Friday, November 30, 2012

Aphasia and Agnosia

So, it turns out there is a name for that problem of when I say the wrong word for something. When I was still working, I used thingy all the time. Or I would say, you know what I mean. I got blank stares of my assistants, leading me to think that they were being deliberately obtuse to drive me out of my mind. Yeah, that's the natural conclusion to draw, NOT! Eventually they began to pretend to understand me since patronizing me was easier than insulting me by saying I was not making sense. Easier in the sense that they did not have to incur my wrath. As I began to realize I needed their help, and I was not in a frenzied emotional state of trying to do my job, I was able to respond when they used the phrase: I really don't understand what you are trying to say.

My impairment is pretty mild compared to some TBIs I know. I have an extensive vocabulary so I can substitute words to convey my message. It happens pretty fast. My neurologist gave me a spontaneous test during my last visit and I did not do so well. In the real world if I had to say the word "cuff," I point or say the end of your sleeve or the part around your wrist, but in his office under pressure, I just kept saying wrist. I know it's wrong but it just keeps popping up. Collar was lapel. Those things inside the collar (stays?), I said tie clip. I want to call him up and say, I know the names of those things now. I just couldn't think of them so fast. Can you give me that test again? I'm fine.

I listened to this Charlie Rose podcast about agnosia:

Agnosia is another one of those missing stuff diagnoses. I seem to have form of facial agnosia. Everyone looks kind of familiar. I see faces and recognize people no problem but strangers also king of look like people I know. Faces are their own special category in the brain. Apparently, instead of distinguishing individual parts of the face that make a person unique, my mind is seeing faces more generally now. I take in what everyone's face has in common instead of what makes them look different. For some reason, everyone, at least all young women, look like my niece. It is remarkable how many times I say to my husband, Doesn't she look like Ruby?

I also have gaps in my peripheral vision. There is nothing wrong with my vision. My brain just does not receive that visual information.

At its worst, agnostics can look at familiar objects and not know what they are. During my angioma bleed, a slow oozing stroke, I experienced this. I remember glancing at my thumb resting on the side of the couch (of course, still attached to my hand and arm but I did not see that). I saw my thumb and I thought, "Weird, what is that thing?"

It is remarkable that a little (2.5 cm) benign tumor slowly leaking blood into the brain causes changes in perception. Even more remarkable is that the brain can get better.

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