Author Archives: Heather M Adams

CTE = Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

This is personal topic to me. My husband and many other veterans are trying to live a normal life, after a traumatic brain injury, and the research is still so very new, that we don’t know much about it.

CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that is once again making the news. Over the past few years many football players and combat veterans have been diagnosed posthumously with this disease, as it can’t be diagnosed while the patient is alive. Junior Seau, who was a hometown hero of mine, playing for my San Diego Chargers, was diagnosed with CTE after he committed suicide in 2012, and most recently Frank Gifford showed signs of CTE.

Those with CTE show symptoms in some of the areas we have discussed and learned about in this course. Some of these symptoms are: deterioration of attention and concentration, poor judgment, lack of insight, social instability, erratic behavior, aggression, depression, suicide, and memory loss (Ziegler, T). These injuries to the brain are caused by concussions, or traumatic brain injury. At this time it’s not known what the magic number is, or how many concussions are too many. What comes into play is the amount of concussions, the severity of the concussions, are some athletes more prone to CTE than others, and obviously not every individual is the same.

Atrophy of the frontal lobe is often caused by CTE. This is the area of the brain that affects decision-making, planning and memory retrieval. Another cognitive area that is affected by CTE is the Hippocampus, which is involved in memory function as well (Ziegler, T). All of these effects are what lead to the instability of the individual and in some cases unreasonable decision making resulting in suicide.

The reason why I chose to investigate this disease further is because I was curious about the lack of decision making, and memory. Also, being a wife to a retired United States Army Veteran who has seen combat, and all those he served with. The amount of combat veterans committing suicide is at a ridiculous rate, and while we know that many of the causes are linked to PTSD, the area of CTE needs to be examined further. Research shows that these types of brain injuries lead to erratic behavior and suicide, and at this time there is no help for that. While we can find help on the mental health side of PTSD there is still much to be learned about CTE and the effects that it has on the mind.






Ziegler, T. (n.d.). Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) – SportsMD. Retrieved November 19, 2015, from


Me and my ADD

Three years ago I was feeling really scatter brained and unfocused. I would have my keys one moment, set them down and not remember where I put them. I would start cooking, and get distracted only to remember I had something on the stove when I smelled something burning. I decided to meet with a psychiatrist and find out what was going on with me. I was diagnosed with adult ADD (attention deficit disorder).

The most common symptoms of ADD are failing to pay close attention, making careless errors, and failure to sustain attention. ADD affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain. An article titled ADD-Unmasking attention Difficulties written by Dr. Russell Griffiths states that the prefrontal cortex inhibits impulses, initiates behavior and controls working memory (Griffiths). When this area of the brain is underactive it limits the ability to screen out unnecessary information, and the person pays attention to everything, which makes staying on task very difficult.

There is also information out there written by Dr. Thomas E. Brown that addresses that ADD affects the executive processes of the brain. Dr. Brown created his own model called the “Executive functions impaired in ADD/ADHD model. It lists six different executive functions that are impaired. One of the six functions affected is memory, precisely the act of utilizing working memory and accessing recall (Brown, n.d.). When the working memory is affected in the pre-frontal cortex, people can remember things that happened long ago, but have difficulty remembering where they put something, what someone just said or what they were about to say.

Learning about this and getting a diagnosis makes me feel better about myself as a person. Prior to this I felt dumb, lazy, and flakey. My school was suffering. My husband was frustrated with my inability to focus on things, locking myself out of the house, burning dinner, and losing things. Knowing that it’s a problem I can’t control is helpful. Understanding the working parts of my brain and the roles it plays in this disorder stops me from feeling sorry for my self. Instead, I do what I need to do to manage it. Right now I manage it with a stimulant prescription. I notice the difference and lack of focus when I don’t take it. The stimulant medicines strengthen the area of the brain that is affected by releasing dopamine. Underactive cortexes may have less dopamine neurons or are less able to use these messengers (Griffiths). The stimulants regulate the underactive pre-frontal cortex, aiding in focus, attention, and memory. Stimulants are not for everyone, but they work for me in controlling my ADD.




Brown, T. E. (n.d.). Executive functions impaired in ADD/ADHD. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from

Griffiths, R. (). ADD-unmasking attention difficulties. LearningRX. Retrieved from



Top down and bottom up processing: How it helps and hinders children’s homework

I have two daughters, one is 8 years old and the other is 5 years old. Ever since my 8-year-old started school, I have had a really hard time helping her with her homework. There are two reasons I have difficulty helping her. The first reason is top down processing and the second reason is bottom up processing. She has homework everyday, and everyday we struggle with the concepts I know, and the concepts I don’t.

Top down processing is processing that involves a person’s knowledge or expectations. I rely on my knowledge to assist my daughter in doing her homework, I know how to do it because I have done it, and learned it. It’s top down processing that allows me to help her. My daughter doesn’t know it yet, and I struggle with having patience in our differences. I find myself thinking, “come on you should know this”, when in reality, she doesn’t because she hasn’t learned it yet. I don’t remember learning it; I just know that I know how to do it. My daughter is still learning, and learning new stuff everyday. She doesn’t have the knowledge of the concepts yet.

Then there are the times when we are both experiencing bottom up processing. North Carolina is a state that teaches common core in the classroom. Until two years ago, I had no idea what common core was. Now I struggle with helping her with her math homework because I have no knowledge of common core math, we are learning it together. I have to “Google” how to do third grade homework. I have to email teachers for assistance, or attach notes to the homework as I send it back in. I even asked her teacher to hold classes for us parents, because common core is a whole new way of learning. Together she and I are both learning, and this is bottom up processing.

Example of Common Core math:



Learning about top down and bottom up processing has really helped me understand what is going on when I help my daughter. I can look at it from a different point of view. I can work to find solutions that make it easier for both of us. Once you know better, you do better. This lesson will assist me in being more patient with my daughter when helping her with the stuff she doesn’t know yet. It will also help me seek out fun ways for us both to learn the new stuff together. She won’t be little forever, and soon she won’t need my help.