Monday, July 13, 2009

Hey, what's your name, again?

I went Googlin' because I had a feeling there was some research indicating that we do indeed have automatic responses to the names of other people. Here is a snippet of something I ran across, because I wasn't watching where I was going...

Previous data have indicated that the left anterior temporal lobe contributes to the retrieval of familiar people's names, and that the extended network including the bilateral anterior temporal lobe plays an important role in the retrieval of newly learned people's names. However, there has been no direct evidence for time-dependent change in brain activation in face-name associations. In addition, previous studies have demonstrated that emotional information such as emotional faces may contribute to the organization of long-lasting episodic memory. In the present study, we investigated the activations related to the recognition of people's names in the context of emotional and neutral face-name associative learning. Before fMRI scanning, subjects learned face-name associations that included emotionally positive and neutral facial expressions. In immediate (5 min later) and delayed (2 weeks later) recognition with fMRI scanning, subjects were presented with studied faces with two names, and were asked to choose the correct associative name learned previously. Recognition-related activations were identified in the anterior part of bilateral temporal lobe for immediate recognition and only in the left temporal lobe for delayed recognition. Further analysis confirmed the time-dependent change in activation of the right anterior temporal lobe. Activation related to the processing of faces with positive expressions were observed in the left periamygdaloid area and temporal pole, although emotional information did not have an influence on task performance in this study. These findings suggest that the neural network involving the bilateral temporal lobe contributes to the retrieval of newly learned people's names, and that the left temporal lobe has a crucial and stable role in retrieval of people's names from faces, whereas the role of the right temporal lobe in retrieval of people's names may decrease with the time course.

I'm sure you recognize this as being from the world-famous treatise, Time-dependent neural activations related to recognition of people's names in emotional and neutral face-name associative learning:: an fMRI study by Takashi Tsukiura , Masayuki Namiki, Toshikatsu Fujii and Toshio Iijima. You know these guys better, of course, as "The Four Seasons." They sang "Sherry" and "Dawn" and "Rag Doll." They don't explain why I would remember your name more easily if I had met you twenty years ago. Guys named "Glen" whom I meet today are "Buddy-boy" tomorrow!

I guess I could dig a little deeper into the Googleopolis and find out more about people's impressions of certain names. I know I heard about such a survey somewhere along the line. "Mark" is regarded as a spoiled kind of guy, and nothing could be further from the truth, and if anyone thinks so, well they just can't come to my fabulous yacht party next week, because in actuality, "Mark" is the name for the kind of guy who sits around wondering why a word that looks like it would be pronounced "YACH-'ed" is said like "yot." And he wonders why the framers of our language, all those weeks ago, didn't say "What's a word for a fancy boat? A YOT?!?! Y-O-T! perfect!"

You meet a guy named "J. Worthington Stufflebore III" and you know he will not be wearing a NASCAR T-shirt. You meet "Jimmie Earl," and you know he has a favorite driver. Not to stereotype, but some things do fall in line. You wouldn't want to have brain surgery performed by someone known to his friends as "Poopferbrains" any more than you would expect to get a good transmission overhaul by a guy in a spotless white linen suit.

Down to cases: I never met a Donna or a Christie (Kristie, Cristi, Kristi, Kristy) that I didn't like a lot...someone named Rhonda will always be helpful...any "Abby" is always dear..."Dawn" is an early riser and you can always meet "Barbara Ann" by learning to dance.

And one final thing about names: please...if you are in the position of naming a young 'un...and your last name is size-related in any way, e.g. Short, Little, Long....please do your son-to-be a "big" favor and don't name him Richard, or Peter, or Johnson. Trust me. I have been in 5th grade and it's not getting any easier.

In case you're going to have a daughter, whatever you name her...if she complains about it at 14 (and she will), tell her the original plan was to name her "Ophelia," and she will feel much much better.

Furthermore, my left anterior temporal lobe is NOT bilateral, I'll have you know.

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