Neurally Speaking

Last week was my first talk for a while, this time at Sopworth, Gloucestershire (photo by Ray Bird Photography). It went well, I think, with the audience intrigued by the idea of neuroplasticity, and the focus on the lazy and the noisy brain. Of course, my attempted escapes from Intensive Care were, as ever, the points that caught imaginations best. Audiences always laugh when I tell them how I resented my father not bringing my cordless drill so that I could unscrew one of the windows in my room. I had already removed one with the handle of a spoon, and wanted to extract the other five.

I have come to realise that the two most significant symptoms of my brain injury are that my brain is either lazy or noisy. The use-it-or-lose-it effect influences the lazy brain, in the does-he-take-sugar way. Not being able to drive is a critical component; the continual sense of being patronised. Neurosurgeons call this Learned Non-Use. Unwittingly it was this potential for atrophy that I feared most leaving hospital, worried that my fit brain, which was used to the exercise of editing and publishing magazines, would go to sleep. I think that has indeed happened, and writing this blog is one attempt to overcome the problem. Learning French is good. Giving talks also pushes my brain as public speaking appears to have become my new means of communication now that magazine editing has stopped.

However, experimenting with too many projects and ideas can cause chaos within the brain, and force it to become noisy. The front lobes, which have been damaged in my brain, do much of the organisation and management of other skills and activities. These are termed as executive functions. They kick-start neural energies, like a spark plug in an engine. If the plugs have lost the piston they used to spark, they will search for other projects to enthuse. In my case this has led to working in so many ways and constantly looking for change and new approaches to life. It is this sort of thing that fascinates audiences so much.

4 thoughts on “Neurally Speaking

  1. I’ve been mulling your comment about “the continual sense of being patronized.” I have often wondered, given that we’re all on a spectrum of ability, why it is that the averagely able do often patronize those who are less able; but those with superior abilities don’t patronize those with average abilities?

    E.g. many people who can walk will patronize a person in a wheel chair because they are less able-bodied than them. But the athlete who can run a mile in 4 minutes does not patronize the person who can just about walk to the bus – even though the difference between their abilities is as great if not greater than that between an “able-bodied” person and the one in the wheel chair.

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