Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lili's thought for the day

Vietnamese and Tamil asylum-seekers are being secretly deported before they even get a chance to apply for asylum? What kind of scumhole country is this?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lili's thought for the day

My apologies for not being able to find the time to give comments the attention that they deserve.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Temple Grandin and Oliver Sacks; differences of opinion on face-blindness

"You take out some social circuits and get geek circuits, and that seems to be what happens, because the core deficit in mild autism is face blindness, which I have," she explains. "I don't recognize faces until I know people well.",0,2848012.htmlstory

"I’m so bad at recognizing faces that I have to remind myself, “He’s got a goatee” or “She’s wearing black glasses.”

and these quotes about being unable to recognize faces are consistent with what the celebrity autist Temple Grandin wrote right at the beginning of her new book. In the prologue of The Autistic Brain on page vii Grandin wrote that

"My many brains scans have provided possible explanations for my childhood speech delay, panic attacks, and facial-recognition difficulties."

and a similar claim can be found in one of Grandin's older books, Thinking in Pictures:

"I often get into embarassing situations because I do not remember faces unless I have seen the people many times or they have a very distinctive facial feature...." (p.69)

there's this quote from the neurologist, writer and prosopagnosic Dr Oliver Sacks from his book The Mind's Eye:

"(Though Temple is a "visual thinker" and can easily visualize complicated engineering problems, she seems to be no better or worse than average at recognizing faces.)" (p. 92, footnote about famous autist Temple Grandin)

It is worth noting that Dr Sacks has claimed to have severe prosopganosia or face-blindness, or to be precise impaired face memory. He wrote about his unusual and difficult experiences at length in his book The Mind's Eye and also wrote a long magazine article on the same subject. He has also claimed that this trait runs in his family and is developmental. I find his account convincing and I accept him as an expert on the subject of prosopagnosia. It might surprise readers of Temple Grandin's books that as a face-blind person Sacks does not regard himself as autistic or having Asperger syndrome. Sacks has explicitly rejected such labels, with justification, because prosopagnosia is not the same thing as autism.

So, the writings of Grandin and Sacks actually disagree on the question of Grandin's face recognition ability, Sacks observing that hers is normal (but not exceptional) and Grandin claiming many times to be impaired in this area. It is worth noting that non-autistic people with average levels of face recognition ability do have embarassing moments when they can't recognize faces, or more commonly, when they can recognize a face but can't put a name or recall the past meeting situation to that face. I should also point out that I have never found any reference in Grandin's books or anywhere else to Grandin being clinically tested or doing a test for face memory, even though tests of this ability created by leading researchers in the field are easily available. This makes me wonder, in light of the fact that Grandin clearly loves doing psychological tests and questionnaires and writing about her results, as is evident in her new book The Autistic Brain. I would have thought a test of face memory would have been the first psychological test that Grandin would have a go at. If anyone knows about Grandin making reference in a published work or interview to her face memory test scores I would love to know about it. Dr Oliver Sacks can claim both qualifications (he's a neurologist) and expertise in the area of prosopagnosia, so I think his opinion about Grandin's face memory ability should get priority. Another point of difference in the writing of Grandin and Sacks is that Sacks makes it clear that prosopagnosia is a specific disability in a specific type of visual processing (a visual agnosia) and not an indication of autism, while Grandin tends to lump face recognition disability in with autistic traits, characterizing it as a common feature of autism.

Core features of autism are supposed to be an inability to function socially and an inability to empathise and read emotions, so in light of the fact that Grandin claims to be poor at face recognition, it seems all the more remarkable that she apparently can recognize facial expressions:

"I find the same inability to think about children’s strengths in their parents. I’ll say, “What does your kid like? What is your kid good at?” and I can see the confusion in their faces."

So what gives?

A quote from an excerpt from Temple Grandin's new book

"I find the same inability to think about children’s strengths in their parents. I’ll say, “What does your kid like? What is your kid good at?” and I can see the confusion in their faces."

Temple Grandin can see the confusion in their faces? Are autistic people supposed to be able to do that?

Excerpt: Author Temple Grandin Reports on The Autistic Brain
May 19, 2013.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Lili's investigative thought for the day

Perhaps the University of Queensand's vice-chancellor Professor Peter Hoj should take a look at Tomas's comment on my post about the recent research misconduct scandal.

Lili's more sensible thought for the day

It appears that "Adjunct Associate Professor" is a title claimed by some questionable players in the fields of counselling, psychology and men's health in Australia. 

Lili's cruel thought for the day

Is it just me, or does Abbott look a bit like Dresie and Casie?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

You can't believe everything that you read in a peer-reviewed medical journal

For many years this blog has had a focus on neuroscience, synaesthesia and autism, and I know that many of my readers have an interest in the autistic spectrum, for whatever reason. For those wishing to know more about the complex area of autism and Asperger syndrome the sensible advice has always been to look to evidence in the form of studies and reviews of research published in reputable scientific and medical journals. This is sound advice, but much too reassuring. Even the most supposedly sound sources of information such as university professors, published studies and  science journals should be regarded with caution. Nothing and no one can be completely trusted, because the game of science is full of conflicting interests. This is a troubling fact that the popularizers of science and the cheer-squad for the scientific/rational world view happily overlook or dismiss as unimportant (I'm looking at you, Dr Karl).

Please read the recent news article linked to below and consider how easy it apparently was for academics in an Australian university (Prof. Bruce Murdoch, Caroline Barwood and M. L. Ng) to get a study published in an international science journal despite the fact that the study was apparently never conducted, and also please consider how they apparently managed to get their hands on a $20,000 grant for that phantom research study. Please also consider that the type of neuro-therapy that the dodgy boffins in the article were supposed to have administered in their study, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, is one of the biggest new fads in autism cures, and has been championed by the celebrity "aspergian" autobiographer John Elder Jobison. One Australian university has been conducting a research program in repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for autism for many years (I wrote about and criticised those researchers a number of years ago at this blog). Please also consider the fact that autism research attracts copius funding from government and charity bodies, and therefore could well be a field of research that would attract researchers who are more interested in dollars than knowledge. What percentage of autism research is a complete crock of shit? We can only speculate, but there's a pretty strong smell, and it isn't a pleasant one.

University of Queensland investigates paper by ex-staff member citing 'no evidence' of research.
by Melinda Howells
ABC News.
4 Sep 2013.

The paper itself:

Retraction Watch on the paper:

More media coverage:

Lili's wouldn't that be a great idea thought for the day

Geneticists are working on a prenatal screening test to detect embryos at high risk of developing into shock jocks.

Only kidding.

Lili's unsympathetic thought for the day

Vote Number 1 the Australian Pity Party. Let's whine endlessly, acknowledge each other's victimhood, pat each other on the back and find a scapegoat or two.

Lili's neurosnobbery thought for the day

Sometimes I wonder why neurotypical people have eyes.

Lili's judgemental thought for the day

God save the poor from patronizing helpers.

Lili's thought for the day

I'm a voting below the line kinda gal.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013