Thursday, March 28, 2013

In their own little world?

I've got to wonder what is the point of holding a conference about "wiring the brain" when it appears that none of the major researchers who specialize in the area of synaesthesia have been invited. Maybe the point is excluding the perspective that not all human variation in brain function is pathological.

Lili's thought for the day

When I hear Australian journalists using the terms "stoush" and "mateship" I regret that I'm not English.

Do technicians have a firmer grip on reality than some scientists?

For a successful technology, nature must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
- Richard Feynman

Monday, March 25, 2013

The latest news on colored letters synesthesia

The prevalence of grapheme-colour synaesthesia in the general population is 1.1%, with an exactly even sex ratio. So forget all that rubbish about X-chromosomes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Top 15 signs that a website or article about synaesthesia is a crock o' crap

1. It uses medicalized language to discuss and describe synaesthesia, with references to "symptoms", "diagnosis",  a spectrum of synaesthesia, "mildness" or "severity". 

2. The author is a non-synaesthete who writes with confidence about the nature of synesthesia and what it is like to experience. Only a dope would dare to write with overconfidence for an audience which would certainly include some members capable of seeing flaws in what is written. 

3. There is an implicit or explicit incorrect assumption that synaesthesia is a rare phenomenon. 

4. Synaesthesia tests are promised but the only thing that is offered is a half-baked questionnaire. 

5. There is an implicit or explicit incorrect assumption that synaesthesia is essentially a sensory experience. If the misleading cliche of synaesthesia being "crossed senses" or "crossed wires" makes an appearance, run a mile. 

6. Synaesthesia is treated in a way suited to discussion of a new-age or mystical experience. 

7. There is decoration with a rainbow, or lots of gaudy, saturated colours. 

8. There is an implicit or explicit assumption that all synaesthetes have unusual gifts or that synaesthesia is a type of enhanced perception. 

9. There are references to a spectrum of synaesthesia, as though it was a disease varying in severity, or can be conceptualized in the same way as autism. 

10. There is an implicit or explicit assumption that all synaesthetes are unusually creative or imaginative.

11. There are no traceable bibliographic references to papers or studies published in science journals to support scientific claims or information. 

12. There is an implicit or explicit assumption that synaesthesia can be taught or learned. Beware tips for developing your synaesthesia. Either you got it or you don't. 

13. There is an implicit or explicit assumption that synaesthetes are superior beings or that synaesthesia is a form of spiritual enlightenment. 

14. There is an implicit or explicit assumption that synaesthetes have more empathy than mere neurotypicals. Does this sound likely, given that Lili Marlene is a synaesthete?

15. Daniel Tammet is discussed as a typical or highly instructive case of synaesthesia. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Commercial educational coaching program can turn kids into Daniel Tammets?

All kids of weird and wonderful products are promoted in late-night infomercial programs on commercial TV stations. Channel Ten has been running late night home shopping ads for a product that has been around for a while. It is a package marketed as a learning program to teach children mental maths calculation and enhanced memory, which they claim is applicable to school and education. This program is not aimed at any special or intellectually advantaged group of students, in fact in the ad the successful coaching of a child with ADHD issues is mentioned. 

I have no first-hand experiences with the program and I'm not endorsing it, but I strongly suspect that it teaches people how to do performances of the intellect that are the types of feats that Daniel Tammet is famous for. The difference between the kids in the infomercials and Tammet is that the kids are presented as lucky ordinary kids who have had the benefit of instruction in a course that teaches calculation shortcuts (tricks) and memory skills, while Tammet has been presented as a man who can do feats of memory and mental calculation as natural and ultimately mysterious expressions of his autistic synaesthetic savantism. Do you think one story sounds more likely than the other? 

I've extensively researched the story of Daniel Tammet FRSA, and it is my own humble opinion that he's got less credibility than an infomercial running at one in the morning on Network Ten. Would you like to read the full story of Tammet, the story that they didn't tell on 60 Minutes or The Late Show with David Letterman, and which also wasn't told in Tammet's books or in the countless science journal papers that have mentioned Tammet as a case study? The full story can be found here:

Daniel Tammet: the Boy with the Incredible Story

by Lili Marlene

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The great Val Lewton - never forgotten

Tonight, or to be more correct, in the early hours of tomorrow, the ABC will be broadcasting another one of the 1940s Hollywood movies produced by Val Lewton.

Lewton's films are a frequent feature of late night programming at ABC1, because his movies still mean something to audiences seventy-odd years after they were made. Most of Lewton's famous movies were over-achievers in the degraded genre of horror movies. Tonight's movie, Youth Gone Wild, isn't a horror flick, but might be worth a look. My interest in Lewton isn't limited to loving his pictures. I've been absolutely fascinated to discover that many famous and interesting people were or are synaesthetes. Lewton is one of them, a unique and puzzling personality regardless of any neurological quirks. He is one of the famous people I wrote about in my second book:

The Mysterious Mind of Opal Whiteley: Four Unique Lives Compared.
by Lili Marlene

I recently was fortunate to get a hold of a copy of the old and substantial book More From Hollywood by DeWitt Bodeen. Bodeen worked closely with Lewton, writing the screenplays of his evocative and thoughtful horror classics Cat People and The Curse of the Cat People. As was also the case with some other people who worked with Lewton, their working relationship ended on a sour note (a synaesthesia metaphor?). I find it very interesting that the recycling of aspects of the literary work of others was a factor in this discord in their relationship. If anyone can be said to have had a naturally exceptional memory, Lewton is one, and possibly also his legendary actress aunt "Nazimova", and in my book I have identified a number of traits that four interesting famous people have in common. Some of those traits include synaesthesia, exceptional or eidetic memory and a tendency to plagiarize or recycle ideas in writing. Lewton had a very interesting mind, and his movies wouldn't be as memorable if this hadn't been the case.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Support for NSW Premier's non-support for an autism awareness day by Autism Speaks

The respected autistic neuroscience researcher and research critic Michelle Dawson has recommended that New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell be sent flowers for his non-support for $40,000 worth of blue-coloured lighting of the Sydney Opera House to mark an upcoming autism awareness day which was initiated by the controversial US organization Autism Speaks. It isn't often that a politician get a bouquet for not funding or not supporting something, but in this instance, I think it is justified. Autism Speaks is has done many deplorable things in the past, and the early intervention services which they are lobbying for are routinely hyped with regards to the level of evidence for effectiveness. You might think me a oddball, but in the distant past, before I ever became interested in the autistic spectrum or matters neuro-psychological, I contacted authorities asking them to maintain their lack of support for early intervention services that lacked an evidence base and showed clear potential to do more harm than good. This was a part of my own personal commitment to demand only evidence-based medical and other services. 

I support Dawson's support of O'Farrell's non-support. Don't do it, Mr O'Farrell! You are in good company. Like the Sydney Opera House, I believe the White House will also remain white on that day.

In this laughable comment article in the Sydney Morning Herald the author claims that if a child has a "meltdown" in a cafe or shopping centre and the event becomes an anecdote shared, then the chances are that the child had autism. Really? I don't think there is a child yet born in Australia who hasn't chucked a major wobbly in a restaurant, cafe or shop. It's a completely normal part of growing up in an adult-centred world, in which young children are expected to spend a large portion of their day being dragged around their mother or father's social life and daily round of shopping and errands, leaving children feeling bored, tired, hungry and frustrated. It's little wonder that the rate of autism diagnosis has soared in recent years, if this is all supposed to be evidence of autism

I've looked, but I've been unable to find out why the colour blue was chosen for this autism awareness day. I can guess that perhaps it was picked because blue has cultural connotations as a sad colour and Autism Speaks likes to depict autism as a tragedy. I'm also wondering if the book Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome might have been an influence on the choice of colour. I'd puke if that were the case. 

Saturday, March 02, 2013

NEW BOOK by Lili about Daniel Tammet released!

Daniel Tammet: the Boy with the Incredible Story

by Lili Marlene

Is Daniel Tammet a trained memory sportsman and showman, or a natural savant as the result of Asperger syndrome combined with synaesthesia? 
Is Tammet impaired in his ability to read and recognize faces, as he has claimed many times?
Is Tammet's "diagnosis" of synaesthesia using the TOG-R beyond question? 
Does another eccentric British memory feat performer have a greater or more genuine claim to fame than Tammet? 
Have flaws in the scientific study of Daniel Tammet as a neuropsychological case exposed alarming deficiencies in the way that science is conducted? 
Is Daniel Tammet (AKA Daniel Corney and Daniel Andersson) to neuropsychology what Helen Demidenko (AKA Helen Darville and Helen Dale) was to the Australian literary establishment?
Is the concept of "savant syndrome" little more than an expression of ignorance? 
Have some memory researchers understated an association between synaesthesia and superiority in memory? 
Should we be skeptical of articulate and popular celebrities who claim to be on the autistic spectrum? 
In my book I do not tell you how or what to think, but I give you plenty to think about. 

Many people have known for a long time that the life story of the author, celebrity and performer of intellectual feats Daniel Tammet which has been told countless times in books, television and journal papers is incomplete in ways that matter and questionable in too many ways to count. Let me (Lili Marlene, my pen-name) take you by the hand and show you the alternative story hiding in plain sight. Learn about the surprising role of the PR industry in the science of neuropsychology. With my meticulous eye I have reviewed the scientific literature, popular media, journalistic coverage and statistical data pertinent to Daniel Tammet in excruciating detail. Be advised that this book is not merely a rehash of writings that I have previously published at this blog - it is a work of over 40,000 words. 

Readers who have already purchased a copy of my new book please be advised that I have now made available a revised edition of the book, which you can download for free from Smashwords. I am now trying to restrain myself from making any more revisions of the book. Thank you for your support, and happy reading!

P.S. I've made another major revision. I might even make more in the future.