Racial Differences in Brain Activity

Mental Processes And Race

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Obviously, the disturbance in the phonemic hearing faculty prevents the patient from reading or writing, and not the affliction of the visual function. This explains why these lesions do not affect the written speech of a Chinese patient. The Chinese system of writing is hieroglyphic, and is not directly related to phonemic hearing. A Chinese patient can write and understand a written text, but he is unable to read it aloud. If the same patient is a speaker of some European language, he becomes unable to read or write in that language.

Conversely, a European patient, who was a fluent speaker of Chinese, can no longer read or write in his own language, but can still understand the Chinese characters.

Japanese writing combines hieroglyphs and phonemic mode of speech, and this explains why the written speech of a Japanese patient is affected by similar brain lesions to a lesser extent than that of Europeans.

The perception of hieroglyphs is connected with the functioning of the parietooccipital sections of the brain. An injury to these parts of the brain usually atlects eyesight. Patients can see a drawing with their eyes, but do not identify it. Looking at a portrait, a patient finds the nose, mouth, eyes, but cannot put these details together. The drawing as a whole "remains unclear and he is not sure whether it is a picture of a man. If the man in the picture has a moustache, the patient may come to the conclusion that it is a cat.

It is not surprising that such patients are completely unable to understand hieroglyphic writing. If the recognition of letters, which are symbols of a less complex pattern, has been retained, the patient is still able to read and write in other languages. This has, of course, no connection with nationality or race: the Chinese patients who were speakers of European languages can still read and write in them, while the Europeans who could read hieroglyphs can no longer do so.

The peculiarities of the mental processes are not, therefore, connected with a person's race, but depend solely on upbringing and education, that is on the formation of a complex system of conditioned-reflex connections.

January 7th, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Affected Speech Hearing

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In the previous post we began speaking about patients with affected secondary zones. To such patients 'dot' sounds like 'tot', 'lot' or 'cot'. The patient can neither distinguish these words when he hears them nor pronounce them correctly, and he has difficulty whenever he has to say these words in a conversation. Failing to find the appropriate word, he tries to find a substitute, for example, 'the thing you do your hair with' for 'comb', or 'land without water' for 'desert'. In the most serious cases patients have so many 'difficult' words and make so many mistakes in pronouncing them, that their speech becomes quite incomprehensible.

Naturally, if one cannot sense the differences between the words 'dot', 'tot' and 'cot', one's faculty to understand speech is generally affected. A curious but so far unaccountable fact is that such patients find it especially hard to identify nouns, and their speech mostly consists of link words, prepositions, adverbs, verbs and all kinds of words expressing relationship.

Another curious fact is that when speech hearing is affected, people do not become tone-deaf. Several cases have been recorded where gifted composers lost their speech hearing and the faculty to speak as a result of a serious illness, but were still able to write music and successfully continued their creative work. On the other hand, a lesion of the corresponding zones in the right cerebral hemisphere does not affect the patient's speech, but may make him tone-deaf.

Written speech is also affected in the case of injury to the secondary zones of the acoustic analyser. The patients can copy or write such familiar words as 'mother' or 'moon', sign their name and reproduce such common letter codes as OK or IOU, but they become completely incapable of writing a note or even a few lines of dictation coherently. Their ability to read is also affected. They can recognize and understand some very familiar words or phrases, but become incapable of reading separate letters, syllables or less familiar words.

January 5th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Difficulty in Understanding Speech

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Human speech consists of complex sounds of an involved pattern. To be able to speak, it is not enough to have good hearing. To a baby in its first months speech is nothing more than a kind of a noise. To master speech, a child must learn to single out from a flow of sounds the essential features, or the phonemes. What one needs to perceive speech is not so much a keen ear as an ear trained to the system of a particular language.

If you do not know a foreign language, you will not be able to distinguish the individual elements of that language in the flow of sounds. You will not be able to repeat the words and phrases you hear, let alone understand them.

It is an interesting and important fact that this process is performed not merely by the acoustic regions of the brain, but also by the articulatory organs, which take part in the utterance of speech sounds, and by the corresponding motor regions of the brain. Even adults, although they usually do not realize it, do not perceive speech eiiher by sounds or visual appearance (written text), but by so-called kinaesthetic perception, a vague, inner sensation arising in the muscles and tendons of the articulatory organs during speech.

Acoustic information is analyzed in the temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex. Like all the other analysers in the human brain, the temporal lobes of the cortex consist of the primary or projection zones, to which the nerve fibres from each ear come, and the secondary zones which receive information not from the periphery, but that already processed by the primary zones.

If the primary zones have been affected by disease, the patient will have hearing trouble. It is quite a different matter if the secondary zone of the left hemisphere is damaged. The hearing is practically intact, but speech hearing is gravely affected. They cannot distinguish d from t, b from p and z from s. Obviously, they fail to identify phonemes and consequently have difficulties in understanding words.

January 3rd, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Brain Afflictions

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Physicians have an especially vast knowledge of the activity of the human brain, for they have always observed changes in psychic responses in patients with different afflictions of the brain. They have long since noticed that if certain areas of the cerebral hemispheres are injured, paralysis occurs, and when others, eyesight or hearing is a fleeted. A lesion of certain brain regions affects the speech most of all. When the temporal lobe of the left cerebral hemisphere is injured, a patient continues to hear speech, but cannot understand it. Injury to the frontal lobe of the same hemisphere mainly disturbs the articulation of sounds, while parietooccipital injuries affect the ability to count.

Some brain afflictions interfere with the ability to write or read. When sufficient observations had been accumulated, it was noticed that the lesions of the temporal lobes that made a European unable to cope with written speech had less grave consequences for a Japanese, and none for a Chinese. On the other hand, afflictions of the parietal lobe never greatly interfered with a European's faculty to write coherently, but greatly disturbed that of a Japanese, while a Chinese became absolutely incapable of writing comprehensively.

Does this mean that there are racial differences in the activity of the brain? Well, in order to answer this question, we need to discuss the organization of speech function. Just follow us in next posts.

January 2nd, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Racial Brain Problem

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If you were to talk to a group of North Americans who support the fight for Negroes' rights, would you not be surprised to learn that even they often regard Negroes as second-rate humans? Nowadays everybody knows that there are no essential differences in the functioning of the muscles and internal organs. So the proponents of racist doctrine allege that the main difference lies in the mental sphere, i. e. in the functioning of the brain.

Such views stem from the great difference in the level of cultural development that existed between different nations some three or four centuries ago in the epoch of great geographical discoveries and which even nowadays have not yet been completely smoothed out. Many outstanding personalities have come from Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Australia, but the overall contribution of many nations to the progress of human civilization still remains negligible. The living conditions of these nations are certainly responsible for this rather than any innate inferiority. The racialists, however, claim that the different levels of cultural development prove the inferiority of non-Europeans.

Are there any real differences in the work of the brain in different human races? The basic difference between the activity of the brain in man and animals is the use of speech, which Ivan Pavlov called the second signalling system. Speech is a purely human phenomenon, and racial differences, if any, will be manifested in the brain mechanisms of speech.

December 31st, 2009 at 2:04 pm