My Experience with Brain Mapping: Paste, Sitting Still and Reflecting….

Hey Readers!

                Good news: I get the results of my brain mapping this Saturday.  YEAH!!  This post will be about what the tests were like a few weeks ago….and how I believe I did as well as my prediction for what Doc will say.

                As previously posted, I wish to try Neurofeedback  therapy in order to be faster with work.  My A.D.D makes me much slower.

First, the doctor tested my brain functioning and cognitive ability.  The doctor then asked me a bunch of questions and had me do some tasks. In order to make this somewhat interesting I am going to list everything by category such as stick/oral instructions, comprehension questions, visual pattern intelligence test, computer test, and EEG (Electroencephalography).

 

Stick/Oral Instructions:  The first thing Doc asked me to do was follow the stick he was holding with my eyes.  That was easy.  Next I had to watch Doc do three things with his hands and then I had to repeat the motions.  That was hard.  I couldn’t remember any of the motions.  After that, I was asked to listen to a list of words and then repeat them.   There were twenty to twenty-five words on the list. I could only repeat three to five items.   That was embarrassing, although I wasn’t too surprised.  Throughout my life, I have always had to ask for directions or important information to be repeated.  Hence, I always had a note taker and tape recorder in college. I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget any important information.  Yet in the working world, it looks a little weird having a tape recorder or asking my colleagues: “Hey, can I look at your notes from the meeting?”

 

Comprehension Questions: I was asked a lot of ‘why’ questions.  Here is one example:

Questions: Why would a defendant ask to have a jury instead of a judge decide the verdict of the case?

My Answer: Because the defendant might have a better chance of an acquittal with twelve people vs. one.

When asked for another reason, I couldn’t think of another one.  Honestly, I’m not sure if there is another good reason.  However, the fact that there could be makes me question my intelligence. Of course, I was never that good with comprehension questions.  Probably because I hear things differently.   Here is an example of a lesson from my days in kindergarten days:

Teacher: President Lincoln is regarded as the second greatest president of our country.

What I heard: President Lincoln was the second president of our country.

                When later asked who the second president of America was, I answered Abraham Lincoln.   My classmates thought it was funny.  My teacher didn’t.  She thought I was acting stupid when in reality I just heard her wrong.  This was one of the reasons I was very hesitant to volunteer answers in class throughout my education career.

 

Visual Pattern Intelligence Test:        I had to complete certain patterns.  The easy ones were like this:  Image

 

 

Then the pictures became more complicated:

Image

 

I suck at patterns and puzzles.  Probably why Geometry is my worse subject.  It didn’t help that my mother was a mathematician.  She would get very frustrated with me over my math homework because I couldn’t understand how to solve the math problems.  I feel the visual test had to do more with visual skills vs. intelligence so I’m not very embarrassed by how I did with this test. 

 

Computer Test to measure attention span: Doc had me look at a computer screen.  There was a square in the middle of the screen.  When Doc activated the software, the square would frequently move from the center of the screen to the top of the screen.  I had to click on the mouse when the square reached the top of the screen.  Needless to say, this task prevented me from looking anywhere but the screen.  That was the point.  The test was to measure my concentration level.  The test took twenty minutes.  It was only during the last five minutes that I found my mind thinking of other things.  Doc said this meant I probably only have mild to moderate attention problems.  No surprise there!  As I have posted before, concentration hasn’t been a problem for me as an adult.  The main issue has been my ability to finish work as quickly and efficiently as the rest of my peers.  Still, it nice to know I aced at least one part of the battery of tests.

 

EEG (Electroencephalography):  A nurse led me to a white room where I sat in a dentist type chair.  She cleaned my scalp and covered my head with something that felt like tooth paste.  Then the nurse put twenty seven white circle little wires on my head that looked like the ear plugs of my I-Pod.  The picture below best shows what my head looked like:

 Image

Bubble Head!

 

It was hard (and painful) to get this gooey stuff out of my hair.

The wires were connected to a computer.  My brain waves were monitored by a computer with my eyes shut and then wide open.

 

Image 

Bubble Head connected to computer

 

                The nurse asked me to think of names that started with the letter “F.” Then she asked me to think of as many names as possible.  Lastly, she showed me a piece paper which showed two separate patterns: 1,4,7 and AZ, BY, C_.  I had to finish the pattern.  The hardest part was I couldn’t refer back to the piece of paper. 

                Throughout the EEG (30-45 minutes), I was told not to move a muscle, not to blink or move a finger.  I couldn’t do this at age six nor at age thirty.  The longest I could stay still was for one minute.  The nurse needed me to stay still for at least two minutes.     

                While she was redoing the test for the third time, I reflected on the last time I did an EEG test:  the fall of 1987.  After suspecting that I had some type of learning disability, my pediatrician recommended I go to New York to see Dr. Arthur Gold, Professor of Clinical Neurology and Pediatrics.  The term “learning disabilities” was still rather new.  The Americans with Disabilities Act was not introduced yet and most schools didn’t have accommodations for special education students.   Dr. Gold was one of the few knowledgeable in the field of Learning Disabilities.

                In 1987, the EEG sensors looked more like big black buttons.  The nurse put hot glue on them and stuck them on my head. It hurt like hell. Then she told me to lie on the table and not to move.  At age six, this was a huge problem.  The nurse yelled at me for moving too much, and my father told her off.

                Reflecting on this story finally allowed me to be still for two minutes.  I was so relieved to be allowed to move around again and go home!

 

What is next:  As I mentioned above, it has been almost a month since I have had the testing done.  I finally get the results on Saturday.    Doc will explain what parts of the brain are not functioning properly.  We will discuss what type of brain mapping is appropriate for me.  

I feel I have done poorly with most of the tests.  While it embarrassing I will at least know what part of the brain isn’t working.  Still, Doc warned me that if there is something wrong with the executive functioning part of the brain then there might not be much Neurofeedback therapy can do.  Neurofeedback does great for concentration problems, but I don’t believe that is my issue.   If Doc says that Neurofeedback therapy will not help, I’m not sure what else I can do to work more efficiently in the workplace.  Neurofeed back feels like my only hope….

-Mary R. Shine

Pictures are from:

http://www.intechopen.com/books/management-of-epilepsy-research-results-and-treatment/dense-array-eeg-epilepsy

http://www.thehealthage.com

and
http://sfari.org/images/blog/157138/image_medium

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Getting my A.D.D brain a tune up

Hello fellow ADHD/ADDers!

My journey with Neurofeedback therapy begins this week. I will first have a battery of oral tests to measure my cognitive ability. Then the doctors will start the brain mapping, or using the EEG.
Since graduating college in 2006, I have had had six different jobs and two careers as a teacher and a youth director. I believe most of my positions were terminated because I couldn’t finish my work on time. As a student, I was given extra time to finish my work. Sadly, that is not acceptable in the work place.
I could disclose my disability but even Dr. Kathleen G. Nadeau, author of ADD in the Work Place advises that those with A.D.D/ADHD should seek accommodation only as a last result because “A.D.D. is an invisible disability that is poorly understood and often interpreted negatively by employers. If you are having difficulty functioning on the job and then decide to disclose you’re A.D.D, you run the risk of being seen in an even more negative light (Nadeau, pg. 204).”(1)
So what are we ADD/ADHDers supposed to do? There is always medication. Stimulants can be very successful in helping people with ADD/ADHD focus. I myself was on Ritalin as a child and found it very helpful. As an adult, concentration is no longer a problem. Yet the problem I still have is my brain processes things slower and therefore I need more time to get tasks done. This is due to the subtype of ADD I have which is called Sluggish Cognitive Temperament. Think of my brain as an older computer. The more data you store on your old computer, the slower it runs. On the other hand, a newer computer (or the average person) is able to store more data without being overloaded, and thereby is able to work faster.
Another example is the Tortoise and the Hare. The tortoise was so much slower than the hare. He had to work harder than the hare to cross the finish line. People with A.D.D./A.D.H.D are the tortoise. The rest of society is the hare.
Stimulants do not work for this subtype. There haven’t been many studies to what medication or treatments would help those with Sluggish Cognitive Temperament.
Recently, my sister found some information on a process called Neurofeedback Therapy. This therapy is used to treat brain disorders such as Autism, Bipolar, ADD/ADHD and even Alzheimer’s. “The brain emits different types of waves, depending on whether we are in a focused state or day-dreaming,” explains Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D., chief scientist at the EEG Institute in Woodland Hills, California. “The goal of neurofeedback is to teach the patient to produce the brain-wave patterns associated with focus. The result: Some symptoms of ADHD — impulsivity, distractibility, and acting out — diminish.”
Pamela Michaels, free-lance writer and editor, explained in her article, Special Report: Beyond Meds, How the treatment is structured: “After a practitioner takes a detailed history of the patient, he maps the patient’s brain. The patient dons a cap lined with electrodes and sits with his eyes closed for several minutes. He is then asked to perform a complex cognitive task, such as reading aloud. The results are shown as a color-coded map on a computer screen, indicating areas of the brain where there is too much or too little brain-wave activity — the sources, theoretically, of the patient’s ADHD symptoms. This digital map enables a person’s brain activity to be compared with other brain-wave patterns stored in databases — and can help fine-tune a treatment plan by delineating sites for the electrodes.
“During treatment, the child wears the same headgear while sitting in front of a video screen. His goal: to move the characters in a computer or video game (goals vary, depending on the protocol the practitioner uses) by producing short bursts of sustained brain-wave activity in those areas of the brain thought to be under-aroused. The software generating the game monitors and records brain activity. Loss of focus will cause the game to stop. It plays only when the child exercises that portion of the brain that is deficient in focus.”
Although this type of therapy is expensive, most insurance companies cover the cost. Neurofeedback has been around since 1992. How successful is this treatment? In November 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics approved biofeedback and neurofeedback as a Level 1 or “best support” treatment option for children suffering from ADHD.
Although this type of treatment has been around for twenty years, Sadly not many of my doctors or therapists have heard of Neurofeedback Therapy. I do believe that most doctors either don’t believe that Neurofeedback therapy is successful or they simply don’t know about it.
What do I hope to get out of this alternative therapy? Well I would like to be able to process information and directions faster so I can accomplish tasks on time. Every few weeks I will blog about my experience and any changes I notice. Stay tune to see how well my ‘tune up’ goes.
-Mary R. Shine