Guy who could read letters, but not numbers

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BillTre
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Here is a little Science news article of a guy who got a corticobasal syndrome, which kills off brain cells.
I find these kinds of weird (probably) neurologically caused mental problem very interesting.
They say something about brain consciousness relationships, not clear what though.

Then, numbers began to look strange to RFS. The 4 on a clock might flip backward, for instance. Eventually, numerals deteriorated into messy, unrecognizable “spaghetti” blobs—a disaster for someone who did math all the time. And it wasn’t just his work that suffered. He couldn’t read price tags or speed limit signs. At hotels, he had to mark the doorframe of his room with a magic marker.

Yet he could still do mental arithmetic and perform other mathematical operations. And strangely, although the digits 2 through 9 were scrambled, 0 and 1 looked normal—perhaps because those digits resemble letters, which RFS could read, or perhaps because they have associations with deep concepts such as absence and unity, which might allow his brain to process them. He eventually mastered an entirely new digit system (where ⌊ stood for 2, ⌈ for 8, etc.); determined to keep working, he had his computer rigged to present the new numerals onscreen.
Pay-walled PNAS article.
 
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berkeman
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Brain disorders can be amazing and so challenging to diagnose and deal with in the field. Some of my stroke patients report similar distortions, including losing the ability to translate between languages that they are usually fluent in.
 
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Drakkith
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Brain disorders can be amazing and so challenging to diagnose and deal with in the field. Some of my stroke patients report similar distortions, including losing the ability to translate between languages that they are usually fluent in.
Wow, that's crazy. So they can understand both languages still, but not translate from one to the other?
 
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berkeman
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No, it was more that she was bilingual in Spanish and English, and Spanish was her first language. And she could understand English but not Spanish. So weird.

She passed my initial stroke test, BTW, and only failed a more detailed stroke test by the responding Fire Medics. She only told me later about the language understanding issue.
 
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BillTre
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There are several books by Oliver Sacks as well as the book "The Mind of a Mnemonist" by Alexander Luria describe lots of interesting changes in peoples mental functioning.
Some seemingly caused by viral infections of the brain.
 
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  • #6
256bits
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Roman Numerals would have been OK, then, for the afflicted individual?
I wonder, since he did become accustomed to a new set of symbols representing the individual digits.
 
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epenguin
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You can find lots of articles in Wikipedia and elsewhere searching for dyscalculia or dysnumeria.

Secondhand but I heard of a woman who not dyslexic or special in any other way but could just have no concept of numbers. Whenever she had to pay anything in a shop all she could do was helplessly bring out a sheaf of banknotes and leave it to the shop assistant to take the right amount and give change.
 
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There are several books by Oliver Sacks
One that I read years ago was , "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," or something similar to that. I thought with a title like that it would be humorous, but it wasn't at all.
 
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BillTre
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I like to read about these kinds of things, because
it is interesting to see in what ways, things concerned with the functioning of the mind.

They often have symptoms of that you might expect from particular problems with neural functioning
(a plus for me).
 
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  • #10
DaveE
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There are several books by Oliver Sacks as well as the book "The Mind of a Mnemonist" by Alexander Luria describe lots of interesting changes in peoples mental functioning.
Some seemingly caused by viral infections of the brain.
Yes, 3rd strong recommendation for Oliver Sacks. If you think this stuff is interesting, you need to go get his books. Fascinating and easy to read, IMO.
 
  • #12
DrClaude
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I had a friend who got a brain injury in a car accident. For a while, she couldn't do simple additions, but could still solve integrals. Thankfully, she recovered, but it was a tough journey.
 
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