Saturday, April 27, 2013

Interested in synaesthesia and Jani?

I know that many of the readers at my blog come here out of an interest in the sad life of Jani Schofield. Jani (January) is a young Californian girl who was diagnosed as a case of childhood-onset schizophrenia, put on the Oprah show by her parents, was the centrepiece of a media circus around the year of 2009 to present, and has been the subject of an "autobiography" written by her father. Jani also has an IQ of 146 according to her father's writing, which means she is in the category of highly intellectually gifted, and I have argued that the harmless neurological condition of synaesthesia is a more appropriate label for Jani than schizophrenia, possibly with a bit of autism as well. I have argued that some of the features of Jani's described inner life resemble a number of different phenomena, none of them mental illness. I am sure that sequence-space synaesthesia is a major influence on the way she thinks, in combination with personification synaesthesia, also known as ordinal-linguistic personification or OLP. Jani also clearly displays a huge imagination and has many imaginary friends, which is quite a common feature of childhood, and according to the latest research is in itself nothing to worry about. 

I'd like to point out some sources of interesting information on the subject of synaesthesia which might particularly interest those of you who also have been following the Jani Schofield story. Firstly, there is one presentation that is scheduled for the upcoming conference of the American Synesthesia Association. I refer to the presentation by author and academic Michele Root-Bernstein about an apparent link betcreween "worldplay", synaesthesia and creativity. The moment I first read this conference paper abstract I thought of Jani, even though this talk appears to be more centred upon grapheme synaesthesia than sequence-space synaesthesia. It appears to me that worldplay is exactly what Jani has been doing intensively and has been interpreted as an important symptom of a serious mental illness. I refrain from drawing conclusions without being able to see the full presentation. I regret that I don't have the time that should be spent looking into the possible relevance of this talk to Jani's situation, and I urge my readers to look into this themselves if they can. Here is the link:

I've noticed that the journal Cortex has once again published some interesting papers on the subject of sequence-space synaesthesia. This is a type of synaesthesia which I have argued is a major influence in the thoughts of Jani. In November-December 2009 Cortex released an issue with a number of important papers on this almost common form of synaesthesia:
and the latest issue also has some papers about sequence-space synaesthesia:
I personally don't think much of the argument in one of these papers (authors Mark C. Price and Jason Mattingley), as I've read it in the paper's abstract:
I don't think a focus on automaticity as a defining feature of synaesthesia is worth spending a moment on, because I am sure any multi-synaesthete will tell you that this is a feature of synaesthesia which varies in degree among the different types. In my case, my grapheme-colour synaesthesia isn't very automatic at all, (but is extremely consistent), while other types can be startlingly and amusingly automatic. So it's not a feature of syn that can bear the weight of an argument about the "abnormality" or otherwise of synaesthesia. Wrong or not, this research is for me most fascinating and worthwhile. 


Adelaide Dupont said...

What does R-B mean by "worldplay"?

And what about the Simmer paper which describes growth over time in 6-11 year olds with syn?

Lili Marlene said...

Hello again Adelaide! Root-Bernstein gives a brief definition in the abstract of the presentation that you can read at that link. To me it sounds just like Jani's imaginary world of Calalini, but I'm only going on an abstract of a conference talk that hasn't yet been given.

The Simner paper might be close to publication and will most likely be published in the future. I'll go check...

Lili Marlene said...

In my opinion the most thought-provoking and potentially important paper in that program will be the one by Marcus Watson. As far as I can tell, this evidence suggests that syn is caused by an elevated level of early learning as much as any inborn brain peculiarity. It looks like a positive environmental cause of syn, which makes me feel pleased as the mother of some young synaesthetes.

Lili Marlene said...

I can't find Simner's paper anywhere besides this conference program. It will surely be published some time.