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 DhanyaParameshwaran 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.
Aaahh … “hard science double-blind” research designs.
How do you apply such a design to determine if visual thinking-art therapy-visual cognitive remapping strategies help those who live with cognitive impairment? Do you put a paper bag over the head of the patient and over the head of the healthcare provider-art therapist-social worker? Or blind them.
I don’t think so. Even scientists who bow to the Science God (often noting the relationship to Thor) are not that dum or stoopid. Scientists willing to accept “softer” data and designs like clinical observations, case studies, interviews, and knowledgeable peer judgments are willing to accept the relationship found for some people showing mind mapping is an effective (and cost-effective) way of making some situations less stressful and more productive and life quality enhancing for those living with cognitive impairment.
However, try searching the scientific literature with Google or PubMed for studies of mind mapping and cognitive impairment-dementia. Not a lot of “hard science” results to be found. I see this not as a failure of the efficacy of the method of mind mapping but rather the fact that the brick walls of hard science are not broken down by the sound of trumpets or the roar of a lion. There is a missing link and probably many studies that indirectly demonstrate that mind mapping works well with cognitively impaired patients but are not labeled as such.
Last week I read what I judge to be a highly credible and careful study by two neurologists and an art therapist that was published in April 2014. I think they found the missing link and data supporting it, although they did not call the intervention technique mind mapping for those with cognitive impairment. Instead they called the intervention-life skill to be ART THERAPY for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
There is a LOT of literature showing that Art Therapy increases social interactions, understanding, motivation, enjoyment of life, associations, and perhaps memory among those living with dementia, and even for those in the latter stages of the disease.
What is Art Therapy? Applying color, form, creative ideas, social interactions (with a teacher and other participants) and positive psychological states to try to understand the world better and communicate the perceptions of the artist.
What is ORGANIC (Buzan-style) mind mapping? Applying color, forms, creative ideas, interactions, and positive psychological states PLUS radiant, hierarchical, and nonlinear organization to try to understand the world better and communicate the perceptions of the artist.
Is this conceptualization of mind mapping with and by the cognitively impaired as an enhanced formulation of ART THERAPY (conducted by a professional, family or friends, caregivers, the patient her- or himself) to help individuals use visual thinking strategies to navigate their world a break through one? I think it is the scientific missing link and we can bootstrap from the findings that Art Therapy is a good intervention for dementia to ORGANIC mind mapping may be a good intervention for dementia and perhaps will achieve a greater effect than less focused “art.”
Here is a link to the paper. Click on it to retrieve the article.
As a technical note, the authors’ use of meta-analysis to combine the results from a number of independent studies selected for their methodological soundness is an accepted one which has become popular in the past three decades.
I want to see much more research on this topic. BUT, I think that we are currently moving in the correct direction in a “leap frog” way with great speed.
Keep both eyes open and click on the image below to expand it.
When you are done, part 2 can be accessed in a new window by clicking here.
Most individuals use notes and checklists and reminders and calendars — fancy or simple — to help deal with loss of memory or the ability to make decisions or prioritize tasks and remember people.
There are better ways to take notes and manage calendars and enhance-stimulate memory and other cognitive functions. I think mind mapping (Buzan-style) is the best way to perform these tasks.
Although better note-taking will not cure brain degeneration, it may increase quality of life and the ability to remain independent or mildly dependent for a longer time. Even a few better days in a month is a huge improvement for individuals with neurodegenerative diseases and something to be treasured.
Many different types of neurological disease cause somewhat varying forms of dementia. Dementia is not exclusive to Alzheimer’s disease. The constellations of symptoms and their severity in the dementias associated with different conditions are not identical.
Click the figure twice to expand fully. This figure is a slight reformatting (adding color coding and brain images) of one appearing in earlier posts.
Here are two more variations of the same map. [Content identical. Formatting slightly changed.]
As I age (and have time during my retirement), I have been reading a lot about the neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Lewy Body Dementia, FTLD) and upcoming crises in the healthcare system as people live longer and are more likely to experience one of these conditions. At the same time, I have reading about the absolutely brilliant work being done in neuroscience and medicine (neurology) on the functions of the brain. I am totally in awe at the quality of the science going into brain research.
As a consequence, I am starting this page of citations to publish bibliographies of basic science articles that provide possible mechanisms for studying the efficacy of mind mapping and other visual information techniques in neurodegenerative conditions (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia or FTD or FTLD, CBD, PSP, and other conditions).
Searches of medical databases tend to produce a highly technical bibliography. NONE of the articles proves a neurogenesis mechanism is stimulated by mind mapping or even that one exists. NONE of these articles proves that mind mapping is effective. What the articles do is to present a selected bibliography of research into brain plasticity and neurodegenerative conditions. Science is all about reviewing prior work (original research, summaries, meta-analyses, theory) and seeing where we go next. Translational research is about taking the results of basic research and developing better treatments, diagnosis methods, and care management.
My own belief is that after degeneration the brain is probably still somewhat plastic and can recode information into alternate forms. Visual learning methods may be helpful to stimulate or guide recoding and shifting functions to less affected areas of the brain. Visual learning methods CANNOT treat a brain disorder, but they may be valuable assistive aids to slow the degeneration of the individual’s quality of life and independence even though they will never be a treatment to slow actual brain deterioration. I believe that it is possible to stimulate relatively less affected areas of the brain to take over some of the functions of those areas that are shrinking. Visual learning and data re-organization (with mind maps being a primary method) probably help to slow the slide of individual patients into stages where they are highly dependent on a caregiver and cannot participate in many formerly enjoyable interactions and activities. NONE of the studies in the articles in my literature searches proves that I am right.
We have learned a huge amount in the past THREE years about how the brain works. This is just the beginning. Until such time as there are truly effective medical treatments (developed from research) that can prevent or “fix” neurodegeneration, well-established, visual cognitive tools may provide help in slowing the fall in the individual’s quality of life. And in future decades we will have a much better understanding of the synergistic roles of formal medical treatment for neurodegeneration and visual methods of learning, memory retrieval, and decision making.
This is going to be a cumulative set of database searches. I will periodically add searches of public access (free) medical databases. At those times I will republish the page with the date of revision and version number.
The results of the searches are not medical treatment advice. The results are not suggestions for future research. The results are not exhaustive. No guarantee of the quality of individual research articles is made or implied by inclusion in these searches.
Help support the continuing evolution of our understanding of the brain, medical treatments, and useful visual learning and cognitive methods for slowing the deterioration of quality of life by learning about the scientific research going on. (And yes, I support stem cell research.)