Tag Archives: Tests

There’s a back-story to my theory

I can show data dating back to the year 2000 that supports my theory that low levels of complement proteins, which are a part of the human immune system, specifically C3, C4 and most likely C1q, are the biological cause of the development of inherited synaesthesia (at least in some cases). Before I had thought of the idea of a link between the immune system and synaesthesia I had, at the blog, published a theory that synaesthesia is in some way the neurological opposite of a variety of dementia named Benson’s syndrome (aka PCA, posterior cortical atrophy), based on my observations and reading. I had speculated that there could be some “magical chemical” that regulated the brain in some way and that oppositely extreme levels of this magical chemical could be the biological basis of both synaesthesia and Benson’s syndrome. Back in 2012 I read a small article in New Scientist magazine that blew my mind, because it appeared that it gave me some major clues about what that magical chemical could be. The article was about the exciting work of Dr Beth Stevens on microglial pruning in the brain and the immune system’s complement proteins. The term “pruning” was familiar to me from all of my reading about synaesthesia, which is a fun heritable brain-based phenomenon which I share with some of my first-degree relatives, along with specific gifts in literacy skills. The term “complement” in the context of the immune system, and the individual names of complement proteins were also familiar to me.

Being a super-recognizer, I’m pretty good at recognizing patterns, and I recognized that all these elements of information fitted together into an important and original multi-faceted theory. I was so excited that I published a brief outline of my theory at this blog in 2012. In 2013 I was shocked to discover that a prominent synaesthesia researcher and her co-author had published a theoretical journal paper titled “The immune hypothesis of synesthesia” which even included speculation that the “complement system” could be the element of the immune system responsible for the development of synaesthesia. I found no credit given in that paper to me or my blog. As I had published my theory first I believe I should have been fully acknowledged. I never thought that this could have been a case of two separate parties thinking of the same idea independently. I read their paper through and I looked into the educational and research background of both authors and their previous publications and found no study or writing about the immune system and no indication or explanation of why they might have suddenly had their own insight linking synaesthesia with some of the many elements of the incredibly complex immune system that only an immunologist would find interesting. 

This Easter I’d like to pose the question; can Simner and Carmichael offer data dating back to the year 2000 as the basis of their published version of “the immune hypothesis of synesthesia”? I can, and I would be willing to share my data with serious medical researchers.

A while ago I was sorting through some piles of old papers that I had stowed away years ago without sorting through them. These things happen during a busy family life. These piles had been sitting around for years, some of it photocopies of articles from New Scientist magazine that had struck me as interesting but which I hadn’t always had the time to read through properly. I was amused to find that I had stowed away an article from the March 1st 2008 issue titled “Thought control” by Bijal Trivedi. It was all about exciting research by the likes of Carla Shatz, Ben Barres, Simon John, Staffan Cullheim, Eliezer Masliah, Robert Terry and Lisa Boulanger about synapse loss in dementia and the interesting things that elements of the immune system appeared to be doing in the brain, contrary to the received wisdom that there is a thing called the blood-brain barrier that keeps the immune system out of the brain. I’m not sure whether or not I had read the article back then, but I can understand why it had sparked my interest. Back then it wasn’t enough of a spark to give me the idea of a link between the immune system and synaesthesia, because back then I hadn’t even heard of the terms “super-recognizer” or “Benson’s syndrome”, in fact the concept and the term of “super-recognizer” hadn’t yet been published. Back then I had not the slightest inkling that I had better than average ability in face recognition, so I hadn’t started thinking about whether it was more than a coincidence that I was both a synaesthete and a super, and which parts of the brain might be atypical in both. I hadn’t read the human interest story in The West about a Perth citizen who had been diagnosed with Benson’s, and felt curious about how the description of that type of dementia sounded like the opposite of skills that were superior or associated with synaesthesia in myself and kin. I must have forgotten about the content of the 2008 New Scientist article, if I had ever read it at all, because it would have been the ribbon which I could have used to wrap up my package of ideas neatly. Curiosity can be rewarded, even if it takes a couple of coins before the penny drops.

 

If this is some kind of test…..

…I honestly don’t see how anyone could fail it. Seriously?

http://www.newscientist.com/gallery/image-detail

Cambridge Face Memory Test- how long is it?

The original short standard version had 72 items or questions in it and the long version had 102, but I have recently read that new versions have been created, and I don’t know anything about them. There is also a children’s version.

This is a link to the journal paper that introduced the concept of the super-recognizer, and you can read about the use of both original versions of the CFMT in this paper: http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/papers/russell09PBR

New paper about study of face processing in developmental prosopagnosia on oxytocin

The paper is open access, so you don’t need to pay to read the whole thing. Is “face processing” the same thing as “face memory” or “face recognition”? When I’ve got more time I’ll have a good look at this study and see. I have noted that this is a quite small study (10 DPs, 10 controls), so let’s not get too excited about the findings.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010945213002086

Two bits of interesting information about the Cambridge Face Memory Test can be found within this paper.  The authors advise that some people with developmental prosopagnosia can achieve a normal score on the CFMT by using “effective compensatory strategies”. I’m curious about how that is done, because I thought the CFMT was pretty much cheat proof. It is also revealed that two new versions of the CFMT were created for this study.

I plan to write more about this paper but right now my garden requires attention. And after that the turquoise coastline lined with fine white sand near where we live will require attention.

Just added an important link to a cognitive test website

I’ve just added a new link to an important online resource to my large and well-considered collection of links at this blog. This online website is TestMyBrain from the Vision Lab at Harvard University. It is a place where researchers offer a group or battery of cognitive tests to the online public free of charge. It is my understanding that your test scores are collected and stored and are available to you to look at, in a “Brain Profile”, but remember to take a screen-shot of your results immediately because this data isn’t stored there permanently. Researchers haven’t just created this website out of the goodness of their hearts, it is my understanding that they use it to collect data for their studies. At the moment there is one face recognition or face memory test included in the collection of tests at TestMyBrain, which could be of value to anyone who suspects that they have a special gift or an impairment in face recognition or face memory. There’s also another tests that looks like it tests face matching ability, which is not quite the same thing as face memory. I haven’t done that test (yet). I consider that the best face memory test available today is the Cambridge Face Memory Test, which comes in a short and also a long version. In the past this test was available to the public through this website, but it isn’t there at the moment. Researchers appear to be reserving this test for use only in their private research studies, which I think is wrong, because people shouldn’t have to find a study to participate in in order to find out whether they have prosopagnosia or are a super-recognizer. Please note that the CFMT is an actual test. It is not just a questionnaire which asks subject whether or not they think they have good or bad face recognition or asks them about their experiences. The only way to find out a person’s real level of ability is to test it, so you need to do a test, and it needs to be a properly designed test. The only people who are likely to design such a test are researchers from a psychology department of some university. A person’s beliefs and impressions can be wildly wrong or uninformed, so questionnaires are pretty much a waste of everyone’s time. Test My Brain is the most reliable place on the internet that I know of for accessing face memory testing free of charge and with your own score freely available to you, so this is an important resource.

Another test using the faces of famous people

This Famous Faces Recognition Test is a different test than the Famous Faces test which I did years ago, and got a perfect score on. This test is from a group of researchers in the UK who call themselves troublewithfaces.org The purpose of this test is identifying those who have trouble recognizing faces, which is the case with most of the face recognition tests by researchers that you can find on the internet, but I guess if you give it a go and find that you scored 100% that could be evidence that you’re a super-recognizer. Maybe.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1WOHqpUSO0MCtUv3TvIpdLocZ2Aum_96jCNHbh2Jhk-0/viewform

Postscript November 2013

I have been notified that I scored 100% in this test, while the normal range of the test is from 60% to 80%. I guess that is what one would expect from a super-recognizer. Am I a super-recognizer? I think I am.

 

Short super-recognizer test here!

UPDATE DECEMBER 2013 – this thing appears to be no longer going.

This test is from the superrecognition researcher Dr Josh Davis of the University of Greenwich. You can do the test just out of interest, but if your score suggests you could be a super-recognizer, you can also volunteer your details to possibly be the subject of research. This is a very brief test. To be honest, I’m not convinced this test is long enough or hard enough to really sort the supers from the normals with good ability. Oddly, there is no automatic scoring in the test and you need to note your own score. I didn’t notice getting any wrong, so I guess I must have got a perfect score. I found that for most of the test arrays of faces I didn’t need to look at all of the faces that one could choose from, because I spotted the familiar face quickly, and felt sure of my fast and first choice of face. Sometimes I looked at most of the faces, just to be sure, but it seemed to be a bit redundant and irrational. Me getting a perfect score in this test is no surprise, as I got a perfect score in the short CFMT and the Famous Faces tests, and a super-recognizer level score in the long form of the CFMT when tested at a WA university. I’d still recommend the CFMT as the gold standard in face memory testing, but I don’t think that test is easy to access any more. Why not try this one? It will cost you only 3 minutes of your life.

https://greenwichuniversity.eu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9ZVm6G3McDma37D

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

TV show about testing memory on SBS tonight

Part two of three episodes in the documentary series Test Your Brain from the United States is scheduled on SBS tonight at 8.30pm. I didn’t see the first episode in the series, so I’m not sure what it is like, and I’m not sure whether or not face memory will be tested or discussed in tonight’s episode. Should be interesting, though.

http://www.sbs.com.au/guide/day/2013-09-02/location/NSW#/program/3575750

How’s your ability in voice perception?

Guess a person’s age from their voice. New Scientist. 

http://www.newscientist.com/embedded/voice-age-quiz

I tried the test but got no score or feedback about how I did compared to others who’ve done the test. I think I did well, with most age judgements within 10 years of the correct answer, a few, maybe 4 I guessed the ages within a year or two.

I maintain that there are some women who have voices that sound much younger than their age. They are unusual, but they do exist. There is an interesting collection of reasons why men can have voices that sound deeper and older than their years. Hormones probably influence how deep a man’s voice is, and this effect can be confused with the effects of age. There is a common belief that alcohol can have a temporary deepening effect on the vocal cords, giving a deeper tone the day after a big night. I think there’s something in this theory, but I’m not sure how much it is supported by hard evidence. The Uncyclopedia’s recipe for a rich bass voice describes a lifestyle that is not for everyone: “The diet of a bass consists of alcohol, cigarettes, more alcohol, fried meat products, children, ex girlfriends, yet more alcohol and even more cigarettes.” The late Jim Morrisson had a reputation as a hard drinker and had a singing voice well beyond his years. Till Lindemann has a brown-coloured monster of a voice, and a family background in which people hit the bottle hard. Genetics clearly plays a major role in vocal pitch, often displaying a pattern of inheritance. I have known one family in which both the father and sons from infancy onward all had markedly deep voices. An unusually hoarse voice can be caused by a genetic connective tissue or collagen disorder. Inhaling Sulphur Hexafluoride can deepen the voice temporarily, but that’s a pretty silly thing to do. Lots of things besides the ageing process can alter the sound of the voice, so reading age in the voice is not always a simple thing.

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