Friday, July 11, 2008


I should be writing picture books.

Instead, I have been writing a radio play.

At least, I think it's a radio play.

It has something to do with a few neurological concepts: Mirrored self identification syndrome and Blindsight

Mirrored self-identification syndrome is the phenomenon of seeing oneself in the mirror and not believing that the person in the mirror is oneself. It is related to the Capgras delusion, in which one sees another persion (usually someone with who one has an emotional connection) and believes that person to be an impostor. In the NEUROfest, we had a play called Impostors, which was all about Capgras

Blindsight is the ability to see, even when one is not conscious of seeing.

To me, the two phenomena are two sides of the same coin. The reason one has Capgras or related disorders is that the connection from the eye to the emotional part of the brain has been broken--in other words, one can looks at oneself or another and say, that person looks like someone I know, but he/she/I doesn't feel like someone I know.

But here's the amazing part, to me: The brain then decides that it is more likely that one is looking at a doppleganger than there is something awry inside. The brain is always covering for itself. It can't be wrong, the world must be. If something doesn't feel true, it must be false.

In blindsight, some believe, it is the connection to the part of the that consciously registers sight that is broken. But the connection to the emotional--that's still there. There have been experiments where people who believe they are blind are shown highly emotionally charged pictures, and they react emotionally--they feel, they just do not know why they feel. They see well enough to navigate a room or pick up an object, they just don't know how.

When asked how or why people will often come up with rationalizations for what they cannot explain. They laugh because the doctor is funny, not because they are being shown a funny picture. Or they feel angry at the doctor, if another picture is shown.

The implication is, of course, that we believe in facts, even such basic facts as our own identity, not because of objective truth, but because of our subjective emotional connections. And then we convince ourselves it is based on objective reasons we are fully conscious of.


An excerpt (the "dialogue" is from the thoughts of the man with mirrored self-identification syndrome):

I am not I.

Who am I then? Surely, I look like myself. If I did not know myself well, I would be easily fooled. The thinning hair with spots of gray, the slightly crooked nose, the deep blue eyes (yes I do have a touch of vanity, even when talking of my doppelganger), they are all what I have come to recognize as the form which I inhabit.

But it is a shell, empty. It is not me.

No trauma has occurred. I do not suffer from depression. I do not suffer from paranoia. But I suffer. Or so I would, if I were here.

I am a character from The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, narrating my life story after my body has been snatched.

Hello. Hello.

The fellow in the mirror miraculously moves his mouth. Who are you? He asks. He is not making a sound. He does not need to. I can read his lips.

I don’t know, I say, but he says it too, everything I say he says. Or I do not speak at all, and it is all him.

Hello. Hello.

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