Neurofatigue – Little neurons that can’t

From brain farts to brain fog, I’m sure everyone has experienced less than ideal mental clarity and processing, Moments of confusion, delays in processing, absentmindedness, downright forgetfulness. Sometimes we doubt ourselves or others. Sometimes we fear we are having a senior moment all too soon.

For some of us, suffering from certain illnesses, injuries, or taking certain medications, bad brain moments may be more common than good moments. Sorry I’m not having a good brain day today. I can’t think right now. I can barely put words together, can barely understand the words you are saying. I’m trying to pay attention, honest, I don’t want to be rude, but it’s all I can do to keep my eyes open and figure out why that word you just spoke seems so familiar. Have I heard it before? What’s that? You are looking at me, am I supposed to respond? Crap, I must have missed something. Again. Sorry.

Mental exhaustion is real and happens at the level of neurons. More is being studied, but let’s face it, so much is still not understood, and certainly not explained to us. That’s where I come in. I am searching for knowledge, truth and understanding. I want to feel better. I want to function better. I want to be a better patient, ask better questions to my doctors.

You will notice that I joke. Often. It is a tool for survival. If you find my dark humor offensive, I do apologize, however, I am not forcing you to read my ramblings. This is how I understand some of my mental fatigue.

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I think I have damaged areas in my brain. I must rely more heavily on other areas of my brain to make up for the unused areas. Like a detour around a closed road. I try to use the neurons and paths I used to, realize they don’t function, try to make new connections, use a verbal area to process a visual task perhaps, link up items in crazy ways, and by the time I figure something out, realize I have forgotten what I was working on or what someone was saying in the first place, or the task is too large and I shut down before I can figure it out. Like if I asked you to walk 100 miles. You understand the task. You can see the path and know how to do it, but likely you will need to stop, consult a map, prepare and plan, and rest before the task is done. And maybe, you may get lost along the way.

I now have a particular deficit in mental math. At first I was unable to recall any of my previously memorized single digit math facts and double digit was an impossible task. I did however retain my number sense and numeration, I knew which numbers were larger and by about how many with a fuzzy feeling if not an exact answer. I should mention at this point that before my brain injury, years ago, I had actually taught calculus, so math facts were not exactly a stretch for me. I have been drilling myself and relearning math facts, but the larger double digit computation is still a struggle for me – too many processes involved there and I fatigue easily. Forget about integrals. Those are words that I know belong to math but are meaningless to me now.

Something cool to read – http://news.mit.edu/1999/math-0512 – “Through separate studies involving behavioral experiments and brain-imaging techniques, the researchers found that a distinctly different part of the brain is used to come up with an exact sum, such as 54 plus 78, than to estimate which of two numbers is closer to the right answer. Developing the latter skill may be more important for budding mathematicians.

For years, mathematicians, including Einstein, have said that they rely more on mental signs and images than words. The results reported by Stanislas Dehaene of Service Hospitalier Frederic Joliot in France and Elizabeth S. Spelke, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, show that exact arithmetic uses a part of the brain usually active during verbal memory tasks.”

Something else to read about neurofatigue – http://www.braininjury-explanation.com/consequences/invisible-consequences/neurofatigue – ”

Mental fatigue is different from physical fatigue.
We can all get an idea when talking about physical fatigue. Being tired after an exercise, after a brisk walk, after strenuous physical labor, after housework and so on.

Mental fatigue comes in thinking processes, learning and information processing, watching television extensively, doing computer actvities, but also solving problems, interpreting the behavior of other people and thinking logically.

A healthy person can also be mentally tired of all such functions ifit is intense and long enough. Healthy people can also come to a point that they become annoyed when the “energy” is low, and especially if that mental activity was filled with noise. It seems like you cannot endure radio or TV, or something like that, anymore.

For brain injury victims that is many times worse. The mental energy has already been exhausted after a short time. They use more parts of the brain, because the dead area must be passed by, in the communication between brain cells.”

 

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