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Recovering from a stroke


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After a stroke nearly three years ago I have recovered with very little loss of function, but one exception is my musical memory "in my fingers". I can still play as well (or strictly speaking, as badly) as ever from sight, and I can play without sheet music if I can visualise it and sightread the image, but in spite of many repeated attempts I cannot otherwise memorise even a few bars. I have heard that when part of the brain are damaged, then sometimes other parts of the brain can take over, and the lost function can be recovered, perhaps using different brain pathways.


Do any others have any experience of anything like this, or any suggestions?



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I;m afraid that I don't have any real suggestions but I am so pleased that you seem to have no loss of function.


Strokes are cruel things. My late wife and I came back from Prague in 2008 where I had been conducting a performance of the Mozart Requiem. We had a simply lovely weekend, good food, good wine but a difficult plane journey on the way back!. Two days later she had a massive stroke. She had no loss of function as such, she looked 'normal' and could walk and perform the usual bodily function tasks but she had forgotten her name, my name and the names of our children. She couldn't read or write and had little or no memory for a conversation. She was embarrassed "People will think I'm stupid" she would say and became, over the next 2 years, very much, a recluse. During the few months after the stroke we, gradually, taught her to read and write again but it was a slow process and was like teaching a small child. Sometimes she would sit and just look at the piano. We met at Cambridge where we had read Music, previous to that she won a Piano scholarship to the RCM. Now she had absolutely no idea how to begin to play. It was sad, it tore me apart and she never played again. She had other serious medical problems and, three years later, she died.


I said that I had no real suggestions. I suppose the most important thing is to be patient, to keep working at it, to keep trying and don't give up! Find somebody who you trust and who knows you and your playing and who, with input from yourself, can guide you and set you realistic challenges and goals to aim at.


And very good wishes to you..

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My mother had a stroke in her 30's and taught herself to write using her left hand, though it was always a rather scrawly sort of script. She was a linguist, and always claimed that her command of languages was greatly diminished after her stroke, and, interestingly, that she never really regained a 'mother-tongue' (her first language was Welsh, and she learned French and English at roughly the same point in childhood, and to the same level). This sounds a similar sort of situation to what David is describing. I always felt that what impeded my mother from developing new 'neural pathways' was her lack of patience - she was always a quick and rather impetuous sort of person! So, my very amateurish advice would be, take it slowly and determinedly, but also look for more weird and quirky ways of learning and memorising - this might open up different possibilties. There is a website called 'Memrise' which offers online tuition in various disciplines by means of a sort of multiple-choice / guessing-game process. Might be worth a look:


Anyway, all the best to you, David - and remember, music reaches inaccessible and surprising parts of the brain (and soul!).

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