I have started to add this logo to many of my posts.
Here is what it means.
In 2010 I was diagnosed with a very rare neurodegenerative disease that also includes dementia. I have a mixture of symptoms of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Frontotemporal Dementia (many neurologists do not think that these are separate brain diseases). The dementia has features that are different from those of Alzheimer’s Disease in that general memory loss is not as much of an issue in PSP/FTD at the early stages but loss of executive functioning, personality change, social isolation, and other cognitive-personality-motor symptoms are more pronounced at the early stages (like all brain diseases, eventually all of the brain functions are severely affected, although the order of appearance of severe impairment in different brain functions differs among dementia-syndrome diseases). Over the years, my symptoms have shifted and now the working diagnosis is FTD with Parkinsonism or FTLD.
Given that most of the diseases that cause dementia have no cures or even a pharmaceutical means to slow the rate of disease progression (including mine), I concluded that I should use what I had learned in the 37 years since receiving my doctoral degree in psychology to try to employ behavioral-cognitive tools as a way of assisting me in dealing with the stages of disease and dementia. I tried 100s, if not a thousand, apps on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac to list to-do items (tasks), calendar, ring alarms when I should swallow pills, recall the names of long term friends and their children, remember what I had for lunch, and run a continuing social life in a university town with great restaurants and concerts and theater.
Forget the traditional To-Do Apps and Fancy Calendars and Alarms Apps going off in tandem on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Forget what people (especially developers) call “dementia assistance” apps.
For me, the one thing that worked was Buzan-style organic mind mapping which in its more general form is really a method of using visual objects (pictures, drawings, tree-like diagrams) to shift to critical visual thinking to retrain the brain to use techniques and areas of the frontotemporal lobe that are relatively unaffected by the brain disease.
I think mind mapping worked very well for me. It did not cure my brain disease (how could a technique of drawing pictures to enable better thinking change the anatomy of nerves and neurotransmitters?). I don’t think it slowed down the progression of my disease (again, how could a cognitive procedure affect how fast nerve cells become dysfunctional and die?). But I do know the mind mapping greatly improved my quality of life because it allowed me to think better, create more than 300 blog posts since 2011, obtain more than 85,000 followers (now up to 100,000 followers 8 months after writing this originally in April 2015) on Twitter, 350 friends on Facebook, more than 1,500 connections to other professionals on LinkedIn, have 750 individuals following my PinInterest boards, and hundreds of re-Scoops from my Scoop.it boards on neurology, mind mapping, and my quirky sense of humor. Oh, and I also WROTE a book about the the mind mapping techniques and how I used them and why I think these worked FOR ME.
I like to think of myself as a working, ongoing experiment in maximizing the value of neuroplasticity.
If you want to see about all of my work, ideas, experiments on myself, and conclusions about the efficacy of mind mapping in increasing my own quality of life during stages of increasing cognitive impairment and dementia, LOOK TO YOUR LEFT and click on one of the “book cover buttons” to order the ebook on the iBookstore (for Apple hardware) or the Amazon Kindle Store (for non-Apple hardware supported by a Kindle app). Read the book and you will know the why and how in a very integrated way that transcends this blog. After seeing the hundreds of images, you will also understand why this book could not be published in a paper format and why the materials all need to be presented together.
Ongoing work is posted on this blog and the work has gotten increasingly more complex in the past 12 months.
More importantly than any of the professional achievements that are more quantifiable mentioned above, I think that mind mapping helped me feel far less anxiety because I could still understand information at the level I had been trained, sparked my creativity, help me behave better in social situations by planning them in advance, and enhanced my ability to function in family and larger social networks. It is the positive effect of being able to better interact with my family for which I am the most grateful.
Here’s a few more thoughts in a mind map. Click it to expand the map. I am very glad I used mind mapping in the five years I have been coping with cognitive impairment and dementia. I did and still do enjoy a very high quality of a life I greatly enjoy.
Click on the image to expand it.
Oh, and one final note … You only get the full benefits of these techniques if you use Buzan-style organic mind maps. Those “maps” you have seen with thin lines, little color or curvature, and a half sentence on each branch, are not the “real deal” and do not produce the same good results as do the Buzan style organic mind mps.