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Festivals and the love of books

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.  Read More 
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Auckland Writers Festival Free Event

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​a> Read More 
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Dance So There Is A Tomorrow!

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. Read More 
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Weekend NZ Herald Story

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​a>  Read More 
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Aussie Radio Interview

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​a>
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'Trouble In Mind' Australia Happenings

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. Read More 
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Is Concussion Really a Problem in Contact Sports?

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.  Read More 
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Oliver Sacks in Conversation with Danielle Ofri

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) Read More 
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Imposter! Your face is not the one I love.

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.  Read More 
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Out of Mind, Out of Sight: The Mystery of Hemineglect

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.  Read More 
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