Thursday, October 31, 2013

Getting Lost and Getting Found with Posit Science

Posit Science
Posit Science (Photo credit: jurvetson)
Well, I have been very timely in my ruminations about getting lost (Gives herself a pat on the back!).

Posit Science has just added a module about navigation on their Brain HQ suite of exercises.  These exercises help improve visual spatial skills needed for navigation so, hopefully, I won't get lost as much!

Apparently, there is a lot to navigation.  It relies on higher level cognitive skills such as attention, memory, and perception.  Brain HQ helps navigation by through exercises designed to create and mentally manipulate spatial representations of a scene, remember relative locations of landmarks, and avoid potential hazards on the route.

Improving navigation also has the interesting affect on other skills.  Learning to manipulate information mentally not only improves navigation, it has also been shown to improve mental arithmetic.  If my Gentle Readers remember my results from Cogmed, I was having trouble remembering how to add more than 3 easy numbers in my head.  So, we shall see if this improves my math skills.  I am hoping that by working on visual spatial skills, I will also improve the visual spatial memory exercises in Cogmed that I am having trouble with.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

IBMT Release Set For Next Year

IBMT,  Integrated Body Mind Therapy, is set to be released in the summer of 2014.   IBMT is a joint project with University and Dr. Yi-Yuan Tang, Dalian University in China, that uses body relaxation, mental imagery, and mindfulness training to induce positive structural changes in brain connectivity by boosting efficiency in a part of the brain that helps a person regulate behavior in accordance with their goals.  There is a lot of interest in it but not much has come out on it for quite some time.
Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
Enhanced by Zemanta

Memory training with Cogmed -- Update

English: Baddeley's model of working memory in...
English: Baddeley's model of working memory in English (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Trudging along with Cogmed, a computer based training program designed to improve memory.

I have some scores in the high range-- especially those that I can use verbal cues with.

I have some scores in the low range-- those that involve visual spatial memory.   I think that the problem is encoding.   I am not just registering visual spatial pictures.

One thing that seems to help is remembering pathways and not spots.  Men do better than women with visual spatial memory for just this reason.

However, after training a bit with the navigation module of Brain HQ, I have improved the tests that involve rotation.    Also Brain HQ's tests involving rotating dots have improved some of the tests that involve moving dots.

Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, October 28, 2013

Take Two and Tango

Research has shown that learning how to tango dance improves cognition, balance, and multi-tasking. The complex series of dance steps, rhythm, and coordination with a partner work many brain areas simultaneously, and the benefits translate to activities off the dance floor.
learn more at:
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Getting Lost, Memory and Hearing Problems

Finding your way around town, recalling your grocery list that you forgot at home, and reporting the details of a car accident that you’ve witnessed. What do these events have in common? You must utilize your working memory for all of them. Working memory is a system for short-term storing and managing the information in order to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. It’s also an important component to central auditory processing, which is how our central nervous system utilizes auditory information.
There are adults (and children) who have significant difficulty with such tasks as described above. They may have auditory processing difficulties or disorders, including those who have been formally diagnosed by an audiologist with Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). CAPD is defined by American Speech Hearing Association (ASHA) as difficulties in the processing of auditory information in the central nervous system (CNS) as demonstrated by poor performance in one or more of the following skills: sound localization and lateralization; auditory discrimination; auditory pattern recognition; temporal aspects of audition, including temporal integration, temporal discrimination (e.g., temporal gap detection), temporal ordering, and temporal masking; auditory performance in competing acoustic signals (including dichotic listening); and auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sound Auditory Training Program Delays Release

Sound Auditory Training is still in development and scheduled for release in spring 2014. Plural Publishing is currently still registering users for a one-month free trial. Complete the registration form below and you will be notified by email when your trial access begins.

I think the free trial is really for clinicians and not the general public.   Here's the link
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Getting Lost

English: This is the title screen from the ABC...
English: This is the title screen from the ABC series Lost. Español: Este es el título principal de la serie Lost. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I get lost easily...

One of my faults in life is not knowing where I am going.  I was kinda hoping getting a sense of depth perception and awareness of space would naturally cure the problem.  But I am wondering if there is more to it.

While driving I am highly dependent on a GPS, even for places I go to habitually, like as in once a week.   Generally this works quite well except when there has been road construction and my GPS map isn't updated.   However, one problem that I see in using the GPS is that I am not making a "cognitive map" of my environment,  that is, I am not constructing spatial connections between different landmarks.  Instead, I am blindly following verbal instructions.  So, I wonder if it's the old story about not using and then losing it.  Not using what limited capacity I have will mean that I lose what I do have?  On the other hand, I have to function in real life.

I have been going to classes at Princeton for well over 2 months and guess what?  I still get a bit lost going to class.  If I change where I park and I sometimes do because it may be quicker to park at a parking meeter rather than in the student parking log, I can't reorient myself to take another path to class.   To use the jargon of the professionals, I take stereotypical paths.  Never thought of myself as a stereotype!  You bump me off my usual path and I am hosed.

Another problem is putting my car in a parking lot and then remembering where it was hours later when I return.  The absolute worst has been coming home late at night from a New York City professional event and losing the car in the parking garage.  It is no fun roaming around a parking garage after a 2 hour train trip (on a very uncomfortable commuter train) and walking around a 5 story garage when you are wearing high heels that are KILLING YOU!!!  Going up and down and round and round because there are two ways to go up and down and round and round a parking garage.  Oh yeah, and you are not sure if you have walked around that particular part of the floor.

 Let's add into the fact that there are lots of cars that are colored and shaped in a very similar fashion so your car is hiding in one of them.  Remote key fobs are my friend.  I click on my fob and get my car to beep back at me.  Car finding thus turns into a grown up game of Marco Polo. I keep clicking and my car keeps beeping and flashing until I find it.

You don't know how many times in life  I have been late because I was going down a different path than my usual one and I got confused and quite late.  You really can't explain this problem to an average person.  They think that you have just been rather self centered and have been blowing them off with no regard to themselves.  They have no clue as to how much effort it took to try and make their visit.  Never mind how much mental angst you start inflicting on yourself when you realize that you are standing them up.  Calling them as you begin to realize what's going on can mitigate the problem but not always.

I do wonder what will happen to me as I age.  Getting lost in your own home is a sign of Alzheimers and gets you committed to nursing homes.  Fortunately, I have no plaques in the brain.  But I do wonder what will happen as I age.

Another problem is getting lost in virtual reality.  Researchers and game players note that it is rather common to lose your place while playing video games.

This problem is not always well understood and scientists are beginning to categorize the different ways people get lost.   Their word for it is "topographical disorientation".  To my mind. the problem involves a variety of physical and psychological domains.  It involves  paying attention to the world around you,  how the eye and eye muscles capture information, to encoding the perception, organization of that perception, stuffing the organization of that perception into memory, retrieving those organizations of perception from memory and re-orienting them, if necessary, and understanding where your body is in relationship to space.

In order to investigate the problem, neuroscientists over at Oxford have proposed a taxonomy of topographical disorientations.  Not all disorientations are the same.  So in order to investigate the problem, they want to cluster like minded disorientations together.  They are proposing topographical disorientation to be composed of:

  • Egocentric disorientation: severe deficits in representing the relative location of objects with respect to the self 
  • Heading disorientation:  deficits in exocentric orientation, i.e., inability to derive directional information from recognizable landmarks--either through the inablility  to recall (or form) a link between directional information and landmark identity
  • Landmark agnosia:  inability to use prominent, salient environmental features for the purposes of orientation.
  • Anterograde disorientation:  topographical impairment primarily confined to novel environments.

Where do I fit in this taxonomy?

I would say that I have egocentric disorientation  (knowing where you are in relationship to your environment) as using prisms really helps me with my sense of spatial awareness.  I know where my feet are these days.  I really feel them.  I have an enhanced sense of depth perception.   During some visual exercises, I am pointing at the target and getting much closer to where the target exactly is in space-- that is not undershooting it or overshooting it.

I am not sure about heading disorientation.  I do get lost frequently in both new and familiar environments.  Thus, using the GPS to go to weekly scheduled appointments or getting lost when going to class from different parking spots.   But I wonder about how  much of this is part of egocentric disorientation and how much of this is something else.  We shall see how wearing my prism glasses helps.  Also, I wonder how much of this is related to visual memory.

Nassau Hall, the university's oldest building....
Nassau Hall, the university's oldest building. Note the tiger sculptures beside the steps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't think I have landmark disorientation.  I can recognize landmarks with a quick glance.  For instance, I can recognize Pryne Hall or Nassau Hall at Princeton University. I don't need to look at details and process them slowly.  The only thing I can say about landmark disorientation in real life is that recognition of landmarks has been restricted due to a narrowed visual field.  Wearing prisms opens me up to the world around me so that I am seeing more things.  I don't have propagnosia, face blindness,  that is often accompanying landmark disorientation.

I don't think that I have antereograde orientation as I have problems in both new and familiar environments.

The other visual spatial problem that I don't understand how it fits into this is the problem I have while doing Cogmed's grid exercises.  I just don't get remembering the different lamps as they light up.  I just don't encode the lamps in the correct sequence and I manage to forget the lamps completely after a certain point.   So how much of this is an encoding problem and how much of this is a memory/amnesia problem?

Another thing is that my attention to the outside world is changing.  Part of this is due to an expanded visual field and part of this is due to neurofeedback training of being attentive to  your body, the outside world, and your interior landscape of feelings and thoughts all at the same time.   If you are not paying attention to the outside world, you never encode it.

So we shall see.
Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, October 21, 2013

End of Vision Therapy and the Beginning of a New Life With New Glasses

HVS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Got discharged from Vision Therapy.  Unfortunately, I did not get a complete sense of 3D space but I have some idea of the heart of the  problem.  I do really good on the exercises in the office but it is just not translating into the real world.  I can do the quoits, vectograms, etc. both in the world as I am sitting on a chair, or while walking on a balance beam.

 I have advanced fusional ranges  which means I can converge and my eyes with the best of them.  I have 20 degrees of stereopsis which means I have really good binocular vision.  But I just don't appreciate SILO (small in large out) in real life.  I can do SILO in the office but I am not getting a real sense of things popping out at me like the famous Stereo Sue did.

I just got stuck.  I think I know what my problem is with SILO.  I have Vertical Heterophoria (eyes don't line up vertically and some problem with convergence excess).  Folks with Vertical Heterophoria tend to overfocus.  We really stare at things.  So when the doctor tells me to look at his parrot on a stick and look behind, I am really staring at the parrot.  I really want to do well at the exercise so I really focus in at it.  You aren't supposed to do that.  You are supposed to be looking around the parrot stick and it will pop into space.

So relax... Just don't try so hard.

I have been doing neurofeedback and that has been helping with the relax part.  Each day I have been doing different exercises about getting into the right amount of focus.  Not too much and not too little.   Like Goldilocks... just right.

It does help a bit with getting into space.  My vision therapist noticed that when I played the CD during our sessions, even her eyesight got better!  Helped but not enough.

So... last effort.  I had been to a couple of optometrists for a second opinion and they all are saying that I have reached the end of the line.  Can't do anything more for me.  

The good thing about seeing a good practitioner is that you get much further than you would with a bad one or an average one.  The bad thing about seeing a good practitioner is that it gets really hard to find someone who knows something he doesn't know.

So there I am.  Left to the Internet to Google away.  And Google I did.  Googled Vertical Heterophoria and found a doctor who specializes in this condition.  Turns out her brother had it.

Unfortunately, there had been very little written in the textbooks about Vertical Heterophoria since the late 1800's.   So there is not so much research on the condition.

She was out in Michigan.   So I took a flight to Detroit and spent a few days out there.  I was so nervous and keyed up the day before that I went to bed early in the afternoon and just slept.
Went to see her and spent several hours getting examined.  Unlike other exams, she did not want me to try to hard.  So she was always telling me to relax ... just ballpark it.

I had always approached going to an eye doctor like I was taking the SATs and wanted a really great score.  So I really stressed and strained to see the best I could.  Looking back, not the best way to go about it.

West Philadelphia, view down Baltimore Avenue ...
West Philadelphia, view down Baltimore Avenue from 48th towards Center City. Photo taken from atop Calvary United Methodist Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  Her exam was a bit unusual.  She  used a Maddox rod which is a projected red light and had me line up the white dot horizontally and vertically.  She also checked my visual fields.   Did the usual Snellen Chart (Big E) and then we did some trial lenses.  She had me sit for about 20 minutes with each lens.

Well, the lenses were amazing.  I finally knew where my feet where.  I don't know how to describe it anyother way except, maybe, "grounded".  And I mean grounded in all senses of the word.  Like my feet are rooted to the earth.  Grounded as in well balanced both physically and emotionally.   A lot of anxiety just went pouffff!  So grounded in the sense of feeling a lot more secure.

Also, I have a sense of space.  I know where I am in relation to things and I have the beginnings of float and 3D.    When I drive past Philadelphia, I can see the various neighborhoods and warehouses  and Center City as one big panorama.  I really can see the skyline ... more on this later.

Headaches are way down, if not gone.  Eye strain is way down.

I notice I am sensitive to light.  So I went and bought a cheap pair of fitovers at K-mart.  And I got another round of feeling even more grounded and less anxious and more comfortable.  It's amazing.

Unfortunately, I did not get to see too much of Detroit.  The exam was a long day and I got tired and went to bed.  The next day, I did go to the Henry Ford Museum and went and ate Polish food--golablki and kielbasa in Hamatranck.   But other than that I was very tired.    So, I was glad to get on the plane and go back to my snuggy bed in Philadelphia.

So, this is the end of most things.  I have a little more left to do with balance and language and neurofeedback and I am done.  Balance and Language will finish up this month.  Neurofeedback is a weekly appointment close to home so no major journeys all over creation  unless I find I need to change lenses.  The doctor doesn't think so but told me to check in with myself and come back in three months if I feel the need.   I don't have much lens-- only 0.5 diopters vertically.

So, over time the focus of this blog will change and it will be less a slog through therapies and more thoughts of higher order things and some downright fun stuff.  I think I deserve a good dose of fun.  I will start the process of returning to work but I will make time for fun.
Copyright © 2010-2013  Traveller Journey Through The Cortex

Monday, October 14, 2013

Got Milk?

de: Struktur von Lactose en: Structure of Lactose
de: Struktur von Lactose en: Structure of Lactose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I hope I might.  I'm lactose intolerant and have been avoiding milk.

Just saw something about a new lactose enzyme that dissolves the lactose in the stomach a few minutes after you eat it. The acid-resistant pellets, contained in the capsule, are released and will be transported to the small intestine within 15 minutes.

Apparently lactose intolerance is more common as you age.  I remember really liking milk when I was a kid and in my early 20s.  In fact, during one high stress situation at work, I excused myself and drank some milk to calm myself down. Wouldn't do that these days.

Since calcium helps ward off  osteoporosis, I would really like to drink milk.

It would also be nice to go back to eating cheese.  I do like cheese.  In fact, I tried making my own in the hope that I could tolerate it.  But no such luck.

Well, I will order myself some pills and we shall see.
Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
Enhanced by Zemanta

Neurofeedback Update...

Neurofeedback (Photo credit: Arenamontanus)
I've been going to Neurofeedback on a weekly basis for about 2 months so far and it is making a big difference.

We have been working on dissolving pain.  I have been having headaches and eye strain, pain in my throat, and chest and stomach.   After the session and while doing the home exercises, I notice that I am much, much calmer and pain free.  Some of the pain we are finding is due to my misaligned eyes, especially in the head and some is more related to balance and dizziness  and some is more emotional.

What I like is that my therapist is looking at symptoms and working with me to get rid of problem areas; rather than looking at a diagnosis and trying to fit me to a given plan.  So I am not doing one particular protocol per se.

What we are doing is alpha training.  I am really good at getting into an alpha state, the state of being alert in a relaxed way.  The goal is to be aware of your body and aware of your thoughts and surroundings all at the same time.

 In fact, last time, I left the office totally in sync with the world.  I was aware of myself, aware of driving and aware of other thoughts.

Little by little I am training myself to be more focused.

Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 11, 2013

What's Right With The Autistic Brain!

Major brain structures implicated in autism.
Major brain structures implicated in autism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I suppose I could have started this post by ending the title with a question mark, but I thought that rather than asking a question about the autistic brain, I would celebrate it with an exclamation mark.

One small amount of punctuation makes all the difference in the world.

In a recent article in Time Magazine,  Temple Gandin starts to challenge the world to think differently about autism.  Rather than the usual moaning over deficits, she starts to enumerate the many strengths of autism.    And I think she is quite right to do so.   Over a third, are exceptionally intelligent and we are asking them to spend an awful amount of time on things that are just not in their nature.  

Not too long ago, I read a book about Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner which detailed 12 different kinds of intelligence:  everything from the usual book smart intelligences to body intelligence (like dance or manual dexterity) to artistic, emotional, social and spiritual intelligences.   And I am wondering if we are going about categorizing intelligence in the right way.

I mean, there's a lot more to folks than what is measured on neuropsych batteries, IQ tests, SATs, or the standardized tests that kids are being dragged through.

English: Multiple Intelligences
English: Multiple Intelligences (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I would like to see people analyzed on a number of different grids covering the 12 intelligences and then given some guidance as to the impact that their deficits have on their strengths.  Like you can be very smart in a logical-mathematical sense but be really hampered by deficits in body-kinesthetic sense when it comes time to create a PowerPoint presentation.

Or, you can be a genius with interpersonal relationships but if you are challenged by mechanical objects, running a client's credit card might be a challenge.

Or, you can be a genius with mechanics but get totally flumoxed trying to follow the nitty gritty of the health care debate, never mind Sartre's epistemology.

There's a point in our lives when we have to sit and say God made us human, all too human.  Maybe we need to make allowances for each other.  You know, a little kindness and forebearance.  And I think you have to think about things this way with autism.

I think if I had things that absolutely had to be done correctly and many rules needed to be complied with and someone had to have the moxie to stand up and defend the rules, an autistic person might be the ideal person to do it.  I think autistic people would be great in an area dealing with compliance with it is drug safety, finance, environmental pollution.  

There might be many times, the other folks might be frustrated or tired by an insistence on following the rules. But you know, that's the guy or gal who would save your bacon and make sure that you didn't incur death, financial penalty or legal liability.  

Why not construct a world where there is a place for these folks?  We might all be better off for it.

Think about it!
Copyright © 2010-2013  Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
Enhanced by Zemanta