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Simulating Psychosis

By Vaughan in Science
Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 12:15:43 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

Delusions, hallucinations and distortions of thinking are the hallmarks of psychosis, a reality-bending mental state that has occupied thinkers since ancient times. Driven by the desire to better understand this puzzling condition, a small but growing band of scientists have been attempting since the 1970s to create computer simulations of the psychotic mind. Although this work has produced some exciting results, including an effective treatment for auditory hallucinations, it has found itself struggling with some crucial questions, not least of which is, "what is mental illness?"


The Nature of Psychosis
Our traditional understanding and classification of a psychotic state comes from psychiatry, which aims to identify and treat different forms of mental illness. In the psychiatric model, psychosis may include holding delusional beliefs, experiencing hallucinations (stereotypically the experience of 'hearing voices' although such hallucinations may occur in any of the senses) and having muddled or incoherent thoughts (known as thought disorder). The experience of psychosis is commonly associated with schizophrenia or manic depression although it is not necessarily specific to these conditions. Psychosis has been reported to occur in the context of everything from flu to HIV to Parkinson's Disease.

The content of the psychotic experience can be particular to each individual. John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning mathematician, held the delusional beliefs that he was the 'left foot of God' and in charge of a military conspiracy about to take over the world. Kay Redfield Jamison, noted psychologist and author, hallucinated blood dripping from every surface and believed that all the green plants in the world were slowly dying. Not everyone experiences such sinister episodes and some people may come to believe themselves film stars or endowed with unlikely special abilities such as space travel or universal communication.

Simulating the Psychotic Mind
The metaphor of the computational mind has become increasingly popular in psychology, replacing the stimulus-response theories that were popular in the first half of the 20th century. With a theory promoting thinking and brain function as computation and the widespread availability of computers, psychologists were quick to create artificial models of how the mind (or at least a part of it) might work.

Although usually more concerned with patient assessment and therapy, the development of computer based models of mind and brain caught the attention of clinicians working with people who were diagnosed with mental illness or had suffered brain injury. They wanted to take these simulations of normal thinking a stage further, to see what happened after they were exposed to simulated damage. Particularly with a view to seeing if the models made any useful clinical predictions or helped explain how the damage took effect.

An early simulation of paranoia by psychiatrist Kenneth Colby, based his theory on a flow chart understanding of the mind, charting mental function as a process of manipulating symbols, segments and sequences of natural language thinking. Procedures such as the 'self-scanner' would check self generated 'speech' for topics related to currently held delusions and would increase the 'FEAR' variable if found, similar procedures would affect the values of 'MISTRUST' and 'ANGER', supposedly simulating the levels of these emotions during social interaction.

Compared to more recent and sophisticated simulations Colby's flowchart approach (published as a 1975 book) seems a little crude. Perhaps even a little naive, taking the popular approach to programming at the time and applying it wholesale to the mind. However, Colby is in good company. As psychologist Douwe Draaisma has charted in his history of ideas about the mind, psychology has a long tradition of co-opting current technological developments as a metaphor for mental function.

More recent simulations have tended to use artificial neural networks, usually 'trained' to simulate certain mental functions and then 'damaged' to simulate illness or injury. Neural networks have a number of advantages for scientists. Principally, they aim to simulate (however loosely) the workings of neurons and do not assume any particular method for representing knowledge beforehand. Although it is controversial as to how accurate a computer model of neurons can and should be when simulating behaviour, artificial neural networks at least have a level of plausibility in combining approaches which aim to understand the link between the biology of the brain and the phenomenon of the mind.

Ralph Hoffman and Thomas McGlashan, two psychiatrists from Yale, created ambitious neural network models of memory and speech perception. They were particularly interested in 'damaging' their computer models in a way that simulated the brain changes in schizophrenia. Crucially they hoped that their simulation would become psychotic, perhaps exhibiting virtual delusions or hallucinations, suggesting a way in which these experiences might arise from a disordered brain.

Their simulations produced strange and unrequested output when damaged, output which Hoffman and McGlashan consider to be the equivalent of psychosis in humans. Furthermore, they concluded that levels of activation in brain areas involved in speech perception may be important in producing hallucinated voices. Applying the conclusions from their simulation Hoffman and McGlashan used a technique called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (where magnetic pulses are used to temporarily stimulate small areas of brain) to successfully treat a series of people who were being troubled by hallucinated voices.

There is no doubt that this was a successful and useful application of simulated psychosis, leading to important scientific findings and a hopeful practical treatment. Nevertheless, psychosis is notoriously difficult to pin down and it is becoming clear that the boundaries between computer science, philosophy and medicine will need to be broken down before we can be sure that similar simulations are not useful by accident rather than by design.

Better Living Through Madness
Our idea of what psychosis consists of has been inherited from psychiatrists. Because of their role as medics for mental distress, they have traditionally suffered from a sample bias. A person is only likely to show up in front of a psychiatrist if they are either distressed or causing distress to others. A person who has wild and extensive hallucinations is unlikely to ever be a psychiatric patient if they are never troubled and can continue their lives successfully. Many prophets and visionaries throughout history and in modern times have had a radically altered perception of reality but have contributed much of benefit to the world.

Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that a significant minority of the population hold strange and unusual beliefs and may have sensory experiences that would otherwise be considered as part of psychosis if it were not for the fact that they are rarely troubled by them. It seems that psychosis may not always be a sign of mental illness, but simply another way of constructing reality.

If the 'illness' part of mental illness is not to do with the strange experiences, but with the distress caused by them, computer models may eventually be inadequate. Whilst computer simulations may be able to produce virtual hallucinations, they are unable to produce virtual distress. This cuts to the heart of the debate about artificial intelligence, as it could be argued (and frequently is) that computers are incapable of adequately producing emotional states and always will be. Scientists could simply add a 'DISTRESS' variable, but the problem of when this should be increased would remain unsolved, putting the project back to square one.

Philosophically, the problem remains unsolved but the fact that useful treatments are starting to emerge from computer simulations is reason enough to continue. And with our history of using technological metaphors to understand the mind, future technology may yet hold the key to cracking the core of psychosis.

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Display: Sort:
Simulating Psychosis | 132 comments (128 topical, 4 editorial, 5 hidden)
There are a few "recreational" drugs... (2.14 / 14) (#1)
by Danzig on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 07:34:23 PM EST

that appear to do a decent job of it. Not that I recommend them, however.

You are not a fucking Fight Club quotation.
rmg for editor!
If you disagree, moderate, don't post.
Kill whitey.
Prozac (none / 1) (#138)
by Alfie on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 03:20:35 AM EST

Try overdosing on Prozac if you want to experience psychosis. On the other hand, don't, because it will be more than a "simulation".



[ Parent ]
Hence the "not recommended" part. (none / 2) (#165)
by Danzig on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 02:18:53 PM EST



You are not a fucking Fight Club quotation.
rmg for editor!
If you disagree, moderate, don't post.
Kill whitey.
[ Parent ]
huh (none / 1) (#209)
by ascalon on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 08:11:03 AM EST

right

[ Parent ]
Is psychosis a disease? (2.89 / 19) (#8)
by chluke on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 08:38:17 PM EST

Before spending time coming up with a computational model of the brain to similate mental illness, the notion that schizophrenia and other psychoses have biological roots should be called into question.

There is no physical test that a psychiatrist can perform on a patient to determine evidence of psychosis. A diagnoses is reached only after an extensive battery of psychological tests and questioning. Have you ever wondered why it goes almost unquestioned that psychosis is a disease? That is, a physical malady like cancer or aids? You should.

The psychiatric community has some very powerful reasons for promulgating the view that psychosis is biological in origin. Firstly, psychiatry's purpose in its early inception in the 1700s was to keep those with disturbing behavior away from the general populace. Since psychiatrists view themselves as legitimate medical practitioners, and since they veiw there purpose as controlling deviant behavior, it's natural for them to think of psychosis as a real disease. Where is the line between simple deviance from normal societally accepted thoughts and psychosis? Why is believing that you are a time traveller unacceptable when believing that when you die you will become a God ruling over another universe as some Mormons do (at least nominally) tolerated? At it's worst psychosis may be simply and emotional disorder with a physical cause. But psychiatrists' livelyhood depends on people believing that "psychotic" people are diseased rather than simply deviant thinkers.

Secondly, psychiatry has adopted the view of psychosis as a disease for economic reasons. In the 70s and 80s many different types of therapy were competing with psychiatry: primal scream therapy, behavioral therapy, family therapy, etc. Psychiatry has launched a massive propaganda campaign stating that psychosis is a disease and only therapists with a medical degree are qualified to treat it. Here again psychiatry needs everyone to believe psychosis is a disease for their livelyhood to exist.

Thirdly, as part of a larger political trend of biological determinism espoused by America's leaders in the past few decades, the psychotic (along with the poor, the handicapped, and those belonging to racial minorities) have been cut loose by the government tightening its purses. Many believe these people are beyond help and that it is a waste of money to have the state assist them in any way. Psychiatry has persuaded the world the psychosis is a disease, and that until a wonder cure arrives these people are beyond help. In doing so, they have placed themselves as the only ones that can help psychotic people.

Before you label me as crazy take a look at

    How to Become a Schizophrenic
by John Mondrow as well as some of these other writers: Harry Stack Sullivan, Theodore Lidz, Gregory Bateson, R.D. Scott and P.L. Ashworth, W. Ronald D. Fairbairn, Anton Boisen. I have had intimate experience with mental illness (my mother is schizo-affective and I was mis-diagnosed with schizophrenia--long story), and can tell you things are definately not as clear cut as psychiatry would have you believe.

That's nuts (2.75 / 8) (#15)
by dn on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 10:05:03 PM EST

...the notion that schizophrenia and other psychoses have biological roots should be called into question.
Family studies, especially twin studies, show a very high correlation between schizophrenia and genetics, correcting for the effects of environment.
There is no physical test that a psychiatrist can perform on a patient to determine evidence of psychosis.
There is no physical test that provides evidence of pain. What of it?

    I ♥
TOXIC
WASTE

[ Parent ]

More questionable medical practice (2.83 / 6) (#34)
by chluke on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 11:14:17 PM EST

Family studies, especially twin studies, show a very high correlation between schizophrenia and genetics, correcting for the effects of environment.

Family studies should be questioned because of the effects of the environment influencing separate members of the same family can't be removed. If your fathers reaction to spilt milk was to throw a fit or generally go crazy, you may also behave in the same manner only because your father's influence.

Twin studies, where the twins have been separated at birth, also can't be trusted to provide insight into psychosis (or anything else probably). Please refer to an excellent article written by localroger over a year ago on K5 which gives a damning condemnation of twin studies and their import for genetic determinism.

There is no physical test that provides evidence of pain. What of it?

Pain is not a disease. Pain does have a neurological basis. So does love. I'm not here to solve the Mind-Body problem, but am simply saying that responses like pain and feelings like love (and psychoses) are truly difficult problems to define and grasp within a straight-forward physical analysis of the body and hence must have some basis that transcends a physical analysis. And manytimes, pain (eg back pain) are psychosomatic responses to stress (again something that seems to transcend physical analysis).

[ Parent ]

Twin Studies (2.60 / 5) (#99)
by desiderandus on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:15:19 AM EST

Actually, localroger's strongest attacks against twin studies against twin studies boil down to the fact that the first one, done by Burt, was a fraud. He did not argue against twin studies, only against ones that defeat the purpose of separating environment from genetics (and thus twins at birth) It isn't quite the "damning condemnation" you make it out to be.

And psychoses do have evidence for a neurological basis. I suggest you look up on antipsychotic drugs (they target dopaminergic neurons, which exist in several pathways in the brain, notably in reward-mediating and motor pathways as well as one or two more). The main problem with them is that since they also target motor pathways, giving rise to Parkisons-like symptoms (and Parkison's is a disease caused by the motor set of dopaminergic neurons). Sorry to be so vague, I've just spent a few weeks forgetting my neurology while. If you want, I'll look it up again in detail.

And as a side note, pain is usually associated with purinergic transmission (ATP and adenosine) in the peripheral nervous system. Just thought you'd like to know :)
_________
Our sins catch up to us in the worst possible way; they become part of our essential identities.
[ Parent ]

Pain (none / 3) (#101)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 10:29:03 AM EST

And as a side note, pain is usually associated with purinergic transmission (ATP and adenosine) in the peripheral nervous system. Just thought you'd like to know...

Perhaps what the poster was referring to was medicine's inability to quantify pain. While the existence of a state of pain can be verified physiologically, the effect this has on the mind of the bearer of the pain remains largely immeasurable.

My wife, who has worked in the past with people whose brains have been squished in car accidents, tells me that this elusive nature of pain frequently becomes a field of battle in lawsuits involving suffers of chronic pain and insurance companies.


___
I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski. Personally, I pref
[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 2) (#102)
by desiderandus on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 11:48:21 AM EST

I've heard of that too, sorry I didn't think of it that way. There are some neat little devices that quantify pain by pressure, but that's about it (interesting example), but there's nothing for pain by heat or any other means. Blah, hopefully I'll learn about it more in medical school, I hate knowing a little bit about everything.
_________
Our sins catch up to us in the worst possible way; they become part of our essential identities.
[ Parent ]
It's an illness when (2.60 / 5) (#19)
by richarj on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 10:25:21 PM EST

It affects the persons life adversely.

"if you are uncool, don't worry, K5 is still the place for you!" -- rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Is psychosis a disease? (3.00 / 4) (#109)
by jkauzlar on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 02:52:05 PM EST

There's an interesting book by the renowned psychoanalyst Erich Fromm called The Sane Society. It theorizes that psychotic behavior can be construed as 'sane' behavior if the behavior is accepted or encouraged within the society in question. He calls into question whether or not entire societies can be 'mad.' This sounds rather paranoid (in a nice Woody Allen way :) but he brings up some good points:

The madness of the general populous would not bring about adverse results since the behavior is generally encouraged. Although the psychotic individual may be 'annoying' the individual is productive in society and so tolerated. The individuals likely to experience the greatest anxiety are those not submitting to the public will.

Of course, while this is interesting to think about, this sort of madness does not exhibit the sensory delusion studied in this article. If we are able to simulate extreme cases of psychosis and so pinpoint psychological causes, Fromm's 'relative madness' theory could be explored further to give all of us some insight into leading healthier mental lives.

[ Parent ]

Self-destructive? (none / 0) (#178)
by pin0cchio on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 01:31:16 AM EST

The madness of the general populous would not bring about adverse results since the behavior is generally encouraged.

Really? Don't many kinds of psychosis involve particularly self-destructive behaviors that, if the majority became subject to the psychosis, would cause destruction of the society?


lj65
[ Parent ]
It's been awhile... (none / 1) (#182)
by jkauzlar on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 12:20:17 PM EST

since I read the book (or paged through it, at least), but I found the concept to be interesting. I'm assuming his book was, in fact, a warning to us that if we don't shape up and live healthy mental lives then society would fall.

[ Parent ]
Possibly.. (none / 0) (#183)
by geekmug on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 01:14:02 PM EST

But society is not likely to (on the whole) move to destroy itself, man has a natural self-preservationism.

However, there are plenty of delusions that are routinely upheld by society that are arguably "crazy" but are non-destructive (ie, god). Look at more acient cultures, many would consider them crazy for believing in multitheism, but is monotheism any less crazy?

-- Why reinvent the square wheel?
[ Parent ]
oh god, the arrogance. (none / 1) (#184)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 01:53:58 PM EST

However, there are plenty of delusions that are routinely upheld by society that are arguably "crazy" but are non-destructive (ie, god).

There are conceptions of God as a creator who sets the ball rolling, but doesn't interfere with reality as it unfolds. Under such a view, the deity has no perceptual manifestation in the world at all.

Psychosis is a label for a kind of mental states involving sever perceptual and cognitive distortions that render the subject incapable of grasping the real situations they are in.

Now, it follows from the definitions that belief in a deity of the sort described above cannot be psychotic. Simply, if there is no way to perceive God, and no real situation manifests Him, it cannot be delusional to believe just that.

Of course, I've been charitable with you, and not pointed out any of the following so far:

  1. You are falsely equating delusions with psychoses. But delusion is a far more general category-- it is merely believing something false, contrary to evidence and reasonableness. For example, if you kept insisting after this point that belief in God is psychotic, you would be deluded.
  2. Your game is pretty transparent-- you have a contemptful attitude towards religious people, you want to give your contempt the trappings of science, and you are much less concerned with the actual accuracy of what you say than with making your particular brand of contempt sound respectable. You are a *that* kind of jerk.
Thanks for your time.

--em
[ Parent ]

I love the condescension.. (none / 0) (#188)
by geekmug on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 04:06:15 PM EST

I think it is a psychoses to believe that a non-percieable deity can intervene in your life. And don't get me started on believing in a "judgement day" (paranoia, much?). "God told me to.." "Jesus wants me to.." "When I die, I will live on.." Sounds like a lack of grasping the unfolding of reality (as you so eloquently put it).

Would you not agree that religious suicide bombers are psychotic? I think you would. The extremists are percieved by society as pyschotic, but the "norm" is consider "normal," but I think you all are extremists.

That is not to say that their aren't religious people who have not decided that God created but does not further involve himself, I am sure there are, and those people clearly can't be called psychotic, as you defined it.

And you should really just be an ass instead of trying to viel it; I really don't care. It's not a game; it's a crappy discussion with biases flung around like spitballs.

Thank you for your reply, anyways.

-- Why reinvent the square wheel?
[ Parent ]
*yawn* (none / 0) (#190)
by Estanislao Martínez on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 06:31:07 PM EST

I think it is a psychoses to believe that a non-percieable deity can intervene in your life.

But you are wrong. Do you seriously believe that such people ought to be hospitalized?

And don't get me started on believing in a "judgement day" (paranoia, much?). "God told me to.." "Jesus wants me to.." "When I die, I will live on.." Sounds like a lack of grasping the unfolding of reality (as you so eloquently put it).

The only one of these that sounds remotely psychotic is "God told me to". You know, if you want to claim that somebody's beliefs are delusional, or even worse, psychotic, you need a much better argument than "I think they are silly".

Would you not agree that religious suicide bombers are psychotic?

I don't think psychosis is a necessary nor sufficient condition to be a suicide bomber. And I don't think you can justify a statement that general.

That is not to say that their aren't religious people who have not decided that God created but does not further involve himself, I am sure there are, and those people clearly can't be called psychotic, as you defined it.

But now you're contradicting your earlier message, where, as an example of a delusion, you gave a quite unadorned "god" as your example.

To emphasize the point: you can have as contemptful an attitude towards religion as you like. But I won't let you get away with blatantly misusing the technical terms of a science to give your contempt the slightest appearance of being endorsed by science.

--em
[ Parent ]

*bow* (none / 0) (#194)
by geekmug on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 10:07:59 PM EST

Do you seriously believe that such people ought to be hospitalized?

Yes.

you need a much better argument than "I think they are silly".

Where'd you quote that from?

I don't think psychosis is a necessary nor sufficient condition to be a suicide bomber.

Agreed. But, I said "religious suicide bomber". Similar to the difference between being a troll and being a troll because you think it will get you into heaven.

And I don't think you can justify a statement that general.

Nor can you, besides relying on the pedestal of "normality".

contemptful an attitude towards religion

You keep saying that, but I never said anything contemptful, nor do you even consider that I might be a religious person myself.

So go find something to pick on it the text above, and I'll get back to you later.


-- Why reinvent the square wheel?
[ Parent ]
QED the evil of coercive hospitalization (none / 1) (#195)
by Julian Morrison on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:33:16 AM EST

Some nobody called "geekmug" reckons he should be able to jail your ass for disagreeing with him. If he were a shrink, his arrogance might well carry the force of law. Fun prospect, no?

[ Parent ]
Excellent Paraphrasing (nt) (none / 1) (#196)
by geekmug on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 04:52:55 AM EST

Can I quote that?


-- Why reinvent the square wheel?
[ Parent ]
I hope you don't mean involuntary hospitalisation. (none / 0) (#200)
by Trav42 on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 03:39:43 PM EST

Just asking for clarification for the sake of being part of the discussion...

I hope you're not equating coercive hospitalisation (which by definition seems abusive) with involuntary hospitalisation. I certainly don't think that psychiatrists should have carte blanche to hospitalise people, but I can envision at least some scenarios where it is in the patient's best interests--even against his or her wishes.

Doesn't hospitalising someone need at least two doctors?

[ Parent ]

They're identical (none / 0) (#206)
by Julian Morrison on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:57:20 AM EST

There's no relevant difference in the meaning of "coercive" and "involuntary". A cooperative prisoner is still a prisoner. Two doctors or twenty makes no difference, it's still chucking people in jail for disagreeing with the consensus.

Also, the idea that anyone should have the right to act "in someone's best interests" against their will is self contradictory. "Best interests" are derived from personal, subjective values and priorities. It is impossible to determine them for somebody else - all that means, is imposing your preference rankings upon their outcomes.

[ Parent ]

I disagree (none / 1) (#211)
by Trav42 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 10:59:57 AM EST

I agree with you 100% about not giving doctors the arbitrary power to impose their opinions on others through the power to hospitalise, but to me that is a worst-case scenario. It happens, but it's also not always the case.

Can involuntary hospitalisation not also simply be to "warehouse" someone who is in imminent danger of harming himself or someone else until the psychotic state passes? I'm not talking about trying to change someone's worldview: just keeping him from imminent harm.

This discussion is problematic. I know what psychosis is and I know what euthymia (a normal frame of mind) is because I have schizo-affective disorder. I can tell when my brain is in each state. The problem is that, as others have pointed out, there is no objective test for psychosis. Others can guess when I'm psychotic and euthymic, but I'm the only one who will ever know for sure.

Let me be clear: I draw a firm distinction between psychosis and non-conformity. To me psychosis is a clear mental malfunction where someone's mind starts behaving in a way that is unusual. When I say unusual I mean unusual for that particular person--not merely unusual as compared to the norms of society. To me, non-conformity is a volitional act that should not be treated like psychosis.

The problem, again, is how do we know the difference between psychosis and non-conformity in someone else without being able to read minds? There are gross instances such as when someone sees monsters climbing out of the walls where I think the difference is clear. But what about more subtle instances such as when someone feels they have a mission from God?

To me, the line needs to be drawn at imminent physical harm, at least. The last thing I'd want if I ever decided to start physically harming myself is for those around me to say "Oh well, it's his decision. Who are we to impose our preferences on his outcomes?"

[ Parent ]

My problem (none / 0) (#231)
by kraant on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 03:22:20 AM EST

My problem with that is that if I decided I wanted to off myself, I wouldn't want anyone interfering, so I have issues with the idea of stopping others.

Not that that has stopped me from stopping people from trying before.

But still...

Normally where I draw the line is similar to where the line is drawn for the insanity defence in crime.

If a person is guilty by reason of insanity then the rule of thumb is they would have still done it if police were watching.

If someone wants to kill themselves, it's not that hard to plan out a succesful suicide and not get caught. If someone is tries to kill themselves and gets stopped, because they told someone of their plans, did it in front of people etc etc, then they probably aren't mentaly capable enough to actually want to die.

Basicaly you're doing it in a way that isn't likely to succeed, or is self defeating, then intervention is probably in order.

That's my way out of this moral dillema anyway.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Well, in theory (none / 1) (#212)
by error 404 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:04:44 AM EST

But in practice, there are situations where people are clearly acting against their own self-interests. There are situations where people will actualy tell you that what they are doing is not what they want to do. There are far more common situations where you know a person, and can be certain that the next day they will (assuming they survive the night) regret what they are doing now.

There are people with different values and priorities and perspectives, who act according to their own unusual interests, who in short, dance to a different drummer. All too often those people have been mistreated or hospitalized coercively in attempts to bring them to someone else's point of view. Properly speaking, those people are eccentric, and for those people, you are right: their best interests are whatever they determine, odd though they may seem to others.

There are also people who are actually sick, and some of their actions and inclinations do not advance their own values and are, even from their own perspective, self-destructive. For those people in those situations, there is nothing wrong with imposing some very basic preferences (for example, living through the night) on them.

Knowing the difference is sometimes hard. But it is often very, very obvious.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

No, you're still making the usual mistake (none / 1) (#214)
by Julian Morrison on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 12:57:51 PM EST

No criticism, it's an easy one to make. It's easy to see an action another person takes is "self destructive". But is it "in their best interest"? To be such, it would have to serve rather than deny their goals and values. To compute that self destructive = not in their interest, you would have to determine that their goal (or their overriding goal, in an internal conflict-of-interest) is damaged by self destruction, as opposed to fulfilled. What if their intent and desire is to self-damage? Then to protect them would be what runs counter to their interest. You're not a mind-reader, you cannot reach inside their head and predict their goals for them. Therefore the only person qualified to judge the "best interest"-ness of their actions, is themself.

This is the intrinsic flaw in all forms of nannyism - including compusory hospitalization, nanny statism, intrusive social-conservatism, etc etc.

[ Parent ]

Different vs broken (none / 1) (#222)
by error 404 on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 10:28:50 AM EST

Yes, it sometimes is a dangerous grey area. And I understand the philosophical implications in even the most extreme cases. Also, different is sometimes confused with broken because neither are "normal". I'm no fan of the old practice of locking people up without them being a danger to themselves or others.

But in practice, it's kind of like watching a runner. Is he running that way because he's discovered an innovative new stride? Is it because that just works better for him? Maybe a new training regimen that developes muscles that a more conventional stride misses? He's just having fun? He has a hairline fracture or borderline sprain? But if the problem is a compound fracture and his stride consists of lying on the track screaming, there isn't a whole lot of question, and even if he's screaming "don't touch me" the paramedics are justified in intervening. Even without mind-reading, you can guess there is probably some pain involved.

Excentricity can be very interesting and creative. Real mental illness tends to result in very dull behavior and a drastic loss of creativity. Sitting there not doing much of anything, repetitive OCD rituals, and from all reports, the voices in a schizophrenic's head are never exactly Gettysburg Address grade oratory.

I've seen friends and family members fall apart. I'm part of a very creative art-oriented family, so I've also seen quite a few gloriously weird people. In the past, some of those would have been at risk of being locked up - probably more than the really sick, because a healthy person with an unusual perspective can take it farther and be more inconvenient or embarrasing. I've even seen gloriously weird people fall apart - they get far less weird. You can usually tell the difference without needing to read minds.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

It's a scary gray area... (none / 0) (#217)
by Trav42 on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 03:16:24 PM EST

There are also people who are actually sick, and some of their actions and inclinations do not advance their own values and are, even from their own perspective, self-destructive. For those people in those situations, there is nothing wrong with imposing some very basic preferences (for example, living through the night) on them.

I think this is one of those scary gray areas. Certainly some of the biggest favours others have done for me have been to step in when I've not been in my right mind and to prevent me from doing stuff I'd regret later. I've usually been hysterically angry at their interference at the time, but been greatful later. The problem is I absolutely don't want anyone running my life, either. There is no easy answer. I have to judge it on a case-by-case basis.

I think the best thing is to keep people out of psychosis to begin with. Anything that really is a good idea will still be a good idea after the meds have taken effect. The problem is that the meds have side-effects that sometimes make you ask if they're really worth it. It's really easy to forget what it's like to be off them.

People here are joking about taking drugs to experience psychosis. I take drugs *not* to experience it.

[ Parent ]

Fanaticism (none / 1) (#216)
by jkauzlar on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:25:22 PM EST

Geekmug has a point, but I definitely wouldn't say that religious people need to be hospitalized (nor would geekmug say that). There is something about religion which seems to attract the delusional or troubled mind, however. How many times have you seen people ranting and raving about Jesus in the streets? That's an extreme example of fanaticism which is found commonly in systems where the belief does not rely completely on experience. Politics is another example of such a system: the political and economic system around us is very vague and gives rise to a great deal of paranoia and fanaticism (think Bill O'Reilly or John Ashcroft:). When fanatics act in an acceptable manner they may not be construed by many as 'crazy'. I believe that the same psychological conditions which created the Unibomber also created John Ashcroft, but experience has led them down separate paths.

Belief in God is not a prerequesite to insanity. Its how deeply a person hides in this belief which indicates their 'craziness'.

Also, sorry to unfairly bash the right-wing, but I'm leaning towards liberal fanaticism these days :)

[ Parent ]

Not just religion and politics. (none / 0) (#221)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 10:19:07 PM EST

Geekmug has a point

You're giving him too much credit.

There is something about religion which seems to attract the delusional or troubled mind, however.

I don't think religion is particularly special in this way at all, and that, say, science isn't.

I remember I was once in a bus stop and struck up a conversation with the other guy waiting for the bus. He started telling me about how ever since he was in school, he was the smartest kid there... then started telling me that Einstein and all that physics stuff was crap, and that he'd made very fundamental discoveries about physics that superceded them, but the scientific establishment didn't want to hear him. My suspicions were very much confirmed when he started telling me that if people would listen to him, we could all have eternal life in less than ten years.

The ccience and technology fields have plenty of stuff to draw delusional people towards them. In fact, I'd argue that some things connected to tehm are very much driven by delusions of these sort: for example, transhumanism.

--em
[ Parent ]

nonsense! (none / 0) (#224)
by Battle Troll on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 02:45:20 PM EST

Comrades, we will wipe the tears from every eye and put a chicken in every pot with the power of transhumanism!
--
Skarphedinn was carrying the axe with which he had killed Thrainn Sigfusson and which he called 'Battle Troll.'
Njal's Saga, ca 1280 AD
[ Parent ]
Re: Is psychosis a disease? (2.80 / 5) (#110)
by tgibbs on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 04:18:32 PM EST

The psychiatric community has some very powerful reasons for promulgating the view that psychosis is biological in origin.

Historically, the psychological community was very resistant to the biological theory of psychosis. Most older psychological theories of insanity presumed that psychosis arose as a consequence of some form of damaging experience (see, for example, Freudian theory, or Bateson's "double bind" theory). Far from favoring a biological theory from the outset, the psychological community has been reluctantly dragged to this point of view by the weight of evidence, especially the remarkable success of pharmacological treatments for psychosis, as well as the fact that certain pharmacological agents can produce states of mind that greatly resemble psychosis.

[ Parent ]

Terminological confusions. (2.80 / 5) (#112)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 04:40:11 PM EST

You've gotta be careful with vocabulary here. Psychosis is a symptom of several mental disorders, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Note I'm being careful not to say "mental illnesses".) These disorders are collectively known as the psychoses, to make it more confusing...

Before spending time coming up with a computational model of the brain to similate mental illness, the notion that schizophrenia and other psychoses have biological roots should be called into question.

The idea that schizophrenia is not bound up with brain functioning is really discredited for good, as poster dn points out. Of the mental disorders, it is one of those that best merits the label "illness". It's not just twin and family studies. It is how the results for schizophrenia in such studies differ from those of depressive and anxiety disorders; also the relative stability of the symptomatology of schizophrenia across cultures, compared to e.g. depression.

At any rate, what do you mean by "biological roots"? Because you are not going to escape the fact that people's mental lives are very intimately tied to the overall functioning of their bodies, and that the brain plays a very special role in that. It's the basic fact of embodiment.

You're committing the mistake of equating all mental disorders. There is an important difference between a disorder like schizophrenia and one like depression, such that only the first seriously merits the label "mental illness", and the arguments you bring are only really plausible against the second.

Your point about psychiatrist's interest on labeling people as psychotic is too one-sided. There are many more interests involved in the blanket labeling of mental disorders as "illnesses" than just those of psychiatrists. For example: (a) insurance companies find the treatment of mental disorders as medical diseases better for their bottom line (and this being against the interests of therapy-oriented psychiatry, contributed to its decline); (b) the family members of the disordered person also find it in their interest that the condition be treated as an impersonal "disease" (compare this to the old Freudian approach where the mother was always to blame).

--em
[ Parent ]

Culture and Catatonia (none / 0) (#162)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 01:42:17 PM EST

Not to take issue with your main point, I agree that the evidence for a neurological basis to schizophrenia is quite well established, but the symptomatology is not as regular as you seemingly indicate. Catatonic schizophrenia is an extremely rare subtype in the West, but is a highly prevalent form in Africa, among other places. Most interestingly, catatonic schizophrenia was at one time much more common in the West, but its incidence has decreased rapidly over the last half century.

Of course, there is still a lot of debate as to whether or not this indicates that the symptomatology of schizophrenia is at least somewhat culturally bound--much like the high incidence of somatic complaints accompanying a diagnosis of depression in Asian cultures. The possibility remains that the diagnosis of the catatonic subtype is an artifact of the diagnostic instrument.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Psychosis as a disease (none / 2) (#123)
by hollo on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 08:23:29 PM EST

Psychosis isn't really a disease at all - it's a term to describe a collection of symptoms which involve altered thoughts. It includes things such as hallucinations, delusions, and feelings that ones thoughts are being interfered with or do not belong to oneself. Like any set of symptoms (eg. pain or nausea) they can occur as part of a single disease process, and both drugs and many disease processes can cause them.

Psychotic symptoms can be caused by drugs such as LSD or alchohol, or by severe infectious illness. Psychotic symptoms can also occur in association with other symptoms related to thoughts. People who are said to be depressed may feel low in mood, low in self esteem, have sleeping difficulties, wait loss, and/or have psychotic symptoms (in particular auditory hallucinations). People who are described to be schizophrenic may have psychotic symptoms in association with symptoms such as disordered thougts, paucity of emotional expression, and possibly mood symtpoms.

Have you ever wondered why it goes almost unquestioned that psychosis is a disease? That is, a physical malady like cancer or aids?

Psychotic symptoms can clearly be caused by physical maladies. There are other causes that we don't have a clear physical cause for, but that doesn't mean that a disease doesn't exist. Most of medical diagnosis is done through the symptoms that a patient describes rather than tests that show physical abnormalities. This (and admittedly post mortems where relavent) were how diseass like strokes and MS were diagnosed before CAT and MRI scanners. Certain collecions of symtpoms that occured together and tended to follow similar patterns.

What if schizophrenia results from purely "software" abnormalities within the brain. If we had scanners which could image the synapses in real time and interpret the results then maybe we could diagnose it. Then would it be more acceptable as a disease? If the scanner doesn't exist yet does that make it a non disease?

[ Parent ]

Interesting, +1 (2.54 / 11) (#26)
by Kasreyn on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 10:50:28 PM EST

But first off, I don't believe the stimulus-response theory has been supplanted. Rather, the computational model has merely added complexity and allowed the study of the mind in a more fine and careful fashion. I'd compare this to how Newtonian, Einsteinian, and later Quantum physics can all work together to describe the same thing (the universe), merely on different levels of detail. Of course, you have to ignore the fact that they don't *quite* agree. :-P

As to the neural net simulations: Wow. When our AI overlords conquer us in 2015, there are going to be some serious Crimes Against Roboticity to prosecute. ^_^

Applying the conclusions from their simulation Hoffman and McGlashan used a technique called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation ... to successfully treat a series of people who were being troubled by hallucinated voices.

Heh, where's Alex Chiu when you need him?

In general, a very interesting article. I merely wish you'd stated your sources in a seperate section near the end for completeness, and that you'd included a bit more information on how a healthy mind becomes psychotic rather than simply saying it is "damaged".


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Oh god, shut up. (2.33 / 6) (#113)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 04:49:17 PM EST

But first off, I don't believe the stimulus-response theory has been supplanted. Rather, the computational model has merely added complexity and allowed the study of the mind in a more fine and careful fashion.

Paraphrase: "I have no clue about any of this, but I'm going to spout nonsense in the hope of sounding smart, even if I contradict myself."

Hint: you've just demonstrated that you do not know what the stimulus-response theory was.

--em
[ Parent ]

That might be true, (none / 0) (#145)
by Kax on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 11:40:27 AM EST

but who cares?

[ Parent ]
LSD not mentioned once? (2.88 / 9) (#39)
by JayGarner on Sun Jan 04, 2004 at 11:48:13 PM EST

Dr. Humphry Osmond and some colleagues came up with the idea of using LSD to treat alcoholism (sounds absurd, but it happened.) What motivated them was the idea of using it to induce controlled d.t.s.

here's a link.

While it is now of course highly illegal, it seems odd to leave it out, maybe the government is using you as a tool to further their suppression of a drug that helped Cary Grant and so many others.

Disclaimer: I am not advocating the use of LSD, I do not want anyone to get the wrong idea and have my future in politics destroyed like jjayson's.

Very interesting (1.40 / 5) (#52)
by notAcoolNick on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 03:16:16 AM EST

I think it should be moved to the vote. And I'm going for +1 FP

Where to start... (3.00 / 14) (#103)
by pla on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 01:27:44 PM EST

First of all, I find it highly questionable that someone would bother trying to simulate psychosis in a computer model, when we haven't even come close to simulating "normal" thought. Damaging individual subsystems that mimic certain human traits does not provide the least bit of insight into the effects of damage to the analogous (but not identical) human subsystems.


Second, very few people who haven't studied the topic have all that great of an understanding of psychosis - The general level of understanding, at least in the US, compares well to the hilariously incorrect views people held about VD prior to WWII. I would go further and say that nobody who hasn't experienced it firsthand via anticholinergic hallucinogens (for example) really understands it, but I don't know that many would agree with me on that (and I certainly would not recommend most people attempt such an experiment without good cause). However, having done both, I feel confident on this topic.

Psychosis has four main components - Sensory, cognitive, emotional, and cultural.

Sensory, in that a person can no longer 100% trust the reality of what they perceive (ie, the traditional idea of hallucinations, hearing voices, etc).

Cognitive, in two ways - Either that the psychosis centers around delusional thought processes (the example about the left foot of god, though severe paranoia occurs far more often), or in a general reduction in capacity for rational thought, which reduces the ability to reject invalid sensory input (Most of us, on "seeing" a smurf walk through the room, would rationally reject it, and either assume we needed sleep, or needed a doctor, or just about anything other than believing we really saw a smurf).

Emotional, because psychosis doesn't really become an issue unless it greatly bothers the person, or disrupts their normal ability to interact socially. Someone fleeing imaginary aliens in a wild panic will eventually get nabbed by the police. An 80YO grandma who happily believes that she can chat with her 10-year dead husband might come off as a bit batty, but that along would not automatically qualify her as schizophrenic.

Cultural, relating to the previous point. In western culture, we have the general idea that hearing voices and seeing things makes a person "crazy". Although we might allow mild exceptions, such as the grandma mentioned above, for the most part, sane people all see and hear the same consentual reality. In most pre-modern cultures, however, some forms of hallucination would mark a person as "holy", indicating an ability to communicate with the divine. That reduces both the external stigma and the emotional distress we might feel at "knowing" we'd "lost our mind", thus greatly reducing the degree by which the particular psychosis impacts the individual's ability to function normally. Incidentally, even in western society we still have that idea of "holy" hallucinations to some degree, as shown by the ability of frauds like John Edwards to make a living by pretending to talk to the dead.


So, why do I mention all this? Because computer models, at this point, can at best mimic the first two, the sensory and cognitive aspects of psychosis. The second two, however, almost entirely define the outcome of a given psychosis - No significant impact, Long-term institutionalization, reverence as holy, whatever. Without that, and without a baseline computer model that emulates normal functioning of all four aspects of human consciousness and social interaction, we've done nothing more than break-in-an-amusing-way a speech recognition program.


As an aside, relating to my assertion that a person needs to experience chemically-induced psychosis to really understand it, that too fails to fully allow experiential knowledge, because of the same complaint I raise above - It only affects the first two aspects, sensory and cognitive (and even then, only cognitive to the degree that certain delusional thought patterns may occur, overall capacity for rational thought does not significantly decline). So I think of it in the following analogy - Studying the textbook knowledge on this topic compares well to having someone tell you about a dream. Experiencing it via drugs compares to watching a very well executed dream sequence at an IMAX theatre. But both fall very short of actually having a dream.

And the people dreaming can't confirm or deny the accuracy of our movie.


Remember, these are psycologists... (3.00 / 4) (#104)
by ShadowNode on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 01:55:08 PM EST

Not real scientists.

On the smurf issue, yes, most people would rationally dismiss seeing a smurf walk by. But what if it's there the next morning? The next week, or month? At what point does it stop being rational to pretend the smurf isn't there? I think that's the disconnect; not that someone who thinks smurfs are among us is irrational, just that they're no longer part of our communal acceptance of what is and isn't real. In some cases, such as the aformentioned grandma, tribal shamen, and religious people today, enough people either accept or humour them to keep them in society. The smurf guy, on the other hand is forced to either assume his senses are wacked, or that everyone else is crazy for ignoring the smurfs. The latter is probably a lot easier to do.



[ Parent ]
smurfs. (3.00 / 4) (#139)
by ekj on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 05:03:55 AM EST

If it's there next morning, the typical rational person would seek to get independent confirmation.

Assume that the initial obervation is visual only. A logical thing to do is to investigate if the smurf is there also according to other senses. Can you touch it ? Does it react if you scream at it ? If it's really "visual", this means that either it sends off photons into your eyes. Does other photon-detection-devices than your eyes "see" it ? i.e. does it show up on a photograph ? Can it be filmed ? Does the eyes of *other* people see it ?

The rational cause of action from this point onwards depends on the answer to all those questions.

If it's seen by everyone, can be photographed, can be touched, runs away when you scream at it and so on, it's (very probably) there. Now, it migth not actually *be* a smurf, migth only be a object looking like a smurf. Maybe it's a doll ? Are there any mechanic smurf-pets on the market ? Migth it actually be a toddler in a smurf-costume?

In short, the rational response to repeated, but unexpected observations is to investigate closer.

[ Parent ]

On John Edwards... (none / 2) (#106)
by Beef on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 02:10:37 PM EST

...as shown by the ability of frauds like John Edwards to make a living by pretending to talk to the dead.

It still baffles me as to why Dean, Kerry, Lieberman, et. al. haven't attacked Edwards on this.

[ Parent ]

I hope you're joking (none / 0) (#189)
by Evil Petting Zoo on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 05:10:48 PM EST

Senator John Edwards is not the same as the quack John Edward. Sorry for stating the obvious.

[ Parent ]
I hope you're joking (none / 0) (#201)
by Beef on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 06:57:53 PM EST

How can it be possible for a petting zoo to be evil? Petting zoos are happy places full of sheep and kitty-cats and worn-down riding-school ponies. They aren't evil. Sorry for stating the obvoius.

[ Parent ]
LSD affects three of your aspects [n/t] (none / 1) (#108)
by gyan on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 02:40:52 PM EST



********************************

[ Parent ]
I don't think we understand this. (none / 3) (#115)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 05:14:04 PM EST

First of all, I find it highly questionable that someone would bother trying to simulate psychosis in a computer model, when we haven't even come close to simulating "normal" thought. Damaging individual subsystems that mimic certain human traits does not provide the least bit of insight into the effects of damage to the analogous (but not identical) human subsystems.

I think you misunderstand them (not that I understand them too well from reading nothing but abstracts, mind you). I believe that this simulation of "psychosis" is working at a very high level of analogy.

An analogy with something I do more or less understand: one of the contributions of work on artificial neural networks is the notion of "distributed representation". Here's two ways you might encode information in a neural network: (a) you may represent a concept with the state of a specific unit (the "grandmother neuron" that turns on when you think of your grandmother), or (b) you may treat the global set of states of the network as a represenational space, and represent concepts as regions of that space ("distributed representation"). We don't know that the latter notion applies to the brain strictly speaking, but at a high-level analogy it can help us think about how the brain might represent concepts.

Why do I bring this up? Well, because I suspect this psychosis "simulation" is similar; in fact it's couched in terms of neural-network distributed representation vocabulary, such as "attractor". I wouldn't venture to guess any details of how it works on the basis of what I've seen so far, though.

But I'm pretty sure the analogies are about the form of psychosis, not about the contents. An important point, which I'll bring up again.

Psychosis has four main components - Sensory, cognitive, emotional, and cultural.

But these components crucially have to do with the contents of psychotic experiences. I'm sure nobody is claiming that the neural nets in question have sensory contents in the first place. It seems to me that it's about how damage to neural networks would make it so that they fall into some sort of behavior that's not influenced by input.

--em
[ Parent ]

Is the computer crazy? (1.55 / 9) (#105)
by Beef on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 01:57:23 PM EST

...or is it the SANEST MACHINE YOU KNOW???

Psychology can't be science (2.00 / 5) (#107)
by Julian Morrison on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 02:36:22 PM EST

It's hypothesizing at one remove. First guess what's going on in somebody's head, then guess why. Evolutionary psych is worse, it adds another layer of guessing, a darwinian just-so-story that "explains" the "why".

actually..... (none / 2) (#114)
by Kiyooka on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 05:12:59 PM EST

Psychology is the science of studying the brain and how it works.  As in every science, theories in psychology abound; however much of its knowledge is quantifiable, measurable, and verifiable:  voltage, brain flows, the activation or passivity of certain parts of the brain during certain tasks, etc are quite thoroughly documented and often replicated.

What you may be thinking of is psychiatry, which is the study of mental illness.  This is where you start encountering "Tell me about your father" kind of scenarios with the dude and the clipboard and the chair. But even then, it's not "hypothesizing at one remove".  It has its own theories of how the mind works and the sources of emotional turbulence. Given you seem unaware of the distintion between psychology and psychiatry, I think you should learn more about an area of knowledge before you dismiss it.

To sum: don't confuse psychology, which is the study of the brain organ, with psychiatry, which is the study of mental illnesses, or in other words, the mind (which is almost impossible to objectively measure, observe, etc., because how do you measure "consciousness", etc?)

Also, evolutionary psychology is perhaps one of the more exciting fields of psychology today, the more so because it is usually seen as the most convincing. The area is in its infancy, but people are being excited by the possibilities because the brain as an adaptive organ (via behaviour) is opening up possibilities so obvious that people are wondering why they didn't think of it before. Ex: we're so easily scared of spiders, snakes, and the dark by corny movies and posters, but try as hard as you might, you can't make someone scared of a fast-looking car, although vehicle-related deaths are among the most popular in the world (we are evolutionarily conditioned to fear spiders, snakes, the dark, heights, etc., but cars have only came about recently).

Evolutionary psych makes sense, and if anything is even 'more practical' than previous psych, so how is it "worse"?

[ Parent ]

No confusion (none / 3) (#121)
by Julian Morrison on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 07:18:05 PM EST

It's mostly the same thing. What muddies the waters is the brain==mind theory, to which I do NOT subscribe.

(To say "this bit lights up when X happens, if we break that bit Y happens, or can't anymore happen" is not convincing. The same logic could tell you that the dash and steering wheel are the reasoning agents behind the behavior of cars.)

-iatry or -ology, regardless, you're guessing what's going on in people's heads, and guessing why. If you don't assume "how the brain works" and "how the mind works" are identical, then investigating the former at best allows fancier guesses about the latter. No more so than, say, watching somebody's body-language closely.

Evolutionary psych is worse, because instead of "what and why" you now have "what and why and why-of-the-why" and all three still anecdotally convincing at best. You cannot increase information by making up explanatory just-so stories.

[ Parent ]

Mucho confusiono (none / 0) (#126)
by melia on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:04:14 PM EST

(To say "this bit lights up when X happens, if we break that bit Y happens, or can't anymore happen" is not convincing. The same logic could tell you that the dash and steering wheel are the reasoning agents behind the behavior of cars.)

Now you're saying logic isn't a tool of science? Your analogy is pretty rubbish also. Move the steering wheel, the car turns - now i'm no scientist but that's a pretty verifiable/sensible scientific inference in my book. Not at all the same as saying the car is capable of "reasoning".

you're guessing what's going on in people's heads, and guessing why.

Haven't you ever seen people's brains lighting up on TV? It's about as scientific as it gets pal. They wear white coats and everything. There are observable phenomena that can be tested. Scientific Experiments.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

I suppose I analogised too much (none / 2) (#133)
by Julian Morrison on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 10:02:49 PM EST

The essence of my point about the car was to point out the flaw in the usual brain science approach.

What they usually do, as I understand it, is something like "if a guy gets angry, this bit of the brain lights up, if he has brain damage roundabout there, he can't get angry, if we directly stimulate that area, he reports feelings of anger, so that's where anger is sited".

The flaw being: there's no way to tell apart that area causing anger, or merely being a component utilized by the anger mechanism.

If the driver in a car was invisible and intangible, you might think the steering wheel chose the car's course. "if we take it out, the car won't steer, if we turn it ourselves, the car mis-steers".

[ Parent ]

And again you do (none / 1) (#134)
by melia on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 10:35:01 PM EST

The flaw being: there's no way to tell apart that area causing anger, or merely being a component utilized by the anger mechanism.

For this "flaw" to be real we would have to suppose that electrical activity in an area of the brain is in fact not an indication that the area is engaged in operation. This would be contrary to all scientific evidence, would it not? Or else, there would need to be some means other than electrical discharge by which the "anger mechanism" (neurons) worked.

If the driver in a car was invisible and intangible, you might think the steering wheel chose the car's course. "if we take it out, the car won't steer, if we turn it ourselves, the car mis-steers".

The analogy is wrong because in the brain there is no "driver", and what is more, in the sort of "looking at a brain scan" scenario you are imagining, the fellows are looking at the whole brain, ie, the whole of the car. A more suitable analogy (and one which favours my argument) is that after observation, they see that when the wheels turn, the steering wheel, column, axle and wheels move, yet the doors do not necessarily open, the indicators do not necessarily flash, and even the engine does not necessarily turn. Therefore they come to the correct conclusion that neither the engine, indicators or door have anything to do with the direction of the wheels.

You seem a little too caught up in the "mysterious incomprehensible brain" forest to see the trees. While there are answers about the nature of reality which we may never know the questions to, it is certainly possible to deduce much of the operation of the brain, and it has already been done. Probably a great deal of the drugs you will take in your lifetime will have made use of this science to your benefit.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

I think you're missing the point. (3.00 / 5) (#136)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 12:02:03 AM EST

The way I read his posts, he's complaining against mind/brain identity theories that people sneak into the whole discussion.

Anger is a kind of subjective attitude that we are familiar with in first-person terms, independently of whatever neuropsychological theory we may come to about it; and in fact, it is doubtful we could or would develop such a theory without if we weren't intimately familiar with it beforehand.

Let's grant the neuropsychologists the capability of developing reasonable empirical theories that ties people's reports of their anger, and the behaviors associated to it, together with certain patterns of activity in the brain. That is, we trust the neuropsychologists to provide us good correlations between brain states and subjective experiences. Now the problem is that in our intellectual climate, this will be taken by too many people as a convincing argument that the brain states cause anger, the subjective attitude.

An even cruder example of such sort of thinking, and one that annoys me to no end: "Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain." (Or even worse: "Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain.") Sure, one can grant an empirical correlation between the phenomenology, cognition and behavior of depression, and the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. But, where is the causality? How do you know that it is not the chemical levels that are the result of the cognition or behavior? Or perhaps, that each part feeds off each other in a feedback cycle?

Certain drugs show some effectiveness against depression (though don't get carried away: there is a significant percentage of people who just don't benefit, and placebos work pretty good too.) Suppose we give a person antidepressants, and then they get out of their depression. How do we know that it was the drug that caused this? Perhaps the drug didn't cause it, but rather the person's own cognitions and behaviors that did it; the drug merely lowered the "chemical resistance" that were holding these up.

God, somehow I started with the scientistic bias against subjectivity, and seamlessly ranted my way out of that topic and went into the causality fetish. What an incoherent post. Anyway, to finish it, I'll just say: (a) correlation does not imply causation, (b) correlation is often pretty damn useful already for us to muck it all up by introducing causation, (c) causation is one weird idea that, for all it's thrown around, hardly anybody ever stops to think about. I hereby shut up.

--em
[ Parent ]

Ok (none / 0) (#142)
by melia on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 09:39:30 AM EST

Alright, I see what he/you mean now about "anger" etc. Maybe since I consider economics a science my attitude is not surprising!

How do you know that it is not the chemical levels that are the result of the cognition or behavior?

I still don't quite understand this though. Surely behaviour and cognition are always, by nature of the machine, a function of the chemicals and the electrical impulses occuring in the brain. If we ignore the subjective and deal with things like the senses, then it must be possible to say "remove this part of the brain and you will lose your sense of balance" or somesuch. Eventually, surely it just comes down to physics and biology.


Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]

Ah but is "the machine" all there is? (none / 0) (#148)
by Julian Morrison on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 11:58:04 AM EST

Surely behaviour and cognition are always, by nature of the machine, a function of the chemicals and the electrical impulses occuring in the brain.
"mind == chemicals and electrical impulses in the brain" is precisely what I'm unconvinced of.

That's the pivotal point.

Allow that assumption, and psychology becomes equivalent to neurology. Disallow it, and the entire edifice of "scientific psychology" collapses into anecdote-collecting.

[ Parent ]
souls? (none / 0) (#154)
by melia on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 12:26:29 PM EST

Ahh, so you're on about souls and all that sort of stuff? Well in that case it's you who aren't really grounding things in science isn't it? Out of curiosity, what do you think the mind is, if not an electrical device, and what do you base this theory on?
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
I've got no idea... (none / 1) (#163)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 02:07:20 PM EST

...what the position of parent poster is, but it should be pointed out that it is quite possible to maintain a belief that mental phenomena are not wholly reducible to a corresponding physical brain state, without having to eschew the basic physicalist assumptions (eg., one or another variety of Instrumentalist arguments would do).

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Partly (none / 0) (#169)
by Julian Morrison on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 04:10:35 PM EST

My own opinions were the inspiration for my responses, but here I'm reasoning basically at a meta-level: I was pointing out that the "brain = mind" assumption
  1. is an assumption,
  2. has been adopted because it is convenient to materialism,
  3. is not proven, nor is it provable,
  4. is the pivotal assumption from which the entire concept of scientific psychology hangs, and without which it falls,
  5. is, via a feat of circular reasoning, treated as having been proven by neuropsych - when even the existence of the word/discipline/concept "neuropsych" is predicated upon it.
Note that demolishing a garble theory need not mean that I'm intending to advance a new one to replace it. Replacing it with honest ignorance would be a good start.

[ Parent ]
But we can do better. (none / 0) (#172)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 07:21:29 PM EST

  1. Scientific inquiry is a social activity that produces knowledge.
  2. Knowledge is a relation between knowing subjects and objects of knowledge.
  3. Scientific inquiry thus presupposes subjectivity.
  4. The mind/brain identity theory takes subjectivity to be physical processes a result wholly thereof. I.e. that subjectivity presupposes physical processes. <lie>But the latter just can't be so, because "physical processes" are a product of scientific inquiry, which presupposes subjectivity.

Before we can come to think of ourselves as a structured bundle of cells, we have had to experience being in our familiar, everyday world, where we engage in scientific inquiry and gain knowledge. The scientific knowledge is always provisional, but the subject's primary engagement with the world never is.

Now the mistake most people make when hearing this sort of argument is to assume that it is form of dualism, then trot out all the classic arguments against that. Certainly dualism is a bad theory; for example, drugs can affect subjective experience, and a dualist theory is hard put to deal with that.

But the argument being put forward is not an argument for dualism. It is an argument that physicalist theories of mind are inconsistent with certain things presupposed by scientific inquiry (knowledge and subjectivity). And the argument does not invalidate any genuine empirical findings-- it attacks a way of interpreting those findings, and also, it attacks confusions which try to pass interpretations as findings.

The fact is indeed that subjectivity is embodied in a body, which itself is an object among other objects in the world. The fact is that objects in the world interact in very complex ways, which enable us to do many things, including affect people's subjective experience. Recognition of this, however, does not amoung to granting the physicalist thesis that there is nothing but the objects of physics and interactions thereof.

--em
[ Parent ]

Hmm, interesting (none / 0) (#174)
by Julian Morrison on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 08:03:23 PM EST

Also, there are other alternatives than physicalism and dualism. My personal opinion could be characterized as: nonphysical monism. Physics as an epiphenomenon of mind, rather than vice versa.

(Admittedly, a rather broader concept of "mind" than just your everyday head-chatter.)

I saw an interesting theory put forward here.

[ Parent ]
Philosophers call this "idealism". (nt) (none / 0) (#203)
by Kenoubi on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:19:12 PM EST



[ Parent ]
I agree with Kenoubi. (none / 0) (#205)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:27:51 AM EST

Physics as an epiphenomenon of mind, rather than vice versa.

This is an archetypically idealist view, and is very problematic. For instance, then it becomes really hard to conceive that a drug can affect the way you experience the world.

Really, a key thing is to recognize that the relation between subjects and objects posits a dilemma. Most people just totally avoid this dilemma by trying to "reduce" one of the terms to the other, or having it be "epiphenomenal".

--em
[ Parent ]

typo [lol] (none / 0) (#175)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 08:42:41 PM EST

I.e. that subjectivity presupposes physical processes. <lie>But the latter just can't be so,

Erm. That was supposed to be a <li> tag, not a "<lie>" start tag.

--em
[ Parent ]

nice (none / 0) (#199)
by basj on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 10:48:32 AM EST

because "physical processes" are a product of scientific inquiry, which presupposes subjectivity.

Am I correct in assuming you are referring to the realism/idealism debate in philosphy here?

--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Indirectly. (none / 0) (#204)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:19:16 AM EST

Am I correct in assuming you are referring to the realism/idealism debate in philosphy here?

Yes, but not framed narrowly so as to make those two the only two choices. I.e. I very much have in mind the various 20th century philosophies that are based on questioning the terms of that debate (i.e. phenomenology, pragmatism).

--em
[ Parent ]

Ok (none / 0) (#210)
by basj on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 10:04:16 AM EST

For a second I was afraid you concluded somehow that physical processes are a product of scientific inquiry from your assumptions 1-3.

Furthermore, do you think that rejecting idealism all together, and with it free will e.g. and in a Dennett like fashion calling subjectivity (or the experience thereof) a persistent illusion at best, instead of rejecting the materialist assumption (as you seem to do) still allows for a consistent argument?

I take it from your posts I've read you're not a big Dennett fan (nor am I) but I'm quite curious on how you assess his argument.

(btw, If you feel my question is based on terms of the i/r debate you question, please say so.)
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

comments (none / 0) (#213)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 11:48:23 AM EST

For a second I was afraid you concluded somehow that physical processes are a product of scientific inquiry from your assumptions 1-3.

*sigh* The term "physical processes" is almost systematically ambiguous. The fact that if you throw a projectile from a certain apparatus at a certain angle it lands where it does is not a product of scientific inquiry. Newtonian mechanics, however, is a product of scientific inquiry.

Everyday experience provides the raw material for physical theories, which as all science, are provisional. The thing I'm wary of is turning the whole thing around and having our everyday experience be an epiphenomenon of the objects and processes of the theory.

Furthermore, do you think that rejecting idealism all together, and with it free will e.g. and in a Dennett like fashion calling subjectivity (or the experience thereof) a persistent illusion at best, instead of rejecting the materialist assumption (as you seem to do) still allows for a consistent argument?

Without subjectivity, how can anything be an "argument"? As opposed to, say, merely matter. And who would this "illusion" be an illusion for?

Searle once made a comment, looking back at his Chinese Room argument, that in retrospect he thought that he'd granted too much to the AI people in a crucial respect: he allowed them the assumption that there are things in physical nature that are, in and of themselves, computers. But this is profoundly wrong: it is us who interpret some physical system as implementing some Turing machine. The same sort of thing goes, I say, for "arguments" and for "knowledge" in general. To the extent that Dennett claims to be offering us knowledge (hell, even less, to the extent Dennett "claims"), this presupposes subjectivity.

I take it from your posts I've read you're not a big Dennett fan (nor am I) but I'm quite curious on how you assess his argument.

I'm still reading that stuff, so this will be provisional. (I've mostly read so far his anti-qualia stuff, and need to look more closely at the Multiple Drafts model.)

I quite like many of Dennett's analyses. The "taste of beer" argument is nice; so is the analysis of color as a "lovely" property of surfaces (one that makes sense only if "loveliness" detectors exists). His qualia stuff really reminds me of Merleau-Ponty, and that guy certainly did not believe that subjectivity was an illusion.

However, he seems to think that by debunking qualia and the Cartesian Theater, he has debunked the notion of subjective experience. I don't agree with that at all, because I don't think one can debunk subjective experience at all. He certainly does succeed in challenging a lot of received assumptions about the embodiment of subjective experience (e.g. the attack on the Cartesian Theater).

--em
[ Parent ]

thank you, that'll be all (none / 0) (#219)
by basj on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:41:57 PM EST

sigh The term "physical processes" is almost systematically ambiguous. The fact that if you throw a projectile from a certain apparatus at a certain angle it lands where it does is not a product of scientific inquiry.

I do not think hardcore idealists will ever grant you the assumption that the angle observed is independent of our concepts/mind/whatever. But it doesn't really matter though, I just wanted to find out if you were such an idealist ;-).

The thing I'm wary of is turning the whole thing around and having our everyday experience be an epiphenomenon of the objects and processes of the theory.

...and clearly you are not.

Without subjectivity, how can anything be an "argument"? As opposed to, say, merely matter. And who would this "illusion" be an illusion for?

Exactly. That's basicly my objection to Dennett as well. A friend of mine formulated it as: "The problem is not in the other one's cognition, it's in your own.".

Thanks for clearing this all up for me, since your original post sounded a bit too polemical for my taste, I thought I'd slap you around a little.

Hope you didn't mind. Or that it didn't matter. Pick one. Or two perhaps, but preferably one. ;-)
--
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]

Try it this way: (none / 0) (#171)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 07:21:19 PM EST

I still don't quite understand this though. Surely behaviour and cognition are always, by nature of the machine, a function of the chemicals and the electrical impulses occuring in the brain.

The model in mind is one where:

  • certain kinds of thoughts and behaviors, which we'll label "depressive", and which can (and do) happen in a brain with a non-"depressed" chemical distribution, alter that chemical distribution in the direction of a "depressed" one;
  • progressively more "depressed" chemical distributions in the brain make "depressive" thoughts and behavior more likely than non-"depressive" ones.
A depressive episode then is seen as a positive feedback loop whereby "depressive" cognition and "depressed" chemistry feed each other. In such a model it is unlikely for there to be a principled way of deciding whether "depression" is caused by behavior/cognition, or by chemistry, both in general or in specific instances. And indeed, it is not clear that there is a reason to ask the causal question.

--em
[ Parent ]

guessing (none / 2) (#127)
by emmons on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:06:35 PM EST

Well, it's a bit more than guessing.. more like guess and check using a sample of 5000 people exhibiting the same behavior, but basically you're correct. However, until we can accurately simulate the brain it's the best we've got and in many cases works well. We're able to cure many more illnesses today than we could 50 years ago, so we've got to be doing something right

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]
You missed an important detail. (none / 1) (#129)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:26:25 PM EST

more like guess and check using a sample of 5000 people exhibiting the same behavior

It's a sample of 5,000 undergrads. You are right in the "exhibiting the same behavior" part, of course.

--em
[ Parent ]

well yeah.. (none / 3) (#132)
by emmons on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:57:32 PM EST

But that's an extraneous detail. We don't want to give him more to complain about. :)

Honestly, my biggest beef with psychology&co today is that it often classifies behaviors that deviate from the mean as "disorders" that need treatment.

This can cause societal problems in my opinion, most noticeably with educational psychology and it's treatment of those with dyslexia, ADD and other "learning disabilities." In many cases such children simply learn and think of things differently, rather than not at all. Instead of their needs being catered to, they're treated as disabled and given medication and other treatments designed to make them act more like the average student and therefore do well in the standardized educational system. Society is cheating itself by making everyone in the group more like the average of the group.

---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

well kinda. (3.00 / 4) (#125)
by emmons on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 08:47:21 PM EST

Neurology is the study of the physical mechanisms of the brain.

Psychology is "the science that deals with mental processes and behavior." Psychologists study human behavior using primarily statistical methods. They often try to map certain common behaviors to common events and experiences of groups of people in order to discover possible causes for those behaviors. It's still a science, but 'softer' and less exact than other sciences. We don't understand the brain well enough, so for now this is as good as it gets for a lot of things.

Neuropsychology merges psychology and neurology by trying to map patterns of behavior to physical processes and changes in the brain. This is where it's at these days, scientifically speaking.

A lot of people study psychology and neurology and put that knowledge to use as practicing physicians, eg. psychiatrists, or more commonly, shrinks.

Evolutionary psychology is "The study of the psychological adaptations of humans to the changing physical and social environment, especially of changes in brain structure, cognitive mechanisms, and behavioral differences among individuals." That is, these guys try to figure out why we're naturally afraid of spiders and why we perceive poop as stinky. They're behaviors that have evolved over time in order to keep us healthy and alive.


---
In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.
-Douglas Adams

[ Parent ]

Not at all. (2.75 / 4) (#128)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:09:08 PM EST

Also, evolutionary psychology is perhaps one of the more exciting fields of psychology today, the more so because it is usually seen as the most convincing.

But the reason it is seen as convincing (by a group of people which you don't specify) has very much to do with ideologies (the "culture wars", for instance). Quite simply, the evol psych people telling a bunch of different people what they want to hear. It all goes back to E.O. Wilson's declaring war on the humanities, really.

To sum: don't confuse psychology, which is the study of the brain organ, with psychiatry, which is the study of mental illnesses, or in other words, the mind (which is almost impossible to objectively measure, observe, etc., because how do you measure "consciousness", etc?)

As emmons already pointed out, you have your definition of psychology all wrong. (Also, psychiatry is not merely the "study" of mental disorders, it is crucially about treating them.) There are champions of evol psych who certainly think they are studying the mind; Pinker, for one.

The area is in its infancy, but people are being excited by the possibilities because the brain as an adaptive organ (via behaviour) is opening up possibilities so obvious that people are wondering why they didn't think of it before. Ex: we're so easily scared of spiders, snakes, and the dark by corny movies and posters, but try as hard as you might, you can't make someone scared of a fast-looking car, although vehicle-related deaths are among the most popular in the world (we are evolutionarily conditioned to fear spiders, snakes, the dark, heights, etc., but cars have only came about recently).

You know, before you get all committed to ad-hockery here, bear in mind that cars are objects that are attached a lot of value in cultures, and which serve very important transportation functions, while spiders are not. Parsimony, please.

Not that the evolutionary and the cultural story are mutually exclusive; in fact, I'm quite ready to believe that certain widespread fears are intimately related to our biology. But, you can't defend claims of that sort the way you are doing it, without doing anything to control for culture.

--em
[ Parent ]

Psychiatry isn't a science (none / 1) (#143)
by error 404 on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 11:28:23 AM EST

It is a practice.

In the same sense that surgery is not a science.

The goal of a science is knowledge. The goal of a practice is something else - depends on the practice. If a heart surgeon takes you from near death to robust health, he has succeeded even if he has not learned* anything new in the process. If a biologist was observing and learned nothing, the biologist has failed.

Psychology isn't chemistry - people are not as predictable as molecules, and it has had its share of flawed research and outright fraud, but there is some reasonable solid research out there. If you go by the sound bites on TV news, it's pretty bad. But if you look a bit deeper (and I don't mean the full technical - I'm not a psychologist) you notice that the real claims are usualy more precise, more modest, more provable. For example, there is very little new material out there that refers to internal mental states that con only be introspected.

* I'm using "learned" in a general sense - moving from 80% statistical confidence in a hypothesis to 81% counts, even though the scientist didn't exactly experience Eurika.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Neat (none / 2) (#111)
by costaltree on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 04:28:26 PM EST

A very neat and fun article to read. A lot of it is based on the idea and definitions of what psychosis really is. I think it is interesting that people would put the time into a project like this to try to understand something that is really irrelevant in most cases. Though, it does have it's place in research. The definition of psychosis being that of an 'extruded' state of a sense (touch, taste, sight etc.) could then be linked, as mentioned, to that of drugs that alter these "normal" perceptions. Common enough it is known that a fair share of mental illnesses are due to disproportion of chemicals that control neural networks (for instance, someone with a bi-polar disorder has a chemical inbalance). Drugs act much the same in mimmicing the form and shape of different molecules. It is up for grabs as to whether or not these two categories could be then tied together? Does one mimmic the other, vice versa? There is obviously still much to be done.

Jeeze (1.35 / 14) (#118)
by blackpaw on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 06:00:33 PM EST

I can't believe this piece of crap got voted up - using computers to model mind states etc has never been demonstrated to be anything other than geek masturbationary fantasy

Indeed. (none / 3) (#120)
by Phillip Asheo on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 06:49:16 PM EST

The people who believe this sort of crap are the same people who think that a C++ program can be "art".

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

argh (none / 1) (#186)
by yogster on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 03:51:02 PM EST

I think if you dont think coding can be art then i dont know how can you say writing or painitng can be art. It seems that you never really got beyond a hello world program. programmign languages are tools just liek paint brushes and pen and words and letters I think this is a wonderful article. The idea of a simulaiton is not to copy the behavior of the given system EXACTLY.. but just enough to capture the features you are interested in studying. If you understand neural netowrks then you would realise how beutiful they are in their simplicity at individual neuron level and how they are so extremely complicated when looked at the whole thing ... just like a brain. I think it should be possible disturb the neural netowrk in the way drugs do. The simplest way could be increasign or decreaisng the weights of neuron. This might produce an unstable neural network similar to a chaotic brain

[ Parent ]
Code does not speak to me like art does. (none / 1) (#192)
by Phillip Asheo on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 07:54:53 PM EST

Sure code can be elegant, or well-crafted, but it just cannot convey emotion in the way that (say) a Donald Judd sculpture does.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

code speaking (none / 0) (#193)
by yogster on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 09:37:48 PM EST

well do you look at the sculpture as the stone which made it or the form it took. code is like the stone. you have to learn to see what each and every piece of line is saying to you as a whole. everybody has eyes to see and appreciate sculpture but not everybody has the skills to do the same with code

[ Parent ]
Furthermore... (none / 0) (#198)
by Klondike on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:48:41 AM EST

If you've ever looked at an MC Escher painting, does this speak to you emotionally? No, probably not, but it may look beautiful, and by most people's definition it certainly qualifies as art. Programming code is a lot like MC Escher, as his work is based on interesting and imaginative ways of manipulating lines on a page, using visual logic creatively.

The magical thing about code is that it makes it so that computational logic can accomplish just about ANYTHING, be it visual art, audio, matematical, and hey, in robots, physical...and mental. Artificial Intelligence is the greatest computer art there is right now, I'd say. There's no doubt that there are people who are way too obsessed with AI and are sure it will take over the planet in another hundred years, which is ridiculous, but people that deny computer science any legitimacy beyond being an awesome calculator, and its practitioners as mere "codemonkeys", are just as mistaken.

[ Parent ]
But there's no harm in trying (none / 0) (#208)
by nebbish on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 07:06:05 AM EST

It's of more use than talking shit on internet forums.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

crap (1.00 / 9) (#122)
by keelerbeez on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 07:30:39 PM EST

everyone is crazy, look around.

-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
GAT d? s++:+ a- C++++$ UBS*++++$ P--- L+>++ E--- W- !N !o !K w+++(---)$ M+ PS+++ PE(--) Y+ PGP t++@ 5++ X+ R* tv(+) b+++ DI++ !G !e h* r*% y++++**
------END GEEK CODE BLOCK------
Reith Lectures 2003 (none / 1) (#124)
by Mazzaroth on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 08:34:39 PM EST

I highly recommend listening (or reading) at the 2003 Reith Lectures : The Emerging Mind (clicking here will lead you to the proper BBC Radio page).
The five lectures, given by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran are absolutely fascinating for anyone slightly interesting on the brain or human behavior. Dr. Ramachandran is the director of the Centre for Brain and Cognition at the University of California (San Diego).
[from the site]
Professor Ramachandran's work has concentrated on investigating phenomena such as phantom limbs, anosognosia or denial of paralysis, Capgras syndrome, and anorexia nervosa.
Although most of these conditions have been know since the turn of the century they have usually been treated as curiosities and there has been almost no experimental work on them. V.S. Ramachandran has brought them from the clinic to the laboratory and shown that an intensive study of these patients can often provide valuable new insights into the workings of the human brain.

In his lectures, he gives great insights on possible (and probable) explanation for delusional beliefs, hallucinations, schizophrenia and more.
Have fun!
Mazz.

Psychosis (none / 2) (#130)
by debacle on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:33:39 PM EST

Personally, I think psychosis is part of the flaw in the human psyche. The same reason we cannot understand what happens after death is the cause of psychosis. Not so much an outcome as a way for the brain to keep sensory and mental reality aligned and running well. An analogy might be the guard on a table saw. It may keep certain things from going through the machine, or have fancy mouldings go through incorrectly, but it keeps the system from breaking down completely. You can always get more sensory input. You're pretty fucked if your mental wiring wears down.

In short, it's just a way to cope with life.

Man, life's a bitch.

It tastes sweet.

On the other hand... (none / 2) (#166)
by Trav42 on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 02:59:17 PM EST

I've got schizoaffective disorder which means that without meds I have psychoses sometimes. It doesn't make me an expert by any means, but I do have some first hand experience, at least.

From what I can tell, psychoses are the machine of the mind breaking down and not some protection mechanism to prevent it. They affect everyday life as much as they affect exceptional circumstances. Pretty much they just get in the way of everything.

Now that I've had the benefit of living life free from psychoses I'm actually finding things in general easier to deal with, not harder. In fact I can't believe how much of my life I wasted with my brain fried and how many opportunities I missed.

You're pretty fucked if your mental wiring wears down.

Oh yeah, that you are.

[ Parent ]

First hand rules! (none / 1) (#181)
by trezor on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 10:18:36 AM EST

Seriously. I have never, ever seen first-hand statements killing off a discussionboard thread so effectivly. No seriously, not ever.

The trolls and zealots must have a day off or something... Well, who cares :)


--
Richard Dean Anderson porn? - Now spread the news

[ Parent ]
Didn't mean to kill it off... (none / 0) (#185)
by Trav42 on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 02:45:03 PM EST

I didn't mean to kill off the discussion; I just wanted to get it out there that a lot of the psychoses I've had just plain sucked. Think of sitting in a chair with the same garbled thought going through your mind again and again--for a few days. That's why I think of the mind's machinery (physical or whatever you want) being broken.

[ Parent ]

Okay, that ending paragraph was astonishing.. (none / 2) (#131)
by sudog on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 09:42:59 PM EST

..in a "wow I never thought of that before" way. Some people might have a warped world-view and yet function normally in society..?

Now *that* is quite the thunderbolt.

Made me think of that terrific Sam Neil movie, "In the Mouth of Madness." Sam Neil and his incredible Lovecraftian roles always did draw me out to the theater.

I'd love to talk to some of those people and see what they have to say.


You're talking to some of them now. (none / 1) (#161)
by aphasia on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 12:58:37 PM EST

Tell me you haven't come across a significant minority of people on k5 who exhibit all the hallmarks of 'having a warped world view' while still (arguably) functioning normally in society.

"You have *huge* brass balls. Tex would be jealous." --ti dave
[ Parent ]

sarcasm? (none / 0) (#168)
by YelM3 on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 03:50:35 PM EST

Or do you just not get out much? I meet people all the time whose worldview is so different from mine that I can hardly comprehend it. Take people who listen to Britney Spears, for example. Or people who go to church. Or, people who think that there are hundreds of cells of "al queda" terrorists living in the US just waiting to strike. Or people who drive Hummer H2s across LA on their commute every day. If I think about what it would be like to suddenly wake up living inside the mind of one of my crazy old computer science professors, it horrifies me. I mean, everyone is crazy and delusional in their own ways, and I think the extreme differences in the ways people perceive "reality" are probably much more widespread than most of us realize. These were mostly jokes but just think about emotional issues, folks who are totally in denial of some part of themselves or their past, or who are so miserable they need to constantly lie to themselves. Just because you aren't seeing monsters walking down the street doesn't mean you're anything like sane.

[ Parent ]
i think he means that... (none / 0) (#187)
by Kiyooka on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 03:51:51 PM EST

it's astonishing that people who regularly suffer psychosis (such as visual hallucinations, like every day a blue troll jumps out and talks to you and fades away) can function ordinarily in society. I'm not sure that people who are in denial qualify as being in psychosis because if they're in denial, they already know something--they're just denying it, usually because not denying it would be too painful.  But in psychosis, you don't think you're denying anything; you actually think you're capable of time travel, and that all green plants are dying, etc. Also, the materialism ones all pretty much stem from people wanting to feel good about themselves, and being conditioned by commercialism into thinking that consuming=a new better you.

Anyway, it amazes me that people with psychosis are found in mainstream society and function ordinarily like us. I'd really like to talk to someone like that to see how they see the world.

[ Parent ]

OK, I'll bite... (none / 0) (#202)
by UptownGuy on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 09:18:16 PM EST

...I read K5 pretty regularly but post on the order of once a year...Still, something about your question inspired me to respond.

What, exactly, would you want to ask? Just because I am reasonably certain that I am a time traveler doesn't make it not so, which makes me smile a secret smile and enjoy my day that much more. And it is a fairly normal day. I still get up and go to work each day. I sometimes go out after work. I read a lot. And I know enough to know that whether it is all in my head or honestly true doesn't really matter.

The key word here is functional. If you have any specific questions, ask away...

[ Parent ]
my question (none / 0) (#218)
by Kiyooka on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 04:31:27 PM EST

For example, if they believe they can travel in time, I'd ask them why they didn't go into the future to find the cure for cancer and save their brother who just died of cancer (for example). Of course, if it seemed I was distressing them I'd stop since I'm not trying to be malicious or "cure" them, I'm only genuinely curious as to how they think... Another example to make this clearer, if they think they're Jesus, I'd ask them if they'd like to change my bottled water into wine. If they always refuse because "they don't feel like it" or "they can't control their abilities", then I'd learn something right there, as opposed to them saying "I just did, it *is* wine, it's not water anymore" (that would mean they cope via progressive delusions).

[ Parent ]
Time Travel (none / 0) (#223)
by Lemmeoutada Collective on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 12:52:22 PM EST

Sometimes rational, logical thought is sufficient. Why would I want to time travel forward, get the cure for cancer, bring it back to now and thus disruopt it's future discovery, preventing me from going forward and getting it in the first place, leading to a wonderfully schiziod paradox to consider? Or for those more mathematical minded who see time as branching rather than linear, the moment I did that and returned to this branch, I would have created a fork of history, however, you and I remain on this fork, thus no apparent changes occured.

No progressive delusions. Any sufficiently advanced species can easily see the logical conclusions of time travel being impractical.

Besides, it's just far too much fun to watch everyone struggle with things they barely comprehend, like digital watches.

[ Parent ]

Are you aware of the normal modes of thought? (none / 0) (#227)
by sudog on Mon Jan 19, 2004 at 02:50:15 AM EST

Assuming you aren't just fiddling around--you must be aware that your particular mode of thought is thought of by most people to be unrealistic and basically fantasy.

Have you ever been extensively questioned about your time-travelling? Have you found any particular questions troubling in that you didn't have any answers for them?


[ Parent ]

Heh, (none / 0) (#230)
by kraant on Fri Oct 29, 2004 at 03:09:55 AM EST

Well, logicaly, the people who'd figured out that there was something odd going on about, didn't mind, and could compensate would be a lot less likely to have run ins with the psychiatric community and therefore the common description of psychoses as being people who are totaly unaware of the distortion of their reality.

Self selecting sample groups and all that rubbish.

From what I've actually encountered people can get to the stage where they're aware that other people might not agree with them even if the strength of their own convictions are still intact.
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

While there is interesting discussion below... (none / 1) (#135)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Jan 05, 2004 at 11:33:08 PM EST

...I must say I'd have voted down this story. The text and the linked abstracts seem insufficient to understand what the simulation is in question, and what analogy the researchers are drawing exactly between the behavior of the neural network and psychosis.

--em

Dork. (1.00 / 7) (#144)
by Kax on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 11:36:48 AM EST

No one cares what you have to say.

[ Parent ]
I'd say that applies to you more than him. [n/t] (none / 1) (#197)
by Klondike on Thu Jan 08, 2004 at 05:40:15 AM EST

n/t

[ Parent ]
Virtual Environment Simulates Experience Psychosis (none / 1) (#137)
by fencepost on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 12:57:24 AM EST

People interested in this might be interested in this as well: A Virtual Environment to Simulate the Experience of Psychosis

Abstract:
Psychosis is a mental disorder that affects 1-2% of the population at some point in their lives. One of the main causes of psychosis is the mental illness schizophrenia. Sufferers of this illness often have terrifying symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder. This project aims to develop a virtual environment to simulate the experience of psychosis, focusing on re-creating auditory and visual hallucinations.

A model of a psychiatric ward was created and the psychosis simulation software was written to re-create the auditory and visual hallucinations of one particular patient. The patient was very impressed with the simulation, and commented that it effectively re-created the same emotions that she experienced on a day-to-day basis during her psychotic episodes. It is hoped that this work will result in a useful educational tool about schizophrenia, leading to improved training of clinicians, and fostering improved understanding and empathy toward sufferers of schizophrenia in the community, ultimately improving the quality of life and chances of recovery of patients.



--
"nothing really says "don't hire me, I'm an idiot" quite as well as misspelling "pom-pom" on your resume." -- former
Julian Jaynes (none / 3) (#140)
by grant7 on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 05:53:31 AM EST

why the theory of human psychology put forth by Julian Jaynes is not more widely noticed is beyond me

Neal Stephenson kept mentioning The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

it is every bit as world skewing as he makes it out to be, helps explain the riddle of ancient civilization to some degree, and begs further research – yet in my (very limited) exposure to psychology it has been entirely absent: intro, labs, professors, students alike are devoid of Jaynes' theory.

the entire rest of the study of psychology seems to me to basically amount to: poke here and X happens, or when Y occurs then Z tends to occur according to some rough formula.

give me a break... the point of studying specific aspects of any system is to learn more about the system, to better define the overall system. the whole of science strives toward unification (singularity), simplification and taxonomy.

within the field of psychology it should be well understood (like right after its definition) that Jaynes' controversial theory of consciousness represents a distinctive shift from commonly accepted views on the way our minds work – namely we just became conscious recently, or still are, especially as a group.

it is certainly very important to fully dissect and reassemble consciousness as best possible, as (I would naively hope to believe) we are on the brink of collective consciousness

whereas presently we act collectively like imbeciles as large groups (beyond a few hundred or thousand, usually, often more like 20 or 50) as compared to the actions of an individual, it has become of great import to the survival of our species to manifest collective consciousness

mostly I've heard it called societal awareness, or social liberation, or simply society or culture, but too few, imho, take the time and perspective to study it from without

at the very least we currently display increasing potential for conscious aspects of group organization through distributed communication, in which we are presently engaged, even if similar communcation had previously been only a sub- or un-conscious activity, a la Edgar Cayce or [your favorite mystic here]

Perhaps because Jaynes was a batshit loon? (none / 0) (#164)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 02:15:51 PM EST

I found the Orgins of Consciousness to be an extremely interesting and thought provoking book in places, but there are gaping holes in Jayne's theory wide enough to float an aircraft carrier through.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Agreed! (none / 0) (#170)
by the on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 04:18:23 PM EST

I read Bicameral Mind and it seemed pretty obvious that Jaynes must be a long way from sane if he thinks his argument is sound. Postulating a dramatic change in the human mind around 2000 BCE is pretty weird. Nonetheless he said interesting stuff along the way that at the least challenge the way you think about early literature.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
You don't get it, don't you? (none / 0) (#173)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 07:25:03 PM EST

But Neal Stephenson endorsed it! Read that again: NEAL STEPHENSON. Yes, Neal Stephenson, himself, in his very own writings!

Methinks you don't understand the original poster's motivations.

--em
[ Parent ]

I am indebted, good sir (none / 0) (#176)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jan 06, 2004 at 09:19:17 PM EST

It appears I have indeed overlooked the importance of the Stephenson imprimatur, which, as you so graciously informed me, makes all the difference.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Out of interest... (none / 0) (#228)
by datamodel on Mon Feb 23, 2004 at 11:53:18 AM EST

What were they?

[ Parent ]
In brief: (none / 0) (#229)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon Feb 23, 2004 at 05:58:01 PM EST

Jaynes hypothesized that archaic peoples were marked by a condition roughly analogous to what we now call schizophrenia. According to Jaynes' model, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,400 years ago there was a widespread neurological change which resulted in the modern psyche. It's an interesting hypothesis, but it fails to stand under questioning.

What was the agent of this change?

Jaynes' most plausible account held that it was a subtle metabolic shift which altered the neurological functioning of humans. He speculated that it could have been the result of a series of catastrophic natural disasters known to have occured in multiple regions of the globe at the time in question.

Now, it is somewhat plausible to argue that a slight metabolic shift could affect human neurological functioning such that a "schizophrenic" condition, which was once normative, could have become increasingly rare. But, even if we grant his supposition in the absence of any corroborating evidence, Jaynes' theory simply does not match up with the known history, natural and human, for regions outside of the Mediterranean and the Near East.

The Mezo American cultures exhibited many of the characteristics Jaynes identified as being indicative of a schizophrenic condition, but he does not account for how the supposed metabolic shift uniformly occured among the Mezo-American population. It could be argued that interbreeding with Europeans was the cause, but until very recently (1900 + or - 30 years) there were communities of Mezo-American indians who had almost no contact with Europeans. There is no indication that these populations had a higher incidence of schizophrenia than the surrounding population of European/African/Meztiso communities. Likewise with the Australian Aboriginals and all the other late persisting stone age cultures of Asia and Africa that were isolated until this past century.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
It seems much more likely ... (none / 0) (#179)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 07, 2004 at 08:20:06 AM EST

... that all Jaynes has really discovered is a succession of changes in world-view and literary convention. Writing reflectively and from the perspective of particular people is pretty recent. Gods and goddesses are much easier to believe in if you don't have reliable information about what is going on in the next town. You may go your whole life and never see them, but apparently all these other people do ...

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
psychosis is... (1.20 / 5) (#215)
by ToughLove on Fri Jan 09, 2004 at 01:09:21 PM EST

What is one man's reality, is another man's fantasy and vica versa. Since psychology is such a new and unproven field, it is much based on theory, than fact. In fact, this whole field, is theory and those who practice it take it as fact.

If you read the bible, it says... "my sheep hear my voice", so obviousley hearing voices is explained in the bible, yet for some, they don't accept this explanation, and many are doing their best to take the kjv bible, God and Jesus, out of our society.

Their efforts are futile however, because, greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

I'm not saying that psychology is totally useless, it's not, but I see it as man's attempt to minipulate and put square pegs in round holes.



The manufacture of madness (none / 2) (#220)
by ip4noman on Sat Jan 10, 2004 at 09:35:09 AM EST

Very nice article. But any good article on topics of psychaiatry should mention the work of Thomas Szasz ((manfesto), who writes,
Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease). The word "disease" denotes a demonstrable biological process that affects the bodies of living organisms (plants, animals, and humans). The term "mental illness" refers to the undesirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of persons. Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying the whale as a fish. As the whale is not a fish, mental illness is not a disease. Individuals with brain diseases (bad brains) or kidney diseases (bad kidneys) are literally sick. Individuals with mental diseases (bad behaviors), like societies with economic diseases (bad fiscal policies), are metaphorically sick. The classification of (mis)behavior as illness provides an ideological justification for state-sponsored social control as medical treatment.
Wow.

--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
Forget computer simulations (none / 1) (#225)
by Magnetic North on Mon Jan 12, 2004 at 08:49:34 PM EST

If we want to give cerebral research a real boost, legalize research with tryptamines.



--
<33333
Shattered (none / 0) (#226)
by jago25 on Wed Jan 14, 2004 at 05:57:42 AM EST

re: UK Channel4 TV series Shattered
- contestants mmust stay awake and perform tasks for as long as possible, winner gets Ł100,000.
Hallucinations and waking nightmares experienced. Perhaps might get worse if had continued

Simulating Psychosis | 132 comments (128 topical, 4 editorial, 5 hidden)
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