Neuron Culture

 

TimHoward

A few days ago Jonah Lehrer put up a lovely post about stuttering and Tourette’s syndrome. He looks at stuttering, Updike, Kanye  – and a couple papers suggesting that many people with Tourette’s (and by extension, I suppose, perhaps stuttering) develop

a compensatory change … whereby the chronic suppression of tics results in a generalized suppression of reflexive behavior in favor of increased cognitive control.” In other words, the struggle makes us stronger.

Jonah chose his studies well; you should read his (fairly brief) post to see how they that reveal this apparently increased cognitive control, and for the other pleasure the post delivers.

Meanwhile, I was struck — as was one of Jonah’s readers — by how these compensatory mechanisms echoed the upside-to-the-downside dynamics that I looked at in my article on the orchid or sensitivity hypothesis. That hypothesis asserts that certain gene variants that put us at risk for mood or behavioral issues such as depression, ADHD, or antisocial behavior can have upsides if a person’s experience and other assets are favorable. For instance, the heightened sensitivity to social connections that can depress you if you family and social world is hell can help make you especially successful and happy if you’re luckier with family and social environment.

 

So back to Tourette’s. As Jonah points out, the work he looks at in his piece suggests that perhaps Tourette’s problems is the the downside expression of a broader dynamic — a sort of linguistico-sensory-socio-cognitive hypersensitivity — that carries benefits:

That’s also the message [Jonah writes] of a brand new paper which shows an increase in “timing control” in people with Tourette’s. Here’s the BPS Research Digest:

Carmelo Vicario and colleagues tested nine children with Tourette’s (average age 11 years) and 10 controls (average age 12) on timing perception and timing production. The former involved the children judging whether two circles were on screen for the same length of time or not. The latter task involved the children noting the time that a circle appeared on-screen and then pressing the space key on a key board for the same duration. Half the trials involved intervals in the sub-second range (from 310ms to 500ms), the other half were longer than a second, up to 1900ms.

There was no difference between the groups on timing perception or sub-second timing production. However, the children with Tourette’s were more accurate at the longer ‘supra-second’ version of the timing production task.

On a related note, it’s interesting to think about these timing control advantages in light of the fact that Tim Howard, the goalie on the U.S. World Cup squad, has Tourette’s. Here’s Hampton Sides in the New Yorker:

He [Howard] refuses to take medication for [Tourette's] for fear it will make him “zombielike” and impair his motor skills. “I’m very adrenaline-filled, and I wouldn’t want to suppress that,” Howard said. “I like the way I am. If I woke up tomorrow without Tourette’s, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

Splendid stuff. The question is: Is the apparently increased cognitive control a necessary part of whatever creates Tourette’s — another expression of it — or do people develop this control as a compensatory mechanism? I think — and I say this not knowing much about Tourette’s — that the latter is perhaps more likely. If that’s so, then this isn’t really an example of the orchid/sensitivity dynamic: It’s not the upside of a trait that can in other cases create a downside; rather it’s an upside created in compensation of a downside.

This makes it no less wonderful. We have few assets more valualbe than our ability to compensate and correct for deficits. If I’m short-tempered, I can learn to be quick to apologize. If I’m tall so I have trouble getting low for backhands, I can train and practice and learn to get lower. If I write slowly, I can compensate by trying to write more deeply. (Or does the deep make me slow? Hm. That one’s complicated.) But these aren’t the same as a sensitivity that can take one either down or up.

So what about Howard’s aversion to medication? He doesn’t want it because he doesn’t want to be less “adrenaline-filled.” I suspect that the suppressing effect of Tourette’s medication, however, doesn’t mean that his high-octane style is part of his Tourette’s. Then again, as I note, I don’t know Tourette’s so well, so perhaps there’s something there.

Anyone?

 

Comments

  1. #1 Brit T.
    June 28, 2010

    Very interesting. I’ve never thought of Tourette’s in the same way since reading the story of the surgeon in “An Anthropologist on Mars,” and it sounds like a similar experience is going on here. Tim Howard in the net (goalie region? green zone? whatever they call it in this crazy sport ; ) ) becomes stronger rather than weaker as a result of his Tourette’s. I would guess that like that surgeon, his tics just melt away for the duration of the time he plays.

  2. #2 natural cynic
    June 29, 2010

    Along these lines, I remember that when I was a freshman in college and on the swim team, we had a distance swimmer with Tourette’s. While he was swimming, his tics were suppressed.

  3. #3 Müzik Dinle
    June 29, 2010

    2010 world cup devam ederken bende şuanda japonya-Paraguay maçını izliyorum

  4. Evet bende çok şanlısyım turnuvadaki vavorim Brezilya bakalım şampiyon kim olacak

  5. #5 Buddy Sorrell
    June 30, 2010

    I just want to comment on the article’s mention of stuttering in relation to Tourette’s. The website of the Stuttering Foundation (www.stutteringhelp.org)has a downloadbale brochure entitled “Stuttering and Tourette’s Syndrome” which addresses this issue. By the way, if any Tourette’s child has any kind of speech problem, the child is entitled to free speech therapy as is guaranteed by federal law. The nonprofit Stuttering Foundation also has a brochure entitled “Special Education Law and Stuttering” that explains this benefit of free speech therapy, which can beign in preschool and run throughout high school. The brochure explains that the right to free speech therapy encompasses ALL speech problems and not just stuttering.

    I think that the aforementioned brochure on Tourette’s will be most helpful to any parent or teacher which a Tourette’s child who may be showing signs of stuttering. It is most thorough in its explanation.

  6. #6 film izle
    October 1, 2010

    I just want to comment on the article’s mention of stuttering in relation to Tourette’s. The website of the Stuttering Foundation (www.stutteringhelp.org)has a downloadbale brochure entitled “Stuttering and Tourette’s Syndrome” which addresses this issue. By the way, if any Tourette’s child has any kind of speech problem, the child is entitled to free speech therapy as is guaranteed by federal law. The nonprofit Stuttering Foundation also has a brochure entitled “Special Education Law and Stuttering” that explains this benefit of free speech therapy, which can beign in preschool and run throughout high school. The brochure explains that the right to free speech therapy encompasses ALL speech problems and not just stuttering.

  7. #7 sikiş
    October 1, 2010

    Very interesting. I’ve never thought of Tourette’s in the same way since reading the story of the surgeon in “An Anthropologist on Mars,” and it sounds like a similar experience is going on here. Tim Howard in the net (goalie region? green zone? whatever they call it in this crazy sport ; ) ) becomes stronger rather than weaker as a result of his Tourette’s. I would guess that like that surgeon, his tics just melt away for the duration of the time he plays

  8. #8 sikiş
    October 6, 2010

    But enough of the technical details. The point here is that we are entering a new era of media, where we finally have a digital platform that allows us to retain all the rich visual features of high-gloss print, from lavish design to glorious photography, while augmenting it with video, animations, additional content and full interactivity. We’re one of the first magazines to go beyond the concept stage with this, and the demo we showed at TED and in the above video reflects months of real tablet production as we prepare to go live this summer.

  9. #9 Josephine Paige
    October 8, 2010

    Tourette’s is diagnosed by the presence of tics, but there is a large, mixed bag of associated companion disorders. Ie 80% of people with Tourette’s have some form of Attention Deficit.

    Doctors rarely subscribe medication to stop tics because the side affects are usually worse than the tics. In my experience (my daughter has Tourette’s) the biggest issue with tics is the negative social impact from people who judge her. However, medicine is often given for the companion disorders such as ADHD, which doesn’t always work for everyone.

    So if I could add to Howard’s answer – why would he put drugs into his body, if the main problem it would address is the discomfort his tics causes in other people?

  10. #10 Josephine Paige
    October 8, 2010

    Tourette’s is diagnosed by the presence of tics, but there is a large, mixed bag of associated companion disorders. Ie 80% of people with Tourette’s have some form of Attention Deficit.

    Doctors rarely subscribe medication to stop tics because the side affects are usually worse than the tics. In my experience (my daughter has Tourette’s) the biggest issue with tics is the negative social impact from people who judge her. However, medicine is often given for the companion disorders such as ADHD, which doesn’t always work for everyone. So if I could add to Howard’s answer – why would he put drugs into his body, if the main problem it would address is the discomfort his tics gives to other people?

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