Monday, November 30, 2009

Big Pharma Drama in Iceland

Icelandic academic and Neuroskeptic reader Steindór J. Erlingsson reports that thanks to his efforts, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK) has stopped distributing a booklet promoting the monoamine hypothesis of depression to pharmacies and doctors offices in Iceland.

His report is here, and it has links to more details on the story, although these are in Icelandic, a language I'm unfortunately not familiar with. In a nutshell, Erlingsson says he spoke to the Icelandic Medical Director of Health who, after some back-and-forth and consultations with psychiatrists, contacted GSK.

On September 29th GSK announced that they
have received information that its information booklet on depression needs to be improved. The company views favorably well argued suggestions and as a result it is going to review the booklet.
They went on to say that the booklet, which had been around since 1999, should no longer be distributed. According to Erlingsson, the booklet made three claims:
1. An imbalance in the neurotransmitter serotonin causes depression. 2. SSRIs treat depression by correcting the serotonin imbalance. 3. Psychological treatment is ineffective in treating the serotonin imbalance.
Coincidentally, GSK are the manufacturers of paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat), one of the best-selling SSRIs. Iceland, like most countries (except the US and New Zealand), bans direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs, but this kind of thing is not covered by such laws.

Personally I believe that serotonin probably is involved in some cases of depression. My views on the serotonin hypothesis of depression are therefore more favorable than those of many critics for whom the whole idea is a myth. But even so, I'm happy that to hear that this booklet has been withdrawn. Drug companies have no business promoting the serotonin hypothesis to the public.

First off, because it's controversial science. There's no "smoking gun" proof linking serotonin to depression. There's a lot of circumstantial evidence, but we don't really know how antidepressants work, or indeed how well they work, at all. For once, we should be "Teaching the Controversy". Most of the time when people say that, they're wrong, because they're talking about science which is rock solid, like the theory of evolution. The monoamine theory, however actually is controversial, which is why there are articles in major scientific journals criticizing it and others defending it.

Second, because the monoamine theory is certainly not true in any simple sense. Low serotonin levels cannot be the sole cause of depression because you can temporarily deplete someone's serotonin with a technique called tryptophan depletion and for most people, this does nothing at all to their mood. On the other hand about 50% of people who have suffered from depression in the past do get depressed again after tryptophan depletion, which is why I think there is some truth in the serotonin theory, but this shows that it's not a straightforward picture.

Third, the idea that only drugs can correct the "chemical imbalance" and psychotherapy can't is simply wrong. I don't know what the wording of GSK's booklet was, but from Erlingsson's summary, it sounds like it was giving people medical advice - you won't benefit from therapy - via leaflet, which is very irresponsible. Only a clinician with personal experience of an individual patient can say what treatment is best for them. Some people benefit from therapy, others do well on medication, and some people get better with no treatment at all. It sounds like GSK is behaving just as Oliver James did when he used the Guardian to recommend Freudian psychoanalysis over drugs and other kinds of therapy for postnatal depression. They're both wrong.

On the other hand, information leaflets telling people about depression and encouraging sufferers to seek professional help sound like a great idea to me, because many people with depression go undiagnosed and untreated and that's a real tragedy. But drug companies are unlikely to be the best people to provide such information.

Big Pharma Drama in Iceland

Icelandic academic and Neuroskeptic reader Steindór J. Erlingsson reports that thanks to his efforts, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK) has stopped distributing a booklet promoting the monoamine hypothesis of depression to pharmacies and doctors offices in Iceland.

His report is here, and it has links to more details on the story, although these are in Icelandic, a language I'm unfortunately not familiar with. In a nutshell, Erlingsson says he spoke to the Icelandic Medical Director of Health who, after some back-and-forth and consultations with psychiatrists, contacted GSK.

On September 29th GSK announced that they
have received information that its information booklet on depression needs to be improved. The company views favorably well argued suggestions and as a result it is going to review the booklet.
They went on to say that the booklet, which had been around since 1999, should no longer be distributed. According to Erlingsson, the booklet made three claims:
1. An imbalance in the neurotransmitter serotonin causes depression. 2. SSRIs treat depression by correcting the serotonin imbalance. 3. Psychological treatment is ineffective in treating the serotonin imbalance.
Coincidentally, GSK are the manufacturers of paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat), one of the best-selling SSRIs. Iceland, like most countries (except the US and New Zealand), bans direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs, but this kind of thing is not covered by such laws.

Personally I believe that serotonin probably is involved in some cases of depression. My views on the serotonin hypothesis of depression are therefore more favorable than those of many critics for whom the whole idea is a myth. But even so, I'm happy that to hear that this booklet has been withdrawn. Drug companies have no business promoting the serotonin hypothesis to the public.

First off, because it's controversial science. There's no "smoking gun" proof linking serotonin to depression. There's a lot of circumstantial evidence, but we don't really know how antidepressants work, or indeed how well they work, at all. For once, we should be "Teaching the Controversy". Most of the time when people say that, they're wrong, because they're talking about science which is rock solid, like the theory of evolution. The monoamine theory, however actually is controversial, which is why there are articles in major scientific journals criticizing it and others defending it.

Second, because the monoamine theory is certainly not true in any simple sense. Low serotonin levels cannot be the sole cause of depression because you can temporarily deplete someone's serotonin with a technique called tryptophan depletion and for most people, this does nothing at all to their mood. On the other hand about 50% of people who have suffered from depression in the past do get depressed again after tryptophan depletion, which is why I think there is some truth in the serotonin theory, but this shows that it's not a straightforward picture.

Third, the idea that only drugs can correct the "chemical imbalance" and psychotherapy can't is simply wrong. I don't know what the wording of GSK's booklet was, but from Erlingsson's summary, it sounds like it was giving people medical advice - you won't benefit from therapy - via leaflet, which is very irresponsible. Only a clinician with personal experience of an individual patient can say what treatment is best for them. Some people benefit from therapy, others do well on medication, and some people get better with no treatment at all. It sounds like GSK is behaving just as Oliver James did when he used the Guardian to recommend Freudian psychoanalysis over drugs and other kinds of therapy for postnatal depression. They're both wrong.

On the other hand, information leaflets telling people about depression and encouraging sufferers to seek professional help sound like a great idea to me, because many people with depression go undiagnosed and untreated and that's a real tragedy. But drug companies are unlikely to be the best people to provide such information.

AGRADECIMENTO!!!!




EU, SANDRA, QUERO AGRADECER O ENORME CARINHO DE TODOS VOCÊS QUE VOTAREM NO CASO DE REGINA.
UMA HISTÓRIA LINDA E EMOCIONANTE. SABEMOS QUE HOJE TERMINA A VOTAÇÃO.
MAS, JÁ ESTOU ENTRE OS DEZ CONTOS MAIS VOTADOS.

ESTE PRÉMIO DE UM NOVO LAYOUT, SÓ FOI POSSÍVEL COM O SEU CARINHO, AMOR E CONFIABILIDADE.

ESTOU MUITO FELIZ, COM ESTE CARINHO E TERNURA, DEDICADO AO MEU BLOG, A MINHA PESSOA.
SEM ESTE CARINHO, NADA SERIA POSSÍVEL..

FOI SIM UM GRANDE PRESENTE DE NATAL, PARA MIM.
SEI QUE MUITOS OUTROS MOMENTOS ESTÃO ACONTECENDO. EU GOSTO DE PARTICIPAR. PORQUE É UM MOMENTO EM QUE APRENDEMOS E VAMOS DESENVOLVENDO NOSSA LEITURA E ESCRITA.
MUITO OBRIGADO MEU AMIGO COMPANHEIRO(A), DE BLOG. SUA PRESENÇA É UM CARINHO MUITO ESPECIAL.

VEJA O RESULTADO: Ganhadores do Layout ou scrapbooking digital: Traços de Vida - _________________ 151 votos
Judith's Secret Garden____________ 150 votos
sem (ser) mais _________________ 139 votos
Mosaicos do Sul _________________ 137 votos
A Madrasta Má___________________117 votos
O Cantinho da Danizitha ___________ 77 votos
Eu trilho, trago e assopro no ar _____ 65 votos
Carlos Soares ___________________59 votos
Uma integração de amigos ________ 31 votos

NÃO IMPORTATA, QUE SOMOS O DÉCIMO.
O IMPORTANTE É ESTAR, ENTRE.
MUITO OBRIGADO PELO CARINHO. AMO CADA UM QUE PASSA POR AQUI E DEIXA O SEU PERFUME.
APROVEITO PARA A GRADECER A REBECA E O JOTA CÊ, PELA OPORTUNIDADE DE ESTAR PARTICIPANDO DO CONTO. MUITO OBRIGADA MEUS AMIGOS.

(imagem net)


QUERO PEDIR LICENÇA A TODOS OS BLOGS, QUE ESTÃO CONCORRENDO A ESTE PRÊMIO, MARAVILHOSO, PARA SOLICITAR UM VOTO A ESTE MEU GRANDE AMIGO E QUERIDÍSSIMO JOÃO, DO BLOG GRIFO PLANANTE.

NÃO QUERO SER INDELICADA, COM NINGUÉM. AMO OS DEMAIS BLOGS, DA RAQUEL, DA REBECA, DO DANIEL, DA MADRASTA, E OUTROS QUE SÃO PESSOAS MARAVILHOSAS TAMBÉM.
MAS ESTE AMIGO É
MUITO ESPECIAL... ME ACOMPANHA DESDE O INICIO DO BLOG. A CURIOSA E INTERAÇÃO DE AMIGOS, APRENDEU MUITO COM ELE.

DESEJO A TODOS MUITA SORTE, SUCESSO E VITORIA. SEI QUE ESTA SENDO UM DISPUTA MUITO GRANDE.

SUCESSO E VENÇA O MELHOR!!! TODOS JÁ SÃO VENCEDORES, ESTANDO NA CLASSIFICAÇÃO.


PORTUGAL X BRASIL




The Best GB 2009. São 10 blogs participantes. Destes, os 3 blogs com maior quantidade de votos, serão premiados com o Troféu The Best GB 2009. A votação encontra-se na página principal da Gazeta dos Blogueiros. Boa sorte!

VENHA CONFERIR, CLICANDO AQUI

BOA SORTE JOÃO. FICAR ENTRE OS TRÊS SERA UM GRANDE PRÊMIO. BOA SORTE PARA A REBECA, RAQUEL MACHADO, MADRASTA MÁ, E VOCÊ DANIEL. A ELEIÇÃO ESTÁ MUITO DISPUTADA. SUCESSO A TODOS. E NÃO ESQUEÇAM: VOCÊS JÁ SÃO VENCEDORES, SENDO ESCOLHIDOS PARA ESTE PRÊMIO.

(imagem da net)


VISITE TAMBÉM: Poetas-Um Vôo Livre

Sinal de Liberdade-uma expressão de sentimento

Blog Coletivo-Uma Interação de Amigos

Meus Mimos!

(imagem da net)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

AINDA DÁ TEMPO...CONTO COM O SEU VOTO..

UM CONTO DE REGINA
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_vzrlnu76oJw/SwvUx9dh2II/AAAAAAAACdI/rVMuKgaH-4w/s320/amorAGUA.gif
(imagem da net.)


ESTAMOS AI, NA CONTAGEM FINAL DO CONTO.
PARA QUE A HISTÓRIA DE REGINA, FIQUE ENTRE AS DEZ COLOCADAS, VOU PRECISAR DO SEU VOTO.

SE AINDA NÃO VOTOU PASSE LÁ.
SEU VOTO É IMPORTANTE.
O PRÊMIO É UM LAYOUT .
AGRADECO IMENSAMENTE O SEU CARINHO EM VOTAR NA HISTÓRIA DE REGINA. FICO MUITO FELIZ COM A SUA CONFIANÇA E TERNURA
.

A VOTAÇÃO AINDA CONTINUA ATÉ DIA 30.11. SE VOCÊ AINDA NÃO VOTOU PASSE LÁ.
BASTA CLICAR NO LINK ABAIXO.


TE AGRADEÇO DE CORAÇÃO O SEU CARINHO POR ESTE BLOG.
SÃO OS DEZ MAIS VOTADOS.


CLICK NO NECTAR DA FLOR E VOTE - UMA INTERAÇÃO DE AMIGOS

CONHEÇA ESTA HISTÓRIA EM
Blog Coletivo-Uma Interação de Amigos. SE PRECISAR CONFERIR A HISTORIA É SÓ CLICAR NA LINK ABAIXO:
http://sandrarandrade7.blogspot.com/2009/11/hoje-tem-um-conto-de-amor.html

The Acting Brain!

The BBC promises us a look
Inside an actor's brain during a performance
Actress Fiona Shaw had an fMRI scan. Parts of her brain were more active while she was reading a poem by T. S. Eliot featuring dialogue than when she was merely counting. So what?

The fact that different parts of Shaw's brain were active whilst reading Eliot than when counting out loud is unsurprising. Different parts of the brain do different things - this is not news - and reading poetry is certainly very different from counting. This doesn't mean that "Fiona Shaw's brain appears to be adapted to acting", as the article says. If your brain was adapted to acting it would look like this:

All dressed up, skull in hand, ready to portray Hamlet - "Alas, poor Yorick..." Actually, brains generally do carry skulls around with them, so maybe there's something in it.

In fact, Shaw's brain presumably is adapted to acting - she's an actress. If you're able to do something, your brain must be able to do it, because you are your brain after all. In just the same way, my brain is adapted to being a neuroscientist and Barack Obama's brain is adapted to being President. This is not news either. However, the fMRI scan doesn't tell us anything about how Shaw's brain is adapted to acting.

We are told which areas of Shaw's brain lit up while she was reading poetry, and what this means -
Towards the front of the brain there is a part associated with "higher order" control of behaviour. Towards the top of the brain is a section which controls the movement of the hands and arms - even though she wasn't waving her arms about, she was apparently thinking about doing so.

And towards the back of the head is an area associated with complex visual imagery, even though she wasn't performing a complex visual task. The scan backs up work with professional impressionists, whose brains also conjure up visual images of the people they're imitating.

All very plausible - this is a nice convincing story to explain what these brain areas are doing while reading a passage of poetry in which people are talking to each other. It makes perfect sense. But the problem is, so would anything else.

Suppose that Shaw's hippocampus had lit up as well. That's involved in memory. She's remembering having read T. S. Eliot before! What if she's never read him? Well, the hippocampus must be forming a new memory. Her medial prefrontal cortex is activating? Clearly, that's the emotional impact of reading this masterpiece of modernist poetry. And so on. These areas did not, in fact, light up, but if they had, it would have made perfect sense too.

The point is that we all know what kinds of things go on in our heads while reading poetry - visual imagery, memories, emotions etc. And each brain region has numerous functions, many of which are sufficiently vague ("social cognition", "emotion") to cover almost anything, especially if you allow that a brain area can activate whenever someone is merely thinking about doing something rather than actually doing it. So whatever blobs appear on the brain, it's easy to invent a story linking these to the whatever task is going on.

It's like astrology. Astrological "readings" always seem accurate because they can be made to fit anyone. Actress Fiona Shaw is a Leo and Leo's have "a flair for drama. In fact, many Leos are attracted to the theatre, the performing arts and public relations". It fits so well! Actually, I made a mistake with my dates, she's a Libra. No problem, "Libra is among the most sociable of the signs...drawn toward creative endeavours." - obviously a born actress. And so on. (She's actually a Cancer.)

Perhaps it's unfair to criticize this experiment. It was a demonstration of fMRI technology for the "Wellcome Collection's new exhibition on identity". The scan was for educational purposes only, it wasn't meant to be proper science.

The problem is that a lot of what is meant to be rigorous science consists of this kind of thing. The Discussion sections of many fMRI papers are full of stories linking whatever brain regions happened to be activated to whatever the task in the experiment was. Most fMRI studies today are more sophisticated than simply scanning normal people doing some task, but the same kind of post-hoc storytelling can be applied to areas of the brain that light up differently in mentally ill people compared to healthy people, or areas that light up in response to a drug, etc.

Of course this doesn't mean that these stories are false. Shaw's visual cortex probably did activate because she was mentally imagining the people and the scene she was reading about - that explanation's good enough for me. The point, though, is that we don't really know, because whatever the fMRI data was, we could have made an equally convincing story having seen it.

What we need are hypotheses made up before doing the experiment, which can then be tested and verified, or falsified, on the basis of the data. As I wrote a couple of months back:
Much of today's neuroimaging research doesn't involve testable theories - it is merely the exploratory search for neural differences between two groups. Neuroimaging technology is powerful, and more advanced techniques are always being developed... the scope for finding differences between groups is enormous and growing.

Exploratory work can be useful as a starting point, but at least in my opinion, there is too much of it. If you want to understand the brain you need a theory sooner or later. That's what science is about.

The Acting Brain!

The BBC promises us a look
Inside an actor's brain during a performance
Actress Fiona Shaw had an fMRI scan. Parts of her brain were more active while she was reading a poem by T. S. Eliot featuring dialogue than when she was merely counting. So what?

The fact that different parts of Shaw's brain were active whilst reading Eliot than when counting out loud is unsurprising. Different parts of the brain do different things - this is not news - and reading poetry is certainly very different from counting. This doesn't mean that "Fiona Shaw's brain appears to be adapted to acting", as the article says. If your brain was adapted to acting it would look like this:

All dressed up, skull in hand, ready to portray Hamlet - "Alas, poor Yorick..." Actually, brains generally do carry skulls around with them, so maybe there's something in it.

In fact, Shaw's brain presumably is adapted to acting - she's an actress. If you're able to do something, your brain must be able to do it, because you are your brain after all. In just the same way, my brain is adapted to being a neuroscientist and Barack Obama's brain is adapted to being President. This is not news either. However, the fMRI scan doesn't tell us anything about how Shaw's brain is adapted to acting.

We are told which areas of Shaw's brain lit up while she was reading poetry, and what this means -
Towards the front of the brain there is a part associated with "higher order" control of behaviour. Towards the top of the brain is a section which controls the movement of the hands and arms - even though she wasn't waving her arms about, she was apparently thinking about doing so.

And towards the back of the head is an area associated with complex visual imagery, even though she wasn't performing a complex visual task. The scan backs up work with professional impressionists, whose brains also conjure up visual images of the people they're imitating.

All very plausible - this is a nice convincing story to explain what these brain areas are doing while reading a passage of poetry in which people are talking to each other. It makes perfect sense. But the problem is, so would anything else.

Suppose that Shaw's hippocampus had lit up as well. That's involved in memory. She's remembering having read T. S. Eliot before! What if she's never read him? Well, the hippocampus must be forming a new memory. Her medial prefrontal cortex is activating? Clearly, that's the emotional impact of reading this masterpiece of modernist poetry. And so on. These areas did not, in fact, light up, but if they had, it would have made perfect sense too.

The point is that we all know what kinds of things go on in our heads while reading poetry - visual imagery, memories, emotions etc. And each brain region has numerous functions, many of which are sufficiently vague ("social cognition", "emotion") to cover almost anything, especially if you allow that a brain area can activate whenever someone is merely thinking about doing something rather than actually doing it. So whatever blobs appear on the brain, it's easy to invent a story linking these to the whatever task is going on.

It's like astrology. Astrological "readings" always seem accurate because they can be made to fit anyone. Actress Fiona Shaw is a Leo and Leo's have "a flair for drama. In fact, many Leos are attracted to the theatre, the performing arts and public relations". It fits so well! Actually, I made a mistake with my dates, she's a Libra. No problem, "Libra is among the most sociable of the signs...drawn toward creative endeavours." - obviously a born actress. And so on. (She's actually a Cancer.)

Perhaps it's unfair to criticize this experiment. It was a demonstration of fMRI technology for the "Wellcome Collection's new exhibition on identity". The scan was for educational purposes only, it wasn't meant to be proper science.

The problem is that a lot of what is meant to be rigorous science consists of this kind of thing. The Discussion sections of many fMRI papers are full of stories linking whatever brain regions happened to be activated to whatever the task in the experiment was. Most fMRI studies today are more sophisticated than simply scanning normal people doing some task, but the same kind of post-hoc storytelling can be applied to areas of the brain that light up differently in mentally ill people compared to healthy people, or areas that light up in response to a drug, etc.

Of course this doesn't mean that these stories are false. Shaw's visual cortex probably did activate because she was mentally imagining the people and the scene she was reading about - that explanation's good enough for me. The point, though, is that we don't really know, because whatever the fMRI data was, we could have made an equally convincing story having seen it.

What we need are hypotheses made up before doing the experiment, which can then be tested and verified, or falsified, on the basis of the data. As I wrote a couple of months back:
Much of today's neuroimaging research doesn't involve testable theories - it is merely the exploratory search for neural differences between two groups. Neuroimaging technology is powerful, and more advanced techniques are always being developed... the scope for finding differences between groups is enormous and growing.

Exploratory work can be useful as a starting point, but at least in my opinion, there is too much of it. If you want to understand the brain you need a theory sooner or later. That's what science is about.

Friday, November 27, 2009

HOJE TEM MICO NA INTERAÇÃO DE AMIGOS.


ANTES DE IRMOS PARA A COLETIVA, QUERO AGRADECER IMENSAMENTE O SEU CARINHO EM VOTAR NA HISTÓRIA DE REGINA. FICO MUITO FELIZ COM A SUA CONFIANÇA E TERNURA.
A VOTAÇÃO AINDA CONTINUA ATÉ DIA 30.11. SE VOCÊ AINDA NÃO VOTOU PASSE LÁ.
BASTA CLICAR NO LINK ABAIXO.


TE AGRADEÇO DE CORAÇÃO O SEU CARINHO POR ESTE BLOG.
SÃO OS DEZ MAIS VOTADOS.

CLICK NO NECTAR DA FLOR E VOTE - UMA INTERAÇÃO DE AMIGOS





VENHA RIR UM POUCO!!!

NA INTERAÇÃO DE AMIGOS.
CLICK AQUI E VAMOS SE DIVERTIR Blog Coletivo-Uma Interação de Amigos
COLETIVA DA KRIATIVA.
E O TEMA É: PAGANDO MICO


UM ANJO PARA TE PROTEGER.

~~º~~ Anjo da Guarda ~~º~~


(Este anjo veio lá de Portugal, para nos proteger- valeu Princesa)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TEM VOTAÇÃO DO CONTO DE AMOR..

CONTO COM O SEU VOTO MEU QUERIDO AMIGO(A).
SE VOCÊ GOSTOU DA HISTÓRIA DA REGINA, ENTÃO VENHA E VOTE NO ENDEREÇO ESTA LOGO ABAIXO:

O LOCAL PARA VOTAR, ESTAR NA PARTE LATERAL ESQUERDA DO BLOG NECTAR DA FLOR.

TEM A LISTA DOS BLOGS QUE ESTÃO PARTICIPANDOBLOGAGEM COLETIVA-VOTAÇÃO...

ENCONTRE : UMA INTERAÇÃO DE AMIGOS E VOTE.

CONTO COM O SEU VOTO.

O MEU MUITO OBRIGADA.

CLICK NO NECTAR DA FLOR E VOTE.

PROMOÇÃO DO BLOG NECTAR DA FLOR...



SE VOCÊ AINDA NÃO LEU A HISTÓRIA, PASSE AQUI E VEJA: Blog Coletivo-Uma Interação de Amigos.

Mental Illness vs. Suicide

Do countries with more mental illness have more suicides?

At first glance,
it seems as though the answer must be "yes". Although not all suicides are related to mental illness, unsurprisingly people with mental illness do have a much higher suicide rate than people without. So, all other things being equal, the rate of mental illness in a country should correlate with the suicide rate. Of course, all other things are not equal, and other factors might come into play such as the quality of mental health services. But it still seems as though there should be a correlation, albeit not a perfect one, between mental illness and suicide.

I decided to see whether or not there is such a correlation. The World Health Organization (WHO)
provides the relevant data here. There have only ever been three studies attempting to measure rates of common mental illnesses internationally (1,2,3), and all three were run by the WHO. The WHO also collates national suicide rates (here) for most countries, although a few are missing. No-one seems to have published anything looking for a correlation between these two sets of numbers of before, or if they did, I've failed to find it.

So what's the story? Take a look -


In short, there's no correlation. The Pearson correlation (unweighted) r = 0.102, which is extremely low. As you can see, both mental illness and suicide rates vary greatly around the world, but there's no relationship. Japan has the second highest suicide rate, but one of the lowest rates of mental illnesses. The USA has the highest rate of mental illness, but a fairly low suicide rate. Brazil has the second highest level of mental illness but the second lowest occurrence of suicide.
*

Some technical notes: Two of the three surveys, the ICPE (2000) and the WMHS (2004), sampled the whole population of each country. The other one, which was also the earliest, the PPGHC (1993), surveyed people attending family doctors. Because this is a slightly different approach, I used the ICPE and the WMHS for the plot above, although the results from the PPGHC are very similar (see below).

The ICPE sampled 7 countries and the WMHS sampled 14, but 4 countries were included in both surveys, so there's a total of 17 countries. I've used the mean of the ICPE and the WMHS for those 4 countries where we have data from both, for the rest I've used whichever is available. For the suicide rates, the WHO gives data for various different years, so I've used 2002, or the nearest available year, since this is between 2000 and 2004. For two countries, Lebanon and Nigeria, the WHO do not report suicide rates. For China, rates of mental illness are given in both Beijing and Shanghai.

The studies used structured diagnostic interviews to try to measure the percentage of people suffering from mental illness in the 12 months before the interview. As I've said previously, this -
attempts to study a random sample of the population of a certain country. In order to establish whether each person is mentally ill or not, they use structured diagnostic interviews. These consists in asking the subject a fixed ("structured") series of questions, and declaring them to have a certain mental disorder if they answer "Yes" to a given number of them.
In this case the structured question interview was called the CIDI and it used DSM-IV criteria. You can check it out here. Example question:
You mentioned having periods that lasted several days or longer when you felt sad, empty, or depressed most of the day. During episodes of this sort, did you ever feel discouraged about how things were going in your life? (YES, NO, DON’T KNOW, REFUSED)

*

The rates from the population surveys (ICPE & WMHS) don't correlate with suicide but they do correlate with the rates from the PPGHC survey of people attending family doctors. The association here is very strong, with a correlation r = 0.693. The only outlier is the US. This is despite the fact that a decade elapsed between the first survey (1993) and the other two (2000, 2004).

This is important because it shows that the mental illness surveys are measuring something about these countries, something which is stable over time. They're not just producing random junk results. But whatever they're measuring, it's not related to suicide.


*

What does this mean? You leave a comment and tell me. But here's my take.
I've often expressed skepticism of population surveys and their (very high) estimates of mental illness, and of the dubious political conclusions certain people have tried to draw from them, but even so, I was surprised to find no correlation at all with suicide. I'd say that any meaningful measure of mental illness should correlate with suicide. These surveys, using the CIDI, don't, so to me they're not meaningful.

One thing to bear in mind about these numbers is that they deal with "common" mental illnesses like depression, substance abuse and anxiety. They leave out the most severe disorders such as schizophrenia. Also, people in psychiatric hospitals, in prison, and the homeless, will not have been included in the studies because they sample "households". That could be why there's no association with suicide, but if so then these surveys are missing a very important aspect of mental health.

The surveys do seem to measure something, but I don't think it has much to do with mental illness. This is just a guess but I suspect they're measuring willingness to talk about your emotional life to strangers. At least stereotypically, the Chinese and the Japanese are known as more reserved in this regard than Brazilians and Americans.
So it's no surprise that when you ask people a load of personal questions, the "rates of mental illness" seem to be lower in Japan than in America. This doesn't mean Americans are really more ill, just more open.

I've been talking about surveys looking at differences between countries, but if these are flawed, then so are surveys looking at just one country.
For example, many studies have looked at mental illness in the USA using similar methods to these. But can we trust these methods bearing in mind that if you ask the same questions in, say, Belgium you get less than half the estimated rate despite it having double the number of suicides? Taken to its logical conclusion, maybe we know little about the prevalence of "common mental illness" anywhere.

ResearchBlogging.orgSartorius N, Ustün TB, Costa e Silva JA, Goldberg D, Lecrubier Y, Ormel J, Von Korff M, & Wittchen HU (1993). An international study of psychological problems in primary care. Preliminary report from the World Health Organization Collaborative Project on 'Psychological Problems in General Health Care'. Archives of general psychiatry, 50 (10), 819-24 PMID: 8215805

WHO (2000). Cross-national comparisons of the prevalences and correlates of mental disorders. WHO International Consortium in Psychiatric Epidemiology. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78 (4), 413-26 PMID: 10885160

Demyttenaere K, & et Al (2004). Prevalence, severity, and unmet need for treatment of mental disorders in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. JAMA, 291 (21), 2581-90 PMID: 15173149

Mental Illness vs. Suicide

Do countries with more mental illness have more suicides?

At first glance,
it seems as though the answer must be "yes". Although not all suicides are related to mental illness, unsurprisingly people with mental illness do have a much higher suicide rate than people without. So, all other things being equal, the rate of mental illness in a country should correlate with the suicide rate. Of course, all other things are not equal, and other factors might come into play such as the quality of mental health services. But it still seems as though there should be a correlation, albeit not a perfect one, between mental illness and suicide.

I decided to see whether or not there is such a correlation. The World Health Organization (WHO)
provides the relevant data here. There have only ever been three studies attempting to measure rates of common mental illnesses internationally (1,2,3), and all three were run by the WHO. The WHO also collates national suicide rates (here) for most countries, although a few are missing. No-one seems to have published anything looking for a correlation between these two sets of numbers of before, or if they did, I've failed to find it.

So what's the story? Take a look -


In short, there's no correlation. The Pearson correlation (unweighted) r = 0.102, which is extremely low. As you can see, both mental illness and suicide rates vary greatly around the world, but there's no relationship. Japan has the second highest suicide rate, but one of the lowest rates of mental illnesses. The USA has the highest rate of mental illness, but a fairly low suicide rate. Brazil has the second highest level of mental illness but the second lowest occurrence of suicide.
*

Some technical notes: Two of the three surveys, the ICPE (2000) and the WMHS (2004), sampled the whole population of each country. The other one, which was also the earliest, the PPGHC (1993), surveyed people attending family doctors. Because this is a slightly different approach, I used the ICPE and the WMHS for the plot above, although the results from the PPGHC are very similar (see below).

The ICPE sampled 7 countries and the WMHS sampled 14, but 4 countries were included in both surveys, so there's a total of 17 countries. I've used the mean of the ICPE and the WMHS for those 4 countries where we have data from both, for the rest I've used whichever is available. For the suicide rates, the WHO gives data for various different years, so I've used 2002, or the nearest available year, since this is between 2000 and 2004. For two countries, Lebanon and Nigeria, the WHO do not report suicide rates. For China, rates of mental illness are given in both Beijing and Shanghai.

The studies used structured diagnostic interviews to try to measure the percentage of people suffering from mental illness in the 12 months before the interview. As I've said previously, this -
attempts to study a random sample of the population of a certain country. In order to establish whether each person is mentally ill or not, they use structured diagnostic interviews. These consists in asking the subject a fixed ("structured") series of questions, and declaring them to have a certain mental disorder if they answer "Yes" to a given number of them.
In this case the structured question interview was called the CIDI and it used DSM-IV criteria. You can check it out here. Example question:
You mentioned having periods that lasted several days or longer when you felt sad, empty, or depressed most of the day. During episodes of this sort, did you ever feel discouraged about how things were going in your life? (YES, NO, DON’T KNOW, REFUSED)

*

The rates from the population surveys (ICPE & WMHS) don't correlate with suicide but they do correlate with the rates from the PPGHC survey of people attending family doctors. The association here is very strong, with a correlation r = 0.693. The only outlier is the US. This is despite the fact that a decade elapsed between the first survey (1993) and the other two (2000, 2004).

This is important because it shows that the mental illness surveys are measuring something about these countries, something which is stable over time. They're not just producing random junk results. But whatever they're measuring, it's not related to suicide.


*

What does this mean? You leave a comment and tell me. But here's my take.
I've often expressed skepticism of population surveys and their (very high) estimates of mental illness, and of the dubious political conclusions certain people have tried to draw from them, but even so, I was surprised to find no correlation at all with suicide. I'd say that any meaningful measure of mental illness should correlate with suicide. These surveys, using the CIDI, don't, so to me they're not meaningful.

One thing to bear in mind about these numbers is that they deal with "common" mental illnesses like depression, substance abuse and anxiety. They leave out the most severe disorders such as schizophrenia. Also, people in psychiatric hospitals, in prison, and the homeless, will not have been included in the studies because they sample "households". That could be why there's no association with suicide, but if so then these surveys are missing a very important aspect of mental health.

The surveys do seem to measure something, but I don't think it has much to do with mental illness. This is just a guess but I suspect they're measuring willingness to talk about your emotional life to strangers. At least stereotypically, the Chinese and the Japanese are known as more reserved in this regard than Brazilians and Americans.
So it's no surprise that when you ask people a load of personal questions, the "rates of mental illness" seem to be lower in Japan than in America. This doesn't mean Americans are really more ill, just more open.

I've been talking about surveys looking at differences between countries, but if these are flawed, then so are surveys looking at just one country.
For example, many studies have looked at mental illness in the USA using similar methods to these. But can we trust these methods bearing in mind that if you ask the same questions in, say, Belgium you get less than half the estimated rate despite it having double the number of suicides? Taken to its logical conclusion, maybe we know little about the prevalence of "common mental illness" anywhere.

ResearchBlogging.orgSartorius N, Ustün TB, Costa e Silva JA, Goldberg D, Lecrubier Y, Ormel J, Von Korff M, & Wittchen HU (1993). An international study of psychological problems in primary care. Preliminary report from the World Health Organization Collaborative Project on 'Psychological Problems in General Health Care'. Archives of general psychiatry, 50 (10), 819-24 PMID: 8215805

WHO (2000). Cross-national comparisons of the prevalences and correlates of mental disorders. WHO International Consortium in Psychiatric Epidemiology. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78 (4), 413-26 PMID: 10885160

Demyttenaere K, & et Al (2004). Prevalence, severity, and unmet need for treatment of mental disorders in the World Health Organization World Mental Health Surveys. JAMA, 291 (21), 2581-90 PMID: 15173149

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HOJE TEM UMA LINDA HISTORIA DE AMOR!!!

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_yDHk2N_m9Uo/SvjXHhlEQRI/AAAAAAAAISE/A6oKF9CKev0/s400/promocao.jpg


VENHA PRA CÁ E LEIA COMIGO ESTE CONTO.
É EMOCIANTE.
A FORÇA DO AMOR MOVE TUDO. TE ESPERO LÁ COM O SEU COMENTARIO E PARTICIAÇÃO. BLOG UMA INTERAÇÃO DE AMIGOS TE ESPERA. DESDE JÁ, AGRADEÇO O IMENSO CARINHO E RESPEITO,
QUE VOCÊ ME DEDICA.
AMO CADA UM QUE PASA POR AQUI.

Blog Coletivo-Uma Interação de Amigos.


ESTE BLOG :Poetas-Um Vôo Livre,

GANHOU UM LINDO SELO.
VENHA CONFERIR DEPOIS DO CONTO.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Brain Damage, Pedophilia, and the Law

An intriguing and tragic story of brain damage is reported in the latest issue of Neurocase: Klüver-Bucy syndrome, hypersexuality, and the law.

The authors are Devinsky, Sacks, and Devinsky - Sacks being neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks. Their anonymous patient, a 51 year old married American man, is currently serving a jail sentence for downloading child pornography. But he's not your average pedophile.

The man's problems began at the age of 19 when he -
first suffered attacks of déjà vu ... They became much more frequent – as many as 20 attacks a day – and much more complex, the déjà vu now being followed by a cascade of other symptoms: sharp pains in the chest and sensations of breathlessness; alterations of hearing; occasional musical hallucinations – he would always hear a particular song ‘as clearly as if it were being played in the next room’...
Tests showed that these strange sensations were the result of epilepsy, and that the seizures originated in the right mesial temporal lobe, an area of the brain involved in memory and emotion. Temporal lobe epilepsy is relatively common, and it's a fascinating topic in itself, as the symptoms often include hallucinations and other odd experiences such as a powerful sense of déjà vu.

As time went on the symptoms worsened, and anticonvulsant drugs didn't help, so at age 33, the patient had surgery to remove the part of the brain where the seizures were starting. Tests on the brain tissue removed in the operation showed the presence of a brain tumour (ganglioglioma). However, a few months later, the seizures returned, worse than before. So, at age 39, he had a second operation to take out even more of his right temporal lobe. That's when his real trouble started -
Approximately a month after surgery, behavioral changes of irritability, hyperphagia [increased eating] and hypersexuality (including coprophilia) developed. He became more sexually active with his wife and masturbated more often. Compulsively, he began to watch adult pornographic images and videos on the internet when his wife slept.
The unfortunate patient's symptoms are a rare example of Klüver-Bucy Syndrome (KBS) in man. Here's the very first account of it -
He no longer clearly understands the meaning of the sounds, sights, and other impressions that reach him. His food is devoured greedily, the head being dipped into the dish, instead of the food being conveyed to the mouth by the hands. He reacts to all kinds of noises, even slight ones – such as the rustling of a piece of paper – but shows no consequent evidence of alarm or agitation and displays tyrannizing proclivities towards his mate.
That's a description of a lab monkey, written in 1888 by British neuroscientists Sanger Brown and E. A. Schaefer. Compare it to the patient's own words about what happened to him -
My appetite for food and sex increased dramatically. I had greater mood swings. I wanted sex constantly. Every day. I was very easily stimulated and began to touch myself regularly. I began to request sex daily from my wife. If I wasn’t having sex with my wife, I masturbated. This behavior increased over time. I became more emotionally labile, obsessive–compulsive... I become distracted so easily that I can’t get anything started or done.
It's a classic example of KBS, although the patient only had his right temporal lobe damaged, whereas in monkeys KBS usually follows removal of both the left and the right temporal lobes. Also, it's interesting that the symptoms only started a month after the surgery.

The patient's appetite for sex (and food) was insatiable, and this became his downfall -
Some websites solicited him to view and purchase child pornography. He became obsessed with this and eventually purchased and downloaded pornographic images of prepubescent females engaged in sexual activities from the internet. He was ashamed and secretive about these activities, not discussing the pornography or masturbation with his wife or with anyone else.
In 2006, he was arrested. A psychiatrist prescribed an antipsychotic, quetiapine, and an antidepressant, sertraline. His sexual obsessions disappeared, and according to his wife, "he became much warmer and loving but the medications shut off his libido... sex became non-existent."

The patient was subsequently charged with 'knowingly and wilfully possessing material which contained at least three images of child pornography'. He plead guilty. Dr Devinsky told the court that the right temporal lobe damage was the "major contributing factor to the patient’s hypersexuality and viewing of child pornography" and that he was, therefore, not responsible for his actions. Oliver Sacks agreed, saying a letter that he was
. . . a man of superior intelligence and of real moral delicacy and sensibility, who at one point was driven to act out of character under the spur of an irresistible physiological compulsion resulting from his brain injury. A recurrence of such behavior is extremely unlikely given his character and insight... He is strictly monogamous.
The prosecution, however, argued that he was in control of actions, because he was able to avoid acting inappropriately in public, and they sought the maximum sentence possible - 20 years. They said that
the patient’s hypersexual behavior in some situations but not others was evidence for volitionally controlled criminal behavior; that it was incompatible with a neurological cause. For example, he downloaded and viewed child pornography at home but not at work.
The judge, however, accepted that the patient's medical condition was a mitigating factor in the case. He sentenced him to 26 months imprisonment, 25 months home confinement, and 5 years under supervision - the minimum punishment allowable by law.

Should he have been punished at all? Devinsky, Sacks, and Devinsky don't think so: "Was he criminally responsible? Did his behavioral actions warrant imprisonment? We believe the answer is no to both questions."

But the case raises difficult questions about free will and responsibility. At first glance, it seems as though the man's brain damage didn't directly make him download the child porn, but merely gave him an "urge" to do so. Don't we have the ability to choose whether or not to follow our urges? Isn't that what "free will" is?

On the other hand, damage to the same parts of the brain causes strikingly similar symptoms in monkeys. An alien scientist observing life on earth might well conclude, from cases like this, that all the species of monkeys on this planet are very similar - including humans. You damage a certain part of their brains, and their behaviour changes in a predictable way. Most of us humans would say that other monkeys don't have "free will" - but then how are we so sure that we do?

Links: I've previously blogged about drugs to increase libido and the question of free will. The Neurocritic has a great post on neurology and sex from a few weeks back. Finally, perhaps the most important question raised by this case is what would the Paedofinder General say?



ResearchBlogging.orgDevinsky J, Sacks O, & Devinsky O (2009). Kluver-Bucy syndrome, hypersexuality, and the law. Neurocase : case studies in neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, and behavioural neurology, 1-6 PMID: 19927260

Brain Damage, Pedophilia, and the Law

An intriguing and tragic story of brain damage is reported in the latest issue of Neurocase: Klüver-Bucy syndrome, hypersexuality, and the law.

The authors are Devinsky, Sacks, and Devinsky - Sacks being neurologist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks. Their anonymous patient, a 51 year old married American man, is currently serving a jail sentence for downloading child pornography. But he's not your average pedophile.

The man's problems began at the age of 19 when he -
first suffered attacks of déjà vu ... They became much more frequent – as many as 20 attacks a day – and much more complex, the déjà vu now being followed by a cascade of other symptoms: sharp pains in the chest and sensations of breathlessness; alterations of hearing; occasional musical hallucinations – he would always hear a particular song ‘as clearly as if it were being played in the next room’...
Tests showed that these strange sensations were the result of epilepsy, and that the seizures originated in the right mesial temporal lobe, an area of the brain involved in memory and emotion. Temporal lobe epilepsy is relatively common, and it's a fascinating topic in itself, as the symptoms often include hallucinations and other odd experiences such as a powerful sense of déjà vu.

As time went on the symptoms worsened, and anticonvulsant drugs didn't help, so at age 33, the patient had surgery to remove the part of the brain where the seizures were starting. Tests on the brain tissue removed in the operation showed the presence of a brain tumour (ganglioglioma). However, a few months later, the seizures returned, worse than before. So, at age 39, he had a second operation to take out even more of his right temporal lobe. That's when his real trouble started -
Approximately a month after surgery, behavioral changes of irritability, hyperphagia [increased eating] and hypersexuality (including coprophilia) developed. He became more sexually active with his wife and masturbated more often. Compulsively, he began to watch adult pornographic images and videos on the internet when his wife slept.
The unfortunate patient's symptoms are a rare example of Klüver-Bucy Syndrome (KBS) in man. Here's the very first account of it -
He no longer clearly understands the meaning of the sounds, sights, and other impressions that reach him. His food is devoured greedily, the head being dipped into the dish, instead of the food being conveyed to the mouth by the hands. He reacts to all kinds of noises, even slight ones – such as the rustling of a piece of paper – but shows no consequent evidence of alarm or agitation and displays tyrannizing proclivities towards his mate.
That's a description of a lab monkey, written in 1888 by British neuroscientists Sanger Brown and E. A. Schaefer. Compare it to the patient's own words about what happened to him -
My appetite for food and sex increased dramatically. I had greater mood swings. I wanted sex constantly. Every day. I was very easily stimulated and began to touch myself regularly. I began to request sex daily from my wife. If I wasn’t having sex with my wife, I masturbated. This behavior increased over time. I became more emotionally labile, obsessive–compulsive... I become distracted so easily that I can’t get anything started or done.
It's a classic example of KBS, although the patient only had his right temporal lobe damaged, whereas in monkeys KBS usually follows removal of both the left and the right temporal lobes. Also, it's interesting that the symptoms only started a month after the surgery.

The patient's appetite for sex (and food) was insatiable, and this became his downfall -
Some websites solicited him to view and purchase child pornography. He became obsessed with this and eventually purchased and downloaded pornographic images of prepubescent females engaged in sexual activities from the internet. He was ashamed and secretive about these activities, not discussing the pornography or masturbation with his wife or with anyone else.
In 2006, he was arrested. A psychiatrist prescribed an antipsychotic, quetiapine, and an antidepressant, sertraline. His sexual obsessions disappeared, and according to his wife, "he became much warmer and loving but the medications shut off his libido... sex became non-existent."

The patient was subsequently charged with 'knowingly and wilfully possessing material which contained at least three images of child pornography'. He plead guilty. Dr Devinsky told the court that the right temporal lobe damage was the "major contributing factor to the patient’s hypersexuality and viewing of child pornography" and that he was, therefore, not responsible for his actions. Oliver Sacks agreed, saying a letter that he was
. . . a man of superior intelligence and of real moral delicacy and sensibility, who at one point was driven to act out of character under the spur of an irresistible physiological compulsion resulting from his brain injury. A recurrence of such behavior is extremely unlikely given his character and insight... He is strictly monogamous.
The prosecution, however, argued that he was in control of actions, because he was able to avoid acting inappropriately in public, and they sought the maximum sentence possible - 20 years. They said that
the patient’s hypersexual behavior in some situations but not others was evidence for volitionally controlled criminal behavior; that it was incompatible with a neurological cause. For example, he downloaded and viewed child pornography at home but not at work.
The judge, however, accepted that the patient's medical condition was a mitigating factor in the case. He sentenced him to 26 months imprisonment, 25 months home confinement, and 5 years under supervision - the minimum punishment allowable by law.

Should he have been punished at all? Devinsky, Sacks, and Devinsky don't think so: "Was he criminally responsible? Did his behavioral actions warrant imprisonment? We believe the answer is no to both questions."

But the case raises difficult questions about free will and responsibility. At first glance, it seems as though the man's brain damage didn't directly make him download the child porn, but merely gave him an "urge" to do so. Don't we have the ability to choose whether or not to follow our urges? Isn't that what "free will" is?

On the other hand, damage to the same parts of the brain causes strikingly similar symptoms in monkeys. An alien scientist observing life on earth might well conclude, from cases like this, that all the species of monkeys on this planet are very similar - including humans. You damage a certain part of their brains, and their behaviour changes in a predictable way. Most of us humans would say that other monkeys don't have "free will" - but then how are we so sure that we do?

Links: I've previously blogged about drugs to increase libido and the question of free will. The Neurocritic has a great post on neurology and sex from a few weeks back. Finally, perhaps the most important question raised by this case is what would the Paedofinder General say?



ResearchBlogging.orgDevinsky J, Sacks O, & Devinsky O (2009). Kluver-Bucy syndrome, hypersexuality, and the law. Neurocase : case studies in neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, and behavioural neurology, 1-6 PMID: 19927260