Blog: Path of my Life
by Karlin

Chronic Pain and Learning Disabilities - related??

The book "The Brain that Changes Itself" gave me an idea about chronic pain conditions

Date:   9/9/2007 1:32:15 PM   ( 14 y ) ... viewed 1664 times

The Book titled " The Brain That Changes Itself " was published just recently, in 2007. Dr. David Doidge writes about how the brain is more changeable than ever thought so before, called plasticity. Neuroscience has a new branch - neuroplasticity.

In it, he describes how learning disorders are sometimes that result of the brain's "processing capacity" that is easily overloaded for these people. The ones that apply to me are:
* People with this problem will skip forward when reading, or be easily distracted.
* Their handwriting is jerky and they prefer to print because printing requires only small separate movements whereas cursive writing is flowing - printing is less demanding on an overloaded brain.
* Lyrics to songs are not understood easily due to the multi-tasking required, to filter out the words when sounds are present. This is especially important to me because I had a career in music, although I was an instrumentalist [principally saxophone]. I would allways get a laugh when trying to sing because I would change the lyrics that were obvious to others, and maybe that is why I did not have the confidence to sing professionally.
*Similiarily, background noises common to our world are a bigger problem for these people - fridges running, computer fans, traffic noises etc are very distracting for people with this deficiency. I often turn down the fridge that is in my small apartment ; I make more than the usual amount of dog barking complaints, and this computer noise - that I am hearing right now - means I do only short stints at a time and I find it tiring.
*I am not able to know for sure, but speaking in a fluid manner is a problem too. For sure, it is difficult for me to say what I intend to, and even when writing it out I have to redo it because I am easily distracted and might wander off into unrelated areas.
* Socially, picking up on non-verbal cues is important, and a deficiency, says Dr. Doidge, can lead to personality disorders and social conflicts. Although generally successful with some of my students who went on to get music degrees, I stopped teaching music because some parents of some of my music students have suggested that I have 'personality conflicts' with their children ; I have had a preliminary diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. I live alone, and my marriage failed.

It gives me hope to learn this, there are special exersizes that were developed in accordance with these discoveries. A computer program called "Fast ForWord" is helping learning disabled kids and adults alike. Improving my handwriting might bring career possibilities, and it is a matter of pride for me - I feel like a child when I have to print to make it legible. Being able to read faster and comprehend better would be wonderfull.

Most importantly to me, I made a connection when reading this book to my chronic pain condition. This also gave me a huge burst of happiness and hope. The book failed to raise the topic of chronic pain, although Dr. Doidge did write about phantom pain and using the "mirror box" to trick the brain into believing the missing limb was there and it could be unclenched - the major complaint of amputees.

The book describes how the brain is where pain exists, not the body or legs or muscles. Interestingly, the brain has no pain receptors itself. When a muscle is overused, the brain protects it from further damage by making it cramp up ; when we bang our shin we will bring it behind the other leg or put our hands over it - this is the mechanism called "GAURDING" - a brain function.

I thought that it is possible that my chronic pain condition comes from gaurding WAY TOO EARLY!! Also, where I have old injuries and surgeries, a mild touch will bring on severe pain. The mechanism that determines when gaurding will occur is called GATING. Just like the learning disability is from the "processing capacity that is easily overloaded", is it possible that for chronic pain people we have easily overloaded gating, and gaurding?

Plasticity is the concept that is overthrowing the old notion that the brain is set for life once childhood is over, and so even adults can change almost any brain function with the proper help. This is very important to me, as it could mean there is hope to re-train my brain to be less easily overloaded where pain is occuring. Millions of other people could be helped too!!

The exersizes for learning disabilities involves tracing complex lines, maybe with one eye covered, and that will stimulate motor neurons in the weak pre-motor cortex areas that are responsible for concentration. Perhaps a neuroscientist will find a way to make my gating and gaurding mechanisms less eager to act. Pain exists only in the brain, after all.

The book did not mention morphine therapy either, but I have found that my handwriting improves significantly - actual cursive writing, not just printing - when I take a sufficient dose. I first discovered this in the Red Deer hospital when I was there for observation for my chronic pains. That was the first time I ever tried morphine, and in that first hour I wrote a letter to my doctor and it was such nice writing that explained how morphine was helping me not only with the pain but in unexpected ways. It seems obvious that morphine slowed down my 'overly-eager' pre-motor cortex to allow the smooth cursive writing ; similiarly, it quelled the pains by slowing down whatever areas are responsible for the gating and gaurding mechanisms.

That hospital experience was in about 1990, over 17 years ago. All this time I have gotten very little commisuration about my pain, mostly the reactions are to deny I am in pain, and they often believe my morphine use is all about drug-seeking. Even as late as 2004 I had a doctor tell me to my face that I was faking pain - while I was IN pain!!

A dependable diagnosis would give me my credibility back, something I cherish so much. Even my family is 'not too sure' what to believe, and that causes me no end of grief on a practical and emotional level. I forgive them since the medical side has denied me too, but it would be wonderfull to be vindicated. It goes all the way back to school days, when I was berated for being lazy when I did not get good grades, and then declared to be stubborn when extra help with writing exersizes were not helpfull and I became frustrated.


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