A few years ago, I was a volunteer for a study at the Baycrest Health Centre in Toronto of the impact of hypertension and diabetes on seniors’ brain health.  Three hundred people were studied.

This is how I imagine my brain – all brightly coloured and sparkling with neon ideas.

brain-951874_1280Luckily for me, I was part of the Healthy Control Group. I’m bragging today! I have scientific proof that my brain is in good condition.

The study was a collaboration between several funders who subsequently developed an online test you can take to assess brain health. Here is the blurb:

The test is marketed by Cogniciti Inc., a for-profit brain health solutions company co-founded by Baycrest and MaRS Discovery District.
The development of Cogniciti was supported in part by funding to Baycrest through the Ontario Brain Institute from the Technology Development Program of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
To take the Cogniciti brain health test, visit the Baycrest homepage at www.baycrest.org

I got a call last week from one of the doctors spearheading the study. Of course when she identified herself and said why she was calling, I had a frisson of anxiety. As Hub joked – what if they find something ‘extra’ in your brain? Or what if it is unusual? Ha ha. But, what if?

The young guy administering the weeks of tests – Noah – eventually got used to my bad language when I didn’t complete a task on time or made a mistake. I think he’d be glad to get back to lab rats – they don’t curse and swear.

At one point, when he was giving me feedback and said ‘wrong’ three times in a row, he took one look at my face and pushed his chair away from the table. Honestly, I wouldn’t have reached over and grabbed him by the collar; I was annoyed because my type AAA self wasn’t performing the way I wanted to.

And at least they didn’t have to draw blood or make me pee in a cup after the first visit. And no, handing a container of warm urine to a young man who could be my grandson was not the least bit embarrassing. They asked for it and I delivered, so to speak. Apparently, they had folks in the study who could not.

Dr. Nicolle shared my results and I scribbled down what she said. I’ve been doing the happy dance ever since.

  • No areas of functional weakness. Whoop – so the occasional bout of forgetfulness is not because my brain doesn’t work properly. Multiple inputs crowd the circuits, is all.
  • Good to above-average memory. Those damned lists of unrelated words, those pages and pages of stupid coloured squiggles that I came to loathe. And look out, all ye who have crossed my path in the past – I have a 99% recall of faces.
  • Story recall is well above average. When I mentioned that I’m a writer, she laughed and said, ‘well, that explains it.’
  • Processing speed/thinking is very good – 91%
  • Language and verbal fluency were off the charts. 99.5 % – the highest score anyone had seen. Damn. Huge fist-pump. I got it, I got it….

The last day involved me spending 90 minutes inside an MRI machine wearing plastic glasses sort of close to my prescription but still fuzzy.

From the safety of a plate glass window in another room, Noah administered test after test while I was in that claustrophobic white tube, wired up with oxygen sensors and heart monitors with the machine hammering away scanning my brain functions as I solved problems and tried not to pass gas or get distracted.

Towards the end, all I could think of was how much I had to pee, could I hold on for another 15 minutes and if I couldn’t how much would I care? Once I realized I wanted to ace the tests more than not wetting myself, the time flew by and I stayed dry. Wheee.


I am healthy. My brain works better than fine. I am a goddess of recall (and here I thought it was my Libra personality). What’s sobering is the fact that, as frustrated as I was about what I thought was ordinary performance, Josh said there were many others who had difficulty with memorizing colours and shapes, or completing computations and word recognition.

Now I have to stop frittering my time and become a goddess of producing books.