Is Temporal Dysplasia Real? The 'Stitchers' Medical Condition Doesn't Actually Exist
When it comes to suspending disbelief for the sake of a television, I've never had any trouble with that. I can absolutely get immersed in a world of direwolves and White Walkers for Game Of Thrones or a world where pyrokinesis and traveling through dimensions is possible on shows like Fringe. But when ABC Family's newest series Stitchers introduced the main character Kirsten as having a medical condition called "temporal dysplasia," I was more than a little confused and suspicious. As I do with all television shows that introduce a concept I've never heard of, I had to look it up because my curiosity always gets the best of me. Plus one of the characters in the show even mentions that they had to look up the condition as they had never heard of it which made me even more skeptical. And what I found was that the actual condition of "temporal dysplasia" on Stitchers doesn't exactly exist. And for that matter, the closest possible condition doesn't share the same symptoms.
For a little backstory into how the term is used on the show, we need to go back and talk about the show's synopsis. Stitchers follows Kirsten, a highly intelligent doctoral student at Cal Tech who gets recruited into a secret government agency that basically hacks into the brain waves and subconscious of the recently deceased to find answers to important questions and cases. The pilot finds Kirsten hacking into a bomber's memories to find out where he hid two other bombs before he died.
Many times throughout the pilot, Kirsten talks about how she has "temporal dysplasia" which means that she doesn't feel the passage of time and can only figure out how much time has passed in a given day through math and meticulous observation. So is there such a thing as "temporal dysplasia"? Short answer? No. It's a made up condition for the show which the cast members have made clear.
There is however, a condition called cortical dysplasia which occurs when the top layer of the brain doesn't form properly. It's actually one of the most common causes of epilepsy. There are three different kinds of cortical dysplasia; the first occurs in the temporal lobe and can cause seizures in adults. The other two are increasingly more severe and occur in the temporal and frontal lobe. The most common symptoms of all kinds of cortical dysplasia are seizures and sometimes an inability to learn new things. Clearly that's not what Kirsten has in this series.
However, the idea of having a difficulty with time perception is real. There are multiple time illusions that can affect the way people perceive time, like the idea of the telescoping effect in cognitive psychology which allows people to remember events as being further back than they actually occurred or vice versa. So while the science on Stitchers may not be exactly real, maybe some of it is based in at least a little bit of reality. And if that's the case, maybe that's intriguing enough to keep me watching for a little while longer.
Images: Adam Rose/ABC Family