My Mind is a Web Browser

brain“To use a computer analogy: The language part of my brain is the computer operator, and the rest of my brain is the computer. In most people, the brain’s computer operator and the computer are merged into one seamless consciousness; but in me they are separate. I hypothesize that the frontal cortex of my brain is the operator and the rest of my brain is the computer.

When I lecture, the language itself is mostly “downloaded” out of memory from files that are like tape recordings. I use slides or notes to trigger opening the different files. When I am talking about something for the first time, I look at the visual images on the “computer monitor” in my imagination, then the language part of me describes those images. After I have given the lecture several times, the new material in language is switched over into “audio tape-recording files.” When I was in high school, other kids called me “tape recorder.”

A Web browser finds specific words; by analogy, my mind looks for picture memories that are associated with a word. It can also go off on a tangent in the same way as a Web browser.

Non-autistic people seem to have a whole upper layer of verbal thinking that is merged with their emotions. By contrast, unless I panic, I use logic to make all decisions; my thinking can be done independently of emotion. In fact, I seem to lack a higher consciousness composed of abstract verbal thoughts that are merged with emotion. Researchers have learned that people with autism have a decreased metabolism in the area in the frontal cortex that connects the brain’s emotional centers with higher thinking (the anterior cingulate). The frontal cortex is the brain’s senior executive like the CEO of a corporation. Brain scans indicate that people with autism use problem-solving circuits in social situations. Unlike non-autistic people, the emotion center in their amygdala is not activated, for example, when they judge expressions in another person’s eyes.”

My Mind is a Web Browser: How People with Autism Think
by Temple Grandin

Cerebrum, 2000
Winter Vol. 2, Number 1, pp. 14-22
The Charles A. Dana Foundation, New York, NY

Image: Mind’s High

One thought on “My Mind is a Web Browser

  1. Temple Grandin is a fascinating person. I recommend her memoir highly [title eludes me at the moment], as well as Oliver Sacks’s “An Anthropologist on Mars” about her.

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