Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and concussions have increasingly made headlines, particularly in the context of sports-related injury. An increasing number of hospitals and outpatient clinics have opened units dedicated to improving diagnosis and rehabilitation for TBI patients. As we work to advance research and treatment, it is important to recognize the real people behind the statistics and brain imaging, to understand how these devastating losses impact their everyday lives.
Artificial Intelligence professor Dr. Clark Elliott suffered what was initially thought to be a mild-traumatic brain injury when his car was rear-ended in 1999, an accident he walked away from. However, in the weeks, months, and years that followed, Dr. Elliott suffered a constellation of cognitive and emotional symptoms resulting from that TBI that threatened his family life and once promising career.
Dr. Elliott's new book, The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole My Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped Me Get It Back, describes in unblinking detail the often confusing changes that took place in his ability to think and function following the accident. Importantly, the story goes on to examine emerging research in neuroplasticity, the amazing ways in which the brain heals itself, and the innovative behavioral optometry treatment that Dr. Elliott credits for bringing him back to himself. It is a remarkable story, and well worth the read for those who have suffered TBIs, as well as for those who love and treat them.
Click here to learn more about Dr. Elliott's book and experiences.
Click here to listen to an insightful interview with Dr. Elliott by KERA's Kris Boyd.
The Pixar team has honed their ability to combine humor and creativity without shying away from deeper human emotions. Their new film, Inside Out, centers on the emotions, memories, personality and meaning found by the young protagonist as she tries to cope with moving to a new city and school, while on the verge of adolescence. The film offers insight into the value of sadness, one of those human experiences (along with anxiety, fear, and anger) that many people would rather live without. Our tendency to overvalue positive emotions, often shows itself to be inadequate when we (and those we love) face difficult times and transitions. Sadness, in particular, cues us to the fact that we have lost touch with something or someone important to us. It helps us empathically connect with others, and lets others know that we need their help. Sadness and anxiety often lead people into therapy, but it is important to know that they are not the enemy. As one viewer notes, the film reminds us of the words often repeated by therapists, "it is ok to feel sad." A life without anxiety or sadness is likely also a life without contentment or joy. They are a part of the greater human whole.
The film also explores the role of memories, and in particular "core memories" that help shape our personality, experiences, and identity. We see how core memories fall away when their meaning no longer holds in our present reality. In those times, new experiences, memories, and the full range of emotion are needed as we work to re-understand, and sometimes recreate, ourselves, our relationships, and our world.
Treat your children, nieces and nephews, neighbor kids, or your own inner child to Inside Out. Don't forget the popcorn... or the tissues.
About the Author
Clinical psychologist Dr. Kristy Novinski contributes insights, book and film reviews, discussions of pop culture, and exploration of news and research in the field of psychology.