Re: The Man with the Shattered World

From: Harrison, Richard (
Date: Fri Nov 10 1995 - 12:46:21 GMT

> From: (Harnad, Stevan)
> Subject: Re: The Man with the Shattered World
> Date: Thu, 9 Nov 95 18:17:38 GMT

Just a few more points to raise.

> rh> Z's frontal cortex was not damaged, hence the ability to "recognise
> rh> his defects and wish to overcome them."
> The INABILITY to recognise one's defects would have been anosognosia --
> agnosia for your own infirmity. He did not have that; he knew what he
> had lost.

IS this connected with frontal cortex damage?

> After brain injury, there is usually a period of recovery, but what is
> not recovered within the first year or so is usually lost for good,
> apart from very small improvements.

Some of Z's writing indicate he had a much greater awareness of his
past when he was writing than he had at the time he actually
had the experiences. This seems to suggest a quite impressive
improvement over time but could just be a consequence of his
'discovery' of automatic writing.
> With Z you are really sampling the A-Z of neuropsychological disorder.

All without anosognosia...
> Which suggests that the natural way we learn to recognise objects may
> not be just by trying to associate them with words. Remember S's
> abstraction problem? S sounds like the opposite of Z (and certainly of
> HM): He remembers everything he perceives. But does he perceive, and
> especially RECOGNISE everything? Hypermnesia (the opposite of amnesia:
> supermemory), synesthesia and eidetic imagery (very vivid imagery:
> "Photographic memory") are, after all, usually correlated with brain
> damage...

In some respects they do appear to be opposites but they do both
appear to lack the ability to form abstractions. A simmilarity
between two people who couldn't seem more unalike?
> rh> Luria suggests that the problem with Z's `speech-memory' originates
> rh> from the disruption of the parts of the cortex that control the
> rh> analysis and organisation of complex associations into a coherent
> rh> framework. So, for example, even if he did remember a correct word
> rh> then associations would continue and he would forget the right word.
> This explanation (of Luria's) is obviously too vague and general; to the
> extent it means anything at all, it is really just a restatement of the
> symptoms: What WOULD count as an explanation?

I don't know. Are there satisfactory explanations for any
neuropsychological phenomena and if so what are they like? Or are we
running into the Mind-Body and Other Minds problems again?

> rh> Analysis of a short comprehension test shows Z could only understand
> rh> one word at a time and not combine them to form the intended image
> rh> main point.

Maybe due to a different cause (OK this is extremely likely), but at
 a functional level (e.g. output of a comprehension test) S has problems
 understanding the intended meaning of prose as well.

> Myrna Gopnik
> spoke here at the Cognitive Sciences Centre about what seems to be a
> hereditary brain disorder that specifically causes this kind of
> grammatical disorder only.

>From Gopnik's abstract:

>Cumulative data from several years of testing across several
>languages show that a genetic disorder can affect the ability to
>build a normal, rule-governed grammar and that in the absence of this
>ability subjects resort to other cognitive strategies in order to
>construct a language-like system.

Is there an explanation beyond the observation that it's 'genetic'?
And if not, even if the gene/gene combination were discovered we
would have a cause but would this be an explanation?


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