One of THOSE Discussions / God, Free Will and Absurdities

This post has gained momentum from having one of those “late night” discussions with a friend – the type that is popular when one is in college, a bit drunk (or otherwise deranged) and which, as one gets older and wiser, one vows to never again participate in. The gist of the argument was:

Determinism (God) is totally compatible with Free Will (The Declaration of Independence), so we have both.

I could stop right here, because this “set up” is thoroughly American “wacky” thinking. It demonstrates the absolute belief that “America” is a special case = exemption from reality, that was/is made possible by American Democracy (in case you weren’t aware, democracy is not a political creation of human origin) which came about by an Act of God. “Freedom” is a basic American goal: Free Will is therefore a mandatory human endowment (by virtue of the word Free appearing in both “concepts”). God created everything, so he must have created Free Will. Jesus is a kind of “sponge” that suffices to “soak up” all those bad choices Free Will allows, that is, if you turn over all your choices, decisions and Free Will to Jesus.

The irony is that this absurd, pointless discussion “cleared the air” over previously unspoken conflict with a dear friend, like blowing up the Berlin Wall; getting it out of the way, and establishing that friendship is not “rational” at all, but an agreement about what really matters; good intentions carried into actions, loyalty and a simple “rightness” – agreement on what constitutes “good behavior” on the part of human beings and a pledge of one’s best effort to stick to that behavior.

This entire HUGE neurotypical debate is nonsense.

God has nothing to do with Free Will, the Laws of physics, or any scientific pursuit of explanations for “the universe”. The whole reason for God’s existence is that He, or She, or They are totally outside the restrictions of “physical reality”. That’s what SUPERNATURAL means. So all the “word concept” machinations over “God” and “science” – from both ends of the false dichotomy – are absurd. Free Will is also a non-starter “concept” in science: reality proceeds from a complex system of “facts” and mathematical relationshipsthat cannot be “free-willed” away.

Total nonsense.

If one believes in the “supernatural” origin of the universe as a creation of supernatural “beings, forces and miraculous acts” then one does not believe in physical reality at all: “Physics” is a nonexistent explanation for existence. One can only try to coerce, manipulate, plead with, and influence the “beings” that DETERMINE human fate. Free Will is de facto an absurdity, conceived of as something like the Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, (inspired by God, after all – not really by the intelligence of the people who wrote it). In American thought, (political) rights grant permission to “do whatever I want”. The concept of responsibility connected to rights has been conveniently forgotten. Free Will in this context, is nothing more than intellectual, moral and ethical “cheating”.

So, the immense, complicated, false dichotomy of Determinism vs. Free Will, and the absurd 2,000+ year old philosophical waste of time that has followed, and continues, is very simple (at least) in the U.S. 

Whatever I do, is God’s Will: Whatever you do, isn’t. 

 

 

 

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Mental Development / Genetics of Visual Attention

Twin study finds genetics affects where children look, shaping mental development

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171109131152.htm

November 9, 2017 / Indiana University

A study that tracked the eye movement of twins has found that genetics plays a strong role in how people attend to their environment.

Conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the study offers a new angle on the emergence of differences between individuals and the integration of genetic and environmental factors in social, emotional and cognitive development. This is significant because visual exploration is also one of the first ways infants interact with the environment, before they can reach or crawl.

“The majority of work on eye movement has asked ‘What are the common features that drive our attention?'” said Daniel P. Kennedy, an assistant professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. “This study is different. We wanted to understand differences among individuals and whether they are influenced by genetics.”

Kennedy and co-author Brian M. D’Onofrio, a professor in the department, study neurodevelopmental problems from different perspectives. This work brings together their contrasting experimental methods: Kennedy’s use of eye tracking for individual behavioral assessment and D’Onofrio’s use of genetically informed designs, which draw on data from large population samples to trace the genetic and environmental contributions to various traits. As such, it is one of the largest-ever eye-tracking studies.

In this particular experiment, the researchers compared the eye movements of 466 children — 233 pairs of twins (119 identical and 114 fraternal) — between ages 9 and 14 as each child looked at 80 snapshots of scenes people might encounter in daily life, half of which included people. Using an eye tracker, the researchers then measured the sequence of eye movements in both space and time as each child looked at the scene. They also examined general “tendencies of exploration”; for example, if a child looked at only one or two features of a scene or at many different ones.

Published Nov. 9 in the journal Current Biology, the study found a strong similarity in gaze patterns within sets of identical twins, who tended to look at the same features of a scene in the same order. It found a weaker but still pronounced similarity between fraternal twins.

This suggests a strong genetic component to the way individuals visually explore their environments: Insofar as both identical and fraternal twins each share a common environment with their twin, the researchers can infer that the more robust similarity in the eye movements of identical twins is likely due to their shared genetic makeup. The researchers also found that they could reliably identify a twin with their sibling from among a pool of unrelated individuals based on their shared gaze patterns — a novel method they termed “gaze fingerprinting.”

“People recognize that gaze is important,” Kennedy said. “Our eyes are moving constantly, roughly three times per second. We are always seeking out information and actively engaged with our environment, and ultimately where you look affects your development.”

After early childhood, the study suggests that genes influence at the micro-level — through the immediate, moment-to-moment selection of visual information — the environments individuals create for themselves.

“This is not a subtle statistical finding,” Kennedy said. “How people look at images is diagnostic of their genetics. Eye movements allow individuals to obtain specific information from a space that is vast and largely unconstrained. It’s through this selection process that we end up shaping our visual experiences.

“Less known are the biological underpinnings of this process,” he added. “From this work, we now know that our biology affects how we seek out visual information from complex scenes. It gives us a new instance of how biology and environment are integrated in our development.”

“This finding is quite novel in the field,” D’Onofrio said. “It is going to surprise people in a number of fields, who do not typically think about the role of genetic factors in regulating such processes as where people look.”

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Comment: 

(Note: Many individuals can learn the “scientific method”- techniques, procedures and the use of math, without having an “understanding” of  “physical reality”. This is a problem in American “science” today.)

Why is the Asperger “attentional preference” for “physical reality” labeled a developmental defect? Because modern social humans BELIEVE that only the social environment EXISTS!

This “narrow” field of attention in modern social humans is the result of domestication / neoteny. The “magical thinking” stage of childhood development is carried into adulthood. This “arrested development” retains the narcissistic infantile perception of reality.  

A genetic basis for this “perceptual” knowledge of reality would support the Asperger “Wrong Planet” sense of alienation from neurotypical social environments. Our “real world” orientation is not a “defect” – our perception is that of an adult Homo sapiens. The hypersocial “magical” perception of the environment is that of the self-centered infant, whose very survival depends on the manipulation of “big mysterious beings” (parents – puppeteers) who make up the infant’s ENTIRE UNIVERSE.  

The Neurotypical Universe

 


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel P. Kennedy, Brian M. D’Onofrio, Patrick D. Quinn, Sven Bölte, Paul Lichtenstein, Terje Falck-Ytter. Genetic Influence on Eye Movements to Complex Scenes at Short Timescales. Current Biology, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.10.007

Wyoming Edition / “Survival Journal” Day 8030

If Asperger people all got together and signed a declaration that says, “Yes, we’re terrible, anti-social deviants and we apologize for victimizing normal people, so please forgive us;  we’re just lowly sub-humans who don’t deserve to exist in your perfect world,” would Neurotypicals leave us alone? NO. 

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Sun! There is sun this morning. I peek out from beneath my “tent” improvised from an old quilt and a lightweight sleeping bag.

Sunlight; red and amber bark edges the trees outside the window, and beyond, through streaks of flat gray clouds: Blue sky.

The dog is somewhere in the pile of warm coverings: I find her head and pat it: “C’mon, Old Lady. Time to face the wilderness.”

She’s not convinced. Why would an 80-year old dog want to be disturbed?

My feet hit the ice cold floor; bare wood with a dirt “hole” directly beneath. Years ago I set the thermostat to 62* at night, and left it there. I could reset it, but for some “Aspergerish” reason, don’t. I could wear socks or slippers; I don’t. Bare feet feel normal.

I shuffle to the kitchen; boil water and make a cup of instant coffee. A specific brand a “gourmet” instant that a cook friend gave me one day, to save me the trouble of using a percolator or other coffeemaker. I think she got tired of seeing “the mess” of grounds, spilt coffee stains and, “once again” a broken carafe in the trash. I’m still drinking the same concoction 35+ years later. She is long gone, but still present in my cold, primitive kitchen each morning when I take my first sip of “that awful crap you call coffee” as normal people with pickier palates refer to it. The sight and taste of the hot concoction conjures images from that long ago time; days of happiness. Why would I change?

The dog peeks around the door; is there breakfast in her dish? I divert her to the porch and open the back door; to the east, brilliant silver light washes the odd collection of “housing” in the neighborhood. Brilliant flares emanate from sagging power lines; telephone poles rise like relics from a failed attempt at civilization.

I have to literally shove the Old Lady dog out into the ice-frosted gravel yard. While she’s out, I fill her water bowl, and empty a big glop of that “manufactured from anything that will fit in massive grinder” canned food, into her bowl, which she never refuses to “wolf down”. In two seconds she’s back to bed; asleep in a moment; a big sigh. Life is good.

The sky is blazing blue above the roof top next door; another cup of “coffee extraordinaire” and I’m at the keyboard. What now?

My “unconscious mind” is already at work during the ten minutes or so taken up by my primitive morning routine, so some topic, or feeling, or question will float into focus; I can count on that.

This morning, I started laughing, while drinking my second cup of coffee: Why I was laughing took a few seconds longer to arrive. It’s like that: it’s automatic. A “cloud” may linger over my body – a gray amorphous feeling that something is wrong, or just the opposite: I’ll feel energized, enthusiastic, “delighted” by the ordinary look of the kitchen or the scene outdoors. No reason. “Normal” people jump to the conclusion that some “pathology, disorder” is in evidence: they are wrong.

My body feels thoughts long before my “word conscious processing” knows what’s going on. Like an old telegraph system sending Morse code. The “wires” are alive with the electrical signal that is being transmitted, well before the “little man” sitting at a desk hundreds of miles away, hears the tap-tapping of the telegraph key, and jots down the code. Anyone in the room at the time, may be pushing him: “What does it say,” but he still must translate the dot-dash code into “words” for the “neurotypical” bystander, who is pestering him to hurry up. 

This may seem to be an inferior, archaic system in the judgment of people, whose foremost interest is in speed. They don’t care what the act of communication “feels like” – what the experience of “thinking” in pictures, sensations, or movements has to offer; how it enriches the “message” by connecting it to timeless “truths” or by revealing heretofore unknown patterns.  

Neurotypicals want to know if their package from Amazon will arrive at 10:02 am as promised, and they want to know it now. Right now, because being demanding makes them “feel” important. And being “too busy to care about other people” is mandatory: at 10:03 am a “scheduled” text from the dog-walker is due, which won’t arrive until 10:05 am, providing the perfect opportunity to excoriate a “lesser being” on the social pyramid. And at 10:06, a phone call from the dog-walker’s boss, apologizing for the inexcusable 2-minute delay will result in further degradation of a “peasant”. WOW! How important can one human being be!

Meanwhile, back in Wyoming, I stop typing and open the refrigerator door. Breakfast? Yes, another boring same-old-same-old choice. Ham and eggs; sausage and eggs. Potatoes, ham and eggs; cheese on top? Or a banana smoothie made with yogurt, carrot juice, and something to “sweeten” it up? I like these foods for breakfast. Maybe a wild departure in winter for a creamy-hot bowl of oatmeal. No one to scream at; no subservient types to step on. I must be totally unimportant, unfortunate, disordered and disabled.

Why would I “force myself” to eat anything else, just to satisfy some imaginary “judgment” made by a gang of social typical busybodies who have decreed that a “lack of embracing novelty” has cosmic meaning? Oh – I forgot: To be considered “a normal human” I must take a “selfie” with a slice of watermelon,  on an otherwise naked plate, and post it on social media with the earth-shaking declaration that I’m trying a new “slice of watermelon” diet. The goal? So people I don’t know, or will ever encounter in real life, will declare that I’m SOOOOO skinny already that I don’t need to loose weight. They must say this, even if I weigh 300 pounds. Like any proper neurotypical, I throw the watermelon slice in the trash and devour a tray full of “low fat” croissants.

That idiotic scenario dispensed with by a millisecond of thought, I scandalously “fry up” a mess of sausage; add eggs, cheese, leftover potatoes; make toast with gobs of real butter on top – add jam – and pour more coffee. Life is good. The Old Lady dog hears the usual morning commotion and wanders in. She stares at my plate.

Of course; I always share my food with her. Just the stuff that suits her canine digestive system. She loves vegetables; I don’t. She eats most of the vegetable matter that I cook. I drink carrot juice, and other vegetable juices. Easy, fast, efficient. Asperger. 

Nearly forgot: What was I laughing about earlier? The fleeting realization, that superficially, I live like one of those “outdoor extremists” who (supposedly) are abandoned in the wilderness and forced to show off their well-honed skills for survival: no “cheating allowed”. By the book; ancient survival; burning up hundreds of calories and precious fluids by “doing things the hard way”. Burning daylight, creating emergencies, eating worms, doing stupid, high risk things – looks good for the camera and drives the repetitive clichéd plot, as if “being there” in stupendously beautiful and interesting landscape, is totally without merit. They certainly do work hard! The goal? A pre-arranged rescue: back to civilization. Totally phony – neurotypical “playing at” survival. Our wild ancestors weren’t airlifted back into town for a hot shower, fresh clothing, and a sit-down meal with friends. A soft bed, and a paycheck.

The difference between how I live, and these “romanticized novelty shows” made for neurotypical entertainment, is the GOAL: I don’t live “way out here” in Wyoming to prove anything. I have no interest in “testing” how close I can get to dying by hypothermia; or in showing the “audience” how “macho” my eating habits are (bring on the grubs, old shoe leather, and potentially deadly fungi). Or in getting lost, needing rescue, or any other “stupid” calamity that has a “magical resolution”.

It seems to me, that possibly, out of the vast wasteland of incomprehensible  misunderstanding by social typicals regarding Asperger-type behavior, the negative judgment of our penchant for efficiency (which NTs interpret as “being boring, stubborn, lazy, self-centered, resistant to change, developmentally disordered, and disabled; weird, geeky, timid, fearful and unacceptable”) is the most insulting. The incessant yatta, yatta, yatta of every conceivable “incorrect explanation” for our embrace of simplicity is exhaustive, and exhausting. These pejoratives are indeed apt to be hurled at any “thinking person”, Asperger, or not. 

Here’s a crazy idea: Maybe for some humans, “thinking” is civilized; it is society that is the dangerous wilderness.

Thinking is not some terrible affliction; it’s normal, pleasurable, exciting and rewarding. To be “free from social interference” – that is, free to learn about the “real planet earth“, and beyond, is to be free to explore the possibilities inherent in the “mental realm” (as neurotypicals must name it). It is to live in PARADISE. 

The goal, for Asperger types (unlike appearing to be socially “dominant” in the neurotypical world, with behaviors that “achieve domninance” being of utmost value), is then, to experience the “joy of thinking”. What to social people is a terrible and deviant sacrifice (thinking) is interpreted in Aspergers as “magical signs of disorder, illness and evil”. 

Here’s news! “Being a social human” is not new, novel, unique, brave, or original; it dooms the individual to perpetual dissatisfaction with one’s “place” in the social hierarchy and to endlessly repeating the conformity of behavior demanded by the social order.      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The big investment opportunity…in autism? / CNBC (Money)

The leading autism nonprofit (Autism Speaks) and Google have teamed in an attempt to link private investors like venture capital, private equity and even hedge funds to inject innovative autism-related business development.

Thanks to increased awareness and diagnosis of autism, it’s now known that one in every 88 American children is born with some level of the disorder. That’s more than those affected by diabetes, AIDS, cancer, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome—combined. (Wow! A great big “THANKS” and share of the profits, to human behavior “experts” for this amazing “gift” to corporate greed!!!) 

But products and services for autism are woefully inadequate, according to advocates. $$$$$

The big money is starting to take notice of investment opportunities that both could generate profits and help the autism fight. (Should we not then call this “war-profiteering”?)

Private equity and venture capital firms TPG Biotech, Shore Capital Partners, Bay City Capital, Great Point Partners and Google Ventures, plus hedge fund Scopia Capital Management are among the investors slated to attend the 2014 Autism Investment Conference next week in San Francisco.

The event is organized by Autism Speaks in partnership with Google, which is offering a separate workshop for entrepreneurs doing autism-related work.

 

“While autism has always been part of our population, as our economy has shifted from agrarian work, where everyone could contribute, to urban, social workplaces, this group has moved backward due their social disability. As an investor, I see the opportunity to capitalize on the talents and availability of this group of workers,” said Brian Jacobs, co-founder of venture capital firm Emergence Capital Partners.

Translation: “There have always been retarded, dumb, and low-quality riff-raff around to do shit-work for us, but now that there’s less shit work to do, we have to figure out how to exploit these people in a modern high-tech environment.”

“And the stupid American public will believe that we’re ‘really caring people; just like family’ instead of being ruthless corporate assholes.” 

One area where autistic individuals excel, Jacobs says, is software testing. He expects to back start-ups in the sector as an angel investor. Jacobs’ initial interest comes from his son, who has Asperger’s syndrome, a type of autism that allows relatively high function. (Oh yes; drag out the “I have an autistic child” prop to “counter” the disgusting notion of exploiting disabled people.) 

“I am attending the conference in hopes of learning about additional entrepreneurial endeavors in this area,” Jacobs said. $$$$$

Business opportunities range from drug development $$$$ to educational iPad applications (and sales $$$) to employment and residential services. $$$$

Finding products and services to benefit (or exploit) those with autism fits into a rapidly expanding segment of the health-care industry: human behavior.

 

Love of Animals / Another Defect in Asperger Types

Psychologists claim that caring about an animal  companion, or animals in general, is abnormal, but only if you are Asperger. 

Remember: You're therapist probably thinks this is perfectly okay behavior toward animals.

Remember: The people who diagnose Asperger types as lacking empathy probably tortured lab animals in college, and many do it for a living.

Asperger individuals supposedly love animals to an extent that is abnormal. This assertion, like much of what is said about Asperger individuals, is hearsay, but like other claims about Aspergers, is repeated so often that no one questions whether or not such an absurdity is accurate.

Aspergers are also accused of being devoid of the empathy and caring behavior that love of animals or humans requires. The inhumane treatment of animals by neurotypicals is simply never mentioned, because neurotypicals by definition are perfect humans. The real question is: What the Hell is wrong with loving animals? 

Asperger people have been labeled as “Psychopaths Lite” by certain psychologists. Torturing animals, not caring for them, is a symptom of being a psychopath.

Torturing animals in labs: how psycho is that?

Torturing animals in labs: how psycho is that?

 

Psychologists and other ‘life Scientists’ insist that rats, mice, monkeys, dogs rabbits, pigs and other animals are “proper” biological-scientific models for humans. Should we assume that individuals who “rationalize” the torture of animals as “okay” because they are lesser beings, suddenly find ethical and moral compunctions about mass testing of psychoactive drugs on human children, whom they have labeled as “defective”? 

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CDC Report Points to Missed Opportunity in ADHD Care

http://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20160525vitalsigns-adhd.html

Despite Recommendations, Young Children More Likely to Get Drugs Than Behavioral Therapy

May 25, 2016 Cindy Borgmeyer – More than 6 million children in the United States were reported by their parents to have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2011-2012, making it the most common neurodevelopmental disorder among those ages 4 to 17 years. These most recent figures represent a 42 percent rise in the prevalence of the condition since 2003, according to a 2014 article(www.jaacap.com) in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (Note how “being an active child” (especially a male child) which used to require plenty of free time playing outdoors and exploring the environment, has become a developmental disorder! and “lumped in” with serious birth defects, environmental disease due to toxins and chemical poisons, and “banned” by those whose attitude toward “being human” is that Human Behavior, by THEIR definition, is de facto, pathological)

MOST children receiving ADHD diagnosis are “treated” with drugs, despite the advisement that non-drug treatment be implemented first and warnings about the dangerous side effects of the drugs being prescribed. It’s all about the immense profits for pharmaceutical companies and “laziness” $$$$$$ in “helping caring fixing” employees; these children are just lab rats, after all…

Hmmm… Music that an ASD guy says is like the ASD Brain at work…

…actually two ASD brains “talking” to each other in front of a neurotypical audience…

Sorry, that’s my best description of his description…

 

Arena ‘sand, sand-strewn place of combat.’ / Another Day in the Good Ole USA

The Ancient Romans were not so far removed from nature that they had forgotten Nature, the platform, in which Homo sapiens had arisen. Nature as the original  container for human, plant and animal vitality, became a place of nostalgia, in which all creatures, forces, pain and pleasure had been “inflated” to heroic scale, with humans having to sort out what life would be like in a new paradigm.

The changes that were “inevitable” due to a settled life were drastic. I have posted many times about the transition from nomadism, as a here-and-now challenge to survival, which demands an opportunistic and fluid visual-sensory intelligence. The  success of the group depends on each member being actively engaged with the environment, and making contributions to the knowledge base that is absolutely vital.  This lifestyle persisted for all of human history, until the advent of “village life” with increasingly, strangers having to live and work together.

“Tied to the land… and to each other.”

This period has been romanticized as the Happy Peasants Life throughout written history, from the devoted laborers of Pharaoh’s time, to drunken and chubby Medieval types hauling in the harvest, to millions of Asian workers, inserting rice plants one by one in vast idyllic ponds. It’s literally back-breaking labor. And agriculture is no guarantee for survival. Ancient texts are dominated by natural disaster, drought, raiding insects, plagues of rodents and disease: mass starvation.

We will never know exactly what happened, because we have cast agriculture, and the consequences, into “The Good” that defines everything that was left behind as “The Evil” – which includes everything that occurred for 4 billion years before human ascendancy as a civilized species. But, we do know that the change in lifestyle was so drastic that almost immediately, strict systems of behavior control were instituted, by force, wherever agriculture became the means to “feed and water” domestic animals, with  humans included in the “new” category of living things that are “not wild”. Genetic alterations through selective breeding were intentional, practical and effective, despite humans knowing nothing about DNA or evolution.

Homo sapiens was not a “master species that tamed nature” but an integral part of a package of transformation of “wild species” into a  complex of domestic animals and plants, which in hindsight, can be seen as “neotenic invasive species complex” which has caused irrevocable destruction of pre-existing “ecosystems”. And at a rate that is impossible for evolutionary processes to compensate for as adaptations in wild species. This further eliminates “wild diversity versus domestic poverty”, reducing surviving species to those that can tolerate toxic human spaces.

This destruction has occurred wherever the “domesticated menagerie” has been transported and introduced. And yet, despite the overwhelming evidence for catastrophe, the modern human response is “more of the same” – an unshakeable belief in the paradigm of Homo sapiens as the Master Species, fuels a frantic effort to dominate nature with ever-increasing application of technologies.

This includes a last desperate effort to “do away with” organic evolution altogether. Cyborgs, robots, self-creating AI machines, and drastic genetic intervention and control of DNA as the foundation of “new” Master Species is well underway. 

The enormous labor required for successful agriculture, the intensely crowded town and urban life that resulted, the infrastructure necessary to control animal behavior, human behavior, water supplies and distribution of resources, and the predation by parasites, insects, rodents, opportunistic animals of all types, and other humans, was a situation that readily created “top predators” among the wild human remains of the natural environment.

Top male humans easily moved in to “take over” these new agricultural systems, because, as “wild humans” they were more intelligent, and became even more so, as they flourished at the apex of a new hierarchy.

Back to the Ancient Romans: I think that we are intensely attracted to “Rome” the ambiguous culture, because it demonstrates the emerging duality of wild vs. domestic; a time when these forces were still commingled and interactive; a context that  provided for the dynamic inventions of roman civic and practical infrastructure that inspires us today, but the balance shifted, which eventually led to a fatal separation in the human perception of reality: the crippling division between the manmade environment (and labeling it superior) and the natural environment (and designating it a place of evil) that was to follow. Even more catastrophic was the triumph of Christian insistence that only a “magical” supernatural neotenic hallucination exists)

The “modern social” perception of (absolute) “reality” is stuck in the theater of perpetual conflict between “Good and Evil”, a conceptual structure that demands that black and white judgements of value be made about even the most trivial phenomena. This delusion is pervasive. It leads inevitably to each group, or even each individual, being entrenched and isolated, and forced to defend their position as “Absolute Good” (not as rational, or “good for” the family, community, or nation – and certainly not the least concerned with the health and safety of other life on the planet) and everyone and everything else as “Absolute Evil”.

This impossible situation is a trap laid by a belief system that intensifies human hatred day by day.  

Armageddon becomes a “reasonable” solution. Nuclear war becomes inevitable. 

The Roman “arena” was the recreation of nature as the “nostalgic” origin of human competence and accomplishment, however brutal their “memory” of that wild period seems to us. Our arena is devoid of vitality: the artificial estrangement from nature makes people go mad.

We label “whole individuals” as worthless, whole groups as “evil” and insist that the last human standing after total destruction will be the “winner”. 

This is where we are: this madness is the structural imperative of a  truly insane “domestic” animal.  

 

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Thinking and Calories / Supernatural NT “Science”

SciAm Mind

This is one of those articles that sets up the problem (in a rambling sort of way) rather than answering the question posed. The question of how many calories are “burned” during specific brain activities would seem to be no more difficult than measuring – calculating calories burned during specific “physical” activities (brain activity is physical!) Apparently not. The question is, why?

What this whole problem boils down to, is that our  brain is smarter than we are!

Does Thinking Really Hard Burn More Calories?

Unlike physical exercise, mental workouts probably do not demand significantly more energy than usual. Believing we have drained our brains, however, may be enough to induce weariness

By Ferris Jabr on July 18, 2012

Temporary mental exhaustion is a genuine and common phenomenon, which, it is important to note, differs from chronic mental fatigue associated with regular sleep deprivation and some medical disorders. Everyday mental weariness makes sense, intuitively. (Does it? Or are we taught to believe this?) Surely complex thought and intense concentration require more energy than routine mental processes. (Which processes are “routine?) Just as vigorous exercise tires our bodies, intellectual exertion should drain the brain. (Oh dear – that mythological neurotypical brain / body split again!) What the latest science reveals, however, is that the popular notion of mental exhaustion is too simplistic. The brain continuously slurps up huge amounts of energy for an organ of its size, regardless of whether we are tackling integral calculus or clicking through the week’s top 10 LOL cats. x

Although firing neurons summon extra blood, oxygen and glucose, any local increases in energy consumption are tiny compared with the brain’s gluttonous baseline intake. So, in most cases, short periods of additional mental effort require a little more brainpower than usual, but not much more. Most laboratory experiments, however, have not subjected volunteers to several hours’ worth of challenging mental acrobatics. (Why not?) And something must explain the feeling of mental exhaustion, even if its physiology differs from physical fatigue. (WOW! Two types of  “physical fatigue” 1. MENTAL (suspiciously separate from “the body” – supernatural – as opposed to 2. REAL physical, physical fatigue!) This distinction may seem “picky” but this conceptual separation follows from the “duality” of body and mind that is an and ongoing superstition  in NT thinking,) Simply believing that our brains have expended a lot of effort might be enough to make us lethargic. (How?)

Brainpower

Although the average adult human brain weighs about 1.4 kilograms, only 2 percent of total body weight, it demands 20 percent of our resting metabolic rate (RMR)—the total amount of energy our bodies expend in one very lazy day of no activity. RMR varies from person to person depending on age, gender, size and health. If we assume an average resting metabolic rate of 1,300 calories, then the brain consumes 260 of those calories just to keep things in order. That’s 10.8 calories every hour or 0.18 calories each minute. (For comparison’s sake, see Harvard’s table of calories burned during different activities). With a little math, we can convert that number into a measure of power: —Resting metabolic rate: 1300 kilocalories, or kcal, the kind used in nutrition —1,300 kcal over 24 hours = 54.16 kcal per hour = 15.04 gram calories per second —15.04 gram calories/sec = 62.93 joules/sec = about 63 watts —20 percent of 63 watts = 12.6 watts So a typical adult human brain runs on around 12 watts—a fifth of the power required by a standard 60 watt lightbulb. Compared with most other organs, the brain is greedy; pitted against man-made electronics, it is astoundingly efficient. IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer that defeated Jeopardy! champions, depends on ninety IBM Power 750 servers, each of which requires around one thousand watts. x

Energy travels to the brain via blood vessels in the form of glucose, which is transported across the blood-brain barrier and used to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main currency of chemical energy within cells. Experiments with both animals and people have confirmed that when neurons in a particular brain region fire, local capillaries dilate to deliver more blood than usual, along with extra glucose and oxygen. This consistent response makes neuroimaging studies possible: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) depends on the unique magnetic properties of blood flowing to and from firing neurons. Research has also confirmed that once dilated blood vessels deliver extra glucose, brain cells lap it up.

Extending the logic of such findings, (Uh-oh – is that “logic” or NT speculation ahead? The following is a chain of assumptions that may “seem obvious” to NTs, but that exercise is not “logic”) some scientists have proposed the following: if firing neurons require extra glucose, then especially challenging mental tasks should decrease glucose levels in the blood and, likewise, eating foods rich in sugars should improve performance on such tasks. Although quite a few studies have confirmed these predictions, the evidence as a whole is mixed and most of the changes in glucose levels range from the miniscule to the small. In a study at Northumbria University, for example, volunteers that completed a series of verbal and numerical tasks showed a larger drop in blood glucose than people who just pressed a key repeatedly. In the same study, a sugary drink improved performance on one of the tasks, but not the others. At Liverpool John Moores University volunteers performed two versions of the Stroop task, in which they had to identify the color of ink in which a word was printed, rather than reading the word itself: In one version, the words and colors matched—BLUE appeared in blue ink; in the tricky version, the word BLUE appeared in green or red ink. Volunteers who performed the more challenging task showed bigger dips in blood glucose, which the researchers interpreted as a direct cause of greater mental effort. Some studies have found that when people are not very good at a particular task, they exert more mental effort and use more glucose and that, likewise, the more skilled you are, the more efficient your brain is and the less glucose you need. Complicating matters, at least one study suggests the opposite—that more skillful brains recruit more energy.* (What this laundry list of non-satisfying “results” indicates is poor experimental design and  too many clichéd assumptions, not enough “objective physics” questions considered. This question of calories – energy use is “hard science”!)

Not so simple sugars

Unsatisfying and contradictory findings from glucose studies underscore that energy consumption in the brain is not a simple matter of greater mental effort sapping more of the body’s available energy. Claude Messier of the University of Ottawa has reviewed many such studies. He remains unconvinced that any one cognitive task measurably changes glucose levels in the brain or blood. “In theory, yes, a more difficult mental task requires more energy because there is more neural activity,” he says, “but when people do one mental task you won’t see a large increase of glucose consumption as a significant percentage of the overall rate. The base level is quite a lot of energy—even in slow-wave sleep with very little activity there is still a high baseline consumption of glucose.” Most organs do not require so much energy for basic housekeeping. But the brain must actively maintain appropriate concentrations of charged particles across the membranes of billions of neurons, even when those cells are not firing. (Like a military “readiness posture” in peacetime) Because of this expensive and continuous maintenance, the brain usually has (maintains a small energy surplus) the energy it needs for a little extra work. Authors of other review papers have reached similar conclusions. Robert Kurzban of the University of Pennsylvania points to studies showing that moderate exercise improves people’s ability to focus. In one study, for example, children who walked for 20 minutes on a treadmill performed better on an academic achievement test than children who read quietly before the exam. If mental effort and ability were a simple matter of available glucose, then the children who exercised—and burnt up more energy—should have performed worse than their quiescent peers. The influence of a mental task’s difficulty on energy consumption “appears to be subtle and probably depends on individual variation in effort required, engagement and resources available, which might be related to variables such as age, personality and gluco-regulation,” wrote Leigh Gibson of Roehampton University in a review on carbohydrates and mental function. Both Gibson and Messier conclude that when someone has trouble regulating glucose properly—or has fasted for a long time—a sugary drink or food can improve their subsequent performance on certain kinds of memory tasks. But for most people, the body easily supplies what little extra glucose the brain needs for additional mental effort. (That is, almost all mental tasks are simply not taxing in terms of additional energy needed)

Body and mind

(Are NTS ever going to grasp that this duality is imaginary? It’s all one system!)

If challenging cognitive tasks consume only a little more fuel than usual, what explains the feeling of mental exhaustion following the SAT or a similarly grueling mental marathon? (This is a cultural statement that reflects the anti-intellectual bias of Americans. If American education were ADEQUATE, the SAT or any other test, would not be “grueling”! Scores are as much a “test” of educational failure on the part of the Ed system as they are measures of student learning. The two cannot be separated) One answer is that maintaining unbroken focus or navigating demanding intellectual territory for several hours really does burn enough energy to leave one feeling drained, but that researchers have not confirmed this because they have simply not been tough enough on their volunteers. (Ditto above! Standards and requirements that in ‘foreign” countries that are everyday expectations are considered by Americans to be “cruel and unusual punishment) x

In most experiments, participants perform a single task of moderate difficulty, rarely for more than an hour or two. “Maybe if we push them harder, and get people to do things they are not good at, we would see clearer results,” Messier suggests. Equally important to the duration of mental exertion is one’s attitude toward it. Watching a thrilling biopic with a complex narrative excites many different brain regions for a good two hours, (Aye, yai, yai! Is this imaginary anecdotal “audience” to be considered as a legitimate “control group” for all these other studies?)  yet people typically do not shamble out of the theater complaining of mental fatigue. Some people regularly curl up with densely written novels that others might throw across the room in frustration. Completing a complex crossword or sudoku puzzle on a Sunday morning does not usually ruin one’s ability to focus for the rest of the day—in fact, some claim it sharpens their mental state. In short, people routinely enjoy intellectually invigorating activities without suffering mental exhaustion. Such fatigue seems much more likely to follow sustained mental effort that we do not seek for pleasure—such as the obligatory SAT—especially when we expect that the ordeal will drain our brains. If we think an exam or puzzle will be difficult, it often will be. Studies have shown that something similar happens when people exercise and play sports: a large component of physical exhaustion is in our heads. In related research, volunteers that cycled on an exercise bike following a 90-minute computerized test of sustained attention quit pedaling from exhaustion sooner than participants that watched emotionally neutral documentaries before exercising. Even if the attention test did not consume significantly more energy than watching movies, the volunteers reported feeling less energetic. That feeling was powerful enough to limit their physical performance. In the specific case of the SAT, something beyond pure mental effort likely contributes to post-exam stupor: stress. After all, the brain does not function in a vacuum. (Brilliant!) Other organs burn up energy, too. Taking an exam that partially determines where one will spend the next four years is nerve-racking enough to send stress hormones swimming through the blood stream, induce sweating, quicken heart rates and encourage fidgeting and contorted body postures. The SAT and similar trials are not just mentally taxing—they are physically exhausting, too. (Again – mental activity is held to be “supernatural” – meaning that it takes place in a dimension outside of physical reality) (A SOCIAL PROBLEM: maybe we could ask, “How much energy is being wasted by Americans in dealing with social stress; energy that could fuel learning and other “satisfying” and health-promoting activity?) 

Blah, blah, blah! NONE of this is relevant to determining how much energy the brain needs or consumes during specific activities

A small but revealing study suggests that even mildly stressful intellectual challenges change our emotional states and behaviors, even if they do not profoundly alter brain metabolism. Fourteen female Canadian college students either sat around, summarized a passage of text or completed a series of computerized attention and memory tests for 45 minutes before feasting on a buffet lunch. Students who exercised their brains helped themselves to around 200 more calories than students who relaxed. Their blood glucose levels also fluctuated more than those of students who just sat there, but not in any consistent way. Levels of the stress hormone cortisol, however, were significantly higher in students whose brains were busy, as were their heart rates, blood pressure and self-reported anxiety. In all likelihood, these students did not eat more because their haggard brains desperately needed more fuel; rather, they were stress eating. Messier has related explanation for everyday mental weariness: “My general hypothesis is that the brain is a lazy bum,” he says. “The brain has a hard time staying focused on just one thing for too long. It’s possible that sustained concentration creates some changes in the brain that promote avoidance of that state. It could be like a timer that says, ‘Okay you’re done now.’ Maybe the brain just doesn’t like to work so hard for so long.”

Here’s a hypothesis:

All this rambling “supernatural” conjecture that encumbers “so-called analysis” of human physical reality, wastes vast amounts of time and energy, but gets us NOWHERE in useable research. What it does is create a prolong a bunch of “belief in  nonsense”  that prevents productive lines of questioning and legitimate research and persists in orienting our thinking to rely on cultural clichés.    

 

Difficult to establish causality in gender studies / ScienceNordic

http://sciencenordic.com/what-we-don’t-know-about-gender-differences-brain

What we (don’t) know about gender differences in the brain

November 2, 2017 
COMMENT: A Google engineer was recently laid off for writing that biological differences explain why more men than women work in the tech industry. A neurobiologist and science journalist in Denmark agreed with him – but are they right?
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There is more to this article: I’ve picked out the following topic because it has huge bearing on the “validity” of claims by American psychologists that their “opinions” (ideological interpretations) have something to do with actual science. Believe it or not, there are psychologists who defend psychology as a “science” by claiming that there really is no one definition of science or the scientific method; ergo it’s whatever they say it is!

The Nine Levels of Scientific Hell, by SHRO

http://xkcdsw.com/3681

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Difficult to establish causality in gender studies

It requires controlled experiments to say – with some degree of certainty – whether gender differences are biologically or culturally determined. Only through experimentation do we have control over the relevant variables, which allows us to determine causality.

This is a challenge when it comes to gender differences, because we cannot manipulate the gender (independent variable) and study how this manipulation affects the behaviour (dependent variable).

An example of the type of spatial task where the largest gender difference in cognition has been documented (mental rotation). The test subject must determine if the figures are identical or mirrored. (Figure: Christian Gerlach)

We can only study how the genders differ in regards to behaviour. That makes it difficult to determine whether the differences are caused by biology or culture. Thus, gender studies are based on non-experimental research, which is poor at establishing causality.

There have been some attempts, though, at demonstrating a relationship between testosterone levels in embryos and gender differences in preferences and behaviour. One study shows that higher levels of testosterone leads to more “boyish” behaviour (violent) during playtime. Another study could not replicate these findings.

This inconsistency is prevalent within the field, which is also host to a full range of interpretation issues. We still do not – and cannot – know if the testosterone directly affects the brain and causes the change in observed behaviour.

It might just as well be caused by testosterone increasing body volume, which then leads to more ‘violent’ games. Normally, it is not possible to measure the amount of testosterone directly in the blood (in embryos). Rather, this is done by measuring the amniotic fluids. But these measurements do not necessarily correlate.

Read More: What happens to girls and boys in gender-neutral preschools?

Animal studies and hormonal imbalances are also unreliable

Considering this, we can look for other approaches. We could study people with hormonal imbalances. Some studies, but not all, find that female embryos with abnormal amounts of testosterone (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) grow up to have more “boyish” behaviour or preferences. (This is often presented as a “biological fact” by certain autism “experts”, when there is no proof that “boyish behavior or preferences” is “located in the brain” rather than culturally-determined. They assume that the dominant (male) cultural bias is scientifically valid and begin “the inquiry” at this point, without question – 

Here it is important to remember that it is always difficult to establish the ‘normal’ based on the ‘abnormal.’ For that reason it is an indirect conclusion.

And yet again, this is exactly what pathology-based psychological theories of human behavior do!

Another approach is animal studies. In these studies it is possible to directly manipulate the amount of hormones that the organism is exposed to at any given time – while keeping the environment stable. Here we have more control over the variables, but the problem is that animals aren’t people and that hormonal effects can be species-related.

In other words, animal studies are rarely good at explaining complex human behaviour, such as job preferences.

Gender differences and ideology

As described above, there are gender differences in the brain, but it is unclear if – and how – they are connected with cognitive differences. The same must be said about the relationship between hormones and gender differences in cognition, social behaviour, and preferences.

Compared with this, there is less doubt that gender differences can be cultural products. However, given that it is difficult to establish a causality, there is still room for ideological interpretations. And that is completely without denying the facts.

BUT! These “opinions” ought to be LABELED as such: as “ideological, social, philosophical, or other belief-based  interpretations” and not presented (via weasel words and other deceptive language) as scientifically valid conclusions, which “psych-social opinion” is not. 

That is probably the only thing that can be concluded with certainty in this debate.

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Read this article in Danish on ForskerZonen, part of Videnskab.dk

Enhanced Perceptual Functioning / Patterns, Structure, Creativity

http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1522/1385

Note that savants are discussed, but the “mechanisms of perception” also apply to Asperger types. Some definitions inserted, and comments about personal experience!

Enhanced perception in savant syndrome: patterns, structure and creativity

Laurent Mottron, Michelle Dawson, Isabelle Soulières

Published 12 April 2009.DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2008.0333

Abstract

According to the enhanced perceptual functioning (EPF) model, autistic perception is characterized by: enhanced low-level operations; locally oriented processing as a default setting; greater activation of perceptual areas during a range of visuospatial, language, working memory or reasoning tasks; autonomy towards higher processes; and superior involvement in intelligence. (I’ll have to “decode” this group – very specific terms) EPF has been useful in accounting for autistic relative peaks of ability in the visual and auditory modalities. However, the role played by atypical perceptual mechanisms in the emergence and character of savant abilities remains underdeveloped. We now propose that enhanced detection of patterns, including similarity within and among patterns, is one of the mechanisms responsible for operations on human codes, a type of material with which savants show particular facility. This mechanism would favour an orientation towards material possessing the highest level of internal structure, through the implicit detection of within- and between-code isomorphisms. A second mechanism, related to but exceeding the existing concept of redintegration, (!!) involves completion, or filling-in, of missing information in memorized or perceived units or structures. In the context of autistics’ enhanced perception, the nature and extent of these two mechanisms, and their possible contribution to the creativity evident in savant performance, are explored.

atypical mechanisms: enhanced detection of patterns; redintegration.  Redintegration refers to the restoration of the whole of something from a part of it. In cognitive psychology the word is used in reference to phenomena in the field of memory – a small part of a memory can remind a person of the entire memory. Yes, certainly familiar in the “visual memory” domain. One “piece” of an image “leads to” a repository of non-verbal memories. Picture a “wormhole” opening to other dimensions. 

It’s as if sensory memories are connected to each other by wormholes.

1. Enhanced perception: from autism to savant syndrome

Autism is characterized by enhanced perceptual processing (Happé & Frith 2006; Mottron et al. 2006a). The superiority of autistics in low-level cognitive operations (e.g. discrimination) (Discrimination, in psychology, the ability to perceive and respond to differences among stimuli. It is considered a more advanced form of learning than generalization, the ability to perceive similarities, although animals can be trained to discriminate as well as to generalize.) is a widely replicated finding in both the visual and auditory modalities (Dakin & Frith 2005; Samson et al. 2006). At least at the group level, this advantage can be observed in most operations involving perceptual material. For example, superior discriminative performance co-occurs in the same autistic individuals with enhanced abilities in a variety of target detection tasks involving mnemonic, attentional or visuospatial operations (Caron et al. 2006). In the auditory modality, superior pitch discrimination, labelling and memory also co-occur (Bonnel et al. 2003; Heaton 2003). Mechanisms involved in these perceptual skill superiorities are not yet fully understood, but a more extensive and atypical involvement of primary and associative perceptual areas during perceptual tasks (Gaffrey et al. 2007; Manjaly et al. 2007; Milne et al. 2009), atypical lateral inhibition in both modalities (Bertone et al. 2005; Vandenbroucke et al. 2008) and functional autonomy of perceptual operations from top-down processing influences (Caron et al. 2006) are complementary and promising physiological explanations.

The collection of empirical findings and associated putative partial mechanisms related to autistic perception has been combined under the label of enhanced perceptual functioning (EPF), a behavioural and physiological model that has recently been updated in the form of a short list of principles (Mottron et al. 2006a). These principles can be considered variously as descriptive and/or explicative. For example, one principle is that top-down influences on perceptual systems are optional in autism and mandatory in non-autistics. This assertion may act not only as a unifying description for the dominant and extended role of perception in autistic strengths, but also as an explanatory mechanism for the autonomy of perception with respect to various higher level cognitive processes.

The wide variety of atypical mechanisms involved in EPF principles suggests that autistic cognitive atypicalities are more accurately described as an entirely different processing system, rather than as a collection of negative cascade effects resulting from one or many major impairments (excesses or deficits) impeding typical processing and development.

thank-you!

The extensive support for EPF in autism is strongly suggestive that perception as a whole should be viewed as an integral part of the mechanisms of savant abilities, in as much as these unexpectedly strong skills are intrinsic manifestations of autistic behaviour, learning and intelligence. However, it is not yet clear to what extent basic perceptual mechanisms are associated with autistic ability peaks and a fortiori with savant abilities. Multiple intervening variables (e.g. nature, age and intensity of exposure to relevant material) may intercede between superior low-level processing and superior visual and auditory cognitive abilities, impeding any affirmation that, for example, enhanced visual discrimination directly produces visuospatial ability peaks, or that enhanced auditory discrimination produces superior musical ability in savant or non-savant autistics.

The key role of atypical perception in savant syndrome is not an entirely new story (see Heaton & Wallace 2004, for a review). For example, Treffert (1989) proposed that eidetic memory may be important in savant syndrome, but this view is contradicted by the transformations that savants consistently perform on their material of expertise. While Snyder & Mitchell (1999) elaborated on a privileged access to typical low-level perceptual processes, these authors do not explain why savant syndrome is so prevalent in autism or why particular abilities (e.g. calendar calculation) are disproportionately represented. Neither do they specify the details of the low-level operations responsible for savant performance. The aim of this paper is therefore to further explore the role of these aspects of perception and memory in the materials and cognitive operations commonly encountered in the investigations of savant syndrome.

2. Savant abilities entail structured material

Materials involved in savant syndrome consist mainly of human codes (e.g. written language for hyperlexia and list memorizers, music for savant performers and composers, numeration for savant mathematical and calendar calculators, and complex three-dimensional graphic representations for savant artists). Human codes share the property of being structured and predominantly non-arbitrary. Emphasizing the role of pattern recognition is therefore in strong contrast with the idea that unstructured, eidetic-type, memory is a major mechanism underlying savant ability. A structured sequence (as opposed to noise) can be phenomenally defined by the recurrence of a finite list of elementary constituents (letters or ideograms, phonemes, digits, notes and geons). These constituents are spatio-temporally stable, in the sense that the shape of a letter, for example, remains roughly equivalent across its various occurrences. The constituents are also relatively simple forms, generally presented in homogeneous series (letters with letters or digits with digits).

The units composing most human codes are embedded in a hierarchy of recurrent patterns of increasing scale. In the case of written language, a finite series of letters forms a larger number of words, and these words are arranged in phrases and sentences with syntactic regularities. Each level contains elements that are intrinsically more similar within that level than they are across levels. Resemblance within letters defines the alphabet, resemblance among words defines lexicon and redundancy in the arrangement of words defines syntax. A similar structural regularity characterizes music (Jackendoff 1987), and could be used to encode the complexities of the three-dimensional perceptual world (Biederman 1987). Phenomenal resemblance or isomorphism is therefore at the centre of what describes a code, and the structured material composing human codes can be described as embedded organizations of isomorphisms, each class of isomorphism defining a particular level (e.g. phonological, lexical). We contend that the phenomenal redundancy of human perceptual and cognitive codes, in as much as they are processed by autistic perceptual mechanisms, grounds the key role these codes play in autistic strong interests and savant abilities.

I would suggest that this attention to structure is what “freaks out” neurotypicals, who do not “believe in facts or boundaries” as concrete parameters in nature – or in the Laws of Physics. Physical reality impinges on, and threatens, their magical supernatural social universe. 

3. Pattern detection in savant cognition

Structure being defined by the presence of repeating basic patterns (this is real in nature – and is described by mathematics; it is not “just” in our “defective” autistic heads), one possibility would be that pattern detection mechanisms are especially active in autism. (Or in visually dominant brain organization) This would explain the unique relationship between what phenomenally defines a structure, and perceptual mechanisms in autism. By especially active, we mean essential in achieving a high level of performance, guiding behaviour, detecting smaller or larger scale units, and being more independent from the influence of non-perceptual cognitive processes. Following this hypothesis, the detection of perceptual similarity between spatio-temporal recurrences of a pattern, whatever its scale, could result in the creation of a lexicon of units—and provide the perceptual root of savant ability. More generally, the detection of regions of the world possessing a high density of similarity among perceptual patterns would orient savants towards their principal materials of interest, i.e. towards commonly available human codes. For example, letters and digits presented in printed material belong to a finite list of visual patterns sharing overall shape and features, with multiple recurrences in the world, and are associated by largely non-arbitrary rules maximizing their salience as stimuli. In calendar calculation, the target information is commonly presented in the form of matrices where digits and letters occupy consistent places in the structure. Three-dimensional geometrical regularities (e.g. geons) are presented and available as two-dimensional representations structured and ruled by linear perspective, while pitches may be presented as locations on keyboards.

The same mechanism that detects intrinsic similarity among simultaneously presented units, or between presented and memorized units, could also detect higher scale isomorphisms by analysing the recurrent structures formed by redundant arrangement of these units, as well as their extrinsic similarities, i.e. recurrent figure–ground relationships between these structures and their context of occurrence. An enhanced role for pattern detection would therefore parsimoniously account both for the heightened interest in codes (characterized by their high level of structural redundancy), and for the detection of within-code, large-scale isomorphisms such as arithmetical structure, calendar structure, syntax and three-dimensional perspective rules.

That is, our attention to structure allows us to identify “layers” of similar / identical structure within and across hierarchies of “coded” information. For an Asperger of “my type” – not a strict math thinker or speaker – this focus on structure manifests as pattern discrimination in “knowledge systems” across scale, from detailed observation to “big picture” analysis. It’s what I refer to as discovering “coherent or incoherent” systems. (Is it isomorphic across scale?) Yes, the structural reference is natural systems which are the templates for reality. Sorry, neurotypicals, but science is not another form of “magic”. Magic is narcissistic; the focus is on “personal power” as the driver of phenomenon!    

At a still higher scale level, we propose that many savant abilities involve a one-to-one mapping process between two isomorphic series of elements, a veridical mapping between different codes involving the detection of structural similarity between the two series of units (e.g. written code/oral code). Accordingly, a significant proportion of savant ability involves between-code mapping: hyperlexia maps graphic and oral codes (this would seem to apply to me); absolute pitch maps pitch labels or keyboard locations and pitches of the chromatic scale; calendar calculation maps days of the week with dates; and prime number detection maps series of numbers with their factor composition. In all cases, the mastering of these mappings is implicit, both in the way they are learned, and in the frequent difficulty or impossibility that savants have in verbalizing the strategies used to produce answers relying on these mappings. (This is not only true of “savants” but “regular” Asperger types)

A beneficial consequence of enhanced pattern detection is that it allows stabilizing associations between labels and precise values within continuous dimensions, which non-autistics are poorly able to memorize. In a significant number of savant abilities, the equivalent ability in non-autistics is only poorly or rarely, if at all, represented. This may be because one series of representations cannot be anchored on the other, as in the example of relative rather than absolute pitch. For pitch perception, non-autistics are able to easily discriminate two distinct pitches as well as to maintain an absolute pitch value in short-term memory, but the pitch is generally lost in long-term memory. Similarly, the three-dimensional regularities of the real word are easily manipulated in three-dimensional visual perception but cannot be maintained even in short-term memory and a fortiori cannot be accessed through high-level processes. Recently, we have described prodigious abilities in weight estimation (Mottron et al. submitted), which are achieved through the stabilization of a veridical mapping mechanism. GT, who estimates the weight of objects below 500 g with a precision within approximately 5 per cent, proceeds by mentally comparing each object to a 35 g reference unit (the weight of a cereal bar).

Pattern recognition cannot be dissociated from grouping processes. Accordingly, pattern detection could be defined as the capacity to detect (not imagine!) organization in the phenomenal aspects of the world. This may be done within the perceptual field, by the detection of relative properties of a series of features (e.g. proximity), or between two series of features (e.g. symmetry and similarity). It has been proposed that in autistics, some mechanisms involved in detecting relational feature properties such as grouping are less efficient (Dakin & Frith 2005). However, as demonstrated in Caron et al. (2006), grouping process are, at least under some experimental conditions, intact or even superior, but not mandatory in autism. Likewise, locally oriented graphic construction, resulting from the non-mandatory nature of grouping principles, produces a global figure that respects the relative proportions of each of its elements—demonstrating the integrity of these principles, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in autistic graphic arts (Selfe 1983). Similarly, musical performance in savants encompasses both superior local perception (absolute pitch) and the ability to perceive, perform, transpose, improvise on and enhance global aspects of musical structure (Sloboda et al. 1985; Hermelin et al. 1987, 1989; Miller 1989; Young & Nettlebeck 1995). Finally, autistics’ more independent cognitive processes result in regularities within and among patterns being detected, manipulated and generated at the scale of very large structures (e.g. the 28- or 400-year regularity in calendar calculation)—while still retaining their perceptual nature.

4. Pattern completion at a different scale

We have proposed elsewhere (Mottron et al. 2006a) that the concept of redintegration, as applied to pattern completion tasks, may play an important role in the enhanced cognitive operations characterizing savant syndrome. Redintegration in its current use (Schweickert 1993) consists in completing a cue identical to a part of a larger configuration previously encountered. This completion is multidirectional, such that any part of a configuration can prompt recall of its missing parts. In the case of words, the recalled parts have been encountered as such and the cue and response form a unit in long-term memory. This concept is therefore close to that of pattern completion or of multidirectional cued recall, i.e. the ability to recognize an incomplete figure, a well-documented function of implicit memory (e.g. Toth et al. 1994). Its application to autistic production is related to the task support hypothesis first put forward by Bowler et al. (1997), in which cues perceptually identical to a part of the remembered material disproportionably aid autistics during recall. Redintegration-related mechanisms could describe savant abilities that are characterized by providing an answer to a closed question (e.g.: what day of the week was…; what is the square root of…; can you sing a C flat…), as well as bidirectional access to some calendar information, which allows the autistic savant DBC to answer with the same facility questions, such as ‘what are the months beginning by a Friday?’ and ‘what day of the week was the 30th of April, 1998?’ (Mottron et al. 2006b). In addition, with some latitude, this account may help explain the ability of savant artists to complete three-dimensional representations starting from any part of a figure, if one considers the state of the drawing at time 1 as a cue for its completion at time 2 (e.g. Mottron & Belleville 1994, fig. 2).

However, a more general concept of pattern or information completion is required in order to encompass the creative scope of savant performance, which clearly exceeds memory and the limitations of redintegration in non-autistics. In addition, autistics’ atypical perception would result in pattern or information completion occurring both at a more local level, as well as within structures much larger, than those used to demonstrate the equivalent mechanism in non-autistics. A greater independence among encoded levels of information would also be involved. For example, a non-autistic expert musician with absolute pitch is far more limited than DP, an autistic savant musician, in disembedding and reproducing (that is, completing or filling-in the pattern of) the individual notes in large chords (Pring 2008). Pattern or information completion may also act in combination with typical, conscious cognitive processes. In the case of a response to a question such as ‘is this a prime number?’, the limited concept of redintegration would be unable to account for factorization of never-encountered numbers or the detection of primes within very large numbers. It is therefore conceivable that the rapid decomposition of the target number into multiple subcomponents can return it to a state of memorized equivalence (e.g. 4×3=12) where pattern completion can occur. A similar mechanism could participate in the production of future dates, as in the case of the autistic calendar calculator Donny (Thioux et al. 2006) who exhibited a distance effect for future dates, implying the use of some kind of computational procedure.

5. Savant creativity: a different relationship to structure

Savant performance cannot be reduced to uniquely efficient rote memory skills (see Miller 1999, for a review), and encompasses not only the ability for strict recall, requiring pattern completion, but also the ability to produce creative, new material within the constraints of a previously integrated structure, i.e. the process of pattern generation. This creative, flexible, albeit structure-guided, aspect of savant productions has been clearly described (e.g. Pring 2008). It is analogous to what Miller (1999, p. 33) reported on error analyses in musical memory: ‘savants were more likely to impose structure in their renditions of musical fragments when it was absent in the original, producing renditions that, if anything, were less ‘literal’ than those of the comparison participants’. Pattern generation is also intrinsic to the account provided by Waterhouse (1988).

The question of how to produce creative results using perceptual mechanisms, including those considered low-level in non-autistics, is at the very centre of the debate on the relationship between the nature of the human factor referred to as intelligence and the specific cognitive and physiological mechanisms of savant syndrome (maths or memory, O’Connor & Hermelin 1984; rules or regularities, Hermelin & O’Connor 1986; implicit or explicit, O’Connor 1989; rhyme or reason, Nettlebeck 1999). It also echoes the questions raised by recent evidence of major discrepancies in the measurement of autistic intelligence according to the instruments used (Dawson et al. 2007).

A combination of multiple pattern completions at various scales could explain how a perceptual mechanism, apparently unable to produce novelty and abstraction in non-autistics, contributes in a unique way to autistic creativity. The atypically independent cognitive processes characteristic of autism allow for the parallel, non-strategic integration of patterns across multiple levels and scales, without information being lost owing to the automatic hierarchies governing information processing and limiting the role of perception in non-autistics.

An interest in internal structure may also explain a specific, and new, interest for domains never before encountered. For example, a savant artist newly presented with the structure of visual tones learned this technique more rapidly and proficiently than typical students (Pring et al. 1997). In addition, the initial choice of domain of so-called restricted interest demonstrates the versatility of the autistic brain, in the sense that it represents spontaneous orientation towards, and mastering of, a new domain without external prompts or instruction.

Independence of action is interpreted by neurotypical parents, teachers etc. as a “defect” or even as “disobedience” because independent learning leaves them out of, or bypasses, the social hierarchy’s control of information being filtered and transferred to “lesser humans” (social indoctrination) – especially to young children. This irrational “fear of toddlers” necessitates, for some authority figures, the abuse of “non-conforming” children. 

How many such domains are chosen would then depend on the free availability of the kinds, amounts and arrangements of information which define the structure of the domain, according to aspects of information that autistics process well. Generalization also occurs under these circumstances, for example, to materials that share with the initial material similar formal properties, i.e. those that allow ‘veridical mapping’ with the existing ability. In Pring & Hermelin (2002), a savant calendar calculator with absolute pitch displayed initial facility with basic number–letter associations, and was able to quickly learn new associations and provide novel manipulations of these letter–number correspondences.

The apparently ‘restricted’ aspects of restricted interests are at least partly related to pattern detection, in that there are positive emotions in the presence of material presenting a high level of internal structure,(it is exceedingly pleasant to indulge in this activity) and a seeking out of material related in form and structure to what has already been encountered and memorized. Limitation of generalization may also be explained by the constraints inherent in the role of similarity in pattern detection, which would prevent an extension of isomorphisms to classes of elements that are excessively dissimilar to those composing the initial form. In any case, there is no reason why autistic perceptual experts would be any less firm, diligent or enthusiastic in their specific preferences for materials and domains than their non-autistic expert counterparts. However, it must also be acknowledged that the information autistics require in order to choose and generalize any given interest is likely to be atypical in many respects (in that this may not be the information that non-autistics would require), and may not be freely or at all available. In addition, the atypical ways in which autistics and savants learn well have attracted little interest and are as yet poorly studied and understood, such that we remain ignorant as to the best ways in which to teach these individuals (Dawson et al. 2008). Therefore, a failure to provide autistics or savants with the kinds of information and opportunities from which they can learn well must also be considered as explaining apparent limitations in the interests and abilities of savant and non-savant autistics (see also Heaton 2009). Thank-you!

6. Structure, emotion and expertise

While reliable information about the earliest development or manifestations of savant abilities in an individual is very sparse, biographies of some savants suggest a sequence starting with uninstructed, sometimes apparently passive, but intent and attentive (e.g. Horwitz et al. 1965; Selfe 1977; Sacks 1995) orientation to and study of their materials of interest. In keeping with our proposal about how savants perceive and integrate patterns, materials that spontaneously attract interest may be at any scale or level within a structure, including those that appear unsuitable for the individual’s apparent developmental level. For example, Paul, a 4-year-old autistic boy (with a presumed mental age of 17 months), who was found to have outstanding literacy, exceeding that of typical 9-year olds, intently studied newspapers starting before his second birthday (Atkin & Lorch 2006). It should not be surprising that in savants, the consistent or reliable availability of structured or formatted information and materials can influence the extent of the resulting ability. For example, the types of words easily memorized by NM, proper names, in addition to being redundant in Quebec, share a highly similar structural presentation in the context where NM learned them, including phone books, obituaries and grave markers (Mottron et al. 1996, 1998). However, a fuller account of why there is the initial attraction to and preference for materials with a high degree of intrinsic organization, and for specific kinds of such structured materials in any particular individual, is necessary. (Suggest visual thinking as clue) 

Positive emotions are reported in connection with the performance of savant abilities (e.g. Selfe 1977; Sloboda et al. 1985; Miller 1989). Therefore, it is possible that a chance encounter with structured material gives birth to an autistic special interest, which then serves as the emotional anchor of the codes involved in savant abilities, associated with both positive emotions and a growing behavioural orientation towards similar patterns (Mercier et al. 2000). Brain structures involved in the processing of emotional content can be activated during attention to objects of special interest in autistics (Grelotti et al. 2005). So-called repetitive play in autism, associated with positive emotions, consists of grouping objects or information encompassing, as in the codes described above, series of similar or equivalent attributes. In addition, in our clinical experience, we observe that repetitive autistic movements are often associated with positive emotions. (And are viewed with horror by neurotypicals) 

One possibility worth further investigation would be that patterns in structured materials, in themselves, may trigger positive emotions in autism (pattern recognition contains an aesthetic component) and that arbitrary alterations to these patterns may produce negative emotionsa cognitive account of the insistence on sameness with which autistics have been characterized from the outset (Kanner 1943).

“Sameness” is a loaded social word based on ignorance of “things seen by autistics, but unseen by neurotypicals”. Its use betrays a total blindness to “content” in objects, patterns, and to the power of aesthetic comfort.

Individuals who excel in detecting, integrating and completing patterns at multiple levels and scales, as we propose is the case with savants, would have a commensurate sensitivity to anomalies within the full array of perceived similarities and regularities. (e.g. O’Connell 1974). In Hermelin & O’Connor (1990), an autistic savant (with apparently very limited language skills) known for his numerical abilities, including factorization, but who had never been asked to identify prime numbers, instantly expressed—without words—his perfect understanding of this concept when first presented with a prime number. The superior ability of autistics to detect anomalies—departures from pattern or similarity—has accordingly been reported (e.g. Plaisted et al. 1998; Baron-Cohen 2005).

I would add that autistic “bullshit detection” in social communication and behavior – lies, dishonesty, injustice and manipulation of other humans, and the rejection of these behaviors, is included under this sensitivity to anomaly, and demonstrates a highly negative reaction to “aesthetic violation of human codes” that exist prior to domestication of modern social Homo sapiens. 

Overexposure to material highly loaded with internal structure plausibly favours implicit learning and storage of information units based on their perceptual similarity, and more generally, of expertise effects. Savants benefit from expertise effects to the same extent as non-autistic experts (Miller 1999). Among expertise effects is the recognition of units at a more specific level compared with non-experts and the suppression of negative interference effects among members of the same category. Reduced interference has been demonstrated between lists of proper names in a savant memorizer (Mottron et al. 1998). Another expertise effect is the ‘frequency effect’, the relative ease with which memorization and manipulation of units, to which an individual has been massively exposed, can be accomplished (Segui et al. 1982). For example, Heavey et al. (1999) found that calendar calculators recalled more calendar-related items than controls matched for age, verbal IQ and diagnosis, but exhibited unremarkable short- or long-term recall of more general material unrelated to calendars. These two aspects of expertise would favour the emergence and the stabilization of macrounits (e.g. written code in a specific language, or set of pitches arranged by harmonic rules), which are perceptually the spatio-temporal conjunctions of recognizable patterns related by isomorphisms. Conversely, pattern detection may be unremarkable or even diminished in the case of arbitrarily presented unfamiliar material (Frith 1970).

Hence the totally “blank” state produced by neurotypical social demands to answer unimportant rhetorical questions like, “What are you wearing? It looks stupid…” and to respond with “hyper-emotional displays of excitement” when encountering a person one sees a dozen times per day at home, work, or in the hallway at school.

Identifying savant syndrome as aptitude, material availability and expertise, combined with an autistic brain characterized by EPF, is also informative on the relationship between savant syndrome and peaks of ability in non-savant autistics. Perceptual peaks are largely measured using materials with which the participant has not been trained, whereas savant syndrome encompasses the effects of a life spent pursuing the processing of specific information and materials. We therefore forward the possibility that the range and extent of autistic abilities may be revealed only following access to specific kinds, quantities and arrangements of information. However, we do not expect savant abilities to differ from non-savant autistic peaks of ability in their basic mechanisms. According to this understanding of differences between savant and non-savant autistics, the fact that not all autistics are savants is no more surprising than the fact that not all non-autistics are experts.

7. Behavioural and brain imaging support for enhanced perception in savant syndrome

The proposals in this paper lack sufficient empirical support from savant studies, but are consistent with the well-established role of enhanced perception in autistic cognitive abilities. This is evident in a large variety of tasks studied in non-savant autistics, ranging from visuospatial peaks of ability such as the hidden figure task (Manjaly et al. 2007) to high-order tasks such as the N-back task (Koshino et al. 2005). In the latter study, the authors report that whereas non-autistics exposed to series of letters that can be either linguistically or perceptually processed exhibit activation of left frontal regions, consistent with the occurrence of mandatory linguistic processing, autistics exhibit mainly extrastriate activation, consistent with their optional use of a more perceptual mechanism. The ability to engage perception in this task did not disadvantage the autistics who performed as well as their controls, and were more flexible in rapidly adjusting to different N-back conditions. Nor does the optional ability of autistics to perceive letters as images hamper their ability to comprehend sentences, a task in which a group of autistics performed dramatically faster than typical individuals (Just et al. 2004).

Similarly, hyperlexic children display ‘acute visual registration mechanisms for written language’ (Goldberg & Rothermel 1984, p. 759; see also, Cobrinik 1982), but this superior perceptual ability does not impinge on their skill in reading visually distorted words or pseudowords (Goldberg & Rothermel 1984; Atkin & Lorch 2006); and these children are not impeded, as are typical children, by the notorious complexity and difficult orthography of written English (Seymour et al. 2003). An extrastriate pattern of activation has also been observed in a 9-year-old boy with limitations in oral skills in the presence of decoding skills 6 years in advance of his chronological age (he began his interest for printed material at 13 months). He showed greater activity than reading age-matched controls in the right posterior inferior temporal sulcus, an extrastriate region belonging to the right ventral stream known to be important in visual form recognition. This area is activated in early stages of reading acquisition, but its activity disappears with age. Interestingly, these areas were activated in addition to typical left hemisphere phonological decoding systems (Turkeltaub et al. 2004), which is indicative of an important role for perception in exceptional reading ability in autistics.

Future research should explore the role of enhanced perception across the development of expertise, as well as in the entire range of exceptional abilities in savants and autistics. Particular consideration should be given to domains in which, given the opportunity, these individuals perform with proficiency, flexibility and creativity.

Yes, DO NOT try to “cram us” into what for us are “alien restrictions” on what the human brain can do. It’s cruel, and counterproductive; a huge waste of human potential, not only in what “autistics” can contribute, but in what “typical” children can accomplish and enjoy. 

 Thank-you!