Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cause & Effect

Travis White

I’ve heard that people who own their own homes commit fewer crimes, proportionally, than people who don’t own homes. But what causes what? If owning a home reduces your propensity to commit crimes, then perhaps we should promote home ownership as a way to reduce crime. On the other hand, it may be that people who don’t commit crimes are more likely to accumulate the resources needed to buy a home.

So, does home ownership promote good conduct? Or does good conduct lead to home ownership?

When two variables are associated, it’s often very difficult to tease out which one is the cause and which one is the effect. It’s a thought I often keep in mind when I consider my MS.

Before I was diagnosed, I generally thought of my brain as being in control of my body. My brain was the cause; my body was the effect. But lately, I’ve been wondering, if the brain and body are all part of the same system, shouldn’t communication flow both ways? Perhaps then, my body can send signals to my brain that can teach it to work around those nasty little lesions.

My most annoying symptom is a loss of sensation on the right side of my body. (As luck would have it, that’s my dominant side.) So I try to stimulate the right side of my body in various ways. I have a studded massage ball that I like to roll on and under my foot. I rub my hand and foot against various uneven surfaces to stimulate the nerves. I tap on the right side of my head. I also try to do more things with my left hand to create new mental connections or remap old ones.

I also practice balance exercises to teach my brain to form new connections in—and perhaps a new conception of—my body. I can’t say if I’ve changed my brain or not, but my balance has improved significantly and that, in turn, has bolstered my confidence. That’s a pretty good outcome even if I’m not doing anything to directly affect my lesions.

I’ve also learned that a smile can be both a cause and an effect. I used to think that a good mood caused me to smile. Now I also realize that a smile can create a good mood. Since depression often accompanies MS, I find that this is a very useful discovery. If I can just force myself to smile, I can often chase the blues away, at least temporarily.

That’s a very good effect from a very simple cause.


  1. A smile and sharing with others is good medicine. I think it starts with damage to the spinal cord and breaks communication with the brain. I am mixing more spices in my foods placebo effect it seems to be helping. So sending you a smile :D

  2. Waou what a good reflexion you gave me ! I am a french MS and I have big difficulties to understand my new body, I try to isolate the cause (a little bit of this medicament, less of activities... ) but I never achieve to have a good explanation... Your text inspire me a lot and I will translate it on my blog. I think it will help a lot people here in France. I'll send you the link when I'll have translated your text.
    As we say in french : bravo et merci !!!

    1. DON'T stop trying to do anything and everything you can Valentine. WEhen you don't try to overcome and find new neurological paths to use your body your brain will forget how to even send those signals and you're that much closer to being bedridden like my uncle, Don Want.I've got early onset with slow progression and I'm doing everything I can to stay as active as possible and the results have been great.

  3. I think the body does have a significant impact on the brain. I was first diagnosed with MS in 1980. For the first 20 years I was able to manage my RRMS by taking oral prednisone 1-2 times per year. No one, other than immediate family, even knew I had MS. Over the past 12 years my symptoms got progressively worse and I was forced to come out of the closet. 15 months ago I joined the YMCA and began a physical conditioning program (3 to 5 times per week) that has greatly improved my strength and self image. I do the strength machines, some barbell exercises for balance improvement and swim 0.5 to 1.0 miles. I do all this at my own pace, "slow but sure". I feel that I stand straighter and my brain is getting the message that we don't have to continue the MS downward spiral. At least, not at the previous alarming pace.

  4. Here the link for your text in french. It may also help french people.