From: Preston Simpson
To: Dave Hamilton
Date: Aug 1 1998 3:29:50 am
Subject: <generic message subject>
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Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Dave Hamilton <generic message subject> wgah'nagl fhtagn.

PS>> loaded, and released. I think that anyone who rides the thing is
PS>> totally insane.

DH> At our local fair just a couple of years ago there was a bungy
DH> jump attraction. They had it inspected, and all was well. The
DH> first kid to go off it, a teenager, lept off with more faith
DH> than Ken Young. It was not connected at the top. Eighty feet
DH> onto pavement, face first.

The ceremony from which bungee jumping is taken (a somewhat
religious ceremony that is supposed to demonstrate the jumper's
masculinity, etc., as I recall--can't recall where it came from
though) used vines tied to the ankles, with the result that
sometimes the vines stretched and the jumper hit the ground
anyway. I wonder if anything like that happens with this
modern stunt.

DH> I had a pt once that would go catatonic whenever her sensory
DH> input exceeded some threshold. She could go to a quiet restaurant
DH> but not a noisy one. She had no anxiety at all, so she kept

I know that some work was done along this line with explaining
introverts and extroverts--it had something to do with sensory
thresholds. Introverts have low thresholds and so focus on
themselves so as to lessen new or uncontrolled stimuli,
extroverts have high thresholds and so can handle more.

DH> getting herself overloaded. She had no premonition that it
DH> was going to happen - she'd just shut down for 5-10 minutes.

Just catatonia? I know that I sometimes experience brief spells
in which I don't have any desire to do anything but remain
stock still staring at something--they usually last about 5-10
minutes, but I don't know of any stimulus or combination of
stimuli that causes it; it happens mostly in quiet or
moderately stimulating surroundings, rarely when I'm around
someone else.

DH> It was thought to be seizures by observers but her EEG's
DH> were normal. It was a facinating case. I saw similar cases
DH> in Eysenck's histories of case studies viz the central nervous
DH> system, and concluded that it was a hardware issue. We got

Kind of like a surge protector: a big spike comes down the
sensory lines and the brain switches over to a kind of
maintenance mode to let the spike pass without overloading
important subsystems.

DH> her doing GSR feedback and relaxation therapy and she was
DH> on her way. Never fixed it; just learned how to work around it.

Sometimes that's all that can be done.

DH> I've often wondered if there is a similar intellectual processing
DH> overload. Many people posit that the purpose of REM sleep is
DH> to sort out collected stuff in cache memory and store it away.

Perhaps. I think (based on what I know of memory architecture) that
there are actually three kinds of memory: short-term, mid-term and
long-term. Short-term is comparable to RAM--the stuff you hang
onto for 7-12 seconds before it gets written to mid-term memory
(comparable to a swap file or a cache directory on a hard
drive), which lasts until your next REM period, when some of
the mid-term gets written to long-term and some of it gets
wiped. That would tend to explain why, for instance, I might
wake up on Tuesday and not remember what I wore on Monday or
had for lunch, but can remember the annoying thing that happened
at work. Thoughts?

DH> I'm well aware of the physical strain that accompanies intense
DH> learning. Maybe with some people it just kicks in lower -
DH> like a TV show with a *plot*.

<grin> Perhaps.

DH> I saw that and didn't have any thoughts at the time. I must have
DH> been mulling it over because I found myself considering the
DH> effect of different toxins. I didn't turn any toxins up that
DH> fit the bill, but it led to consideration of diseases such
DH> as syphillus. Y'know, I'll have to work on that one before
DH> I cross it out.

It'll be an interesting approach. A religious obsession (what
he has doesn't seem to be religious in nature, quite) could
be explained in terms of syphilitic damage (i.e. "I got this
disease for fooling around and sinning--I need to get right
with God before I die."), but I can't see how an evolutionary
obsession could fit unless there was some sort of strange
association at work there.

If it is a toxin of some sort, then such damage would suggest
(in my mind) one of two possibilities: that the damage was
done in such a way as to construct the obsession (the target
of obsession being a convenient thing at the time--it could
have been jelly doughnuts or astrology had the imprinting
been different, in other words), or that damage was done
to a hypothetical part of the brain that inspires religious
feelings. If it's a toxin, I'd lean more towards the first
explanation than the second, since I'm a bit vague about
actual brain architecture that creates religious feeling.

--P. G. Simpson

... "You're not actually going INTO an asteroid field?" - Leia
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