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S.A.Michel
06-02-2011, 08:16 AM
Okay, if the title is confusing (which it is), here's what I mean... There's a character who can't talk because of some... treatment? ... done to literally make speech hurt. I've read/heard/watched about how if you experience pain when doing something then later your own brain makes you believe you're still feeling pain if you do it again... now I'm trying to figure out a plausible way for this to be done. Would it be realistic to implant something on the brain stem that gets triggered if the person attempts to move the vocal chord muscles and trick the brain into thinking they're going through severe pain? (I'm thinking abdominal... but am clearly open to suggestions, too). Then it would presumably deactivate after a while, but the person now refuses to speak because the pain still happens?

»Sam.

benbradley
06-02-2011, 09:00 AM
Would mental "conditioning" work, something like in A Clockwork Orange? But yeah, a device that causes physical pain might do that too. It's "conditioning," sort of like Pavlov's dogs.

Ben, who knows just enough about psychology to be dangerous...

PinkAmy
06-02-2011, 02:36 PM
Somatization disorder is a diagnosis given to people who experience pain or illness with no known origin, but the dx usually applies to a history, not just one experience. You've probably heard the term psychosomatic illness (or pain), that's when psych issues cause the individual to experience the emotional pain as a physical manifestation. Additionally, if the person had a traumatic experience, PTSD could be a factor in pain preventing speech, particularly for child abuse or rape if the perp told the victim he'd kill her or her family if she told anyone.

Wiskel
06-03-2011, 09:47 AM
It's an interesting question. Your answer depends on how futuristic technology is in your story.

Using current tech, the answer is probably no. Science couldn't implant something in the brain to do what you're asking. It's probably not far off though.

You need a sensor to detect speech. We do have a good idea about which areas of the brain light up when people talk, so we do have scanners and electrodes capable of monitoring activity in particular parts of the brain. Right now this isn't miniturised technology though. There are still bloody great machines and wires. it's plausible that you could advance the tech for your story though. If you want to research the neurology more look up Broca's and Wernicke's areas in the brain.

We also have technology that can measure muscle activity. That's not really portable yet either but it's plausible you could detect activity in the vocal cords.

We do have the wireless technology needed for sensors to talk to machines. No problem there.

Causing pain is a little harder in the brain than you'd think though. The brain itself tends to hurt when pressure or stretching is applied, or when funny things happen to blood supply. You could activite pain centres using electrical current if you advance your tech a little to make it easy to identify the right nerves, or you could implant your device on a peripheral nerve and cause the pain there. Nerves in teeth might be a good bet. Nasty pain that's psychologically in the right place for your subject to make good strong links between talking and pain.

After the device stops functioning you are then in territory where different people will "recover" at different rates. Some personality types may be fine. Others may develop deep trauma responses that stop them talking for a good long time to come.

Craig

archetypewriting
06-04-2011, 07:21 AM
Okay, if the title is confusing (which it is), here's what I mean... There's a character who can't talk because of some... treatment? ... done to literally make speech hurt. I've read/heard/watched about how if you experience pain when doing something then later your own brain makes you believe you're still feeling pain if you do it again... now I'm trying to figure out a plausible way for this to be done. Would it be realistic to implant something on the brain stem that gets triggered if the person attempts to move the vocal chord muscles and trick the brain into thinking they're going through severe pain? (I'm thinking abdominal... but am clearly open to suggestions, too). Then it would presumably deactivate after a while, but the person now refuses to speak because the pain still happens?
»Sam.

This sounds kinda science fiction-y, so I'm going to go the scifi route rather than the straight psychological route, since there really isn't a straight psychological route, as the others have noted.

Sara Creasy wrote a book that included a band across the throat that makes speech impossible. So that might be worth reading.

If you want to put some kind of implant into the brain, it would need to be not in the brain stem, but in "Broca's area," which is associated with language production. Damage (for example, from a stroke) to Broca's area impairs speech production (resulting in a condition called "aphasia"), though speech therapy can usually help someone's brain "reroute" speech, even though the person may never speak smoothly again.

Again, if you were going the science fiction route, an implant that recognized neural activity in Broca's area could be linked to a pain-causing apparatus in the abdomen. Of course, Broca's area is associated with ALL forms of language production, so theoretically writing or thinking in words would also light up Broca's area.

However, if you're playing the scifi game, just indicate in your story that the scientists in your world have extremely sensitive equipment that is able to differentiate between Broca's area activity linked to actual speech production and other types of activity. (Perhaps they look for activity in a particular part of the "motor cortex" as well -- the motor cortex involves bodily motion, and it's mapped in such a way that movement of the hands [for writing] could be differentiated from movement of the lips [for speaking]).

Broca's area is in the left frontal lobe; the motor cortex is also in the frontal lobes.

S.A.Michel
06-04-2011, 07:32 AM
This sounds kinda science fiction-y, so I'm going to go the scifi route rather than the straight psychological route, since there really isn't a straight psychological route, as the others have noted.

Sara Creasy wrote a book that included a band across the throat that makes speech impossible. So that might be worth reading.

If you want to put some kind of implant into the brain, it would need to be not in the brain stem, but in "Broca's area," which is associated with language production. Damage (for example, from a stroke) to Broca's area impairs speech production (resulting in a condition called "aphasia"), though speech therapy can usually help someone's brain "reroute" speech, even though the person may never speak smoothly again.

Again, if you were going the science fiction route, an implant that recognized neural activity in Broca's area could be linked to a pain-causing apparatus in the abdomen. Of course, Broca's area is associated with ALL forms of language production, so theoretically writing or thinking in words would also light up Broca's area.

However, if you're playing the scifi game, just indicate in your story that the scientists in your world have extremely sensitive equipment that is able to differentiate between Broca's area activity linked to actual speech production and other types of activity. (Perhaps they look for activity in a particular part of the "motor cortex" as well -- the motor cortex involves bodily motion, and it's mapped in such a way that movement of the hands [for writing] could be differentiated from movement of the lips [for speaking]).

Broca's area is in the left frontal lobe; the motor cortex is also in the frontal lobes.

Oh, well, physchologically speaking, could they be tricked into thinking they'd never be able to speak again, even if it isn't actually true? Sort of like a placebo?

archetypewriting
06-04-2011, 07:40 AM
Sorry, I don't really think that's feasible. A lot of people speak without meaning to, whether because they wake up in the middle of the night saying something from a dream, or because they're startled into a swear word or other exclamation. Vocalization isn't always voluntary, is what I'm trying to say.

You could have someone who's been conditioned to believe that speech will be painful (because it has been in the past) and as a result the person doesn't speak MUCH. But each time s/he DOES speak and there is no pain, the more likely he is to speak again. You see that in Creasy's novel -- the character starts out very quiet and over time speaks more and more, though she never directly points that out.