Author Archives: FmH

About FmH

60-something psychiatrist, counterculturalist, autodidact, and unrepentent contrarian.

People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected From Schizophrenia

UnknownThese findings suggest that something about congenital blindness may protect a person from schizophrenia. This is especially surprising, since congenital blindness often results from infections, brain trauma, or genetic mutation—all factors that are independently associated with greater risk of psychotic disorders.

More strangely, vision loss at other periods of life is associated with higher risks of schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms. Even in healthy people, blocking vision for just a few days can bring about hallucinations. And the connections between vision abnormalities and schizophrenia have become more deeply established in recent years—visual abnormalities are being found before a person has any psychotic symptoms, sometimes predicting who will develop schizophrenia.

’A myriad of theories exist as to why—from the blind brain’s neuroplasticity to how vision plays an important role in building our model of the world (and what happens when that process goes wrong). Select researchers believe that the ties between vision and psychotic symptoms indicate there’s something new to learn here. Could it be that within this narrowly-defined phenomenon there are clues for what causes schizophrenia, how to predict who will develop it, and potentially how to treat it?…’

Via VICE

As a psychiatrist treating more than my fair share of patients with schizophrenia, I had never realized this but, no, I have never had a congenitally blind schizophrenic patient!

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Never Say Wolf

UntitledImageHow taboo language turned the wolf into a monster:

’ “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!”

So says Count Dracula to the hapless Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novel. Dracula is talking about the wolves howling in the valley below his castle in the Carpathian mountains. This is the moment in the novel when Harker begins to feel the first twinges of fear.

The howl of the wolf, and the fear that accompanies it, sounds across millennia. Comparing the mythologies of cultures that descended from ancient European tribes, wolves loomed large in their minds. There are myths of heroes brought up by wolves, of great wolves who will devour the sun, of wolves guarding the underworld, and of warriors taken over by the spirit of wolves. Archaeological digs at Krasnosamarskoe, in the steppes north of the Black and Caspian seas, have given us clues that early peoples sacrificed, and even ate, dogs and wolves. Art and collected oral literature from across Asia and Europe hint of coming of age rituals where young men would wear wolf-skins, and live lawlessly on the land, almost becoming more terrifying than the wolves themselves.

When he used the phrase “the children of the night,” Dracula was following an ancient tradition. He was avoiding the word “wolf.” In many societies, words have power, the power to summon what they name. This idea probably emerges from rituals that took place in preparation for the hunt. It was a way of calling prey so the hunt would be successful. But if words can summon prey, they can also summon danger.

Speakers had to find ways of referring to wolves without naming them. The word for wolf becomes taboo: It shouldn’t be said. Instead, the magic of summoning through a name can be tricked. By changing the sound of the word, by using another word, perhaps borrowed from another language, or by using a descriptive phrase rather than the word itself, speakers could talk of wolves, but avoid the dangerous word itself.

We can see these strategies of avoiding taboo words in English. People change the sound of words like “Hell!” or “Christ!” into “Heck!” or “Crumbs!” We have borrowed the French word “toilet” to avoid naming the place where we defecate. When the denizens of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books use the phrase “You-Know-Who” for Voldemort, Rowling is appealing to the ancient magic of taboo.

Languages change. As people move across landscapes, their languages develop in different ways. They encounter new peoples, with different languages, and this can lead to a transformation in how people speak. But some words in languages change because the original term is avoided. Taboo, tightly tied to culture, has wrought radical changes in the original term for wolf in the languages of Europe. Like a werewolf changing its skin, the word for wolf has warped across the centuries, often in quite unexpected ways, as it traveled through the continent.…’

Via Nautilus

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Why Philosophers Should Study Indigenous Languages

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’I believe there is much to be learned philosophically from the study of languages that are spoken by only a small number of people, who lack a high degree of political self-determination and are relatively powerless to impose their conception of history, society, and nature on their neighbours; and who also lack much in the way of a textual literary tradition or formal and recognisably modern institutions of knowledge transmission: which for present purposes we may call “indigenous” languages.

This is of course going to be a hard sell, given that the great majority of Anglophone philosophers do not even recognize the value of learning German, Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit, or Chinese, and believe that they can penetrate as deeply as one might possibly go into fundamental philosophical questions from a standpoint of monolingualism.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

Why I keep product and service reviews to myself

‘Adding online ratings is contributing to a feedback industrial complex…’

Via Washington Post

When I buy something online, the transaction is money for goods. The seller has no right to expect I’ll donate my marketing efforts to them. You might argue that if one relies on online product reviews in making purchase decisions one ought to contribute. But I don’t.

An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter

‘What if everything you think you know about politics is wrong? What if there aren’t really American swing voters—or not enough, anyway, to pick the next president? What if it doesn’t matter much who the Democratic nominee is? What if there is no such thing as “the center,” and the party in power can govern however it wants for two years, because the results of that first midterm are going to be bad regardless? What if the Democrats’ big 41-seat midterm victory in 2018 didn’t happen because candidates focused on health care and kitchen-table issues, but simply because they were running against the party in the White House? What if the outcome in 2020 is pretty much foreordained, too?…’

Via POLITICO

The Worst Thing About Trump’s Unhinged Victory Strut Wasn’t Trump Himself

‘Trump is Trump. While he stepped beyond where has gone before in many respects during Thursday’s “celebration,” it hard to say that no one saw this coming.

But the complicity of those in attendance — the most powerful people within the Republican Party — is what was truly astounding. Yes, the Republican Party threw in its lot with Trump (and his forced takeover of it) long ago. But to sit by or even celebrate while Trump used the White House as a combination of a campaign venue, or a bathroom wall on which to write his darkest thoughts about those who oppose him, was beyond unforgivable….’

Via CNNPolitics