Day: May 6, 2003

CIA Freedom Fighters’ Manual:

“In the early 80’s the CIA published a sabotage manual and distributed it throughout Nicaragua. The anti-Sandanista pamphlet is full of tips on bringing down the infrastructure of the country. “The Freedom Fighter’s Manual” is illustrated with childlike cartoons and brief captions. Your tax dollars at work!smog.net

Mapping the Dark:

A Museum of Ambient Disorders originated as a gallery installation by the artist, Rosamond Casey, at the McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville, Virginia in March 2003. The artist has created ten works of visual fiction, which are ‘collaborations’ with imaginary characters. The works are psychological portraits that begin with the ‘art’ or visual material her characters have left behind as a residue of a peculiar turn of mind: a worry, a craving, a secret wish or loss.

A Museum of Ambient Disorders is a collection of a collection of books, photographs, collages, sculptures, and paintings. Each piece suggests, through narrative clues and the urgency of the character’s mark, the conditions which have driven each individual to produce the work exhibited. The artist plays the role of collector and curator in addition to straddling the line between self and other.” Archipelago

Old age’s mental slowdown may be reversible…

… by tranquilising the aging brain.

“It is counterintuitive to say that in order to make Grandpa faster, slow down his brain. Nobody was really thinking about giving tranquillisers to an 85-year-old to perk him up – which is the implication of the study,” he says. But he cautions that the team has done no research in humans and that people should not start taking the drugs themselves.


Peter Tyrer, a community psychiatrist at Imperial College London, thinks the findings are “very interesting and novel”. He adds that doctors have sometimes observed a paradoxical effect of benzodiazepine drugs in which rather than calming down, people had become more alert and aggressive. “It is counterintuitive to say that in order to make Grandpa faster, slow down his brain. Nobody was really thinking about giving tranquillisers to an 85-year-old to perk him up – which is the implication of the study,” he says. But he cautions that the team has done no research in humans and that people should not start taking the drugs themselves.


Peter Tyrer, a community psychiatrist at Imperial College London, thinks the findings are “very interesting and novel”. He adds that doctors have sometimes observed a paradoxical effect of benzodiazepine drugs in which rather than calming down, people had become more alert and aggressive. New Scientist

Are We Listening?

Experts See Mind’s Voices in New Light

Auditory hallucinations are a hallmark of schizophrenia: 50 percent to 75 percent of the 2.8 million Americans who suffer from the illness hear voices that are not there. Like John, whose schizophrenia was diagnosed in 1981 and who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, many people with schizophrenia spend years pursued by verbal tormentors as relentless as the furies of Greek mythology. Suicide is sometimes the result, death seeming the only escape from unending harassment.


Yet psychiatrists who study schizophrenia have traditionally shown little interest in the voices their patients hear, often dismissing them as simply a byproduct of the illness, “crazy talk” not worthy of study.


Recently, however, a small group of scientists has begun studying auditory hallucinations more intensively. Aided by new brain imaging techniques, they have begun tracking such hallucinations back to abnormalities in the brain, finding that certain brain regions “light up” on brain scans when patients are actively hallucinating. And the experts are listening far more carefully to what patients say about their hallucinatory experiences.

(…) What everyone who studies hallucinations agrees on is that schizophrenic patients misperceive signals generated inside the brain. But scientists are still debating what is being misinterpreted and how this occurs. NY Times

Two theories are highlighted in the article as if they are diametrically opposed. Some mental health researchers think hallucinations represent a misconstrual of inner dialogue as if it were outer. (In my own psychiatric work, I focus on the breakdown in one sort of schizophrenia of mechanisms which maintain the boundaries between the self and the world. Among other things, this results in a confusion between the inner and the outer, self and not-self.) Other researchers think that cerebral tissue loss in schizophrenia results in a closer neural connection between the speech production and speech reception centers in the cerebral cortex. This is the cause, they feel, of there being no barriers to internal dialogue being experienced as if it were externally perceived speech. But, if we get beyond the artificial split between the neural and the psychological, are these really as distinct as they are made out to be?

The article also makes much of the success of transcranial magnetic stimulation in treating refractory hallucinatory symptoms.

In the treatment, an electromagnetic coil shaped like a Figure 8 is held to the patient’s head. The coil produces a quarter-size magnetic field that is then rapidly turned on and off, inducing an electrical field in the cerebral cortex’s gray matter.


Scientists do not know exactly how the treatment works, but they believe it dampens the reactivity of neurons, an effect that is then passed on to other connected brain regions.


Unlike electroshock therapy, long used for severe depression, transcranial magnetic stimulation does not induce seizures at the levels used in the studies and has a far more selective effect on the brain. Nor does the treatment appear to have the serious side effects, like memory loss, of electroshock therapy.

I think the verdict is still out on TMS. The new research about the meaning of hallucinations has far more interesting implications than simply rationalizing the use of another technology that, while appearing more subtle than others in the history of psychiatry, follows in a long tradition of disrupting and ablating mental activity because, imperfectly understood, it is distressing to the patient or — far more troubling — to the treaters.

Study: Altered virus kills brain tumors in mice.

“A cold virus genetically engineered to help it sneak into cancer cells can kill inoperable brain tumors in mice, U.S. scientists reported on Tuesday.


The effects were so stunning that the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are rushing to test the approach in people with brain tumors.


If it works, it will be the first treatment for malignant glioma, the deadliest form of brain cancer.” CNN

US: ‘Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction’

The Bush administration has admitted that Saddam Hussein probably had no weapons of mass destruction.

Senior officials in the Bush administration have admitted that they would be ‘amazed’ if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were found in Iraq.

According to administration sources, Saddam shut down and destroyed large parts of his WMD programmes before the invasion of Iraq. Sunday Herald

Pentagon dominates US foreign policy with dubious intelligence: report

US insistence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction is based on dubious intelligence from a shadowy Pentagon committee that now dominates US foreign policy.

By late last year, the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) had grown to become President George W. Bush (news – web sites)’s main intelligence source, particularly over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and the country’s links to al-Qaeda, the New Yorker reported in its May 12 edition.

But the OSP, the brainchild of US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, relied on questionable intelligence from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.

“You had to treat them with suspicion. The INC has a track record of manipulating intelligence because it has an agenda. It’s a political unit, not an intelligence agency,” a former senior CIA official specialising in the Middle East said in the article written by Seymour Hersh. Yahoo! News

Meanwhile:

Rep. Waxman asks Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about evidence that Halliburton has profited from business with countries that sponsor terrorism. Here’s the letter in .pdf format.