Neurodiversity

A Key Concept for Neurodiversity: Niche Construction
When I suggest that neurodiverse individuals, such as those with autism or ADHD, might have been labeled gifted in other times and in other cultures, the quick retort is: “Well, we don’t live in other times or cultures. People have to adapt to the culture they’re in right now.” So what does the person who is a round peg have to do to fit into a square hole? Answer: Shave off enough of its wood to fit, uncomfortably, usually, into the square hole. That’s one solution. The other solution is to round off some of the square hole so that the round peg can stay a round peg and still fit in. That’s niche construction. In other words, I’m saying that people with neurodiverse brains can create special niches for themselves where they can be their unique selves. An example would be a person with ADHD in a job that requires novelty, thrills, and creativity. Instead of suffering in a 9 to 5 desk job (an example of poor niche construction), they create a career for themselves that allows them to be who they are. Another example: a person on the autistic spectrum who has keen mathematical skill working as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley, instead of wasting away in a group home somewhere. Niche construction is what animals have done for eons: the bird building a nest, the beaver building a dam. They’re modifying the environment to suit their unique needs. We need to make niche construction a key tool in improving the lives of individuals with autism, learning disabilities, ADHD, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and other neurological conditions. Yes, there will always be the need to adapt to the way the world is, and there are medications, behavior modification programs, and other adaptational programs that can help accomplish this. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we can also help neurodiverse individuals be who they are and still fit in.
(Via Neurodiversity – The Book)

Temple Grandin spoke brilliantly on that theme at TED. Check this out:

Slowness

Slowness, writing and comprehension | Pop Wuping
Through-out grade school I was repeatedly taught to write notes on whatever I was reading and to rewrite any other notes as a means to comprehend the material I was studying. I think I read somewhere since, that writing involves higher level cognitive processes that aid in memory (I don’t have time to find the source). Even my Mandarin teacher forced me to write ad nauseam pinyin, and later characters, on the white board as a means to remember and to help keep me warm in winter.

And ends with:

Online reading is part of this as are newer formats like RSS. We try to ‘see’ as much data as possible. Notice how much of the productivity software developed lately is about ‘tasks’ and concerns small snippets of text?

What effects does this have on the ability to concentrate? When I told a doctor I was having trouble focusing he advised to read real books slowly.

I wonder if there is anyway to actually slow down the process and still use digital tools? I’m not convinced I ever truly read anything onscreen as well as in a book. It’s more scanning and collecting.

Slow is the way to go.
The brain wants pleasure and excitement, and it gets more of that from scanning and letting many snippets wash over the receptors… learning something by heart or reading a long text or writing by hand is a drag, but very good for you. Last year the BBC had an article about brain development in kids and that it was discovered that learning to remember long poems by heart actually triggered important devepment in little minds.

We humans are incredibly short-sighted, aren’t we.

Slow is the way to go.

There is also Slowfood.

Zen Brain

Upaya Institute | Zen Center: ZEN BRAIN, SELFLESS INSIGHT
Instructors: James Austin, M.D., Roshi Joan Halifax, Al Kaszniak, Ph.D., Neil Theise, M.D., Jason Buhle

Description: Scientific interest in the relationships between Buddhism and neuroscience has dramatically increased, accompanied by the publication of both theoretical proposals and new laboratory investigations relating Buddhist practice to the brain. In this retreat/seminar, Roshi and four scientists who have contributed to this growing field of research and are each long-term Zen practitioners, will share with participants perspectives on what has been learned about Zen practice and the brain, how this research is relevant for practice, and how experienced practitioners can help sharpen the research questions being asked. During the retreat, discussion and presentations are integrated with Zazen practice.

January 16-20, 2008, at Upaya in Santa Fe. Click here for a PDF with more info.

Brain Activity

Brain Activity Differs For Creative And Noncreative Thinkers
A new study led by John Kounios, professor of Psychology at Drexel University and Mark Jung-Beeman of Northwestern University answers these questions by comparing the brain activity of creative and noncreative problem solvers. The study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, reveals a distinct pattern of brain activity, even at rest, in people who tend to solve problems with a sudden creative insight — an “Aha! Moment” – compared to people who tend to solve problems more methodically.

This program on the “Zen Brain” at Upaya looks very interesting.

Fritz Files – conclusion

Fritz
Recording with Fritz was memorable! Musicians almost never record without headphones. There are many reasons to use headphones when recording a group. Some instruments are louder and it is hard to hear the soft instruments without headphones. Distances between musicians – necessary to balance the loudness of different instruments for recording purposes – can result in delays that make it much harder to achieve a serious groove. Our brain computes the direction of sound using the delay that is produced by the distance between our ears. In other words a sound originating from the left side will take milliseconds longer to reach the right ear. That allows the brain to identify the location of the sound. If the musicians sit more than a few feet apart the soundwaves may take several milliseconds to reach the ears and the delay will make it difficult to play in time. Luckily this is the hardest grooving band I have ever had and we were able to mentally compensate for the distances.

Taking a walk on Tuesday afternoon, after recording for several hours, I noticed that my mind was hyper-sensitive to the location of sounds. During recording sessions – and on stage while performing – my brain enters a different state, where pitch and time become enlarged. It’s like experiencing an aural version of slow-motion. In this state the smallest change in pitch or rhythm becomes very obvious. Working with Fritz and recording without headphones my mind became really sensitized to the location of sounds. And during my walk I kept noticing the location of sounds around me in such clear detail! A bird flapping his wings, a plane overhead, birds singing, the wind in the leaves, a truck in the distance… I mentioned this to he others yesterday and they all had the same experience.

We recorded one song with my old and slightly noisy video-camera in the studio room. Stevo will help me match up Fritz’s audio with the video we shot. That will make it possible to watch our performance in the studio while hearing exactly what Fritz heard – if you listen with headphones. You will see me circling Fritz at one point – not an easy feat to play guitar while moving around if you don’t use a strap – and Davo moving around while playing shaker. I will announce when the video will be available for your viewing/listening pleasure.

For some recordings we moved quite a bit. Sometimes Stevo and I would both be moving around, to balance softer and louder playing and to create some interesting aural movement. We decided against doing any overdubs or edits and hope to present the album in our ListeningLounge – now also accessible from listeninglounge.org – very soon.