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Mark Drangsholt: Deciphering My Brain Fog

One of the benefits of long-term self-tracking is that one builds up a toolbox of investigatory methods that can be drawn upon when medical adversity hits. One year ago, when Mark Drangsholt experienced brain fog during a research retreat while on Orcas Island in the Pacific Northwest, he had to draw upon the self-tracking tools at his disposal to figure out what was behind this troubling symptom.

Watch this invaluable talk on how Mark was able to combine his self-tracking investigation with his medical treatments to significantly improve his neurocognitive condition.

Here is Mark’s description of his talk:

What did you do?
I identified that I had neurocognitive (brain) abnormalities – which decreased my memory function (less recall) – and verified it with a neuropsychologist’s extensive tests.  I tried several trials of supplements with only slight improvement.  I searched for possible causes which included being an APOE-4 gene carrier and having past bouts of atrial fibrillation.

How did you do it?
Through daily, weekly and monthly tracking of many variables including body weight, percent body fat, physical activity, Total, HDL, LDL cholesterol, depression, etc.   I created global indices of neurocognitive function and reconstructed global neurocog function using a daily schedule and electronic diary with notes, recall of days and events of decreased memory function, academic and clinical work output, etc.  I asked for a referral to a neuropsychologist and had 4 hours of comprehensive neurocog testing.   

What did you learn?
My hunch that I had developed some neurocognitive changes was verified by the neuropsychologist as “early white matter dysfunction”.  A brain MRI showed no abnormalities.  Trials of resveratrol supplements only helped slightly.   There were some waxing and waning of symptoms, worsened by lack of sleep and high negative stress while working.  A trial with a statin called, “Simvastatin” (10 mg) began to lessen the memory problems, and a dramatic improvement occurred after 2.5-3 weeks. Subsequent retesting 3 months later showed significant improvement in the category related to white matter dysfunction in the brain.  Eight months later, I am still doing well – perhaps even more improvement – in neurocog function.

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