In this interview, we discuss the different types of Memory with Kimberley Meates and Vanessa Bowie. They include Long-Term Memory, Short-Term Memory Explicit Memory, and Implicit Memory
06:27 Two major categories of memory
13:05 Using VR to stimulate muscle memory
20:47 Implicit and Explicit memories
30:10 Short-term memory loss during recovery
42:48 Associated memories
49:24 Memory of a memory?
1:02:43 How alcohol affects the brain
And as you recall information each time that you recall, it is not the same pathway. Exactly, it can get a little bit different. So we don’t recall events exactly as they happened. And we don’t recall them exactly as they were initially encoded. Each time in your colon, it can change a little bit.
Yeah. So is it true then what you’re saying is a true that what we remember is a memory of the memory.
Yes, yes, exactly. That’s for everyone. That’s brain injury specific everyone.
This is recovery after stroke with Bill Gasiamis helping you go from where you are to where you’d rather be.
Bill from recovery after stroke.com This is Episode 77. And my guests today are Kimberly Meates, and Vanessa Bowie. Kimberly is a clinical neuropsychology registrar with clinical experience working across diverse range of settings including acquired brain injury, inpatient and community rehabilitation, mental health and pediatrics.
Vanessa completed an undergraduate degree and I graduate diploma in psychology and has just begun a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Both ladies are currently gaining experience working at domain health under the loving guidance of Dr. Judy Tang.
Are you a stroke survivor that wants to know how to heal your brain overcome fatigue and reduce anxiety. By the time this episode goes to air, I will have been eight years into my stroke recovery journey. Three brain hemorrhages and then brain surgery created similar challenges for me.
The thing is very few people understood what I was dealing with the only people that did understand what other stroke survivors. One of the unexpected nice things that come out of my stroke experience is that I have been asked to share my story a number of times in newspapers, the national news and as a speaker at various corporate events in the hope of rising awareness.
And to support other people that are going through stroke. Now, most recently, I was involved in the launch of a joint advertising campaign by the Cancer Council of Australia. Quit Victoria and the Stroke Foundation, which is called smokes led to strokes. The aim was to encourage more people to quit smoking and decrease their risk of stroke.
Being involved in these campaigns made me realize that stroke prevention is important. However, what I needed when I experienced stroke was help to bridge the gap in a critical time after I went home, realizing that the amount of support drastically declined once a stroke patients leave hospital motivated me to create a way to support stroke survivors so that no one has to do it as hard as my family and I did.
If you have fallen in the cracks between hospital and home care, and desire to gain momentum in your recovery, do not know where to start. This is where I can help. I will coach you and help you gain clarity on where you are currently in your recovery journey.
I will help you create a picture or way You would like to be in your recovery 12 months from now, and I will coach you to overcome what’s stopping you from getting to your goal. During coaching. I will also teach you the 10 steps to brain health for stroke survivors and guide you through each step with supporting interviews from experts and information that is based on the latest scientific research.
Some of those steps include training on the type of mindset required for an ongoing successful recovery and how to decrease anxiety created by the thoughts of another stroke. There will be a module on emotional intelligence which will help you manage out of control emotions, information about the gut and how a healthy gut is the first step to a healthy brain.
And we will cover nutrition and the kinds of food required for reducing fatigue and there will also be a module on how to improve sleep and much much more. If you’re one of the first 10 people to join recovery after stroke coaching, you will get a one on one private coaching thread with me access to the course 10 steps to brain health the stroke survivors.
When released access to members only monthly group training calls and access to stroke survivors private forum, the first 10 people to join also get more than 70% off the full price of 599 and 12 months access will only cost you $149.
Be one of the first 10 people who apply for recovery after stroke coaching now and get the first seven days free. After the seven day free trial you will only pay the annual amount of 149 and the price of renewal will never increase for as many years that you stay a member.
Once the first 10 coaching packages are sold the price will never be offered again. So take advantage of the seven day free trial now by clicking the link below if you’re watching on YouTube, or by going to recoveryafterstroke.com/coaching if you are listening online. Now it’s on with the show. Kimberly and Vanessa, welcome to the podcast.
Thanks for having us
Thank you so much for being here. I’m really excited actually because, you know, before you become a stroke survivor, you don’t know anything about the brain. And then when you become a stroke survivor, what you need to do is find out everything you can about the brain.
And most stroke survivors don’t know anyone who knows stuff about the brain. Because we don’t generally hang around with psychologists or neuro psychologists occupational therapists, you guys are few and far between you guys are like gems.
So when I come across people who study the brain or help people recover from injuries of the brain, I get really excited. I’ve kind of latch on and Dr. Judy Tang, who you guys are working with at the moment was somebody that I’ve spoken to at the beginning of my stroke journey.
And she was really helpful in giving me some useful information about how I can go about supporting my help and that was informally just When we got together at different events, I’m wondering if you guys could share with me what some of the different kinds of memory are.
So that we can create a conversation with people listening about who may be struggling with memory at the moment about how they can utilize the different memories to support them when they’re in recovery.
Two major categories of memory
Yeah, definitely. So memory is a very well known concept within the general population. But the understanding I guess, about what memories is a little bit lacking. So I’m really glad that you asked that question.
So we can kind of go through the different memory components and how you can use them. So we think of memory being split into two major categories. And so it’s kind of like the unconscious memories and The conscious memories.
So unconscious memories, those things like riding a bike, once you’ve learnt that process, you sort of never forget that that’s always stored in your memory. But you don’t have to think about when you ride a bike, you’re not thinking that I have to move my leg this way to do this to do that. It’s just automatic.
So that’s the sort of unconscious memory. So it’s very procedural. So it’s like a step by step learning of generally motor skills. So that’s a great thing to focus on in brain injury because that’s one of the areas it’s relatively spared in most injuries to the brain.
So in rehab, we can exploit that we can focus on teaching procedural steps, and then the brain will take that on automatically and just do them automatically. So that’s a really good area to focus on in rehab.
How is it that that unconscious memory thing is mostly not impacted by most strokes? How is that something that we get away with?
Um, it’s generally because of where it’s sort of stored in the brain. So it’s stored throughout the brain. And the cerebellum sort of at the back part of the brain is very involved in motor movements. And the storage of that some knowledge.
I mean, it can be impacted, but it’s just generally that those areas said, I guess it’s not true in every case. Yeah. But it’s Yeah, that’s sort of my understanding. I don’t know if you’ve got any insight on that.
I think because mostly temporal lobe depending on the type of stroke that as well. So if these sorts of memories are being stored in the cerebellum that might not be affected as largely as the temporal lobe.
Yeah, so it’s kind of a similar. That’s my understanding of it is it is more in the cerebellum. And when you have impacts
So that’s really cool. So these memories that are unconscious or kind of learned through rote experiences, like riding a bike, etc. They kind of hang around for most of the time, and you guys can, make use of those memories and help people in their recovery when they’re getting back on their feet, for example, is that right?
Yeah, absolutely. Um, so, it’s about sometimes you do have to relearn those steps. So it can be relearning process, but they the process of taking the steps and then getting it into automatic memory. That still is a process that can work following brain injury.
So that’s what a lot of the rehab will focus on is teaching people step by step to go through each of their daily activities. So that it does become automatic. They don’t need to think about it anymore. It’s just an automatic process for them.
Yeah, okay. I, I find it really interesting. The automatic process, you know, when I was in rehab and trying to get by walking back, my left leg was numb, I couldn’t feel it. So the sensory neurons weren’t telling my brain that the leg was on the ground or, or when it was telling my brain that it was kind of giving mixed signals.
So I my knee wasn’t working properly, it would sort of buckle underneath me and I would trip over or I would feel unstable. I remember going through a process where I was meditating on the process of walking.
So you hadn’t walk yet. And I was using meditation to visualize myself walking, what kind of memories and I’m getting a smile there, what kind of memories are those imagining yourself walking. What kind of memories are they sort of stimulating?
Well. So it’s going through back through your previous experience. So previously, you were able to walk. You can imagine yourself walking, you see people walking in the street, you have that motor memory in your brain already.
It’s just like you’re saying the connections, sort of blacking the connections have got a bit mixed up. It’s when you’re imagining it. It’s almost like you’re doing it. those networks activated except that your body’s not moving.
So this is the signal that says, body Don’t move, but I’m going to picture it in my head, and going to go through each of the steps of the circuits being activated for walking. So you’re essentially practicing that circuit and re forming those connections in your mind when you picture it, which is fantastic in a way.
It is fantastic, because it doesn’t take a lot of effort, and it’s not as exhausting. But so what you’re saying is that there’s two things going on there with that learning how to walk again, there is a memory and is that memory in that circuit? Is the circuit the memory?
Yeah. So memories, just a bunch of neurons. Basically, that’s what our brain is just made up of neurons, and they form connections between each other. So when they connect and they all fire together, all very closely, followed by each other.
That’s sort of What makes the circuit so within that circuit, that’s where all the information is.
Using VR to stimulate muscle movement
So yesterday, I went to an expo, and there are the neuro people there. So they’ve got occupational therapists and such. And they’re using VR to try and help retrain people for movement. And I found that fascinating.
So even from the sense of when you were making your breakfast, they now can do that with virtual reality. And the person can use that to go and get all of the ingredients out of the fridge and then put it all together. So you don’t have to be able to physically get up and go and do it. But you’re using this to retrain your brain to go through those processes.
In Episode 68, I spoke to George Teufl and Andy Gstoll, who were from a company called Rewellio, and they were working on a visual reality. software package that when you bought the goggles, you were able to plug into their software and play certain games and imagine certain things working. So this particular event that you went to what was it called?
That was the seniors and disability Expo. So that was in at the Melbourne Convention Center, right. And so there are all sorts of people there who were providing, like aids to help people be able to complete tasks in their home or get around in the community. And there were also people there that were to help with sort of the funding plans or where they could go.
So I know I was there with occupational therapists, as well. So just providing information to people about what’s available to them and who they can access So this virtual reality thing that I tried was from a group who they have occupational therapists, and they were just telling me about how they’re using the virtual reality for people who are going through rehab, just to remake those connections, when they weren’t actually able to get up at the time.
So they’re currently still working on that with the time I got to try a particular game, which was just arm movement, so you have to chop these blocks and everything, and it was just getting your arms to, to move around and also for reaction time and everything like that, because of course, you have to get it within that time period. And it was great. It was really interesting.
Yeah, I know that you’ve just started your master’s in occupational therapy. Have you spent a fair amount of time in the hospitals helping people get back on their feet and retrain their arms, etc?
Not at this stage. I’ve only been studying this now for about five months. And so I just finished my first placement which was actually a community health setting. So, hopefully in my future placements, I will be in a hospital setting working on rehabilitation.
Yeah, so what’s interesting is the new breed of occupational therapists are really embracing this kind of stuff. And I saw a glimpse of it when I was in, in parkville rehabilitation hospital that’s associated to the Royal Melbourne hospital. One of the things that got me to do to help retrain my left arm was to play virtual tennis on the Nintendo Wii.
I’m terrible at normal tennis. I was no better at this tennis. But it was a fun way for me to just be in a safe space, holding a little control, which was a hold that had a rope in case I let go and flown at somebody’s head.
And I did use the virtual reality game there to help me retrain my left arm to swing and to twist and to hit this ball so that it could go into the other side of the virtual court. And what was interesting is that I’ve never played tennis with my left arm before.
And I don’t think I would have been able to manage to do that with a real tennis racket, but this was a real gentle way to help me bring back these memories that I needed to re I’m not sure what the word is reinvigorate or bring back to life so that my arm could do things like picking up my toothbrush or picking up a pen or a fork or a knife.
Because I was spending a lot of time trying to retrain myself. And I noticed that when I would go scratch my eye would go a little bit too not my eye, but I’d go scratch my skin around my eyes go a little bit too far and actually poked myself in the eye. And I did that so many times.
So it was really sort of also trying to retrain your spatial awareness as well, I guess.
Okay, that’s interesting. Yeah, because I did struggle with that, and also still struggle that when I get tired, the doorway on the left hand side seems to just appear out of nowhere, and I often bump into it. So this world of virtual reality is really starting to take shape.
What other memories can it help support if we’re, bringing it back? If we’re using virtual reality to support learning how to walk again or to visualize how to walk again, there’s no limit really to what it can do or what it can help with.
Yeah, there’s actually quite a lot of things that it’s being utilized for, like, I know at the moment, they’re using it for people in nursing homes, who aren’t able to revisit places that they’ve been to before. So it’s also useful for, it’s useful for memories and retraining, but also for overall well being and happiness.
So it’s actually allowing the people who are using it to go and revisit different places around the world. And quite often it’s using something like Google Maps, so that they can see this area and revisit that or even with sports, they can use the virtual reality, if they aren’t able to do it anymore.
Like you said, doing the lighter sort of activity because you wouldn’t be able to do like real tennis but they’re still able to do something like that and then thats really positive for the person who’s using it.
In a psychological sense, so in PTSD. So if veterans are coming back after, a deployment, and they have PTSD, they’re able to recreate sort of a similar scenario war scenario without the risk, obviously, and help them to overcome those post traumatic memories. So it’s being used in a lot of fantastic ways. Really great.
Wow, cool. So we’ve spoken about unconscious memories, what are the other kinds of memories.
Implicit and Explicit
And so the unconscious memories were mainly what we call implicit memory. So those were the procedures. We’ve also got ones that are called explicit memories. So they’re more things that have happened to you.
So you will remember like a birthday or your first day of school, for instance, or general fact information, so things about the world. So these memories are stored in the hippocampus. So that’s in the temporal lobe, and the neocortex, which is part of the cerebral cortex.
And then close to the hippocampus, we also have the amygdala in the temporal lobe as well. So those are involved in like the explicit memories. And then we’ve also got short term memories, which are mainly in the prefrontal cortex. So at the very front of your brain as well.
Okay, so explicit memories, give me an example of an explicit memory.
So that was the one let’s say, you went on this fantastic holiday, and it’s you did some sort of experience, maybe bungee jumping or something and you just remember that really well?
I won’t be doing that thank you.
I don’t think that I would be able to either.
So it’s something that you remember really well, and what helps you remember it really well? Is it the physical part of that experience as well. So bungee jumping thing? I would imagine a massive physical response, is that somehow tied into memory? How you actually what is it how you embody that experience as well?
Yeah, all the sense of sort of encoded in that, particularly, emotion is a really big key in memory. So we often remember things that are quite emotional. Imagine bungee jumping would be like terrifying. So that is definitely encoded.
So there is that part of the brain called the amygdala which is involved in fear and processing that emotion and that’s linked in with memories as well. And that’s why we often remember things that are scary or that fear response.
Okay, cool. That’s an explicit memory. So now a short term memory. I know what a short term memory is, most people will know what that is. That’s a memory that of something that happened very short term. But what I noticed is a lot of people struggle with short term memory, even before they’ve had a brain injury. And the classic example is “where did I just put my car keys?”
So where is the difference? Where is short term memory stored? And is it in the same places as the other memories or is it somewhere else?
So short term memory is not like a storage as you would think. Short term memory is very short. Short term memory is just like in the next five seconds, sort of keeping that it’s like RAM in a computer, just keeping that whatever is happening at that time in your mind keeping it in there for enough time that you can either forget about it, or that it gets into longer term memory.
So it’s really short time frame. So when we talk about long term memory that’s sort of in 20 to 30 minutes is, is that that’s when we start thinking about that. So long term memory now, so short term is very, very short.
And it’s not really a memory and such it’s just some just holding information in your mind for a period of time before it either gets encoded, or it’s forgotten about. So it relies a lot on on attention really. So being able to attend to information and to hold it in your mind is quite difficult.
And it’s more those frontal, the frontal part of the brain, that involved in that to being able to hold that information It’s a really common experience, particularly following any sort of brain injury. A lot of people are impacted by that. And attention can also impact on that as well.
Okay, so might be a combination of things happening, you might be lacking the ability to pay attention to something or to concentrate on a task, which then impacts that short term memory.
Yes, yeah, exactly.
Okay. So when I, when I’m, quote, unquote, normal, I haven’t got a brain injury. And I walk in and have my kids and I throw him in an unusual spot. And I’m doing a kind of automatically just to get them out of my pocket or out of my hands. Is it that is it that not being mindful of that task? I’m putting my keys on the bench that kind of interferes with that memory.
Yes. Because you’re not paying attention to where you put it you’re not thinking about that you’ve put them there. So you’re not going to make those connections later on as to where you put them. Whereas, if, for instance, you have a particular spot that you put your keys, and that’s where they go every day, that’s becomes a learned habit.
So you will know next time, that’s where my keys are.
Yeah, it’s definitely intentional thing and that’s a normal experience for everyone. So people come in and say, Oh, I got problems with my memory, I keep misplacing my keys, I really (inaudible) But those all to do with attendings or attention.
Because we’re just sometimes we’ve got other things in our mind, we’re not paying attention to what we’re doing. So that’s not a memory problem per se it’s an attentional problem.
That’s really good to know. And I think it’s going to be a relief for a lot of people listening because there is this thing that you hear people say often that man my memory is terrible. Like I never can never remember where I put my keys or You know, I don’t know what I ate yesterday is that I don’t know what I ate yesterday a short term or long term memory thing.
That’s long term memory. I’m so that’s. But that, again, is also because we do a lot of things in our day. And if we were to concentrate on everything that we do to install that information will be overwhelming for our brain, that’s way too much information.
So our brain that’s why we have an attentional system. So it takes everything into the senses, then it decides what’s important, what do I need to focus on? What’s important? And then from that, once you’ve been focused on something, do I need to remember this?
Do I need to store this for later? Is this going to be useful? So for most people, remembering what you had, you know, a couple of days ago? Not so eventful, unless it was an amazing five star meal. Yeah, for most people, that’s not essential information.
Unless It was terrible, terrible meal and it gave you diarrhea and you want to know, because you’re at the hospital and you’re telling the doctors, this is what I ate.
Might be helpful to remember it in that case.
Okay, well, that’s a relief. I like that. I’m asking these questions because I’ve never asked them before. And I’ve always associated not remembering what happened two or three days ago, etc, as not necessarily a good thing.
And especially when I was recovering. Months later, somebody would say to me, I came to visit you or when I came to visit you, etc. And I wouldn’t have remembered that they were actually here. And even though they came from long way away into state, I kind of said like, I don’t remember and I’m not sure whether or not what was happening and I kind of felt bad that I didn’t remember that they came.
Following injury, there is sort of a period Where the brains still recovering. So it needs time to sort of settle down this is, you know, the chemicals are out of balance. There’s a lot of things happening during that time. So it does make it difficult to lay down new memories at that stage. So that I’m not sure how past the injury this was, but that was,
It was probably around five, six months past the injury. And the second time that I experienced the bleed in the brain, the blood clot was about the size of a golf ball and it was near the cerebellum. And it was kind of just sitting there while they’re working out how to deal with it.
So took around about it took around. And at that time, what that blood clot did is impacted. My ability to type an email concentrate, finishing sentence, you know, recall stuff that has just happened to me, it was very difficult for me to keep appointments and remember when they were even though I had written them down in a diary and had reminders and all that type of thing.
Short-term memory loss while recovering from brain injury
So, when somebody so I was feeling quite bad about constantly missing appointments, and I was feeling quite bad about not being able to type an email, drive all those things, and then when, when somebody said to me, I came to visit you. And I said, Well, I don’t remember. I it made me feel even worse. So it was around about it was around about four to six months after that second major bleed.
Hmm, well, we generally think of recovery is a long term process. So most recovery will sort of happen i suppose two years following injury. But as you know, it can extend further along than that. I suspect it was. It wasn’t anything You’re doing it wasn’t any malice, that just that the brain was still recovering at that stage.
And if it’s not someone that you see regularly, that also can impact on whether how your brain is processing the information, like I was saying before the importance of the information and, and kind of selecting what I need to what I need to know for now. And particularly in that in that recovery process, your brains doing that even more so limited resources to.
Can we talk about those limited resources in the context of occupational therapy because it’s a really big issue. When somebody’s recovering, the brains trying to just manage, I imagine all the regular tasks. It’s got parts of it that are offline. It’s trying to really learn new tasks.
It’s been impacted and it has a physical injury. Whether it be because of a blood clot, and lack of oxygen or because of a bleed, and now occupational therapists amazing as they are making a do even more work.
So how does? How do we deal with the energy side of or the amount of energy that’s required to support the brain and then do memories and do all those know where I’m going with this? I’m going to edit this out a little bit. So where was I going? So I was trying to understand how energy impacts or the the way that the brain uses energy impacts the ability for occupational therapy to be done.
Sorry, I just have to think about that.
That’s all right.
Because I mean, one of the major things is that you need to make sure when you’re working with someone that you’re working within the sort of energy scope. So if you’re being overwhelmed with information, you’re not going to be able to attend to those things.
So I think that the approach that would be needed is to slowly reintegrate some of these things and come up with certain ways of, say, helping you remember what you need to do or what you might have coming up.
So perhaps coming up with some more simple ways of doing that rather than complex instructions and just giving you too much to think about because you’re thinking about recovery physically, as well as mentally and you’re trying to regain your memory. Yeah.
I remember being in rehab I spent a month in rehab and the nasty occupational therapists were getting me to make my own breakfast. I thought and maybe they explained why we were doing it. But I don’t know now if they did or didn’t and if I was able to remember or not.
So that was this is after surgery. So my stroke experience my bleeds in the brain lasted around about three years. So I had the first bleed in 2014. Then in March, sorry, the first bleed in fifth 2012, then in March 2012, and then in November 2014, which then led to surgery, and it was between November 2014.
And, and just before Christmas that I was in rehab. And I found myself being frustrated and annoyed because I had to make my breakfast and my left hand wouldn’t work properly. Why do occupational therapists make us do that?
Well, so my understanding as I’m still sort of fresh into the OT, but what they would have been trying to do is so we call it activities of daily living and so that’s where something that a person will do to take care of themselves, or just tasks that they do in their everyday life.
So what they would have been using that for is firstly to see how your brain is still working to make sure that you are able to follow the procedures needed to make your own breakfast, and then using that to assess what they would need to do to try and help you achieve that to make sure that when you are back home, that you’re able to do those tasks.
It’s really important so there are things they might have like getting you to brush your own teeth or those sorts of things. It’s just making sure that you can do those activities of daily living for self care.
Yeah, I found it amazing at the time I was really stunned that I was in hospital being supposedly looked after by all those people then they’ll make me make my own breakfast.
Say on that point is it’s it’s a really delicate balance, particularly in those early stages, because you, the brain at that point is at its most plastic. So it’s able to make the most changes at that early stage. That’s probably the theory behind getting in there and trying to get you out of bed to make your breakfast.
So it’s, it’s good to do as much as you can do that will optimize the brain’s ability to to make new connections and to form those skills that you need. Like you said, it’s fatigue is often a huge problem following brain injury.
So it’s that balance of finding, yeah, finding the right balance between not pushing too much that that you’re going to push to that level of fatigue where you can’t actually learn anything. But also being able to use that really early stage to to form those new connections. So it’s not an exact science sometimes as therapists, we get it wrong.
And the intent is really to try and get you as much recovery in that early stage as you can do. I think small steps are really good. So just doing something small amount of time that frequently so if you’re able to manage, you know, five minutes of doing something, then stop, have a rest.
Do another five minutes in an hour’s time So, so frequent, performance is good, but also making sure that you’re resting in betweens because rest we know can help cement those memories for us. Yeah, we need the both.
Yeah, sure did. Risk was really important. So I was noticing that at the beginning of rehab, the first week of my month in rehab, I maybe was able to do literally a couple of minutes worth of physical effort. And then I was wiped out for the rest of the day.
And as that time grew, as my time in rehab continued, I started to notice that the two minutes became four minutes, for example. And then by the time I left, maybe I was able to do three sessions a day, and those three sessions a day might last half an hour a day, or half an hour per session.
So it was really good to be able to observe how much I had come, how far I’ve come in that short amount of time in that one month. And that really made it that really gave me a lot of hope for when I get home. If I’m able to continue improving the way that I was improving that I’ll be definitely a further quite a way ahead for the time 12 months of lapsed.
So to go back to those early days of making connections at the very beginning of rehab, when you guys say the brain is most plastic, where taking advantage of those unconscious memories, those neural pathways that have been interfered with.
And single signals aren’t getting through perhaps. So we bring those to life as well as rerouting and making new ones to take over where the old ones perhaps aren’t being where the old signals are not really good at the moment.
I’m are you saying whether the damaged neurons can reform connection is that what you’re asking?
Yeah, so I’m asking. So I feel like making a toast or cup of tea is tapping into those unconscious memories. If that’s what I’m doing, and the signal has been interfered with so that I can’t make the connections.
Are we bringing the connections back to life? The ones that have been damaged or put out of action for now? And at the same time, are we rerouting from those ones and making completely new ones?
It can be both, so it depends It depends on the extent of the injury, if the there are some neurons, there are some neurons that die as a result of the injury. They usually right in the middle where the injuries around that area, there are some neurons that can be saved, or they can also die.
So that’s what they call the Penumbra. It’s the area that surrounds the area of injury. So there’s potential there for the neurons to form new connections. And that’s was saying, in the early stages, it’s really important to get To get that intervention in so that those neurons don’t die, they need that stimulation to keep to keep the connection alive.
So that those neurons in that region, they can form new connections. So it’s generally that those, it’s a rerouting, but in a similar area. So there’s not there’s not too much that happens with the once neurons have died.
There’s not really much they can do there. But it’s it’s using the ones around that can reroute and if it’s in a similar area they’re similar types of neurons and they can take over the function of the other neurons that have died next to them.
I’m really comfortable and feel good about the fact that my short term memory is associated to my awareness of the task at the time, and that if I’ve dropped my kids and I’ve been talking to my son at the same time, that he’s conversation with me is what has potentially made me just forget where I left my keys if it’s not in the same spot, it makes me feel a lot better.
We’ve spoken about explicit memories, something that is dramatic, like jumping into your potential Doom, of a bungee rope and having that bodily experience as well as an actual, you know, memory of something exciting and amazing and potentially crazy.
I don’t know what and we’re speaking about unconscious memories, memories that are the things that we are the types of memories of that there because it’s a task that we’ve done over and over and over again and we just know how to do it.
You know, when I when I’m sitting in my car, I’m driving away and a song comes on, that I haven’t heard in forever and it reminds me of i hope my wife’s not listening that girl that I used to like back then. What kind of memory am I drawing on there?
Because there’s a lot more going on than just I’m remembering a song. But I’m also remembering a time and how it made me feel and who I was with and what I couldn’t say to her. What are we tapping into their? What kind of a memory is that? And why is it so full on and so dramatic and so easy to fire that off?
I’m so, memories of particularly associated with strong emotions. And they get incurritive really well. So it’s kind of like an associative memory. So you have your memory of that event. And that’s in the song in this case is like it’s a trigger for that memory. It’s like a key just say, oh, that memory. Remember that memory when you were looking at that girl you really liked and I had that song playing.
Yeah, so it’s that Association. We learn by associating things with each other. So when you had that initial memory of that song with the girl, they got coupled together, associated together. So when you heard part of that Association, the song, it also activated the girl, because they’re being associated with each other.
And a lot of our memories are made through associations. So one of the classic sort of experiments that they did back in the 60s when ethics wasn’t really a thing and they could, you know, scare babies and do lots of those sorts of funny associations that they got.
They got babies to associate, I think was a was a white rabbit wasn’t a famous. Little bit experiment. And then they ended up just disliking anything that was white and fluffy pretty much. Yeah, so they kind of associated they taught him to associate a white rabbit with a negative.
I think they had a quite a loud sound. So a lot of our memories are associative. We learn things together, and they get paired together. And then when one of them comes up later on, we remember all the other things that were associated with it.
Wow, that’s really good. Can we take advantage of those associated memories in occupational therapy in rehab to help that person today?
Yeah, I think so. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. They do a lot of the associative memory. So you can, you can use associations to learn new memories. So it can help with talking earlier about remembering names. If you meet someone at a party, and they’ve got a name of someone that you knew in primary school, you can make an association usually like on this is John had a John in primary school and find a similarity that they both have.
So perhaps they both have spiky hair, you can be like, Oh, that’s John’s got the spiky hair like John from primary school and you make that association in your mind. So you’re linking it to something already, that’s in your minds.
It’s already a memory that you have for many years ago. And you’re meeting a new person that you’re linking them to an old memory. That’s going to make it a lot easier for you to find that new memory and to learn it to begin with. But also to to find it when when you next meet John, at a party and you’re like oh, that’s John cuz I’ve linked it something I already You know.
That sounds like a memory trick.
Yes, absolutely. Yeah, these are things that you can use anyone can use but particularly following brain injury, it’s a good thing to try and associate things with things that you already know all things that are meaningful to you.
So the more that you can link new information to something that you know already, or that that’s that has meaning has that emotional sort of aspect to it, the more you’re going to be able to remember that information,
Emotional experiences stored in different in a different part of the brain is that kind of memory stored somewhere else or is that also stored where we find other regular memories?
So emotion is it forms part of the circuit emotion is generally more in sort of that frontal is like a frontal region where emotions Sort of dealt with. And also the fear is, like I mentioned before was amygdala, but they form a circuit within so there’s like a memory circuit.
And so that will go through the memory sections for that primary memory area in the hippocampus. But that also links up with the amygdala, it links up with the frontal cortex. So it makes this little pathway. So, as you go along you you had the memory, but then the emotions also activated other whether there was a specific motor component like with a bungee jumping.
That might also be activated in the memory. So whatever was occurring at the time with the memory that will be encoded in like a pathway. And when you recall the memory, that pathway is lit off again. So you remember all aspects of the memory,
Okay, so if that pathway is litup backwards. It doesn’t matter. So if, for example, I can’t remember who I was at the bungee jumping with, but I was, but I bungee jumped and then I kind of take a backwards path to who I was with is that how is that one way to kind of activate a more detailed part of a memory that perhaps has been missed or lost.
Memory of a memory?
It can be so memories are not exact recordings of what happens. But that’s one thing to note. So you might not have recorded that to begin with who you are with, maybe it wasn’t put in that memory choice. And as you recall, information each time that you recall, it is not the same pathway exactly.
It can get a little bit different. So we don’t recall events exactly as they happened. And we don’t recall them exactly as they were initially encoded each time that you recall it, it can change a little bit. So that’s why when you have expert witnesses in courts, it can often be a bit hairy because they might be remembering something differently to how it actually happened. When they saw the crime.
Yyeah. So is it true that what you’re saying is a true that what we remember is a memory of the memory?
Yes. Yes, exactly.
That’s for everyone. That’s brain injury specific everyone. That’s our own personal experience and because we interpret things we don’t, we’re not recording it’s not like a video camera. recording everything we interpret we decide what what’s important.
You know, what does that mean? How am I going to record that? We add on things sometimes, the emotion can often often change experience So we are active participants in when we’re forming memories and we’re recalling them.
So sometimes we might even make the memory suit our particular needs. For example, In an argument with a lovely partner, we might say, but I don’t remember that I remember it like this.
Yes, exactly. And both are true, you’ve got your own version of the event. So it’s a good one for next time you have a disagreement.
I’m learning I’m learning. You know, in occupational therapy, in that time, where we’re utilizing the physical tasks to trigger memories and to help the physical. What are we doing? Are we does the physical doing the physical task trigger the memory or can a discussion trigger the physical tasks Can we go backwards?
So what I’m saying is, do you remember when you used to pick up a ball Bill? Yeah i do, How did you do that? I did it like this? Or is it better to say, okay, Bill, here’s a ball, and then just leave it at that and tell them put the ball over there and let them pick it up and move the hand and do it. Are they two different parts to the same thing is one better than the other? Should we be doing one before the other?
I think that it could probably go both ways. Because with the first example that you gave, that was like when you were saying that you were imagining yourself moving in a particular way. So what you would be doing if they said, do you remember how to do that you’d be reactivating those pathways and sort of visualizing yourself doing that.
And then you might be able to go over and you would follow those procedures that you’ve just mentioned, to go and pick up that ball. But I guess you could also be told I Okay, just go and pick that up. But you’ll probably go internally through those processes as well. Even if you weren’t prompted, then you might still internally be going. Okay, so how am I going to go and pick up this ball? And you just think about that? yourself?
Right. So either way, what we’re doing is we’re somehow replaying the tape of in the past when I’ve done this, this is how it’s gone, or this is how the process has unfolded to the end result. And whether you’re triggering that by actually using words, or I’m triggering that by just trying to understand what you’re asking, we’re basically doing the same thing we are re, we’re applying we’re trying to apply what we’ve done before to the current situation.
I think on that point also depends what has occurred in the injury whether or not there’s been some sort of physical injury to the hand, so not so much maybe on stroke patients but perhaps following a TBI, a traumatic brain injury, there might also be actual physical aspects of so the muscles themselves might be impacted at the local level.
So in that case, sort of just playing over the motor memory in, your mind’s not going to help too much, you need to get the movement back. So saying the hand like actually physically moving the hand so that you’re getting that muscle strength back. So there’s there’s the brain but there’s also that the muscles that are controlling that movement at the local level, looking at both aspects.
Yeah, so if somebody is experiencing spasticity, they may actually know what to do. They may know how to do it, but they may not physically have the ability yet to stretch the fingers out and then all grasp Close the fingers clenched that the fingers and then squeeze on the ball to move it aside.
Yeah, exactly. Yes, I giving them that opportunity to develop that motor (inaudible) getting that that activation occurring at the muscle level.
Yeah. I remember when I was in rehab, I was sitting across one of my fellow patients, and he had him he plays up and I think it was his left side that was impacted as well. I can’t remember maybe it was his right side.
And the way that he was talking to himself was a real for me, as somebody who has coach training, I’m a, amongst other things, I coach people in their life to achieve things that they thought were not possible or they were struggling with.
So I’m in rehab and I’ve got my hand in a bucket of rice and the I have to find the pin, lid and you know, the ball bearing and all these different things and I’m doing this you know, you know, searching around and trying to find these things and I’m hearing a guy, and I’ve done a presentation on this I’m hearing a guy I think his name was Ivan, that’s the name I’ve given him.
He’s task was to get a toilet roll and move it from one side of his body to the other side of the body by closing his hand around it, and then just picking it up and moving it over. It was an empty toilet roll, there was no paper on the outside, it’s just a roll. And when he was looking at his hand, he was saying, Come on, you bastard move.
And it wouldn’t move the way that he wanted to. And he was looking at it saying it really angrily he was saying move move and he wasn’t being rude or anything but he was just talking perhaps as he would to a wooden post on his farm that he was trying to dislodge or something you know and I think said to him, the coach came out in me and I said to him, Ivan, you know if that hand did what you wanted it to do and moved the way that you wanted it to, and grab the toilet roll and put it down in place, what would it be?
And he said to me my friend, I said well that’s sweet. So do me a favor. Why don’t you call it your friend now and just see what happens. So, as he was going through that he was looking at me, but he didn’t really care what I was saying he was happy to indulge me.
He goes, okay friend move. And you wouldn’t believe it. As soon as he said that. He with his limited motion, he moved his fingers, grasp the toilet roll, moved it over and put it on the side that it was supposed to be without it falling over.
It literally took I’m not sure whether it was like even a second for him to just go from the previous experience to the new experience and get that thing achieved. And then he was extremely excited. And really, just everyone was going wow, whoo, everyone was freaking out around the table.
There’s probably about 10 people around there, including occupational therapists and other patients. What was different? Obviously the words were, but what do you what can you explain about what was different between his calling his hand the bastard, and then when he was calling his hand a friend to make that dramatic improvement in his motion and in his range of movement.
So from a psychological point of view, we know that the way we think about things can impact on our behavior. So often, if we’re thinking that negative things going to happen, it’s an unconscious thing, but we can we can sort of bring about the negative things through our thinking the negative things so in our mind perhaps he’s already saying in his mind that he can’t do it.
He’s playing it already said you can’t that like my hands like can’t move it I’m not going to be able to do that. And then when he goes to penitence to do it, he can’t do it. So just changing that belief sometimes can help,
You know visualize, if he visualize that he can do it, that might just hoping that just activating that, pathway a little bit better, rather than anticipating or even imagining that, he wouldn’t be able to do that. So sometimes the mindset it’s quite crazy in that way that that it can really impact on on how we behave and what we’re able to achieve.
Sometimes if we just have that little belief, and we have that a bit of imagination, to picture it, then When can bring about some more change? That’s not to say that, you know, you’re in a wheelchair and you just picture yourself walking, that’s going to happen.
But just having that little bit of belief that you can or that you might be able to do something a little bit more than you’re able to do now can often help.
Yeah, I was just curious, I wanted to know, like, I want to know those things from you. I wanted to know from him what would happen, and I couldn’t believe myself what I saw, because I’d never, coached somebody, you know, back in 2014 in that space where they were healing from physical challenges related to an injury from especially from stroke.
So when I said it to him, and he just did it, we got that result and I was just stunned and I realized that what also was happening was that the way that when he was because I then tried it on myself I, I used those words to describe My arm.
And when I did that, what I noticed is that I became more tense, the muscles contracted differently, and released differently and so did my fingers. And then, when I was nice to myself, everything changes, my whole physiology changes, and therefore my muscles move differently, and therefore my arm opened and contracted differently.
So I got a really amazing learning. I learned so much from that experience, that’s such a small experience. And that’s kind of been what’s motivated me with my recovery and he definitely wasn’t walking so I didn’t set my life and call yourself a friend that didn’t get up off your wheelchair.
You know, that didn’t happen. But I would like to think that that lesson taught him to later on when he was able to gain regain the use of his arm and start walking again. That he hopefully applied the same thing to his leg and then maybe got some results that he didn’t, that maybe at the beginning, he was unsure whether he’d be able to get again by you know, because of what he had been through.
So I found that fascinating. Now, as we come to wrap up, I want to touch on the topic of alcohol. So in the first couple of years after brain injury, the National Stroke Foundation in Australia says that you should avoid alcohol. And I read that at some point. And I think the the recommendation is for at least a couple of years, and I did for five years I avoided alcohol for five years.
How alcohol affects the brain
Because every time I drank something, it made me feel like I was having a stroke again and even today, if I drink more than about half a standard drink, I still feel like I’m having another stroke so it’s not a nice feeling. So when people are recovering, I suppose the question is, you know, when we talk about I’ve had way too much to drink.
I think I’m killing some brain cells or killed some brain cells last night or I don’t remember what I did last night. Are we interfering with our memory in that we are removing memory pathways or what is happening when we drink alcohol to our memory, and we can’t remember what we did last night.
And so it’s a bit of a fallacy that alcohol kills brain cells. So they’ve done a lot of research in the past years looking at, they used to think that alcohol cause dementia. And they did a lot of research looking at this and they found that it’s not actually the alcohol that leads to what they call when you (inaudible) which is the dementia that they associated with alcohol.
That is not actually the alcohol itself that was causing the damage, but rather a thiamine deficiency. And thiamine is B1, vitamin B1. So alcohol has impacts on our gut. So it stops us from being able to absorb things properly. One of which is vitamin B1 one that has really important impacts for the brain.
It’s very important. B1 is really important for the brain. So that’s kind of what they found in the research is that it’s not the alcohol itself. It’s an indirect effect through depleting the b1, you our brains, that causes the neurons to be damaged.
So it’s not alcohol per se, alcohol does have other impacts, obviously in the gut in absorption of different vitamins that we need. So when you go out and have a big night and you drink way too much, and the next morning, you’re not able to remember it’s not that memories are lost, they weren’t there to begin with it’s very hard to lay down new memories because you’re not paying attention.
You’re off doing quite silly things, your reasoning is not there, your brains not functioning the best when you’re when you’re taking alcohol. So it’s, it’s not that you’re forgetting memories, it’s just you’re not putting them down to begin with, they’re not getting stored to begin with. So it’s it’s not impacting the memory and that it’s taking away a memory that was already there, or that it’s killing off neurons that was storing a memory.
Wow. That’s fascinating to know, that actually, alcohol impacts the gut directly and therefore that issue that it’s doing in the thing that it’s causing in the gut is directly impacting the brain.
Yeah, so it works through that way but also works. Particularly if you’re drinking a lot of alcohol, you tend to eat a lot less, because there’s a lot of calories and alcohol, you get a lot of nutrients from the nutrients really, but the energy to sustain yourself so most people are drinking a lot of alcohol will not be eating particularly well.
And you can see vitamin deficiency in other areas as well. So people who have diabetes sometimes if you’re not managing their diet, well, you can you can find vitamin deficiency in that sense as well. So it’s kind of the two prong so it’s, it’s in the gut, the alcohols not helping with the absorption, and also that they’re drinking so much alcohol that they’re not eating a proper diet. Not getting there B1 through through a normal diet.
So this is me just thinking outloud, but you just triggered something. So I’ve, you know, read a lot of books that suggest that Alzheimer’s or dementia, I think it’s Alzheimer’s is type three diabetes are starting to be spoken about as type three diabetes. So it’s interesting that you said that people who are experiencing diabetes who are who have diabetes, or imagine it’s type two diabetes will therefore have a thymine deficiency.
It’s not necessarily it can be seen. It’s depending on how they manage their diet. So if they’re managing their diet really well, then they bonded, right? If they’re not managing it so well, they can have that be one deficiency,
Right? And then as a result of that, the greater risk of developing a neurological condition like dementia.
Yes, if it’s very prolonged if it if it’s been, you know, sort of months, two years that they’ve been having a poor diet, and it can lead to cell death in the brain. But it’s, it’s one of those things where if you, if you start replenishing the B1, quite soon after, after recognizing that there’s a deficiency then it can be, you can gain some of that back.
So it’s it’s not a dementia in the traditional sense where usually in dementia, it’s a it’s a progressive, it’s a progressive loss of neurons and there’s no there’s no way of recovering that function. So it’s, it’s, they used to call it a dementia but it’s not really referred to as dementia anymore.
Okay, interesting. So we might be going down another rabbit hole, and we are definitely coming to the end of the episode. So if this is a rabbit hole for another episode, then that’s fine. But can I quickly just touch on the fact or studies suggest and I’ve read some literature about the possibility that people who experience a brain injury are at greater risk of dementia later on in their later life. Is that something that you guys have heard about?
I’ve heard of that in relation to concussion. So mainly from the sense that if you have multiple concussions, so for instance, people who are playing high impact sports, that there are repeated tears in the brain and then that can impact memory later on. At this stage, I’m not entirely sure of why that, you know, is the relationship but I have heard that.
They’re doing a lot of research in this area because it’s a hot topic at the moment out there particularly in the sports field. The research today is saying that as long as in particular concussion, as long as the concussion is well managed to, so that you’re not letting a child who’s just knocked his head and had a concussion go out on the field Five minutes later, that you’re taking him to the hospital that you didn’t risk that you’re allowing appropriate amount of time for him to recover.
So it as long as those events have managed well, there’s not so much evidence at the moment, at least, that that multiple, sort of like two or three, perhaps if you had, you know, 10 or more, there might be more in that respect. The evidence at the moments mainly suggesting as long as they well managed, following a concussion that the risk of getting a dementia later on is not too great, as opposed to the general population.
That’s perfect. On that note, I want to thank you both for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it. And I hope I can make you guys the people that I can just call on whenever I want to ask something thats related to psychology, the brain neuro psychology, occupational therapy.
Yeah, absolutely. You’ve given us some great thoughts as well and things that we’re going to go off and look into. Yeah, absolutely.
Yeah, thanks so much. Enjoy the rest of the day.
Discover how to support your recovery after strike. Go to recoveryafterstroke.com