Human Minds Working to Make Human Minds Heard

I have written this very late and I am tired, expect copious errors. 

Today, I had an EEG recording of my brain. I was warned that if there were any erratic results or anomalies, I would be advised to visit my GP. In such situations, a fragment of ego wants you to be special, to be just a little bit different.

“We’ve got your results, and it seems your brain is not as other people’s. You have neural magnitude poetritus. It is a reasonably harmless malaise, but it does mean you are a bit deeper and more interesting than other people, and you are better than them at drawing dolphins”

A friend recently had his “you are middle aged and we must check on your decline” medical check up. He knows he drinks too much, so was waiting to be told, “you are quite healthy, but you must do something about your liver. It shows that the narrative of your life is more exciting than other people. You must be amazing.” He was disappointed to get the all clear without even a smidgen of mythic status. 

My EEG recording was taken while I listened to music. Apparently, people who appear to be in a vegetative state can be revealed to have a level of consciousness from seeing how they react to music, both music they are believed to have loved and to have hated too.

I chose We Know Who UR by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Lifted by The Lighthouse Family. I will let you decide which was which. They also through in The Birdy Song, Crazy Frog’s Axel F, and the sound of Ricky Gervais laughing. I will be very interested to see what they make of the reading at that point. Jimmy Carr’s laugh may have been worse, but is not associated with memories of me being buried in sand, having road crew jump out my shower cubicle, or being forced to drink only Pink Champagne if I fancied anything alcoholic.

As the conducting gel oozed on my scalp, under my EEG bathing cap, a brief squib of paranoia made me think, “what if this EEG recording can notice some errant taboo thought?”

“Take a look at this reading, it is in the shape of a reindeer in a bra with dildo antlers”.

Apparently, initial perusal suggests my EEG was pretty normal. I fear it may even suggest that I like Lifted as listening to it brought back happy memories of Michael Legge and I having the first 1 minute of it on a loop when our audience were waiting for us to shout at them.

Later, I had to stare into a camera and ask for donations for to help fund equipment to aid communication for people with neuro-disability. In such situations, I few neurons in my brain gang together and whisper, “are you sure this is not some form of Brasseye wind up. Is this your ‘help get a trunk out of an elephant’s arse’ moment?”

I can assure myself it is not because I lack the status which would make me of any interest for such TV programmes and I have seen the equipment they want funding for at work. Unlike the 19th century chess machine whose mechanical workings were discovered by Edgar Allan Poe to be a midget hiding in a box, this was intriguing technology. If it was someone hiding in a box, they would still have had the gift of telepathy, so even in their charlatanism, it would be some achievement. 

The machine in question was Eye-Gaze, a keyboard controlled by eye movement. I talked to Steve, whose motor neurone disease means it is his only method of communication, then I had a go with one myself. Not Steve’s, that would have been mean, he had stuff to be getting on with, including playing Civilization 5 (or was it 3? I am not up on such things).

I am a man of many fears, I’ve stopped making my top ten lists as it seems to make me think about them even more. “oh no, not another dream of falling into acid, quickly followed by some necrotic flesh disease fantasy?”

As someone whose life is defined by talking too much for too long and going off on too many tangents, to be robbed of communication loiters high on the list. It can only be the least imaginative or laziest individual who would not shiver at the thought of locked in syndrome. My fingers are thoughtlessly typing in front of me (except now I have thought about that, they have become a lot more self-aware and are becoming clumsy. That last sentence took longer than was required), it is another of those small moments of thinking how remarkable the mundane is. It took me a while to write “querulous” using my eye movements when I was at RHN, Steve was far speedier. The simplicity of these machines is remarkable to me, to type with an eye. Though it might be a relief for some, the idea that my thoughts would remain trapped in my mind, that my desires were silenced, my questioning unable to leave my skull, seems like the death of most of what might be me. 

Seeing these machines in action, and realising what they can do for those whose minds are active but bodies paralysed, makes me marvel at the ingenuity and imagination of the minds that created them.

Some of this future ahead of us looks bloody promising, doesn’t it? 

 Information about RHN is HERE

My new tour is about the human mind (and other things depending on tangents) and comes to Huddersfield, Salford, Nottingham, Sheffield, Norwich and probably a town near you. Details HERE

Brain Awareness Week is 10th to 16th March 


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3 Responses to Human Minds Working to Make Human Minds Heard

  1. Oh, Dear. That’s disturbing. Someday an EEG or something like it *might* be like reading a browsing history. Every brain’s day a James Joyce’s ULYSSES.

  2. As a Speech and Language Therapist working with people who need such equipment I just want to say Thank You for getting interested and involved in this area

  3. mybraininjury says:

    Just catching up on the blogs and read this with interest. My head was thinking what Amazon might do with such information as one’s EEG…. here is a list of titles you may be interested in perhaps.
    I used to walk past RHN on my way home from work and never thought one of my nearest and dearest would need the wonderful help of people like these. Our Neuro centre is Addenbrookes Cambridge and rehab is Colman Hospital Norwich. These are wonderful people and their work often goes unnoticed. They certainly work above and beyond the call of duty, I just received an e-mail from my husband’s therapist suggesting some new iPad Apps!
    A science communicator who has a very interesting, tragic and motivational story to tell is James Piercy, you may have come across him. His recovery continues to amaze and inspire people, see
    and other info, it may be of interest to your scientific mind.
    Looking forward to a good rant in Norwich on Friday !

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