Nearly all murderers are mentally ill: Swedish study

“Some 90 percent of murderers are mentally ill, a higher percentage than believed previously, according to a Swedish study.

For the study in the scientific magazine ‘Forskning och Framsteg‘ — which has also been published by The American Journal of Psychiatry — researchers examined the court psychiatry records and other medical evidence for 2,000 people found guilty of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or attempted manslaughter between 1998 and 2001 in Sweden.

The certified psychiatric illnesses include schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression.

…The Swedish situation is different from that in countries where organized crime, drug trade and easy access to weapons result in a higher percentage of murders committed by people who are not certifiably ill than in Western Europe, the study’s authors acknowledged. They cited as examples the United States, Bolivia, South Africa and the Baltic countries.” (Yahoo! News)

When psychiatric evaluations are done through the court mental health services, of course, diagnoses are arrived at with full knowledge of the crime the subject has committed. Arguably, this makes finding a “certified” psychiatric diagnosis more likely. Furthermore, some of the diagnosed conditions are personality disorders. One of these, antisocial personality disorder, has among its DSM-IV diagnostic criteria aggressiveness, reckless disregard for the safety of others, and remorselessness over mistreatment of others. (I like the ICD-10 criteria better, BTW.) It may be a bit of circular reasoning to diagnose many murderers with antisocial personality disorder.

Fair Game?

The Pope’s Sins of Omission: “Literary tradition holds that Dorothy Parker once aced an Algonquin Round Table contest to knock out the most sensational possible snap headline. Her winner? ‘Pope Elopes!’

She’d probably still win for pith. Who but historians familiar with the likes of Sergius III (904-11) — his mistress Marozia the Theophylact bore him an illegitimate son whom she later appointed as John XI (931-36) — would question the shock value? But international newspapers, if not the usual scaredy-pants American ones when it comes to the Roman Catholic Church, gave Parker a run for her money last month.

‘White Smoke, Black Past,’ trumpeted the headline in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot. ‘From Hitler Youth to … Papa Ratzi’ roared London’s Sun, indelicately describing Cardinal Ratzinger as an ‘ex-World War II enemy soldier.’ German papers proved harshest on his doctrinal present and personality. ‘Ratzinger is the Counter-Reformation personified,’ asserted the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Berliner Zeitung described his hold on the Vatican as ‘autocratic, authoritarian,’ deeming the new pope ‘as shrewd as a serpent.’ Die Tageszeitung described him as a ‘reactionary churchman’ who ‘will try to seal the bulkheads of the Holy Roman Church from the modern world…'” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Fall off a truck?

Jesse Kornbluth: “Remember at the Correspondents’ dinner how Mrs. Bush’s case made a joke about ‘Desperate Housewives’? Later, her press secretary said that Mrs. Bush had never actually seen the show, but was planning to watch the entire first season on a DVD she has at home.

Problem: The first season DVD of ‘Desperate Housewives’ won’t be released until September of 2005.

Possibilities: 1) There is no DVD. 2) There is a DVD and ABC sent it to the White House. 3) The White House rips and burns. If 3), where is that zero-tolerance Justice Department?” (Swami Uptown (Beliefnet))

Stranger Than Fiction

“When Bob Woodward asked President Bush if he had consulted with his father about the decision to go to war in Iraq, the president famously replied, ‘There is a higher father that I appeal to.’

It might have been better if Mr. Bush had stayed in closer touch with his earthly father. From the very beginning the war in Iraq has been an exercise in extreme madness, an absurd venture that would have been rich in comic possibilities except for the fact that many thousands of men, women and children have died, and tens of thousands have been crippled, burned or otherwise maimed.” — Bob Herbert (New York Times op-ed)

Gay Men Are Found to Have Different Scent of Attraction

…and they respond to sexual scents differently than straight men. “Using a brain imaging technique, Swedish researchers have shown that homosexual and heterosexual men respond differently to two odors that may be involved in sexual arousal, and that the gay men respond in the same way as women.

The new research may open the way to studying human pheromones, as well as the biological basis of sexual preference. Pheromones, chemicals emitted by one individual to evoke some behavior in another of the same species, are known to govern sexual activity in animals, but experts differ as to what role, if any, they play in making humans sexually attractive to one another.

The new research, which supports the existence of human pheromones, is reported in today’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Dr. Ivanka Savic and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

The two chemicals in the study were a testosterone derivative produced in men’s sweat and an estrogen-like compound in women’s urine, both of which have long been suspected of being pheromones.

Most odors cause specific smell-related regions of the human brain to light up when visualized by a form of brain imaging that tracks blood flow in the brain and therefore, by inference, sites where neurons are active. Several years ago, Dr. Savic and colleagues showed that the two chemicals activated the brain in a quite different way from ordinary scents.

The estrogen-like compound, though it activated the usual smell-related regions in women, lighted up the hypothalamus in men. This is a region in the central base of the brain that governs sexual behavior and, through its control of the pituitary gland lying just beneath it, the hormonal state of the body.

The male sweat chemical, on the other hand, did just the opposite; it activated mostly the hypothalamus in women and the smell-related regions in men. The two chemicals seemed to be leading a double life, playing the role of odor with one sex and of pheromone with another.

The Swedish researchers have now repeated the experiment but with the addition of gay men as a third group. The gay men responded to the two chemicals in the same way as did women, Dr. Savic reports, as if the hypothalamus’s response is determined not by biological sex but by the owner’s sexual orientation.” (New York Times )

Low Cholesterol?

Don’t Brag Quite Yet: “Not all that long ago, a low cholesterol score was seen as a sign of relative good health and a low risk of heart disease.

But increasingly, doctors are identifying a group of people whose levels of L.D.L, the so-called bad cholesterol, are low, but who still appear to be at increased risk for atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.

They have a condition known as metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that include mild hypertension, elevated glucose levels, high triglycerides and low levels of H.D.L. cholesterol.

People with the syndrome also tend to have high levels of a protein, known as C-reactive protein, or CRP, which is released during inflammation and has recently been linked to heart disease.

‘By far, the people we’re seeing with heart disease are people with metabolic syndrome, because weight gain is the driving force and people are gaining weight,’ said Dr. Arshed Quyyumi, a professor of cardiology at the Emory School of Medicine.” (New York Times )

Cheating, or an Early Mingling of the Blood?

“Last month, when the champion American cyclist Tyler Hamilton was accused of blood doping, or transfusing himself with another person’s blood to increase his oxygen-carrying red cells, he offered a surprising defense: the small amount of different blood found mixed in with his own must have come from a ‘vanishing twin.’

Tyler Hamilton has been suspended from competitive cycling for two years.

In other words, his scientific expert argued, Mr. Hamilton had a twin that died in utero but, before dying, contributed some blood cells to him during fetal life. And those cells remained in his body, producing blood that matched the dead twin and not Mr. Hamilton. Or perhaps it was his mother’s blood that got mixed in during fetal life.

An arbitration panel did not believe those hypotheses and said there was a ‘negligible probability’ that Mr. Hamilton was anything but guilty.

The test, they concluded in a 2-to-1 decision, shows a blood transfusion and that meant that Mr. Hamilton was suspended from racing for two years, the first and only person convicted for that offense. At age 34, near the end of his career, it could mean his championship days are over.” (New York Times )