I can't remember the old me

Dear Bloggers,

First of all I would like to say that I am sorry that I have not been around for a little while due to the fact that I have started my new job at another station in the company therefor I have to learn many new routes in an area that I am not to familiar with. The good old brain and body are having trouble to keep up with the new situation. In my old days I was pretty flexible and was able to learn new skills nowadays I have to make plans and work things out on paper.

Headaches I never had before

During the summer of 2003, I got into a horrible accident. Apparently slipping from the top of the stairs in our new house, I hit my head on the door of the fuse cabinet door and on the side wall. After 3 minutes of being out of this planet, I eventually recovered after a full year. Even though I was deemed "physically" healed, I felt that I was truly never the same. Not only had my demeanor and interests changed, but also it seemed as if I had become a completely different person after the accident. I thought it was very sad at the time, because the friends who had been close to me before were no longer close. I did not understand what they meant when they said that I had become a different person. Certainly, I realized that I had changed, but I could not remember the old me, so how comes that they could no longer treat me like the old "Jacob". I believed that this new "Jacob" was still the same person as before-that the inner soul with which they had become friends had never and, indeed, could never change. However, after reading Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, I regret the harsh judgments I made about "Jacobs" so called friends. Dealing with someone who has suffered from a tremendous change in personality is not as easy as one would expect. So how can I blame my wife as she probably can not addapt fully to the new me. And it makes me feel so sad but what can I do as I cannot find the “Old Jacob” back?

 body meets scattered brain

Brain injury is any injury that results in damage to the brain. For many people who suffer from brain injury, the problems associated with it become a permanent part of their lives. The problems that develop depend upon which part of the brain is injured. People can lose cognitive and motor functions as well as their ability to express thoughts and perceive their surroundings. The most unnerving consequence of a brain injury can be a change in personality. Often after being injured victims, like myself, develop an apathy and decreased motivation for life. Emotion can run to both extremes: a forever high, or as in the case of my friend, an absence there of. In society there is a difference in the response shown to someone who has suffered a brain injury that changes his or her personality, and someone whose injury has affected any other part of the body, or even other types of injuries to the brain. What accounts for this difference? If an individual loses a limb, he loses the function of that limb as well. It makes sense then that when an individual loses part of his brain, the function of that part goes too. This is in correlation with the statement, brain = behavior. Each part of the brain seems responsible for different behaviors, a fact that is reinforced when examining injuries to different areas of the brain and the varying results that occur. For example, if an individual suffers injury to their amygdala, he becomes calm and almost devoid of emotional ups and downs. People have therefore reasoned that this area of the brain is responsible for exhibiting anger and possessing violent emotions. If the function of a specific area of the brain is a defining characteristic of an individual's personality, then it is almost as if a new person develops, in place of the old, when an injury to that area occurs.

Modern Schizofrenia

"Jacob was no longer Jacob". The most frightening thing about my story is that, although I became somehow very different, I was for a long time not aware of the changes within myself. In class we have explored the nervous system and noted that there is a separate I-function involved, making one aware of the "self". With each class, it becomes more evident that this I-function has less and less control on the rest of the nervous system. Many times the I-function is not aware of things that the nervous system is doing until the person is told what his or her nervous system is doing, (i.e., when the brain makes up an image for the place of vision, the optic nerve, where no sensory receptors are located). So the question I have for people like me, who seem to be totally dissimilar people after suffering a brain trauma, is whether or not their I-functions are aware of the change in personality? People suffering from a personality change are unable to will themselves back to their old personality, even after their I-function is made aware. This furthermore, supports that brain equals behavior, because if behavior was independent of the brain, one would be able to change their personality back despite the brain changes. However, can we ever be sure that, because we are not mind readers, that even though their personality changes, they are not thinking in the same manner, as Descartes would argue? And if the individual thinks in an entirely new manner, would that really be enough to consider him or her a totally different person? I could not write it down less difficult than this.

That is how I feel

The likely reality is that when someone's brain is injured, the function is forever injured as well. There is no separation between mind and brain. Popular opinion of the mind's function is that it is a result of a brain process. Although when the brain loses a function, it is not unlike the reaction incurred in any other part of the body, but the more important query remains. Which characteristics do we use when defining a person's being? If I had suffered from a trauma to any other part of his body and survived, my friends would never have said that I was no longer the same person. Often when people undergo a personality change, their IQ remains unaffected by the injury. This is because of the various tasks delegated to the brain. The frontal lobe has evolved to be the main organizer. If people, like me, damage this region of the brain, their persona changes because this region is imperative for defining one's personality.

the other side of me

What, then, is the most important factor accounting for the way a person becomes defined; what has happened to make the various regions of the brain become so specialized? Has there been a gradual process through evolution that makes the loss of the frontal lobe harder to deal with than the loss of other regions of the brain, or other body parts? Or has the brain always functioned in this manner? When examining the responses to what appears to be injuries that are all serious in nature, it becomes apparent that some injuries are, indeed, more acute than others. Although an injury which is noticeable may on the surface seem more life changing, it cannot be argued that it is the injuries which are held within one's mind that are the most devastating to a person's being. Yes, they are all injuries to the body, but only those touching the brain have the capacity to change the "soul" of a person.

The Old Sailor,


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