Slower and Reading Out Loud Leads to Less of a Headache

Published Categorised as Personal, Brain Health, Health, Brain Power

I managed one moment of working on my reading last week with all the emotional upheaval I was in. Emotional upheaval really stalls one’s recovery. I also went over the advice I received from non-experts and forwarded it on to my neurodoc then discussed it all with him.

His first comment: do you think you’re reading slowly enough? Slowly enough?!!! Well, sigh, probably not. But I said nothing as my face eloquently shouted my frustration, grief, and fatigue. He pointed out at the rate I read at home, I quickly get a headache. Headaches lead to frustration. I also become extremely tired. Having to rest so long afterwards also frustrates me no end.

He explained with logical empathy that if I read slower, I’d do better. I’d be less frustrated. Less frustration equals my cortisol levels not rising — lower cortisol means I’ll retain what I read. So even though reading would take longer, I would retain and comprehend it, which would make my reading more productive and less frustrating. And then I wouldn’t develop a headache and have to rest so long afterwards.

He made a persuasive argument. I hated it. He gave me a pep talk on how I’m not losing my reading — I’m gaining. I have a neuroplastic brain; I’m taking my Udo’s Oil, which supports the neuroplasticity; I’m continuing with gamma brainwave training. All these things mean as I work on my reading — It. Will. Get. Better.

OK. He believes. So I’ll try.

But first…

One of the suggestions made by another non-expert was to read out loud sans listening to my voice. The idea is that reading out loud automatically slows you down. My neurodoc and I discussed how I could do that. You could wear headphones, he suggested. I would hear through my bones. Only if you have very good hearing, he said. I have excellent hearing (makes for great eavesdropping ability, heh). Hmmm, he contemplated me. I said maybe my improved auditory processing after tDCS of my Wernicke’s Area means my voice will no longer distract me if I read out loud. In any case, I read out loud to him so maybe that will translate to when I’m alone, without an audience.

Ramryge angels at Gloucester Cathedral, England

Brain injury grief is

extraordinary grief

research proves

needs healing.

He handed me a Wall Street Journal article, the most benign he could find, something that wouldn’t upset me or trigger me or make me angry. Just a literal kind of article that is all about facts. He didn’t want my emotions taking off and interfering with my reading.

I began. I read the title out loud, then the subtitle. He was pleased at how verrryyyyy s…l…o…w…l…y I read. I got weighed down by feeling like I was back in nursery school. He handed me the Kleenex box and gave me another pep talk. He believes. And I leant on that and went on to the first paragraph, at the end of which I outlined the skeleton of the article and got it right. Excellent! he exclaimed.

I read two more paragraphs at this new slower-than-ever rate. I didn’t get a headache. And so I practiced at home that way. I’m going to try two times before I see him next. The first time was better than previous homework sessions:

Reread title, sub-head, and first paragraph. Summarized to myself, but I checked as I was summarizing. Maybe a little cheating. Heh. But it was hard to stay focussed; I kept drifting off to my own life. I continued reading the article from where I left off in his office.

Skeleton: 1 min, 45 seconds.

Para 1. 27 words. 50 seconds. 1 repeat. 1.85 seconds/word. Became aware of voice.

Para 2. 62 words. 2 min, 2 seconds. 1 repeat. 1 repeat for fact. 1 reread part of a previous para. 1.97 seconds/word. Awareness of voice less.

Para 3. 29 words. 1 min, 20 seconds. 1 repeat. 1 reread part of previous para. 2.76 seconds/word. Headache starts.

Para 4. 41 words. 1 min, 8 seconds. 1 repeat for fact. 1.66 seconds/word. Headache and tired, but not feeling ill from fatigue. Losing engagement.

Read at comprehension-only level, no analysis of content. I did start to get a little angry at the content and at not having any Canadian context. Yes, it’s an American newspaper, but it was an article on a global issue. So much for being the U.S.’s biggest trading partner.

I rested for two hours after, including dozing for part of it, and I was very emotional at the end of it. I’m not sure why.

The big takeaway: slower makes it easier for my brain to take in, process, and retain — I assume that’s why my headache took longer to develop and was not as bad. But the energy consumption and required rest remain the same.

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