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. 

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