Click on the book titles in my Books I am reading blog to link to the book's Amazon page.

BOOKS

Upmarket Women's Fiction
Neuropsychology
For the general reader and beginning student.
An engaging introductory text of vivid case studies accompanied by clear descriptions of neuropsychological disorders.
Twenty articles & chapters on a range of neuropsychological topics

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Festivals and the love of books

November 29, 2015

Tags: Brain Matters, Writing, Books, Festivals, Being Happy

Nicky Pellegrino and Jenni Ogden in conversation at the Waiheke Literary Festival, November, 2015.


Writers and Readers festivals are pure bliss for those of us who love books. I have been to many throughout the world; in fact if we are traveling anywhere I check out book festivals (and music and wine and food festivals) in case by tweaking our dates we can go to more. I think it is the buzz of being in the midst of so many others who love the same things as you do. But NZ hosts festivals every bit as wonderful as overseas festivals. I particularly love the Auckland Writers Festival, which is massive but incredibly well-organised and very friendly. World-class writers (including world class NZ and Australian writers) are guest speakers, and this year they sold over 63,000 tickets to events. WOMAD NZ in the beautiful New Plymouth is a wonderful weekend of music from many countries in a fabulous atmosphere and held in an incredible venue. (more…)

Auckland Writers Festival Free Event

March 24, 2014

Tags: Writing, Brain Matters, Festivals, Being Happy

Join me at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday, May 18th, 11.30-12.30 at the Aotea Centre as I talk about three of my most fascinating neuropsychology cases. It’s a FREE session! Click for link

Dance So There Is A Tomorrow!

February 10, 2014

Tags: Brain Matters, Off-Grid Living, Being Happy

Dance 'til you drop
I posted this last year just before Valentine's Day on "Psychology Today" and it struck a chord (no pun intended!) for many people. So I thought I'd share it this Valentine's Day with my own readers. (Unfortunately there is no Beatles dance here on our island this time, and with all the hype about it being their 50th anniversary in the USA, there should be.)

February 14th is Valentine’s Day, and perhaps you will go dancing. It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and on the beautiful island off the coast of New Zealand that I call home, the population increases from the usual 800 residents to a few thousand, as campers and hikers and holiday-makers come to relax and enjoy the bush, beach and sea. This summer, there was a new activity; a Beatles dance. Now they weren’t THE Beatles of course, but they were a great substitute. It was a raging success: a hot night, a beautiful location, and everybody danced and danced and danced. Not waltzes and foxtrots, but freestyle. Partners, no partner, it didn’t matter. The average age of the dancers, I would guess, was around 55, with a range from 12 to 80. Because everyone was so intent on dancing, and singing along with the songs from their own teenage and young adult years, the consumption of alcohol was considerably reduced, compared to a non-dancing social occasion. Many people were dressed in seventies gear, and we all know that as soon as we dress differently, we act differently and feel differently.

I wonder how many of the dancers knew they were engaging in the one physical activity that seems to beat all others in staving off cognitive decline and delaying the onset of dementia? A research article published in 2003 suggested just that (The New England Journal of Medicine, 2003, Volume 348, pp 2508-2516).
The long-term Bronx Aging Study, which began in 1980, looked at the leisure activities of 469 community dwellers aged 75 to 85 years with no signs of dementia when they were enrolled, to see if either physical or cognitive leisure activities delayed cognitive decline and dementia. A number of cognitive activities, including reading, playing board games, doing crossword puzzles at least four times a week, and playing musical instruments were associated with a lower risk of developing dementia over the next five or so years, but the only physical activity that decreased the risk of dementia was frequent dancing. Frequent dancing reduced the likelihood of developing dementia by a mind-boggling 76%, which was higher than any other cognitive or physical activity studied. Physical activities that did not appear to delay dementia onset included walking, bicycling and swimming. This was an observational rather than a carefully controlled study, with many inter-related factors to take account of, so one can’t take this as the last word on the matter. And there were physical activities, such as golf and tennis, that were not included because fewer than 10% of the senior citizens participated in them. (more…)

Weekend NZ Herald Story

October 13, 2013

Tags: Writing, Brain Matters, Off-Grid Living

Photo: Greg Bowker
Enjoyed a lovely day with NZ Herald senior journalist, Andrew Stone and senior photographer, Greg Bowker, when they flew over to our island to interview me about "Trouble In Mind" and our off-grid lifestyle for the Weekend Herald on 13th Oct. Greg was very taken with the skull, complete with brain, that (who?) looks down at me from the top shelf in our library. Poor Yorick, alas, was somewhat dusty, but at least he wasn't 12 feet under. Click here for Link to the story

Aussie Radio Interview

September 28, 2013

Tags: Brain Matters

Listen to me in conversation with Aussie media personality Eoin Cameron, on ABC Perth radio:
( http://blogs.abc.net.au/wa/2013/08/tales-from-a-neuropsychologists-casebook.html) Or Click Here for Link

'Trouble In Mind' Australia Happenings

August 11, 2013

Tags: Brain Matters, Writing

Australian Cover
With the Australian edition of my book out, it is exciting to read nice reviews in the major newspapers, and to have the opportunity to talk with Australian radio hosts. Here's the Sydney Sunday Herald review.
Trouble in Mind
Jenni Ogden
(Scribe, $29.95)

If you loved reading
the case histories
of Oliver Sacks, you’ll be similarly
engrossed by the tales told by
neuropsychologist Jenni Ogden. (more…)

Is Concussion Really a Problem in Contact Sports?

July 30, 2013

Tags: Brain Matters

Are brief concussions really a problem? This is a question that has been debated, especially in relation to contact sports, for at least 50 years. Research studies are numerous and their results not entirely consistent. Some trumpet that mild concussions on the sports field cause no long-lasting damage to the brain, and others caution that even mild concussions need to be taken seriously, as in some cases they can and do lead to months and sometimes years of debilitating problems with fatigue, poor ability to concentrate, poor memory, irritability, hypersensitivity to noise, lowered tolerance to alcohol and roller-coaster emotions. This group of symptoms has been called the post-concussional syndrome (PCS), and it is a syndrome everyone wants to avoid. (more…)

Oliver Sacks in Conversation with Danielle Ofri

April 24, 2013

Tags: Brain Matters, Writing

Oliver Sacks
Recently I watched one of the most fascinating interviews I have seen for a long time. True, I began with a positive bias as the interview was conducted by Danielle Ofri, and she was talking to Oliver Sacks about his hallucinations and other intriguing brain, mind, and people insights. These two doctors and writers are at the top of my favourite lists for both occupations. It was a lovely interview, relaxed and charming. Oliver Sacks is one of those people who defines wisdom and humility, always with a twinkle in his eye, and makes one believe that age is no barrier to living life to the full. If you want a treat, watch the interview on the NYU School of Medicine website:http://school.med.nyu.edu/humanisticmed (scroll to “News” section)

Imposter! Your face is not the one I love.

April 15, 2013

Tags: Brain Matters

Brain damage can result a bizarre condition called the Capgras Delusion where the patient recognises people and even places close to him but believes they are imposters. This is caused by the visual recognition of the person or place being disconnected from the feeling of familiarity.

Imagine the horror of learning that your brother is in a coma as the result of a car crash. Now imagine the relief when he emerges from that coma; a relief that is soon shattered by your brother’s reaction to your presence. He thinks you, his sister, are an imposter. You look and sound just like his sister, but you are not she. (more…)

Out of Mind, Out of Sight: The Mystery of Hemineglect

March 9, 2013

Tags: Brain Matters

This pun of a title graced my PhD thesis about hemineglect, written so many years ago I prefer not to think about the exact year. But back in those days, hemineglect was not commonly known about, although it had first been described over 100 years previously by a neurologist with the perfect name—Dr. Brain! When I was a student, there were only a handful of researchers in the USA, England and Italy studying hemineglect. Today it is studied by thousands of researchers, and thousands of articles have been published about it. But more than 100 years after it was first described, hemineglect—also known as unilateral spatial neglect, or unilateral inattention—is still one of the most fascinating and mysterious of the neuropsychological disorders. (more…)

Gifting The Mind

November 28, 2012

Tags: Brain Matters

HM, aged 60, in the lab at MIT
Neuroscience today is high tech—fantastic imaging machines churn out brain scans of the living, thinking brain, and computers crunch data to highlight patterns that may or may not fit the latest theory about how the mind works. How far we have come from the studies of the great neurologists and psychiatrists of the 19th century who relied on clinical descriptions of individual patients to further our knowledge of the brain and its mind. Or have we? (more…)

Keeping Alzheimer’s Disease Away

October 1, 2012

Tags: Brain Matters

Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent in "Away From Her".
Have you seen the movie, “Away From Her”? The film is based on Alice Munro’s short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” later re-released in novella form as “Away From Her.” It is the story of one couple’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Julie Christie plays the role of Fiona, as she loses her memory and her independence, but not her warmth and gentleness, and Gordon Pinsent plays the role of Fiona’s husband, a retired academic whose love for Fiona and his dependence on her for his happiness is tarnished by the guilt of his own past affairs. When Fiona starts to wander, she makes the decision to live in a nursing home where she can be cared for safely. As her dementia progresses, she forgets her who her husband is and transfers her affections to another man; a patient in the nursing home. As Gordon watches, often from the sidelines, she drifts away, leaving him alone with his long goodbye. (more…)

A Body In The Mind

June 18, 2012

Tags: Brain Matters, Writing

“Are you simply a frustrated doctor? Perhaps deep down what you wanted to be was a neurosurgeon?” are comments I have occasionally fielded. As it happened I never yearned to be a medical doctor, and while clinical neuropsychology does have many things in common with neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry, equally valid might have been the comment, “Are you a frustrated detective?” Most research has an element of detective work, whatever the field, and clinical neuropsychology is no exception. For me, it is the mix of working as a clinician and a researcher simultaneously that is the attraction of clinical neuropsychology. And these two aspects of the discipline are at their powerful best when the clinician or researcher comes across a patient with a neurological disorder or a collection of symptoms that are rare. If the patient is willing and is well enough to be tested, the neuropsychologist has an opportunity to discover something new about the way the mind works, and hopefully the careful research assessments will also provide detailed information that can improve the patient’s rehabilitation programme.
(more…)

The Frontal-lobe syndrome

March 16, 2012

Tags: Brain Matters, Writing

Embellishments on the copy (lower figure) of the top drawing indicate disinhibited behaviour.
I thought I’d write a “series” of blogs on the different neuropsychological disorders in “Trouble In Mind” including an extract from the relevant chapter. My “Psychology Today” blogs also comment on neuropsychological disorders, but usually the content is not as directly related to my book content, as it is not appropriate to post extracts from the book on that site. I’ll also focus on a different disorder on each site in any given month.

I decided to begin at the front of the brain, with the frontal lobes. These days, everyone seems to know about the frontal lobes; the parts of the brain that continue to develop through our teens and into our early twenties. To be more precise, the area that is commonly referred to as the frontal lobe, is the front of the frontal lobe; labelled the prefrontal lobe. Humans have the most highly developed prefrontal cortex of any animal, and it is probably this, more than anything else, that has catapulted humankind to the top of the evolutionary tree. (more…)

"Trouble In Mind" advance copy has arrived!

January 16, 2012

Tags: Writing, Brain Matters

I recently received an advance copy of my new book, Trouble In Mind: Stories from a Neuropsychologist’s Casebook which has a release date in the USA of February 2nd, 2012. It looks great, although somewhat thicker than I intended when I began writing! The image on the front cover, according to my daughter, makes it look like a tramping book ("tramping" being the NZ term for "hiking"). This photo of mine, of one of the many lovely walks in New Zealand's South Island, reminded me of a wonderful cartoon in my book from the Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig, called "How to Get There." I have often given this cartoon to patients who are struggling with long, slow, hard rehabilitation following a head injury or stroke. The message it conveys is that the way to get there is to keep on walking, one step at a time, stopping to rest and look at the view whenever you feel tired or downhearted. So the photo on the cover seemed to me to convey a similar "pathway to recovery."

The book's back cover is full of very nice “advance praise” quotes from many giants in the neuropsychology and medical fields as well as from some of my favorite novelists and writers of case study-type books for the general reader. (more…)

Creative Writing and the Brain

June 21, 2011

Tags: Books I am reading, Writing, Brain Matters

Is there a creative writer who hasn’t at times wondered what it is that impels thousands of people to spend thousands of hours thinking about and writing made-up stories, that at best will be read by thousands of people who have got nothing better to do than read made-up stories! Is there some evolutionary imperative that has moulded our minds to seek stories? Even Steven Pinker, the cognitive scientist and author of How the Mind Works --such a wonderful title-- who controversially suggests that music confers no survival advantage and describes it as “auditory cheesecake” (p. 534), submits that fiction can, like gossip, be biologically adaptive. “Fictional narratives supply us with a mental catalogue of the fatal conundrums we might face someday and the outcome of strategies we could deploy in them.” (p. 543.) (more…)