Visuals from my Cognitive Testing

CogAll

I’ve had time to look at the materials from my cognitive testing a little bit more and these pictures are my favorite thing. They are from a test called the Rey–Osterrieth complex figure test (ROCF) which is often used in assessing people with neurological issues. First I was asked to copy a complex geometric picture and after a certain period of time I was given a new colored marker. This allows us to see the order in which I drew the figure. This is the top picture. Second, the original graphic was taken away and I was asked to draw it again from memory. That is the middle picture. Finally, after some period of delay, I was asked to draw it again from memory. The pictures were then scored based on how many of the original components I was able to reproduce.

I have since Googled this test and have seen many other examples of other people’s drawings and I just find it so interesting. I can see into how my brain works a little bit. For instance, because of my visual deficit on the left, all of my drawings start on the right and work their way to the left. Each drawing gets less detailed, obviously, but more so on the left where I simply have no idea. Also, I take much longer as you move down, demonstrated by the fewer colors in the markers.  One of the things I’ve noticed and this confirms is that I have trouble with big picture processing. Whereas in other people’s examples, there are full drawings that start with the overall shape, mine all focused on the details on the right side first. Obviously this is a hard task even for someone with no brain trauma. Nobody would do this perfectly. It’s the insight into how my brain now does thing, how visual information is processed and organized, that I am excited to have some actual data about.

I like these so much I hung them up in my living room so I can enjoy them all the time. 🙂

Visual examples of my visual world

I recently learned the name for my visual deficit – left homonymous hemianopsia. I have always had difficulty describing what I’m experiencing. Now I can share some visual examples. Remember that none of the black or grey areas are visible…it’s just the smaller field of visibility that I see. The first photo is a good representation of the field cut. The second series shows the out of focus left half that the brain is trying to fill in. That’s what happens to the left side of people’s faces for me!

Finally the link is a video of someone walking around with this condition, though on the right instead of the left. You can see how disconcerting it can be to be aware of missing so much.

I do have some upper left vision but none of my lower left vision currently. So my field is somewhat better than in these examples.

Thoughts for the newly diagnosed

I have been thinking about one thing I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now. I wish I would have looked at a support group as an additional information source. I didn’t start going to one until 6 months into my treatment. I could have learned so much about what I was about to go through by just listening to other people’s experiences much earlier. I could have heard questions and topics I wasn’t even familiar with. I might have been prepared for insurance denying me treatment. I might have better understood the effects of steroids. I only looked at a support group from the emotional support aspect and I didn’t feel I needed that. My perspective shifted when new people came into our Cancer Support group early on and I felt like I had useful information to pass along. So my suggestion is to find a support group right away…for survivors, for caregivers, for anyone related to your situation. You don’t even have to talk. You will absolutely learn things that can help you navigate what is to come.

Training my brain

I recently had a cognitive evaluation to understand how my brain is actually doing after surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. The results were in line with what I’ve been experiencing, so it’s nice to have validation. Now I can focus on doing things that will target my impaired areas. I’ve actually been pretty spot on with my previous suggestions of playing piano, learning braille, and my paint by sticker books (in terms of them being good exercises for my brain). I will be adding each of these to my daily activities to the extent I can. I also have known that I need to challenge my brain with new things – and my neuropsychologist also suggested some things that I clearly will not be good at, such as playing catch or tennis. I’m going to take this guidance as a challenge to have adventures, to actively try things that I wouldn’t have because I’m scared or am convinced I won’t enjoy or I’ll be terrible at. As long as it is something safe (Dodge Ball is probably out), then why not?  When my gut reaction is no, I’ll stop and rethink. (It’ll be like Jim Carrey in “Yes Man” when he just says yes to everything). I need to work on hand-eye coordination, so maybe I’ll add juggling into my activities! That will be hilarious. A dance class? Also would be hilarious.  There will probably be many frustrations along the way, but there’s no reason not to add a little adventure to my recovery! Suggestions are welcome!