I was reading this fascinating article about Depersonalisation disorder in a science magazine, and my curiosity was sparked by this “These people also show unusual autonomic physical responses to external stimuli, such as evocative images (Emotion Review, DOI: 10.1177/1754073911430135).” Unfortunately I probably can’t access the paper referred to thru our inadequate library system. I was curious because based on that short quote is sounds something like synaesthesia, which wouldn’t seem to fit into the story about the neurological basis of this disorder.
Another thing that made me wonder was why this neurological condition is being described as a mental illness, both in the way the magazine categorized the article under “mental health” and also in the paper cited, which clearly describes DPD as a psychiatric condition and the author of the paper is a professor of psychiatry. A case which had an onset triggered by a migraine is described in the article, and it says that the condition responds to an epilepsy drug. Isn’t that a clear enough indication that it’s neurological not psychiatric? There are some important differences to patients between being diagnosed as mentally ill or having a neurological condition. People with epilepsy, stuttering, autism and Tourettes fought to be liberated from labeling as psychiatric cases, because of all of the legal and social negatives that go with such labeling. I hope people with DPD are able to do the same, and avoid any unjustified use of psychiatry drugs.
Mindscapes: The woman who was dropped into her body. by Helen Thomson New Scientist. 25 April 2013 http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23445-mindscapes-the-woman-who-was-dropped-into-her-body.html
P. S. May 2nd 2013
Oh, what a stupid mistake! Either I’ve misread the New Scientist article or the author has written it in a way that is unclear, and it appears that the people with DPD don’t experience evocative images, they were shown emotionally evocative images during studies. I guess that is the type of mistake that only a weird old synaesthete would make.
Anyway, thanks to Dr Nick Medford for sharing his most interesting study with me. It’s interesting that DPD might be triggered by disturbance in sensory systems, which seems in some way similar or related to embodied cognition. At this blog I’ve written about relationships between embodied cognition, conceptual thinking and synaesthesia in my own case and I very much like the idea of embodied cognition. There seems to be a growing understanding that embodied perception and sensory experiences rather than language are the stuff of thought, as can be seen in some writing by philosopher Jesse Prinz and a new book by cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen who has argued that “When we hear words and sentences we engage the parts of our brain that we use for perception and action, repurposing these evolutionarily older networks to create simulations in our minds” and thus create meaning. Here’s some links if you are interested in chasing up books by Bergen and Prinz: http://www.amazon.com/Louder-Than-Words-Science-Meaning/dp/0465028292 and http://subcortex.com/