Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Ghost In My Brain

This book is mesmerizing: The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get it Back,

I mentioned it a few weeks ago, as part of the post about Pete Thistle's Dad (Fix Dale's Brain).

A few days ago, I started reading it myself, and it's incredible.

Clark Elliott was a DePaul professor doing cutting-edge research in artificial intelligence. Then his car was rear-ended, he suffered a severe concussion, and for the next eight years his life was catastrophically difficult.

As a scientist, though, he took reams of notes about what was happening to him, so it turned into a rare opportunity to document, from a personal perspective, the function and dysfunction of the brain.

The way that he explains how the brain struggles to function after a TBI (traumatic brain injury) is one of the most fascinating things I've ever read.

Here's the short version, and believe me, the book is 1000X better than this. First, he explains that if we wrote down everything our brain knows in a 12 point font on regular paper, the paper would stack all the way to the moon (238,000 miles).

And back.

That's nearly half a million miles of stacked paper, full of everything that a single person knows.

Then he explains that how much someone knows isn't the amazing part. What's amazing is that we can access that information and pull information from that massive repository in less than a second.

After the concussion, Elliott's ability to access that information was overwhelmingly impaired. There were times when he could no longer understand the concept of "left" versus "right". He could be standing outside his car, with the key in his hand, knowing that the key had to go in the lock, but unable to understand how he could do that.

In one incident, it took him six hours to get home after giving a lecture--with a car, and only ten miles from his home.

You probably know someone who has struggled with post-concussion syndrome, or maybe your kids have sustained concussions while playing sports. This book will help you understand what's happening to them and why it's so difficult for them to explain it to you.

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