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Your Brain is an Ecosystem, Not a Machine

by David Doody


Tags: neurodiversity, neuroscience, brain, Thomas Armstrong, ADHD, autism, dyslexia, Science and Technology, Ode, David Doody,

Brain Photo Post

In an excerpt from Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences by Thomas Armstrong in the April/May issue of OdeArmstrong writes about a metaphorical “rose psychiatrist” diagnosing other non-rose flowers with diseases and disabilities.  A sunflower has “hugism,” while a calla lilly is diagnosed with “PDD, or petal deficit disorder.”  The metaphor, Armstrong posits, shows “how our culture treats neurological differences in human beings these days.”  Instead of there being one “normal” brain (the rose brain in the metaphor), we need to think about different brains as just that, different, with what we now consider “normal” as only one spot on a continuum of brain types, making all brain types connected versus placing some in “other” categories and therefore separate.  With this in mind, Armstrong says we must consider our brains to be more like ecosystems than the old comparison to machines.

Since medical research tends to focus on disease, instead of on health, Armstrong writes:

The concept of neurodiversity provides a more balanced perspective. Instead of regarding traditionally pathologized populations as disabled or disordered, the emphasis in neurodiversity is placed on differences.

This is not, as some people might suspect, merely a new form of political correctness (e.g., “serial killers are differently assertive”). Instead, research from brain science, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, sociology and the humanities demonstrates that these differences are real and deserve serious consideration.

I recognize that they also involve tremendous hardship, suffering and pain. The importance of identifying mental illness, treating it appropriately and developing the means of preventing it in early childhood cannot be overstated.

However, one important ingredient in the alleviation of this suffering is an emphasis on the positive dimensions of people who have traditionally been stigmatized as less than normal.

Armstrong has come up with eight principles of neurodiversity to guide the reader in seeing how certain mental disorders may just be “alternative forms of natural human difference.”

Source: Ode, Neurodiversity: Discovering the Extraordinary Gifts of Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Brain Differences