Monthly Archives: March 2011

Not quite the Strange Phenomenon, but so close

It has been many months since I last experienced the Strange Phenomenon, which I described in excruciating detail in the very first post in this blog. I hope to sometime find the time to fully explore the possible reasons why the Strange Phenomenon has ceased. The short and obvious explanation is that the Strange Phenomenon is a very fussy phenomenon, and the exact conditions in which it manifests have not all been present for many months. I had been wondering if the underlying neurological structures in my brain that made the Strange Phenomenon possible might have altered, causing the extinction of the Strange Phenomenon, but something that I have seen recently has made me think again.

It has been a long time since I’ve been in a position to view John’s face in the exact conditions under which the Strange Phenomenon operates, but I recently noticed a photograph of John that was taken not too long ago. The photograph did not evoke the Strange Phenomenon, but it did give me a strong jolt of recognition as I saw elements of Jean’s face in John’s facial features in the picture. It is an interesting image, not a flattering shot at all. John looks pretty terrible because it is one of those unfortunate images that catch a person in the midst of an animated expression. The unnatural capturing of one moment of a moving face can look grotesque. What this photo lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in information. The photo captures a lot of the uniqueness and expression of John’s face. Just like the conditions required for the Strange Phenomenon this photo is a view of John’s face from around a 45 degree angle, the type of angle which displays the most comprehensive view of any face, and this viewpoint also minimizes the width of John’s face, which is a masculine feature of his face which prevents it from looking too much like Jean’s female face. So what you get from this 45 degree view is the best sample of the character of a face while minimizing one element of gender difference in faces.

This photo is also remarkable in that it gives a fantastic view of John’s wrinkles. He is not a particularly wrinkly person, but this shot was taken in just the right lighting conditions (natural light) to draw out the most fine details in a face. Like the conditions required for the Strange Phenomenon, this photo was an outdoor view. Wrinkles age a person, but they also draw out the character and expression and uniqueness in a face. This is why botoxed and fillered old ladies have faces that are devoid of expression. Without lines and wrinkles faces look like stupid lumps of cheese. This photo comes as close as a photograph possibly could to the conditions that would evoke the Strange Phenomenon. The Strange Phenomenon requires a view of John’s face that displays a comprehensive view, defining lines, a sense of moving expression and the least view possible of gender-defining characteristics. This picture comes pretty darn close.

A full description of The Strange Phenomenon can be found here:

A Most Peculiar Experience    https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/a-most-peculiar-experience/

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Some thoughts after viewing a simple little painting – Upward by Wassily Kandinsky

A while ago I had the opportunity to view first-hand some famous paintings when the Guggenheim collection toured Australia. It was a wonderful opportunity to see some artworks that I had only ever been able to see in books, which isn’t the same thing as seeing a picture displayed on a wall. I probably shouldn’t look at paintings or listen to music while knowing too much about the painter or the composer, because when an artistic creation of a synaesthete evokes a synaesthetic response from my mind, I’m then left wondering if this is due to the power of expectation rather than a discovery that I would have made in any circumstance. I already knew the painter Wassily Kandinsky, a pioneer of abstract art, was a synaesthete, and after looking at Kandinsky’s Upward for a while, it started making noises at me. Why shouldn’t a painting that has a type of movement as it’s title evoke a bit of visual movement -> sound synaesthesia? As my eye followed the curved lines of the painting upward and downward in a bumpy, interrupted cycle, the times when the curved line met an abrupt end against a straight line caused a “bonk” or “boink”  type noise.

This movement synaesthesia wasn’t the only thing about this painting that made me wonder about atypical neurological processes. As I looked at this painting I realised that I was seeing examples of types of things that my mind seems to be unusually good at perceiving, or unusually focused upon. A face can be discerned in this painting, if you use your imagination a bit (blue eye, red lip, black lip). Last year I shocked myself by getting some perfect scores in two face recognition tests. After doing some research, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is due to some hyperconnectivity in my brain and it is surely related to my synaesthesia. In this deceptively simple painting I can also see some letters of the alphabet (graphemes), one inverted. I appear to be the carrier of a gene “for” being unusually capable in the areas of reading, writing and languages, all areas of learning that involve letters and alphabets.

There is something else grapheme-related that I find very interesting about in this painting. I have personification synaesthesia, and one of the two letters of the alphabet in this painting is the one that is the most strongly personified in my mind; the letter “E”. It is also the most commonly used letter in the English language. I’m not sure if this is related. I do know that how commonly a letter of the alphabet is used is in the English language does influence another type of synaesthesia – grapheme -> colour synaesthesia. The most commonly used letters of the alphabet tend to be associated with the more basic and primary colours, while the less commonly used colours of the alphabet like “V” or “Z” tend to be linked to secondary and more complex colours like purple or gray. Anyhow, to me the letter “e” (upper and lower case), the most common letter of the alphabet looks like the happiest letter of the alphabet. In my mind it looks like a face with a big smile that is facing toward the right, somewhat like a smiling face in profile. Do synaesthesia researchers know that personified letters and numbers can have a physical orientation as well as having characteristics like gender, age and personality? If they don’t, they should.  In the painting Upward the capital letter “E” is one half of a platform that the face sits on top of, and the face and the “E” both have bits beside them that balance them out, with the face and the “E” facing in opposite directions, giving the picture a kind of balance. Looking at the way the elements in this painting are arranged, I find it very hard to believe that Kandinsky didn’t see a face in the letter “E” the way I do. Did Kandinsky have ordinal linguistic personification?

Another thing that is noticeable in this painting is the play with colours. There are colours varying in saturation and colours blended in graded adjacent segments and similar colours grouped together. Colour was clearly very important in Kandinsky’s work. When I was a child I was fascinated with colours, and I loved to make pictures with the large metal trays of watercolour paints that I was given. I believe a study has found that synaesthetes have an unusual ability to discriminate colours.

I can see a face, a facial expression, some graphemes and a focus on colours in this painting. Is it just a coincidence that faces, graphemes and colour are things that are processed in one part of the brain, the fusiform gyrus? Was there something unusual about Kandinsky’s fusiform gyrus? We already know that he experienced colour-related synaesthesia, so we know something was “up” with Wassily’s brain. Was Kandinsky more creative because of his synaesthesia? A lot of people believe the two traits are connected. Did Wassily Kandinsky have a mind that was unusually focused on, or perceptive of, or mixed up about colours, faces, visual motion and letters (graphemes)? I’m just not motivated enough to wade through his voluminous writings about art theory to find out. I only know that Kandinsky never tired of writing about his synaesthesia and other esoteric matters. I think we would have had a lot in common.

Upward by Wassily Kandinsky 1929 http://www.wassilykandinsky.net/work-203.php

YouTube video that can evoke hearing motion synaesthesia http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/hLhuRIeHj6Q?fs=1&hl=en_US

Wikipedia contributors Fusiform gyrus. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fusiform_gyrus&oldid=419089814

A strange encounter with a strange young man

I often like to take a walk and also sit and read something interesting at nice parks or walking paths when the kids are at school. One should make time in one’s day to excercise the body and mind, and soak up some sunshine and nice scenery. Anyone who spends much time in public outdoor recreational areas during school hours will be familiar with the phenomenon of the group of institutionalized disabled people with carers on an outing. Very often the disabled people are distinguishable by being physically strange-looking, or strange-sounding, while there is usually someone who speaks and looks normal enough but behaves strangely. Most groups are a mixture of different types of disabled people, and often the most ordinary-looking person in the group is the one that behaves in a way that suggests autism.

A while ago our kids and I were sitting at a local McDonalds restaurant after school. It was quite early in the day – I think it had been a short school day for some reason or other. We had just sat down and got settled into eating our junk, when the sound of loud and discordant voices caught our attention, and a group of mostly teenagers clustered around the tables across the way. It was clearly a disabled teens’ outing. I couldn’t be bothered shifting and decided to put up with the noise and try to look not-annoyed. I was ripping into a burger or something when at the top of my field of vision I saw an adult-sized stranger approaching our table quickly from behind a partition. It was a teenage boy, and before I had a chance to become alarmed at his close proximity he had told me that “He’s your son” and then, before I even had a chance to meet his eyes or say a word, the normal-sounding and normal-looking young man had rapidly retreated back to his group, using the cover of the partition to protect himself from any retalliatory exchange of social niceties. I figured this lad was probably a member of this group because of autism, but I thought his message, while socially very odd behaviour, was not the type of thing that an autistic person is supposed to be interested in. Why was he interested in some stranger’s family relationship? Was he showing off some new insight into social relationships? He wasn’t there with his mother. I could never know his motivation, but I thought it interesting that he identified my son as my offspring rather than my daughter who was also there. People often tell me that my daughter looks a lot like me, presumably based general and superficial characteristics such as our hair and build and gender. Our faces are really quite different, but people seem to be too distracted by other things to see this. People also sometimes say that my son looks like his Dad, probably because they share some masculine facial features. But no one ever says that my son looks like me, even though I believe we have quite similar faces and personalities, once you subtract the effects of gender. Was that probably-autistic boy able to mentally separate the superimposed patterns of sex and genetics in face recognition? He didn’t hang about to explain.

What started this blog? See these posts

A Most Peculiar Experience

https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/a-most-peculiar-experience/

The opposite of Benson’s syndrome?

https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/the-opposite-of-bensons-syndrome/

Local brain hyperconnectivity, synaesthesia, autism, music, the temporal lobes and perfect pitch: some interesting reading

Douglas, Ed Perfect pitch. New Scientist Issue 2801 Feb 26th 2011 p. 46-49.

Online title of the article: Finely tuned minds: the secret of perfect pitch. http://www.newscientist.com/issue/2801

This is a most interesting science magazine article about perfect pitch, otherwise known as absolute pitch, the “ability to name or sing any note on demand”, written by someone who himself has perfect pitch. Ed Douglas reports on the findings of studies that have been published in six different science journals, and research scientists mentioned include Daniel Levitin, Sarah Wilson, Elizabeth Theusch, Analabha Basu, Jane Gitschier, Maria Teresa Moreno Sala, Eugenia Costa-Giomi, Patrick Bermudez, Psyche Loui, Diana Deutsch, Luca Tommasi and researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan.

Douglas explicitly speculates that there could be an association between synaesthesia, autism, and perfect pitch ability, caused by an “excess of wiring in the brain” or hyperconnection. Douglas cites as evidence the study by Psyche Loui and colleagues listed above, and another New Scientist article that reported the interesting “intense world” theory of autism in 2008.

In this article the names of four famous musicians who either had perfect pitch or possibly had it, Beethoven, Ella Fitzgerald, Mozart and Jimi Hendrix are mentioned. The author Ed Douglas does not mention that two of these musicians also experienced coloured music synaesthesia (drug use could have been the cause of Hendrix’s colours). We do not know if Mozart had synaesthesia (my intuition tells me he did), but there has been much speculation over the years that Mozart might have had a range of different neurological peculiarities or disorders. Douglas mentions that Hendrix and Mozart both had an extraordinary savant-like memory for music. Hendrix, Mozart and possibly also Beethoven were left-handed.

Enhanced Cortical Connectivity in Absolute Pitch Musicians: A Model for Local Hyperconnectivity. Psyche Loui, H. Charles Li, Anja Hohmann and Gottfried Schlaug Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. April 2011, Vol. 23, No. 4, Pages 1015-1026.
(doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21500) http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/jocn.2010.21500

This is one of the studies discussed in the above New Scientist article. Don’t ask me how a journal paper dated “April 2011” can be cited in a science magazine dated “Feb 26th 2011”. The world of science journals is a futuristic world.

Twelve musicians with absolute pitch (AP)/perfect pitch and a matched control group of twelve musicians without perfect pitch were studied. Volume and fibre numbers in some tracts in the left and right hemispheres of the brain were found to be significantly higher in the study subjects who had perfect pitch, but hyperconnectivity was not found all over the place; “Heightened connectivity among AP musicians appears to affect local structures specific to the temporal lobe.” Figure 4 in this paper strikingly shows the difference between the tracts of three groups of study subjects. This paper shows that people with perfect pitch appear to have greater connectivity in the white matter of parts of the temporal lobes that associate and perceive pitch. It looks to me as though greater connectivity in the left hemisphere might be more important regarding perfect pitch. I am not pretending to be a qualified scientist in interpreting this paper.

I believe that greater connectivity in the white matter has been found in grapheme-> colour synaesthetes, in other parts of the brain, so I would not be surprised if music-related synaesthesia might be particularly common in musicians who have perfect pitch. It is no surprise that this paper mentions synaesthesia and has two studies of a synaesthete musician with perfect pitch among its references (see below). Unfortunately synaesthesia is discussed with some negative language in this April 2011 paper; “these disorders” and “abnormal white matter connectivity”. In the discussion of this paper the case is argued that perfect pitch has hyperconnectivity in common with conditions such as synaesthesia, autism and heightened creativity, and the authors identify “increased local connectivity in temporal regions” as a feature that perfect pitch, synesthesia and autism share.

Hänggi Jürgen; Beeli Gian; Oechslin Mathias S; Jäncke Lutz The multiple synaesthete E.S.: neuroanatomical basis of interval-taste and tone-colour synaesthesia. NeuroImage. 2008;43(2):192-203. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18692578

This is a journal paper that was mentioned in the 2011 journal paper above. A brain scan study was done comparing E. S., who has perfect pitch and some musical tone-related types of synaesthesia, with other professional musicians and with normal controls. Bilateral areas of hyperconnectivity in the temporal lobes of E. S. were found.

Synaesthesia: when coloured sounds taste sweet. Beeli G, Esslen M, Jäncke L. Nature. 434, 38 (3 March 2005) doi:10.1038/434038a Published online 2 March 2005. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7029/abs/434038a.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15744291

Another journal article that was mentioned in the 2011 journal paper. Female synaesthete musician E.S. is compared with five non-synaesthete musicians. E.S. experiences flavoured musical tone intervals, which she uses to identify these intervals. It appears that this paper is about the same musician synaesthete with perfect pitch as the one described in the 2008 NeuroImage paper above.

I’m satisfied that there is a real association between synaesthesia and perfect pitch, based on what I have read in the above article and papers, and also based on the fact that perfect pitch seems to be unusually common among musicians who have or had synaesthesia. I believe this association between synaesthesia and perfect pitch is a direct effect of the physical localised hyperconnection within the synesthete brain that gives rise to the synaesthesia and also the increased perception ability, even though I do acknowledge that a type of synaesthesia that gives musical sounds individual colours or flavours could obviously aid in the identification of individual sounds. The question remains though – by what mechanism are the individual sounds identified then each given an identifying taste or colour? Surely a conscious or an unconscious identification of the sounds must precede the allocation of colours to the musical notes.

There is plenty of scientific evidence that various types of synaesthesia give rise to various types of superiority in perception, and it appears that perfect pitch is another example. I do not know if I have any capacity for perfect pitch as I had only the most rudimentary musical education (the same true of my synaesthete close relatives). I’m happy to conclude that simply being synaesthetes makes us especially “at risk” for possessing special powers of perception, including perfect pitch, being a super-recognizer or a superior reader, but it is also clear that specific types of special abilities and specific types of synaesthesia are associated with higher connectivity in specific parts of the brain. So far, my inquiries appear to suggest that the hyperconnectivity in the brains of my kin and I could be limited to the right hemisphere, while perfect pitch might well have as its physical basis higher connectivity in the left, so I guess we could dip out on perfect pitch. If there exists any cost-free test of the capacity for perfect pitch that can be taken by people who do not have musical training, I would love to have a crack at it.

I don’t know about perfect pitch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is something a bit atypical about the way our brains process sounds. The enjoyment of music is very important to a number of people in our family, which I’m sure has something to do with the temporal lobes. A lot of the music that we enjoy is sung in non-English languages, languages from all corners of the world. I’m not sure how unusual our taste in music is, but there does seem to be a hunger in our family for listening to exotic phonemes. None of us are language savants like the famous British synaesthete Daniel Tammet, but there is a consistent line of descent in our family of bilingual or multi-lingual people. I also seem to have a thing about unusual voices. I choose to have people in my life who have unusual voices and I love to listen to distinctive singing voices of a range of types. For me, singing voices are easily categorized as interesting or not interesting, and I much prefer the former. The gravel-voiced rap singers Everlast and Tone Loc have interesting voices, and so do all counter-tenors. I recently read an interesting observation about the extraordinary sound of the counter-tenor voice in a newspaper interview article about German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl. “I think these days the audience knows what a countertenor is, but it’s that inability to readily categorise the voice that makes for better communication – you listen with fresh ears, and focus more on the words.” I believe this is an important element of my enjoyment of the voices of countertenors and other singers with interesting voices. The strangeness of the sound draws attention closely, finely, and it also destroys any set of simple musical expectations. I find strange sounds compelling and interesting, and I’m not sure why I find this so very enjoyable, but I do know from experience that when people enjoy doing anything involving thought, they are most likely utilizing some particular area of cognitive strength.

Beth Gibbons from Portishead and Kate Bush are some female singers who have interesting voices. For me, many interesting voices have a colour. Today a rellie and I were having an argument at a supermarket about the colour of the music that we were listening to, as Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush, one of the strangest bits of music to ever hit the top of the charts, was playing on the PA system among the aisles of groceries. Don’t worry about us. We are just a little bit different.

Black Jesus by Everlast

It isn’t often that the colour of the singer’s voice matches the title of the song. A word of warning – this is a rather thematically bleak video clip, so maybe not great viewing if you need cheering up at the moment.

http://www.trilulilu.ro/JohnyBleack/a44b921bf762d8

Invitation for comments

People do read this blog, in fits and bursts, but I’ve not been exactly overwhelmed by comments. I would like to know about experiences that others might have that are to do with concepts being associated with visual experiences of scenery, or concepts associated with the performance of movements, or concepts associated with any kind of visual or spatial experience. Does physical movement or any particular type of visual input influence your thoughts in a way that is not easy to explain? Are concepts that you think about “illustrated” with pictures that are visual memories of things previously seen by yourself? Or is your conceptual thinking “illustrated” with images in your mind’s eye that are the product of your imagination? Is your conceptual thinking unillustrated? Do you never “see” images in your mind’s eye? Do you experience the phenomenon that I named Involuntary Method of Loci Memorization (IMLM)? Do you think this phenomenon is synaesthesia? Do you think it is completely normal and everyone has it? Do you think it is completely abnormal? Do you think everyone experiences it? Where do you think we should draw the line between the normal evoking of memories from visual stimuli, and synesthesia? Have you ever used the “method of loci” AKA the “memory palace”? Did it seem to be different from normal memory experiences? Do you experience interesting interactions between music and conceptual thinking? Are you a synaesthete? Do you believe that synaesthetes are more visual thinkers than non-synaesthetes? I’d love to know what is going on inside your head.

I can’t believe it’s not synaesthesia! – embodied cognition

Yes indeed, this is a fascinating article from New Scientist magazine. This is the article that made me feel incredulous the first time that I read it last year, that the word “synaesthesia” was not even once mentioned in it, because it seemed to be an article about a number of different types of synaesthesia. I could go into details about why I believe this, but I’d risk restating most of the text of this two-page article. Basically, this is an article about embodied cognition. It is clear to me that the researchers studying embodied cognition have a lot to gain from sharing ideas with synaesthesia researchers (and synaesthetes), and vice versa.

A study by Australian academic Tobias Loetscher that was published in the journal Current Biology and another study by Daniel Casasanto, an academic in the Netherlands, which was published in the journal Cognition are discussed in this article. The “metaphor theory” of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson is discussed. Much of this article seems to be very relevant to the idea proposed by some synaesthesia researchers that synaesthesia is the origin of metaphorical language. Wouldn’t synaesthesia or some very similar mental process be the link between study subjects’ emotional feelings of being socially isolated and their reported physical sensations of feeling physically colder?

Other parts of this article seem to be very relevant to, or a description of, number form synaesthesia and other mental mappings of concepts onto “spatial schema”. The study by Casasanto is about a psychological process that is very similar to the forward and backward vection that was the subject of the study in PLoS ONE that I discussed in a previous blog posting, in that it shows an influence on abstract thought from performing a physical task that focused the mind on one or other spatial directions. The vection study that I previously discussed was about backward and forward motion influencing abstract thought. The Casasanto study was about moving something upwards and moving something downwards influencing abstract thought.

Many of the more general conclusions in this article, based on the study findings, also seemed to be very relevant to my experiences of fine motor performances determining the content of my thoughts, often involving links with conceptual thinking, by a process that I believe is synaesthesia. “The results also led to a deeper question: does physical movement have the power to change not just the speed at which people talk, but also what they choose to talk – or even think – about?” A study by Casasanto found this to be true. “Isn’t that somewhat scary?” Casasanto asked. Yes, I think it is scary, but it is only by being aware of the irrational and arbitrary things that can influence cognition that we can ever hope to detect, control and transcend such influences.

Ananthaswamy, Anil Let your body do the thinking. New Scientist. Number 2753 March 27th 2010 p.8-9.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527535.100-mind-over-matter-how-your-body-does-your-thinking.html

Two articles about embodied cognition from Miller-McCune:

Jacobs, Tom To feel good, reach for the sky. Miller-McCune. February 4th 2010. http://www.miller-mccune.com/health/to-feel-good-reach-for-the-sky-8445/

Hilo, Jessica Power poses really work. Miller-McCune. November 15th 2010. http://www.miller-mccune.com/culture-society/power-poses-really-work-25322/

Moving backward to re-read a science magazine article

I remembered that quite a while ago I read an article in New Scientist magazine which I thought at the time seemed to be describing stuff that could possibly be related to my synaesthesia-related experiences that involve a sense of place or a sense of space. I was also particularly impressed by that article because it was well written and the subject matter, embodied cognition, is simply fascinating regardless of any personal relevance. I’ve once again located a copy of that article, and when I find a spare moment I plan to check if it relates to the journal paper that I mentioned in my last post, and I will also check if it relates to any of the types of synaesthesia that I’ve documented in this blog.

Ananthaswamy, Anil Let your body do the thinking. New Scientist. Number 2753 March 27th 2010 p.8-9.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527535.100-mind-over-matter-how-your-body-does-your-thinking.html

Moving forward with PLoS ONE – further evidence of a connection between abstract thinking and visual processing of scenes

I’ve just discovered that a study that was published last year in a major peer-reviewed science journal appears to support a theory that I thought of a long time ago, and I have also discovered that an element of this phenomenon that I have observed has a proper scientific name; “vection”. I first learned of the concept of vection while reading an article by Roger Highfield in the February 19th 2011 edition of New Scientist magazine. I have already briefly mentioned the idea of mine in an earlier post in this blog. My theory is based on the observation that the moving scenery that I unavoidably see while I am driving a vehicle appears to free up my mind like some magical brand of mental lubricant, with the effect that novel and original ideas come to me at an extraordinary rate, and I see connections and possible connections between things that I don’t think I’d ever create or grasp while doing any other activity. My theory is that the moving scenery taken into my mind visually creates the subjective sensation of moving forward (forward vection), and the forward vection somehow brings about a change in the way my brain operates so that the existing abundance of connectivity in my synaesthete brain is opened up to an even greater degree. This opening up is not a free-for-all. It does not result in mental chaos with rampant synaesthesia such as an assault of noisy vision or brightly coloured sounds. This opening up specifically seems to involve conceptual and language-related thinking, thinking at a level of cognition that is more sophisticated and abstract than sensory stuff.

I love the choice of words for the title of the PLoS ONE paper: “The meandering mind”. Meandering is the perfect word to describe the way my mind behaves while I am driving, or travelling a passenger in a moving vehicle watching the scenery flowing past. It is a mind that is paradoxically free to wander but is also paying attention to the important task of driving safely. What did the study reported in this journal find? I quote from the abstract:

“Participants performed a mundane vigilance task, during which they were expected to daydream, while viewing a display that elicited an illusion of self-motion (i.e., vection). Afterwards, the contents of their mind wandering experiences were probed. The results revealed that the direction of apparent motion influenced the temporal focus of mental time travel. While backward vection prompted thinking about the past, forward vection triggered a preponderance of future-oriented thoughts.”

So, this study’s finding appear to support the proposition that “higher cognitive activity can have a sensory-motor grounding”. This idea is completely in accord with many of the psychological/neurological experiences that I have reported in this blog, including the connections in my mind between concepts and visual scenes that act like illustrations for those concepts, and which can in some instances evoke thinking about its specific associated concept when viewed, and also including the apparent influence that forward vection has on certain characteristics of my thinking. I am amazed by the number of conceptual connections that I have discovered among my synaesthesia-related experiences, and also connections between these experiences and ideas and studies described in recently published journal papers. Connections everywhere! Just like my brain!

If you have been reading by blog posts about the links in my mind between concepts and scenes, you will not be surprised that my mind has a particular scene that is evoked in my mind’s eye when I think about the concept of forward vection freeing up the mind. It is a scene of a winding road that I often drive along, as seen from a driver’s seat. This particular stretch of road has a lot of shrubbery along the side of the road, which enhances the subjective visual sensation of moving forward.

I’ve got to wonder whether the Prime Minister Julia Gillard might have read this paper in PLoS ONE before she thought up her election catch-phrase “moving forward”. Perhaps she was hoping to evoke the sensation of forward vection by repeating her slogan over and over, unconsciously directing voters to consider the future rather than past deeds. Maybe in the next election we might see political advertisements utilizing scenes of travelling forward or backward in a moving vehicle, depending on whether the party wishes to direct the attention of voters to the future or the past. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

References

Highfield, Roger Days of wonder. New Scientist. February 19th 2011 Number 2800. p.34-41. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20928001.400-your-kitchen-sink-and-16-other-wonders-of-the-cosmos.html

Miles LK, Karpinska K, Lumsden J, Macrae CN The Meandering Mind: Vection and Mental Time Travel. PLoS ONE 5(5): e10825. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010825 http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0010825