Elyn Saks: A tale of mental illness

Recently, a friend posed a question: If there were a pill I could take that would instantly cure me, would I take it? The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was offered psychoanalysis. He declined, saying, “Don’t take my devils away, because my angels may flee too.” My psychosis, on the other hand, is a waking nightmare in which my devils are so terrifying that all my angels have already fled. So would I take the pill? In an instant.

A systematic review cites an average global prevalence of 0.4%, and median rate of 0.7%, but this varies significantly - higher prevalence is found in developed vs.developing countries, and migrant vs. native populations - again suggesting that there is something about modern societies/cultures and being a stranger in them that increases a person’s risk for schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia Incidence & Prevalence: The dogma of the disease

Links Roundup #2



The Fairy Fellers’ Master-Stroke by Richard Dadd (1817-1886). Richard Dadd was an Enlish painter who developed a mental illness, something like skizophrenia, and underwent a dramatic personality change becoming delusional and violent. He murdered his father and attempted to kill another man. His life and work are the subject of a book by Nicholas Tromans.


Frans de Wall, a biologist and “monkey watcher”, author of The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society, says that human morality has its biological basis in the need to cooperate to survive, reproduce, and pass genes.


For most of the last century one of the central dogmas of neuroscience was that the brain couldn’t grow new cells once embryonic development was ended. In 1980 Fernando Notthebhom found evidence that “the adult canary brain undergoes seasonal changes in size. Males sing to serenade females, but the song-producing brain regions decrease dramatically in size after breeding season. The following spring, they are regenerated by neurogenesis so the male can learn new songs." Nowadays adult neurogenesis is one of the hottest topics in neuroscience.


How do you decide if a neuroscientific interventions for dyslexia is a valid treatment or an hoax? Some useful criteria could be: Who is behind the treatment? Is there a credible scientific basis to the treatment? What is the attitude of those promoting the intervention to conventional approaches? 

The same criteria can be used to judge also other kind of treatments.


In 1374 strange episodes were reported across Europe. People started dancing, uncontrollably, screaming, shouting and singing, appearing to neither see or hear nothing but their hallucinations. These events are known as dancing plague.


”[…] using prediction during instruction can create learning opportunities to enhance the understanding and doing of mathematics”. Students asked to predict “how linear and exponential factors work—before this information was taught—became more curious about the content of the lessons they then proceeded to learn." Engaging math in this way promotes reasoning, and the students appear to understand the material more deeply compared to when math is proposed (implicitly or not) and viewed, only as a matter of memorizing facts and procedures.


A new research investigate the connection between fear and perception in spider phobic individuals showing how they are biased by their fear and perceive spiders as larger than they really are. / “[…] perception is just as much about construal, belief, the interaction of environment and memory as it is about sensory inputs

It was as big as my head, I swear!


Are babies super? A reasoned critique to development psychology studies claiming babies have incredible hidden abilities.

The great snare of the psychologist is the confusion of his own standpoint with that of the mental fact about which he is making his report. I shall hereafter call this the ‘psychologist’s fallacy’ par excellence.

William James, Principles of Psychology