Archive for the ‘Autodidact’ Category

Neuroscience as a Blood Sport

November 29, 2010

As should be well known, patients in hospitals are generally passive recipients of treatment – mostly because they have neither the knowledge, nor the interest in learning everything that relates to their medical problems.  Doctors are generally well pleased with that, though some don’t regard that as optimal.  Viz: Oliver Sacks, A Leg to Stand on, about his experience as a patient.

What is not expected is that the patient becomes concerned about his or her lack of knowledge of his medical condition and seeks to correct it by all possible means, including giving himself a private education in said medical science.

That was my scenario. I, a BA in Classics(Latin) at the University of Canterbury, and a Licentiate of Theology(Hebrew) at College House, was knocked off my bicycle one dark night in the middle of winter, and left for dead.

I “came to” about five days later, ie, I got my short term and long term memory subsystems in sync – I’d been fully conscious since the hospital operated on the very night of my accident; they didn’t have any choice as it turns out – extradural haematomas don’t give any time frame for dithering.

After reading the pamphlet on the brain and brain injury the hospital gave me, since I needed to know just what had happened, and what was going on, I scoured the local library for as much information on the neurosciences as possible, but I never got much joy until I picked up Oliver Sacks’ The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, and discovered that there was a set of sciences around the study of the brain.

I bought the book, wrote away to various University Bookshops and ordered some books that happened to be either recommended by Oliver Sacks, or were in print, or both, to wit:
A R Luria, The Working Brain
Dr Muriel Lezak, Neuropsychological Assessment
Guyton, Basic Neuroscience: Anatomy and Physiology

Also a few others, such as
Springer and Deutsch, Right Brain, Left Brain

All in all, light reading.

I was amused, though, after telling my neuropsychologist, Mr Peter Waddell, that I had decided to add the neurosciences to my list of accomplishments, and confessed that I found Lezak’s book heavy going, to have him add that he also found her book heavy going.  Compounded more than a few years later by another neuropsychologist I contacted, who expressed amazement that I had got through Luria’s book on my own.

The topping, the creme-de-la-creme though, came this year, when hearing from another neuropsychologist I had also contacted on another matter, that I had exceeded the reading list expected of graduate students at no less than Stanford University.

The question in my mind now is, how am I to indicate this to a potential employer? That I have a knowledge level in the neurosciences equivalent to what is expected of a Stanford University graduate?  That, in consequence, I have a quite a high level of research and problem solving skills – I had this horrendous accident, I got to and learnt about it, I worked out strategies to cope and beat back clinical depression without chemical assistance, and at the end of my clinical depression, I did the same thing with most of Computer Science.

It’s a mystery to me.  I find I face a quite considerable skills shortage on the part of the employers themselves – because they have never faced this sort of challenge, they discount that someone else might have succeeded in conquering it.

I wish I could find a way around this.