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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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Gifting The Mind

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?  Read More 
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Keeping Alzheimer’s Disease Away

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.  Read More 
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A Body In The Mind

“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.
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The Frontal-lobe syndrome

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.  Read More 
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"Trouble In Mind" advance copy has arrived!

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.  Read More 
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Merry Christmas from Great Barrier Island, New Zealand

Christmas and New Year in New Zealand fall conveniently in the middle of summer. Schools and universities break up for the year, and every business and institution that can close, does. The week (or month…) before Christmas is the usual mad rush of present buying, parties, stacking the pantry and fridge with goodies, and putting up tents in the garden for the overflow of visitors. Read More 
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Rumer Godden, an Author to Treasure.

Spring in Christchurch
Books; I have read so many wonderful ones in the past few weeks. It is difficult to choose which to talk about. So I will opt for China Court: The Hours of a Country House, the novel I finished with a sigh this morning. The author, Rumer Godden, was born in England in 1907. She grew up in India and returned to England as an adult, dying in Scotland in 1998. It is a mystery to me why I didn’t discover her long ago.  Read More 
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Birds, Babies, and Rugby Balls

We are back in New Zealand and it is early summer. Our beautiful island is at its best with gardens overflowing with scents and the sounds of bees and the sea and sky deep blue against the white sand. Even better, there are very few people around and our beach is usually deserted. We have put up the fence along the edge of the dunes to protect the nesting birds; rare NZ dotterels and endangered if not rare oyster catchers. Read More 
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