Tag Archives: BBC

Amazing British synaesthete super-perceiver gets to use her super-power to aid science and medicine!

Sorry, I don’t have time to write much about the very interesting and talented super-sniffer Joy Milne. You can read her story in the below linked reports and watch the fascinating BBC documentaries. I very much hope there will be exploration of her as a case study published in the science literature one day, because her special talent is clearly of vital importance.

Clearly I’m not the only syneasthete who’s synaesthesia is associated an extraordinary ability in the sensory/perception ability that is the synaesthesia trigger or inducer, as I described in the very first post in this blog.

My super-ability is as a super-recognizer, which has been validated many times over in very high or perfect scores in world-class face recognition tests, and the form of synaesthesia that I (very rarely) experience that is related to this is a form of synaesthesia that had never been described by science before I wrote about it here, way back in 2010. I named it The Strange Phenomenon, but in hindsight a more sensible name might have been a good idea. It involves a cluster of sensory memories of a woman that I barely knew, being triggered by viewing one particular man’s face from a very specific angle, in an experience that was very much like the feeling of spotting a family resemblance in two strangers’ faces, a type of face recognition, but also operated in exactly the same way as some of my many synaesthesia experiences. I believe I was the first person/researcher in the world to publish a theory with supporting evidence (my first-hand accounts of my experiences as a case study) asserting a link between synaesthesia and super-recognition, a hypothesis that I do not believe any “real” researcher in a university has bothered to explore using more conventional forms of research.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24132200-300-meet-the-super-smeller-who-can-diagnose-parkinsons-at-a-sniff/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/12/18/woman-can-smell-parkinsons-disease-helps-scientists-develop/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/meet-woman-can-smell-parkinsons-disease/

I wish, I wish…

I’d love to be reading and writing about fascinating and largely unexplored topics in neuroscience and psychology such as superagers, super-visualisers and aphantasia, but Christmas and all the associated this and that, and the everyday business of parenting in the summer holidays and housekeeping takes up my time.

Interesting to read that aphantasia was apparently first identified by Sir Francis Galton in 1880, even though it has only recently been given the name aphantasia and come to the attention of contemporary researchers. Galton was also one of the earliest researchers to describe various varieties of synaesthesia, before they were all named as such. Galton was one hell of a scientist, back in the days when a man of means could spend his days exploring vast unknown territories of psychology. Is research so different these days? Science is now a bit more open to women researchers, and there’s still much to explore.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541673/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2112820-superagers-with-amazing-memories-have-alzheimers-brain-plaques/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2104221-superagers-with-amazing-memories-have-shrink-resistant-brains/new

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34039054

Zeman, A., Dewar, M., & Della Sala, S. Lives without imagery–Congenital aphantasia. Cortex, 3.
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Adam_Zeman/publication/279234629_Lives_without_imagery_-_Congenital_aphantasia/links/573612f208ae9f741b29cd33.pdf

 

This bloke is the real thing

I’m amazed by two aspects of this interesting news story about an international competition run by the highly original author Douglas Coupland to find the world’s closest lookalike to the late great epileptic painter Vincent van Gogh. I’m amazed at how closely the British actor Daniel Baker in the photo shown visually resembles van Gogh in his face but also in so many other distinctive visible features. I can’t help wondering how closely the British man is like the legendary artist in his personality, talents and behaviour, if at all, and I’m also left wondering how far back the two might be related (all humans are related if you go back far enough), but all that is of course none of my business. This super-recognizer gives her seal of approval to the idea that Baker looks a heck of a lot like van Gogh. I am truly impressed, because I usually find celebrity lookalikes and lookalike competitions to be laughable due to the glaring differences between the faces of the “lookalike” and the real celebrity.

The other thing that I’m amazed about is the fact that all those other pictured men thought themselves as possible winners of the competition, when so many don’t really have faces or heads that look much like self-portraits of the artist (which we can assume were good likenesses). Being a van Gogh double requires more than having short ginger hair and beard and being a white man of similar age, with an intense look on your face. The face is the thing, and the shape of the head, the shape of the hairline and also the shape of the natural beardline, even the shape of the outline and the inner lines and the size of your ears (which may number one or two). I think it is interesting that it appears that the winner of the competition was not self-selected. It shows how little judgement some people apparently have into how visually close in resemblance one person is to another, which I guess is the result in a spectrum of person visual recognition ability.

I’m going to be really annoyed if in his acting career Baker never gets the chance to play van Gogh. It would be such a waste!

Van Gogh lookalike competition won by Dorset man. BBC News. November 25th 2016.

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-dorset-38101522

 

Radio story from BBC in October 2015 about supers and the Met

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0356fvj

Recent online articles about super recognizers, and a link to a test

Madhumita Venkataramanan’s article for the BBC (third down) is well worth your reading time. I wonder whether Madhumita might have read my tips for acing or gunning tests of face memory?

UK Cops Using Gifted ‘Super Recognizers’ to Fight Crime

Cathy Burke Newsmax.com

http://www.newsmax.com/International/super-recognizers-facial-recognition-London-Metropolitan-Police-world/2015/06/16/id/650791/#ixzz3dKPCFmgR

‘Super recognisers’ used by the police to identify criminals and spot offenders in crowds

Alexandra Sims

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/super-recognisers-used-by-the-police-to-identify-criminals-and-spot-offenders-in-crowds-10324186.html

The superpower police now use to tackle crime.

Madhumita Venkataramanan

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150611-the-superpower-police-now-use-to-tackle-crime

Are You a Super Recognizer? Test Tells If You’re One of Elite Few Who Never Forgets a Face

Korin Miller

https://www.yahoo.com/health/are-you-a-super-recognizer-test-tells-if-youre-121678964207.html

This Fun Memory Quiz Will Tell You If You Are a ‘Super Recognizer’

Christina Oehler

http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/wellness/a50913/this-fun-memory-quiz-will-tell-you-if-you-super-recognizer/

Testa dig: Hur bra är du på att känna igen ansikten?
Fredrik Claesson

http://pcforalla.idg.se/2.1054/1.631410/kan-du-identifiera-ansiktet

Are YOU a ‘super recogniser’? Take the test to see if you are one of an elite group of people who never forget a face

Ellie Zolfagharifard

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3125173/Are-super-recogniser-test-one-elite-group-people-rarely-forgets-face.html#ixzz3dKS4frpz

Could you be a super-recogniser? (test)

University of Greenwich

 

https://greenwichuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_e3xDuCccGAdgbfT

 

New book looks very interesting

Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are by Jennifer M. Groh

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674863217

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p028g3nb  (I got the pop-out player to work)

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22429970.700-where-am-i-in-the-world.html#.VH3qmjGUd8F

 

 

The One Show from April this year – story about super-recognizers

The ubiquitous Dr Michael Mosley interviews super-recognizer policeman Gary Collins and super-recognition researcher Dr Josh Davis. Thank you Dr Davis, thank you BBC 1 Scotland and thank you YouTube.

Super-recognisers on The One Show (BBC1, 7PM), from 9th April 2013. http://youtu.be/PuPfQ8UZTGQ

YouTube channel of Dr Josh P. Davis:  http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3rErlc6ayyZb1ROLvPQPtA?feature=watch

Some links to old stuff about amusia, a disorder of the perception of music

Amusia. Frontiers. BBC Radio 4. December 13th 2006 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00j4814 I couldn’t get this to play, but you might have more luck.

McBurney, Gerard The sounds of music. New Statesman. October 25th 2007. http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2007/10/oliver-sacks-brain-music-tales

You thought I was obsessive about documenting my synaesthesia….

What a strange and fascinating thing is James Wannerton’s personal map of his synaesthesia associations between stops in the London Underground railway network and evoked tastes. Lexical-gustatory synaesthete James Wannerton has been a leading figure in promoting a public understanding of synaesthesia for many years now. He even has a Wikipedia page. I hope to be able to find spare time to share my thoughts and observations about this interesting document, but don’t bet on it. Thanks for sharing, Mr Wannerton.

What do London Underground stops taste like? by Ben Riley-Smith Telegraph. August 23rd 2013.  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/road-and-rail-transport/10257633/What-do-London-Underground-stops-taste-like.html

The taste of the tube. BBC World Service Radio. https://soundcloud.com/#bbc-world-service/the-taste-of-the-tube

Wikipedia contributors, “James Wannerton,”  Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James_Wannerton&oldid=544401943 (accessed August 24, 2013).

Can electroconvulsive therapy (ECT, electroshock) cause permanent acquired prosopagnosia?

It seems very clear that ECT can cause at least temporary acquired prosopagnosia or severely impaired face memory:

“In this building I, I saw her maybe four times, I visited maybe four times, and um, she progressively got less aware of who I was. On one occasion she didn’t know me from Adam.”

That is a quote from an episode (titled “Mind Control”) in the television series Into the Mind, featuring Dr Michael Mosley (I very much like his TV work and the shows he appears in). The person the quote refers to had been an attractive English 21 year-old lady named Mary Thornton who was sent to a psychiatric institution by her parents after some family conflicts. Patients in that institution were given extreme and experimental treatments: deep sleep therapy, heavy regimes of psychiatric drugs and ECT. The doctor who dreamed-up these experimental regimes of psychiatric treatment was the ambitious and controversial psychiatrist Dr William Sargant, who apparently set out explicitly to destroy memory in his treatment and also reportedly had his own history of psychiatric illness (depression).

The person who spoke the above quote in the TV series was the then-boyfriend of the young lady who had been given the extreme psychiatric treatment. For a while after being released from St Thomas’ Hospital in London she forgot that she had ever had a boyfriend, but then the memory returned and she found his phone number. They met again, and have been together ever since. As you might expect, many of the other patients did not have such happiness in their lives following release from psychiatric care. Some never made it out of that hospital alive. Australian history has a similar horror story of very similar forms of psychiatric abuse, in the Chelmsford Hospital scandal, which led to a Royal Commission into Deep Sleep Therapy. Twenty-four Australian patients had died as the result of deep sleep therapy. The Australian version of Dr Sargant was Dr Harry Bailey, Chief Psychiatrist at Chelmsford Private Hospital. It is thought he was responsible for the deaths of 85 patients. Bailey killed himself before he could be held accountable for his crimes.

A quote from Mary Thornton:

“My memories are like snap-shots, one is the electrodes being touched to the side of my head, being given a general anaesthetic, seeing an image of myself in a mirror one day, seeing a strange face looking back at myself, and being really, really frightened that I would never get out.”

We must make sure that such medical abuse is never, ever allowed to happen again, in any corner of the globe.

Links to relevant info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroconvulsive_therapy#Effects_on_memory

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=William_Sargant&oldid=546499660

http://www.bbcactivevideoforlearning.com/1/TitleDetails.aspx?TitleID=23342