2008 June 27

Thanks for visiting today.

I will be starting my new blog on Friday 1st August.

I will be writing on a number of topics. I hope you will feel able to contribute constructively with your own experiences or questions.

1. Inability or Limited Ability to Visualise (“Cannot visualise”, “unable to visualise”).

For many years now I have noticed that I can no longer bring forward detailed images in my mind’s eye. I can provide some descriptive details about things, but cannot actually picture the image clearly. For example, I can describe a ripe banana as a curved yellow fruit often with a polygonal shape in cross-section with a tough outer blotchy skin and soft interior, and the fruit tapering at either end.

The variation is ability to visualise seems only recently to have been acknowledged medically. So far I have found only one study, but this has found correlations between both functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and novel psychophysiological test and test subjects’ subjective appraisal of their ability to visualise.

I offer a forum to others who experience this or who wish to understand more about the phenomenon. I especially would like to hear from researchers or medical practitioners who know more about it.

2. Poor Visual Memory Recall (With Poor Episodic Memory).

I think, though ironically cannot be certain, that before I first encountered the visualisation problem described above, I had near-photographic memory. Since then my memory also deteriorated. I can best describe the situation now as like having a photo album in which someone else wrote vague descriptions on my life events such as “I think that was so-and-so”, or “I think I was in such-and-such place”, or “This would be about 1994”, and then removed all the photographs. As such when asked to rely on episodic memory recall this can be unreliable. Linguistically descriptive recollection can take me so far. In work environments I compensate by taking organised notes (and making use of any supplied software). In social environments it makes small-talk difficult, since I cannot so easily organise the things others have said and the time to recall past events by other routes often means the conversation has moved on. It also makes finding questions to ask others about themselves difficult. As a result, I find many friendships don’t last.

The memory problem also does not appear to be described at all in medical literature. This may explain why I have had no luck in getting any kind of response at all from doctors on this. I do know of two other people who say they have this problem, both of which also report inability to visualise.

I note that the memory must exist in order for the description to be possible, and because I have vivid dreams. But places visited or lived in after the problem first started are substituted by others that have some contextual similarity. For example, the university I recently worked at may appear as my high school from before the start of this condition.

I offer a forum to others who experience this or who wish to understand more about the phenomenon. I especially would like to hear from researchers or medical practitioners who know more about it.

3. Migraine.

I am currently unable to work because of migraine attacks (usually with aura) between 1 and 2 per week, with significant variation. The memory problem above, and lack of medical recognition, also means that it is difficult to help my consultant diagnostically when he asks such questions as “Do your migraine attacks favour the left or right side of your head?”

The problem is complicated because I also have 10% mobility in my neck and shoulder muscles that itself causes chronic (and possibly acute) head pain. At present I am unclear whether this is related to an underlying migraine cause, or is a distinct condition. I have noted one classical migraine attack after which my neck movement freed up for a short while, though. Chronic pain is that which persists over a long period, acute is usually much shorter (though acute migraine pain can last up to 72 hours in rare occurrences).

Migraine aura mean neurological phenomena usually of a subjective nature that the sufferer can observe but is not observable to another (with certain exceptions, such as vomiting). Common acute examples include:

  • Nausea,
  • Pins and needles followed by numbness,
  • Scintillating scotoma – a visual effect characterised by flickering bright light.

Other aura that seem to be chronic include:

  • “Visual snow” – an appearance like dancing fireflies but in bright light such as when looking at blue sky (not entirely sure if this is the right name),
  • Palinopsia – a variation of the normal “afterimages” seen to persist after looking at a bright light,
  • “Spontaneous afterimages” in which such afterimages appear without stimulus,
  • “Pinpoint flashes” – brief, tiny and infrequent flashes of light in a dark environment,
  • “Twitches” – twitching of individual muscle fibres or nerves.

These are examples of chronic aura that I have. The first two are described medically and associated with a variant of migraine called “persistent aura without infarction”, in which the sufferer basically has a prolonged aura state. This is poorly understood at present. The latter three are examples I gave other sufferers in a forum, which some agreed they also have. I have been unable to find specific medical descriptions for these.

I offer a forum to others who experience this or who wish to understand more about the phenomenon.

4. Dynamical Systems.

These relate to a certain class of systems across many scientific disciplines (such as physics, chemistry, biology and so on), that display self-organising behaviour. Strictly, though, the mathematical description relates to the mathematical description of systems’ behaviour in its ambient space. This relates to an area of mathematics and interrelated disciplines called complexity theory.

One theory of migraine causation suggests that scintillating scotoma are the sufferer’s observed result of a cortical spreading depression. This is an example of a self-propagating wave of cellular depolarisation in the structure in the brain concerned with memory, attention, awareness and so on called the cortex.

I believe much of the work in this field may have application in sociology and psychology also, and be translatable into a new approach to philosophy. I would like to have taken up research on this and had a place at Warwick University in England, a leading university in psychological research. But health problems and employment instability have meant I could not afford to take up the place. But I have maintained an amateur interest.

5. Buddhism.

I am also a practising Buddhist, though not member of a geographical sangha at present because of health constraints.

6. Creative Writing and Writing Novels and Screenplays.

In the past I have enjoyed writing short stories, within the limitations imposed by my problems with visualisation and memory. With the availability of the Internet and sites such as Flickr, I can now search for and find information and images to describe that overcome the handicap.

I am working on a theory of the story, and am working on a screenplay and on a novel. I swap between the two whenever I get stuck on one of them! I will share the ups and downs of this process.

I look forward to meeting you.



  1. The symptoms mentioned as examples of “chronic aura” that you have withdrew my attention. Let me explain why.

    People in general, journalists and many healthcare professionals (who have no excuse for such ignorance), seem to take the referee’s stance: no harm, no foul – as though psychological abuse is just something people have a right to do to you. They still make nothing of psychological abuse and think it is nothing compared to a physical blow. That notion is deplorably simplistic: psychological injuries are real.

    Because hard evidence and witnesses are lacking, making prosecution impossible, the abusers get away with it. They commit the perfect crime – the one so incredible nobody believes it. Because it’s wanton, bizarrely evil. As spiders they enmesh their prey in a web that is a Catch-22: Nobody will believe the victim. So, when I said, at the time I was being stalked by the government (and this was even publicly fairly well known): “the government is stalking me”, the typical reaction was: “I don’t believe a government would waste time or money on anyone that isn’t a real threat.”

    In 1991, as libertarian, I was an enthusiast member of the new Flemish liberal party (VLD). His leader, Guy verhofstadt, said he stood for a classical liberal policy and I believed him (he even told me that his ‘libertarian’ beliefs were uncompromising). Though now a middle-of-the-road politician, in his early political career Verhofstadt was even nicknamed by leftists “Baby Thatcher” for his “free market credentials.” He was also a freethinker and as such a critic of Islam. As atheist I appreciated this much. But once elected Prime Minister in 1999, it became obvious to me that he was pushing the party into a leftist agenda.

    Having betrayed his own principles and values for the sake of power, I wrote a few protest letters to the Party office to give expression to my disappointment and addressed him in these letters as “ex- libertarian”. He was furious! Since then he tried to break me mentally. How? By stalking, because victims suffer mental and emotional trauma which at times causes them to break down mentally.

    I have already heard of stalkers being locked up in a mental hospital. But here in Belgium, in my case, it happened the other way round. I was the victim, the person being stalked. The stalker was… the Belgium state itself – i.e. the secret services at the order of the Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt who became obsessed with me – and, after a relentless 4-year campaign of harassment, illegal actions and malpractices (such as spreading vicious lies about me, street theatre, psy-ops assaults), after having been bombarded with sexually explicit and pornographic emails, (but not even close to being broken mentally), it was me (and, mind you, three months before the end of his legislature), who was sent to a mental asylum for six months because of the turmoil in the wake of my political incorrect letters about the multicultural madness and the dangers of Islam to the editor of local newspapers and magazines and occasionally also to….. the Cabinet of the Prime Minister.

    In that mental hospital, I have been deliberately misdiagnosed with psychic disorders and was forced to swallow anti-psychotic meds [Risperdal (Risperidone)] simply to try to space myself out and no longer to pay attention to the stalking (or to give in to the pressure of it and, enter a ‘dialogue’ with the perpetrators of this psychic violence?) nor to focus on the danger of Islamization!!

    In the course of taking these meds I began to suffer from strange sensations in my head. However, since I have stopped taking these, the sensations became daily chronic and have slowly become worse and worse (turned into a kind of ‘not severe’ headache). Also, very shortly after I had stopped taking that ‘medication’ I started having persistent visual disturbances. I have been getting now and then a blue flash of light before my eyes; it is only a tiny light (about the size of a pea) and as soon as I see it its gone again, but I can have this up to about 5-10 times a day. Or I get a quick white flash in the field of my vision, not in front of my eyes but to the side of it (not in the direction I’m looking) but either in the left corner, or in the right corner of my eye. Sometimes it is not a flash but rather a white bright spot. I also have various perceptual distortions such as bluish, shadowy shapes or whitish shapes when I look to a wall depending on the strength of the environmental light.

    There are also situations in which I have optical illusions and afterimages. For example, when the moon is visible in the sky, and I look at it, I see a ‘double moon’, and I can’t read teletext anymore because after a few seconds I have before my eyes ‘black notelines’, which are hindering my reading – when I turn around my head, those lines are even projected on the wall for about ten seconds.

    I have always hoped that after stopping taking meds these symptoms would go away after a while. But this did not happen. The strange sensations became even worse with time! I have constantly a tight feeling around the temple area. Sometimes, throughout the day, I also have a pulsating artery (on both sides, but it is much more pronounced on the left side ) and have also occasional twitches around the temple. When it’s at its worst, I feel a squeezing sensation against my temples.

    Sometimes ( very seldom, perhaps once in a month) I also experience a quick, sharp, stabbing pain in my head, I can barely stand it. Both a CT scan and an MRI showed nothing wrong with my brain, such as a tumor. The psychatrist denies there is a connection with the medication Risperdal, but… can’t give an explanation either!! I cannot get a diagnosis!!

    • Hi, Gilbert,

      May I first say how very sorry I am to hear of the terrible times you are having. I can only hope things improve for you in the future.

      I am not medically trained and am just a sufferer of “complicated migraine”, but the symptoms you describe sound much like those of chronic aura. From my research these typically have one of two causes (rarely a third being due to a complication of multiple sclerosis): persistent migraine aura (PMA), in patients with diagnosed underlying migraine; hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), in patients with even a one-off history of taking (or being prescribed) hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD. I’ve not heard of Risperidone before, and don’t recall ever hearing anyone prescribed it talking of PMA/HPPD like chronic aura. I’ve had a quick look on Wikipedia and, unsurprisingly, can find no mention of these as possible side-effects (I say unsurprisingly because PMA/HPPD is not commonly understood in the medical profession it seems). But that’s not to say it’s not a possible trigger either. It’s always worth exploring a diagnosis of migraine, as you are describing typical PMA symptoms and have headaches, I guess.

      Take care.

      P.S., an afterthought – have you tried the visual snow forum? You can find a link to it from the “PMA & Visual Snow FAQs” page (above) or one of the PMA/migraine forums. The main visual snow forum is: http://thosewithvisualsnow.yuku.com/

  2. Thank you for your kind response and referral to the visual snow forum at http://thosewithvisualsnow.yuku.com/

    Your comment concerning underlying migraine is important. Indeed, I suffer since 12 years from “silent migraine”, i.e., a migraine ‘without’ headache but with the appearance of a flickering zigzag line beginning centrally and migrating to the periphery. But this occurs for very, very irregular: sometimes once every five months, sometimes once every two months and, now and then, twice in one week.

    Concerning my experience of sensory disturbances, there two others that I forgot to mention. Occassionally (one or three times a day) I see a blue flash (very short, only during a split second and, when the light is very clear (e.g. in a sunny environment or in the dentist’s office), I see sometimes, about 1.5 meters before my eyes and during 20 seconds, a kind of ‘airbuble ring’ (not larger than a cherry pit) with in the middle of it a black point.

    • Hi, again, Gilbert,

      It’s interesting to me personally that you mention the “airbubble ring”, as this sounds like a rare aura I too have. I’ve noticed that if I see it (against a light background) and then look at a dark background (or close my eyes), mine appears as a “positive afterimage”.

      Thank you for including your experience here.

      Take care.

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