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Author Topic: Morse code and the brain  (Read 13371 times)
WX7G
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« on: January 09, 2011, 04:46:57 PM »

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20346399

Distinct patterns of functional and structural neuroplasticity associated with learning Morse code
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W4FO
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2011, 09:51:40 AM »

Now I know why some phone ops act like they are brain dead Grin Grin Grin
pat
W4FO
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AB2T
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2011, 12:35:04 AM »

Now I know why some phone ops act like they are brain dead Grin Grin Grin
pat
W4FO

I wouldn't be so quick to say that.

Recently I had a chance to talk with a PhD candidate in linguistics.  She mentioned that English is one of the hardest languages to learn because of the highly irregular correspondence between spelling and pronunciation.  French, for example, has a very regular relationship between spelling and pronunciation.  Not so the other way around -- I can easily read French but cannot transcribe spoken French into written words.  This is not imperative since I live in an English-speaking community of Montreal.  Even so, I struggle with French every day.

My linguist friend noted that many students display difficulty with English reading comprehension as early as second grade.  If the learning difference is not treated early, the student will cease to read confidently.  A dyslexic person's brain is wired differently than a non-dyslexic person.  Even though the brain is highly plastic, that plasticity might not extend as far as one might like especially if the student receives little or no early intervention.  Relative difficulties with morse code might also relate to learning differences. Remember, dyslexic persons or persons that have difficulties with morse code are often very intelligent.  It's not kind to call someone who struggles with morse code unintelligent or inconsiderate.

I had relatively little difficulty learning code and advanced through the code tests quickly.  I cringe when people use their "20 wpm Extra" as a cudgel against new hams.  I always wonder: how long have some hams waited to have a HF license simply because they could not pass General code due to a learning difference?   

73, Jordan  
« Last Edit: January 11, 2011, 12:37:55 AM by AB2T » Logged
K7KBN
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Posts: 2754




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« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2011, 09:06:23 AM »

Differences between spelling and pronunciation?  How about:

"Chuck Norris puts the "laughter" in "manslaughter."?

Similar to the "Laughterhouse" vs. "Slaughterhouse" on a Simpsons episode some years ago.

73
Pat K7KBN
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
NO2A
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2011, 06:40:20 PM »

Or, Kansas vs. Arkansas! To,too and two. They say Chinese is just as difficult.
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KU2US
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2011, 07:03:35 PM »

It is a known fact that those who are musically inclined or good in math have an easier time learning code, especially musicians because they work with notes translated into sound. Code is a sound language, so you translate the morse sound in your brain to your fingertips to write a character, or just difuse the sound in your brain. Alot of cw OP's can sit and copy CW in their head just like someone is talking to them, and then respond via key. Yes there are those who have a difficult time with CW. One BAD thing to do is when you hear a CW letter, you think of what letter it is, and say this is the letter "D" and then write it down. You should just try to recogize the cw sound and then write it down. I know, easier said then done for some. Everyone has their own learning curve. It doesnt mean you are stupid because you cannot master cw 100%, it just means that you have to work harder at it. One good thing, it will come with persistance. Practice and practice, this is the key.
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K8AXW
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2011, 09:08:07 AM »

When the Army put me through school and learning CW was the main part of the course, I heard many times "I simply can't learn this!"  The fact of the matter was that only 1 or 2 out of hundreds of the men being trained couldn't learn code.  It must be understood there is a different learning curve for each person.  However, with very few exceptions persistence prevails.  If you want to learn the code, you will learn it.  Just take your time and try to minimize the frustration by controlling the progress of learning, not letting letting the lack of progress control YOU!

While I'm on the soapbox, I would like to dispel a myth that has prevailed for years.  If I had a dollar for every time I've heard, "I can't learn the code because I'm hearing impaired" or I'm hard of hearing and I can't distinguish between a dit and a dah" I could buy a nice new toy!  Or if it was BS I could fertilize a 40 acre field!

The truth of this matter is, long after your hearing has diminished to the point you can no longer understand the spoken word, either in person or SSB, you can hear and understand CW.  This is because you can vary the amplitude and frequency to an area where you CAN understand it.  This is something that is very difficult to do, if not impossible, with SSB.

I'm 75 years old and I am presently living what I have just wrote.

It was the joke at Ft. Devens, "We taught a Chimp to copy CW at 13WPM.  It was only after we switched him over to a mill (Military typewriter that types just capital letters) that he went crazy!"




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K9RFZ
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2011, 09:52:18 AM »

I believe you'll find that people with strong analytic skills are predominantly visual learners and therefore work at a disadvantage when developing new skills that require auditory learning. I hold degrees in mathematics and physics so I'm trained to look for patterns and make multiple associations between observations. In my attempts to learn Morse code, I struggled with turning off the analytic side of the brain and letting the reflex side take control. I contend that people with poorer analytic skills who are less accustomed to critical thinking will be better at learning Morse code because they are more likely to act reflexively and less analytically. In short, the analytic person will think before doing and the emotive person will do before thinking. Learning Morse code is a 'do without analyzing' skill. If an analytic person can resist the ingrained habit of looking for a pattern in the code, then he can eventually hear the sound and reflexively know the letter or word. 

Joseph, K9RFZ

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K8AXW
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2011, 08:19:33 AM »

HHHhmmmmm been waiting a few days for someone with an "analytical" mind to respond to your post but they must be still analyzing it.

My experience with cryptographers, who have very analytical minds, also happened to be very precise and very good CW operators.  If anything they were anal retentive when it came to correct character length and spacing but never-the-less excellent operators. None that I worked with had any problem learning CW.

I also learned working with this group of men that they were not visual "learners" but were indeed "visual" when it came to analysis.

I will agree that people with "emotive" or "reactive" minds were faster operators, some able to reach incredible CW copy speeds and at the same time were not distracted by sloppy sending, people talking beside them or other noises.

No doubt I'm over reacting to this thread.  This comes from the many years of hearing every excuse in the book for not being able to learn the code.  It also comes from those I've heard getting a Dr.'s waver to bypass the CW portion of the FCC tests back in the day  because "they couldn't hear those dots and dashes."

My present addvice is:  "If you want to learn the code, do it.  If you don't, forget it.  I just don't want to hear excuses!"

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K9RFZ
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2011, 10:07:37 AM »

K8AXW

Your description of the cryptographers that you worked with (precise, anal-retentive, well organized) is stereotypical of rote learners who would be expected to learn Morse code quite well. Visual learners are people who see the big picture as a whole and ignore the details. We think in pictures rather than words. We tend to see the correct answer to complex problems without methodically prodding through the detailed steps. Specifically, we would learn a foreign language quicker by immersion in the culture rather than tedious repetitious drills in a classroom

I didn't claim my learning style prevented me from learning Morse code. I couldn't justify the effort if the end reward was having QSO's at the bottom end of the band with prejudiced OF's like you.

Joseph, K9RFZ
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N2EY
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2011, 06:53:28 PM »

I believe you'll find that people with strong analytic skills are predominantly visual learners and therefore work at a disadvantage when developing new skills that require auditory learning.

I don't think there's a correlation between "strong analytic skills" and "visual learners" at all.

I hold degrees in mathematics and physics so I'm trained to look for patterns and make multiple associations between observations.

I hold degrees in electrical engineering, and had to learn quite a bit of math and physics to get them. Consider all the different kinds of skills needed to do engineering.

In my attempts to learn Morse code, I struggled with turning off the analytic side of the brain and letting the reflex side take control. I contend that people with poorer analytic skills who are less accustomed to critical thinking will be better at learning Morse code because they are more likely to act reflexively and less analytically. In short, the analytic person will think before doing and the emotive person will do before thinking. Learning Morse code is a 'do without analyzing' skill. If an analytic person can resist the ingrained habit of looking for a pattern in the code, then he can eventually hear the sound and reflexively know the letter or word. 

I disagree completely.

Learning *any* skill requires practice so that the learner builds up a response to a particular stimulus.

For example, arithmetic skills are learned by doing calculations. The skill to do mathematical proofs is learned by doing lots of proofs. Typing, writing, riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, or simply talking and listening are all skills, and are all learned by practice.

Of course people's aptitudes vary all over the place; that's just the way it is. But non-disabled humans of widely varying aptitude can and do learn things such as speaking and understanding a language, reading and writing, arithmetic, typing and much more - including Morse Code.

That is, they can learn it if they want to, and if they use the right methods.

73 de Jim, N2EY

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K8AXW
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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2011, 09:10:29 PM »

K9RFZ:

I am sorry to see that you felt the need to get personal and insulting during this thread!  I, in no way, meant to minimize your opinion.... it's just that I somewhat disagree with you.

The purpose of learning CW is in fact to go to the low end of the band and communicate, rather they be new guys or OFs.  This is what ham radio is all about.  If CW isn't your bag, then do what is.  This is the greatest thing about ham radio.  It has so many facets that anytime we get tired of doing one thing we can move to another, and another, and another.....

I will give you credit for one thing Joseph,  of all the reasons (excuses) for some not being able to learn the code, your's was one that I have never heard before.

 

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K9FV
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« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2011, 08:56:07 AM »

Quote
That is, they can learn it if they want to, and if they use the right methods.
I don't think anyone is saying "impossible to learn code", but are saying it's harder for some folks than others.  From my limited experience (and talking to others) a person who has a very good sense of rhythm will learn code a good bit faster than someone like myself who simply can not hear the rhythm in some music. Some music has a very distint rhythm, and I can "sorta" stay in sync with that, but other music has a more subtle rhythm that I can not follow - no way.

I took guitar lessons in late teen years, the music teacher tried to teach me to "play by ear" - I could not "hear" the beat/notes to allow me to play by ear.  Give me sheet music with notes/beat printed - I could play that, but no way could I play a few "hot licks" like a true musician can.

I did learn CW, passed the 13 wpm test, even got to working CW at around 15 wpm - BUT it took MUCH more practice than other folks I've studied code with.

So, Yes, most anyone can learn code, but it may take 10 times (100 times?) more study for the same speed as someone else, and perhaps never be able to acheive the really high speed code of others.  Saying "Anyone can learn" is the same as saying "Anyone can ride a bicycle like Lance Armstrong if they only practice" and we know that isn't true.

rant mode off<Smiley

73 de Ken H>
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K9RFZ
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2011, 10:55:29 AM »

K8AXW;

I regret that I let myself be baited by your remarks and calling you an OF was inappropriate. Please accept my sincere apology for the name calling. Arguments like this aren't good for amateur radio

K9RFZ
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K8AXW
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« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2011, 08:52:17 PM »

K9RFZ: 

Apology accepted.  It wasn't my intention to "bait" you.  While I certainly not an electronics expert like many others here on eHam.com, I do have some experience in ham radio and I like to pass on my experience(s) if I think I might be able to help.

However, when it comes to CW I consider myself VERY experienced.  I spent 6 months, 5 1/2 days a week, 8 hours a day learning the code, first by printing it by hand and then copying the code with a mill.

After that I spent 8 hours a day, a minimum of 40 hours a week copying code for well over 2 years.  I have copied some of the best fists in the world and some of the worst.

I have observered literally hundreds of men learning the code, some failing and even one that went off the deep end and was hauled out of the barracks wrapped up in a sheet screaming his head off!

Everyone has his/her own learning curve.  This goes without saying.  Many of our people were college graduates.  The bottom line is most can learn the code if they are persistent. 

I meant no offense OM nor did I intend to question your intellect.  I simply stated my opinions based on almost 3 years of military experience and 54 years of ham radio where CW was my preferred method of communicating.
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