(9/49) Language and memory disorder in the case of Jonathan Swift: considerations on retrospective diagnosis.
The cause of behavioural changes described by Alzheimer for his original case, Auguste D., has been recently reconfirmed by histological examination. However, there has been active speculation regarding the cause of behavioural changes exhibited by the political satirist Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) during the final three years of his life for over 250 years. Swift's symptoms of cognitive changes, memory impairment, personality alterations, language disorder and facial paralysis have all been apportioned differing levels of significance in various attempts at retrospective diagnosis. The various medical arguments put forward from the 18th through 20th centuries will be critically examined. The diagnoses considered refer to evolving theories of insanity, phrenology, localization of cortical function, hydrocephalus, psychoanalysis, aphasia, dementia and depression in ageing. Re-consideration of the attempts to re-diagnose Swift's final mental state by the leading neurological thinkers of the day, including Wilde (The Closing Years of Dean Swift's Life. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1849), Bucknill (1882), Osler [Osler's textbook Principles and Practice of Medicine (1892); published in St Thomas's Hospital Gazette (London) 1902; 12: 59-60), Brain (Irish Med J 1952: 320-1 and 337-346) and Boller and Forbes (J Neurol Sci 1998; 158: 125-133) reveal the changing attitudes regarding the significance of behavioural symptoms to neurological diagnosis from the 18th century to the present day. (+info)
(10/49) Did the perils of abdominal obesity affect depiction of feminine beauty in the sixteenth to eighteenth century British literature? Exploring the health and beauty link.
'Good gene' mate selection theory proposes that all individuals share evolved mental mechanisms that identify specific parts of a woman's body as indicators of fertility and health. Depiction of feminine beauty, across time and culture, should therefore emphasize the physical traits indicative of health and fertility. Abdominal obesity, as measured by waist size, is reliably linked to decreased oestrogen, reduced fecundity and increased risk for major diseases. Systematic searches of British literature across the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries reveal that a narrow waist is consistently described as beautiful. Works in ancient Indian and Chinese literature similarly associate feminine attractiveness with a narrow waist. Even without the benefit of modern medical knowledge, both British and Asian writers knew intuitively the biological link between health and beauty. (+info)
(11/49) Jealous love and morbid jealousy.
Jealous love and morbid jealousy, although inextricably linked, cannot be considered the same: jealous love (trait jealousy) is the behavioral and cognitive-affective precondition of morbid jealousy (state jealousy). Love is jealous when it is devoured by the desire for the exclusive and total possession of the partner, whose unconditional and continued presence is avidly requested. This type of love, in addition, is permeated by the need to know what the other is thinking, in order to scrutinize every minimal flaw in the faithfulness of the partner even in his or her innermost thoughts and fantasies; in it, jealousy is virtually always present, even in the absence of a triggering event, because captative love, by its very nature, includes the expectation of a conflict which inevitably actually takes place in reality. Finally, jealousy emerges as an emotional event (jealous flash) in response to a more or less significant change in the behavior of the partner, and reveals to the jealous individual a dimension which was previously latent or inexistent. This intense and brief experience, leaves a more or less blurred memory behind, and tends to progressively repeat itself and take root as a feeling. (+info)
(12/49) Brave New World versus Island--utopian and dystopian views on psychopharmacology.
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a famous dystopia, frequently called upon in public discussions about new biotechnology. It is less well known that 30 years later Huxley also wrote a utopian novel, called Island. This paper will discuss both novels focussing especially on the role of psychopharmacological substances. If we see fiction as a way of imagining what the world could look like, then what can we learn from Huxley's novels about psychopharmacology and how does that relate to the discussion in the ethical and philosophical literature on this subject? The paper argues that in the current ethical discussion the dystopian vision on psychopharmacology is dominant, but that a comparison between Brave New World and Island shows that a more utopian view is possible as well. This is illustrated by a discussion of the issue of psychopharmacology and authenticity. The second part of the paper draws some further conclusions for the ethical debate on psychopharmacology and human enhancement, by comparing the novels not only with each other, but also with our present reality. It is claimed that the debate should not get stuck in an opposition of dystopian and utopian views, but should address important issues that demand attention in our real world: those of evaluation and governance of enhancing psychopharmacological substances in democratic, pluralistic societies. (+info)
(13/49) The disease-subject as a subject of literature.
Based on the distinction between living body and lived body, we describe the disease-subject as representing the impact of disease on the existential life-project of the subject. Traditionally, an individual's subjectivity experiences disorders of the body and describes ensuing pain, discomfort and unpleasantness. The idea of a disease-subject goes further, representing the lived body suffering existential disruption and the possible limitations that disease most probably will impose. In this limit situation, the disease-subject will have to elaborate a new life-story, a new character or way-of-being-in-the-world, it will become a different subject. Health care professionals need to realize that patients are not mere observers of their body, for they are immersed in a reassesment of values, relationships, priorities, perhaps even life-plans. Becoming acquainted with literature's capacity to create characters, modify narratives and depict life-stories in crisis, might sharpen physicians' hermeneutic acumen and make them more receptive to the quandaries of disease-subjects facing major medical and existential decisions in the wake of disruptive disease. (+info)
(14/49) Voltaire's Candide, medical students, and mentoring.
In Voltaire's work, Candide, a young, naive man, who has been taught that humans live in the best of all possible worlds, is thrust into the world only to find that this may not be so. He learns over time to balance his optimism with the skepticism he acquires through experience. While today's medical students are not naive like the character Candide, they, nonetheless, carry an impression of the ideal medical practice, along with the expectation of a successful medical practice. Good mentors and role models are important to students in order to temper their optimism, control their skepticism, and to help them to be realistic, not only about their expectations of medical practice, but what society expects of them. (+info)
(15/49) Quantifying the evolutionary dynamics of language.
Human language is based on grammatical rules. Cultural evolution allows these rules to change over time. Rules compete with each other: as new rules rise to prominence, old ones die away. To quantify the dynamics of language evolution, we studied the regularization of English verbs over the past 1,200 years. Although an elaborate system of productive conjugations existed in English's proto-Germanic ancestor, Modern English uses the dental suffix, '-ed', to signify past tense. Here we describe the emergence of this linguistic rule amidst the evolutionary decay of its exceptions, known to us as irregular verbs. We have generated a data set of verbs whose conjugations have been evolving for more than a millennium, tracking inflectional changes to 177 Old-English irregular verbs. Of these irregular verbs, 145 remained irregular in Middle English and 98 are still irregular today. We study how the rate of regularization depends on the frequency of word usage. The half-life of an irregular verb scales as the square root of its usage frequency: a verb that is 100 times less frequent regularizes 10 times as fast. Our study provides a quantitative analysis of the regularization process by which ancestral forms gradually yield to an emerging linguistic rule. (+info)
(16/49) How new is the new philosophy of psychiatry?
In their recent paper, Natalie Banner and Tim Thornton evaluate seven volumes of the Oxford University Press series "International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry," an international book series begun in 2003 focusing on the emerging interdisciplinary field at the interface of philosophy and psychiatry. According to Natalie Banner and Tim Thornton, the series represents a clear indication that the interdisciplinary field of philosophy of psychiatry has been flourishing lately. Philosophers and psychiatrists face a "new philosophy of psychiatry". However, the optimism which the "new" philosophy of psychiatry celebrates is precisely the exiling of philosophy from the foundations of psychiatry. The 150 year old belief that psychopathology cannot do without philosophical reflection has virtually disappeared from common psychiatric education and daily clinical practice. Though the discipline of psychiatry is particularly suited to contributions from philosophy, the impact of philosophy on psychiatry nowadays remains limited. With some exceptions, philosophical papers are embedded in a philosophical context inscrutable to ordinary psychiatrists. Much current philosophical work is perceived by psychiatrists as negativistic. I would encourage the field of psychiatry to incorporate once again basic philosophical attitudes which render possible true dialogue with philosophy and enrich both disciplines. The views developed here should not discredit the value and importance of Natalie Banner and Tim Thornton's paper and the excellent series "International Perspectives in Philosophy and Psychiatry." As Jaspers said "Everybody inclined to disregard philosophy will be overwhelmed by philosophy in an unperceived way". (+info)