Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Zisk, Alyssa Hillary. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Zisk, A. H. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Alyssa Reads Neurotechnology and Direct Brain Communication, Part 2

Still reading this book:
Farisco, M., & Evers, K. (Eds.). (2016). Neurotechnology and direct brain communication: New insights and responsibilities concerning speechless but communicative subjects. Routledge.
Part 1 was here, with the introduction and first chapter.

Now reading chapter 2:
Demetriou, A., Spanoudis, G., & Shayer, M. (2016). Mapping mind-brain development. In Farisco, M., & Evers, K. (Eds.) Neurotechnology and Direct Brain Communication: New insights and responsibilities concerning speechless but communicative subjects, 21-39.

The chapter starts off with a theory for how the mind is set up. (It's a theory I've seen before.) Thought is broadly considered as categorical, spatial, quantitative, causal, or social. Our perceptual systems are generally set up in ways that support these kinds of thought and connection-making. There's the idea that abstraction notes similarities between things, alignment actually sticks stuff together by those similarities, and then cognizance stores the stuck together stuff as its own thing. It seems like a reasonable way of thinking about how stuff works. Then they start talking about how it develops, with episodic representation, then mental representation, then rule-based representation, and then principle-based representation. 

And I'm pretty sure they're talking about how everything develops in neurotypical people, though they don't specify that. I think it would be better if people talking about neurotypical psychology and neurology explicitly said they were doing so, rather than just saying they were talking about people. For example, there's discussion of visual circuits, and aphantasiacs don't do the visual things the same way y'all think people do visual stuff. And kind of like language development people tend to assume we start at one word and build up, while some people start at phrases and break down, then remix, then build up on occasions where remixing isn't enough.

Or there's two main circuits that do verbal working memory type things, one for rehearsal (getting ready to say a thing, I guess) and one for “nonarticulatory maintenance of phonological information” (p. 29). What does this mean for AAC users? Or even neurotypicals on social media or otherwise using typed language for real-time communication? What does this mean for the students in my online classroom at AoPS? (And no, I can neither assume that my students are neurotypical nor can I assume that they're neurodivergent. I have no idea.) I wish I knew what their citation was for these two verbal working memory networks. Rehearsal is supposed to be left-lateralized (in righties or in everyone? They didn't say!) premotor-parietal, for which it would make sense to me that we'd just get premotor areas related to whatever body part is being used to communicate instead of related to the mouth, but use a similar circuit regardless of communication medium. Verbal maintenance is supposed to be bilateral, anterior-prefrontal to inferior parietal.

I wonder how the rehearsal areas might activate when using, say, a P300 speller. Would activation depend on whether the current stimulus is for the desired letter or not? How does the slower speed of typing affect the activation of and demands on working memory? Is this even the most relevant working memory circuit for P300 use? (I know working memory is relevant, but it could be a visual working memory circuit we need to care about, or one of the verbal ones, or all the parts that are in either, or only the parts that are in both. I dunno!)

Oh, come on, now we get to see theory of mind come up, where a mentalizing network is suggested to be needed to serve awareness of mental states, and that this (with alerting and orienting attention?) is key to consciousness. If I never see theory of mind theory again, it will be too soon. (I say shortly after turning in revisions to a chapter that examined the effects of of theory of mind on interpretation of autistic autobiographical narratives, which required me to deal with quite a bit of theory of mind nonsense. Why do I do this to myself?) There's apparently been research into the neuroanatomical (phrenological?) and neurochemical bases of this theory of mind thing, too. Because they cite
Abu-Akel, A., & Shamay-Tsoory, S. (2011). Neuroanatomical and neurochemical bases of theory of mind. Neuropsychologia, 49(11), 2971-2984. 
Which is apparently a well-cited article, per my looking it up. Why.

How is it “obvious” that mentalizing ability and executive control would be served by the same systems? Is it only obvious that these use the same systems in neurotypicals? Or is it therefore paradoxical to be decent at guessing how others would feel in a given situation, while also having pretty terrible executive functioning. Am I a paradox? I think it'd be interesting to be a paradox.

If salience/shifting networks are already in place in some form before birth, like Hoff et al seems to suggest, and salience networks function differently between autistic people and neurotypical people, is this one of the places we can point to neurodevelopmental differences even before birth? (I'm kind of betting it is, even if it's not one we've checked yet. There are a lot of things we don't know yet about brain networks.) Hoff et al is:
Hoff, G. E., Van Den Heuvel, M., Benders, M. J., Kersbergen, K. J., & de Vries, L. S. (2013). On development of functional brain connectivity in the young brain. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 7, 650.
I run into an autism/connectivity paper on the first page when trying to find Hoff, so bookmarking that too:
Belmonte, M. K., Allen, G., Beckel-Mitchener, A., Boulanger, L. M., Carper, R. A., & Webb, S. J. (2004). Autism and abnormal development of brain connectivity. Journal of Neuroscience, 24(42), 9228-9231.
The introduction of that paper already annoys me with the prevention/remediation nonsense, though I appreciate how it called autism research disconnected. I kind of already knew that whenever I deal with autism-related literature, I need to grab what useful bits I can while wading through messes.  

Or even the ages of transitions between levels of abstraction in thought. There's some range in typical development, but that doesn't mean that neurodivergent people will fall inside those ranges. (And we may well build up the ability to do things at one level that y'all wouldn't have, because the "next" level grants it easily and you get there by the time you need it.)

Oh, and while we can point to networks that are active in certain functions, there's no cognitive functions whose corresponding networks are totally known, even in the totally neurotypical. No, I don't think I run all the same networks for everything that a neurotypical person does. There's already some autism-related evidence that I don't, and there's starting to be some aphantasia-related evidence that I don't, too. Please, please specify when you're talking about neurotypical networks and structures. 

Part 3 is/will be here.

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