Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

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Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby WaterToFire » Wed May 25, 2011 9:04 pm UTC

Story here.

It's too long to paste in full, but the gist from what I've read is that a pair of twins conjoined at the head have a neural bridge through their thalami, and exhibit signs of having linked minds. I wasn't aware that craniopagal twins were capable of survival, but this is pretty cool. A lot of science fiction has the idea of connecting minds, either through technology or otherwise, and it's interesting that this might already exist.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Angua » Wed May 25, 2011 9:39 pm UTC

That's pretty cool. The thalamus does a lot more than just sensory relay though - it's the output for a lot of the basal ganglia loops that have all sort of functions, as well as connections to pretty much everywhere else in the brain, so I wonder what else they share besides being able to sense what they other is feeling. They are definitely going to be really interesting, and I'm glad the family isn't letting them be used for experimentation.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby weasel@xkcd » Wed May 25, 2011 9:50 pm UTC

Wow, I'd say pretty cool is quite the understatement. I Really want to see how they develop in the future, here's hoping I remember this article a few years down the line.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Wodashin » Wed May 25, 2011 10:20 pm UTC

The repercussions of this are personally incomprehensible.

I wonder what the experience of interlinked feelings would be like.

E: Reading through this, it seems like they can 'see' out of both pair of eyes at the same time. Being able to comprehend that is insane.

E2: Page 9. "Krista likes it!" Who's saying what isn't so clear here, but it seems like Krista is talking in the third person here.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Game_boy » Wed May 25, 2011 11:25 pm UTC

Extremely cool, but the article has too much speculation in it. A lot of the supposedly special actions they take make equal sense if they were two separate people.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Soralin » Thu May 26, 2011 12:23 am UTC

I've wondered before if something like that could be possible.

Hmm.. they should get some good co-op games, that could be fun. :)

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Jahoclave » Thu May 26, 2011 12:46 am UTC

Wodashin wrote:The repercussions of this are personally incomprehensible.

I wonder what the experience of interlinked feelings would be like.

E: Reading through this, it seems like they can 'see' out of both pair of eyes at the same time. Being able to comprehend that is insane.

E2: Page 9. "Krista likes it!" Who's saying what isn't so clear here, but it seems like Krista is talking in the third person here.

I know, the whole eye thing has always been some sort of weird thought thing. Like how we would parse that information.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu May 26, 2011 12:53 am UTC

Yeah, super curious. It'll be really fascinating to see to what extent they share sensations. Visual sharing is outrageously cool, but imagine if they can share conceptual information as well (although I'm a bit uncertain how one would test that).

I wonder if it's possible for one of them to be asleep while the other is awake.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Wodashin » Thu May 26, 2011 1:05 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Yeah, super curious. It'll be really fascinating to see to what extent they share sensations. Visual sharing is outrageously cool, but imagine if they can share conceptual information as well (although I'm a bit uncertain how one would test that).

I wonder if it's possible for one of them to be asleep while the other is awake.


And if they shared mental connections in the dream state, she could affect the dream or experience it while awake, maybe. From the article, it seems like, sometimes, they're a single being. A single consciousness experiencing the world through two different bodies that react differently to stimuli. I think the tronger consciousness, Krista, takes over sometimes, at least that's what I gather from the article. The echoing, where Krista would say "I am me!" assertively, and then Tatiana would mimic it with a less confident look on her face. Maybe sensations and actions leak.

I have no idea. This is just a whole different state of being. There is no way this could be explained to someone/ You could understand it, but you couldn't know it. It's just so interesting.

E: This isn't getting enough traffic. This is truly remarkable. Therefore, I will insert needless argument in the hopes of attracting people.

Wow, I'm so glad they didn't abort the fetuses, even when they were shown to be conjoined and would probably die before reaching 3 years of age!

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby RockoTDF » Thu May 26, 2011 1:44 am UTC

Angua wrote:That's pretty cool. The thalamus does a lot more than just sensory relay though - it's the output for a lot of the basal ganglia loops that have all sort of functions, as well as connections to pretty much everywhere else in the brain, so I wonder what else they share besides being able to sense what they other is feeling. They are definitely going to be really interesting, and I'm glad the family isn't letting them be used for experimentation.


Why are you glad? They can open up a lot of knowledge about how the brain works and information is shared. Things we learn from these kids could have potential in constructing neural prosthetics and things we can't imagine yet. It isn't like human research means we are going to cut them open and mess things around.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Wodashin » Thu May 26, 2011 1:46 am UTC

RockoTDF wrote:
Angua wrote:That's pretty cool. The thalamus does a lot more than just sensory relay though - it's the output for a lot of the basal ganglia loops that have all sort of functions, as well as connections to pretty much everywhere else in the brain, so I wonder what else they share besides being able to sense what they other is feeling. They are definitely going to be really interesting, and I'm glad the family isn't letting them be used for experimentation.


Why are you glad? They can open up a lot of knowledge about how the brain works and information is shared. Things we learn from these kids could have potential in constructing neural prosthetics and things we can't imagine yet. It isn't like human research means we are going to cut them open and mess things around.


It used to mean that, but yes, it probably wouldn't be like that now. Even so, you'd think they'd have the right to not be experimented on. Perhaps when they're older and can choose to do it of their own, adult consent.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Soralin » Thu May 26, 2011 2:01 am UTC

Wodashin wrote:It used to mean that, but yes, it probably wouldn't be like that now. Even so, you'd think they'd have the right to not be experimented on. Perhaps when they're older and can choose to do it of their own, adult consent.

No one should ever experiment on my ability to do calculus by performing tests on me. ;) I think the way that's phrased gives a bit of a different connotation then what is actually involved there.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Wodashin » Thu May 26, 2011 2:15 am UTC

I'm sure you know what experiment means in this context. Even if it's just bringing them in for an hour every few days to do "guess what the other twin is seeing" and "Can you feel this?", it's still a violation. They should be treated as people, not as tools towards gaining a better understanding of the human mind. Even though that sounds amazing, it just goes against ethics since they're children.

When they are adults, they can aid in that, but as children they shouldn't be used in that.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Soralin » Thu May 26, 2011 3:04 am UTC

Wodashin wrote:I'm sure you know what experiment means in this context. Even if it's just bringing them in for an hour every few days to do "guess what the other twin is seeing" and "Can you feel this?", it's still a violation. They should be treated as people, not as tools towards gaining a better understanding of the human mind. Even though that sounds amazing, it just goes against ethics since they're children.

When they are adults, they can aid in that, but as children they shouldn't be used in that.

I don't see it as much of a violation, I mean we do that a lot with other children all the time, when studying cognitive development and such. As for what experiment means in this context: I'm thinking of something like this from here. Although "even" an hour every few days is quite a bit, compared to something like an hour every few years or so.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby buddy431 » Thu May 26, 2011 3:45 am UTC

Soralin wrote:
Wodashin wrote:I'm sure you know what experiment means in this context. Even if it's just bringing them in for an hour every few days to do "guess what the other twin is seeing" and "Can you feel this?", it's still a violation. They should be treated as people, not as tools towards gaining a better understanding of the human mind. Even though that sounds amazing, it just goes against ethics since they're children.

When they are adults, they can aid in that, but as children they shouldn't be used in that.

I don't see it as much of a violation, I mean we do that a lot with other children all the time, when studying cognitive development and such. As for what experiment means in this context: I'm thinking of something like this from here. Although "even" an hour every few days is quite a bit, compared to something like an hour every few years or so.


I got to be in some experiments when I was a kid. In one, I had to identify objects. Does this look like a paper clip to you? I mean, what the hell? My four-year-old self was really distraught that I got that wrong.

Anyways, I really wish that their parents would let them be in some cognitive experiments, but I also recognize that it's their decision alone (the parents', and later the childrens'), and I absolutely respect that, even if I wish their choice was different. I don't see it as any sort of violation to have your kids go through some cognitive experiments, but I don't feel that anyone has an obligation to do that either, no matter how interesting the results might be.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Soralin » Thu May 26, 2011 4:29 am UTC

Yeah, I certainly agree that it's not something that someone should be forced to do or anything like that, if it came across that way.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Aikanaro » Thu May 26, 2011 5:27 am UTC

Ditto the wishing that experiments could be done, even as I respect the wishes and motivations of the parents. Just as I find anything to do with brainwiping to be abominable, I find anything science can do with sharing emotions/memories/thoughts, etc., to be a beautiful and glorious thing. Anything that gives us a shot at increasing the net total amount of empathy in the world gets a gold star in my book.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Angua » Thu May 26, 2011 7:42 am UTC

I"m glad, because I've been taken in to medical schools and stuff and looked at for the dermatology students because I have a bunch of different birthmarks - just being gawked at on a regular basis can make you feel a bit self conscious. Once I was old enough to say I didn't want to do it, my parents didn't argue or anything and supported me, but still, I'm glad they're not treating them like guinea pigs.

Also, this is such a unique thing it will be pretty hard to tease out what is and isn't that relevant to everyone else. They don't seem to know which part of the thalamus is conjoined - is it all of it, just the sensory nuclei, etc. Sure, it's cool and all, and might have some implications for things like likes and dislikes (like the story of one twin liking ketchup and the other not, and still tasting it and trying ot get it of her own tongue when the other twin was eating it), but I'm glad the parents are starting them off as normal as possible - they will probably get to decide if they want to do experiments later on, but for now it's best to try not to make them even more selfconscious about it.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby weasel@xkcd » Thu May 26, 2011 9:05 am UTC

I wish the parents had (and believe they should) let some tests be run on the children, I think some of the results while the children are still developing could be extremely valuable, but certainly don't think they should be forced into it. I'm sure the tests could easily be done in a comfortable way, I'm thinking of one or two researchers talking with the children in the child's home asking them some questions and doing a few puzzles.

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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu May 26, 2011 7:55 pm UTC

First of all, parental consent is king here; if the parents decide it's acceptable for a trusted doctor/researcher to run some tests, and it's not determined to be, you know, horrific or shit, then it's fine.

It's not like these girls are being treated as a freakshow.

Ultimately, I think doing even minor testing on these girls is a good thing; it'll help us understand their condition and how to better improve their quality of life. It'll also shed insight on how brain function does it's thing, which is useful to everyone. So long as we aren't cutting into them daily, I see nothing wrong with ethical testing.

And look, lets be honest; they aren't going to live a life free of medical intervention anyway. The family stated they weren't financially well off, so if a researcher/doctor wants to exchange medical check ups for an amount of reasonable testing, I think that's the families prerogative. Emphasis on reasonable testing.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby RockoTDF » Fri May 27, 2011 2:39 am UTC

Wodashin wrote:
RockoTDF wrote:Why are you glad? They can open up a lot of knowledge about how the brain works and information is shared. Things we learn from these kids could have potential in constructing neural prosthetics and things we can't imagine yet. It isn't like human research means we are going to cut them open and mess things around.


It used to mean that, but yes, it probably wouldn't be like that now. Even so, you'd think they'd have the right to not be experimented on. Perhaps when they're older and can choose to do it of their own, adult consent.


What do you mean "it used to mean that?"

I definitely agree that the parent's wishes should be respected, I just think their parents are doing a disservice to science.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby negatron » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:11 pm UTC

Angua wrote:and I'm glad the family isn't letting them be used for experimentation.

It's not like they intend to stab pieces of their brain and see what happens. Why would you be glad their parents deny the opportunity for scientific progress?
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Triangle_Man » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:49 pm UTC

negatron wrote:
Angua wrote:and I'm glad the family isn't letting them be used for experimentation.

It's not like they intend to stab pieces of their brain and see what happens. Why would you be glad their parents deny the opportunity for scientific progress?

I guess there's a sense that scientific progress does not get to trump the ability of the parents to decide what to do with their kids, given that the children can't consent to having any sort of research performed on them and the parents are the one's who'd need to give that permission.

It's not so much that the parents are denying the opportunity for scientific process as it is that they've decided that the experimentation would not be conductive to their children development or whatever reasoning they have used in this case. And I feel they should be allowed to make that decision.

However, if they change their mind's later or if the twins return and volunteer to being researched later in life, then that would be fine.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Angua » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:56 pm UTC

negatron wrote:
Angua wrote:and I'm glad the family isn't letting them be used for experimentation.

It's not like they intend to stab pieces of their brain and see what happens. Why would you be glad their parents deny the opportunity for scientific progress?

I"ve already said that having been on the receiving end of being gawked at because I have interesting birthmarks (until I was old enough to realise that I could say I didn't want to and no one would think the worse of me), and subsequently feeling very selfconscious about them, I'm glad that they aren't being forced to go through that if they don't want to.

Also, I"m a bit skeptical about how helpful this will be for scientific progress, besides being really cool, and very unique.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:58 pm UTC

Angua wrote:Also, I"m a bit skeptical about how helpful this will be for scientific progress, besides being really cool, and very unique.

Hypothetically, it can reveal what sort of information is processed by the region they share, and what sort of physiological responses can be elicited from that information. I'm not a neurobiologist, but the implications and possibilities are pretty awesome. And studying them doesn't have to be poking and prodding with needles or cutting into their brains.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Angua » Sun Jun 12, 2011 5:04 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote: And studying them doesn't have to be poking and prodding with needles or cutting into their brains
Yes, but I wasn't poked and prodded with needles - as I said, being gawked at as a scientific curiosity was annoying enough.

As to the what it shows - it might help see some of the stuff from the thalamus (which we already know a fair amount about), but I"m still not sure how helpful being able to study the way their brains work is going to be all that helpful with learning how the brains of everyone else works. But, maybe it could.

Still, just because they are born differently doesn't mean that the scientific community suddenly has some sort of right to them. They could have telekinesis, and it would still be wrong to say that they must be studied if they don't want to be.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jun 12, 2011 6:13 pm UTC

I never claimed that scientists had a right to them; indeed, Canada should be particularly paranoid about making such claims.

That said, these children are not normal, and they will likely require additional medical care. If the parents are willing to allow doctors some level of testing, I hardly feel that's inappropriate.

Furthermore, testing doesn't have to involve gawking. I understand the desire to protect these girls, but there's also no reason to assume we need to isolate them in a happy bubble. Chances are they're well aware, or will soon be well aware of the fact that they are not like the rest of their family.
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Re: Nature wins again: Brain Link edition

Postby Angua » Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:47 pm UTC

If you listen to a lot of people in this thread - it's 'they should be letting scientists study them in the interests of science!' 'for the greater good' - it comes across as saying that it is their duty to let the children be studied. Sure, it might help them fund their medical care, (though this is Canada and most of that will be free anyway), and I'm sure if it comes down to it then the parents will do that as well. But they live pretty far out according to the article, and any testing will require quite a big commitment and them going out of their way for this. Sure, the children will know that they are different, but they don't have to be treated as a scientific curiosity as well.
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