The Inaugural Body in Mind Riddle Competition

See if you can solve this riddle.  A picture, they say, tells a thousand words. This one doesn’t tell that many but if you can work out what it is saying, we will give you are prize….

The hint: We are starting a series of new experiments, each item in this picture contributes to a description of what the experiment is about.  There are actually two copies of Painful Yarns. Metaphors and stories to help understand the biology of pain: one for the correct answer and one for the answer that we like the best. We like things that are clever and funny.  Good luck.


Great suggestions. Great ideas. Not on the money – although Ian’s at least in the same book if not the same page….. Keep guessing folks – there is are no easy rides!


  1. Luke Parkitny says:

    I am not allowed to vote but I can’t resist chiming in (as usual).

    The experiment is clearly a two-part study into the incidence of finger amputations in mexican hat dancers (seen from the top).

    Part one will be a longitudinal study, following two communities of mexican hat dancers (obesity will be an exclusion criteria as evidenced by both groups being able to see their feet (the squiggly lines – the middle line is the nose of course!).

    Why finger amputations? The brim is sharp guys! You should know that!

    Part two will be an RCT to investigate whether wearing sunglasses (thus imparting a degree of coolness onto the participants whilst reducing vision) will influence their ability to read and follow the instructions for performing the dance (you see the picture in the book is actually an optical illusion that looks like the brain but is in fact the path that the dancers are expected to trace across the red dusty plain). If you look closely there are instructions for blunting the brim just next to what looks like Wernicke’s area – which is appropriate given its relationship with written language.

    Results of this study will allow us to predict and prevent mexican hat related injuries which cause the community between $1 and $1billion in health costs per annum.

  2. Heidi:
    are you finally allowed to tell the world what the experiment was all about? 😉
    I told you at the conference that you can give me my prize right there. ;-)))

    Heidi Reply:

    Extensive testing still going on, experiment wrapped in secrecy…. I am going to take part on Thursday and if I live to tell the tale I’ll let you know as soon as possible (if my finger hasn’t dropped off in the meantime)

  3. You really don’t want to know what I thought when I first glanced at the thumb in that photo…………!!

  4. 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.

  5. I’ve just been recruited as a subject on the study – and as Lorimer is keeping a tight lid on it I also don’t know what it’s about… yet

  6. Hypnotic imagery and hallucinations are being used to treat phantom limb pain.

  7. I think the painting is representational art, it portrays an entoptic image of trans state. So the art describes a hallucination stage. The amputated finger has its representation in the brain and so a person is still aware of the finger. The phantom limb is a form of hallucination.

  8. ah. it’s a synaesthesia. vision, tactile experience, and the spray? thing (for smell) it’s a synaesthesia brain analysis study, perhaps using FMRI or other brain scan technology.

    or… it’s about dreaming. How do we feel and see during dreams? How is the neural activity combined into whole experiences in a dream? How is a vivid dream different from normal imagination? It’s a brain study of dreaming behavior. Again using FMRI or other brain scan technology.

    or, it’s both! in dreaming and in other surreal experiences we often have synaesthetic like experiences. what is the brain activity like during those experiences? When a synaesthetic person dreams how are their dreams different from a typical person? again using FMRI or other brain scan technology.

  9. Well! There are some rippa’s here – absolutely top deck. A few of you are on the scent – here are some tips to narrow your focus: The art denotes that it is Australians doing this experiment – the painting is a traditional Aboriginal painting from Nyirripi, Northern Territory, language group Pintupi, by Margaret Brown Napangardi. The sunglasses represent vision. Keep them coming!

  10. Margaret D. says:

    I think it’s about how the brain through the eye perceives the colour blue.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. After the surgical removal of the finger, amputee still has the sensation of the missing finger due to the representation in the brain. Amputee feels the phantom limb to be “fixed ” or “frozen”. Using visual imagery amputee can perform the movements of the phantom limb to readjust the body image.

  14. How much time does it take for a sunglasses wearing 20-something year old male college student to make wacky grafitti in the bright sunlight before his forefinger starts sending signals to certain parts of the brain that it’s starting to have spasms and can’t release the spray nozzle?

  15. Tim Vaughan says:

    this picture told me:

    Stare at the picture, and then bring your 2 forefingers together right in front of your glasses (I wear glasses) & low and behold the little “Vienna sausage” illusion made by your forefingers makes the image into a couple of big huge funky eyes with a nice Vienna sausage mouth!!!

    of course maybe my mind’s interpretation demonstrates why i still suffer from chronic pain…..

  16. Two smirking eyes gazing upon the finger pointing the way to the meaning of life (is that page 42?) and because of this, the future’s so bright you just have to wear shades…

    The positioning of the finger close to the nosepiece of the glasses suggests something of Herta Flor’s work on cortical reorganisation with vision occluded, (touch the face and the sensation is felt on the finger) but those mexican pizza’s smirking behind just really distract (I believe they’re evil).

  17. My guess is an experiment along the lines of what the wise John Barbis has been discussing. He’s noticed a difference in pain levels depending on the degree of ambient light, and if the pt has eyes open or shut. Therefore I’m betting that the sunglasses represent varying light, the finger represents movements of specific body parts, and the picture of the brain, well, the brain’s the holy grail, of course, and what you’ll be trying to re-train, to decrease pain.

    If that’s not it, then my guess is this:
    The sunglasses represent that we researchers are really in the dark, still fairly blind to the complexities of pain.
    But the finger represents that the body can point us in the right direction, if we listen with curiosity and thoughtfulness. And the finger can point us to…
    The brain, representing wisdom.
    The picture above the 3 objects, of course, are Lorimer’s heat-stroke eyes under that hot Australian sun.

  18. Judy Herscovitch says:

    By the way, I am writing from Canada and my comment was written at 7:03 AM on February 18th. Your time noted it as 12:03 AM, February 19th – neat way to time travel!

  19. Judy Herscovitch says:

    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.

  20. ian stevens says:

    Experiments on somatosensory homoncular plasticity ?
    The ‘invisible’ man points to his ‘big’ finger which is how it is on the map ……..meanwhile the eyes in the picture stare in wonder at what the experiment could be…………
    further down the chain by the foot you could have some interesting experiments which Sarah , Andrews ex wife if I recall used to enjoy ?

  21. This is clearly somebody with chronic pain (maybe because of a upper extremity phantom limb or CRPS)…the picture is showing homuncular changes due to chronic pain…the representation of the hand shifts/smudges with the face…because of this the patients perception of his/her hand/fingers is distorted…the picture on the wall shows this distorted view the patient has of his/her hand/fingers.

    ( But my Boss thinks the picture on the wall shows 2 mexicans on a bicycle)

  22. The severed finger is clearly a warning to undergrads of the price of not volunteering as research giunea pigs. Nice strategy, how did you get it past ethics?

  23. a dismanteled body of a person is trying to read the book

  24. This is quite clearly a snapshot of Lorimer’s desk clutter after he’s written his latest paper on the neuromatrix…