Info

social, health, political imagery through the lens of George J Huba PhD © 2012-2017

If you have not read the Introduction to this series of posts, it is important that you read it before this post. Click here for the Part 00 Introduction. This post is part of a series of more than a dozen posts.

I worked on understanding health and social service programs, especially for the disabled, poor, disenfranchised, and traditionally underserved as a program evaluator for about 25 years. I was very good at it and worked with hundreds of programs spread over most US states.

In writing about my activities to achieve stability in my dementia and maximize my quality of life, I am going to employ the tools of program evaluation to describe what I was trying to achieve, what I did to achieve my goals, why I did various activities, and which parts of my interventions seemed to help me the most. No, not in this post but in a series of more than a dozen posts.

In this post I will start by describing the activities I designed for myself and did throughout my period of diagnosed dementia over six years of living with the disease. In subsequent posts, especially Posts 02 and 03, I will discuss the outcomes of my activities. After that, I will address some of my activities — and especially those that “worked” extremely well for me — and describe them in depth, show how other individuals might use these methods, and how dementia caregiver and healthcare systems might be built around them.


The image below is a mind map. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.]
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. A mind map is a way of showing in an image how a set of data pieces or ideas go together.
  6. 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 to expand its size and zoom to various portions of the map.

 

As you can see, I tested app after app after app on my Mac and iPhone to see which could help me. I read all about how to mindmap and draw sketchnotes and I practiced and practiced. I learned to read “dog” and taught my Newfie to understand “people.” I doodled, watched the news, built a highly-rated social media following of more than 140,000 individuals interested in healthcare, dementia, visual thinking, and 100s of other topics from around the world. I went to concerts, watched movies, and cheered for the two local universities with huge sports programs. I engaged some new parts of my brain. I thought in pictures.

  • I HAD FUN.
  • I LEARNED MANY NEW THINGS THAT STRETCHED MY BRAIN INTO NEW CHANNELS.
  • I BUILT COGNITIVE RESERVE.
  • I THINK I PROVIDED NEW INFORMATION TO PERSONS WITH DEMENTIA AND COGNITIVE DECLINE, CAREGIVERS, HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS, AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC. I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THIS.
  • I HAD FUN.

Stay tuned, the interesting stuff starts next.

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 201o. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.]
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. A mind map is a way of showing in an image how a set of data pieces or ideas go together.
  6. 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.

In case you were wondering which topics might be selected for mind maps to help patients and their caregivers with cognitive disabilities or dementia …

Click the image to expand it.


And, yes you are correct, this is the same diagram as in the prior post with just the title changed from sketchnotes to mind maps.

I think that is the exact point I am trying to make.

Use what works.

 

I have come to the conclusion that the process of mind mapping forces a structure onto the brain that can help it deal with some of the problems of dementia. Mind mapping — at least for me — seems to force a structure for attempting organized thought that engages different (undamaged?) parts of the brain. I have no proof: there have been no brain wave studies of individuals while they are using visual thinking methods. My experience of five years has led me to believe that is why my mind mapping works. I await some formal studies which will reassure others if not me.

Click the image to expand it.

I often post about a trio of visual thinking methods that I use (I believe successfully) to deal with my own dementia.

Yes, this is one more post on the “trio topic.” This differs from the earlier posts in that it tries to use a commonsense and nontechnical language to explain how and why these methods seem to work.

Click the mind map to expand it.

Click here for my partner post on merging mind maps and sketchnotes. The post opens in a new window.

Buzan-style mind models are great (for me) in dealing with the cognitive issues of my dementia. Rohde-style sketchnotes are great (for me) in dealing with the cognitive issues of my dementia.

Q: What happens when we combine the strengths of both approaches? A: A little bit of magic.

This diagram was created in the superb program iMindMap Ver 10.

Click the image to expand it.

 

Mind Map in the Style of a Rohde Sketchnote

 

 

Mike Rohde’s seminal work on #sketchnotes is a brilliant contribution to the knowledge base on communicating and using visual thinking methods.

I have recently done much work on using mind map methods to assist those with typical aging, dementia, and cognitive planning for their futures which may include cognitive decline with age or after brain trauma.

Mike #Rohde and his disciples say to hand sketch when using his visual thinking model. I am moderately good at simple sketchnoting. See here for early posts on hand-drawn sketchnoting (with examples) for those with dementia (by someone — me — who has dementia).

But how might you use a computer program to generate a sketchnote? Here is an example prepared with the superb mind map program iMindMap of my guidelines about how to combine strengths of mind mapping and sketchnoting.

Of course, I prepared this as a computer-assisted sketchnote with iMindMap.

Within my application space of developing visual displays for those with typical aging or dementia or brain trauma or concerns about future cognitive decline as they age, I think the best applications of sketchnoting would be instructions for various methods and issues, historical records, and visual thinking for people who usually acquire new information through written or verbal media (conversations).

Click on the image to expand it.

More information on sketchnotes is found on the Sketchnote Army web site.

Data fly across the TV screen all day since I keep it tuned pretty much all of the time to cable news (with the exception of Star Trek Discovery, of course).

To all of the politicians (and Donald Trump is by far the worst), pseudo scientists, analysts for TV networks who know little about analysis, doctors pushing natural products not proven to be helpful, athletes and other endorsers, and lobbyists paid or pro-bono, I want to scream SHOW ME THE DATA. I would be willing to bet that only about 33% of all statistics cited on TV, especially by the President, have any data behind the speakers’ claims.

A lot of what is called Fake News or Junk Science may be intentionally lying or it might just reflect on a speaker who is too lazy to look up the actual data and facts before going on TV and spouting off. Either way, it is not acceptable.

Click on the image to expand it.

Show Me the Data

 

The types of visual thinking tools I use to help deal with my own cognitive deficits are mind mapping, sketch noting and doodling. All can be done manually with a pen or pencil and paper. Mind mapping greatly increases its assist by using a program such as my preferred choice iMindMap or alternatives XMIND, MindManager, or dozens of other programs. Sketch noting and doodling are typically done with a pen and paper or a tablet or smartphone and a drawing program.

Click on the mind model (mind map) to expand its size.

The best mind maps are stories.

  • How dementia is diagnosed.
  • Where you can receive experimental treatments for cancer.
  • History of immigration to the USA.
  • History of the United States Virgin Islands.
  • Strategies for re-building Puerto Rico after it was leveled by a hurricane.
  • What components should be in a comprehensive healthcare plan?
  • How Russia and American citizens conspire to launder money through US banks and businesses.
  • The size of food, water, and medicine problems in various geographical areas.
  • The story of how Edison stole credit for AC (alternating current electricity) from Tesla.
  • The location of abortion clinics in the United States and what each provides as general healthcare services to women whether seeking an abortion or not.
  • What you did on your summer vacation.
  • Recollections of people and places.
  • Your grocery list.
  • Recipes.
  • Family history.
  • Favorite music.
  • Your appointments for the week.

Click the following mind model to increase its size.

Well organized and visually compelling information can “turn on” many parts of the brain. Having information stored in multiple places in the brain is an excellent strategy for retaining functions should there be brain damage or disease.

Great “mind map” stories include many different elements to make them memorable, distinct, attention-grabbing, and engaging.

 

Before reading this post, consider reading my earlier post on the CODER algorithm for mind mapping by clicking HERE.

Click on images to expand them.

The CODER algorithm suggests developing mind maps that explicitly state information in order to …

C – Communicate

O – Organize

D – Decide

E – Explain

R – Report

The CODER algorithm specifically addresses deficits in abilities to communicate, organize, decide, explain, and report which are a significant part of dementia or cognitive impairment. I have been using the technique of mind mapping since 2010 to address issues in my own dementia, and I judge it to be extremely effective. Putting information into a visual thinking environment (VITHEN) so that it can all be seen provides a way to communicate with others, examine context, make decisions, explain ideas and conclusions to others, and report using the mind map itself.

As a note, I consider the iMindMap computer program (currently on Version 10) to be the best way to create and use mind maps or mind model (a term I created for advanced mind maps).

WHY I MIND MAP…

Since 2013 when first presented, my CODER algorithm has been one of the most accessed posts on www.Hubaisms.com. Recently it has been “rediscovered” and is now being accessed frequently.

So I decided that I should take a look at it and see if it needed to be upgraded. In fact, I discovered that my views were about the same on how to develop a meaningful and informative mind map. Consequently, I just made a few very small and largely inconsequential content changes to the map.

The map has been reformatted. The program in which this was originally drawn (iMindMap) has been enhanced significantly and annually since 2013.

The original mind map from 2013-2015 can be accessed HERE The original post includes textual material about the map.

Drum roll, please. Here is the 2017 revision. Click the image to expand it.

CODER Algorithm for Mind Mapping

 


rhondak-native-florida-folk-artist-83553

The USA currently has a huge shortage of GOOD leaders of all races, political parties, sexual orientations, national origins, religions, education levels, and gender.

Time to get rid of some BAD leaders sitting in positions where they can do a lot of damage be it to the social integration of all, equal treatment under the law, safety, human services, politics, economic trends, healthcare, financial services, international relations, or educational opportunities.

It is pretty easy to spot the BAD leaders. Here’s a mind map to help you do so. Click to expand the image.

 

 

Click here for Part 2 (in a new window) on the Fourth Characteristic of the “Bad” Leader.

And yes, bad leaders are everywhere!

If you cry for the future of the United States every time you watch television news, you might as well do something productive and go watch a classic movie. Here are a few suggestions.

Wag the Dog: The President did something hugely wrong. Let’s distract the public. Go to war. No war, no problem, have the consultant and a Hollywood producer invent one in Albania to run on TV. President has an all-time high in popularity after the President wins the war. Shoe manufacturers benefit from the fact millions of Americans throw their sneakers atop trees.

Doctor Strangelove: Let’s drop an atomic bomb. Whoo-hooo. A bunch of leaders will go into a bunker with more beautiful women than ugly old men and a plan for repopulating the world in 100 years. The bomber captain puts on his cowboy hat and rides the bomb down.

The Terminator: After the machine-led, world-wide Holocaust, a bad machine comes back and becomes a good machine. He’ll be back, certainly to host the show on which people get fired like White House staff.

The Dictator: A caricature of North Korea’s leader who wants to be seen as a kind and sensitive guy. Problem is his population is starving, a puppy almost buys off America’s most incompetent late night host but not completely, and the Dictator receives two unspeakable insults (he defecates and he loves to listen to Katy Perry songs while driving his tank). This a GREAT movie that has been ignored like the current situation in North Korea.

and one TV series … Game of Thrones: And you thought it was hard to deal with the US Congress, the United Nations, NATO, newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post, television reporters from MSNBC and CNN, Vladimir Putin, Morning Joe, and Jeff Bezos. And on Game of Thrones, you don’t need special codes to have the dragons scorch the earth.

 

  • 22 MILLION people lose healthcare insurance (final House Trumpcare Bill)
  • 23 MILLION people lose healthcare insurance (first Senate Trumpcare Bill “repeal and replace”)
  • 20 MILLION people lose healthcare insurance (second Senate Trumpcare Bill “repeal”)
  • 16 MILLION people lose healthcare insurance and premiums go up 20% immediately for those who must buy individual insurance  (proposed Senate Trumpcare Bill “skinny proposal” to be voted on today)
  • 7,000 honorable, competent, and patriotic enlisted men and women “fired” from the US uniformed services because they are transgendered; they will lose their employer provided life insurance
  • 1 Attorney General currently being viciously shamed in the media hourly by the President
  • 1 Vice President mirroring the President’s viciousness
  • 1 Secretary of State currently under attack from the President
  • 1 FBI Director fired
  • 1 Special Counsel likely to be fired
  • 100s of BILLIONS of $dollars possibly illegally transferred from Russia to individuals associated with Trump and the Trump campaign
  • 1 Country under cyber-attack by the Soviet Union (whoops, Russia) and whose President is acting as if the Soviet Union is America’s BFF rather than a “gas station with nukes”

Those numbers are numbing and scary.

Numbing Numbers

The numbers listed below could counteract those listed above.

  • 435 members of the US House of Representatives that could impeach a sitting president
  • 100 members of the US Senate who could convict a US President and Vice President and Cabinet Officers of “high crimes and misdemeanors.
  • 1 President who could resign at any time
  • 1 Vice President who could resign at any time

We see so many of these ridiculous numbers every day that the country seems to have become numb. That’s a very bad thing indeed.

1 3 5 7 9 2 4 6 8 8 8 9 000

 

July 15, 2017

Second US President Samuel Adams liked it. Third President Thomas Jefferson liked and expanded it. Why not our current Congress?

Well, it seems that Congress (and the 45th President) wants to withdraw funds for federally-supported healthcare insurance for 20,000 million or more currently insured people. Ironically, many of these Congress members like to cite Jefferson for the origin of their beliefs.

When the US Senate votes on that 9th secret draft of a healthcare plan, the shaking of the ground you feel is probably President Adams rolling over in his grave. His political adversary but lifelong friend President Jefferson will be joining him. Probably part of the rattling and creaking will be President Eisenhower — the first modern era president to strongly push for a national healthcare insurance plan for all Americans — and President Johnson who was able to push bills establishing Medicare and Medicaid through Congress.

 

 

 

Last week (June 14, 2017) I received an email from a close friend with a link to an article generated by the North Carolina station of the National Public Radio a month ago. Along with noting that the research process was not what it once was — specifically that I had received a description of a study carried out in India from a psychologist in Israel with a summary of a radio broadcast generated about five miles from my home.

The changes in how we think, process and access information, and communicate change dramatically annually (as well as monthly, weekly, daily even). But is everyone changing how they fit to match our modern world and its information use possibilities?

People of many different income, education, social, and other strata within Indian society took EEGs to study their alpha brain patterns. There were many differences between the way that their brains seemed to work as measured by EEG indicators that could potentially be explained by differences in exposure to different levels and kinds of technologies.

A summary of the work appears here and was written by the University of California, Berkeley, philosopher Alva Noe. Noe discusses how brain wave patterns may have changed as individuals are exposed to the dramatic new information access and processing annually. The original scientific research by Dhanya Parameshwaran and Tara C. Thiagarajan appears here. Noe notes that one of the “problems” in our current conceptions of neurocognitive science is that virtually all of the experimental results have been derived from “WEIRD” brains, that is individuals educated in current technologies within western, industrialized, rich democracies. The Indian results suggest that there are different patterns of “NORMAL” brain waves among individual from other backgrounds.

I find Noe’s ideas to be quite compelling.

Click to open the mind model (aka mind map).

Many criticize the Trump White House as disorganized. Trump Land is already using the following color coding scheme they seem to have developed; they should make it public so that the public can see how they treat their friends and not-friends.

Click the image to expand.

Teach them lots of math and data processing expertise without teaching them anything about the data issues in their applications.

Just like now.

No wonder data and data scientists have had little impact of importance in any area except selling books, audio tracks, videos, underwear, pens, pencils, Alexa, Siri, and groceries.

When we train data scientists properly, we might learn something of value in the big datasets of healthcare, wealth distribution, economics, political trends, and ice cream preferences.

Click the image to expand it.

 

There are many kinds of dementia, but in many types, one huge change is that you lose partially or fully the ability control your facial expression, body posture, and other physical movements that indicate to another person how you feel, how attentive you are, sudden joy, fear, and especially empathy.

Since my diagnosis of FTD (and several years before that), I have heard statements like these from strangers, friends, and family members. Many people think I am angry, disinterested, or not listening to them.

“You never smile.”

“We’re waiting for you not to frown so we can take the selfie.”

“You don’t care what I think, all you do is look at me with a smirk on your face.”

Well, most of the time I am happy and/or neutral although I am sometimes depressed to varying degrees. I am usually interested in what most people are saying. Sometimes I have to break into conversations multiple times to say that I am confused. That confusion is, for me, more likely to indicate that I cannot decode your words because I am losing language skills, not because I was not paying attention to you. I slouch a lot, I often walk looking directly down because I easily trip over over cracks in the pavement and that sometimes leads to falls (I am currently typing using my left thumb on the spacebar because I broke my right thumb in a fall a month ago).

You cannot judge how I am feeling physically or mentally by looking at me unless you are part of my core family and see me very often and sometimes not even then.

That sucks.

Much of how we feel about people is based on their nonverbal gestures and facial expressions. Somebody like me who can barely smile gives people the impression they don’t like what is being said or are annoyed or distracted.

Most people infer negative things from my posture and face and staring that are simply not true.

This is probably a huge factor in how miscommunications often occur among persons with dementia and those they interact with. Even people who interact with me regularly and know my medical problems often misinterpret me.

The following mind model shows some issues in communicating with persons with dementia and possibly misinterpreting what they are thinking and feeling because they look at you with unintended disinterest, never smile, and look distracted. People have often misinterpreted my attempt to smile as smirking.

And if you are a person with dementia, look at yourself in the mirror or in recent photographs and see if you can make some improvements in facial expressions and posture. And if not, when you talking to people, especially friends and family, remind them that you not in complete control of your facial expressions and that sometimes when you think you are smiling or even grinning, the other person just sees a blank face. You can also make a joke out of the situation.

Click on the mind model image below to expand it.

Have a good day.

A phrase you have heard thousands of times (especially if you have lived in California as I did for 30 years). If you have dementia you may groan or the statement may make you angry or you might make a pointed comment back.

Chill, Dudes and Dudettes.

OK, I get it (well actually have gotten it for a number of years since diagnosis). There may not be a 100% good day for you anymore if you have dementia. But how about a perfect (or even good) 20 minutes having coffee with a friend or an hour solving a puzzle with a grandchild or 100 minutes watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 complete with a refillable tub of popcorn. Yup, these periods of a good day may be followed by a period of frustration or not being able to remember something or difficulty doing a task of daily living.

Use the Force, Luke.

Good moments can be great moments if you let them be. They may last only for few minutes or an afternoon, but given that your brain is “sick” they are a huge gift and blessing. Focus on what is happening to you now, try to not let the bad upset you unduly, and try to enjoy every moment for every second possible.

You may master the Force. You may feel better. Is there a better use of your time?

Focus on what is, not what was.

Click the image of the mind model (mind map) to expand it.

When I try to more than I can, I often get myself into trouble. You should try to do as much as you can but never at the expense of your family, caregivers, friends, and healthcare providers. Elite athletes call this “staying within yourself” while I call it plain common sense. At any rate, your experience of dementia can be made much better by staying within your CURRENT limits, not those of prior times before you started cognitive decline.

Click the image to expand it.

Nothing in this blog post is intended as medical or psychological advice. Should you wish to understand the issues in cognitive training as they pertain to you, consult with your doctor, psychologist, or another licensed healthcare provider. I am neither suggesting that you use cognitive (brain) training or alternate methods of thinking although I have made such a choice for myself. The intent of this post is that you understand the issues with these methods should you be making a choice. 

In the past three decades, methods of cognitive training have been developed by many companies. Services are offered by online companies, individual healthcare professionals, and some psychological testing companies.

The developers-owners of cognitive training methods make many claims about how these methods can improve or maintain GENERAL cognitive (brain) functioning for typical adults, those starting cognitive decline, and those entering the faster decline of dementia.

In most cases, costs associated with receiving cognitive training — especially under the supervision of a licensed professional — can be quite high.

As the term is used, cognitive training consists of repeatedly taking cognitive tests developed usually in psychology research studies and typically presented on a computer. Look at a complex picture flashed on the screen rapidly and say where a selected object (thing, person) was shown on the screen. Look for sequences of numbers and letters. Ignore distracting stimuli when looking at the computer screen. In many cases, these tests look like “old time” computer games like Tetris.

These cognitive training procedures are supposed to make you better at thinking by training your brain in certain types of ways that then improve the ability to do a very general and large set of tasks in attention, judgment, planning, and other cognitive processes. It is assumed that learning to perform well ON THESE SPECIFIC TASKS will help you think better in a general way. Unfortunately, it appears after decades of studying cognitive training, it is found that the training on a test will help you get somewhat (and it is a small somewhat) better at taking THAT TEST ONLY and not in similar cognitive tasks more related to day-to-day activities. Yes, you might get better at identifying flashing letters when they appear on the screen, but there is little, if any, replicable evidence that becoming good at the test generalizes into being good at exercising attention in real world situations.

Just what you always think when you think about psychology. Psychologists study “dumb” tasks that look little like real world situations and then claim that getting good at those tasks will change your life. You usually laughed when you read this stuff in news outlet stories. Nonetheless, cognitive training continues to sell and expand and advertise. Money can be made selling cognitive training to individuals concerned with their current and future ability to think well and remember and maintain independence. Many claims are made that the methods work and the glossy, high-priced advertising is convincing, but the statistics are not. And yes, the companies that sell cognitive testing products claim that the training works if THEY conduct the experiments and evaluate their own products. However, ongoing INDEPENDENT RESEARCH suggests this is NOT the case.

Did you really expect the ethics of cognitive training companies to exceed those of pharmaceutical companies? The false claims to be less? Big money, big pressure to prove that these things work.

Independent psychologists who evaluate the effectiveness of programs and assertions of others do not find much if any, effect of cognitive training on improving general cognitive functioning, thinking, and performance in real-life situations faced by aging adults.

The most important INDEPENDENT EVALUATION appears in a journal of the Association for Psychological Science of which I am a Fellow. APS is one of the two major psychological associations in the USA and designation as a Fellow comes only after a thorough peer evaluation of competence.

Click here to see a short summary of the research that examines all of the research over several decades on cognitive training. The full report is 83 pages. I still understand most of the mumbo-jumbo in the full report. You will have to pay to purchase the full report if you are not a member of APS. My judgment is that the summary is very accurate in presenting the results of this research through what is called a meta-analysis and I doubt that most people need read more than the 1-page summary.

OK then, so cognitive training probably will not turn out to be the big fix for what ails your thinking as you age or you have a neurodegenerative (neurological) disease. Maybe improvements will be made in future decades but right now the effects appear to be tiny at best.

What’s the alternative?

I have argued for a number years that learning alternate ways of thinking and expanding the types of information your brain can effectively process can be very useful throughout your life. While learning such strategies in childhood is best, you can keep learning new ways to think up until the day you die and expect to get some significant return for your work.

What kinds of activities have been shown to increase brain function? Learning additional languages, studying a musical instrument, learning math, creating art or stories, and many others to which we all have access, typically with a minimum expense. These are real-world activities and many are a lot of fun.

As I progressed through cognitive decline and dementia I have come to believe that learning what are called visual thinking methods — arranging information into pictures that organize major ideas and show the “big picture” — can help you in many ways I have documented throughout this blog (Hubaisms.com). Of course, my findings are based only my own observations of myself and not on formal studies. I note, however, that sometimes observations are better sources of information than research studies, especially from individuals touting products they have invested millions of dollars in developing.

I think that the fuzzy research on cognitive training and the fact that mind mapping is seen as effective at most Fortune 500 corporations, many universities worldwide and by millions of users worldwide at this time suggests that learning alternate WAYS TO THINK probably is much more effective than cognitive training (akin to playing a 1980s computer game).

My suggestion is that if you are concerned that your ability to think will decline or you are already experiencing cognitive decline, you take some time (1-8 hours will help you evaluate this) and determine if visual thinking is useful for you. You can read my work on this blog or work created by Buzan when he popularized mind mapping in business and education or look at many other authors who write on this topic such as Nast. Major summaries and videos are available online. If you would like to see someone with dementia use mind mapping, you can click here to watch a number of short videos of my mind mapping process in a new window.

Alternate visual thinking methods that I find useful are SKETCHNOTES, doodles, cartoons, and graphs.

You can try mind maps, sketchnotes, doodles, cartoons, and graphics with a few pencils or pens you already own and a piece of paper (A4 or 8.5×11 in landscape mode).

Later you can buy computer apps to make the visual thinking look better if you want but you need not do so.

Look at the image below to show the way I think about the information in this post visually using a mind map.

If you want me to understand something or remember it, DRAW ME A PICTURE. I’m a lot smarter than you might think if you just talk to me. Oh, and you need not be artistic at all to use the techniques in visual thinking so don’t use the excuse that you have no “talent.”

Click on the image to expand it.

ObamaCare revised/enhanced?

Trump/RyanCare another draft not submitted to Congress?

Within the extant and mythical healthcare plans, additional dementia care services need to be included. Most are cost-neutral or may actually save money while providing better patient outcomes.

Case Management makes existing healthcare services (doctor visits, medications, emergency care) work better. At a very small cost that should actually SAVE money, case management can provide better total patient care, cut unnecessary emergency room visits, and achieve better medication outcomes. What isn’t there to like?

Dementia Caregivers are most often UNPAID, female family members forced to juggle their own jobs/finances, families, and general lives to care for a loved one. Support is required for Dementia Caregivers in the forms of training, support, advice, and FINANCIAL COMPENSATION for their services. They do the work, they should get paid for their time. An upgraded system of paid family caregivers should make DementiaCare more effective and reduce other costs in the healthcare system to such a degree that it will be cost-neutral. An unnecessary hospital stay or emergency room visit can cost as much as $10,000 — $20,000. A family caregiver could be paid for 500 hours at $20 per hour for $10,000. Train family caregivers, pay them, and you have a cost neutral system. What isn’t there to like?

Mental Health issues often lead to huge patient distress, anxiety, and medical management problems. They can frustrate caregivers and lead to nonadherence to medication recommendations. Therapy and counseling can help patients and caregivers as well as cutting overall medical costs. What isn’t there to like?

Group Adult Daycare can provide needed respite for family caregivers as well as important social and recreational experiences for patients, thus enhancing their lives and to some degree ability to function independently. What isn’t there to like?

The following mind model provides some details. Click the image to expand it.