Mind Over Matter

Scott Adams is the man behind Dilbert Comics–one of my favorites. 18 months ago he lost his conversational speech to a rare condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Recently he reported having miraculously regained his speech. The strange thing about this condition–and how the mind works–is that he could sing and give professional speeches but he could not carry out casual conversations since different types of speech are processed in different regions of the brain and follow different neural routes.

Interestingly, he recovered his speech by talking in rhymes and trying to blur the line between rhymes and regular speech. How does the mind know what rhymes and what doesn’t? What is the difference between “Yellow” and “Yellow Fellow”?

Neural networks are a complex collection of neurons which talk to each other through chemical signals generated from electrical impulses within the brain. Like a current running through the wire, information flows across the neural network through a series of chain reactions much like a ballet, where each performer responds to a cue from another performer and the chain reaction of responses accomplishes an act. So a particular neural mapping is the path followed by a chain reaction, however, if a certain mapping is damaged then the physiological function accomplished by that mapping is lost. In lab rats for example you could tap a certain part of their split open brain and cause their leg to move. However, if that part is damaged altogether it might so happen that they would not be able to move their legs anymore. In Scott’s case it was conversational speech he had lost. However, the chain reaction required for rhymes follows a slightly different path and that neural mapping was still intact.

One can only speculate on how things work but it appears that Scott conditioned his mind to reinforce the functioning neural maps responsible for rhymes and manipulated them in slight iterations (by using rhymes to lean toward conversational speech) to find a new mapping to accomplish the the same function of conversational speech. It’s almost as if when the mind is searching within itself for a rhyme, it ends up at a different state in the neural network map from where it then proceeds to deliver that rhyme as speech through a still functional mapping.

So going forward if you can land your mind in that state by consciously making an effort to concoct a rhyme (or conditioning your mind so that subconsciously you always consider a rhyme) you can then proceed from there to deliver regular speech instead of the rhyme–akin to taking a detour and making that detour your regular route.

Gives a whole new meaning to the simple mind over matter issue.

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