Monday, May 01, 2006

Hardware vs Software

I have been thinking about what it means that PDS is a psychological or a physical problem. Here are some thoughts:

1) If PDS has a physical cause, an additional psychological component (which may in turn aggravate the condition) very likely must emerge. For example, you are in a wheelchair, you also suffer psychologically. You have a big scar in your face, you also suffer psychologically, e.g. avoid people.

2) But if stuttering is purely psychological in origin, there are no obvious physical consequences.

3) In reality, stuttering even if psychological has a physical manifestation. The brain needs to store the memory, has learned new behaviour, and creates fears against change. The key question is whether this physical imprint on the brain is strong and not easily reversible (you engrave a epitaph on a gravestone) or weak and easily reversible (you store information on a floppy disk or black/whiteboard).

To better understand the dynamics, I am using the analogy between hardware and software. More soon...

1 comment:

Carl Joakim Gagnon said...


Glad you're writing something about the psychological-physical distinction, which is in need of some thought. And the analogy with software and hardward is a good place to start.

But it's not a perfect analogy, I think. Hardware runs software; software doesn't (at least not so far, I think) influence hardware.

Our software _can_ influence hardware, I think (although I agree this is the big question): that's how lasting behavioural changes are made.

If we make a conscious commitment to using specific speaking techniques, we can seriously alleviate stuttering; as most of us find out, however, if we stop, and make speaking only a semi-conscious activity again, the problem recurs. But as the "non-stuttering software" runs, I believe we are deepening the non-stuttering "groove" in our brain -- or strengthening the right neural pathways.

As we become more used to catching ourselves blocking in public and releasing the block, releasing the block also becomes easier of course, because we're changing our beliefs about whether stuttering (and, more importantly, openly _dealing with_ stuttering) is socially acceptable.

So there are changes both in hardware (neural pathways) and software (beliefs), I think. And conscious, "software" changes can influence hardware changes.

I'd like to hear your further thoughts on this, Tom.