My Brain Made Me Do It? And Other Questions About Neuroscience

REVIEW:   Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld,  NY: Basic Books, 2013. This book is short (156 pages of text) and easy to read while being well researched and documented (61 pages of interesting, helpful notes and citations – in a point size enough smaller than the text to make one believe that in the original draft there was as much space, time and effort devoted to this endeavor as there was to the writing of the text) The authors make it clear that they are nether opposed to or over-archingly critical of brain science in general or neuroimaging in specific.  They do, however, take the positions that (1)     Neuroscience is a brilliant development, but still young and at the very early stages of discovering what it has to discover. (2)     Some authors, enthusiasts and members of the media take small discoveries…

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Giving Guns to People with Mental Health Disabilities

There is news from Capitol Hill which underscores the notion that there is more to fear in Washington, DC than just the  the White House.  According to an article in the NY Times on February 15, 2017. Congress has acted to reverse and Obama administration rule requiring the Social Security Administration to add about 75,000 people, currently on disability support, to the national background check database and deny them gun purchases. These individuals suffer schizophrenia, psychotic disorders and other problems to such an extent that they are unable to manage their financial affairs and other basic tasks without help. An article from The Hill  reports a statement from House Speaker Paul Ryan after the shootings in Orlando.  Ryan stated  “that many of the shooters are mentally ill and therefore a reform of the mental health system is the right response.”I don’t want to keep saying the same thing over and…

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Chronic Politics Stress Disorder (CPSD)

As I talk to colleagues I hear virtually all of them saying that they themselves have been highly stressed  by recent political events, and that their clients are all talking about the presidential election and politics in an unprecedented way.  People talk about old, terrible feelings being stirred up which relate to past experiences of being marginalized or hurt by bigotry and prejudice — or harassed, raped or abused.  People talk about anxiety, fear and anger — and a determination to “not let things go back to the way they were before.”  People talk about feeling more stressed than usual, or more shaky, or having more headaches, or feeling kind of out of focus or overwhelmed.  Some of these friends, colleagues and clients are from immigrant families or are part of the first generation of their families to be born in the United States.  Some are Muslem or part of…

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Review: Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease

Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease (2010) by Gary Greenberg. Published by Simon and Schuster. This book presents a combination of research and Dr. Greenberg’s personal experience with depression.  He takes a position critical of today’s prevailing view that depression is a brain disorder caused by a neurochemical imbalance and effectively treated by antidepressant medications.  He looks at the history of depression as a disorder, the history of antidepressant medication, and considers what we lose when we look at our sadness as a brain disease. Dr. Greenberg’s writing is fluid and unforced, making serious material an easy read (He has written for publications such as the New Yorker, Harper’s and Discover — just to name a few). He is able to combine humor (sometimes pointed at his own foibles and sometimes at the foibles of the health-care professions and pharmaceutical industry), with serious scholarship. And his points…

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Review: The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine.

The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine.  Shigehisa Kuriyama.  NY: Zone Books, 2002. (Winner of the 2001 Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine) First of all this is a beautiful book.  One does not often say that about academic paperbacks, but this book – from cover art to type face to book design – communicates that same care and effort that is evident also in the writing.  This is a scholarly work, well researched and documented, which presents a wealth of information and understanding in a succinct and distilled manner. Dr. Kuriyama begins with one of those images we see in beginning psychology texts used to illustrate the foible of perception: that one image may be viewed in very different ways depending on our internal stance or point of view (as in the image to the left).  This is…

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Your New Robotic Doc

This holiday weekend I took some time to catch up on my reading and ended up in a place I often end up in.  That is the question of how to best configure and offer health care, including care in the area currently termed “mental health.”  I put it that way because, as a proponent of integrating mind and body and healing the centuries old Western split between mind and body, I think there really should be no distinction between mental and physical health.  Perhaps that is the first point to be made. One short article from the Atlantic Monthly entitled The Robot Will See You Now by Jonathan Cohn generated pages of notes.  This article focuses on IBMs Watson, best known for its success on the TV quiz program “Jeopardy,” which apparently is now focused on the medical information available at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. …

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On Playing Well with Others

  Ask mathematicians about their experience of the craft, and most will talk about an intense feeling of intellectual camaraderie. “A very central part of any mathematician’s life is this sense of connection to other minds, alive today and going back to Pythagoras,” said Steven Strogatz, a professor of mathematics at Cornell University.  “We are having this conversation with each other going over the millennia.”   The quotation above is from a recent article in the NY Times Magazine about a brilliant mathematician, Dr. Terry Tao, at UCLA1.  I read the whole article with much interest, but this particular statement stood out and made me ponder about how good that connection with others, both currently and across time, must feel.  And I wondered why it is in psychology that we seem to ignore or apologize for our intellectual ancestors, and often complain about our contemporaries unless they are aligned with…

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Autism, Vaccines and the Trump Administration

“So what’s going on with autism? When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really – it’s such an incredible – it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase…”  (February 14, 2017, reported in the Washington Post) “When I was growing up, autism wasn’t really a factor,” Trump said. “And now all of a sudden, it’s an epidemic. Everybody has their theory. My theory, and I study it because I have young children, my theory is the shots. We’ve giving these massive injections at one time, and I really think it does something to the children.”  (Dec 28, 2007 reported in the Sun Sentinel of South Florida). These, like so many statements from Mr. Trump, leave one with a gaping mouth and not much idea of where to start.  And they, now coming from a man in a position of real power and influence, rise to…

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Review: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

Dark Money:  The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right Author:  Jane Mayer NY:  Doubleday,  2016   This is a detailed, well-researched look into the monetary forces driving the far right, including movements like the Tea Party (and far, far more). The subjects of the investigative reporting are billionaires (the Koch brothers, the DeVos family and others) who, as Libertarians, believe that no government is pretty much the best government and so have used their money to methodically buy institutions and influence people to conform with their ideals. It is a clear answer to why it was so difficult for President Obama to get things done and why Hillary Clinton’s campaign failed.  The book is enlightening and frightening at the same time, and makes it all the more clear that we must be politically active in order to preserve social programs, stop climate change, protect…

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Statement of Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright – Jan 30, 2017

Statement of Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright – Jan 30, 2017 The following statement from Secretary Albright was emailed to me by the group Organizing for Action.  In addition, Secretary Albright was on the PBS News Hour last Monday night expressing similar thoughts “By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the executive order on immigration and refugees that the President signed on Friday. It bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half the number of refugees we can admit, and halts all travel from certain Muslim-majority countries. I felt I had no choice but to speak out against it in the strongest possible terms. This is a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America’s core values. We have a proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution, and have always been the world leader in refugee…

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