Monthly Archives: April 2013

Evocative images?

I was reading this fascinating article about Depersonalisation disorder in a science magazine, and my curiosity was sparked by this “These people also show unusual autonomic physical responses to external stimuli, such as evocative images (Emotion Review, DOI: 10.1177/1754073911430135).” Unfortunately I probably can’t access the paper referred to thru our inadequate library system. I was curious because based on that short quote is sounds something like synaesthesia, which wouldn’t seem to fit into the story about the neurological basis of this disorder.

Another thing that made me wonder was why this neurological condition is being described as a mental illness, both in the way the magazine categorized the article under “mental health” and also in the paper cited, which clearly describes DPD as a psychiatric condition and the author of the paper is a professor of psychiatry. A case which had an onset triggered by a migraine is described in the article, and it says that the condition responds to an epilepsy drug. Isn’t that a clear enough indication that it’s neurological not psychiatric? There are some important differences to patients between being diagnosed as mentally ill or having a neurological condition. People with epilepsy, stuttering, autism and Tourettes fought to be liberated from labeling as psychiatric cases, because of all of the legal and social negatives that go with such labeling. I hope people with DPD are able to do the same, and avoid any unjustified use of psychiatry drugs.

Mindscapes: The woman who was dropped into her body. by Helen Thomson New Scientist. 25 April 2013   http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23445-mindscapes-the-woman-who-was-dropped-into-her-body.html

P. S. May 2nd 2013

Oh, what a stupid mistake! Either I’ve misread the New Scientist article or the author has written it in a way that is unclear, and it appears that the people with DPD don’t experience evocative images, they were shown emotionally evocative images during studies. I guess that is the type of mistake that only a weird old synaesthete would make.

Anyway, thanks to Dr Nick Medford for sharing his most interesting study with me. It’s interesting that DPD might be triggered by disturbance in sensory systems, which seems in some way similar or related to embodied cognition. At this blog I’ve written about relationships between embodied cognition, conceptual thinking and synaesthesia in my own case and I very much like the idea of embodied cognition. There seems to be a growing understanding that embodied perception and sensory experiences rather than language are the stuff of thought, as can be seen in some writing by philosopher Jesse Prinz and a new book by cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen who has argued that “When we hear words and sentences we engage the parts of our brain that we use for perception and action, repurposing these evolutionarily older networks to create simulations in our minds” and thus create meaning. Here’s some links if you are interested in chasing up books by Bergen and Prinz:  http://www.amazon.com/Louder-Than-Words-Science-Meaning/dp/0465028292  and  http://subcortex.com/

A doppelganger in my favourite Peter Greenaway movie

As I remember it, the first dud husband to be drowned in the movie Drowning by Numbers is a philandering drunk who is a dead-ringer for Thurston Howell III in Gilligan’s Island. When I first viewed this movie in some little cinema in Cairns during a holiday, this resemblance to a character in a kid’s TV comedy series which every kid of my generation saw umpteen times over must have been quite a strange thing to behold. Perhaps that’s why this movie had such an instant appeal. Drowning by Numbers is scheduled for broadcast on WTV (West Television channel 44) at midnight tonight.

Ear recognition the key, not face recognition?

One of the stories on 60 Minutes (Australian) a couple of weeks ago was interesting in terms of the visual and forensic recognition and identification of a person. The title of the true story was The Imposter,  reported by Karl Stefanovic and produced by Gareth Harvey. The story was about the missing American boy Nicholas Barclay and the French serial impostor Frédéric Bourdin who pretended to be the missing boy grown older. A documentary film about this story was released this year. Amazingly, he was believed by close relatives of the missing boy even though his eyes and hair were of a different colour to the missing boy, his age was a mismatch, he had a French accent, and of course a different face. The most disturbing aspect of the story was how an obvious faker found in Spain could have been misidentified as a missing American boy by police, the FBI and the US immigration department, and then legally documented as the missing boy and flown to the USA. These organizations are full of blind people? I guess these organizations must have a great record for employing the disabled, but also a lousy record for doing their jobs accurately. I’m not sure if these organizations need to recruit some super-recognizers, or just need to employ more people with basic thinking and decision-making skills and a firm grasp on rationality.

An interesting feature that this case shares with the baffling Australian mystery the Taman Shud Case or the Mystery of the Somerton Man is the forensic examination of ears to identify a person. The French impostor was busted by private investigator Charlie Parker who noticed that the ears of Barclay and  Bourdin did not match. ”I asked the cameraman to zoom in on his ears, because I knew that was the way to identify people for sure; I had read a book about Scotland Yard doing that.” This is another thing that amazes me about this case; I don’t understand why the ears were seen as a more certain way to prove that the man with the French accent wasn’t the American missing boy than the different colours of the irises of their eyes or their clearly different faces. Why are ears seen as a more objective measure? Because they are an overlooked part of the body that people don’t cosmetically alter much? It makes me wonder whether our culture has been misled into thinking that face recognition by humans is a subjective art because of instances of facial misidentifications by some prosopagnosics whose disability isn’t understood. Most people are very good at identifying faces of other people from their own race, and are also naturally very good at identifying voices. Some people are exceptionally good at remembering faces. There are times when we need to trust our own natural abilities and use our common sense.

Missing boy and the will to believe. by Stephanie Bunbury Sydney Morning Herald. February 23, 2013

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/missing-boy-and-the-will-to-believe-20130222-2evb8.html#ixzz2PhgTuPLA

60 Minutes. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8633767

Somerton Beach Mystery Man. Reporter: Simon Royal. Stateline (South Australia) Broadcast: 15/05/2009  http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/sa/content/2006/s2573273.htm

Another story involving the visual recognition of people and CCTV surveillance on Australian 60 Minutes

Can you recognize these faces of Australians who have been reported missing?

http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8640911

Special journal issue about prosopagnosia last year

The full text of an introduction to this special issue can be found at the link. The authors of the introduction are Romina Palermo and Brad Duchaine.

Cognitive Neuropsychology

Volume 29Issue 5-6, 2012

Special Issue: Developmental prosopagnosia

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02643294.2012.744740

Once again, super-recognizers to be found in comments

There are comments from people who claim to have super-recognizer ability at the below-linked article about prosopagnosia at the Australian online magazine for an educated readership The Conversation. One of the super-recognizers is apparently an inherited case with a parent who had the same level of ability.

The Australian Prosopagnosia Register or Australian Prosopagnosia Participant Register was mentioned in the article, which is a register for people who wish to participate in research and also suspect that they are inborn cases of prosopagnosia. This register appears to be maintained by Macquarie University.

The English celebrity Stephen Fry was identified as one of a number of famous prosopagnosics, based in a Tweet that he wrote, claiming to be a “mild” case. This is interesting because there is some indication that Fry also experiences colours for the days of the week which is a type of synaesthesia, and the gay actor has also been diagnosed with one of the milder categories of bipolar, following a bad reaction to some quite severe bullying. I would want to be more certain of all of these diagnoses before speculating about any possible causal link between them.

I should know you: ‘face blindness’ and the problem of identifying others. by Romina Palermo The Conversation. August 16th 2012. https://theconversation.com/i-should-know-you-face-blindness-and-the-problem-of-identifying-others-8884

Australian Prosopagnosia Participant Register  https://www.maccs.mq.edu.au/research/projects/prosopagnosia/register/

Pictures from the past

While making a cake by hand from scratch tonight, scenes from South Fremantle and Moore River flashed into my mind’s eye. While mixing the icing scenes from years ago in Subiaco appeared. I call this phenomenon “fine motor task – visual place memory synaesthesia”. As far as I know I’m the first person in the world to name it and identify it a synaesthesia. It is interesting because it violates one criterion of a quite old definition of synaesthesia, that it only involves simple sensory experiences, such as simple shapes or colours but not complex visual experiences such as objects or faces or landscapes. I also very occasionally experience the appearance of a face as a synaesthesia concurrent, which is another reason why these types of synaesthesia are interesting – because they appear to be linked to my super-recognizer ability (marked superiority in face memory). Another reason why these things are interesting from a scientific point of view is that they seem to be related to a synesthesia-like experience which appears to be the involuntary operation of an ancient memorizing technique known as the method of loci. In these experiences, which other people also report experiencing, memories of concepts become accidentally connected with visual memories of particular scenes. For example, re-visiting a spot in a carpark where I spent time years ago reading a book or listening to a talk radio broadcast will automatically bring to mind the concept or thought that I got from reading or listening there years ago. It can also operate in reverse with the concept evoking a memory of the exact scene that I looked at when I first learned about it. It’s interesting.

Exhibition about visual depiction of music at Mt Lawley ECU ends April 12th 2013

I can’t help wondering if the Drawn From Sound exhibition has anything to do with musical synaesthesia. I would like to see the exhibition, but unfortunately time might not permit it. The curator of this exhibition is flautist Cat Hope.

http://www.drawnfromsound.com/index.html

 

 

Plan to use CCTV and crowd-sourced face recognition to shame Highgate street-whore customers

City of Vincent mayor Alannah MacTiernan said “she wanted the CCTV footage featuring the faces and vehicle licence plates of kerb crawlers to be released publicly in a bid to shame them and deter others”. Ordinary law-abiding citizens have our faces viewed and recorded whenever we go out in public in the city and much of the suburbs, so I don’t see why images of kerb-crawlers in public places shouldn’t also be recorded and scrutinized.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/16584880/plan-to-shame-kerb-crawlers/