Monday, 16 June 2008

Schizophrenia : A Hideous Progression

Over at the New York Times Health Section, a set of animations showing development of different parts of the brain during childhood and adolescence - and what happens when Schizophrenia strikes.

We may not know the Why of Schizophrenia, but at least we have a good handle on What it is, something we only guessed at before.

The tool of functional MRI continues to provide us with far more data about the way the brain works, and sometimes doesn't work, than any other experimental device. It is giving us new insights, and in the process, abolishing much of the nonsense we formerly swallowed, lacking better data.

As I wrote in a comment on ShrinkWrap,
I wonder what all the Freudian theorists and therapists would think about the hideous progression of degeneration visible in those MRI scans.

The model of Id, Ego, Superego etc may have it's uses. But it's difficult to view much of past psychiatric theory as much better than superstition - on a par with trying to make rain by propitiating the right deities, as opposed to cloud-seeding.

To be fair, the witch-doctors and priests were using their sometimes formidable intellects to try to make sense of the world in a rational way. They just lacked 99.9% of the data they needed, so their explanations were less than accurate.

I think much of psychiatry is the same: it's not that they're stupid, merely pardonably ignorant. But they're getting better as more data comes in. It does mean though that conventional psychic explanations should be viewed in a less accepting light, and that to view the mind as being separate from the brain is less useful than commonly accepted.

Will Psychiatry rise to the challenge of accepting that most Psychiatric theory is the sheerest nonsense, an artefact of speculation, guesswork, and poorly designed experimentation? As a whole, I think it will, Shrinks are *bright* people in general. I expect there to be many holdouts though.
Trying to cure Schizophrenia by psychoanalysis and "How do you feel about your mother?" is exactly as effective as donning JuJu masks and reading the entrails of goats. We've known that for a while. Some people with the disease manage to route-around the problems, taking advantage of an unusually plastic brain, so environmental factors allow them to live with it. But we have no idea what the most effective factors may be. It could be that just interacting with other people, doing simple manual tasks involving great creativity, or conversely no creativity at all, may be useful. We don't know that yet. We do know that theories about Schizophrenia involving Oedipal or Electra complexes, oral versus anal personalities and so on are so much phlogiston. Which rather casts doubt on their accuracy in general.

Don't get me started on the various psychic models of gender identity, compared to the neuroanatomical ones. Unlike the psychiatric profession, I'm not in two minds about that.

1 comment:

Battybattybats said...

Some very good points.

Theres been some exciting and interesting rumblings in philosophy and conciousness research because of this technology too.

Many have complained about the 'ology' part of psychology. I recall a discussion with a parapsychologist doing telepathy experiments complaining that they were the only person in the psychology department (or for that matter a lot of medical drug researchers too) using proper methodology!

Still things like cognitive behavior therapy have had good enough results with some conditions like anxiety and chronic pain management to ensure the practice will continue in some form or other it will end up so revised soon it will be hardly recognisable.

Like the conflicts in taxonomy with the introduction of gene mapping I expect there will be quite some interesting discussions as to what constitutes what.