Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Feeling what others feel - literally!

` About a year ago, Lou and I were mulling over this woman I had read about in a science magazine; when she sees someone else being touched, she can feel it too - and it hadn't been until shortly before that she had discovered that the people around her didn't!
` The article went on to explore the differences in her brain compared with other people's, as well as the brains of schizophrenics, who have a different set of self/other issues when they perceive themselves as being controlled by aliens, etc.
` I thought the whole thing was just strange - a person who can feel the blows when they watch someone else get beaten up? Lou then brought up a very good point; "Gee, I wonder what it's like for her to watch porn?"
` Anyway, I just came across this Nature News article (Ouch, I saw that) all about this condition - apparently it has a name; mirror-touch synethesia!
` I guess this is opposed to 'regular' synethesia, where any number of senses could get mixed up so that, for example, numbers and letters each have their distinctive colors, music has flavor, or smells have shape.
` Here's some of the article:

...Jamie Ward of University College London (UCL) coined the term mirror-touch synaesthesia to describe a different type of sensory mix-up — when people confuse the brain's signal for sensing touch with the 'mirror system' signal that is triggered when watching others being touched.

"We first came across the mirror-touch synaesthesia by chance," says Ward. The sensation of touch was being discussed at a UCL neuroscience seminar, and someone suggested, as a thought experiment, imagining that people felt what they saw. A colleague of Ward's objected, vigorously insisting that everyone does, in fact, feel what they see. It was the first time Ward had realised such a condition could exist.....
` What an amazing chance-discovery! But how well is it backed by evidence? There have been some experiments;
A brain-imaging study two years ago showed that, for one subject, the brain areas normally activated when someone is physically touched were hyperactivated when the subject watched someone else being touched1.

...Compared to controls, mirror-touch synaesthetes were faster to detect actual touch when it was applied to the same bodily location as the observed touch. They were also more likely to mistake observed touch for real touch. "These are the types of error one would expect if the synaesthetes really are feeling the touches they see," says Ward. The results are reported in Nature Neuroscience2.

It's hard for others to imagine what it must be like to feel every touch seen — in the subway, in a horror film, at a dance. It's equally baffling for the synaesthetes to imagine not feeling it. "I've never been able to understand how people can enjoy looking at bloodthirsty films, or laugh at the painful misfortunes of others," said one of Ward's subjects.

Those affected do not think of their condition as a problem. "I consider this to be a positive thing, because I believe it makes me more considerate about the feelings of others," said one.
` Similarly, other types of synesthestes (or synaesthetes, whatever) can't imagine life without, say, tasting or hearing colors, and wonder how other people put up with such a lack of stimulation!
Interestingly, the synaesthetes scored higher than normal for emotional empathy (agreeing strongly with statements such as "When I see someone crying, I feel sad") but not for rational empathy (statements such as "When I'm upset with someone, I try to put myself in their shoes").
` I just had an idea... hyperactivate these same areas of the brain in people who have a habit of abusing other people. That way, when they hurt other people, they would also hurt themselves!
` Mua ha ha ha ha ha haaaa... mua ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaa!
` I'll get right on it....


slö said...

you touch some valuable points here.

i think you are going to like this too: springfever


Galtron said...

Good luck, Doctor! I'm sure Lou Ryan will be very pleased with that project!

S E E Quine said...

` In fact, he is! Thank you, Galtron!

` Now, as for Slo's video... I had much to say about Dr. Szasz's words and the idea that psychiatry is nothing but 'malpractice' and 'abomination'.
` In fact, it looks like, on top of this, that the video has been taken wildly out of context to fit a certain point of view!
` This is what I said to the blog post, as simply as I could;

` Slo, I think you should know that psychiatrists now know that drapetomania and hysteria are incredibly nonsensical concepts, they do not hold them to be true.
` Why does this man use that in his argument? It is a 'straw man argument' - he is making light of something that is not relevant.
` I am a psychology student and I have learned about such outmoded ways of thinking. These things, along with Freud's assumption that so many various things in a dream refer to sex, and that homosexuals are mentally ill, are now known to not be true through study of mental illness and mental health.
` The reason for these ridiculous diagnoses to come into existence is because of the prevailing culture and assumptions people had at the time.
` Come to think of it, psychology/psychiatry did not even come into existence until around 1900, way after there were slaves!!

` As for Attention Deficit Disorder, I know it is usually diagnosed with no reason - though it does exist.
` I personally know how debilitating the constant mental 'noise' of ADD is. My boyfriend and I have both suffered from it our whole lives, and I can tell you it is like having someone screaming in your ears all day!
` At its worst, it prevented me from even completing one thought, or even getting out of a chair to look out the window because it is so distracting.
` I would just sit in one place and be lost in all this noise, like twenty televisions in my head, and could not find my own thoughts, could not plan to do anything, and could barely make myself get up to use the bathroom.
` When I first took Ritalin as an adult I was amazed. I realized I did not have to block out all the background noise. It was gone!
` Like someone who was used to having gremlins jumping on them at all times, I looked around as if I expected to see some gremlins hiding in ambush.
` Then, I did things I had never done before - I got up and spent two hours cleaning and did not get distracted once! Usually, when I would try cleaning, I would head right into the mental noise and not remember what I was doing;
` I would stop for a while and stare into space because the 'noise' was so loud, or I would forget what I was doing and not finish! (I would in fact forget most things I was doing, whether I needed to do them or was having fun - it was very hard to have fun, come to think of it!)
` Then, I tried going back to school. When I took the Ritalin, I could pay attention. When I didn't, I had no idea what was going on because the mental noise, images and other things that did not belong in my thoughts, were replacing what was going on in front of me, or what I wanted to be thinking! And I was powerless to stop it!
` However, now that I have learned how to focus from the Ritalin (I now know the feeling of it), I can function quite well without it for a while. Still, it is hard to keep doing something for more than a few minutes.
` My boyfriend does not seem to be so fortunate, though, because when he stops taking it (he has been on Ritalin for ten years, on and off) he forgets about a lot of his obligations and, as a consequence, loses a lot of money and does not accomplish much.
` That is the price of not being able to pay attention. Very high! Trust me, ADD and ADHD exist, but as many doctors and mental health professionals have told me, probably most children who are diagnosed with ADD and given drugs don't even have it.
` It is because children, who don't have the discipline of adults, often look like they have ADD, and so they are working on better criteria for diagnosis, ones that are less likely to be mistaken.

` The man in this video is saying that psychiatrists are controlling people, but really as I have learned in my psychology schooling (where we learn how to become psychologists and psychiatrists) is that mental abnormalities are only considered illnesses if they are controlling you!
` In fact, I have suffered several of them!
` I have almost killed myself because I was suffering from depression - I felt I was slime, garbage, and was not even a human being, nor did anyone like me and I could see no reason to live.
` It was nothing but sheer misery. I sat around on the couch and did nothing. I was disabled by my mind. That isn't a mental illness?
` I got over it in time, but you see, it can be a deadly illness because many depressed people kill themselves and in any case they cannot enjoy anything, that is to say they cannot have fun or experience pleasure.
` Imagine doing something you like to do - perhaps playing a musical instrument or even eating cookies - these are things I really enjoy doing but when I was depressed I felt nothing, and there was no reason to do anything or even get out of bed in the morning. I was never happy.
` I also had trouble sleeping and was often physically ill. To say that there was nothing wrong with me is ludicrous! Now that I'm better I can see the difference!
` I have also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and I know the anxiety and flashbacks can be totally disabling to the point where you are on the verge of passing out from panic several times a day! You just feel like you're going to die, and it is almost impossible to think rationally, or to have rational thoughts affect your emotions.
` I also know people with bipolar disorder - they cannot help the fact that they 'go crazy' and make lots of hasty decisions, spend all their money on useless items, get into fights with people, feel on top of the world, then suddenly they are so depressed they cannot get out of bed and want nothing more than to kill themselves.
` The ones who have taken medication, and sometimes gotten over it, are quite glad to be able to hold a job and are finally able to have normal relationships with friends and family members.
` Fear can also be disabling, when it comes to phobias! I was watching a film, in psychology class a couple of weeks ago, about a woman who was so afraid of spiders that she took a duster everywhere she went and dusted out her car, dusted her walls, put tape under the doors, and would not even look at fields or gardens because she feared so badly that she would see a spider!
` Wouldn't you consider that to be a problem? But then, as the film was demonstrating a new technique that is being used to cure people of phobias, she put on a pair of virtual reality goggles where she met computer-generated spiders!
` Since none of it was really real, this was easier to tolerate than the real world. She eventually lost her fear of spiders and went walking through fields, which she could never have dreamed of doing before, and eventually she held a tarantula in her hand!
` Tell me it is not an illness when you are so afraid you cannot go walking outside!
` Most damning of all, there really are schizophrenic people and they are ill! I have seen many of them myself - some even live on the streets around my house!
` They stand around all day talking to whatever is in their head, and many don't even know what is going on in the real world. That is why they are homeless.
` One such person I observed, day and night (she was so into her world she could hardly sleep), talked back and forth as if she were 'play acting', doing the voice of both herself and about twenty imaginary friends, as they had adventures in various parallel universes.
` Can you honestly believe that these people are not ill? They have no idea what is going on in the world, they cannot go about their normal human lives because they believe that their hallucinations are real!
` And sometimes, the only way you can show them the real world is to give them medication. Though it often has bad side-effects, they may at last understand better about what it's like to not hallucinate all day, and can sometimes even deal with life without taking the medication!
` In fact, my dad was insane himself! When I was a child he was always accusing me and everyone else of trying to kill him! He even believed that I made him sexually dysfunctional and that I also ruined his marriage!
` It was not me who ruined his marriage, it was his unpredictable behavior, his cruelty and his rationalizations for his abuse!
` He was always on the attack! He would tell everyone that they were wrong and that their viewpoints were opposed to his, even when they agreed with him!
` He would tell people he saw something that just happened when it didn't! And most of all he always thought that everyone was out to get him!
` He always made up a lot of things, like the idea that Neanderthal man genetically engineered kangaroos and koalas millions of years ago (in the dinosaur ages) and really believed these things were true!
` And, if you didn't believe him, why, you were in trouble!
` He also would ask me to do very strange things, such as make a sculpture of his head, with no teeth, and then kill him and put his teeth in the mouth of the sculpture!
` I didn't, though maybe I should have because he is hopeless! That man did nothing but abuse everyone and make people feel like they were worthless and useless, and he really believed they were!
` Every day he would go so far as to accuse them of doing something they hadn't done! In my case, he said that I really had done bad things (or even things that weren't bad) but that I didn't remember them because I had multiple personalities! He really believed it!!!

` Go on, tell me there is no such thing as mental illness!
` In fact, I suggest you go spend a day at the critical ward in a mental hospital, trying to tell the patients - the ones that can hear you - that there is nothing wrong with them and that they are not ill and should just stop pretending!

` Might I add, on further viewing I think you have also taken Dr. Szasz's words way out of context.

` Even so, I think 'spring fever' is just an observation, not a diagnosis. Spring seems to cause people to get restless!
` However I know that people who live very far from the equator get Seasonal Affective Disorder, apparently because they are not getting enough sunlight. So, their sleep cycle gets messed up, they get depressed, and they tend to eat a lot.
` When they are treated with sun lamps every morning (when their body thinks the sun ought to come up) it goes back into its old patterns.

` Really, this man seems to think that the mind and body are separate entities. They are not. Ever notice how your muscles get tense when you are feeling stressed? Or how you feel like you're going to throw up when you only think about something that makes you nauseous?
` Another thing we learn in psychology class is that there are glands all over your body which affect, and are affected by, your mental state. And, when someone is paralyzed from the neck down, this affects their emotions!
` In fact, the immune system can be affected by the mind and strangely it can even be conditioned to behave a certain way.
` I'm not kidding - some rats were given sweetened water that had in it a drug that suppressed their immune systems.
` After several times of drinking this water, they were then given sweetened water with no drug. Their immune systems still reacted like they had with the drug!

` I think I'm finished babbling, and I'm curious to see your response!

` Only time will tell just how close to the mark my commentary has been....

Kingcover said...

Check your emails Spoony.

It's Gareth here bytheway ;)

Kingcover said...

Hey Spoony - who is "Don"? They are a member of your gmail group. Just don't know who he/she is.

Galtron said...

I came back, I saw slö's video..... WTF? Psychiatry exposed as pseudoscience? There is no such think as a mental disorder? WOW.
Sounds like Scientology.
I see why you said what you said. But did you notice the guy was making a distinction between behavior and illness of the physical brain? He said the brain could be sick.
I think I see what he's trying to say; mental illness is culturally defined.
I know that sometimes this is true, also, so I think he does have a point.
Just like Tom Cruise has a point about medication. But it doesn't mean that psychiatrists are bent on controlling everyone!! There is a way to get help from them if you need it and that is to be careful!
I know that for some people therapy does make them worse because they focus on their illness and the therapist can't or isn't getting them to focus on getting better!

Kingcover said...

Are you still feeling it? :)

S E E Quine said...

` Actually, it is!! Now, I wonder what happens when I finally usurp this post with another?

Kingcover said...

Well there's only one way to find out ;)
Be brave and just go for it, lol.