had been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had suffered a decade-long war, fought over its vast resources of diamonds, gold, cobalt, and other minerals, and in which more than five million died.  Women and girls have been savagely raped and mutilated.  Six-month-old babies are being raped; men with AIDs are intentionally infecting women.  The human suffering had fostered a rise in the bush-meat trade, and one of the prime targets was bonobos, the “other” chimpanzee.

Bonobos are part of the same genetic tree that humans and chimpanzees derive from.  Bonobos share, use sex to settle arguments, and possess almost 99 percent of our DNA. Bonobos make love and not war to reduce group conflict and live happily together.   This begs the question:  What happened?   Why did humans end up  more chimp-like and less bonobo like?  What are the evolutionary roots of bonding and attachment and all the good stuff in the bonobo world and how do we get it back.

Maybe human nature hasn't changed as much as we think.  Maybe we are still Cro-Magnons with Ipods.   But, maybe if we save the bonobo, we could save ourselves.

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lost in Space

As my longtime Gentle Readers know, I have been working diligently on 3d vision for quite sometime. I am at the point where I can see some dimensionality but not all the time but I don't quite have the sense of space or the sense that objects are floating in air.

It's quite frustrating to work away at this and not feel like I am coming to the end of my journey so I decided to seek a second opinion on this subject.  I would really like to have my eyes corrected by doing exercises and not getting surgery.  My grandfather had some solder fly into his eye during the Great Depression and went to Boston for an eye operation.  They operated on the wrong eye and left him totally blinded.  Needless to say, I am not wildly enthusiastic about having my eyes cut up.

So I made an appointment with Dr Seiderman, the big daddy of vision therapy, and off I went to Leola to visit him.

 As I got off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and onto the secondary highways, I noticed that I was right in the middle of Amish country.   I passed rows of tall corn, farm stands offering peaches, blueberries, tomatoes, and watermelons.  Past bakeries offering freshly baked pies and breads. Leola is in the Lancaster area and has some of the most fertile non-irrigated soil in the U.S.   Past horse drawn buggies.  Past yuppie intrusions like  Volvo dealerships and helmeted bicyclists. Until I reached his office in Leola.  Past industrial intrusions like large trucks delivering produce to Philadelphia.

I did some tests for binocular vision.  The vision therapist was rather amazed at my familiarity with the terms fusion, convergence, and divergence.  But, you know, I have been at this for a while. There is some binocular vision there but there is a lot that is still missing.

She did a quick screening where I looked at four dots (red, blue and white) and tried to fuse the white dots.  I did the first card OK but not so good on the subsequent cards.  The therapist also had me draw lines from starting from right side to left side and then vice verse through a special lens.  I didn’t do too well on this and didn’t get my lines aligned in the nice pattern.  Also, she had me trace a picture through a special lens; first, with the right hand and then, with the left.  My right hand didn’t do so well.  We also did the Keystone Correct Eye Scope and some other tests.  The therapist noted that I have alternating suppression of my eyes, that is, my brain ignores the signal from one eye on an alternating basis.

I waited a bit in the waiting room filed with children and their parents.  Then, I had my appointment with Dr. Seiderman.  He did the pen light test... I didn’t see two lights this time.  We did a few other tests and then we chatted.  He thinks that I am “lost in space”.    This makes sense, if you don’t have binocular vision, you are truly lost in space and don’t have a good relationship with your environment.  But, I think he meant more than that.  I think he meant a more general sense of disconnectedness as in a lack of interconnectivity and isolation. 

Dr. Seiderman is not sure what the prognosis is going to be which is a bit troubling.  However, he does think that more vision therapy could be a good thing. This time we will concentrate on doing more exercises in space.  Maybe, the problem is that we’ve been doing a lot of computer based exercises.  We will probably do some work with yoked prisms as well.

Well.  We shall see.  It’s going to be a 2 hour drive from my house to his office in Amish country.   Hopefully, it will be worth it.
Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Friday, August 19, 2011

It's You!

I found a wonderful video about Anat Baniel's Feldenkrais based method for occupational therapy.  I think she is hitting it on the head with her thoughts about awareness through movement.
She quotes her teacher, Dr. Feldenkrais, as saying that "Without movement, Life is unthinkable."  What is interesting for someone like me, is how much I have avoided many movements and in doing so, I have avoided a certain amount of living.

She has noticed that under certain conditions, change can occur very fast.  One of the key things she thinks is the importance of attention.  This attention is not just to the body part but to the emotions and to the feedback from the body.  She thinks that if you are attentive, the brain goes into a growth spurt or an exploratory spurt.

Also, Baniel takes a holistic approach and looks at not just improving a body part, but that the PERSON improves.  "I am Better".  It's not you and your body, or you and your mind, or you and your feelings, IT'S YOU!

Baniel also finds that there is a Learning Switch that can go on during therapy where the brain is in a learning mode or in a non learning mode.  When you are in a nonlearning mode, you "aren't there".  When you are in a learning mode, you "are there".  It's like someone flicked a switch.  This is something else that I am finding happens.  I have phases where someone flicked the switch and I am absorbing the world very quickly in a new and different way and I also have had phases where I am definitely spazzed out.

At the core of her approach is the understanding that awareness, cognition and movement are really inseparable, and that the establishment or recovery of ability in any one of these domains requires the integrated engagement of the impaired individuals and their brain in all of these dimensions of recovery. Put another way, isolated weakness or loss in ‘movement’ or ‘awareness’ or related ‘cognition’ is a human IMpossibilty. Movement is inextricably controlled on the basis of ‘feedback’ from our bodies and brains, and movement control is guided very directly by the cognitive resources that guide all of our behaviors. They are weaker or stronger, enabled or disabled TOGETHER. Neurological processes that control the flow of cognition and thought are not really different from those that control the flow of movement — and in fact are complexly, inextricably inter-twined!
Noted Neuroscientist, Dr. Mezernich, on Anat Baniel's Method

Even beyond moving the physical body, I am thinking that the kind of awareness that I am obtaining in many other therapies such as vision therapy, auditory therapy, etc. is happening as you change the body, you are changing the mind.

Maybe there is a  feedback loop going on here, as you change the mind, you are changing the body.

Some of all of this thought is making me think more and more about consciousness and I ask myself, 
"What is it like to be a conscious human being?"  The very manner of how I relate to the world and how I organized my perceptions of the world is changing week to week.

Let's start with thinking about what happens with sensation.  Each of my therapies has led to changes in how I sense things.  Each type of sensation is associated with a different stimulus energy (ex. seeing is about light, hearing is about sound, proprioception is about touch, etc).  So natural phenonemon like light or sound generate different waves that I have not processed in the way that most people do.  These different energies hit different portions of my body like my eyes or ears, etc that turn these stimulus into a neural impulse that follow certain pathways to the sensory projection area  of the brain that processes the different modalities of the senses.  There are higher level functions of the brain that help order our perceptions.

Well, my way of processing has been pretty disordered so my perceptions and way of organizing my perceptions has not been the usual one.  There are positives and minuses to that.  For example, if I had better physical perceptions, I might be painting.  Instead, I am blogging, because blogging is easier when I don't feel like expending too much energy.  Not much movement.  So, this makes me wonder about being me, here behind this screen.

While blogging, I don't get that feeling that one has after a good physical workout.  You know, the glow in your body.  The relaxation. The feeling of YES!  YES! YES! When I am blogging, my body feels frankly a bit cramped... that is, when I am paying attention to it, which often I do not. I do not get a glow from blogging, or a feeling of relaxation, or a feeling of YES! YES! YES!   Sometimes I get an emotional release from doing it and I do get some satisfaction from writing... but I don't get that sense of It's You!  I do get a lot of mental stimulation from it and that is pleasing. 

On the other hand, if I were out being one with my body in some sense or another, this blog wouldn't exist.   Go figure.

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hand Therapy Assessment

Little girl drawing with a blue pencil.Image via WikipediaWent to a hand therapist for an assessment.  I went through my well practised saga and litany of dysfunction and therapy.    My hand function is basically OK but we had some interesting things pop up during the evaluation.

Janice stroked my fingers with a hair as I kept my eyes closed.  I had a very tingling sensation afterwards.  She was thinking it had something to do with my sensory integration problems and thought that I was hypersensitive.  I said no... I score myself as low registration or sensory seeking on the SIPT.    We also talked about me having a very tight grip and finding it very tiring to hold a pencil and write or draw.  She wrapped a pencil with  a piece of rubber and put some velcro on it with the tiny hook portion facing outwards.  I found that immediately I gripped the pencil very loosely and naturally.  My death grip was relaxed.  I never liked drawing or coloring too much because it has always been very tiring.  Writing hand written reports has always been hard for me.  I think this will change things.

We also talked about my tendency to drift towards the right side of the page  while I am taking notes.  I start out on the left and I gradually indent and keep indenting until I am on the far right side of the page.  She thinks I may have some visual neglect going on.  I usually score OK with drawing pictures of clocks in one standard measure of visual neglect.  So we shall see.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Great MindMapping and Brainstorming Tools

 For those of my Gentle Readers, who wish to indulge their creativity, here are some Mindmapping and Brainstorming tools.

For a really cool graphic representation of mindmaps on neuroscience, visit  the Nerdy NeuroGirl's pearlmaps.

Pearlmaps are very cool mindmaps.  They use semantic web technology to link ideas and have a visual engine to display the semantic links.  Unlike other mindmaps where the data is locked in the software, Pearlmaps allow you to import and export your data in the form of rdf files that are used by semantic technology.

I have made my own pearl tree, here, for sites related to the Journey Through The Cortex.

It is taking me to some pretty interesting sites.  For example, if you click on the Psychology link, you can get to a link for "how the brain sees your body", a description of the cortical hormunculus.
Will be poking about more in my pearl trees.

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Activities - Open Autism Software

Open(source).athon hosted by Hacks/Hackers NYC...Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via FlickrAutism Software has gone Open Source.  For the non-techies amongst my Gentle Readers, that means it is both free and the source code is publicly available for people to build on.

There is Collaborative Story Telling, Collaborative Music Making,  Puzzle Solving and Emotion Modeling with PhotoGoo.  They are designed for a Windows 7 machine.  Sorry Mac Users.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

What To Do With All that Watermelon From the CSA

Coat of arms of Mexico.Image via WikipediaHubby and I have way to much watermelon from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and so I made it into Agua Fresca (Fresh Water). 

Aguas frescas have a long tradition in Mexico and Latin America, where the "fresh waters" -- made with fresh fruit or rice, tamarind pods or dried hibiscus flowers, sugar and water -- are the perfect thirst-quencher for hot weather and sometimes-hotter cuisine. In the pre-Columbian 15th century, the story goes, Aztec farmers would paddle their canoes into Tenochtitl├ín (now Mexico City) with fresh fruit that they would mash and mix with water for a refreshing drink.,0,4150722.story

It was really easy to make.  Juice up the Watermelon, add some water, sugar, lime and mint.  Chill it for a while and then enjoy. 

I like the idea of not drinking so many chemicals from sodas or other cool sweet drinks.  I find my hubby is a lot clear headed from not drinking so much junk.  He's a major aspartame junkie.  

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Assessment of Second Round of Interactive Metronome and Other Things

 Had a chat with Maude today about the second round of Interactive Metronome (IM).  I have really improved on all my scores.  I am down from an average total score in the 70 millisecond range to the 40s.  With another round of IM, she thinks I can get my scores down to the 20s and quite possibly the teens. 

Tiger Woods putting on the 8th green at Torrey...Image via WikipediaTiger Woods does IM and he is in the low teens himself.  It does look like I am getting in touch with my jock side of myself.  However, before I start packing myself off on the PGA circuit, I am sure he is a lot more consistent in his scores than I am and that there is a lot more to golf than the ability to control your limbs on cue.  But, it is a pleasant daydream. 

She also notes that my therapist, Ann, has seen that I am a lot less hyperactive during my second round of IM than my first.  I told Maude that I feel that the second round of IM was a lot easier than the first round.  During the first round, I felt absolutely pushed to the limit and was dizzy, exhausted and ready to vomit.  So chattering was a very good way to distract myself and keep going.  Unfortunately, the IM session is so highly scheduled that there is no time for chatter. This second time was a lot easier and a whole lot less taxing.   I also knew the time constraints and the need to focus in order to get the maximum benefit from the session.

At the same time that I have been doing IM, I have gotten increased binocular vision (3D vision).  I feel like I got a lift from IM on that.  Although there are no scientific studies to prove this claim.  Somehow, I feel that the reorganization of brain function and the improved timing has improved my depth perception.  Dont know whether this causation, causality, or serendipity. 

IM has definitely helped my hearing in noise.  I do much better in noisy cocktail parties than I have in the past. 

We also talked about the next steps.  I will do one more round of IM and then I will do Captain's Log at home.  Captain's Log is cognitive training software that I can do at home. Captain's Log has a number of modules that focus on:
  • Attention Skills
  • Cognitive Skills 
  • Visual Motor Skills  
  • Numeric Concepts/Memory Skills  
  • Logic Skills 
  • Working Memory Skill
  • Auditory Working Memory Skills 
  • Real Life Working Memory Skills
I think that there is some overlap with some of the drills I have done in vision therapy and Brain Fitness but there will be a lot that is new for me.

Also, we addressed a couple of other issues.  I told Maude that I am having problems hearing consonants.  She is trying out a new program to help with auditory processing and asked if I would like to be a guinea pig for a free trial of the program.   We will do this in September after IM. 

I asked Maude about developing a therapeutic program for smell.  She said that she doesn't know a lot about the sense of smell and that no one really understands it fully but she does know a bit about training programs for neurologically based disorders and is willing to help me sort out this problem.   I definitely have some sense of smell as I could smell the University of Pennsylvania Medical School after a snootful of afrin and lidocaine.  I am not sure whether it is a matter of finding the right chemical to put up the nose or whether it is a matter of snooting up the right sequence of stuff. 

The smell clinic at Penn had let me loose with a general advice about smelling everyday.  I am not really getting anywhere with smell and would like to approach this problem in a more disciplined manner.   I definitely have some sense of smell as I could smell the University of Pennsylvania Medical School after a snootful of afrin and lidocaine.  I am not sure whether it is a matter of finding the right chemical to put up the nose or whether it is a matter of snooting up the right sequence of stuff.   But I am willing to investigate and see what can be done about this. 

Molly Birnbaum was an aspiring chef who lost her sense of smell in a car accident that fractured her skull, broke her pelvis, tore her knee to shreds—and destroyed her sense of smell. This accident forced her to suspend her culinary career and set her off on a quest to regain her smell.  Molly picked herself up and set off on a grand, entertaining quest in the hopes of learning to smell again. In the review of her book, Season to Taste:  How I Lost My Smell and Found My Way,  Molly explores the science of olfaction, pheromones, and Proust's madeleine; she meets leading experts, including the writer Oliver Sacks, scientist Stuart Firestein, and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel; and she visits a pioneering New Jersey flavor lab, eats at Grant Achatz's legendary Chicago restaurant Alinea, and enrolls at a renowned perfume school in the South of France, all in an effort to understand and overcome her condition.  Sounds like a gal after my own heart. I have just ordered her book and will let my Gentle Readers know what Maude and I will be coming up with.  Maybe there is a way to short circuit this by doing things in a bit more focused and compressed way.  On the one hand, there is sitting around sniffing vials with a therapist.  On the other, there is going out to eat in fantastic restaurants, going to parfumiers, and trying out new flavors. 

Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY...Culinary Institute Image via Wikipedia I have pondered going to the CIA to understand more about smell.... No, not the CIA of covert operations, but the Culinary Institute of America up in Hyde Park.  They have to train chef's palates and sense of smell.  And I had thought on my own about contacting the Givaudan Perfumery School in Argenteuil, France to understand the foundations of smell for parfumiers.  But apparently, Molly has beat me to it.

So, we have our program set out for us:  Do another round of IM and do Captain's Log.  Participate in a trial of auditory processing software.  Devise a smell training program.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More From the Hand Therapist

 My hand therapist, Janice,  and I had an interesting discussion about the boundaries between her very specialized field, hand therapy, and sensory integration therapy. 

I'm afraid I have either been a bit skeptical about or pooh-poohed Sensory Integration Therapy for a couple of reasons:
  1. Ruben: sensory integration therapyImage by TukangRoti via FlickrThe websites for Sensory Integration Therapy usually are kid-oriented with lots of happy, crayon-like drawings of smiling children.  Hand therapy sites are solid and clearly belong to the medical industrial complex that somehow seems more credible.  (Note to Therapists:  You are Your Website. The Medium is the Message.  For a lot of stuff, that's the way, we laypeople find you! We are subliminally influenced by the way you do your website.)   That being said, What's wrong with happy children? Why is happiness in a therapeutic environment something to be looked down on? Why is seriously doing repetitive, boring exercises something to be exalted?
  2. A lot of the Sensory Integration Therapy on the web seems to revolve about common sense like adaptations like wrapping rubber tubing around a pen, or playing different types of music in the morning to get yourself going, etc.  Stuff I could get from the web or reading books like, "How Does Your Engine Run?  Many things that I am already doing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

There's NOT an App for That: Movile Devices Turned Service Animals

Hearing impairmentImage via Wikipedia
Just read a great article about extending the iPhone for hearing problems and thought about extending it for other sensory impairments:
 iPhone App developers, take note: for the first time in awhile, I’ve found a situation where I can’t say, “there’s an app for that!” and I need one.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you simply didn’t hear something, such as the kettle whistling? or the water running because the TV was too loud, or there were screaming kids? It happens to everyone, whether or not you’re deaf. These are situations that can have negative effects if unattended. In this post, I’m going to explore the possibility of our mobile devices being able to provide us with essential notification of environmental sounds before things get messy–or burnt.

Mobile Devices-turned-Service Animals?

Ever since then, there have been instances when I’ve said, “Well… A hearing dog would’ve been nice to have just now!” It dawned on me this morning as I cleaned up my mess that perhaps our mobile devices could provide us with similar notification mechanisms. The hearing dogs are trained to repsond to a specific sound pattern, and since they obviously can’t talk, they lead the deaf partner to the source of the sound. I can envision a buzzing notification with the text, “Kettle Whistling” on the top – as in the mockup image to the right.  If our mobile devices can instantly identify songs played over the radio or TV through mobile applications such as Shazam, then surely our mobile devices (iPhones, Android-devices) can eventually, by way of an application or operating system feature, could recognize environmental sounds and provide a unique vibrating pattern and text to alert the deaf individual.
To be clear, service animals provide an incredible variety of services beyond alerting their lucky owners to boiling kettles and ringing doorbells. I’m not suggesting anything should replace them! But, for those of us looking for elements of that remarkable service, the phones in our hands could offer an answer. You develop it, I’ll test it! And really, my pots and pans will thank you.

I am wondering if, in addition, to turning an iPhone into an alert system for the deaf, whether an iPhone could be adapted for the visually impaired and blind.  A lot is being done for pattern recognition in video by the defense department.  The intelligence agencies have just awarded some money to BBN for neurologically based context recognition.  I think there could be  different settings depending on the level of impairment.  More awareness for the blind, less awareness for the less impaired.  I was thinking about a shopping app for stores where crowded visual fields of shopping aisles could be made less crowded.  Or some sort of processing of images for folks suffering from cataracts or macular degeneration to help them sort out their blind spots.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I am Just Too Effn' Weird!

LaundryImage by KellyK via Flickr That's All There Is Too, It.  I have just weirded myself out.  Just been a little too strange, even for me.

I am sitting on the recliner in my bedroom and tooling around on the freeways of the Internet when I look up.   Suddenly, my unmade bed has become mountains and valleys, fissures and clefts of blanket and sheet.  I clearly see space between the mass of cloth and my bookcase.  The pile of loosely tossed and folded clothes has soft ridges and mountaintops ululating and undulating.  I am just stunned by the patterns of my disorder.   The picture to my right is a lot more orderly than my bed.

I called my hubby and shared my weirdness.  It's just too strange to be me.  Really, who gets fascinated by an unmade bed and an ungainly pile of laundry.

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller    Journey Through The Cortex
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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Velcroing Everything Into a Gentle Touch

drum stick and handImage via WikipediaHad a chat with Janice, the hand therapist, about my tendency to squeeze the bejeesus out of everything.  I am a Major CRUSHER!  Godzilla has nothing on me.

It's very tiring for me to do anything requiring sustained work with my hands.  I just clamp down on any tool that is placed within my grasp.  You name it, pencils, pens, tweezers, scissors, hand tools, pliers, hammers, musical instruments, etc.  I just squeeze the living daylights out of anything placed within my grasp.  After a while, my hands get tired and I don't want to do anything more with them.

Janice thinks that my problems with my grasp involve sensory feedback.  I am just not getting the feedback that I need so I am clamping down real hard.

So, she came up with a solution involving wrapping some foam rubber around a pencil and then wrapping the foam with the pins portion of velcro.  Instantly, my grasp was lightened and I could write a lot more with a gentle touch.  It felt a lot nicer and easier to write. The pin portion of the velcro is not pleasant to grab onto with a hard grasp.  So automatically, I ease up on my grasp.

So I am running around velcroing everything in site:  pencils, pens, scissors, violin, flute.  We'll see how this works out.
Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller
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Uses of Music Therapy

Interesting article from Huffington Post by Music Therapist on the uses of music therapy by the head of Music Therapy Association:

Music TherapyImage by Andy Martini via FlickrGene Behrens (USA) used neurobiological research to inform her music therapy work in the same region, with children traumatized by ongoing conflicts in Bethlehem in the West Bank of occupied Palestinian territory. Significant changes from pre- to post-tests were found in children's emotional skills, such as matching words (happy, mad, proud, sad, scared) to pictures. 

With so many natural disasters occurring around the world, music therapy for crisis intervention has become commonplace. Music therapists have risen to assist their peers across the globe in their greatest times of need. Tiao (China) described her work in a transitional resettlement in the earthquake zone in Sichuan, China in 2008, applying a model of "stabilization-oriented music therapy," based on supportive and activity-oriented music therapy.1 The psychological state of Qiang and Tibetan survivors, who grew up in a culture filled with music and dance, became much more stable after participating in music therapy, and instances of interpersonal conflicts among survivors at the resettlement decreased. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Limes and Lions

 Limes and Lions, Oh MY!  Limes and Lions, Oh, MY!

A wedge of limeImage via WikipediaMy husband is a bit of a geek and loves to upgrade our computers to the latest operating system.  We have ditched the World of Windows and have moved to the Superior World of Macs.  So, when Mac changed their operating system, he was gung ho on upgrading and was carrying on about Mac Lime. 

At least, that's what I heard.  I am not so keen on following the latest software upgrades for Operating Systems so I had to take his word for it that Lime is the thing to have.  That is, until I finally got around to the upgrade and went to the Mac site, where I found out that the latest and greatest Operating System is, in fact, Lion.

Unfortunately, one of my therapy programs, Brain Fitness, doesn't lie down with the Lions and won't work with the new upgrade.  Neither will, the Dynamic Reader.  Upgrading software is not a Peaceable Kingdom with the Lambs of Therapy Programs lying down with the Lions of Operating Systems.  So, I am going to hold off on upgrading my Mac for a while.
one of the two marble lions in the Jardin du L...Image via Wikipedia
The whole Lime vs Lion misunderstanding makes me realize that I am missing a lot of auditory information in my day to day life.  I don't think I am hearing all my consonants correctly.  I really get the feeling that I may come across with a certain befuddledness like some of the elderly seem to present.   You know, when an elderly aunt is repeating what you said but not quite accurately.   It can make you seem a lot less on the ball.... we are talking about liONS, not liMES.    Oh, well.  Another topic for my audiologist when I see her.

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Flogging away on Tranaglypghs

I am flogging away on vision therapy exercises and have got a bit more of a bump with gaining 3D vision.  Recently, I have been doing more exercises in real space and have been using the Variable Tranaglyphs (BC/520 model from Bernell) to work on stereopsis and fusion. 

I have been using model C with the X, square and circle.  You align the red and green circles and then push the green circle along a track either right or left.  I am doing just fine sliding my green circle to the left making my eyes converge.  However, sliding the green circle to the right making my eyes diverge is problematic.  When I started, I wasn't doing so hot.  Now I am up to Number 20 out of a possible 30.

This exercise does make my eyes hurt a bit and really tires me out.  I tend to do it later in the evening around bed time.  Otherwise, I end up spending the day as a couch potato. 

I have noticed somethings are different in real space (aka the real world).  I had a visit with a hand therapist and I just started noticing her head was popping out from the wall behind her.  Some of the things around my house are starting to pop out.  There is an oak tree in my backyard that is separating itself from the pine tree behind it.  

However, this isn't happening consistently and seems to happen either when I consciously focus on an object or periodically when I am least aware of things.  

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller    Journey Through The Cortex
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

You Know you are in Vision Therapy When..

 Found an amusing  post at Sovoto, "You Know You are in Vision Therapy When...".  Some of them are directly applicable to me and some aren't.  I don't see in double.

You find yourself staring at napkins because you’ve never noticed the undulating texture of the napkin. You say, “Wow, I never noticed how complicated this napkin is. It looks like an orange peel with all its curves and dips.” 

Image via Wikipedia At a street crossing, while waiting for the light to turn green, you are distracted from the traffic as you are amazed at the concrete and how unsmooth it looks. 

 You stare at people you’ve known for a long time (like your mother) and can’t figure out why they look different, until you realize that they have more wrinkles on their face than you had previously noticed! (Hopefully, you don’t announce your new finding to the newly-aged person.) 

You finally have an excuse to become a couch potato because you have little energy to do much else. 

You can be a kid again and spend lots of time every week staring at Humpty Dumpty, clowns and other children’s images and tell your therapist or doctor when you see them in double. You also get to see things that don’t exist. You see five dots on the wall, but the doctor has only shone four dots in red and blue. 

Most importantly, anytime you think you are going crazy, you can just blame it on the vision therapy!

Copyright © 2010-2011 Traveller   Journey Through the Cortex

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Neuro Concepts and System wide disorders

I have been reading a very interesting article about Theoretical Neuroscience over at the Neurallaws website and have been pondering its implications for a variety of mental states and disorders.

The author states that modern neuroscience theory has problems providing answers to important questions, such as:

1.     Is it correct to search for specific neural circuits within the brain’s mega-network to explain behaviors?
2.      Why can the same neurons be a part of different specific circuits?BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 10:  A real hu...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
3.      What is the role of divergence and convergence, and what is the purpose of parallel circuits?
4.      What is the role of dendritic trees?
5.      Is it adequate to use diagrams in which a functionally similar group of neurons is represented as one element for the purpose of explaining functions or computer simulations?
6.      Why are biological neural networks built the way they are? Classical neuroscience does not address this most fundamental question. There is not even room for this question within the framework of classical conceptual brain views. 

As a layman, I think when you are  looking at things like Autism, ADHD, Sensory Integration problems, psychological disorders, etc.  that reach across a broad swarth of brain function, you are talking about finding the answers to these questions.

He then goes on to pose that another framework to understand these functions.  This framework, based on concepts from technical disciplines such as neurocomputational science (especially neural networks), control theory and mathematics, models brain activity as  control of neuronal automatism by neural optimal control system.

My rather uninformed opinion on this is that such a framework will not capture  the  richness of the relationships between hierarchies, subhierarchies and members of different hierarchies.   I am guessing that models based on ecology which model relationships within an ecosphere, semantic technologies, and emergent systems are going to help provide a richer model for system wide brain functions and malfunctions.

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