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   Author  Topic: virus: Modular brains and flame wars  (Read 888 times)
hkhenson@rogers...
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virus: Modular brains and flame wars
« on: 2004-11-26 02:12:57 »
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It has long been a contention of mine that some are essentially different
people are in "real life" (verbal) and on the net (text).  (I am sure you
can think of examples.  People who were as nasty in their verbal
interactions as they are in text would spend a lot of time in the hospital.)

This is from _The Modular Brain_ by Richard M. Restak.  The book is ten
years old which in this field is a long time.  Progress in understanding
the modular nature of the brain has open up with functional MRI, but the
basic mapping came from stroke damaged patients, a long an laborious
process of correlating stroke damage to disturbances of function.

This particular section spanning pages 75-77 provides support for the my
strange contention in a way that surprised me when I ran into it a few days
ago.

" . . . Speech therapists Sue Franklin and David Howard tell of a patient,
Derek, who lost the ability to hear abstract words.

"At age fifty-four, Derek suffered a stroke which initially left him unable
to speak. One month later he recovered to the point that his speech was
almost normal again. But while people could understand him, Derek
experienced the speech of others as "mumbling" . . . . Tests administered
by Franklin and Howard revealed that Derek was not "word deaf," that is, he
had no difficulty in deciding whether two words or syllables were the same
or different. Nor did he have difficulty understanding spoken words as long
as they stood for things that could be pictured. His problem involved a
difficulty in understanding abstract words. He had no problem giving short
definitions of concrete words, but he missed almost half the time when
asked to define abstract words ("meek," "idea"). But here is the crucial
point: Derek's reading, comprehension, and definition of abstract words was
perfect; it was just hearing them that he couldn't do.

"Imagine for a moment Derek's world. Since he can only understand concrete
words, he can only talk about things that can be pictured in the mind. Take
the sentences mentioned above. While he will have no problem with
understanding Mary washing cars, since all three words refer to concrete
entities, he will have no idea in the second sentence that Mary no longer
works at the car wash and therefore is no longer washing cars. Yet if he
reads, rather than hears, either of the two sentences, his comprehension is
perfect. Because of this difference between his auditory and reading
comprehension, Derek's conversation lacks variety, subtlety, and zest. More
importantly, in the verbal sphere abstractions do not even exist for him.
It's not that Derek is ignorant of concepts like "inflation" and "ennui";
it's just that knowledge of these concepts only exists and can only be
experienced and expressed by reading about them.

"Derek and others like him suggest that spoken and written comprehension
occurs in separate areas within the brain. This is of course not at all the
way we think of comprehension. When it comes to comprehension of a foreign
language, for instance, we would not expect a fluent errorless reading
knowledge to coexist with a total inability to speak or understand the
spoken form of the language. We encounter here once again the basic modular
organization of the brain, in this instance two modules. In the normal
brain, knowledge is organized to include both modules operating
simultaneously. In Derek's case, one of the modules has been rendered
nonfunctional, with knowledge of a particular category (concrete versus
abstract) entirely dependent upon the other module. . . . But I believe
Derek and others with similar afflictions partake of the same multiplicity.
When reading, Derek is perfectly capable of understanding abstract concepts
and can respond in writing employing equally abstract concepts. Yet talk to
him about the same abstract material and he hears your speech as nothing
more than "mumbling."

"So do abstract concepts exist for him? The only real answer is that in a
way they do and in a way they don't. The situation is like the double slit
experiment in quantum physics, where the design of the experiment, the
questions the experimenter asks, determines the answers that he obtains. If
the experiment is set up one way, light is measured as a particle; set it
up another way, light is a wave. "Inflation" exists for Derek when he reads
it or writes about it but not when it is spoken about. The term does not
even exist for him in the auditory sphere. Thus knowledge is not unified or
"one" as we have been taught to believe, but consist; of modules, any one
of which may fail and affect the structure of knowledge in that particular
brain.

"Derek illustrates not only the modular nature of knowledge but also that
of identity and personal integration. Although we experience ourselves as a
unity, our sense of oneness depends upon the smooth interaction of several
modular functions. Damage to any one of these modules fragments our
personal integration in specific ways."

********

"suggest that spoken and written comprehension occurs in separate areas
within the brain"

In a lot of cases the spoken and written output is similar enough to mask
that different brain areas are involved.  But in this rare case and in
people who differ a lot between Real Life and on the net you can see the
effects.

Keith Henson

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Walter Watts
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Re:virus: Modular brains and flame wars
« Reply #1 on: 2004-11-27 13:51:41 »
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Nice Henson.


Walter
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David Lucifer
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Re:virus: Modular brains and flame wars
« Reply #2 on: 2004-11-27 15:12:05 »
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Quote:
This is of course not at all the way we think of comprehension. When it comes to comprehension of a foreign language, for instance, we would not expect a fluent errorless reading knowledge to coexist with a total inability to speak or understand the spoken form of the language.

Not what we would expect, perhaps, but not all that uncommon. Our own rhino is one of the more eloquent members of our congregation, yet claims that his familiarity with the English languages lies entirely in the textual realm. Strange but true.
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