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Brain Behavior Institute 2009 - Human Neurodiversity



Session 8


Human Neurodiversity

Discussion of matters related to 


Today's Assignment

Add further thoughts on human neurodiversity in the forum area below.  Continue with explorations of your own project on human variation, prepare to present in small groups tomorrow.


Geneva Tolliferreo's picture

7/9 PM Session

In comparison of the three film clips, the common thread seemed that the main characters had no control of time, in the practical sense.

As with the artist, obviously he had a photogenic mind, in the opinion of Verolga.  I add to that that his gifts and talents compliment his abilities.

Whether we hurt ourself physically / mentally, what causes us to do this?

Why is chasing a bottle of asprin with a bottle of vodka abnormal; because society says so?  Why is taking 'those trips' a bad thing?  Are these people more in touch with 'their reality' than we are with ours.

How stable is stability?

Ordinary people experience extra ordinary acts and/or miracles everyday.  Everyone has a heart and the capacity to feel for others.  It is just that different things touch different peoples' heart in many different ways, regardless of how poverty stricken or affluent one may be.



Jill Bean's picture

Movie Clips - thoughts and discussion notes

a beautiful mind thoughts:


  • beautiful actors
  • brainwashed thoughts
  • I love this movie and I want to watch it again soon..


  • if you delve deeply into one single idea you might be trapped in there forever
  • patterns can emerge anywhere
  • emotion can overcome logic


  • he's angry and she's trying to help him
  • problem and how to solve the problem
  • we cannot not know what is going on in his head - what is he thinking about experiencing


  • tortured genius
  • cultural belief in love conquering all
  • over living in your brain can equal disconnect from reality


  • fine line between genius and madness
  • excess inputs or internal processing and/or decreased aility to inhibit --> overloads brain
  • savants


girl interrupted thoughts


  • depressed child
  • familiar actors
  • mysterious situations


  • "you're hurting eveyone around you"
  • "laws of physics don't apply"
  • "downtown" - the song


  • she's hurting herself
  • tried suicide or very depressed
  • hurting herself and people around her, they try to help her but she doesn't see it that way


  • sanity
  • societal expectations
  • transition ages having the potential for dangerous gaps


  • mental health care is misunderstood - barbaric history
  • sensory misfires or perhaps the brain's generations not being inhibited
  • mental disorder is scary - lack of agency/ability to control self and situation


continuing thoughts and discussions:

emily dickinson your mind is projecting your reality.  both people had realities that were not paralell with those around them.  your mind provides ways of being a genius.  Are both of them forced to live in that reality because of other people or chemicals in their minds

brains linking to other brains.  Quakers believe that each person has a piece of the truth.  You share your truth and test it against each others.  Minds interacting with other brains and getting feedback that their perceptions are off kilter.

She's floating back and forth between time, present memories.  She's creating unconscious reality.

They can't sync up with the other people and their brains.  in the classroom things go awry when student to student or student to teacher brain interactions don't sync up.

Beautiful Mind - he did sync up with imaginary people, could bounce ideas off of them.  No one else in the world could match with him.  His wife could in an emotional way, but not in an intellectual way.

sensory deprivation - are people with mental health disorders lacking some of the inhabitory controls, allowing the constant generations of the brain to continued unchecked?

when you get high, you don't have those inhibitors, and you get amazing thoughts

people who lack inhibitors, others stay clear and feel really really sad. mental health - there's just so much that we don't understand.

changing the unconscious into a new patterns of behavior

hoarding - some people who are hoarding don't think that they're doing anything wrong.  Why do they have to change?  Why do they have to change?

if you're stuck in a mental disorder, you may not want to change, but you may not be functional.  there is not room for you in society.

medication?  every brain is different and you don't know what is going to work for each person.  and they don't really know what is happening when you are on medicine.

some people can be trained to exhibit adaptive behavior  

Inhibition without inhibitores - we have a narrow definition of what is considered normal behavior - mental health issues -->  gift and a burden -->how can we recognize the potential for gifts in people suffering from severe mental illness?


Deborah Hazen's picture

Girl Interrupted

I wanted to know more about the girl interrupted story--so I checked the book out and rented the film. It was painful to watch and the book, quite different from the film ends on a different note. The title of the book comes from the Vermeer painting "Girl Interrupted at Her Music" and as I considered the book and the painting, I began thinking about times of big change or disequilibrium in a human life span and how we label those as a society. We have the terrible twos, marriage/divorce/death of a loved one adjustment periods, post-partum, adolescence, teen angst/rebellion, middle life crises, and menopause to name a few. Please add others as they occur to you--I think that language can reveal a lot and I'm interested to hear of other "labels" for periods of upset or disequilibrium in human life.

Lucienne Davis's picture


Thoughts, Today:

A Beautiful Mind


1.       Struggle within one’s self

2.       Lost and found

3.       Trust


1.       Very smart

2.       Love story

3.       People around him betrayed him; distrust


1.       Incredible true mind

2.       Blurred mind between real and not real

3.       Is he still alive


1.       Gift

2.       The gift became confused

3.       Lead to loyalty


1.       1.The mind can do many things

2.       2.Mind is very powerful

3.       3.Mind is very mysterious


Girl Interrupted


1.       Misunderstood

2.       Confusion – don’t know who is wrong, her or the others?

3.       Un-liked, unloved, sadness


1.       1.Abused

2.       2.Suicidal

3.       3. Depressed


1.       1.I don’t know the story

2.       2.“No bones in her wrist”

3.       3.Psychologist seemed creepy


1.       1.Darkness

2.       2.Loss of control

3.       3.Insecure


1.      1. In pain

2.       2.Therapy

3.       3.Self-mutilation


General Discussion:


-          Judy: mother was schizophrenic, she was raised when electric-shock therapy was still in use (not the mild form); she lost years and years of her life, she lost her memory; Judy understands from her mom’s point of view, that in John Nash’s mind, he could tell he was gifted and also not normal.  She doesn’t consider her mother a normal individual by society’s sense, but she has learned to accept her point of view and try to see it her way.  She is sensitive to students with these kind of diverse mental issues because of her experience.  Her mother would go through phases: from 5 years old to 25 years old, therefore you never knew what frame of mind she would be in at any one time.

-          Luci

: my mother suffered from severe depression, and her mother was often catatonic in her life (not present).  She had to deal with her mom’s treatment – they simply over-drugged her mother, or under-drugged her; the drug ratio was never correct.  Father’s cancer seemed to snap her out of her deep depression, often.  She would often shift her perspective daily (sometimes sit in darkness).

-          Angela: how did this depression come?  Luci thinks it is perhaps a cultural thing: as African Americans, they felt they could fix everything, especially at home—and they refused to address mental illness.  It seems like a dark-side, like a social stigma.  As culture, we do not seek out therapy unless we are directed by a loved one; perhaps we feel mental health as being a weakness?

-          Luci: I felt a fear that perhaps this mental illness ran in the family.  Judy went to therapy early because she was afraid of getting depressed or becoming schizophrenic; she also took her children to therapy to make sure that they did not experience either of these mental health problems. 

-          Is mental health simply another part of the scheme of diverse architecture of the brain?  How do we integrate this mental health into the education system and break the social stigma?  Is it possible that we can mental health was simply a brain deviation, and not abnormal? 

o   Luci: Kids are wired differently.  Must explain to colleagues about the difference of the child’s brain.  They have an ongoing struggle which is invisible to most people – unlike a broken leg, which is a very visible and often considered more tangible.  Mental health seems invisible and we are likely to consider that differing brains are abnormal because w cannot appreciate other people’s diversity.

o   Kathy: very difficult to try to address and understand things you don’t understand and things you can’t see or feel.  All brains are different, wired very differently, and therefore all experiences are different.  Some people tend to be great learners, other great teachers – and therefore everyone has different styles and aptitudes. 

o   Angela: Can’t necessarily understand a person’s perspective. 

o   Can we try to understand or do we accept the fact that we can’t ever understand?  Can we accept the fact that having a diverse brain isn’t necessarily abnormal?  How did this social stigma actually come about where we consider something “normal”?

§  Perhaps could’ve been a superiority complex that started this social stigma

§  Antoinette: the concept of normal and abnormal is really relative because “normal” in some climates is to be a drug-dealing murder, but normal in an academic climate is not that at all, it is the complete opposite.  The concept of the fact that we have inhibitory qualities (that we censor ourselves) could be considered, in a sense, schizophrenic – we live different realities with family, different in academic environments, different in hobbies, etc. 



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