Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"HEAD CASE: Can Psychiatry Be A Science"

2/24/10. Louis Menand reviews two books on the treatment of depression and examines psychiatry's claim to be a science.

My view is psychiatry can be a science, and has made significant progress --- but the field is still way behind the scientific accomplishments in all other medical specialties --- about 200 years behind.

A core reason for the elementary knowledge base in psychiatry is that we have no idea how the brain produces the mind and generates consciousness.

To compound matters, we have no reliable biological markers such as blood tests or brain scans for any mental disorder. And, we do not know the etiology of psychiatric disorders. We have a diagnostic manual of mental disorders crammed with too many lists of recipes, too many cooks, and too little science.

Yet depression is real and effective treatments are available. Read "Darkness Visible" by William Styron, or "The Unquiet Mind," by Kay Jamison.

Some depressions fit the etiology of the disease model and respond well to medicine.

Some people get life-saving benefits from antidepressants; some people develop self-knowledge, confidence, and coping skills from psychological therapy; and people who take antidepressant medication and go for psychological therapy often have the best outcome.

Both antidepressant therapies and psychology therapies are both underused. The stigma of mental illness still touches the lives of many people and their families. Many depressed patients never seek help, or when they do, they do not get the help they need.

It is not just politicians who labor under rigid ideologies. With so little and often contrary scientific findings, many mental health professionals still subscribe to either biological or psychological treatment ideologies.

Blame ________ for Diseases

2/24/10. No --- not your parents, not your doctor, not the pharmaceutical companies, and not the environment.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Evidence that Little Touches Do Mean So Much"

2/23/10. NYT science writer Benedict Carey:

" recent years some researchers have begun to focus on a different, often more subtle kind of wordless communication: physical contact. Momentary touches, they say - whether an exuberant high five, a warm hand on the shoulder, or a creepy touch to the arm - can communicate an even wider range of emotion than gestures or expressions, and sometimes do so more quickly and accurately than words."

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Matters of Life and Death"

2/22/10. "Two fathers' memories shows that grief has no political affiliation.

Monday Quotations


(referring to jazz:) "The Sound of Surprise."

--- Whitney Balliett (1926 - 2007 )

"Analogies decide nothing, that is true, but they can make one feel more at home."

--- Sigmund Freud (1856 - 193)

"No one can answer for his courage when he has never been in danger."

--- la Rochefoucauld (1747 - 1827)

"'Hope' is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul ---
And sings the tune without
And never stops - at all."

---Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886)

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Life Among the 'Yakkity Yaks'"

2/19/10. Interview with Temple Grandin "doctor of animal science, ground-breaking cattle expert, easily the most famous autistic woman in the world."

"Modern Love: Scientific Insights from 21st Century Dating"

2/19/10/ Association for Psychological Science Staff Writer Ann Conkle opens her article with the following:

"The modern world provides two new ways to find love --- online matchmaking and speed dating. In the last few years, these methods have moved from a last resort for the loveless to a more accepted way for millions to try to meet their mates. While this has led to dates, relationships and marriage around the globe, it has also been a boon for enterprising researchers - providing huge datasets chronicling real world behavior. Psychological scientists have been studying attraction, love, and romantic relationships for decades..."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Prescriptions for Psychiatric Trouble"

2/18/10. Psychiatrist Sally Satel offers her views on the troubles with the 5th edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. This revision of psychiatric diagnoses has too many recipes for psychiatric troubles, too many cooks preparing the categories, and too little science.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Empathy's Natural, but Nurturing It Helps"

2/16/10. NYT science writer Jane Brody writes about the importance of developing empathy in children..."Lacking empathy, people act only out of self-interest, without regard for the well-being or feelings of others. The absence of empathy fosters antisocial behavior, cold-blooded murder, genocide...Healthy self-esteem is essential to empathy..."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Quotations


"I cannot believe the purpose of life is to be 'happy.' I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you have lived at all."

--- Leo C. Rosten (1908 - 1997)

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"

--- Steven Wright (1955 - )

"I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing over whether it is true or not."

--- Sir Peter Medawar (1915 - 1987)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Human Nature

2/12/10. A colleague asked me whether my opinions about human nature have changed over the years. Here is my response:

  • Human nature is deeply woven with contradictions, conflicts, and discontents.
  • Genetics and environments are equally important contributions to understanding human nature.
  • The proper use of reason is to recognize reason’s limitations. Reason is the “rider” holding the reins on the “elephant” of unconscious desires and values.
  • Understanding human nature springs from the mystery of the generation of consciousness.
  • Consciousness is the basic experience of humans on which our social and personal relationships rest.
  • We do not understand how consciousness is produced nor do we understand its full potential.
  • There is little science that applies to our understanding of human nature. So our understanding of human nature takes the form of stories, religions, ideologies, and beliefs.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Disorder Out of Chaos"

1/11/10. Updating our ideas about what autism is. If only we had some biological marker of this disorder, perhaps we could make more order out of chaos and bring some effective treatments to bear on this often disabling condition of the mind.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"When to Worry if Your Child has Too Few Words"

2/08/10. Useful information from pediatrician Perri Klass in the NYT.

"Good Grief"

2/8/10. On death, dying and grieving.

Monday Quotations


"An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make people laugh."

--- Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)

"There are two types of people in the world: good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more."

--- Woody Allen (1935 - )

"A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes."

--- Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 - 1951)

Humor and the Brain

2/8/10. Humor is a complex process --- and no laughing matter when it comes to how jokes affect the brain.

Seymour B. Sarason R.I.P.

2/8/10. The life of psychologist Seymour Sarason, an author of more than 40 books, who applied his insights on social psychology to help many. He founded the field of community psychology.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"A Mind So Different"

2/4/10. "The story of Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism at age 4 and in time a symbol of hope for the afflicted, has made its way to the screen with spellingbinding results," says Dorothy Rabinowitz, a member of the WSJ editorial board - on this Saturday, 8- 10 p.m. EST, on HBO.

A review from the NYT.


2/4/10. Interested in psychology? Check out this helpful Web site.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The New Science of Sleep

2/3/10. All you want to know about sleep apnea.

The Lancet's Vaccine Retraction

2/3/10. The British medical journal The Lancet issued a full retraction of a study it ran in 1998 linking measles-mumps-rubella vaccines to autism.

Even prestigious journals can be conduits for junk science. And promoting this junk science in such a well respected periodical lead to a decline in children's vaccination rates, a significant increase in preventable diseases, and death.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Health Care: Who Knows 'Best'"?

2/2/10. Dr. Jerome Groopman discusses the role of behavioral economics and comparative effectiveness research in reforming health care.