Take care of what’s between your ears

intersectionsA genius is a talented person who has an exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.  It’s those who transcend boundaries such as those of the time and space continuum and provide solutions that extend into the future who we recognize as geniuses. However, if we pause to consider the definition we may recognize that there’s genius in all of us as humans are problem solvers and problem solving is genius. 

Einstein and Inspiration

The title and URL of this blog were inspired by a quote attributed to a genius, a German-born theoretical physicist called Albert Einstein.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” ― Albert Einstein

Click to read 35 Inspiring Quotes from Albert Einstein and click the image caption at the bottom of the infographic below to expand it.

Albert Einstein’s Brain

The TV Show Dark Matters ran a show some years ago now called “Stealing Einstein’s Brain,” which suggested that the brain was stolen after Einstein’s death.   That’s not entirely true. — The Strange And Tragic Story of Albert Einstein’s Brain

In June 1999 Sandra Witelson attracted global attention when she published “The exceptional brain of Albert Einstein” in the British medical journal Lancet. Einstein’s brain which was removed and preserved upon his death in 1955 at age 76, was found to be similar to the other brains except for the inferior parietal region. Due to extensive development of this region on both sides of the brain, Einstein’s brain was 15 per cent wider than the other brains studied. According to Witelson, visuospatial cognition, mathematical thought, and imagery of movement are strongly dependent on this region.

Witelson’s Brain Bank

Did you know that a collection of over 100 brains is kept at Witelson’s brain bank at  McMaster University in Canada?  While the other two dozen or so brain banks in the world are composed mostly of brains from people who died of various mental diseases like Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease, Witelson’s is unique in that most of her brains are from normal people who agreed to donate their brains before they died of diseases such as cancer.

Sandra Witelson on how male and female brains differ

Witelson’s brain bank was initiated as part of a study to find why language capacity is located in the left hemisphere of the majority of people.  Following a decade long study Witelson’s published findings demonstrated the packing density of neurons is 12 percent greater in the female brain than in the male brain in the region where the language capacity is located: the temporal lobe. A similar difference was found in the frontal lobes.

Sandra Witelson has spent much of her career studying the relationship between brain structure and function, and the differences in these between men and women. She sat down with The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Blumenstein to discuss how brain differences can affect the skills, behavior, thinking and aspirations of men and women, and how that might relate to their careers. — It’s Partly in Your Head

Despite rumors to the contrary, men and women are from the same planet but there are differences between the brains of men and women. –How Male and Female Brains Differ  Despite these differences, men and women perform equally at most tasks. So even though men may have bigger brains and women have more cells in some critical areas, neither can point to these facts as a measure of greater intelligence. In fact it’s important to remember that intelligence is the same between the sexes and the complementarity the differences have engendered has contributed to the success of our species.

TBI and PTSD Art Therapy Workshop

Rather than publishing new content, I’ve been slowly cleaning up this site, editing older posts and deleting some that achieved no popularity, while coping with two months of cluster migraines. I’m a moderately gifted person recovering from traumatic brain jury (TBI) and post traumatic shock disorder (PTSD)  symptoms and rest assured that I’m not feeling sorry for myself.  Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms come and go and I’m grateful that my symptoms are not much worse.

Symptoms of concussion may linger for months or years after injuries have healed. In post-concussion syndrome, a person may continue to experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and changes in mood, sleep, and memory. Repeated concussions may lead to permanent neurological damage.

People should also be aware of second impact syndrome. Second impact syndrome describes the situation in which an individual sustains a second concussion before the symptoms from the first have resolved. A second brain injury, or cumulative concussions, can be more dangerous than the first one.

At a private by invitation only creativity workshop I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of others recovering from a TBI and PTSD as well as those who all work with people who have suffered a TBI.

When one of the participants produced a series of very beautiful oil pastel depictions of the brain from several angles I found myself captivated by the structure of this marvelous organ we call the brain.  Though I had a vague understanding of the major parts of the brain I wasn’t clear on where the major parts were located, what they are responsible for and what may happen when these locations are injured.

There have always been women geniuses but it’s male geniuses that we read and hear more about, and without doubt history and culture account for that reality. After we laughed out loud at the typical stereotypes such as Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus when another recovering TBI  participant asked some questions, we entered a deep discussion of the differences in female and male brains.

The information imparted through informal conversation during our art therapy workshop was extensive and broadened my understanding of my  TBI recovery and my acceptance of the symptoms that remain.

Although each individual is unique, the sequels resulting from a brain injury often have similarities. Some of the sequels can include difficulty with memory loss, impaired reasoning skills, and tendency toward “one track thinking.” — What is Brain Injury?

Brainstreams.ca online resource hub presents: The Human Brain

Vancouver Film School Digital Design students teamed up with the Brainstreams.ca team in the Spring to put together this one-minute video outlining the key facts and risks associated with brain injury in Canada.

According to a small new study reported in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 20 minutes of could help your brain function better. Researchers found that both speed-wise and accuracy-wise, after just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga exercise that dates back to the 15th century, people did better on brain functioning tests when compared with aerobic exercise.

Saying Farewell

The camaraderie at the workshop led to bonding. I left with a number of new friends, a stack of artwork and much more. I have a deep appreciation of how fortunate I am. Although there are many visual problems that arise from traumatic brain injury – field loss, intractable double vision, and visual/balance disorders are more devastating and impairing than the rest. In comparison my difficulties are minor.

During our informal chatting at the workshop, while drawing, painting, making collages, paper crafting – laughing, singing and hugging – I stopped to take notes from time to time as one of my symptoms is memory loss.

Since April I’ve also been visiting various brain focused sites online to deepen my knowledge of how the healthy brain operates and how the injured brain recovers. Today I’m migraine free (day 4) and summarizing just a little of what I learned because writing leads to memory preservation. The realization that everyone needs to be aware what’s between their ears and how to take care of it has motivated me to publish “Take care of what’s between your ears”.

Related post found in this blog:
Is the Brain on your Mind?
Falling, falling, falling
Battered and Bruised

31 thoughts on “Take care of what’s between your ears

  1. Pingback: Brain-based Symptoms Mandate Brain-based Training | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Whatever motivated you to publish “Take care of what’s between your ears” I am glad you did. Who would have known? You freely do so much for so many so fast, accurately and cheerfully. Not to mention other crafts and interests that demand a fair share of your time plus gardening, art, meditation, etc. You claim to be only moderately gifted but with so much talent and natural ability there is no doubt that you are a genius gifted person. Amazing.

    • What I wanted to express is that it’s been 5 years since my last concussion and I’m doing well.
      Of the 1.7 million who sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year in the United States:
      52,000 die;
      275,000 are hospitalized; and
      1.365 million are treated and released from an emergency department.
      The number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency department or who receive no care is unknown.

      50,000 Canadians sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI) each year, and incidence rates are rising.
      TBI is the leading killer and disabler of Canadians under the age of 40.
      More than 11,000 Canadians die each year as a result of TBI.
      Automobile accidents account for more than 50 per cent of all TBI.

      Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability globally. TBI is more common than breast cancer, spinal cord injury, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis (MS) combined.

      Thanks for your kind words. I think were are all equipped with some of the characteristics of genius.

  3. Glad to hear the headache is remitting…just thru a four-day headache run myself. I am pleased that I could focus on being grateful that the headache clusters come months apart instead of days or weeks apart as in the past. Like you, when I consider the possible impacts of my TBI, I am grateful to be in the shape I’m in. My brain doesn’t process as anywhere as quickly as before the injury, and short-term memory is full of holes, but I’ve figured out how to cope with that.

    Your art therapy workshop sounds so healing and exciting. And I love the Einstein quote. i wonder if all genius points to Buddhism and compassion as the path to follow in this life.

    • Hi there,
      Aha! So we share TBI in common. Granted I’ll never be the same but I was glad to know my IQ had not been compromised. My mind still works at warp speed but I can’t communicate at that speed any more and perhaps that’s a blessing. At first it was a frustration but not any longer. Much of human communication is superfluous. My body language, facial expressions and gestures are very clear and I wear my emotions on my sleeve as the say. Frankly I find chatter aimed at filling the silence to be off-putting. Companionable silence is okay with me. I have short term memory holes too and I am now a note taker. I have more pronounced dyslexia now; before it was barely detectable. I’m so very grateful that months pass before migraines happen again. Maybe one day the months will stretch into a year without them. Who knows?

      IMHO selflessness and compassion are the only path worth following and that’s coming from someone who wasn’t particularity compassionate in my younger years. That’s not surprising because I didn’t love myself then like I do now and until I was able to do that I didn’t have as much to extend to others.

      Thanks so much for sharing your TBI experience here.

      Love and peace be with you always.

  4. A wonderful post, titi, so informative and uplifting. You’ve had to face such difficulties, but always with such a lively and indomitable spirit. I’m glad you’re finally getting some relief from your headaches. I know summer is usually a happy time for you, spending time and playing with children at the beach. You described yourself as “a moderately gifted person,” and that’s the only objection I have to your post. Don’t underestimate yourself; you are absolutely brilliant. Have a marvelous summer!

    • Dear NP,
      My beach days are about to begin this coming weekend. I cannot wait for the shift into summer and all the happiness it brings. I love being with my friends and hanging out with the kids. We have such simple and delightful adventures together and the memories we make take me through the rest of the year.

      Thanks so much for considering me to be brilliant, despite the fact that I don’t think it’s true. I think you have an extraordinarily insightful and beautiful mind. I think Chris has an outstanding intellect and sensitivity as well and I do miss the discussions we had but BC is just not the place for me.

      Love always

  5. There’s a lot to digest here, and points that are familiar – TBI’s – I worked in NY to ensure that agencies providing help to people who had TBI’s and few resources were given good treatment – Art Therapy – I’m thrilled to hear you had such a good experience. A very good friend of mine has been an Art Therapist for many years. And migraines, groan. Yes, I hope that’s past! I love that the oil pastels of the brain led you to think about it differently. And last, there is so much ignorance about brain injury – so I’m glad you are communicating your experience and adding an educational piece!

    • Hi there,
      Good for you! I’m so happy to know there are people like you out there who comprehend the needs of TBI sufferers and aim to help us. It’s such a long road back and most of us don’t make it back to where we once were. As we heal we have to assess what we have now and move forward without clinging to how we once were and what’s gone. This wasn’t my first art therapy experience and unlike most of us I’m a person who has made my living from art. The oil pastel depictions of the parts of the brain were amazing. The softness and shading of the medium mesmerized me. As the words about structure and function were spoken my eyes were locked on the visuals. I made a few notes but mostly I soaked in what was said and learned so much. I felt so full and so happy to be where I was and with everyone who was there. It was a perfect 5 year graduation, a milestone I won’t forget.

  6. Fascinating. Einstein was very special, practising compassion and remaining so humble even though his use of his gifts was astounding. He is such a fountain of wisdom. A bright light in a naughty world! Glad you are so positive after having such challenges to contend with. Love , Anne

    • Hello Anne,
      Einstein was amazing but as I said in my introduction we are all amazing and more amazing still is the resilience of the injured brain. I was humbled by my experience. Of all those who suffered head injuries as severe as mine was 5 years ago my healing has been the most extensive. On the first day at the three hour mark I found myself in the washroom weeping – weeping because I was so fortunate — weeping because I had previously felt sorry myself. I washed my face and dried it and took a long look in the mirror and then I committed to being a bright light that glowed with gratitude. No doubt I’ll backslide a little from time to time but my five year grad was a game changer for me.

      Love and peace always

  7. Wow,TiTi. I was not aware of your concussion injuries. Yes, if you can still do art, etc., you are very lucky.

  8. It’s good to hear that you are well again and also that you haven’t suffered as much as others from your traumas. Where would I be without your wise and helpful advice via the forums? I found from personal experience that no matter how bad things are there is always someone else who has something worse. Take care!

    • At the workshop I came to appreciate how very fortunate I am about 3 hours into day 1. That’s when I became keenly aware that others have suffered and are suffering more than I endured and continue to cope with. I am a type of head injury success story and I became conscious of that. I was so conscious of it that I felt my compassion grow and rise. By the evening of day 1 I was on the path of being a bright light in the confused darkness and despair that the newly injured were in.

      I have had multiple head injuries as a child, teen and later as an adult in car accidents and some occurred before I had healed from the one that went before. The last concussion I suffered in 2008 which was originally diagnosed as moderate was actually severe. The original symptoms of my concussion related injuries included blurry vision, foggy thinking, short attention span, inability to focus long on tasks, migraine headaches, irritability and short term memory loss. My neck vertebrae were dislocated but via physio were back in place and the muscle tearing in my neck and legs healed very well within 3 months time. By 22 – 24 months after the event the maximum degree of healing from concussive shock I would achieve had been reached.

      Five years later a few symptoms still haunt me and make it a challenge to research and write from time to time. My optical nerve to my left eye was damaged and will remain in that state so I’m prone to eye strain. However, these symptoms don’t occur frequently and I do take care of myself as best as I can.

      Thanks so much for your well wishes.

      • Well it all sounds dreadful to me. How fortunate that you have recovered as well as you have and that you must have had remarkable health care providers. I know from personal experience that is so important to recovery. Best wishes to you!

        • Oh dear. I sounded too preachy and sombre. What I want to express is that it’s been 5 years since my last concussion and I’m doing well. I have tonnes to be grateful for and I apologize for not conveying that.

        • I didn’t think you were too sombre, after all those are the facts. I think your post really showed how grateful you are and how seeing others puts things into perspective. Even though, I once said to someone that there were many people who were much worse off than I was and their response was, “Don’t diminish your experiences.” Everyone has their own dramas, but some are much worse than others. I hope your last concussion was really the last…stay safe.

      • Thanks for sharing! It explains some of your earlier posts where you’d commented on needing to take care of your health (i.e., needing a break). It’s unfortunate, but as with any chronic health problem, it is what it is and has to be coped with, willing and otherwise. Kudos for continuing to work on it.

        • Of course I’d like to be physically healthy but I love me in the condition I’m in no matter what condition that is. On one hand, I have multiple health issues. On the other, I have knowledge, skills and talents. Most of all I have people who love and care for me as much as I love and care for them. I am fortunate and grateful for all that I have and this workshop strengthened my will to enjoy every precious minute of my life.

      • Thanks for commenting again. I’m glad to know the gratitude I was trying to convey was evident. I was worried that it wasn’t. The reminder not to diminish our experiences is a wise one as well. Thanks for sharing it. I too hope I never experience another concussion.

  9. I had never read that Einstein quote before, and I am grateful you shared it. There is such deep truth, deep spirituality there. I wish you well with your health and your journey~

    • It’s such a wise quote that encourages me when I read it. Thank you so much for the visit and for your well wishes too. I’ve had 4 headache free days now and I’m feeling much better.

      P.S. Do click into read the Einstein quote collection Sandra compiled. It’s a favorite of mine.

  10. The brain is unbelievable, isn’t it? Because of Flower Child’s issues, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the brain and how it works. I’m glad you were able to participate in the workshop, and yes, we all need to take care. :)

    • The brain is truly fascinating. The workshop was a special to learn much more than I could ever recount in an article about the structure and functions. I’m so grateful I was invited to attend it as I benefited so much from learning and expressing and sharing there.

    • Thanks so much David. I’m feeling much better now and I have some insight into what may have triggered the cluster migraines. May and June are the busiest time of the year for us. Though one can never be sure that they truly know the cause of migraines one can act to reduce the likelihood of triggering one or a cluster of them.

  11. I’m sorry to hear about your cluster headaches. I hope you feel better soon. Since I’m also recovering from traumatic stress, I’m always eager to learn more about how the brain functions. Thanks for this detailed article and all the links. You might like Debbie Hampton’s site: http://thebestbrainpossible.com/

    Much love to you!

    • Dear Sandra,
      I’ve passed through that stage now — I think. May and June are back to back meeting and conference months. Because July and August are summer holiday months everyone tries to cram as much as possible into May and June. Thanks so much for reminding me of Debbie’s site. I’ll be visiting it.

      Love and peace always

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