Archive for January 15th, 2008

An extraordinary CPU with amazing plasticity

January 15, 2008

There is a very moving story at Cosmic Variance by Julianne about her daughter’s temporary loss of hearing:

Mostly, however, I just felt terrible for her, because she’d been struggling for years just to understand anything that was going on around her. At the same time, I was tremendously proud of how well she coped, because damn, she was good at figuring out what you meant from not a whole lot of aural cues. Most people were shocked to find out that she was hearing impaired, because she can hold a conversation with you. However, once you know, you notice that during every few conversational back-and-forths, her ability to extrapolate your meaning would break down, and she’d get screwed up. So, all this time she’s been devoting a huge fraction of her tiny little CPU to a highly-advanced voice-recognition system.

In spite of the fact that she’s been good at passing, there are a number of traits that made a lot of sense once we knew about the hearing loss. For example, she has always been very self-contained and independent, but I suspect that’s largely because she only can process what she’s directly paying attention to. She never overhears conversations or background sounds, and so is frequently oblivious of what’s going on (again, it’s easy to miss this being a medical symptom, rather than a bad case of being three). She has great difficulty finding you in the house, since she doesn’t hear footsteps, doors closing, or water running.

A must read post.