Archive for November, 2008


Cannot Visualise (Part Two) (Last Edited: 2010 Sep 25)

2008 November 29

Go back to Part 1 | Go on to Part 3

This is part two of a three part series about migraine. You can use the links above or at the end of this page to go back or forward. Or you can jump to any part from the Visualisation FAQs page link; where you can read my list of reported problems.

Please note: This series is now very out of date. I am in the process of updating them with new research that I have found. To learn more, please click this link:

I am also thinking about setting up an online support forum for people with no/low visualization. If you would be interested in this, please leave a comment to the post:

A quick search on Google will show three things about visualisation:

  • There’s an awful lot of opinion that those who say they can’t visualise actually can,
  • There are a very few people who admit openly that they can’t or have a great deal of difficulty doing so,
  • That there’s practically no obvious research being done looking at the variability of people’s ability to visualise.

So it may be surprising if you can see things in your mind’s eye if someone tells you they can’t, or can only do so in a limited way. It may be more surprising if I told you that in my own case I once could do so, but now can’t. In other words – your ability to visualise can change.

But there is a study on the variability in the “vividness of mental imagery” published openly. It was carried out in 2006 and published in Science Direct in 2007. Link:

The study looked at a small group of 8 subjects, 2 females and 6 males, aged 25-31. It looked at three tasks:

  • Subjective vividness rating, in which the subjects described how well they could visualise.
  • A colour naming task, which excluded two additional subjects who scored too low.
  • A visualisation (mental imaging) task while being scanned by an fMRI scanner.

The first task used the vividness of visual imagery questionnaire developed by Marks in 1973. You can find out more on this from this link:

The colour naming task is explained in the link to the study.

The main part of the study itself looked at whether the subjects’ reported vividness in the VVIQ could be correlated by the fMRI scan. To do this, they were blindfolded and asked to visualise a preset task while scanned. Again, the full details are in the linked document.

The study found a statistically significant correlation between:

  • The objective data from each subject’s visual cortex from the fMRI scan, and
  • The subjective rating of that subject in the VVIQ.

In other words, the person’s own assessment of how well or badly they can visualise is shown in the scan. This confirms that there can indeed be variability in how people can visualise.

Go back to Part 1 | Go on to Part 3


News: Drug ‘telcagepant’ Offers new Hope to Migraine Sufferers

2008 November 26

Reported yesterday, the drug telcagepant is offering new hope to some migraine sufferers. It is another drug that shows success in treating the pain phase of migraine. It has typically fewer side-effects that existing drugs.

It may offer hope to patients who cannot take, or don’t benefit from, triptans. These include those with heart disease, high blood pressure and some types of migraine.

A randomized study of 1,380 people in 81 hospitals in the US and Europe showed telcagepant was as effective as zolmitriptan, but with fewer side-effects. But further research is necessary before this can be used generally as a migraine treatment.



Tuesday Round-up for Friends

2008 November 26

(Even if it is Wednesday again.)

Yesterday I had my three-times-a-year review from my pain specialist. As expected, things are not looking good. The epilim (sodium valproate) looks like it’s reducing the severity and duration of the pain phase of my migraines. But it’s doing nothing for their frequency, or for the severity and duration of the aura and postdromal phases. And nothing for the persistent aura, as it turns out. So while the actual pain is lessened, the overall impact of migraines on my life isn’t reduced that much.

Anyone not familiar intimately, first hand and in person with migraine probably can’t appreciate this. So a quick recap. Migraine comes in four phases, that may overlap somewhat (skip this bit if you already know!):

  • Predromal. This is the build up to what others may think of as the main attack. It can lack any symptoms, or have subtle symptoms (such as depression, a craving for a particular food, irritability, etc.) What happens depends on the person. As I’m not aware of this phase, I don’t know how it affects me.
  • The aura phase. Not all sufferers have this phase. It can overlap or even extend beyond the pain phase. Typical aura include flashing or strobing lights, tingling or numbness. Rarely, and sadly not so rarely for me, this can include more severe symptoms such as partial paralysis or (in my case) affects on consciousness. These can include loss of language, jamais-vu (where familiar faces, objects or places become unfamiliar), confusion or other forms of hallucinations. For me this phase usually precedes the pain phase by half to one hour. Though as I have persistent aura, I get less clear warning of an impending attack than I used to have. In some cases for me, the pain phase can start a day later.
  • The pain phase. The level of pain both differs from in form and exceeds the pain of a normal headache. Untreated, it is often accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting. Sources such as an article published in New Scientist liken the pain level as exceeding natural childbirth or a gunshot wound. My own pain varies, but even the mildest severely limits what I can do. The most extreme includes stabbing pains in one or both eyes with even the slightest movement. But it is this phase that the epilim seems to be reducing. On epilim, it appears so far, I typically get three hours of pain phase per week, tending towards the milder end (which still exceeds what I would call a “bad headache”).
  • Postdromal. This can be a feeling of wellness or even euphoria. Or, as in my case, it can be an extended period of confusion and physical weakness and tiredness. Again, the aura and pain phases can overlap with this. The postdromal phase can be as long as, or longer, than the pain phase. Nothing yet tried has changed this, and this phase for me can last beyond the pain phase anything from an hour to twenty four hours.

In the case of my complicated migraine, both the pain and postdromal phases affect what I can do. The attacks range from “mild” to “severe”. Think of it as ranging from combining being very drunk with a normal hangover to beyond the worst hangover you’ve ever had and being beaten about the head with a brickbat while someone stabs your eyes with red hot needles. You get the idea. Well, so far we’ve started to do away with the brickbat and the red hot needles. But not, sadly, the worst hangover you’ve ever had. Or the being drunk. Or how often they happen.

So why are things not looking good? My specialist says that most medicines used only treat the pain phase. There aren’t that many that are used to treat the postdromal and aura phases. Then rattled off some names too obscure for even this humble wordsmith to forge into a belated Tuesday post. So he’s going to write to my GP to suggest upping the epilim dose and review me (for the last time I suspect) in May. In May. Half a job done in two years. What about the rest then? I’ll have to have a chat with my GP if the higher dose doesn’t make any impact on the postdromal and aura phases about what extra things we can try.

For me this is a problem to be solved. The physiotherapy, such as there was he could suggest, on the underlying cause of damage to my neck hasn’t helped much. The pain phase is improved. We’re getting somewhere. So if there’s medication out there, why aren’t we adding that to my regime to try to now make an impact on the remaining problem? But the best part he saved till last…

“The problem with being away from a working environment for so long is that is starts to make an impact on one’s quality of life.” He said. Obviously I’m paraphrasing as I don’t recall the exact wording. “Things have improved on how they were. In August when off the epilim for a while, you were having daily migraines. Now they’re about two days per week. At some point you need to test the water.”

Test the water!!!?

What employer would take me on while I will still be off, without predictability or warning, an average two days per week? And how is it reasonable to expect one to? What I need is the job completed, the problem solved so that I can get back to work and be there every day of every week again… bar the odd day here and there as before. Not to mention the unimportant point about how the social isolation of this illness is affecting me as a human being.

How about we test an extra medication regimen?

I’m angry.


Cannot Visualise (Part One) (Last Edited: 2010 Sep 25)

2008 November 22

This is part one of a three part series about visualisation and memory problems. You can continue to part two from the link at the bottom of this page. Or you can jump to any part from the Visualisation FAQs page link; where you can read a list of reported problems.

Please note: This series is now very out of date. I am in the process of updating them with new research that I have found. To learn more, please click this link:

I am also thinking about setting up an online support forum for people with no/low visualization. If you would be interested in this, please leave a comment to the post:

One other problem I have had for some years now is that I can’t visualise. By this I mean I can’t see or picture things in my “mind’s eye”. Whenever I talk of this, the other person finds it hard to understand (or believe). If I say that it also affects my memory, things get more interesting. Because I have very poor episodic memory – memory of life events. This is most true for visual memory. I’ve been asked questions like “how do you get around your home?” As if somehow I may be blind! More reasonably, I’ve been asked how I remember where something is in my home. To be honest, I’m not sure – but I usually do! I think I compensate with a kind of physical memory – a memory of how to move around to find something.

One thing I dread is if someone in a car asks me for directions. Because I can’t visualise the route, I’m worried about missing out a turn or landmark. In fact, I’m sure I have. Again, I have to try to feel my way around the directions.

As with persistent migraine aura (PMA) and visual snow (VS), medical science seems to poorly understand all this. I’ve only found one study on the variation in visualisation. I’ve found nothing at all on what I call persistent visualisation deficit (PVD). Now, I’m not suggesting PVD relates to PMA or VS. I’ve no evidence for this (or against). But I do know one other person personally who says they have the same disability in visualisation and episodic memory. But I’ve only read one post on the Internet from a stranger who clearly has the same problem.

Go on to Part 2



Tuesday Round-up for Friends

2008 November 18

One of the most frustrating things about migraine, frequent or not, are how they stop you doing things. Things you must do. Things you should do. Things you’d like to do. You can prioritise your life; but migraines just stop you indiscriminately. I’ve more or less now given up for the time being doing anything that involves travelling – even just a few miles. I don’t drive (and recently gave up my licence voluntarily because of my health). So I rely on public transport. That means if I fall ill, it can be some time before I get home again. Or, if I decide to find somewhere quiet to hole up, I could be very ill and having to travel on the last bus or train home. And that’s if I can find somewhere to hole up. Not a problem, perhaps, if you get one or two a month. But when you get one or two or three or more a week, things get more complicated.


Forthcoming Changes

2008 November 15

Back from my break, I am going to make some changes to my blog:

  • I am going to reorganise the pages. The “Mistylook” theme I use doesn’t allow that many page tabs. So I’m going to have to move some pages “under” others. This means if you have bookmarked the FAQs pages, you’ll need to update your bookmarks when I’ve done this. I’m going to do it at the start of January, so check back then for the post telling you the new places! They won’t be too hard to find.
  • I realise that I don’t have enough spoons (yes, spoons) to keep spreading myself about. So to speak. To see what I’m talking about, click this link (thanks to Batsgirl for the link):

So to save my spoons, so to speak, I’m cutting back on my plans for this blog. But fear not, I’m concentrating on these key topics from now on:

  • Migraine, persistent migraine aura, visual snow and poor visual memory in the news.
  • New scientific breakthroughs in migraine, PMA, visual snow and poor visual memory.
  • Changes to the benefits’ system for UK readers.

And from next Saturday (22nd) I will start a mini-series on the variation in visualisation and on my own memory problems. (Please note that as far as I know these are independent of migraine, PMA and visual snow.)


Tuesday Round-up for Friends

2008 November 4

My sister visited last week. It was nice to go out for a drive. It’s surprising what you can get used to not doing after a while. We had thought to go collecting chestnuts from the edge of the public woods. But there weren’t many and what there were were small.

My back isn’t anything serious (unless my specialist says otherwise when I see him in a three weeks). Just stressed nerves from the change to a more sedentary lifestyle. The physiotherapist is a lovely young woman. She’d just moved to my home town to fill the post, and it was her first day! And she got me, poor thing! She’s given me some exercises to do to help relax the muscles, and suggested I work through any pain rather than resting.

Now I’m off to contemplate staying up to watch at least the East Coast results come in of the US election. I wouldn’t normally, being a Brit and five hours plus ahead. But this isn’t an ordinary election.