Tag Archives: Temporal lobe

Intriguing finding in study of neglected children suggests another one of my (possibly) novel neurodevelopmental hypotheses

Do some neglected or sound-perception-impaired children teach themselves how to amuse themselves by simply looking at and silently analysing their surroundings, and thus develop an inferior temporal lobe that is more developed than it would otherwise have been within the context of brain-stunting deprivation, and in doing this, do these kids gain an advantage over other neglected kids (who will develop ADHD-type behaviours) in learning how to focus their attention and control their own behaviour?* Could this hypothesis help us to understand the development of conditions and abilities associated with strengths and unusual activity in visual processing, things such as hyperphantasia, autism, superrecognition or forms of synaesthesia that involve visual inducers or concurrents (which is just about all of the recognised forms of synesthesia)?*

Seems a bit controversial that this radio story has linked disorders such as autism and ADHD with childhood neglect, but this also sounds very plausible to me, keeping in mind that some kind of unidentified and unknown perceptual disorder in a child or infant could cut the child off from their environment in a way that would mimic extreme childhood neglect, so evil parents are not necessarily a part of a hypothesis based in this idea. I think this is all there is to “autism” – some perceptual (not sensory) disability stopping normal development in communication abilities that the world’s autism experts have not identified or researched.* “Autism” is such a massive cash-cow for so many people in respected positions, it would really upset the apple-cart if its causal mechanism was identified and a remedy found.

*Don’t forget – don’t plagiarise my ideas.

Romania’s orphans — early neglect, brain size and behaviour
Health Report
ABC Radio National

Guest: Professor Edmund Sonuga-Barke   Professor of Developmental Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience, King’s College London

Host: Dr Norman Swan

Producer: James Bullen

Broadcast: Mon 27 Jan 2020.



Don’t confuse poor face memory with aphasia

I know this fascinating article is from 2013, but it makes such an important point about face recognition that I want to bring it to your attention, if you weren’t already aware of it. The ability to remember a person’s face is a different ability than the ability to name the person the face belongs to. These abilities are evidently processed in different areas of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no direct link to the journal paper this article summarizes, so I cannot quickly determine whether the test using the faces of famous people is the same as the “Famous Faces” test that I have previously mentioned at this blog (and done myself). It does sound similar to one of the tests offered here, free of charge: https://www.testmybrain.org/

Famous faces to help spot early dementia.
Anna Salleh ABC. 13 August 2013.


Defining synaesthesia and some interesting research findings – a lecture by a leading Aussie synaesthesia researcher

Below is a link to a webpage that has a video of Associate Professor Anina Rich from Macquarie University delivering the Paul Bourke Lecture 2014 and answering questions afterwards. Some other speakers have a few things to say before her lecture. Associate Professor Anina Rich is the winner of the 2013 Paul Bourke Award for Early Career Research.


Was ist das?

Schimmel, Angelika Dr. Holger Wiese aus Jena untersucht Phänomene der Gesichtserkennung. Jena.otz.de 7th October 2012.  http://jena.otz.de/web/lokal/leben/detail/-/specific/Dr-Holger-Wiese-aus-Jena-untersucht-Phaenomene-der-Gesichtserkennung-1336525605

Dr Marlene Behrmann explains prosopagnosia

I’ve come across a YouTube video in which Dr Marlene Behrmann talks in an interview from last year about prosopagnosia and gives an authoritative explanation of what it is. She seems to have a slight South African accent.

While watching Dr Behrmann discussing the differences between the typical eye movements of prosopagnosics and regular study subjects while looking at faces I wondered whether the typical eye movements of super-recognizer study subjects might be found to be similar or disssimilar to the eye movements of normal people with average face recognition ability.

Peng, Cynthia Marlene Behrmann – prosopagnosia. goCognitive. uploaded Sep 25, 2011.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z9PGrgPlYw&feature=related

Left anterior temporal lobe versus right anterior temporal lobe – does one really need to be autistic to have excellent visual memory?

I’m not a paid researcher and I don’t work in a university, so when I discover new things that help to make sense of my unusual visual processing experiences (various visual types of synaesthesia, IMLM, scene-concept synaesthesia, super-recognition, The Strange Phenomenon etc) it is often by accident as I go about my usual lifestyle. It was only an accident many years ago that I found out that synaesthesia is a neuropsychological phenomenon recognized by science, when I was reading about another subject that interested me at the time, and synaesthesia was mentioned in passing and described in a quaint footnote. The other day I was at my local library looking thru a pile of New Scientist magazines to select issues that I hadn’t read. I didn’t realise that I’d borrowed one from 2010, but when I opened it up at an article about research that has demonstrated how visual memory can be enhanced I wasn’t sorry that I took that old issue off the shelf.

This article, which sadly is behind a paywall, but can probably be easily accessed in hard-copy thru any good public library, is not about face memory or face recognition, but I think it is still an interesting clue about what might be different about my brain. As I’ve written before in articles that I’ve published here, it is my belief that there is a general enhancement in the functioning of the right temporal lobe areas of my brain, which includes the fusiform gyrus on the right, which includes the fusiform face area on the right. I guess my fusiform gyrus on the left is probably working well also. The thing that makes this article so interesting to me is that it seems to show that at least part of the left and right temporal lobes work in opposition to each other, and when the activity of the right is boosted while the activity of the left is inhibited the result is an enhancement of visual memory. Could a naturally-occuring skewed relationship between left and right in the temporal lobes be an explanation for my test scores consistent with me being a super-recognizer of faces? Has some bright-spark researcher at a uni somewhere done a version of the transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) study discussed in this article, exploring face memory? If I was a researcher that is what I’d be looking at.

The other aspect of this article that I find striking is the view of autism that it presents. Science magazines are full of stories about autism research, and as a reader of these publications I’ve read my fair share of such stories, but I’ve never before read an article depicting autism as a natural enhancement in visual memory. I guess such a benefit of autism might be implied in the many books and articles that have been published about autistic savants who create realistic art (Stephen Wiltshire and Gregory Blackstock would be some fine examples), and no doubt an enhanced visual memory could also be behind the many autistic people who have superior navigation ability, but what I’ve generally found is that most books and articles about autism don’t delve very far into brain-based explanations of autistic enhancement of visual memory. As I recall, behavioural explanations are far more common than neuropsychological explanations – autistic people’s special visual abilities are often dismissively described as being the result of obsessive, repetitive learning. Clearly there is more to it than that. In this article by Sujata Gupta in New Scientist autism is explicitly linked with enhancement in visual memory. So does one need to be autistic to have superior visual memory? And how does this all relate to face memory? What is the relationship between autism and super-recognition, if any? I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for researchers to tackle these questions.

Gupta, Sujata Little brain zap, big memory boost. New Scientist. August 14th 2010. Issue 2773 p.16.

Online reference: Skull electrodes give memory a boost. New Scientist. 13 August 2010 by Sujata Gupta Magazine issue 2773. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727733.900-skull-electrodes-give-memory-a-boost.html

It appears that the study described in the above article has not been published in a journal yet, but below is the details of a paper about a similar study co-authored by Richard Chi:

Paulo S. Boggio, Felipe Fregni, Claudia Valasek, Sophie Ellwood, Richard Chi, Jason Gallate, Alvaro Pascual-Leone, and Allan Snyder
Temporal Lobe Cortical Electrical Stimulation during the Encoding and Retrieval Phase Reduces False Memories.
PLoS ONE. 2009; 4(3): e4959. Published online 2009 March 25. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004959 PMCID: PMC2655647

Wish I had time to read this – journal paper from last year about Williams syndrome, music and synesthesia or synaesthesia-like experiences

What exactly do people who have Williams syndrome experience when they listen to music?


Auditory Attraction: Activation of visual cortex by music and sound in Williams syndrome.

Tricia A. Thornton-Wells, Chris J. Cannistraci, Adam Anderson, Chai-Youn Kim, Mariam Eapen, John C. Gore, Randolph Blake, and Elisabeth M. Dykens
Am J Intellect Dev Disabil. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 March 1.
PMCID: PMC2862007

Published in final edited form as: Am J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2010 March; 115(2): 172–189. doi: 10.1352/1944-7588-115.172.


Synaesthesia linking concepts with scenes – maybe not so hard to explain, and maybe not really so strange?

I have recently been reading the chapter about synaesthesia in V. S. Ramachandran’s latest book about neuroscience, and among many other interesting things Ramachandran explained that some simple concepts are processed in the temporal lobes. This is the general part of the brain that I believe is hyper-developed or hyper-connected in my case, and it is the part of the brain in which the fusiform gyrus is located, where the recognition of faces, bodies, scenes, numbers and words is done, and colour is processed. I know as the result of testing that I have an above-average ability in face recognition, possibly in the super-recognizer class, and I also experience types of synaesthesia that involve faces, scenes, colours, words, letters and numbers, so I think I’m on solid ground when I assert that there is something interesting about my fusiform gyrus. Like many synaesthetes I also experience synaesthesia triggered by listening to music, and I believe that appreciating music has an unusual prominence in the lives of me and some of my synaesthete relatives. This type of thing is thought to be associated with the temporal lobes which do auditory processing among many other things, so I believe that whatever is different about my fusiform gyrus or (gyri?) is not limited to it but extends into the temporal lobes. So I was particularly interested that the processing of simple concepts goes on in the temporal lobe, because another type of synaesthesia that I experience links concepts with visual scenes which are processed in the fusiform gyrus in the temporal lobes. If these concepts are also processed in the temporal lobes, that would be another type of synaesthesia of mine that is a purely intra-temporal lobe phenomenon, and therefore a scientific explanation of many of the synaesthesia experiences of mine could be explained in one very short phrase; bushy temporal lobes. But I’m not completely sure that the types of concepts that my mind links with scenes are the same type of thing that goes on in the temporal lobes. This is the passage from page 104 of the book The Tell-Tale Brain by V. S. Ramachandran:

“Brain damage can make a person lose the ability to name tools but not fruits and vegetables, or only fruits and not tools, or only fruits but not vegetables. All of these concepts are stored close to one other in the upper parts of the temporal lobes, but clearly they are sufficiently separated so that a small stroke can knock out one but leave the others intact. You might be tempted to think of fruits and tools as perceptions rather than concepts, but in fact two tools – say, a hammer and saw – can be visually as dissimilar from each other as they are from a banana; what unites then is a semantic understanding about their purpose and use.”

This is a list of some of the concepts that are involved with the concept->scene synaesthesia of mine:
the concept of a bad “state housing” area that one could conceivably find one’s self living in if one’s life went to hell
the concept of Charles Darwin
the concept of Charles Darwin coming to terms with the death of a child
the concept of adoption
the concept of doing one’s own tax return
the concept of cooking with lard
the concept of Bettina Arndt
the concept of the toy the sketch-a-graph.

These concepts aren’t quite as simple as the conceptual categories of “fruits” or “tools”. Is this really the same type of conceptual thinking as that described by Ramachandran? I really don’t know. Maybe I would have more of a clue if I could find the time to read through an interesting-looking paper that I have found on the internet; The Representation of Object Concepts in the Brain by
Alex Martin. I’ve had a quick look at the paper, and I have spotted a couple of interesting things on page 32, a truly amazing misspelling of the word “synaesthete” and what appears to be confirmation that different types of grapheme -> colour synaesthesia involve different parts of the brain. I’m betting that my grapheme -> colour synaesthesia involves the ventral temporal cortex rather than sites in the occipital cortex, because for me the colours of the alphabet are experienced as knowledge of the colours of letters more than a perception of the colours of letters. This doesn’t make the experience any less real or specific. I can still “see” the colours very clearly in my mind’s eye.

I’ve had some thoughts about my concept -> scene and scene -> concept synaesthesia, and I think it could be the case that it only seems to be a strange and nonsensical way of thinking because it has been taken out of the context in which it evolved, and placed into this abstracted, complex, high-speed modern world that we live in. As I have previously observed, often there is a semantic relationship between the place seen in the scene and the concept, and sometimes the scene is of a place that I visited or frequented during the period of time when I was introduced to the concept or was thinking intensively about that concept. This would appear to be a completely useful and sensible way to think, with a thought triggering a real and visible scene illustrating and spatially locating the concept. Maybe a pre-historic human thinking with this type of synaesthesia might experience an appetite for a particular type of seafood, and then in her mind, helpfully, in response to the concept of that specific type of seafood, flashes the scene of the exact beach where she previously went hunting successfully for that particular seafood delicacy. I’ve had a little bit of experience hanging out with fishermen who knew what they were doing, and I know that catching a fish often requires knowing and doing exactly the correct thing – being in the right place at the right time with exactly the right bait and tackle for the specific thing that you are hunting. Casual attitudes and fuzzy thinking don’t get results. The exact nature of synaesthesia seems to fit in with this type of task. In the stable, predictable world of the hunter-gatherer in which there isn’t much abstract thinking to complicate life, this type of synaesthesia could possibly be a most useful tool of the mind, retrieving memories of exact locations just when they are required. One has to wonder if this type of thinking would have been so useful that everyone should have evolved to have it. Was synaesthesia the norm rather than the exception in early humans? Is my mind an atavism, or could it be a souvenir of a liaison between Homo sapiens and the Neanderthal race? Or is it true that this phenomenon isn’t synaesthesia at all, but a completely normal synaesthesia-like thing that is so ordinary that people don’t notice or discuss it?

Having a mind that automatically connects concepts with scenes might have been a very useful and sensible thing in the early times of our species, but when we link concepts with scenes in a mind that is living in the modern industrialized world, things can start to look a bit weird, because there has been an explosion of more abstract thought and complex learning, bringing with it a massive range of possible concepts to think about. In prehistoric times there were no tax returns or underclass suburbs or female sex therapists with gruff voices and high media profiles. It’s a strange old world that we live in, and as synaesthesia involves our thoughts and perceptions of this world, it should probably look just as strange.


A brief report on my synaesthesia experiences that involve concepts as triggers or evoked experiences https://superrecognizer.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/a-brief-report-on-my-synaesthesia-experiences-that-involve-concepts-as-triggers-or-evoked-experiences/

Martin, Alex The Representation of Object Concepts in the Brain. Annual Review of Psychology. 2007. 58:25–45.
First published online September 1, 2006.
The Annual Review of Psychology is online at http://psych.annualreviews.org
This article’s doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.57.102904.190143

Ramachandran, V. S. The tell-tale brain: unlocking the mystery of human nature. William Heinemann, 2011.

Just found interesting paper about Williams syndrome and the fusiform face area

It appears that having a fusiform face area (FFA) that is twice the normal size does not give people with Williams syndrome (WS) super powers of face recognition or expression recognition, but I’m not sure we can be completely sure that people with Williams do not have any special gift in reading faces, as other researchers have found fault with the test that was used in this study to measure face recognition ability. Williams syndrome is a genetic syndrome that is associated with  intellectual deficits, “heightened emotionality”, “hypersociability” and a special love of music. Dr Oliver Sacks wrote an interesting chapter about Williams syndrome in his book Musicophilia. I do not have Williams syndrome, and this syndrome does not run in my family. One thing that I do believe that I and some family members share in common with people who have Williams syndrome is our great love of music, despite a lack of musical education or training.

“The atypically large FFA volume that we found in WS was positively correlated with apparently normal performance levels on a standardized face-identity recognition task (Benton test) in the same participants. This finding is analogous to electrophysiological reports of atypically large N200 in WS, which is correlated with performance on the Benton test (Mills et al., 2000). However, in our experiments, the correlation between rFFA size and Benton scores reached statistical significance only after excluding two WS participants with the noisiest BOLD signals. The similarity in the mean performance across TD and WS in the Benton test may be due to insufficient sensitivity of the Benton test in detecting subtle variations in face-recognition proficiency (Duchaine and Nakayama, 2004).”

Has anyone ever done a study in which people who have Williams syndrome have been given the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT)? I’d love to read that.

Golijeh Golarai, Sungjin Hong, Brian W. Haas, Albert M. Galaburda, Debra L. Mills, Ursula Bellugi, Kalanit Grill-Spector & Allan L. Reiss The Fusiform Face Area is Enlarged in Williams Syndrome. Journal of Neuroscience. 12 May 2010, 30(19): 6700-6712; doi: 10.1523/​JNEUROSCI.4268-09.2010

Duchaine, Bradley & Nakayama, Ken Developmental prosopagnosia and the Benton Facial Recognition Test. Neurology. April 13, 2004 vol. 62 no. 7 1219-1220. doi: 10.1212/01.WNL.0000118297.03161.B3 http://www.neurology.org/content/62/7/1219.abstract

“The Benton Facial Recognition Test is used for clinical and research purposes, but evidence suggests that it is possible to pass the test with impaired face discrimination abilities.”

The “Enhanced Perceptual Functioning Model” of autism supported by meta-analysis, and mentions face processing and hyperlexia

A most interesting recent quote from Canadian researcher Dr Laurent Mottron about a recently published meta analysis of published functional imaging studies of autistic subjects :

“We synthesized the results of neuroimaging studies using visual stimuli from across the world. The results are strong enough to remain true despite the variability between the research designs, samples and tasks, making the perceptual account of autistic cognition currently the most validated model. The stronger engagement of the visual system, whatever the task, represents the first physiological confirmation that enhanced perceptual processing is a core feature of neural organization in this population. We now have a very strong statement about autism functioning which may be ground for cognitive accounts of autistic perception, learning, memory and reasoning.”

This not a new theory about autism, I believe it was first set out in a published journal paper in 2006. This theory appears to have some similarities with the “Intense World” theory of autism that was the creation of Henry Markram, Tania Rinaldi and Kamila Markram, and would explain the same sorts of phenomena that the intense world theory would explain. The theory also quite obviously brings to mind the popular idea that autistic people are “visual thinkers”, an idea which has been popularized by the autistic author Temple Grandin. I’m not sure if she was the original source of this idea.

I noticed that in the abstract of the paper by Mottron and colleagues hyperlexia and “atypical” face processing in autism are mentioned, while the general thrust of the abstract and the press release seems to suggest that autistics are or should be better than non-autistic people in visual processing. So what does that mean? Are autistic people better or worse than non-autistic people at recognizing and interpreting faces, and at reading text? Almost everything that I’ve read about autism suggests that autistic people are impaired. There seems to be some inconsistency somewhere. I just know that in our family we have synaesthetes who are gifted or clever in visual recognition tasks such as reading, recognizing faces, identifying facial expressions and identifying different types within categories of objects (a task that activates the same part of the brain as face recognition). Is there some type of relationship between our synaesthesia and autism?

I hope to get a hold of the full text of this paper and search it visually with a great attention to detail. I’ll let you know what I see.


Samson, Fabienne, Mottron, Laurent, Soulieres, Isabelle & Zeffiro, Thomas A. Enhanced visual functioning in autism: an ALE meta-analysis. Human Brain Mapping. Article first published online: 4 APR 2011 DOI: 10.1002/hbm.21307 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hbm.21307/abstract

Raillant-Clark, William New research explains autistic’s exceptional visual abilities. EurekAlert Release date: April 4th 2011. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/uom-nre032811.php

Raillant-Clark, William Spatial distribution. EurekAlert (This is an image accompanying a media release. “This is the spatial distribution of regions showing more task-related activity in autistics than non-autistics for the three processing domains: “faces” in red, “objects” in green, and “words” in blue.“) http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/30851.php?from=181850

Mottron, Laurent, Dawson, Michelle, Soulieres, Isabelle, Hubert, Benedicte & Burack, Jake Enhanced Perceptual Functioning in Autism: An Update, and Eight Principles of Autistic Perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Vol. 36, No. 1, January 2006 DOI 10.1007/s10803-005-0040-7 Published Online: February 2, 2006 http://affect.media.mit.edu/Rgrads/Articles/pdfs/Mottron-etal-2006-EPF.pdf  http://www.springerlink.com/content/f1r60p2553n12565/

Markram, Henry, Rinaldi, Tania, Markram, Kamila The Intense World Syndrome – an Alternative Hypothesis for Autism. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2007 November; 1(1): 77–96. Published online 2007 October 15. Prepublished online 2007 September 1. doi: 10.3389/neuro. PMCID: PMC2518049 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2518049/