As part of my psychology degree I studied neurophysiology and physiology, not knowing I was studying for the needs of my future self. But that was a long time ago. How much could I remember now? Even if I hadn’t been injured and had my photographic memory intact, how much could I have been able to recall? And with a brain injury poking holes in my long-term memory and making short-term and learning difficult, it seemed hopeless.
Yet with a lot of effort, I was able to briefly recall and use enough of my old neuro knowledge to write on the hypothalamus a few years ago. Still, it cost me so much in energy it’s not often I can do that. And I couldn’t retain what came out of my own head. The weirdness and irony of that! Blogging isn’t just for others; it’s also to remind me of what I know deep in the recesses of my mind.
So last week I asked my brain biofeedback trainer a question about the seizure chapter Dr. Lynda Thompson had given me to read. She suggested I bring the chapter with me to discuss today. I did.
After some wrestling between the tDCS unit and my hair preventing electrical conduction, we got the unit stimulating my Wernicke’s Area (language and integration), and I flipped to the Mechanisms section of the chapter (I think Dr. Thompson had told me to skip that part, but you know me, I like a challenge plus something about GABA had jumped out at me, and that’s what I wanted to discuss). Using the finger under the line method of reading, I read out a bit at a time, at the same time saying what I thought it meant.
I began with the anatomical part under discussion, and to my surprise I remembered the Latin terms and so was able to locate where the ventrobasal nuclei is in the thalamus. Having my trainer — just like good teachers used to do for us in school — confirming or correcting my memory and interpretations boosted my confidence. I began to feel less hesitant and more competent as I proceeded through the section explaining the SMR and polarization link between the ventrobasal nuclei and thalamic reticular nucleus. And then I had to recall the first bit of info of the section in order to connect the GABA part to the SMR part. Total mind blank. Soooo typical after brain injury when trying to learn.
So back I flipped to the start of the section; I read out the relevant sentence and talked my way into connecting the end with the beginning. It took a couple of tries, and I did remember that rephrasing a new piece of knowledge helps to encode it. I hesitate to say cement it in my head because holding on to new knowledge feels like grasping mist.
Anyway, learning neuroscience like that — talking it through and then interpreting and adding to my old knowledge with someone who knows the subject while a tDCS is stimulating activity in the language integration of my brain — felt good.