Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Origin

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Origin

A Novel

by Diana Abu-Jaber

Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2007, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2008, 384 pages

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Children raised by animals?

In Origins, Lena believes she spent her early years in the jungle being raised by apes, which begs the question, are there any real cases of children being raised by animals? You will find the answer at feralchildren.com which has collated a number of claims and attempts to separate fact from fiction.


Mirror-touch synesthesia

Lana is able to sense things that others can't, such as the emotional residue left in a room after a crime has been committed. Is this far fetched? Perhaps not - as scientists learn more about the human brain they are finding things that used to be the stuff of fantasy are within the brain's ability (or at least the ability of some people's brains!). For example, it seems that some people can literally feel the pain of others.

The condition known as mirror-touch synesthesia was known only anecdotally until recently when neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore completed a study of 10 mirror-touch synesthetes (reported in Nature), all of who were found to have overactive mirror neurons, which are the brain cells that allow us to see an action and comprehend it enough to be able to mimic it. Blakemore had only heard of the phenomena anecdotally until she referenced it at a seminar in 2003. A woman in the audience asked "doesn't everyone experience that? Isn't that completely normal?" This woman became one of Blakemore's study subjects. Alice, another participant in the study, says, "I have never been able to understand how people can enjoy looking at bloodthirsty films ... I can feel it."

This article was originally published in July 2007, and has been updated for the May 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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