Divergent Minds – Mind Field S2 (Ep 7)

published on July 9, 2020

Derek, have you ever watched Mind Fieldon YouTube?No, but I would liketo watch it, Michael OkaySo Mind Fieldhas a theme songthat I'd lovefor you to listen to

To see if you can play itfor me on the pianoI would like to listen to it,MichaelAll rightJust load this up hereOh, helloThis is a tray of brainsCow brains

Here is a sagittal sliceI prepared earlierNow, imagine thatthis is my brainJust looking at it,it would be impossible to knowwhat part does whator that different partsdid different things at allBut if you changespecific parts of your brain,

You can often affectspecific functionsSo if this was my brainthat would be pretty badI would almost certainlyhave just becomecortically bindOf course, scientists can't gocutting and poking

And stabbing people's brainsto see how it affectstheir behavior,but they can study the behaviorand abilities of peoplewhose brains are differentfrom neurotypical brains For instance, in rare cases, people whose eyes function normally

But who are blind due to damage to their visual cortex may experience the neurological phenomenon of blindsight which allows them to sense and respond to objects they cannot see Due to a brain injury, this patient

is consciously blind on his right side But while he sees nothing in his right field of vision, he's able to sense the presence and motion of an object he cannot see You're moving it up and down I am aware of a motion,

but that motion has no shape, no color, no depth, no form, no contrast Blindsight is possible because besides the visual cortex which is associated with conscious vision, there are other brain areas

that get information from the eyes unconsciously We have learned about this unconscious vision we all have because of blindsight The study of divergent mindshas revolutionizedour understanding of the brainin ways that would not have beenpossible otherwise

People who differ from the normexpose elementsof all our mindsthat we didn't even knowwere there One very special divergent mind is that of Derek ParaviciniLet's goWe're gonna count a hundred

-to find the hotel, okay?-Okay Yeah One,two,three Derek is both blind and autistic He's also a musical savant

Now for the live musicyou were promised meaning despite severe cognitive and social impairments, his musical ability is far greater than what would be considered normal And tonight, he's performing at the release party

for his latest album Derek possesses an incredible gift He's performed all over the world and has become a symbol of successfor other autistic individualsLater, we'll take a deeper look into Derek's unique mind

Thank you One hundred and fifty years ago,scientists still didn't knowif different parts of the braindid different thingsIt was only by studying peoplewith atypical minds that we discovered that there are different modules

In the brain that havedifferent functionsThe first major discoveryshowing that the brain hadthese specialized moduleswas made by a doctornamed Paul Broca in the 1800sBroca had heard of a patientwho had no problemunderstanding language,

But who struggledto produce languageThe only thing the patientcould saywas the sound "tan,"over and overHe would say tan,tan, tan, tan, tan, tan, tan,tan, tan, tan, tan, tan

When the patient died,Broca performedan autopsy on himand found thatthe patient's brainhad damage to a specific part of its left hemisphere Broca concluded that this brain region,

now called Broca's Area,must be importantfor producing speechbut notfor understanding speechThis language deficitcalled Broca's Aphasiastill affects hundredsof thousands of peoplewho get strokesin the left side of their brain

A patient with Broca's Aphasiacan talk,but strugglesto get the words out So what's your name?ScottOh, no-Sarah Scott- That's right

And how old are you?I can't- Try-I can't Another partof the brain related to speech is Wernicke's Area which is associated with language comprehension

Patients who damage this region can speak fluenty but they are unabe to understand languae or use it in a meaningful wa What were we just doingwith the iPad?Right at the momenta darn should– a darn thing

With the iPadthat we were doingLike here?I'd like my change for meand change hands for meIt was happyI would talk with DonnasometimesWe're all with them

Other people are workingwith them, themI'm very happy with themThese remarkable individualshave taught us a lotabout the neural basisof languageBut it can be trickyto infer the functionsof different brain areas

Based onlyon specific patientsThat's because damage is almostnever confined to one spotand the braincan reorganize itselfafter it's been damagedSo to get a more precise pictureof how changing the brainaffects behavior and function,

I went to UCLAto have my brain damagedBut not permanentlyI'm not gonna havea piece of my brainremoved and thrown awayInstead, I'm going to havepart of my brain tissue

Temporarilyand safely disruptedby a technology calledtranscranialmagnetic stimulationHere I goUsually I startby saying I'm glad to be here

I'm medium to be hereI'm a little anxious aboutwhat's about to happenToday, you're goingto be giving mea brain lesion,temporarilySo I should cease to be ableto produce wordsRight

That actually just soundsvery frighteningI like to be in control,especially of myselfShould I be worried? Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS for short,applies a strong magnetic pulse

to one part of the brain such as Broca's Area This briefly disrupts electric function in the part of the brain that is stimulated It's like causing temporary brain damage But as soon as the pulse is over,

functioning goes back to normal While it's not guaranteed that TMS will affect my ability to speak, Dr Iacoboni has successfully stimulated Broca's Aphasia on other test subjectsTranscranialmagnetic stimulation,

To see what happens when such–traditionof studying individuals Now it was time to have my speech disrupted But to stimulate my Broca's Area, first, we had to find it

Using an MRI scan of my brainHopefully, we'll be able to findBroca's Areaand shut me up So it's gonna feela little bit likesomebody tappingon your scalp,and you might feel

Some superficialmuscle stimulation-Uh-hmm- So this willprobably bea little bit uncomfortableIt might bea lot uncomfortableIf it becomes too much,just say the word stop,and we will stop

OkayI'm just gonna pull outthe first chapterof Pride and Prejudiceby Jane Austenand I'll juststart reading,and you guys will startstimulating my Broca's Area

"'My dear Mr Bennet,'said his lady to him one day,"'Have you heard thatNetherfield Park-"'is let at last?'-"Mr Bennet repliedthat he had not"'But it is,'returned she,"'for Mrs Longhas just been here

"'and she told meall about it""Mr Bennet made no answer"'Do you not want to knowwho has taken it?'"cried his wife impatiently"'You want to tell me and I haveno objection to hearing it'This was invitation enough"

We tried a couple of times, but my Broca's Area seemed to be playing hard to get So we repositioned the machineNew trajectoryEnterOkay, great

"'You and the girls may go,'or you may send themby themselves,'which perhapswill be better still,'for as you are as handsomeas any of them,'Mr Bingley may like youthe best of the party'When a womanhas five grown-up'"

After several more attempts, we were still unsuccessful at finding my Broca's Area and disrupting my speech"married, its solacewas visiting and news"I beat itYeah, no You cannot stop

Her from being heard While neuromapping allows us to locate the many different areas of the brain, the brain is one of the most complex organs in our body and not all brains respond to TMS in the same way TMS didn't work on me this time,

but different test subjects produce different resultsIs find out whatOkay, that's probably goodfor now TMS is currently being evaluated to treat depression and certain types of brain damage

One day, it may even be used to reduce the effects of traumatic brain injury I traveled to London to meet someone who was using his divergent mind in an extraordinary wayDerek, it's Michael

-Oh, hello, Michael-Nice to meet youI'm Derek How are you?Would you liketo come in, Michael?I'm fantasticI would love to come inYes It's an honorI wanted to find out what Derekcould teach us about all brains

So Derek, I'm doing a showcalled Mind Fieldabout psychologyDo you know psychology?I do know psychologyYour brainis different than mineWould you agree?

I would agree, Michael-It's differentthan my brain, yes-Yes It became evident very quickly that this was going to be an atypical interviewI'm sure you hearall the timeabout how spectacularyour abilities are

Were you told thateven at a young agewhen you first startedto interact with a piano?I was told at a young agewhen I first startedto interact with a piano Derek has echolalia,a condition which causes him to repeat back words

spoken to him It's his way of trying to understand the spoken wordYou can learn musicjust by listening to itI can learn musicby listening to it, Michael But while Derek may find

spoken language challenging,he has no problem communicating through music There are about seven million autistic savants worldwide with some level of savant skills, but Derek is what's known as a prodigious savant which means that his musical skills are so outstanding

that they would be considered spectacular even for highly trained neurotypical musicians There are probably fewer than a hundred prodigious savants in the whole world Derek Paravicini has a musicality that I think any performer would envy

What sort of musicdo you really love, Derek?Uh, maybepop music or-Okay-Jazz, Derek?A bit of jazz, yeah Since he was five years old, Derek has been mentored by Adam Ockelford

Through the doorWell done, Derek Adam is a music psychologist, author, and professor at the University of RoehamptonThat's your right hand,now do your left handGo on

Derek was born very premature Twenty-six weeks,which thirty-eightyears ago was very,very prematureAnd they didn'thave any equipmentin the hospital for himSo they rushed himinto the nearest hospital

That had an incubator,and Derekwasn't thought ableto survive, and yet he didHe's such a fighterBecause of the circumstancesof his birthand the impact of blindnessand learning difficulties,his brain developedin a particular kind of way

As a little boy, he wasvery fascinated by sound,not being able to seeAnd his nanny gave himthis little electric organand that was likea eureka moment for himand the beginningsof his musicprocessing ability

So things like language,things likeperhaps understandinghow people feel,these things are verydifficult for DerekAnd yet his musicis way above averageDerek's gotan amazingly quick ear,haven't you, Derek?

-I have, yes-If I go likeororHe can processan amazing- It's like automatic-YeahThat's impressive, Derek

Thank you, MichaelYeah, no, the responseto pitch that you make, Derek,is incredibly fastWe've measured the timebetween playingeven a big chord,say like this oneAnd Derek can listen and react

To an eight-note chordwithin about 04 of a second-Wow-Derek's sense of pitchis very unusual-It's also known as perfect-It is It is perfect Something like 40% of babies born premature who lose their sight have perfect pitch as opposed to

about one in ten thousandin the neurotypical population So you can see that the impact of not being able to seehas a massive effect onthe way the brain developsAnd how does autismplay into this?Well, autismis an added factor

Autism starts at very earlyin life, we know thatAnd in Derek's case,of course,when he came outof the incubatorAnd what autism tendsto do is to give childrenthis immense focuson the sheer quality of things,whether it's a sound or a–

Or a color or a scentThat's the qualitythat we all have as babies,that we experience the worldin this sheer perceptionNow most babies very quicklycome out of thatby 12, 18 monthsThey're startingto categorize things

Just to make sense of the amountof information that's coming inSo you're born,and your body is, like,consuming allof this sense data raw-Yeah- And thenit learns that's crazy We don't need to process every little detail We only need to understand what's important

or relevant, and that's enough It's calledcategorical perception,and that is a much moreefficient wayof processing information,and of coursethat's whythe brain does itBut autistic children,they hang on to those

Absolute qualitiesfor longerFor people like Derek,and since he's not onlygot those fantasticallyvivid absolute memories,he's also learnedthe rules of musicbut it's built on this–on this foundation of perceptualvividness thatwe can only grasp at

While most people would find it impossible to identify all of the individual notes in a 10- or 20-note chord, Derek is able to do this with ease, which means he can decipher more notes than he can play at once with two hands

So we could do thatIf IActually, I have–I have hands-We could combine-Yes, yes, yeahSo– right, so if you play thosetwo notes with that hand- Yup-And those two with that handAnd we'll count for it, okay?One, two, three, four

-There you are- What wasall the fiddling? Well, the fiddlingwas to make it–because he couldn't reach themall at the same time- Right- So his–he was splitting them up He's just playing–but they were all–they were all in thereHe just couldn't all playthem at once

But as amazing as his musical ear is, Derek's cognitive abilities are less than rudimentary Derek, should we dosome more chords? We'll do somemore chords, Adam-So can you play this for me?- Yes, AdamReady?

Good And do you know how manynotes there are, Derek?- I'm not sure- Have a guessHow many do you think?-Is it one?- Yeah,a bit more than one-So there's one-One, two, three,four, five, six

-Six, weren't there? Right- There's six, Adam GoodNow try this one then, DerekReady and Is it one note, Adam? No, there are fiveOne, two, three, four, fiveOne, two, three, four, five

It is one, two, three,four, five, Adam Tell me more about how limitedDerek's everyday abilities areDerek findsalmost everythingthat you or I do withoutthinking really difficultSo self-care,things like getting dressed,

Getting washed in the morningare tricky for himSo all those thingsthat we take for granted,he finds really difficult- Derek?- Yes? We'll haveto clean your mouth Could you cleanmy mouth now, Cynthia?

YesCan you come to the sink? I can cometo the sink And in fact, 38 years on, we're saying"Well, does it reallymatter if Derek"can't put his sockson himself?You know,there are other things in life"

And– and yet whenhe touches the piano,everything's reversedSo things that we would findinconceivably difficult,Derek does it as easyas breathingAnd if you ask him,"Derek, how'd you do that?"he has no idea,

Any more than youor I understandhow we breatheor how we speak or-Yeah-It's purely intuitive In addition to entertaining peoplewith his remarkable abilities, Derek offers valuable insight

to scientists who study the mindWhat do you think Derekis helping us learnabout this thingin our head?I think whatDerek's example tells usis the almost infinitecapacity of the human brainto not only survive

But thrive in incrediblydifficult circumstancesAnd Derek's potentialreally was no differentfrom anyone else'sThere's no one in his familywho were particularly musicalSo in a sense, you could saythat we all haveDerek's potentialwhen we're born

But fortunately, of course,we don't have his disadvantagesand what gave Derekhis massive advantageis at the costof his disadvantagesAutism stillisn't well understood One of the many theories for the causeof autistic people's heightened sensory awareness

Is that it's at least partially due to an abnormalityin the brain's left hemisphere, permitting a vast amount of sensory details to enter the brain's awarenessNeurotypical brains may receive all the same sensory detailsbut block them from awareness

In fact, some psychologistshave even proposedthat all of ushave savant skillslying dormant in our brainsAnd they may be on to something,because in extraordinarilyrare cases,people can actually acquiresavant skills

A very small number of peoplehave what is calledAcquired Savant SyndromeThese are people who sufferedsome sort of brain damageas adults and their brain damageactually unlocked skillsand abilitiesthat weren't there before

Jason Padgett is one such acquired savant After a brain injury left him with damage to his visual cortex, Jason started seeing precise geometric patterns in everything around him, which led to an intuitive perception of math

and physics that he never had beforeHow did you geta brain injury?So I was at a karaoke bar,and as we left,these two guysthat were in there singingattacked me from behindThey smashed mein the back of the head

Well, I just heardthis deep thud,saw a littlepuff of white light,which I later found outwas my brainbouncing on the insideof my skullI didn't know where I was,how I got there,why I was being attacked

So now youhave Akinetopsia,meaning you seethe world now in frames-What does that mean?-In discreet picture framesWhen I say discreetly,I mean seeing one pictureand another pictureSo imagine like anybodywatching TV right now,they can hit pause

And pause again and seethe picture frameby frame by frameIt's just like that,but in real timeIt also makes everything lookslightly pixelatedSo boundaries of objectsdon't look curvedlike smooth curves anymore

They look likethey have these tinylittle straight line edgesAre you seeing methat way right now?Yes So like,if you're not moving,it's more like a pictureon a picture on a picture,so it's not nearlyas profound,

But when something moveslike this,then it's much more profoundSo after the injury,you have all theseperceptual changesWhat makes you decidethat you needto start drawing?So at the time,I had no way to describe

What I was seeingin any termsexcept for to draw itI started tryingto define thingswith trianglesand straight linesGeometry is– to meis the one thing everything has,even nothingEmpty space is geometry

It just seemed obviousI mean, the universeis math for me Are these thoughts that you would've had before the injury?No, not at allNever even contemplatedthis type of stuff and nowI can't stop thinking about itand I wound up goingto the mall

So I'm sitting thereeating this sandwichand I'm drawing,and this guy next to me,he says he's a physicistAnd he goes,"It looks like you're doingsome sort of math there"And I started telling him,you know, my ideasAnd he says "It sounds to melike you're trying to describe

Space, time, and limits"And things thatI didn't understandwhat he was talking aboutHe goes, "But you're doing itin layman terms"and I've never heard anybodytry to do that before"It turns outit was integralsWhat I was doingwas integrals and calculus

You're now pursuingan education in math?- Yes-So would you say thatyou're still the same personwho existedbefore the injury,or did you becomea different individual?I feel like I'vehad two different lives

Before the injury, I didn't haveany background in mathI didn't even have algebraI didn't even knowthat you could graph a lineAll I did was partyand chase girlsIt was a very shallow,you know,almost blissfullyignorant life

Do you thinkthat these abilitieswere always in your brainand got somehowunlocked by the injury,or did the injurygive you something new?I 100% believe thatwe all have this in usYou know, people thinkthat I got hit in the head

And just magicallygot good at mathbut a lot of itis your brain gets damagedand you're forced to seethe world differently,and by seeing the worlddifferently,it makes you thinkdifferently We can learnso much from divergent minds,

whether it would be someone like Jason who developed his divergent mind from an accident as an adultHello, Ashleigh Hello, Derek How are you?

or someone like Derek, whose divergence came from complications at birth One of Derek'sgreat strengths is workingwith other disabled peopleand disabled childrenThey love him

Beautiful, AshleighWell doneDerek is a hero,particularly amongstthe learning disabledFor anyone with severelearning difficulties,to have a public life,to travelall over the world,

To meet hundreds of people,to have acclaimfrom millions of peopleon the internet is–he's uniquein that perspectiveHe's a trailblazer,but we should never forgetthat he's part of a populationthat's much bigger

And tends to be hidden awayfrom societyDerek raisesimportant questionsabout the diversity of mindsAutistic mindslike all divergent mindsare not alien;they're human mindsand they provide windowsinto how we all think,

Feel, and behaveA complete brain scienceshould be able to accountfor all kindsof minds and brainsAs long as some mindsremain a mystery,so too will all mindsAnd as always,thanks for watching

Improv!Here we go

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