Tag Archives: Olfaction

Is there a human sense of psychological and physical distress in others that operates below the level of consciousness?

I’ve just been watching the former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull being interviewed on the 7.30 news program. I was particularly struck by his revelation that during the period of his career following his gross misjudgement in the “Utegate” affair he was in a very dark emotional state, despite maintaining his usual polished and confident image. When Turnbull fell for the deception of an unhinged and ill public servant who claimed implausibibly that the very wealthy and ambitious leader of the party opposing Turnbull’s party had accepted an old utility truck as a political bribe, that destroyed my confidence in Turnbull as a leader, and we now know, it also wrecked his own self-image. As I marvelled at the contrast beteen the politician’s inner state and his exterior image, I was reminded of a baffling dream that I had when Turnbull was still a political leader.

I rarely remember my dreams, but this one was also remarkable for other reasons. In the dream I somehow percieved that Turnbull was in a dire state of unhappiness due to his work and this concerned me. His facial expression was sad but not extreme, so this was one of many examples of a dream in which I simply knew something by telepathy or unclear means. In my dream I said something like “Cheer up, it’s only a job”. Upon waking I was baffled that I even cared about this politician in my dream, as I deplored his party and never had much interest in him as an individual. I hadn’t recalled noticing any particular news or media coverage at the time suggesting a drop in this politician’s career satisfaction. After wondering what in the world had prompted this oddly vivid dream, it seemed to me that the dream was a manifestation of a basic human concern for others that operates independently of conscious rational judgements about another person’s character. Now that I know that possibly at the time of my dream I might have seen Turnbull on TV during the time when he was feeling secretly bleak, I’m left wondering whether I had unconsciously sensed something in his voice, appearance, words or manner that betrayed his real state, and this perception was explored in my dream. This wouldn’t be the first time that I apparently sensed stress and serious danger in a person I was not particularly close to.

When I was in my 20s I once got the idea into my head to write in a Christmas card a sincere hope that the recipient (not a close relative by any means) not suffer a heart attack. I thought twice about that choice of wording and asked my flat-mate if she thought it appropriate. She clearly thought I had lost my mind,  as any sensible person would, but still I felt genuine concern about this ambitious and busy person who I saw only occassionally, who always seemed to be bathed in sweat. Roughly a year later I recieved news of that person’s full recovery from a heart attack. A few years later I formed the opinion, based on what I am not sure, that one of my work supervisors, a kind person but not one who I felt was a friend, was headed for trouble due to trying to do too much in tackling the roles of mother of young children, wife, career-builder and property investor. Not long after that she came down with shingles, a nasty disease that can be triggered by stress. I’ll never know why I felt constantly concerned about a friend of one of our young adult offspring in the week before we were shocked by the terrible news of her suicide. I had only met this striking person a few times and we weren’t friends or close, but the day before we recieved the news I had been asking questions at work in the faint hope that there might be a job opportunity for her there. In hindsight, many other people would have known enough to be very concerned for her welfare, much more than I did, so I’m baffled as to how I apparently sensed imminent danger in the life of a person I barely knew and was not in direct contact with.

Maybe these anecdotes are all nothing more than unhappy coincidences that appear to be predictions when viewed in retrospect. Could I or anyone have altered fate? Even if it is possible to sense the approaching date when a friend or acquaintance will reach beyond their physical or psychological limits, I ask you, how do you save someone from themself?

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/malcolm-turnbull-the-7-30-interview

34 COVID-19 questions

The new coronavirus pandemic is the topic dominating our lives at the moment, so I hope you won’t mind if I diverge from the usual neuroscience and psychology themes of this blog, to pose some questions (some a bit rhetorical) related to the virus.

A note of warning – If you are thinking about copying or plagiarizing any of the text, original ideas or descriptions in this post or using it in your own work without giving me (C. Wright, author of the blog “Am I a Super-recognizer?”) the proper acknowledgement and citations, then think again. If you do that you will be found out and my objection will be well publicized. If you believe that you published any of these ideas before I did, please let me know the details in a comment on this article. If you want to make reference to this blog post or any of the ideas in it make sure that you state in your work exactly where you first read about these ideas. If you wish to quote any text from this post be sure to cite this post at this blog properly. There are many established citation methods. If you quote or make reference to material in this blog in your work, it would be a common courtesy to let me know about your work (I’m interested!) in a comment on any of the posts in this blog. Thank you.

  1. How many children, women and men will die or become victims of abuse as the result of increased domestic violence and opportunities to hide abuse and neglect under conditions of social distancing and online schooling?
  2. Are there any aspects of the medical care of people infected by the virus or other measures to deal with it which could conceivably become the subject of a medical reversal in the future or be later regarded as negligent?
  3. Is there any evidence that social distancing indoors and outdoors should be the same?
  4. Would medical clinics or other places where people must share space be safer in terms of social distancing if they were conducted outdoors?
  5. Are there documented cases of infection from the new coronavirus caught through the air in an outdoor place?
  6. Are there any particular immune deficiency conditions or genetic immune system variations that are over-represented among people who have died from the new virus?
  7. Have any researchers studied the vitamin D status of people infected with or killed by the new virus?
  8. Vitamin D deficiency makes people more vulnerable to infection, and this deficiency related to limited sun exposure is surprisingly common, even in sunny nations like Australia, so could government prohibition of outdoor activities in which people often gain sun exposure, such as swimming and sunbaking at closed beaches, intended to prevent transmission of the virus, prove counter-productive by raising people’s vulnerability to the virus, if the virus is encountered?
  9. Should saturation mass media messages from celebrities to “stay inside” be modified to a more nuanced message to prevent an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and associated autoimmune diseases come the end of winter 2020?
  10. Are any of the fatalities that followed after infection by the new coronovirus attributable to secondary infection by pneumonia-causing bacteria?
  11. Is there a cohort of young Australians who have never been immunised against pneumococcal bacteria because they were born before it was scheduled as a standard childhood immunisation?
  12. If the adult vaccination against pneumonia bacteria is safe and effective, and pneumonia is not a rare disease, why isn’t it recommended and funded in Australia for all adults, rather than recommended for a confusing collection of categories of adults?
  13. Why is vaccination against influenza widely promoted as a good idea for everyone, especially within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, while this does not appear to be the case in relation to immunisation against pneumonia bacteria?
  14. Are social problems resulting from social distancing restrictions on recreational activities outside the home particularly acute in new suburbs in which tiny residential block sizes or large homes with tiny gardens have been compensated for by land developers with quality recreational facilities in public parks, which are now shut down or restricted?
  15. Is it true that India has never been the site of origin of an infectious agent responsible for a major epidemic or pandemic, even though it is a large nation in terms of geography and massive in terms of human population? China is another massive nation, and it and surrounding nations have bred some troublesome infectious agents in recent years, including COVID-19. Does this show that the lacto-vegetarian/Hindu values of the Indian nation are safer and a benefit to all of humankind, because the lifestyle these values promote involves less human interference with and caging of wild animals? The WHO has recently thanked India for engaging the WHO’s national polio surveillance network to strengthen COVID-19 surveillance in India. Should India also be thanked for refraining from doing stupid and cruel things with disease-riddled bats and other wild animals?
  16. Should wildlife carers be banned from caring for or touching bats?
  17. In 2018 an estimated 1.5 million people died from tuberculosis. Why has the world stopped in its tracks to control covid-19, but has not solved the very long-standing global TB problem?   
  18. The potential benefits of the BCG anti-TB vaccine on the immune system beyond TB protection have been known for many years, including potential to prevent allergy. Allergy has been described as a modern-day “epidemic” causing life-threatening medical problems for countless children and adults. Why has it taken the COVID-19 pandemic for Australian researchers to study the important possible benefits of the BCG vaccine? 
  19. In the UK sniffer-dogs are being trained to sniff out cases of coronavirus. Already dogs, and even one British woman, have been used to sniff out medical conditions such as cancer and infectious and non-infectious diseases, and of course trained detection dogs have been used for a long time to sniff out drugs and explosives. Are there any disease-sniffer dogs in Australia?
  20. Can anything be done about police informant drug dealers who fail to observe social distancing by hosting a steady parade of guests at their home? 
  21. Does taking ACE inhibitor drugs make it more likely that you will die if you catch coronavirus?
  22. Does coronavirus directly cause birth defects or other forms of harm to a child born to an infected mother? 
  23. What is the evidence-base or group of published studies upon which Autralian governments’ policies of returning children to school in person has been based? 
  24. How common among children infected by covid-19 is the development of the Kawasaki-like inflammatory/autoimmune disorder that has been reported recently?
  25. Could there be unidentified deaths from or cases of the above disease in Australian children, as is possibly the case in the UK?
  26. Why was the “Socialist medicine” NHS in the UK the first institution to alert the world to the new covid-19-associated Kawasaki-like inflammatory/autoimmune disorder affecting children, when it appears that evidence of the development of this new potentially serious disease in kids has been observed in Australia and other nations? 
  27. Is it possible or likely that a thing to emerge from the covid-19 pandemic will be blocs or groupings of countries into a handful of categories: those nations with effective coronoavirus control, those without with current new infections, nations still to be affected by the virus, and nations with unreliable statistical reporting. If Australia and New Zealand might one day be able to have an arrangement to open borders, might this exclusive club one day widen to incorporate other nations that appear to be on top of covid-19, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, some Scandinavian countries, with trade, travel and tourism resuming between nations? Even though PNG and Indonesia are geographically closer to Australia than New Zealand, in the new post-covid world order New Zealand seems much closer to Australia, as on May 4th 2020 New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was invited to remotely attend an Australian National Cabinet meeting between Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the state and territory heads.  Will Australia’s historically close social and trade ties with countries such as the USA, the UK and China be downgraded because these countries have done a poor job of controlling or honestly reporting about covid-19?
  28. Is there any evidence or observations that people with autoimmune diseases are affected by covid-19 in a more or less serious way than the average person? 
  29. Can people who have other diseases register a false positive in a covid-19 test, as is the case with the RPR Test for syphilis?
  30. Can immunisation with existing vaccines cause a person to register a false positive in a covid-19 test, as is the case with the BCG TB immunisation that can cause a false positive result on a TB infection test? 
  31. Given that there is still a lack of scientific consensus about whether children infected with covid have lower viral loads than infected adults, and thus might be just as infectious as adults, why are so many state and national governments in Australia and globally forcing parents to send their children to schools?
  32. There appears to be a lot of uncertainty in reports of the emerging Kawasaki-like illness seen in children (now named pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome), and among recent cases of Kawasaki disease in children in Australia of an unexpected number, about whether or not all of these cases have had or do have covid infections. Is this evidence of a problem globally with identifying or testing covid-19 infection in children? Are children dying of covid-19 or its complications, in “advanced” countries, without ever being identified as covid-19 cases?
  33. Given that pediatric multisymptom inflammatory syndrome clearly associated with covid-19 in kids killsbut has not reliably been identified or tested as being associated with covid-19 infection in cases seen in various parts of the world, including in Australia, pointing to the likelihood that covid-19 in kids “flies under the radar”, not reliably detected as the cause of illness by many doctors or by covid-19 testing, does Australia or the Australian states need to set up a reporting system in which doctors are compelled to report to a team of investigative medical specialists any adult or pediatric cases which could potentially be novel infectious diseases or novel presentations of known infectious diseases? 
  34. Given that pediatric multisymptom inflammatory syndrome clearly associated with covid-19 in kids kills, with at least one press report suggesting a cover-up of PMIS deaths in the UK, and PMIS was not initially identified or tested as being associated with covid-19 infection in many cases seen in various parts of the world, including in Australia, pointing to the likelihood that covid-19 in kids “flies under the radar”, not reliably detected as an illness or by covid-19 testing, should schools in parts of the world where covid-19 is not close to eradicated and monitored by large-scale public random testing programs be open?

References / Links

Aranow C. (2011). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research59(6), 881–886. https://doi.org/10.2310/JIM.0b013e31821b8755

Nowson, C. A., McGrath, J. J., Ebeling, P. R., Haikerwal, A., Daly, R. M., Sanders, K. M., … & Mason, R. S. (2012). Vitamin D and health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: a position statement. Medical journal of Australia196(11), 686-687. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2012/196/11/vitamin-d-and-health-adults-australia-and-new-zealand-position-statement

Brooks, M. (2013). Small shot, big impact. New Scientist219(2930), 38-41. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24027-booster-shots-the-accidental-advantages-of-vaccines/

World Health Organisation. Tuberculosis. 24 March 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis

Worldometer. Coronavirus. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Quaggin, Lucy (2020) Coronavirus vaccine: West Australian hospital workers to take part in COVID-19 experiment. 7NEWS. Tuesday, 14 April 2020. https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/coronavirus-vaccine-west-australian-hospital-workers-to-take-part-in-covid-19-experiment-c-974237

Coronavirus: WHO thanks India for support, borrows polio-fighting strategy for COVID-19. business Today. April 16, 2020. https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/coronavirus-who-thanks-india-for-support-borrows-polio-fighting-strategy-for-covid-19/story/401156.html

Dogs join fight against COVID-19 by learning how to detect the virus. Sandie Rinaldo. CTV National News. April 12, 2020. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/dogs-join-fight-against-covid-19-by-learning-how-to-detect-the-virus-1.4893325

 

 

If dogs and some gifted people can smell diseases and illicit drugs, why can’t someone train dogs (or synaesthete people) to detect COVID-19 by scent?

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

 

Detection dog – Wikipedia

 

P.S. Turns out I wasn’t the first to think of this excellent idea: 

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-tyne-52057543

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/sniffer-dogs-trained-recognise-coronavirus-2020-4?r=US&IR=T

 

 

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/