Thursday, February 08, 1996

Bad habits and organic predisposition

A (sarcastic) question was posed as to whether an "organically predisposed alcoholic"
would be "predisposed to recognize Jack Daniels and Jim Beam"....

No, what I am saying is that his body processes alcohol differently from mine.
I can drink a glass of wine and not feel drunk nor feel an overwhelming desire
to keep drinking. I'm no expert on alcoholism but it is entirely plausible that
some enzymes that break down alcohol for me are lacking in the other fellow and
that alcohol goes to his brain in greater quantities and much faster.

It is entirely plausible that "stress" produces some chemical that affects our
speech apparatus. Fluent speakers are organically more fit to deal with that
chemical (just an example of what "organic" might mean, unfortunately no
specific mechanism has been proven yet).

Comment: To become alcoholic one needs first to make the choice to start drinking. One cannot possibly be "predisposed" to making that choice.

The predisposition is not in the choice itself (unless later he becomes, as he
well may, less "free" to choose) but simply in what happens as a consequence of
the choice. Suppose a bird is born with only one wing and sees all its siblings
jump off their nest and fly away. Of course it would choose to try and fly off
as well, with obvious dire consequences.

We are more like the bird than the alcoholic. We don't really have a choice not
to talk.


Can the "organic" weakness be in the lack of will power rather than in the system?

People have been blamed throughout history for being "weak" ... just stop eating!.... just think happy thoughts! ... I fear, as stutterers, we have no immunity against this sort as weakness as well. Yes, I could be a PWS and be unwilling to face the issue. It is also absolutely true that extra will power and desire can go a long way towards making stuttering a non-problem, as many of us bear witness to. But it remains EXTREMELY important to know exactly what we are dealing with.

We find now that people may have a weight "set point" just like we have a set
body temperature. Yes, if you don't eat you lose weight, but for some people it
may be sheer hell, for others no big deal. I can tell you that stuttering is no
longer an issue for me, and how I've done it. But, I simply don't know if my
effort is equivalent to yours. I don't know if your speech "set point" is
different from mine

A quote from the movie "12 Monkeys": "There is no right or wrong, just popular opinion."

No, there is observation and good science.

1. Is it plausible that an organic problem could cause stuttering? -Yes
2. Is there any data in support of this hypothesis? -Yes (genetic studies)
- much more coming in from scans etc.
3. Has a specific mechanism been demonstrated yet? - No
4. Is it plausible that the problem is compounded by psychological factors? -Yes
5. Do we need to work in all of these areas? - Yes
(I'm sure people will quibble here and there, but I doubt that we can steer away
too much from these basic facts).

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