Thursday, 19 February 2015

A personal perspective on brain training apps.

I saw a neurosurgeon for a second opinion today. I took a neuropsychological friend along with me, which was great, because she was able to take notes and discuss what happened with me afterwards. My scans on February 17th were almost identical to those taken on January 2nd, prior to my surgery on January 6th. It's possible the tumour was removed and has regrown. His advice was to remove it with a right temporal lobectomy. I'm feeling relieved and comfortable with that, as I intend to live for many more years so that I can keep learning about neuropsychology and sharing my knowledge, thoughts, and experiences with others. As well as being around for my children as they continue to grow up.

My friend and I  also had a very animated discussion in the waiting room about the benefits of brain training  programs. I could sense the other patients and companions taking an interest in our discussion. I showed her some games on Luminosity, and told her I thought they had poor ecological validity, were frustrating when I can't improve with repeated practice, although they may provide people like me with a baseline and ability to track deterioration over time. I told her how joyful I felt when I was able to complete a crossword puzzle recently, and how i'd prefer to spend my time with friends, either in person, or talking on the telephone, or doing crosswords, or writing, rather than playing games derived from neuropsychological research. These games are intended to measure cognitive function, they're not intended to be fun, and many of them aren't. Some of the Luminosity games are fun initially (like penguin pursuit, pet detective, the barista game, and other tests of flexibility and problem solving), but I find them discouraging when I can't improve, even with repeated practice. My friend reassured me that cognitive training works for working memory function, which I believe (think of all the evidence that learning musical instruments improves attention, memory, and other aspects of cognition in children and adults). She reminded me that brain training probably isn't right for me at the moment, given my recent brain surgery

 Using Luminosity for a few weeks means that I now understand exactly what patients mean when they say our tests are meaningless to them. I usually used to reply that the tests were normed on healthy people of different ages and backgrounds, so that they allow us to tell if a person is performing as would be expected for their age, education, gender, and ethnic background. It doesn't matter how interesting the tests are to the clients, though I empathise with patients who dislike the tests, because it must be hard to give one's best effort when a test is irritating and seems pointless and unrelated to the concern that has brought you to see the psychologist. 

Must sleep now, I have a busy day tomorrow, and surgery is scheduled for February 28th. I might have time to look at Norman Doige's new book on how the brain heals itself before then. However, I'd rather keep myself fit and healthy, and write as much as I can before I have surgery again.


  1. well this was pretty helpful I'm learning at the moment about neuropsychology and this information was spot on needed by me I'm taking many advises and suggestion from Doctors like Dr.Padmaja Aradhya she's neurologist in Long Island

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