Neurology Archives - Unhinged

Unhinged Addendum to #053: Meeting Your Monster

by Ed 1 Comment
Unhinged Addendum to #053: Meeting Your Monster

Our last episode, Episode #53: Hey Brother, was a powerful one for Doug. His mood was pretty low when we started recording, but by the end of the show, his mood had improved greatly, especially after a conversation he had with his sister Laurie. After hearing that episode back, he got to hear what he sounds like when his mood is very low, and meeting his monster directly led to a breakthrough.

In this addendum to that episode, we wanted to end the year with a positive note about what we have learned about psychology, neurology, and how each plays a part in your mental well-being. Everything Doug said in episode #53 was coming from a place of cognitive distortion. This is the monster that blocks out the reasoning parts of the brain and is a relentless beast of negativity.

Confronting that monster from a different, more positive perspective made Doug realize how closed-minded and stubborn that beast can be. Seeing how his mood improved so quickly after social interactions also brings to light how looking outside of yourself in trying times can help bring back positivity and hope.

This is a short 20 minute discussion that tries to make sense of all this, and, more importantly, gives us much renewed hope for a more positive and happy 2018!

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Unhinged Episode #038: Clean Socks

by Ed 4 Comments
Unhinged Episode #038: Clean Socks

This slightly shorter episode starts with us talking about an old, fairly obscure 80’s comedy movie, Rude Awakening. Find out why that movie is important to us, and how we came to discover it. We also talk about Ed’s mild travel anxiety as multiple trips are coming up, and how he handles it. He also talks about being a bit self-conscious, and how he’s doing on his new year’s resolution.

We then revisit the topic of baby steps that we’ve talked about on other episodes. Doug explains how childhood trauma, like bullying, can lead to PTSD-like symptoms, and being self-aware is the key to getting better. Taking baby steps through stressful events can get you there with less anxiety.

Doug’s current remission seems to be the highest quality remission he has experienced in a long time. Now that the neurology is working better, he has the ability to work on psychological issues. Working in peer support is a great step to help socialize and validate purpose. Working to better himself can go a long way now that he has the tools and support to do so. Hope is all around!

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Unhinged Episode #035: Tabula Rasa

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #035: Tabula Rasa

In the first Unhinged episode of 2017, we discuss an interesting phenomenon called the Mandela Effect. Think your memory is accurate? Think again. The Mandela Effect is when large groups of people all share the same false memory, typically a memory that can be easily confused or distorted by similar or related memories. In psychology, this is called confabulation. They explain this concept in detail in the 80’s film Shazaam, where Sinbad plays a genie. Remember that movie?

Since it’s a new year, we all tend to make our yearly New Year’s Resolutions. Are these resolutions destined to fail? It depends on how you think of them. We talk about setting life goals and how the new year is a great blank slate, or “tabula rasa”, to begin a conscious change in behavior that can help one achieve his goals.

Finally, we get into Doug’s current and very positive mental state. His DBS continues to work its magic, coupled with weekly social interactions as a peer support worker at the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. Not only is he getting out and interacting with people, but he’s actually helping other sufferers. His 47 years of life experience living with this disease has essentially created an expert in peer support. Go Doug!

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Unhinged Episode #033: Don’t be SAD

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #033: Don’t be SAD

After a three-week hiatus, we’re back just in time for the holiday season! These past three weeks have been very dark for Doug, but he’s finally emerging from the shadows. With another tweak to his DBS settings, he has seen a shift from severe to moderate, which is definitely the direction he needs to go.

We start this episode with an update on his mood, and also talking about the successful GoFundMe campaign I started for Doug that raised nearly $2,500 (THANK YOU!). The good news continues with Doug’s acceptance into the peer support program for the Mood Disorder Association of Ontario.

Next, we discuss Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is also known as winter depression, winter blues, or seasonal depression. As the holiday season arrives, SAD cases rise due to being exposed to less sunlight as the mornings start later and evening begins earlier during the winter season. And finally, we talk about some of the treatments available for SAD sufferers.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Procedures

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Procedures

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Unhinged Episode #029: Still Fighting

by Ed 1 Comment
Unhinged Episode #029: Still Fighting

We welcome Doug back in this episode, but he’s still fighting through severe depression and anxiety. Apparently, this time, he actually felt the trigger of his downturn. It occurred after a comment from someone he looks up to totally took the wind out of his sails. With Doug’s delicate amygdala, any negative external stimuli can trigger a downward spiral, and that’s exactly what happened.

Seeking help, he managed to get a quick appointment to have his DBS adjusted. The intensity of the current setting was turned up a notch, and now it’s a waiting game. Unfortunately, relief could take days, months, or even years. Of course, we’re hoping for days, since his last DBS adjustment seemed to work fairly quickly.

He’s still hoping to become a peer support counselor, but he will have to slow things down a bit to avoid any possible negative triggers. In the meantime, he keeps fighting, but will take on fewer challenges at once… it’s all about baby steps.

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Unhinged Episode #028: Eyes are Green

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #028: Eyes are Green

If you listened to our last show, you know Doug has been feeling much better since the DBS adjustment was made maybe 1 month and a half ago or so. He was feeling confident and was looking forward to starting down the path of becoming a peer support counselor as well as working on more music and getting out more.

Unfortunately, it looks like those plans might be on hold for now since Doug has again been struck down by this relentless disease. All this happened very quickly, literally from one day to the next. It’s unclear if the DBS has stopped working or if he’s having another long bout of anxiety that is causing him to shut down and close himself off from any contact.

I have not heard from Doug since a text he sent me on Friday, October 7th, saying that he’s “in f*cking hell” right now. This episode is just me explaining all I know so far, so it’s a short one. I close the show with a short excerpt of a song I am writing about Doug’s battle. Hopefully he’ll be back next week feeling stronger and giving us more insights into what he’s going through.

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Unhinged Episode #024: Happy Days

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #024: Happy Days

Doug’s new setting on his DBS seems to still be working its miracles. Since the MEG scan pointed to three settings that showed promising neural activity, Doug has been on the first setting, and so far so good! No more shooting blind… with brain imaging, we now have a more reliable method of determining effective treatment.

We’re cautiously optimistic about this, and really hope it lasts into full remission, unlike the roller coaster setting he had previously. The best part of it all is that he now not only has hope, but is looking forward to a more “normal” future.

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Unhinged Episode #023: Helplessly Hoping

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #023: Helplessly Hoping

We’re back! In this episode, Doug talks about the results of his MEG scan and how he’s feeling after weeks of unbearable anxiety. His scans show that there are three DBS settings that were showing activity, so at least now, when adjusting the DBS, it can be done with some intelligence behind it rather than trial and error guessing. This new setting holds some promise, and we’re hoping it sticks.

We also talk a bit about the pros and cons of socialized medicine, and how quality healthcare should be available for all, not just those who can afford it. Doug’s life was saved by Canadian healthcare, but at the same time, there are struggles when it comes to long waits for appointments, and finding doctors who will treat patients as humans and not lab rats.

Lastly, we mention that Doug and I are collaborating on some music that we plan to release in the future as an album available for purchase from our website. We provide a small taste of something we’re working on (hint: see the title of this episode).

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Unhinged Episode #012: Psychopharmacology and Pharmacogenetics

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #012: Psychopharmacology and Pharmacogenetics

This week we talk about drugs and how genetics might play a part in how they affect different people. Doug , as part of an IMPACT study in pharmacogenetics, discovers he metabolizes slowly, so medicinal treatments need to be adjusted accordingly. We also discuss his battles with the Ministry of Health and drugs not covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

Ed takes the Hamilton Depression Scale test (HAM-D) to measure his depression level. How does the supposedly “normal” half of the Unhinged team rate? Doug also covers helpful tools for depressive disorder, including diet, positive self-talk, journaling, and more.

And finally, we get a progress report on Doug’s current state. What did he score on the HAM-D test?

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Yawning and the Brain

by Doug 0 Comments

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Yawning is a stereotyped behavior with very ancient origins, for it is found in fish, reptiles, and birds, as well as in humans. Described in ancient times by Hippocrates (who thought it served to evacuate fever), yawning did not become a subject of serious interest until the advances achieved in neuroscience in the 1980’s.

Generally speaking, yawning consists of three phases: first, a long intake of air, then a climax, and finally a rapid exhalation, which may or may not be accompanied by stretching. After yawning, you generally experience a sense of well being and relaxation and feel much more present in and aware of your body than you did before you yawned.

Contrary to what was believed for centuries, yawning does not serve to improve oxygenation in the brain. This myth was first laid to rest when it was discovered that the human fetus can yawn as early as the age of 12 weeks, even though it is surrounded by amniotic fluid in its mother’s belly and so is scarcely likely to get any more oxygen to its brain from this effort.

Second, if yawning really helped to raise the oxygen concentration in the blood, then inhaling pure oxygen would cause yawns to become less frequent, while raising the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood would make them more frequent. But several studies have shown that neither of these things occurs. Also, yawning is no more common in people with acute or chronic respiratory problems than it is in the general population.

The role of yawning has yet to be fully determined. But because we yawn more often when we first awaken, when we are bored, and when we are trying not to fall asleep, its primary function would appear to be to help make us more alert. Yawning also seems to play a role in non-verbal communication, especially among primates.

Which leads us to something truly singular about yawning: its contagiousness. That is, when we see someone yawn, it makes us yawn. Sometimes simply thinking about a yawn can be enough to trigger one! Obviously, the term “contagiousness” should not be taken literally here, because no germs are being transmitted. More precisely, yawning is a form of involuntary imitation. Some scientists believe that this characteristic of yawning may have developed as a mechanism for promoting social cohesion, for example, by enabling all the people present in a group to have the same level of alertness at the same time.

In the rest of the animal kingdom, yawning is observed among predator and prey species alike. Among predators, its purpose might be to encourage the group to take a restorative nap so that all of its members can be well rested for an attack on their prey later on. Among prey, by encouraging all members of the group to fall asleep at the same time, yawning might reduce the risk that any one individual might be sleeping alone and hence highly vulnerable to attack by a predator.

There is no nerve centre strictly associated with the yawn reflex, but certain brain structures, such as the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the brainstem are essential for its expression. Some scientists have even hypothesized that the strong contractions of the jaw muscles during yawning may stimulate the reticular formation and thereby encourage wakefulness.

Lastly, one interesting linguistic note: the French verb bâiller (to yawn) has a circumflex accent on the “a” and not on the “i” because in Old French, when people pronounced this word, they stretched out the “a” to imitate the sound of someone yawning.

*Courtesy of McGill University -“The Brain, Start to Finish”                                                                                 copyleft

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