The Riddle Winner

Some time ago (Heidi says ‘in the dim distance past’) we ran a riddle about this photo:

There were two prizes – for the correct explanation and for the answer we like the best.  Well, surprise surprise, NO ONE got it correct. There were bits that were close. You will see how difficult it is to get it correct when you read the correct answer:  The painting reflects Australia – it is a style of painting made famous in Australian Aboriginal Art and this one tells you a very important story of fundamental importance to a culture that is 50 thousand years old, not a top-view of two Mexicans sitting in the sun…..(thanks Luke! Easy mistake).  The sunglasses denote ‘vision’ A couple of the entrants got that. The finger is fake. It is a plastic finger on a rotating shaft. The picture of the brain denotes……the brain.  We are doing an experiment in which we determine if we can induce a rubber finger illusion by watching the finger move in line with our own finger. So, the truth is a bit less complex and clever than the entries. Now, for the one we think is the best: there were four finalists. We all sat down over borlotti beans and avocado and had a blinded vote.

Fourth was this excellent suggestion from Matthias Weinberger – he suggested it was worth 2 cents. Now this is ambiguous – 2 NZ cents, 2 Euro cents? Who knows….

My 2 cents:
looks to me as if the finger is mounted on something. Judging by the desk it is sitting on I’d say it can be rotated.
The picture on the wall could be used as a distraction – the subject has to keep looking at the picture while the finger is being moved.
Vision comes into it because the lower visual field has lower resolution than the fovea.
So if you look straight ahead and something is moving in your lower visual field – what happens to the corresponding representation in S1?
That’s my best guess.

As a side note: my proposal for a therapy for BIID (people who want to get rid of a limb) is to give them glasses where the lower half is dark – so that there is no (unconscious) visual feedback coming from their legs. Maybe that could alleviate the symptoms?? Trying to incorporate the unwanted limb into the body schema by mirror feedback have failed so far – so why not try to “amputate the limb visually” by blocking feedback? Just a thought.

The bronze medal goes to Judy Herscovitch who made the intuitive seductive link between stinky art, picking one’s nose and visual awfulness:

The sunglasses represent vision, the pointing finger is balancing on the spray top from a bottle – spray equals the ability to smell something, and the finger points to the book, open to a picture of a brain. The brain is being touched by a hand. So, vision, smell, touch, directional sense all have their connections with the brain. The black and green images on the red background at the top of the photo are either bad art or part of the brain. The brain plays a role in determining what is good or bad art. Some people say bad art stinks; other people point their finger at a painting and put sunglasses on to shield their eyes from its awfulness. The answer to the riddle: a riddle-loving art critic’s opinion of the image at the top of the photo.

Silver medal goes to Rob G, who was very clear on stating that his contribution was worth about 2.5 times Matthias’s (presuming of course that Matthias’s was indeed a NZ cent) (personally, I thought the use of the phrase “stay with me” was worth first prize, but I got outvoted it seems:

Ok, here is my 2p’s worth:
The picture in the back ground is painted by an individual with chronic left finger pain, potentially after the traumatic loss of the digit. It was painted during an art therapy class following an neurophysiological explanation for his/her ongoing symptoms. It represents his/her changed somatosensory homoncular representation (pre-pain on the right, post-pain on the left). Notice the smaller left ‘limb’ beneath the circular and powerful ‘brain’ on the left compared to right: representing the limb itself. Also notice the larger ‘brain’ on the left: representing the expanded somatosensory cortical areas devoted to finger, after the pain.

Stay with me. The Sunglasses represent the use of graded visual imagery treatment to allow a re-organisation the cortex to pre-pain levels. They are looking at the finger. The sunglasses are used to ensure that the initial treatments are slightly abstract and not too threatening for the individual. Future sessions could involve looking without the sunglasses or a mirror image of the unaffected hand moving.

The art therapy classes allow for a deeper understanding of the process involved in the perceived pain from the affected area and reducing the fear/threat involved. They also represent the functional improvements in upper limb function, following treatment, as they were painted using the injured hand. The patient presented his/her work to the therapist to provide a example to help other patients to overcome their own pain problems.

But the winner is……… How to Cope with Pain who came back for a second go (is that allowed I wonder?):

Stopping back for a 2nd guess…

In the picture above, a finger sits right below the sunglasses. If the sunglasses were on a face, this is where the nose would be. How are the finger and nose connected? In the brain homunculus, the fingers and nose are very close together. Patients with nasal or face pain sometimes get “spread” of pain to their fingers. This “jump” in pain is surprising to them, unless they understand the homunuculus.

So perhaps your experiment is doing brain re-training with patients with facial pain, to get their pain “out” of their finger.

I recently used tactile discrimination and GMI exercises to get RSD facial pain to recede. The patient, who hadn’t spoken for several years because of pain with movement, is talking again!

So, this is the prize winner!!!! However, I have the sneaking suspicion that the writer of this entry has PLENTY of copies of Painful Yarns, so we might have to sort out something else. Anyway, as they say….Thanks for playing!


  1. How exciting! I do still have my Painful Yarns book, so here are my top 4 suggestions for a prize 🙂
    1. Lorimer visiting Philly
    2. Lorimer visiting Philly
    3. Lorimer visiting Philly
    4. Explain Pain

    Thanks for getting us all thinking!

    lorimer Reply:

    Sarah – In true BiM fashion, we will try our darndest to make this happen. What about Monday May 23rd 2011. If you think this might work, email me……