After Suicide, a Window on a Patient’s Other Self

A psychiatrist encounters her patient on MySpace after his death: “I had thought of him as struggling under the constant hold of hallucinations. But he had ignored his hallucinations long enough to write of a different yet equally true self here, and he had found friends who identified him not by psychiatric symptoms but by astrological sign. In this world, he was a Pisces, not a schizophrenic.” — Elissa Ely (New York Times )

Blogger and Podcaster

Are you an “aspiring new media titan”, as the cover says? Then this is the periodical for you! First issue of Blogger and Podcaster magazine. So “blogging” (as you know, I have always eschewed the term and insisted on calling this a weblog) has made it so big it has its own slick new ‘old media’-style rag. For better or worse, it seems to make its appeal to everything FmH is not. However, the user interface is interesting. Click on the upper right corner of the page to turn the page (‘old media’ style).

‘Devastating’ Moyers Probe of Press and Iraq Coming

“The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq will appear next Wednesday, a 90-minute PBS broadcast called ‘Buying the War,’ which marks the return of ‘Bill Moyers Journal.’ E&P was sent a preview DVD and a draft transcript for the program this week.

While much of the evidence of the media’s role as cheerleaders for the war presented here is not new, it is skillfully assembled, with many fresh quotes from interviews (with the likes of Tim Russert and Walter Pincus) along with numerous embarrassing examples of past statements by journalists and pundits that proved grossly misleading or wrong. Several prominent media figures, prodded by Moyers, admit the media failed miserably, though few take personal responsibility. ” (Editor and Publisher thanks to Micheline)

When a Brain Forgets Where Memory Is

New York Times psychology reporter Jane Brody on the fascinating phenomenon of dissociative fugue:

“People with this problem suddenly and unexpectedly take leave of their usual physical surroundings and embark on a journey that can last as little as a few hours or as long as several months. During the fugue state, individuals completely lose their identity, later assuming a new one. They don’t know their real names or anything about their former lives, and they do not recognize friends or family. They may not even remember how they got to where they are.

While loss of memory can occur for many reasons, dissociative fugue has no direct physical or medical cause. Rather, it is precipitated by a severe stress or emotionally traumatic event that is so painful the mind seems to shut down and erase everything, like a failed computer hard drive.”

Several years ago on FmH, I wrote with fascination of an apparent case of dissociative amnesia, a largely mute piano-playing young man institutionalized in a British mental hospital after apparently washing up on a beach. But, although they appear with regularity as literary or cinematographic devices, fugue states are encountered rarely if ever by clinical psychiatrists like myself in the course of our work. Of course, an exhaustive effort to rule out other, more neurologically based, causes of acute memory failure must be made. At the other end of the spectrum, so too it is at times difficult to distinguish fugue states from more consciously motivated attempts to deny one’s identity.

I am not alone in wondering if fugue is a disease of modernity, requiring an emphasis on the self and personal sense of identity to shape a subconsciously-motivated attempt to lose one’s self. I wonder what effect the modern challenges to identity, such as the influence of mass media on identity, the diffusion of the self through online presence, or the threat of identity theft, will do the the manifestations of dissociative fugue.

Kucinich to launch Cheney impeachment push on April 25

“Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), the former mayor of Cleveland who is seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination for president for the second time, has selected a date to introduce articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney.

A source who asked to remain anonymous told RAW STORY that the articles of impeachment would be introduced next week.” (Raw Story )

This may be seen as an audacious grandstanding move by Kucinich, with his indefatiguable Presidential aspirations. On the other hand, if successful it would remove the major stumbling block to the impeachment of George Bush.

Got nicotine?

Madam Fathom is the pseudonym of a neuroscience PhD student with a weblog about her (I assume it’s a her) field. This is an interesting post about the potential benefits of nicotine that offers a particularly lucid picture of brain function.

“There is a large body of research showing that nicotine, the ingredient that drives people to addiction, improves cognitive function in humans and laboratory animals. The most robust effect demonstrated in human smokers is an enhanced ability to sustain attention to a task for a prolonged period of time, an ability inextricably linked to learning and memory. Of course, learning and memory involve a number of processes (acquisition, encoding, storage, and retrieval), but the ability to concentrate on particular stimuli and screen out the rest is critical for the success of this operation.

Nicotine’s beneficial effects on these “higher” cognitive functions have prompted efforts to develop nicotinic treatments for diseases associated with cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia. However, this area of drug development is impeded by the complexity of nicotine’s actions, including the observation that cognitive improvements have only been reliably detected in either smokers or the cognitively impaired. In contrast, nicotine tends to have deleterious effects on cognitive performance in “normal” non-smokers. (Another factor hampering the development of nicotine-based therapies is that they offer pharmaceutical companies little potential for financial gain, as nicotine sources are easy to come by.)…”