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    "Don't let what you can't do interfere with what you can do."
    John Wooden, posted by David Baxter

David Baxter

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The woman who sees the world back to front
Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Imagine if your whole world suddenly went back to front, so that the left-hand side of things appeared on the right and vice versa. That's what happened to a 33-year-old woman, known by psychologists as PR, after a pneumonia-induced coma led her to suffer widespread brain damage.

As PR gradually recovered from her illness, many of her faculties returned to normal, but still she could not read. But then her son noticed that she was able to read perfectly well if he held text up against a mirror. Now Tobias Pflugshaupt and colleagues have observed PR's performance on a number of tests, and found her world appears to be entirely mirror-reversed.

Not only does PR read and write in mirror-reversed fashion, with both letters and whole words reversed, she also finds it easier to tell the time from mirror-reversed clocks, and when asked to draw objects, she portrays them back-to-front. She even reaches for everyday objects such as doors as if they were positioned the other way around from reality. The researchers also found that PR's problem disappears if stimuli are presented only very briefly (less than 200ms) ? something she had noticed at a nightclub under flashing lights.

The researchers said the case shows how unstable our sense of left and right is ? a notion reinforced by the fact young children often confuse left and right and sometimes produce mirror-reversed righting when learning to write. ?Generally, mirrored vision can be regarded as an extreme clinical manifestation of this instability?, they said.

Source: Pflugshaupt, T., Nyffeler, T., von Wartburg, R., Wurtz, P., Luthi, M., Hubl, D., Gutbrod, K., Juengling, F.D., Hess, C.W. & Muri, R.M. (2007). When left becomes right and vice versa: Mirrored vision after cerebral hypoxia. Neuropsychologia, 45, 2078-2091.
 

ThatLady

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Interesting. I remember, years ago, realizing that I read just about as quickly with a book upside down as I do with the book right side up. My father was the same. I can also read mirror images of pages; albeit, not as quickly as I can read upside down. My father and I both had this "ability". My brother and my mother do not.
 
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This is interesting, but the main thing that I get out of it is that Doctors don't notice very much; people who care, do. Maybe I'm bitter.. but if she was reaching for doorknobs on the opposite side.?. I think there is an awful lot of built in dogma in the mental health proffession that prevents the people with the training (or anyone else) from neccesarily noticing what is right in front of them. It takes a more inquisitive mind than someone who relies on training can necessarily provide, if they aren't able to drop their own perspective.. It's like they say about scientists, if they aren't able to see things from outside the current paradigm (set of unacknowledged beleifs..), they can't find evidence of anything else.. Anyway- I don't have the whole story.. and I'm definitely bitter.
 

David Baxter

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This is interesting, but the main thing that I get out of it is that Doctors don't notice very much; people who care, do. Maybe I'm bitter.. but if she was reaching for doorknobs on the opposite side.?. I think there is an awful lot of built in dogma in the mental health profession that prevents the people with the training (or anyone else) from necessarily noticing what is right in front of them. It takes a more inquisitive mind than someone who relies on training can necessarily provide, if they aren't able to drop their own perspective.. It's like they say about scientists, if they aren't able to see things from outside the current paradigm (set of unacknowledged beleifs..), they can't find evidence of anything else.. Anyway- I don't have the whole story.. and I'm definitely bitter.

Where do you conclude from that story that "doctors" don't notice very much, or that "there is an awful lot of built in dogma in the mental health profession that prevents the people with the training (or anyone else) from necessarily noticing what is right in front of them"? What it says is that her son was the first to notice. I don't find that surprising. It doesn't say that her doctors didn't notice or were unable to notice.

I'm definitely bitter.

I know nothing about the reasons, of course, but, yes, I'd say so.
 

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