Our minds are not what we think

From FT a case of patient with Cotard syndrome;

"She was completely preoccupied with the thought that she was dead," he recalls. "She kept saying that she'd died two weeks before and was worried about whether my office was heaven or not."

The young scientist realised that Liz was suffering from a rare and strange condition known as Cotard syndrome, which for the sake of brevity I'll define as the delusion that one is dead. The condition was named after the French psychiatrist Jules Cotard who wrote about some classic cases in the late 1800s. He called it delire des negations and described a host of other symptoms including feelings of guilt, denial of body parts and even, paradoxically for someone who thinks they are dead, thoughts about suicide….

Roughly 100 cases of Cotard delusion have been reported in the medical literature, which certainly makes it rare, although not as rare as some other strange delusions, such as the single case of a man with "perceptual delusional bicephaly". He believed he had two heads and was admitted to hospital suffering gunshot wounds from where he'd tried to shoot one off….

Eventually he did get through, and posed a series of questions to assess an aspect of her personality known as her attributional style. Broadly speaking, this measures a person's tendency to attribute events in their lives to themselves (internal attribution) or to other people or luck (external).

He asked Liz a standard set of questions, presenting her with a range of scenarios - for example, a friend sending her a postcard - and asking her to think about the most likely cause of that event, whether it be herself, other people or chance.

The results showed that Liz had a significantly higher number of internal attributions than usual. This was interesting because it relates to one of the prevailing theories about what happens to patients with Cotard delusion. Scientists think that patients with Cotard syndrome have suffered some kind of disruption to the brain wiring for recognising faces. "The idea is that there are two elements to the visual recognition system," McKay explained to me over the phone last week from his new office at Australia's Charles Sturt University. The first element does the pattern-matching business of recognising a face, the second provides the more emotional buzz of familiarity…”

Via Mind Hacks

Related;

Looking Good-Our obsession with physical appearance may not be so shallow, after all
On Consciousness Evolved by VS Ramachandran
Moral Sense Test

Podcasts

Moral Minds: The Evolution of Human Morality
Incest, infanticide, honour killings - different cultures have different rules of justice. But are we all born with a moral instinct - an innate ability to judge what is right and wrong? Could morality be like language - a universal, unconscious grammar common to all human cultures? Eminent evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser and philosopher Richard Joyce take on these controversial questions in impressive new tomes, and to critical acclaim. But could their evolutionary arguments undermine the social authority of morality? Is biology the new 'religion'? Guests include Marc Hauser and Richard Joyce

Mindfulness
The 'holy grail' of meditation techniques is mindfulness. But what is it, exactly? And why has the medical profession suddenly appropriated this age-old technique devised by yogis and Buddhist monks? Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, is the world leader in this field. We also hear from 'the guru of calm', Paul Wilson. Having published scores of books on Calm (Little Book of Calm, Instant Calm etc) Wilson is convinced it's a technique he learned in the Queensland outback

A new branch of moral philosophy
Neuroethics is a new field. It concerns the ethics of the science of the mind and the ethical questions that arise out of our growing knowledge of the way in which the mind works. Before the year 2000 there was little need for the term but rapid advances in the sciences of mind, and the rise of pressing ethical issues surrounding them, mean that we cannot any longer remain without the term or the field to which it refers.

The elimination of iodine deficiency as a cause of brain damage

A Child's Spirit
Encounter ponders the subject of spiritual development in children, and also considers how forces at play in the wider world can shape, and often thwart, children's spiritual lives

Note; Podcasts above are from Radio National and are available for limited time...so download now.

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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on November 26, 2006 2:13 PM.

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