Tuesday, August 25, 2009

As I Recall...


I'm working with someone who is known for being the guy that nobody in school liked - he was the guy that pulled into the parking lot on the day of a test in law school, took the book out of the trunk and unwrapped it an hour before the exam, then aced it. He doesn't know how to actively learn, he just always did it without effort, and this is a big part of his self-identity. Now he has some subtle changes in his brain that have equalled big changes in how he has to live his very busy, high powered life. We spend a lot of time talking about the process not just of learning but of recalling things, and trying to find tricks that work for him (so far writing in different colors based on type of note and outrageous associations do, repetition and chunking doesn't). It's just such a funny thing, this brain of ours; it will deliver a little tendril connected to a thought but sometimes that's all you get. If you're lucky, the tendrils braid together enough to get you to a specific concept.

Tuesday night is usually spent at a pub quiz at an Irish bar in Old Town. It's a fun couple of hours over a half-price burger and it's taught me quite a bit about the process of remembering things. In trying to remember the name of the building where John Lennon was shot, I could get "The Something-That's-A-State-That's-Got-A-Lot-Of-Space". I finally got to The Dakota. In trying to remember the name of a movie based on the plot I could ID everyone that was in it, the author of the book and another book he'd written (and his Law and Order TV credit), and that it was a one-word title that had something to do with being tired. It was Sleepers. One of my trusty teammates was trying to remember the name of a book that he could see vividly sitting on his parents' bookshelf -he had a rich memory of it but couldn't pull The Day of the Jackal, but when it came up again a few weeks later worded in a totally different way he rocked it.

I was thinking of this when talking with another patient who often has the experience of knowing the idea he wants but not the word for it, and unfortunately his tendrils often lead him to the wrong word (example: he's thinking saxophone and says clarinet - yes, but no). He was talking about what a quirky problem it was and told a story about a friend of his who was trying to remember the name of a movie - the guy kept saying, "You know, it's a one-word title and it's got the deaf chick in it. It's just one word." It was Children of a Lesser God.

Thanks to www.nataliedee.com for the cute comic.

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