Passage of an iron rod through the head

In my opinion, psychopathology is one of the most interesting facets of psychology. In fact, it is often one of the first things people think about when I tell them I am a psychology major- “Oh you’re studying crazy people, don’t you dare analyze me” is the painfully reductive version of a field that otherwise has so much scope and intriguing variety. The word “crazy” serves to include the many topics we discussed in class yesterday that range from neural degeneration to traumatic accidents to biochemical imbalances in our brain. In considering the subjectivity of the standards of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’, the list of ‘illnesses’ could potentially either be very small or could go on and on. When do we draw the line of who is sick and who isn’t? Is there really a definitive way in which we can make such a classification? Psychology attempts to explain deviations fromnormal’ behavior to psychopathology by analyzing the interplay among biological processes and the external world thus emphasizing the complex interacting systems from science to the person in the environment.

Yes it is true that some cases are more dictated by one process than the other- as in the case of the paper I presented in class yesterday. Traumatic Brain Injuries such as that of Phineas Gage teach us a lot more about the role of nature than that of nurture in determining our existence. The reason why I was keen to talk about this order of brain pathology is not only because I have an innate inclination towards the science of every condition, but because I believe it teaches us a lot about the history, development, and finally the application of concepts and tenets that laid the foundation for several methodologies within the field today- methods I myself have used in our lab at Colby to correlate brain and behaviour.  It also reminds us of the regenerative ability of this three pound mass of flesh that makes it capable of executing such a vast number of things even after damage to this extent. Moreover, what fascinates me is a seeming dichotomy that I see in the functioning of this structure that carefully controls our lives. The dichotomy lies in the fact that when it is necessary for the brains circuits to be connected they definitively are so, but in the event of such accidents they assume this convenient, seemingly non-dynamic and independent quality that serves to create the most optimal way of functioning for the situation at the time. Like in the case of Phineas Gage, while the functions of his frontal cortex were compromised (his personality changed as did his ability to make executive decisions) every other role played by the remaining connected parts of his brain was completely unaffected even though the entire organ is extensively interconnected. Maybe I sound very convoluted in what I’m saying, but as I see it, it all boils down to the mind boggling plasticity and flexibility of the brain that allows the individual to optimize his/her existence to whatever extent possible in the face of trauma. This internal system of subjective resilience as necessitated by different situations of insult is remarkable.

Moving beyond the realm of traumatic brain injuries, I am also pretty interested in the disorders Natasha was talking about in class yesterday and how ‘deviant’ behaviours correlate to differences on the neural level in our brain.  So I went online to research it more and I found this clip that showed results that were similar to what she mentioned in class yesterday. Hope you enjoy it!

http://blog.ted.com/2009/11/jim_fallon_on_c.php


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5 thoughts on “Passage of an iron rod through the head

  1. I am so with you on the fascination of the brain’s dichotomy- how bizarre (yet convenient!) is it that our brain can seemingly choose whether it wants to be all interconnected and interdependent or isolated? Our body is so adept at healing itself and fixing malfunctions… I’m sure it took awhile for the brain to evolve to isolating areas after trauma, but we are quite indebted to that long process.

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  2. Darshini- I really like the point you bring up in the beginning of the post about where we draw the line in classifying disorders. It is a pretty fundamental point since almost every into class covers it, but it still gets me thinking… When you get down to it everyone deviates from ‘normal’ in some way right? So maybe our friends should be afraid that we are analyzing them.

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  3. Really interesting–too funny that we both used the same clip for this section (oops! sorry, didn’t even notice until after I had written mine!). Such a fascinating talk by Fallon, and I am glad you picked up on that too–I think that he makes some great, even controversial, points that we should all consider. Nice post.

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  4. That was interesting about psychopaths and killers. I think I read a study like that when I was in NZ about researchers experimenting on inmates of a cell. I think they were actually castrated or given estrogen and they were either more violent, unchanged, or developed feminine features and became more mild tempered. I wonder if there is anything we could change about a criminal’s brain to make them more law-abiding.

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