are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence,
posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some
All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or
I remember a
about 15 years ago where they set up an EEG on an Olympic archer while
he set up his bow, aimed, and fired. They found that, contrary to
his brain was least active when he went into his routine. Pretty much
else shut down because he defaulted to a narrow set of well-practiced
powerfully connected) circuits. There wasn't a lot of "thinking" or
thought going on, much like when we're driving and don't realize we've
gone several miles because it's so second-nature to us.
or, as we more commonly call it, "second-guessing" tends to get in the
way when specific, well-rehearsed behaviors are called for. We need to
tell our brains to "shut up" if we're going to get anything
If we don't, we "choke" in situations where performance is required
a practiced set of routines (e.g., in sports, music, drama, etc.). If
interested, Malcolm Gladwell has a great article on the underlying
in "Blink" where he meets a psychologist who works with a guy with
He's high-functioning, but has trouble because of what the chapter
about: "Mind-blindness." Autistic people have trouble reading another
mind in terms of their intentions, likes, dislikes, etc. There's a lot
I could go into here that are interesting examples of this, but one
is that autistic people are fascinated by mechanical/electrical objects
(The subject of the chapter was drawn to light switches). They don't
to read their minds to see how these things work.
put your left brain in...
processing of a piece of music migrates to the language side as it
on more "meaning."
Maybe so. On a
macroscopic level, I remember moving from the (typically) right- to
listener of music somewhere in high school. At first I heard everything
as a big wad of sound. However, around that time I start getting into
Floyd (who are famous for their studio mixing magic), and I started
out individual instruments. I realized I was hearing something more
something with multiple parts. I can recall similar experiences with
prog-rock bands like Yes and Rush as well as U2's effects-rich
Like you say,
that point things acquire meaning the way you go from watching a
film purely by the subtitles to being able to pick out individual words
and phrases to (with much help other than watching Bravo all day)
understanding the language directly. I'm sure much music that similarly
comes across as "gibberish" could acquire meaning upon closer
I'm sure you can think of examples in your own experience.
People have to
multi-tasking based on what different activities demand from their
faculties. For example, I listen to audio books (or text-to-speech
while I'm doing routine labor like putting away the dishes or
the bathroom, but if I'm doing anything that requires mental abilities
beyond procedural recall, I have to hit "pause" or I know I'm going to
either mess something up or just miss what I'm listening to. There have
been times where I've accidentally gone back and re-listened to a
only to find that I had missed a considerable portion while I was busy.
I could definitely tell where I had tuned in and out on the material
there were distinct gaps), but if I hadn't gone back and revisited it,
I would have said I absorbed it all on the first pass. It isn't a
that people delude themselves into believing they're doing two things
once really well since they were too distracted to know what they've
There has been
research into listening to music while people (especially students)
There is sort of a conflict in the literature as to whether music
productivity or is a distraction. One study helped to clarify the
by finding that it was important to distinguish between instrumental
vs. music with vocals (i.e., a linguistic component). If you're
to lyrics (even if you aren't actively paying attention to them) while
you're trying to, say, read a book, then your language circuitry will
divided among two tasks.
important consideration is that trained musicians process music (even
listeners, not just while performing) in the language areas (or at
the hemisphere associated with language... which isn't the same for
particularly among us lefties). Any study that looks at the effects of
music ought to take this into consideration. Similarly, some
tests will inquire about attitudes toward music and rank strong
in that area as indications of an emotional personality type when, in
among trained musicians this is typically tempered by
reasoning to a greater degree.
found I can't even answer what I want for supper while I'm play the
combat levels of Star Wars Battlefront II as I'm trying to shoot out
gun turrets on the droid army star cruiser in my Jedi starfighter while
John Williams' soundtrack is trumpeting along with every action. Any
why these things are so addictive?
[of split-brain surgery] opposing commands can be given selectively to
the interesting things about these patients is that in the weeks
the surgery, they tend to be "of two minds" in a very literal sense.
the left and right hemispheres have different "personalities" (i.e.,
preferred modes of thinking, operating, etc.), they operate under
and sometimes competing agendas.
For example, a
who had the surgery was dressing for work one morning. She reached for
a work-appropriate outfit with her left hand, but her right hand
reached for a more sultry dress with which she might seem more
to her coworkers. One side of her brain was conscious of the rules and
tried to follow them while the other hemisphere thought in largely
is of a patient reading a book. He happened to be holding it in his
hand at the time and he found his left hand taking the book and putting
it down *unconsciously* even though he was actively reading at the
The left side of his brain controlled the right hand. That hemisphere
usually the one in charge of language, so it was interested in the
However, the left hand/right brain team looked at the book as an
might: an uninteresting collection of black squiggles on a chunk of
paper. It was bored and so acted accordingly (if inappropriately).
example along the lines of those above can be found among stroke
who lose consciousness of their paralyzed limb(s). For example, my
had this immediately following a stroke that damaged mobility on his
side, particularly in his arm. Oddly enough, he wasn't aware of the
initially and actively denied he was paralyzed. His doctor then asked
to draw a picture of himself. When he indicated he was finished, the
pointed out to him that he failed to draw in his left arm. Somehow not
merely his sensory/motor abilities of the arm were gone, his awareness
A more extreme
of this is lateral neglect syndrome* in which a patient will actively
the existence of an entire side of his/her body. They will continue to
treat the opposing side normally, but the neglect is extreme on the
The person will simply not believe that the neglected side exists, that
it should be shaved, washed, etc.
*It goes by
terms as well. See this article:
Of course, I
know if any of the above gets at consciousness or just a sensory
so I guess we're back to that. Any thoughts?
>I also get
REALLY hungry when I work on math or on my computer for long periods of
I forgot the
but your brain is something like 2% of your body mass, but it uses 20%
of your metabolism. I know I can find myself sweating when I'm writing
something really fast or playing guitar. And it's not like I'm the type
to go jumping around the room. I just sit in front of the computer and
click on mp3s to play along with.
20% of your metabolism? Really? That's bizarre.
highly energetically demanding because they're always having to reset
resting potentials. Also, they're spontaneously active. It isn't like a
muscle that will only activate when triggered. Brains always have a
level of baseline activity unless you're in a coma (and even then the
is just reduced, not actually shut down). And there are a lot of
packed into a small area with lots of long, thin axons, so you're
about a lot of surface area (read: membrane) to fill with Na+ and K+
[Posted to the
group on MySpace.com]
know very much about the neuroscience underlying concussions, but there
was an interesting report on ABC News several years ago on the subject.
Perhaps they were playing up these results for a more interesting
but they showed fMRIs taken up to three months after a serious
among athletes (e.g., one featured in the piece was a hockey player if
I remember correctly).
was that even at this late stage, when one would have expected the
to have recovered, the level of activity was still severely reduced.
was in spite of the fact that the patients were now quite mobile and
to have recovered by outward indications. The fMRI itself following the
concussion was also disturbingly similar to patients in a coma in that
the level of activity was very, very low (i.e., mostly blue on the
Of course, I
this piece well before I started grad school, so I really wasn't in a
to evaluate it authoritatively. If anyone can follow up on this, I'm
we would all appreciate it.
the neurosciences, there is a lot of work in trying to determine the
of intelligence and mental processing in general. Some people think it
is the processes that are the most difficult that require the most
(e.g., doing differential equations) while others think that simple
(e.g., walking, etc.) require tremendous processing power that we
aren't aware of. I'm inclined to think that intuition is a different
of intellect, and it happens to be my primary mode. Yes, I do ruminate
on things, but I'm more likely to shoot first and ask questions later.
Part of that is impulsivity and part of it is that it is just easier
me to approach a problem that way than reading the manual before I
for the screw driver.
Why is it I
read faster than I can understand verbally (i.e., through audio)?
to reading since birth, whereas faster audio has never been available
the rate of human speech never increased dramatically (recall "Pushing
Tin" air traffic controllers)