In 2010 I was diagnosed with neurodegenerative brain disease with the initial diagnosis being supranuclear palsy which was later amended to the highly related frontotemporal dementia, behavioral type. Some believe that PSP and FTD are variants of the same disease.
I started to examine Mac and iPhone/iPad apps that might be useful early in 2010. After I retired in 2011 I started to use a number of the apps for such things as calendars, task lists, alarms, reminders, and other business-like functions. The business-like apps failed to motivate me to use them continuously nor could they address executive functioning problems that were at the core of my disease. As early as late 2011 I had concluded that mind maps and other visual thinking methods could be very helpful.
As I read about every mind map book around by dozens of authors and bloggers, including the majority of those written by Tony Buzan who makes the claim he is the “inventor” of mind mapping (it is a silly claim no matter who makes it), I rapidly discovered that virtually all visual thinking work focuses on lucrative management consulting that few who use it have strong background in substantive areas like medicine, healthcare, psychology, and related disciplines. What little work exists in mind mapping and other visual techniques within the health and medicine areas indicates a total lack of understanding of visual thinking and is generally painful to read.
I wasn’t scared off by the fact that there was no clear guide to what a person with cognitive impairment and later dementia could do with visual thinking procedures and computer apps to try to improve the ability to cope with dementia. I had, after all, spent 35 years of a successful career as a (nonclinical) psychologist and much of my career had focused on developing new applications of psychological knowledge to addressing medical, psychological and social disorders. And much of the 35 years were spent studying the service care system for those who were least connected with society and traditional healthcare.
I am writing a series of posts (currently more than a dozen) evaluating my experiences during the last six years with a progressive brain disease. Each will focus on a specific test of methods and outcomes I think were achieved.
My studies are one-subject research (often called N=1). I will present results that I believe can be inferred from specific indicators. However, what I discuss is DERIVED FROM MY EXPERIENCE AND MY INTERPRETATIONS OF THE OUTCOMES OF WHAT I DID. I do not claim that any of what I write about is applicable to all people or that what I did should be considered to prove anything as opposed to simply observing it in myself validly or not. And, I see no evidence that the outcomes from what I did have done suggest I found anything to treat or cure or slow the progression of dementia: I never expected them to do so. What I do believe that I have demonstrated for myself is that these methods have helped me maintain a much higher quality of life. Not more days in my life, but many more good days while having dementia. I feel blessed to have received those extra good days.
Most of my “writing” is in pictures. That’s the point of visual thinking.
The following mind map is a general introduction to my work over the past six years. I call it Part 00. Starting with Part 01, I am going to start to present both observations and objective indicators of what happened for me.
Should you not be familiar with how a mind map is drawn and read, please search this website for posts on mind mapping using the search box. Or, go to the home page by clicking here and look at the list of pre-defined searches.
A very simple set of rules for reading a mind map is as follows.
- Start at the center of the diagram. Each of the topics (ideas or major branches) that come out of the center represents an issue. Important information about the main issues is given as a series of branches. The organization is in an outline or tree where large branches divide into smaller branches and smaller branches divide into even smaller branches.
- Think of the map as a clock face and start at the 1 o’clock position (upper right corner). Read outward from the center along the branches and sub-branches to see how ideas and information about the topics can be arranged in a hierarchical or tree structure. [If you could go up a huge fire truck ladder and look straight down, you would see a structure of tree branches that looks like a mind map. When we study or read a mind map, we are looking at a whole tree — set of information — and then seeing how small and more specific information spreads from the trunk.]
- Go around the map in a counter-clockwise manner (to 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, etc.), following the branches down to their branches and their branches and finally to twigs. Remember that we are looking down at a whole idea [or tree] and its branches and their branches in order to understand how the information represented on these branches goes together and what the most important information is.
- The mind map is thus a picture of major ideas followed by its major subdivisions or branches and sub-branches. The “big ideas” are attached directly to the central issue.
- A mind map is a way of showing in an image how a set of data pieces or ideas go together.
- The pictures, color coding, and fonts are used to designate what is the most important information in the mind map. When you are trying to remember or organize or determine priorities, the pictures, color coding, and size of the fonts can help you store information in “visual” parts of the brain and then retrieve it by thinking about pictures, the color coding, or size-importance of the information.
Click on the mind map below to expand it and let’s start the process of understanding of what visual thinking methods help me to do.