Cotard Syndrome – Walking Dead Disorder

By Anupum Pant

Neurological conditions can be bizarre. Now I know that there is a condition that can delude patients to such an extent that they start thinking they no longer exist, or are dead. It’s called the Cotard Syndrome or the walking dead disorder.

Named after a French doctor Jules Cotard, the Cotard syndrome is a neurological condition in which severe degeneration of neural synapses occurs and messes with the facial recognition and emotion centres of the brain. Their brain creates a totally impaired perception of the self. As a result, patients suffering from it some times get convinced that their body parts no longer exist, or have started decaying.

Often times, patients think that they no longer need to eat (because they are already dead), and they starve to death.

There have also been cases in which patients have tried to get rid of their body parts using acid because they felt doing this was only the way to free themselves of being zombies.

Graham, a person who got caught up by this bizarre disorder was totally convinced that his brain did not exist. He had lost all his senses, he thought he was in a state between life and death, and saw no point in continuing to live this way. He tried to kill himself by getting electrocuted in a bathtub. Graham got cured to some extent, but the disorder completely messed up the rest of his life.

Another person who suffered brain injury due to a motorcycle accident was first cleared as health by doctors initially. After which he went on a vacation to South Africa. By the time he came back, he was totally convinced that he had died and had gone to hell.

Thankfully, it is an extremely rare disorder.

via [NewScientist]

The Sixth Sense, Seventh Sense and More…

By Anupum Pant

Do this. Close your eyes and try to touch the tip of your nose with an index finger. If there’s nothing wrong with you, you’ll do it right. Even with no lights on, when you can see nothing at all, you’ll be able to put food exactly in your mouth. What explains this ability. None of the 5 senses are primarily involved here. There are a couple of other senses too which justify the amount of fantastic things our bodies can do.

At school I was taught, “there are five senses” – Sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch. No one ever mentioned anything more than that. Five was the number, and since it could get you demoted, scared, I never dared to question the traditional textbook science. Turns out, just like I was lied about the tallest mountain, carrots, taste areas and several other things, I just discovered that, for all my life, I had been lied about one more thing. About the number of senses.

Let’s keep aside animal senses today and see what we’ve missed in school that has to do with just human senses. Beyond the five senses we were taught about, there are at least 10 more senses that every healthy human being has. Ten, or at least a handful of them should probably be mentioned somewhere in the school textbooks to give kids the picture of what a sense exactly is. In fact, some put the number of senses humans have to as high as 21.

Kinesthesia: The one sense that I was talking at the start of this article allows you to remain precisely aware of every little muscle and joint movement. As a result, you are able to locate parts of your body without seeing or involving any of the 5 traditional senses. Let’s call it the 6th sense.

Skin Sensors: Our skins are responsible to make us feel the touch. But, the skin is in fact, much more complicated than that. The skin has at least five different kinds of specialized nerve endings. Taken one at a time, these allow you to feel pain, heat (temperature), cold (temperature), itch and pressure. So, you can count each one of them as a different kind of sensor. Consequently adding 4-5 more senses to our list.

Balance: In the presence of good amount of gravity, our bodies are naturally able to tell “Up” from “Down”. In simple words, on the earth, we are able to stand up and balance ourselves. The inner ear makes this possible. That is another sensor. You’d count it as one when you put it in a robot, but not when it is present in the human body?

Just to add, being able to perceive time is another beautifully complex sense.

And there are a couple of others too. That said, clearly, humans don’t just have 5 senses. There are more.


Seeing With Your Tongue and Listening to Colour

By Anupum Pant

I’m always fascinated when I see one sense organ do the work of some other sense organ. Like breathing from your eyes ( not really) or seeing with your ears (really) listening to colours etc…

not available in your country

Solving The Technical Problem (Not available in your country): Today, I stumbled upon a video whose title was “Blind Learn To See With Tongue“. It was uploaded on YouTube by CBS – an American TV network. The sad part is that they had tweaked the videos settings which did not allow me to watch it. It wasn’t available in India.

Whenever someone says I can’t do something, I’m almost always prepared for it. This time, I had this extension installed on Chrome called ZenMate. It’s perfectly legal (available on chrome store) and works very smoothly. It allows you to surf the internet with total control. With it installed, you can totally forget about your physical location and fool the websites which place a location restriction for access, like Spotify and Youtube’s “not available in your location” videos. I haven’t tried other things but it should allow Indians to access stuff from websites like Hulu, Pandora and Netflix. (Even if it may seem out of place, I wasn’t paid by ZenMate to write this. I really recommend it.)

The Customary David Eagleman talk

Now, whenever I come across something that has to do with seeing things with an organ that is not really meant for seeing, I remember this very-old TED talk by David Eagleman. And I like to attach it to my blog because I can’t really explain this amazing ability of the Human brain as well as he does. He basically segues his talk to discuss how brain can learn to interpret various kinds of signals to produce an image. So, here it goes. Watch it and read on…

Since it is clear that seeing is the ability of the brain, not eyes, we can comfortably move on to see how you could even see with your tongue – Tasting the light.

Seeing with the Tongue

A device called BrainPort can help you do that. The contraption consists of a camera that sits on your forehead and sends information to a small computer. The information is processed, converted into electrical pulses, and then sent to an array of electrodes touching your tongue. The brain processes these signals and converts them into an image.

At first, of course the brain doesn’t know the trick to process visual signal from the tongue, but it learns. Gradually the device becomes a part of your body and you start seeing with your tongue! Just like Neil Harbisson can listen to colour. In fact, he can see more colours than our eyes can see because the technology allows him. He can see infrared and ultraviolet too!

Listening to Colour – TED talk

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