Friday, April 07, 2006


I've always claimed that the thing that really let the phrenologists down was their statistics. There is increasing evidence to back up the original claim, although not perhaps about the shape of the *outside* of the head. Commenting on her nice new research on language "Dr Narly Golestani from UCL's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience said 'The bigger picture is that we are starting to understand that brain shape and structure can be informative about people's abilities or pathologies - why people are good at some things and not others is evident from these scans.'"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you've pointed, that is different from phrenology in the sense that it is not inferable from the external skull, but it may also be different (I don't really know much about "eo"-phrenology, but, I'm making a reasonable guess) regarding the innateness and rigidity of the traits. For instance, we know that stress levels will induce cell death on the hippocampus, and stimulate cell growth on the amigdala, which, in turn, tends to make the individual more prone to stress, possibly creating a positive feedback cycle. With languages is something like that; it's not that polyglotes born with definite polyglote brains, but rather, as they learn many languages, they brain develop some areas and underdevelop others, somewhat like people who born blind or deaf, they remaining senses "steal" brain area that would be otherwise used by sight; and even colorblind individuals (specially rare cases of full color blindness, not just common daltonism) may have some improvement in the vision of movement. It was find that even verbal conjugations have their "brain area", but the number of verbal conjugations forms vary greatly between languages; latin-derived have many, english has a few less, and hungarian has only two, past and present, and no gender distinction in nouns (again, latin-derived languages has more gender distinction, and english an intermediate degree, but far more than hungarian). No one suggests that the people born with the proper brain for their native language; any baby can be "kidnapped" from any country and learn any other language. Furthermore, there's evidence that developing children have a unique ability to learn multiple languages at the same time, not only one, the "current" one, and this hability is lost past this language-learning stage of brain development.


4:34 am  

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