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But as she explains in her book The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery, published in April , part of the solution lies in ceasing to distinguish between mental and physical problems. The neuroscientist wants the world to understand that mental illness is an organ malfunction, quite common and life threatening.

Speaking with Lipska on Oct. Can the mind ever comprehend the mind? On this, Lipska is intent.

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The brain is not a simple organ like the heart, which is basically a pump. Sometimes the show is no good, and it loses its director altogether. But after she was diagnosed with brain cancer in and began taking medications to deal with the illness, she became someone else—and not someone she liked. She was angry, cranky, demanding, insistent, unreasonable, intolerant, and sometimes a danger to herself and others. She made bad decisions. One day, she tried to walk home alone from a supermarket.


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She was mean to her beloved grandkids, and rude to medical personnel who tried to help her. But she can point to the region in the brain that was affected. When her frontal cortex was malfunctioning, she could no longer control herself—all the rules about where and when to do certain things, and how to communicate, became irrelevant to her. They were inaccessible, for all practical purposes nonexistent.

The experience has changed her work. So when she recovered from cancer and the pressure was off her brain, literally, she applied her scientific knowledge to the terrifying personal experience and wrote her book. In one passage, she writes:. Despite all my years of studying brain disorders, for the first time in my life I realize how profoundly unsettling it is to have a brain that does not function.

And the more I remember from the days and weeks of my madness, the more frightened I become that I will lose my mind again. Perhaps madness is not the proper term to describe my condition at the time. After all, it is not an official diagnosis, but it is often used informally to mean instability, insanity, and and angry and disorganized behavior. So instead I think of myself as having experienced a number of symptoms connected with a range of mental disorders. In other words, I had a brush with insanity.

And I have come back. The book is also an effort to help alleviate the stigma around mental illness. She went out on a limb, exposing the most unpleasant aspects of her otherwise highly accomplished and admirable existence so that society might realize everyone, anyone, can lose their mind, forever or for a time. Lipska was surprised to discover after the book was released just how many people needed to hear what she had to say. She has been flooded with appreciative messages from people who say she inspired them.

The neuroscientist can no longer completely trust herself or rely on the brain that made her into a world-renowned researcher. For a time, her mind failed her, and now she is cautious. There was just a way I behaved in illness. I wish I could say that I have no idea what Lipska is talking about. But I do. It could have been a cumulative process, the result of a lifetime of use.

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But it could have been a million things. This, I can tell you. My head hurt.

A Dream Come True

It all became one nonsensical story that I tried to sort through but could not. I searched for meaning everywhere. I saw strange things happen—characters from different points in my life all driving by in a caravan in the forest, for example, all with dogs by their sides.

Everything was intertwining. Perhaps I was a criminal. At home, I rearranged all the artwork on the walls after staring at it long and hard. When my husband asked what happened to the images, I told him I was trying to rewrite the story so it would have another ending. But then, the next day, when the art was all off the walls, he got beyond worried, especially when I told him I would be locked up and that it all had something to do with Donald Trump.

I saw a doctor. She had no idea what was wrong except that I seemed pale and thin.


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  • Next I saw a psychiatrist. Yet his response resembled the one I got from a nurse when I served in Peace Corps more than a decade before. And because the brain and its behavioral manifestations are so mysterious, and because we are so ignorant of it, we are afraid and ashamed of its power to destroy us.

    The brain is a different story, however. You could be shunned. In my case, a brain MRI showed nothing out of the ordinary. That was something of a relief, but also slightly disappointing. Some physical thing to point to would have explained the experience at least. The worst of it lasted only a few days. LaBerge found dreams that exhibit one clearly without the capacity for the other; also, in some dreams where the dreamer is lucid and aware they could exercise control, they choose simply to observe. It has been suggested that those who suffer from nightmares could benefit from the ability to be aware they are indeed dreaming.

    A pilot study performed in showed that lucid dreaming therapy treatment was successful in reducing nightmare frequency. This treatment consisted of exposure to the idea, mastery of the technique, and lucidity exercises. It was not clear what aspects of the treatment were responsible for the success of overcoming nightmares, though the treatment as a whole was said to be successful. Australian psychologist Milan Colic has explored the application of principles from narrative therapy to clients' lucid dreams, to reduce the impact not only of nightmares during sleep but also depression, self-mutilation, and other problems in waking life.

    Colic found that therapeutic conversations could reduce the distressing content of dreams, while understandings about life—and even characters—from lucid dreams could be applied to their lives with marked therapeutic benefits.

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    Psychotherapists have applied lucid dreaming as a part of therapy. Studies have shown that, by inducing a lucid dream, recurrent nightmares can be alleviated. It is unclear whether this alleviation is due to lucidity or the ability to alter the dream itself. A study performed by Victor Spoormaker and Van den Bout evaluated the validity of lucid dreaming treatment LDT in chronic nightmare sufferers. Results of lucid dreaming treatment revealed that the nightmare frequency of the treatment groups had decreased. In another study, Spoormaker, Van den Bout, and Meijer investigated lucid dreaming treatment for nightmares by testing eight subjects who received a one-hour individual session, which consisted of lucid dreaming exercises.

    This was purposefully taught in order to change the course of their nightmares.

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    The subjects then reported the diminishment of their nightmare prevalence from 2—3 times a week to 2—3 times per month. In her book The Committee of Sleep , Deirdre Barrett describes how some experienced lucid dreamers have learned to remember specific practical goals such as artists looking for inspiration seeking a show of their own work once they become lucid or computer programmers looking for a screen with their desired code. However, most of these dreamers had many experiences of failing to recall waking objectives before gaining this level of control.

    Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold discusses creativity within dreams and lucid dreams, including testimonials from a number of people who claim they have used the practice of lucid dreaming to help them solve a number of creative issues, from an aspiring parent thinking of potential baby names to a surgeon practicing surgical techniques.

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