Cerebral Asymmetry / Asperger Brain Differences

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society / Biological sciences

The evolution and genetics of cerebral asymmetry


Michael C Corballis

Graphic Novels for Visual Thinkers / Educating Aspergers

Support a new Middle School project in New York! (from a site offering funding for teacher proposals)

Graphic Novels Motivate Readers With Asperger Syndrome

My students need a library of graphic novels to motivate readers because these books provide the visual cues kids with Asperger and autism need to truly understand characters.


My ten students are middle-schoolers who have Asperger Syndrome.

Students in my classroom have difficulty understanding people, so it’s not surprising that they also struggle to infer characters’ motives and purpose in books. Nonfiction, full of facts? No problem! But fiction? The majority of my students with Asperger Syndrome could leave it completely.

Vintage “graphic novels” were aimed at boys who didn’t like to read.

They like to follow rules – but they make a lot of their own. They like to be right, so they hate to admit when they don’t know something, and they avoid things that are difficult. Tough concepts, like characterization, theme and tone in a novel, make them feel uncomfortable – so they’d rather not read fiction. And, as educators know, the only thing that really improves reading once the school day ends, is more reading. Then I found the novel, The Inventions of Hugo Cabret. We only have one copy – I borrowed it from our library, and they want it back! But the students were riveted. Not only were they fascinated by the format of the book – half graphic novel, half traditional – but they understood Hugo’s emotions, portrayed as they were with matching drawings, moving incrementally forward! Experiments with other graphic novels are also proving successful, but we don’t have a lot of them to go around.

I am requesting class sets of popular graphic novels for my self-contained English class of students with Asperger Syndrome (and High-Functioning Autism.) The novels I request will be taught in the same manner as traditional literature, and I will compare each work with a traditional novel, which we will also read. This will help my students be on equal footing with their peers, because they will have more insight into concepts about characterization (as well as plot, theme, tone, etc.) when they rejoin their peers in high school reading more traditional works. I hope that, ultimately, these graphic novels lead them to enjoy literature in a way that many people without autism do – for the love of the story and the characters we would otherwise not know.

I was a MAD Magazine addict and a sucker for cats and rabbits dressed in charming clothing.

Please help me bridge the “understanding gap” for my students, who are so smart and fun and have so much potential. Help them understand literature by opening the door, using pictures with the text, and engendering a level of understanding that their disability would otherwise prevents them from obtaining. Thank you so much for reading my proposal.

Remember when all childhood schoolbooks had plenty of beautiful illustrations – stylized but realistic (not infantilized and deformed neotenic blobs) FOR ALL CHILDREN? Maybe our “old-fashioned” predecessors in publishing and education knew a lot more than we do about visual thinking being basic to the human ability to learn…

What “The World” Sounds like to (Many) Asperger People

The woman who made this audio track is correct! I could not bear to listen longer than a few seconds. If you can listen to this COMFORTABLY, you will likely not be able to understand what an Asperger person goes through daily, when trapped in social typical environments.

One particular point: It’s nearly impossible to pay attention to and to understand what a person is saying when “background noise” is not in the background! It’s competing with the person speaking; the impulse is to get away from the discordant “sounds” – the effect is like being tortured. Truly!


Neurotypical Perception Defects / Inferred Images, Social Filters

Humans rely more on ‘inferred’ visual objects than ‘real’ ones

May 16, 2017
Humans treat ‘inferred’ visual objects generated by the brain as more reliable than external images from the real world, according to new research.
“In such situations with the blind spot, the brain ‘fills in’ the missing information from its surroundings, resulting in no apparent difference in what we see,” says senior author Professor Peter König, from the University of Osnabrück’s Institute of Cognitive Science. “While this fill-in is normally accurate enough, it is mostly unreliable because no actual information from the real world ever reaches the brain. We wanted to find out if we typically handle this filled-in information differently to real, direct sensory information, or whether we treat it as equal.”

Visual thinkers are all too aware of this reality deficit in the “typical” perception of reality; I can’t say that the mechanism described here is the “cause” of discrepancies between “typical” perception and the greatly enhanced perception of visually-oriented brains, but it does point out that the typical human brain has evolved “short cuts” that result in varying accuracy in the  perception of the environment. This deficit, combined with de facto “magical-social” thinking has dire consequences for survival.


Article in Science Daily: https://sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170516080752.htm

Original Paper with figures, charts: 10.7554/eLife.21761

Posts on inattentional blindness: https://aspergerhuman.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/visual-thinking-inattentional-blindness/


Dogs Prefer People Who Have the Answers / Too good to pass up

by Stanley Coren Ph.D., F.R.S.C. / The Psychologist from British Columbia who holds down “Canine Corner” at Psychology Today.

Posted Apr 26, 2017

Dogs Prefer Advice From People Who Actually Have the Answers

Dogs try to “read your mind” to see if you have the information that they need.

We are learning that in many ways dogs are much more like people then we thought they were. Consider the following very human situation: A woman is told, “If you are holding any mutual funds, you should liquidate them soon, because a crash is coming in the mutual fund market.” How likely is she to follow this advice if the person speaking to her is her hairdresser? Would she be more likely to take the suggested action if the person were a professional financial advisor?

Research is now accumulating which shows that dogs, like people, tend to evaluate just how much knowledge they think that a person has before accepting their guidance and instructions. Dogs are not simply four-footed robots that can be programmed to respond to instructions regardless of the state of affairs. If they think that a person is knowledgeable, at least when it comes to information about things which are important to them, they are more likely to accept commands from that individual. This was elegantly demonstrated in a series of experiments conducted by Michelle Maginnity and Randolph Grace of the Department of Psychology at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.

They started off by capitalizing on the fact that dogs respond to human gestures, such as pointing. They trained a set of 16 dogs so that they knew that if they went to a container that the researcher pointed to, the researcher would open that container and give them the treat inside of it. After a while, the dog would reliably go to any one of four containers that was pointed to.

Next they erected a low screen which would hide the food containers, but not the upper body of anyone behind it. The dog and its owner sat facing the screen and watched while either of two researchers would obviously bend down and fuss with each of the containers, although the dog could not see them actually manipulating the containers, since their view was blocked by the screen. The researchers would then drop the screen and point to the container with the food.

Here is where things began to get interesting: In the actual experimental test, there are two researchers in the room. One is sent out of the room so that they can’t see where the food is being placed, while the other bends down behind the screen and puts the food treat in one of the containers. The first experimenter is then called back, the screen is dropped, and each of the two experimenters points to a different one of four food containers. Remember that the dog has seen one of these two women leave the room during the time when the food was hidden, and that, of course, means that that woman actually doesn’t have any knowledge as to where the treat is. So when the woman who was absent points to a container, it is likely that she is guessing, while the other experimenter should obviously have the information about where the food is. If the dog is sensible, it should respond to the instruction from the woman who knows. And, it turns out the dogs are sensible: Even though the woman playing the role of the “Knower” and the “Guesser” are randomly changed from trial to trial, in most instances the dog chooses to go to the container indicated by the person who knows.

These investigators followed up by making the situation much more subtle: They set up a situation so that there were three experimenters behind the screen — two women and a man in the middle. While the dog watched, he saw the man bend over and fiddle around with the food containers behind the screen, ultimately placing the food treat in one of them. While he did this one of the women sat with her hands over her eyes, so that she obviously could not see which container had the bait. The second woman also had her hands on her face, but her hands did not cover her eyes, which meant that she could still look down and see where the man had placed the food. So the setup looked much like this:

Once again, the screen was lowered, and each of the women pointed to a different container. Remember: One of these people could not see the placement of the food, and the other could. So whose pointing instruction did the dog respond to? Once again, the dogs acted in a reasonable manner and evaluated the advice of the woman who had the information as being more valuable, and so they ended up choosing the correct container most of the time.

Finally, to see whether dogs will pick up really subtle cues about who has the information they need, the researchers ran a third experiment. This one was set up like the previous test, with the two women and the man who placed the food between them. Only now, both of the women kept their hands in their laps while one container was being baited. There was a difference in the behavior of each of them, as well: The “Knower” attentively watched while the food was being placed, but the “Guesser” looked up at the ceiling, away from the food containers and the dog. As before, when the screen was dropped, the woman who actually knew where the treat was, and the one who was guessing, each pointed to different containers. Once again, the dogs evaluated the state of knowledge of both women and chose significantly more often to follow the advice of the one who knew.

Psychologists believe that these results are really important. They show that dogs have what is called a theory of mind. You shouldn’t confuse this with the idea that dogs have an idea as to how the brain works; theory of mind refers to an individual’s ability to interpret what another individual might be seeing, feeling, and knowing. It involves understanding that others might have a different perspective, a different amount of knowledge, and even different motives and emotional states. Think of it as a sort of mind-reading ability, since it allows us to interpret what is going on in another person’s mind.

Remember: Psychology “experts” claim that ASD Asperger people HAVE NO THEORY OF MIND. That means that if we were dogs, we would be developmentally defective dogs!

In humans, theory of mind develops slowly. Although we have some signs that two-year-olds begin to develop this kind of perspective on behavior, it is not until a child is nearly 4 before he can reliably perform the same task that we see these dogs doing. Most other animals are not very good at this at all: Although chimpanzees and Capuchin monkeys can eventually learn to trust an individual who knows the answer more than one who does not, it requires many learning trials and is not very stable.

What a relief! At least we qualify as “normal” mammals or even primates!

It appears that there is something special about dogs. They may have evolved, or perhaps we should say “co-evolved,” to live cooperatively with human beings. If one species depends so much upon interactions with another species, a little bit of “mind reading” might help a lot. So it was really adaptive for dogs to evolve in a way in which they could “take our perspective,” and also learn which information we might reliably have and which we might not.

Based on this set of data, the bottom line seems to be that if you don’t know, and your dog knows that you don’t know, you probably shouldn’t be giving him instructions or advice, since he is likely not to respond to you in that situation.

Yes; it’s tragic: I told my dog to hang on to her mutual funds, but luckily her financial advisor told her to sell, and she did. Now she doesn’t trust me at all – especially since I keep hiding her food in new places, just to drive her crazy.

“Where’s dinner?” I ask her. She always points to the cabinet where I usually store it. “Uh -oh! That’s wrong! It’s in the fridge,” I tell her, but when I open the door it’s not there. (It magically appears from behind my back)

After a few repetitions, she actually thinks it’s in the fridge, where, of course it isn’t. One day, it magically reappears in the original cabinet. The next time I ask, “Where’s dinner?” she just stares at me. (I really did this – kept it up for some weeks until one day, she started talking – I’m not kidding.

Now she stands in front of me and makes the most un-dog-like vocalizations I’ve ever heard. “Wordlike” sounds accompanied by frantic body movements and followed by irate aggressive staring. It seems as if she’s trying to imitate my voice. No kidding! I think I’ve driven her to madness.

So now, we have a “verbal exchange” – (yes, I talk back by imitating her “words” which gets her agitated, if not excited) and then, I feed her. It’s getting really obnoxious; she “does her routine” sometimes, when she really doesn’t want anything, just to torment me. With dogs, Payback’s a Bitch…



Where has this guy been all my life?


Gruden’s QB Camp Returns for Eighth Season on ESPN


Posted on February 23, 2017

Jon Gruden’s QB Camp series, a signature element of ESPN’s annual pre-NFL Draft coverage, returns for its eighth year this spring. In all, 50 quarterbacks – including 15 current NFL starters – have participated in the series. Notable players include Super Bowl champion Russell Wilson, former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton, two-time Pro Bowler Derek Carr and 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott, who was mentored by Gruden just a year ago.

In the coming weeks, Gruden will welcome seven quarterbacks to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando where he’ll spend time with each prospect in the film room and on the field. Excerpts of the visits will be featured the same day on SportsCenter, NFL Live and other shows.

Two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson, who led Clemson to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship, headlines this year’s QB Camp class. Watson is the most decorated college player the past two seasons, winning both the Dave O’Brien Award and Manning Award twice (2015 and 2016), as well as the 2016 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.

Watson and fellow QB Camp participant Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina are both projected as first-round picks by ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay in their latest NFL Mock 2.0 projections.

In all, the 2017 Gruden’s QB Camp class includes:

  • Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee)
  • Brad Kaaya (Miami, Fla.)
  • DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame)
  • Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)
  • Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh)
  • Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina)
  • Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

ESPN’s Super Bowl-winning coach and Monday Night Football analyst discusses each of the quarterbacks who will be part of his eighth Gruden’s QB Camp:

On Dobbs: “Dobbs is a dual threat. He’s from a no-huddle offense. He can really create plays with his legs. He played some of his best football when the team was behind and when the game was on the line. He brought the Volunteers back to win from double-digit deficits more than any guy in the country. He’s a great kid, very intelligent, and I think he caught peoples’ attention at the Senior Bowl.”

On Kaaya: “Kaaya is interesting. The Hurricanes combine the I-formation with the college spread system, and he’s an accurate passer. He got hit a lot this year, but when he has protection, he can throw the football. He relies on timing and he’s going to be a pocket-passer for someone who really wants to accentuate that.”

On Kizer: “Kizer is an underclassman like a lot of these guys. He has perhaps the biggest arm in this draft. He can really throw the football. Notre Dame had a difficult season and I am a little bit surprised that Kizer is coming out, but he can do some damage with his arm and he has some athleticism.”

On Mahomes: “Another underclassman, Mahomes is the guy who has really popped off the film for me. He’s very athletic – a baseball player. They throw it every single play at Texas Tech. He can get rid of the ball from awkward positions with a lot on it. He’s a gunslinger.”

On Peterman: “Peterman is a transfer from Tennessee. Coach (Pat) Narduzzi at Pitt recruited Kirk Cousins to Michigan State and I heard he compares Peterman to Cousins. He’s a pocket-passer. They run a very creative offense at Pitt and this is the one guy who beat Clemson – and they did it on the road. He’s one of the most improved quarterbacks in the country this year.”

On Trubisky: “Trubisky is a lot more athletic than people think. He can run for first downs and touchdowns. If you look at him on tape, he displays some real courage. He’s stay in the pocket under intense fire and throws strikes. I just wish I had more film of him. He’s had just one year of work, but I am impressed with him.”

On Watson: “Watson has the best resume of anyone. He has an unbelievable amount of production and an impressive record – 32 wins in three years as a starter. He shredded some of the best teams in the country. He’s a dual threat with loads of intangibles. I am really looking forward to working with him to see how he spins it.” 

On the overall 2017 QB Camp class: “There’s some unknowns this year, but this class starts with Deshaun Watson. His body of work is as impressive as any quarterback we’ve had come through QB Camp. I got the chance to see him live and I think he has a ton of ability. There are some underclassmen coming out who have questions that need to be answered. That’s why this process is exciting. But three or four years from now, I expect people will be saying this is a pretty good quarterback class.”

New episodes of Gruden’s QB Camp begin Tuesday, April 11 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) with additional shows airing across multiple ESPN networks and ABC leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, including the Best of Gruden’s QB Camp on Thursday, April 13 (7 p.m., ESPN). (Note: The entire Gruden’s QB Camp TV schedule will be released later this month and available on ESPN Media Zone.) In addition, all past QB Camp shows will be available via ESPN Classic Video on Demand from April through June.

I LOVE this show! How did it take me 8 years to discover that it exists? I learned so much in one episode!