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A Brain Remapped

I had no idea this was going on with Scott Adams of Dilbert fame.

"As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 months ago. Permanently. It’s something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.

I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there’s no cure, painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into the vocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens the muscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.

The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they can’t talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others. That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it’s really just a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people."


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 1st, 2006 08:33 am (UTC)
that's so exciting. of course speaking alone is the same as speaking to a crowd, because you're not addressing a single person. i wonder why it should be different for the telephone? amazing.
Nov. 1st, 2006 11:37 pm (UTC)
It certainly shows how complex speech is and our brains.
Nov. 1st, 2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
Wow, I wasn't aware that you were afflicted with that. I hope it isn't painful. I'm fascinated by this topic as I have never heard of it before. Thank you for sharing.
Nov. 1st, 2006 11:38 pm (UTC)
I'm thankfully not. I posted a snippet of what Adams wrote about his affliction. I can't imagine not being able to talk. I got my mouth taped in school for being a chatterbox.
Nov. 1st, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
My husband was telling me about that just a couple of nights ago. I kept waiting for the punchline, as he is a notorious jokester. :)
Nov. 1st, 2006 11:40 pm (UTC)
Your husband or Scott Adams is the jokester? Probably both of them.
Nov. 1st, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC)
Both, actually, yes. :)
But mainly I was referring to my husband.
Nov. 2nd, 2006 01:20 am (UTC)
Something like that could be the end of my career. Now I'm going to be paranoid about my voice for months.
Nov. 5th, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC)
Adams was very lucky that he still had the ability to make prepared speeches and that his main occupation didn't involve speaking.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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