Monday, August 27, 2007

Brain Busters (Boosters)

This evening I was gloating to Harley about the mental recognition/intellectual improvements I have made this year (primarily most recently).

There is a great article in the March 26, 2007 issue of Newsweek under "Health for Life" titled "Exercise And the Brain". The article talks about how exercise can help the brain grow new nerve cells . As many of you are aware, I started training for the Seattle marathon in May 2006 and have continued to keep up a fit regimen. As a result, I have found that I have made major improvements most especially in 2007 with my mental concentration and comprehension abilities (which I will discuss in another post).

Now back to my discussion with Harley -
He was telling me of a man whom he met recently who also underwent a very extensive and intense brain surgery (it sounded terrifying actually). He also had been subject to radiation treatments as they tried everything in an effort to treat his brain cancer. After 3 or 4 years and a brain surgery he is in recovery and is an active scuba diver even!

He told Harley how exercise was really important for him in preparing for the surgery and going through the treatments. In addition, he said that working on problem solving math skills was really important in exercising the brain.

Just a couple days ago when feeling proud of myself for gaining back lots of brain function, I had recalled that my area regarding mathematics had been damaged (as it has for many other brain tumor patients). It is an area that I truly have not exercised lately and I was curious if I could gain those skills back or if they had improved also. Thus I found mention of this topic rather intriguing.

For those who have lost vestibular function (like myself) and may also have a vision disturbance (like my oscillopsia) it is very difficult to coordinate the body in ways it did before and to multi-task. So much mental energy is being drawn on and focused toward trying to maintain a sense of balance. Put deafness on top of that too which is another added mental adjustment. It all takes time. Therefore we were problem solving how I could possibly work my mind mathematically while trying to work my body physically in a safe manor as to not insure myself (when doing something physical like running or walking or DRIVING my brain is focused on that one skill of paying attention; if I look off to the side I could lose my balance and fall or drive off the road! - no joke!)

So what Harley thought up was trying it out while lifting weights. The idea is to keep the exercise continuous and not take breaks. When I lift I do this technique by working on an opposing muscle next (moving from biceps to triceps). Seeing as I am sitting and using nautilus equipment I can try to solve a math problem in my head while doing the exercise (I would have a sheet of problems with me). Then before going on to the next exercise I could look to see if my answer was correct.

This evening half way through walking the dogs I decided to give it a try using simple multiplication tables. WOW! LOL It really is hard to concentrate the more intense the workout!

I always walk at a very brisk pace (as evidenced from walking a marathon and completing the 26.2 miles in under 7 hours). Not intentionally, my evening walk was more taxing in that it involved hills and became dark with only street lights when I had the wild idea to try this out. Further, I had the dogs on the leash and I need to mindful when it gets dark that I am not walking in a zigzag pattern throwing me off balance and having periods of pulling the leash and then having slack.

I started mentally going through multiplication tables as I was walking up the big hill. It was still dusk so I could see better and with my balance it is easier going up then coming down. By the time I reached the top the second time it was dark and I got confused. It took me long to figure out 7 times 9, 7 times 8, 8 times 9. I had to really mentally work and break it down to figure these out. It seems the higher numbers of 6, 7, 8, and 9 I had difficulty with and by the time I got half way down the hill I was able to find a system to figure out the answers.

At the bottom of the hill in walking in the flat part of the neighborhood we went to, I decided to move onto a new challenge: Algebra

The Algebra (although very simple equations) I found easier and it was easy after awhile to quickly find the patterns to determine the next numbers. It took me going through a couple equations and plugging in various numbers to realize there was a pattern. This is an area of my brain that has been missing for a couple years so it was nice to be able to recall the old stored information.

My equations were:

x + 2 = y
2x+ 2 = y
2x+ 2n = y
x - 2 = y
2x - 2 = y
2x - 2n = y

I used numbers 1 through 9 or 10 for each of the variables x and n in each equation.

The most difficult was the last equation where I was again walking the rest of the way down the hill to the truck where there was low light. LOL If a neighborhood car came by (bright lights in your face) of course that pretty much eliminated my mathematical problem solving for the moment.

Interesting activity and challenge

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