We don’t normally associate creativity with brain disease, but a recent paper published in Brain suggests that maybe we should. When we think of someone affected by a serious brain disorder, we imagine deterioration and loss of function, but a surprising new study shows that some people may actually develop artistic talent as a result of their brain disorder, and that in turn, their art can tell us about the nature of their brain disorder.
Barbara Arrowsmith-Young life's work has been a quest to develop programs that use the principles of neuroplasticity to strengthen underlying cognitive functions in the brain that impact learning. Today she can assess, and has programs to strengthen, 19 cognitive areas of potential learning dysfunction. In her book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: Stories of Transformation from the Frontier of Brain Science, she chronicle's the brain’s ability to change. Through the practical application of the principles of neuroplasticity -- simply put the brain’s ability to change as the result of mental exercise -- we can change the brain’s capacity to learn and to function and this can happen throughout the lifespan.
Continued from Part 3. After the surgery we were hopeful, that with a few limitations on his left side, my nephew would have a fairly normal life. Unfortunately, this was not to be. The faulty electrical impulses that had caused his seizures had migrated to the left lobe and a few days after surgery the seizures returned. It was true that they were milder than they had been before; he no longer stopped breathing when he had them, so some good had definitely come out of his surgery experience. They weren’t gone, however, so he spent another month in the hospital as the doctors tried a staggering amount of drug cocktails on him trying to figure out the best combination for controlling his seizures. None of them worked perfectly, though, so even today at the age of seven, he still has multiple seizures a day.
Continued from Part 2. After we had been transferred to the large university hospital, the doctors decided to delve more deeply into the specifics of my nephew’s brain malformation. The MRIs had told us some things, but not everything, so they scheduled him for a Positron Emission Tomograph, commonly known as a PET-scan. A PET-scan uses radioactivity coupled with a biologically-active molecule and after injection, the biological molecule congregates in the area of interest, in our case, my nephew’s brain. The radioactivity attached to the biological molecule then starts letting its extra neutrons go in a process called decay. This decay, through a very complicated process, is read by the PET scanner and brain activity can be assessed. What this very comprehensive scan told the doctors and subsequently us was that the right side of my nephew’s brain couldn’t send electrical signals properly and this aberrant electrical activity was causing the seizures. Unfortunately, the only way to stop the activity was to take out whatever in the right hemisphere was giving the wonky signals, so my nephew, at the age of four months, was scheduled for brain surgery.
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