Mar 062015

I met with a psychologist at the University of Toronto to talk brain, to get a different, “not-an-expert” perspective on my reading, which as regular readers of my blog would know I’ve come to think of as the best perspective.

It was fascinating. I hugely enjoyed our conversation. And I don’t know about that non-expert thing. He had such a breadth of knowledge, curiosity, and penchant to think deeply that I had the stimulating as-an-equal discussion that I’ve been craving for eons. My brain felt fried while my mind was freaking out at this amazing opportunity. It was one of those rare good news kind of things that actually overcame the usual bad news that inhabits my life.

I got in touch with him about a month ago when I sent out a bunch of emails to psychologists and grad students at the university in an effort to find more insight into my reading and maybe undergo eye-tracking-with-reading assessments as a research guinea pig. He was the only one to offer to chat with me, even though he’s not a “neurologist or an expert in reading-related eyetracking.”

Maybe not, but he has an astute understanding of language and gave me Ah-ha moments and some ideas to chew over, more than anyone with medical training has.

I met him in his university office. Going back to Sidney Smith was … strange. It’s exactly the same as I remember except older and smaller looking – probably because of the Second Cup and all the tables and seating in the main hall. His office was not the cacophony of papers and books I remember my old profs’ offices being. Thank the Lord, for my neuropsychiatrist had tested my distractability earlier that day, and I needed visual peace.

Distractability is actually the theme du jour. The psychologist homed in on that idea of attentional control and distractability. I also learnt the precuneus is involved in situating yourself/the character in a story, seeing where you are, something rather difficult for me. I will discuss the possibility of working on this area of the brain with Dr. Lynda Thompson.

But we discussed much more than that: visual fields, gamma, emotions, decision making, comics, etc. At some future date, I will blog on the parts that I am going to explore further as part of my reading rehab.

I spent much longer than I had anticipated with him. I had told myself not to talk too long, not to hog his time. Well, yeah, okay. It was so worth it, and he found it a lovely conversation too.

I just want to interrupt for a moment here to say that when you have a brain injury, people hear “brain injury” and have a propensity to not take your goals seriously and to talk down to you. It doesn’t happen to me as often as I’ve seen it happen to others but enough times that to meet a person who takes you (and your reading goal) seriously enough to meet with you is a real find. He not only met with me, he also emailed me a couple of papers and book references and answered more questions.

Contrast that with a reading expert who told my neurodoc to tell me to go to the aphasia website. Really? Seriously? I shall spare you what I thought of that.

Anyway, after our meeting, I wrote down everything I could recall as soon as I got home. I am not good at taking notes during a discussion but can usually recall much of what was discussed as long as I write it down immediately afterward.

I already have a few thoughts, and I am continuing to process it all. I am sure I will have even more questions when my brain spits out understanding and connections into my consciousness.

On the reading assignment front, I have figured out that 3 seconds/word is the optimal rate to read sans headache. That’s 37.5 minutes to read a standard, 750-word newspaper column. It is difficult slowing down to that rate. Worse, even at that rate, after reading the skeleton summary and two paragraphs without getting a headache or having to repeat, I still need an hour-long nap. But no headache! Yes, this is good. My neurodoc will be chuffed.

Meanwhile I need a break, a March break. Since everyone’s going on holiday soon, I’m going to take time off from rehab and away from the online world. When I return, following the UofT psychologist’s suggestions, my neurodoc and I will work on testing where and why exactly my reading processing speed is slower than frozen molasses.