Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Scott Adams Finds his Voice

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame lost his voice 18 months ago to a malady called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Yesterday, he announced on his blog that he had regained his voice, using rhyming speech to reconnect the neural wiring between his brain and his vocal cords:
The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme. Rhyme was a context I hadn’t considered. A poem isn’t singing and it isn’t regular talking. But for some reason the context is just different enough from normal speech that my brain handled it fine.
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.
Jack jumped over the candlestick.
I repeated it dozens of times, partly because I could. It was effortless, even though it was similar to regular speech. I enjoyed repeating it, hearing the sound of my own voice working almost flawlessly. I longed for that sound, and the memory of normal speech. Perhaps the rhyme took me back to my own childhood too. Or maybe it’s just plain catchy. I enjoyed repeating it more than I should have. Then something happened.
My brain remapped.
My speech returned.
Not 100%, but close, like a car starting up on a cold winter night. And so I talked that night. A lot. And all the next day. A few times I felt my voice slipping away, so I repeated the nursery rhyme and tuned it back in. By the following night my voice was almost completely normal.
When I say my brain remapped, that’s the best description I have. During the worst of my voice problems, I would know in advance that I couldn’t get a word out. It was if I could feel the lack of connection between my brain and my vocal cords. But suddenly, yesterday, I felt the connection again. It wasn’t just being able to speak, it was KNOWING how. The knowing returned.
It's a fascinating and moving story from a guy who thrives on expressing the cycnicism of the cubical masses.


Blogger Catbird said...

This comes from, under the heading "Sensory Tricks":

Dystonias often can be relieved by sensory tricks, perhaps at first glance making the patient or examiner believe the problem is psychologic. A better explanation is probably that some sensations cause an input to the brain that changes the impulses causing the spasms.

I hope I'll never have to find out for myself if it works.

12:59 AM, October 26, 2006  

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