Light Reflected Off The Expanding Bubble of Mindless Brain Research

A seminar in New York, at Fordham University School of Law of all places, is “symptomatic”, to use the  wrong word, of what’s wrong in brain research today. Somehow  it is believed that by studying the brains of people thought to be abnormal we are going to figure out how the brain works. If we do so, this line of reasoning presumes, we can end massive acts of violence taking place in the world today. You think?

The story in the New York Times is entitled The Day When Neurons Go on Trial.

Neurons are the new superstars in today’s brain research world. We’ve got neurologists, neuro-scientists, neuro-researchers, neuro-psychiatrists, neuro-philosophers, etc, etc. Who knows? Maybe neuro-attorneys are the next wave. The latest trend is neuro, but neuro with a twist, as nothing in the brain, and especially nothing in brain research, seems to proceed in a straight line.

Over and over, they put questions to a guest speaker, Joshua R. Sanes, director of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard, about the implications for society if and when brain science can identify with confidence a propensity for violence, or for lying.

Dr. Sanes answer was he wished he knew.

It is now believed that diseased circuits caused diseased brains, which we experience as psychiatric disorders, Dr. Sanes said. A student, Brittany Taylor, asked what such broken structures would mean if they cause somebody to commit a crime. “Are we going to look at that as a mitigating circumstance, or are we going to have to change our culpability standards completely?” she asked. What if other parts of the brain were involved, or if environmental factors were influencing the neurons? Could someone say with confidence that the neurons made him do it?

Stupid is as stupid does. If diseased brains are brains with diseased circuits, isn’t it a bit disingenuous to say that diseased circuits cause diseased brains? The cause, it would appear, is still X, and X is basically unknown.

Dr. Sanes reply seemed to be expect a lot of useless information. Following this plea of overwhelming informational overload, Dr. Sanes goes onto make a few predictions, the kind of predictions that could earn him a spot on my projected future column, Psychiatrists Say The Darndest Things.

“Fifteen years from now, somebody is going to say it’s the 489th neuron from the back of your ear that made you do it,” along with a mutant gene, Dr. Sanes said. “That’s going to be hard to dismiss.”

I suspect Dr. Sanes could not imagine himself, as a neuro-science-freak, being the person to have such a couple of willfully rebellious neurons. My own prediction is much more modest. I predict that this Decade of the Brain is likely to be as much of a vacuous bubble, a dud, as the last Decade of the Brain. We still have to make that little leap to consider what many neuro-science-types refuse to consider, namely, that maybe obnoxious and aberrant behavior isn’t entirely determined by biology.


The Language Wars

The language wars are old and have a long history. Take psychiatry, for instance, where “sickness” starts with an insult applied to a human being. The human being thus insulted becomes a patient, and at the same time, is rendered “less” of a human being. Once this insult has been applied, in some cases, the application can lead, in a straightway and thorough-going fashion, directly to the ruination of the patient.  There is, in a concrete sense, no protection from ruination given psychiatric intervention. Psychiatric theory, being negative in general, supports ruination.

A few years back arose what were termed mental patient liberation groups. These mental patient liberation groups were part of a growing movement. It was a mental patients liberation movement that came to be called the psychiatric survivor movement. Eventually, something went haywire. These people who had been justifiably suspicious of the government decided to make a peace pact with the government. They let that government take the reins of their movement. The result goes by many names, but most pointedly, or disappointingly, perhaps, the c/s/x or consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement.

Psychiatry is notorious for its failure to integrate people–damned, divided and conquered by psychiatry–back into society at large. Psychiatry has an expression for its failures. That expression encompasses a set of people psychiatry dubs people, using the currently most political correct expression, with “chronic serious mental illness”. Looked at from another perspective, psychiatry’s failures are actually the secret of its success. People who fail to recover from the mishaps encountered in life keep psychiatrists in business. Once upon a time, psychiatry was a profession made up solely of the superintendents of lunatic asylums in this country. No more. Now there are 48,000 psychiatrists in the USA alone, and they claim that number is way too few to serve the numbers of people who would utilize their services, or disservices, depending on your perspective.

If psychiatrists, and other mental health workers, could be termed the ‘functionaries’ in this field, the patients, or “consumers” as some of them now prefer to be called, could be termed the ‘dysfunctionaries’. Their role in life is primarily to give the mental health worker a purpose through their own lack of a purpose. So-called “chronic mental illness” is defined by psychiatry, with all of its medical pretensions, as ‘dysfunction’. Alright. Now ‘dysfunction’ is a matter of degree, just as jobs can be part time or full time, and so you have a situation developing where ‘dysfunctionaries’ are moonlighting as ‘functionaries’. Because nobody else will hire them, the mental health system has taken the lead in hiring mental patients.

Sometime while you are slogging through a quagmire of gray areas, do you ever feel nostalgic about more basic black and white issues? I mean to say by this that there is a point at which complexity reaches a ridiculous level because the forgotten virtue of simplicity was always more black and white. We are experiencing an epidemic of so-called “mental illness” today and, ironically, mental patients have started working with professionals to escalate this epidemic to even more incredible proportions. I would suggest that if this situation is ever going to change, another role needs to be found for them beyond that of tending to ‘dysfunctionaries’. Just think, taxpayer money is going for the ‘functionaries’ who tend to the ‘dysfunctionaries’, and more and more, both categories are tending towards the synonymously interchangeable. What a savings we would have if we could find a more fruitful position for some of these people, both professional and patient.

Future Psychiatry

Make way for the DSM-6 1/2 & 3/4. Some Oxford University mad shrink, a certain Kathleen Taylor, she calls herself a neurologist, thinks that religious fundamentalism and cult group membership could become a disease in the future.

Don’t look now, but religious fundamentalists and those whose ideological beliefs border on the extreme and may be potentially harmful to society could soon be called crazy—in a medical sense.

Remind me to stay way clear of the border of extreme.

Taylor also warned against taking “fundamentalism” to mean radical Islamism.

The story/review, Is religious fundamentalism a mental illness?, is to be found at GMA News Online, ‘the go-to site for Philipinos’.

I’m encouraged by all this potential broadening of commitment criteria in a way.  Just imagine, in the future maybe we could lock up members of the Church of Biological Psychiatry. As is, they do an inordinate amount of injury while everybody just looks the other way.

Kathleen Taylor has written a book, “The Brain Supremacy”, on the dangers of brain technology, but, oh, I don’t know…

“What we perceive from our perspective as our legitimate self-defensive reaction to the psychosis of the enemy, is from the perspective of the same enemy our equally malignant psychotic self-obsession,” it [Digital Journal] added.

Here it comes, here it comes…World War III!

This just goes to show now that, beyond intoxicating substances, behaviors have been found to be addictive, the bag is open, and anything can crawl in. Should psychiatry be your career choice, I hope we can find a cure before it’s too late, and the bombs start falling all around us.

The Evolution Revolution

Forced treatment is the big secret in the mental health “care” world today. Once upon a time, not that long ago, there was only one form of mental health treatment available, and that was it.

The American Psychiatric Association in fact grew out of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutes for the Insane. Where once you had the heads of what were then called Lunatic Asylums, now you have an association of professional pill pushers.

The big lie is that the pills they are pushing, and whose usage they are promulgating, are good for people, and not people in general, but specific people. People diagnosed with a “mental disorder”. This diagnosis is thought to make the people who have been given one somehow different from the general run of humanity and, therefore, in need of the fix that comes with a drug.

The truth is that mental health treatment is about social control. We have this law that permits confinement of anybody acting oddly on the grounds that they may cause harm to themselves or others. It would be a serious mistake, albeit a common one, to assume that people are held in psychiatric institutions because they are dangerous.

People in mental hospitals are not there because they were given a trial by jury. Usually they are there because they were given a hearing by judge, attorney, and psychiatrist in which judicial opinion subordinates itself to the whims of professional bias and procedural habit. Mental health commitment hearings, in other words, in the present day and age, are little more than kangaroo courts.

Drugs can’t fix people. Drugs can damage people. Drugs can’t straighten out faulty logic. Education can teach logical deduction. Drugs can’t supply insight. Drugs generally mask a problem rather than correct it. Masking a problem is not dealing with it, and coming  up with a solution to it.

Waiving independence in order to be treated by the mental health authorities, usually as a charity case, is not the best course of action to take as a rule. Doing so often involves forfeiting rights we think of as basic to our species. This revelation may take time to register and resonate, but it should come in time.

Yes, Virginia, there is life beyond the confines of the Mental Health clinic. One is not bound to the human services system the way a rat can be restricted to its track through a maze.  The thing is that that system shares many similarities with a rat maze. If it didn’t, researchers wouldn’t be studying rats with the idea of better understanding human behavior. I would strongly suggest that if success in the world is at all important to you, you should abandon the maze.

The irony found in the heading of this post comes with the realization that more complex organisms evolved from less complex organisms. The butterfly in a display frame is not a butterfly in flight. Our capacity expands to the extent that we learn to escape those boxes that other people would try to contain us within. Quite apart from biological limitations, and barring extreme circumstances, we have minds that allow us this advance and that departure.

Pre-psychosis In The News

Attenuated psychosis syndrome, alternately called psychosis risk syndrome, pre-psychosis and prodromal disorder is going into section 3 of the DSM-5. This is the section for disorder labels that need more review, and which will not be reimbursable. The bad news is that it is in the DSM at all, and being in the DSM, it’s going to be considered as a disorder. The good news is that it is not an “official” disorder label, insurance companies are under no obligation to pay for it, and so its not likely to explode into an epidemic next year.

Researchers, it seems, much less fastidious than DSM revisers, are intent in studying people afflicted with this fictitious and elusive label. The latest rage in pseudo-scientific discoveries concerns this nebulous early stage in the development of psychosis. An article in the Detroit Free Press, Schizophrenia may give early warning signs, is typical.

Researchers in Chapel Hill looked at brain scans of 42 children, some as young as 9, who had close relatives with schizophrenia. They saw that many of the children already had areas of the brain that were “hyper-activated” in response to emotional stimulation and tasks that required decision-making, said Aysenil Belger, associate professor of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

Now whether psychiatrized families actually think differently from non-psychiatrized families is anyone’s guess, and it could always be the topic for additional research should anybody choose to go there.

People who have a parent or sibling with schizophrenia are about 10 times more likely to develop the disease than those who do not. Signs of the illness typically begin in the late teens to mid-20s. These include declines in memory, intelligence and other brain functions that indicate a weakening in the brain’s processing abilities. More advanced symptoms may include paranoid beliefs and hallucinations.

Perhaps this sounds like an astonishing figure until you realize that it actually means 1 in 10 people rather than 1 in 100 people.  This is to say that among the 1 in 100 people that get described as psychotic, 1 in 10 of their closest relatives could also be so described. Unlike in the rest of the world where the rate stays more or less at 1 %. 1 in 10 means that chances are, if you are in a family haunted by the phenomenon of psychosis in one of its members, 9 out of 10 of it’s members most probably wouldn’t be described as psychotic anyway.

“Of all the people who seem to have compromised circuitry in their brain, if we come back and image them in later years, some may be moving toward the cluster of symptoms for schizophrenia while others may have other types of deficits,” such as bipolar disorder or attention deficit disorder, Belger said.

The article goes on to add, “Still others may avoid serious disorders altogether”, but the damage has been done. If you were an agent of the inquisition, let’s say, looking for witches, you are not going to be questioning the existence of witches. If you want to find fault in anyone, or anything, no problem. Just conduct a fault finding mission. If you are out to praise those people, well, hunting for future “mental illnesses” is just not the way to do so.

I think these researchers have better things to be doing with their time. We really have a problem when the DSM starts predicting disorders in people.  Ignoring any fork in the pathway that may lead to dysfunction, from functionality, is a major shortcoming, I would imagine. Ditto, in the case of paths that lead to folly from reason and wisdom. You are postulating that mental and emotional disturbances are a matter of predestination, and I imagine such leaps of faith belong in the realm of superstition rather than in the realm of scientific inquiry and skepticism.

This doesn’t mean that pre-psychosis isn’t going to make it’s way as a reimbursable disorder in a future edition of the DSM. I imagine, if things continue going the way they are going, it will. There is a lot of nonsense in the DSM. I would say maybe 100 % of the DSM is sheer nonsense. All the same, quite literally, even a listing as a category for diagnosis won’t make future psychosis a real disorder in present time.

Bringing the war in the classroom home to your doorstep

Did somebody say it’s jungle out there? It isn’t a jungle, it’s a war zone, especially in the public school system. Among the new disorders in the DSM-5, such as adult ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) , you will also find childhood PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) listed.

Just read between the lines on the first paragraph of this ABC News report, Psychiatry ‘Bible’ DSM-5 Will Add PTSD for Preschoolers, and imagine millions, perhaps billions, of shell-shocked kiddies returning home from their school day.

 When the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, is published in May, a small section could alter the lives of millions of children.

Not to be alarmed, despite this potential sharp rise in the number of children labeled ‘off their rocking horses’, mental health professionals tell us they’ve got treatment, and that this treatment can be effective.

Small children develop PTSD at the same rate as adults — one in four — and the number of potential sufferers is vast, said Dr. Judith Cohen, a psychiatry professor at Drexel University’s College of Medicine.

I imagine we could just give children signs on their first day of class, basing children numbers on adult numbers, of course. Numbers, you know, don’t change. 1/4th of the students would receive a sign that read PTSD, and 3/4th of the students would receive signs that read NORMAL. The students with the signs that said PTSD could then automatically be enrolled in a treatment plan.

And yet because existing DSM criteria doesn’t apply to young children, and because of society’s tendency to idealize children as resilient, pre-schoolers aren’t getting the diagnoses they desperately need, [vice chairman of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Tulane University, Dr. Charles] Zeanah [Jr.] said.

Children are idealized as resilient. Oh, that explains it! We don’t have the time to offer classes to parents, teachers, and children in ‘how to be more resilience’ then I guess. Notice, they desperately need diagnoses, too. You think so?

If you will excuse me, I think I’ve had enough of this nonsense, and so I think I’m going to return to my bunker for a little blissful shuteye. The prospect of a nation of shell-shocked children is just a little much for me to face head-on alone at the moment. I’ve got my own patch of green pasture that needs tending.

My Rant Against The Mental Illness Labeling Industry

Fuck psychiatry! I’m sick of system shit. I’m so sick of system shit that I got out of the system. I don’t need to be a shrink, and I don’t need to be a patient. I don’t even need to be a patient shrink, or a shrink patient. I don’t need to be one or another specialist on a continuum in a rich variety of turncoat categories. I’m not overseeing adult children mental patients in one capacity or another. I guess that makes me irresponsible, but that’s not the way I see it. I’d say that makes me responsible. I’ve ousted myself from the 6 % category of people that need supervising, as well as from the glorified adult baby sitter category that does the supervising.

I now exist among the roughly 75 % of population who have no need for the mental health system whatsoever except perhaps in so far as it applies to other people. I will work with a portion of the 6 %, but that is only to dismantle this monstrosity we’ve created. It is a monstrosity that embodies and includes that 6 %. There is no us and them dichotomy here. There is only this monstrosity in the corner of the world that the rest of us do our best to ignore.  If you think about it, it’s not such a big snorting elephant of a monstrosity as some of us might imagine it to be, it’s really just a tiny pink one.

I cringe every time I hear people talk about educating people about “mental illness”. The only people talking about doing this educating are people with a personal stake in mental health treatment. Talking about “mental illness” has become a way of selling “mental illness”. “Mental illness” is not, and never has been, a fact, it’s an idea. The profession never had a real grip on what it was dealing with. The mental health professional has no interest in becoming alarmed at the rate of people labeled “mentally ill”. “Mental illness” labeling is his or her bread and butter. The more people receiving a “seriously mentally ill” label there are, the more secure his or her job status becomes.

This leads us naturally enough to the condemned by biology theory that is so readily adopted by our professionals. It’s a matter of convenience mostly. 6 % of the population have not become good automatons. They aren’t, and they never were, human beings, not fully functioning human beings anyway. Human beings can become good automatons, according to theory, and be content with a mindless 9 to 5 sort of thing. They are broken machines, and it’s the computing function of the machine that is most broken. So we’ve got our warehouses, and our ill equipped repair people, to deal with the matter. Given that the design was poor, they say, don’t blame the repair folk for not being able to fix the automaton.

There is not much point in going there if you’ve managed to get away from it. The people talking about the people who are defectively designed are, of course, not the people defectively designed themselves. No, they are the people who determine which people are defectively designed, and which people are effectively designed; they couldn’t do so, or so goes the theory, if they were defectively designed. Imagine the difficulties involved in becoming disentangled from that illusion. Illusion it is, but it isn’t the only thing going, so excuse me while I eject myself from the entire argument. Significance, as I see it, is sometimes a matter of rejecting insignificance. I feel much better knowing I’m not contributing to the problem, even if not contributing to the problem is not likely to win me any awards.