Self Portrait 1967

me 17 001 crop 2 wp

Fellow wordpress blogger erikleo posted a portrait of himself today at age 20, which he painted in 1966. It inspired me to dig out this self-portrait at age 17, in 1967. A sheet of plastic was the etching medium. I scratched the drawing into the surface, inked it and made prints. I was a big fan of Albrecht Durer at the time.

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A Decisive Moment for an Asperger Child

imagesLUQ8KKG2My cousin Bette hated her hair because it was so curly that she shrieked and whimpered whenever my aunt yanked a comb through it. My mother loved Bette’s red hair, but regretted my fence-straight bob. The tone of voice she used when referring to my straight hair was an accusation – I made it grow that way.

The hair situation had nothing to do with an important event that happened during a visit to my mother’s sister in Pennsylvania, which happened to coincide with Vacation Bible School. I don’t recall the denomination my relatives supported (there are so many), but the audience didn’t stand, kneel, or sing much. Instead of real wine, grape juice was passed around in paper cups with a tray of white bread croutons.

This scandalized my mother. How could materials available at any grocery store be expected to turn into the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ? Before marrying, my mother had sung professionally in churches: based on those experiences, she had chosen to align our family with the Episcopalians, because not only the priests and acolytes got dressed up, so did the audience, and she still got to sing beautiful songs.

My mother (and the other Episcopalian women) took advantage of God’s demand that women wear hats to church to amass vast collections of seasonal head gear. Judging by the extravagant and expensive hats bobbing about in church, I suspected that it was mortal women who had actually made up the rule, not God.

“Wear the Donald Duck hat,” I would tell my mother whenever we were late for church and she couldn’t decide which hat to wear. The Donald Duck hat was woven from white straw with a blue bill that jutted out above her forehead.

Vacation Bible School had nothing to do with hats, and my attendance could not be prevented by a plea for exemption. Even humor failed. My mother had noticed a reluctant streak in her daughter whenever it came time to cooperate with formal institutions and she insisted that I join my cousin in one more attempt at forced religious indoctrination.

My red-haired cousin and I were dropped off outside the church, where we were seated at a picnic table with kids our age. Adults handed each of us a board covered with blue felt, plus pictures of Jesus and a few loose sheep. Paper cut-out Jesus had typical Sunday school eyes, the kind that look nowhere and everywhere, but which have the power to pry into the shallow secrets of the boring human brain. The sheep were suitably adorable and adoring.

The adults directed us to stick the paper figures to the felt board. No reason was given as to why we should do this. I looked to my cousin and the others, expecting one of them to ask the adults why we were doing this, but the rest were busy deciding whether Jesus should float above the flock near heaven, or to have the sheep crowd around his temporarily earth-bound feet.

I tilted my board for a better look and a breeze caught the pictures. Jesus floated onto the grass. Cousin Bette screamed: “Look what you did! You let Jesus touch the ground!”

Another girl shrieked, “Pick him up. Quick!” as if the three second rule applied to religious pictures as well as to gum.

“Stop shouting,” I told my cousin. “It’s just a piece of paper.”

“No-it-is-not! It’s Jesus, and you let him touch the ground: You are in big trouble!”

“God is gonna punish you,” the other girl gasped.

A feeling passed through me, as if I been removed to a foreign universe, where simple pieces of paper are possessed by invisible beings and small girls are punished by tyrants for trifles.

Of course, at that age, I didn’t think this out, but I surely sensed what had just happened, and it had nothing to do with standing and kneeling; with the squabble over wafers and Wonder Bread, real wine or Welch’s grape juice, or with a rule that said women’s hair had to be covered with shame. Bette and the other children had been taught to fear imaginary entities and to believe that pieces of paper have supernatural power. Did adults lie to children, or did they really believe such things? The unease that had pestered me when adults spoke about ‘God things’ was sharpened into Ah-ha! focus.

My father hedged when I asked him for an explanation. His avoidance told me that his mind was not united in his approach to the world; the engineer wanted to confirm my suspicions of sheer puffery, but deep inside a superstitious and primal fear haunts all people. Collusion in these matters is required by society regardless of personal belief.

A custom developed between us. “Well you know and I know, but keep it quiet around your mother.”

Cousin Bette was correct about being in big trouble, but not in the way she had imagined. Never again would I feel comfortable with people who let crazy ideas rule their minds. Although my questioning nature was sometimes rewarded in school, skepticism in matters of religion would need to be stifled in public, a Herculean task for an Asperger child. A tiny raft of reason and cunning that lay hidden in my brain would ever after have to support me on a journey that led away from my own kind.

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We don’t really know children as individual expressions of the human experiment, because we do our best as a society to never let that person emerge.

 

Contemplating Dream Experiences

Where did the world go?

Where did the world go?

After I woke up from a particularly confusing jumble of dream images one morning, it occurred to me that the brain during sleep may be reacting to being cut off from the environment, as if it’s locked in a dark closet. The brain depends on a stream of information arriving from the senses; it uses this information to make sense of the environment and to model “reality.” Maybe it ‘freaks out’ when the visual information stream shuts down.

During REM sleep the brain tries to combine peripheral sensations with memory (like sounds from the street, or temperature changes in the room) but without the necessary full connection to the “outer world” via the senses, a coherent story can’t be composed. That is, the brain’s function, which is to make sense of the environment, is  to write an ongoing story that integrates all the available information that the brain needs to direct and control the body.

Deprived during sleep of sense information, especially visual orientation, the brain simply can’t thread images, sounds and motion into a coherent story. Whatever we may “dream” it is mostly forgotten, and if we do remember, the brain then strives to make a reasonable story from fragments that we can recall.

Behavioral Neuroscience Article / Circadian Rhythms and Psychiatric Illness

(Full article starts below.)

A note on my personal experience with circadian rhythm-related problems and bipolar disorder.

I was fortunate to be diagnosed in 1986 by a competent psychiatrist who had a “nuts & bolts” attitude toward medication. She prescribed lithium carbonate only; nothing else. She described its effects and side effects clearly, and explained that for the first three months or so my body would experience one or more adjustments as the dosage was increased to achieve therapeutic blood levels. This straightforward approach was excellent for an Asperger. I had the facts and a timeline; yes there were side effects like tremors, rubbery legs, a bit of stomach irritation, but these dissipated within a few months and were nothing in comparison with the total disruption and disaster in my life caused by bipolar disorder.

Within a few months lithium effectively transformed my ability to function, to travel, sleep normally, and endure reasonable stress. What was left to deal with was the toll taken by adapting over a lifetime to the chaotic and uncertain experiences of living with bipolar.

My point in relating this is that lithium carbonate has become “unpopular” in the arsenal of pharmacology. New concoctions of psychoactive drugs have made lithium “old-fashioned” and less profitable. A bipolar friend takes a $600.00 / month prescription, which he claims is of little help, but it’s paid for by insurance. In response, his psychiatrist just keeps adding more types of drugs. My lithium costs about $25.00 / month.

Lithium is one of a very few substances that can affect the circadian cycle in humans. (More about that later.) One reads often that a “replacement” for lithium is needed due to its terrible side effects, as if the new drugs being prescribed don’t have awful side affects. I think this is a red herring! I suspect that alongside the profit motive is plain old laziness on the part of prescribers who don’t want to take the time to work with patients to adjust lithium dosages. Over nearly thirty years of taking lithium, I have had to fight with prescribers who rely on Big Pharm propaganda and simply would not accept that a “mental=stupid” patient could possibly know anything about how a medication works in her body. Several (I’ve moved around a lot) wanted to stop prescribing lithium in favor of “something new” even though lithium has worked successfully for so many years. I found these attempts to be  irresponsible and unethical – especially with the clutter of trinkets from Big Pharm cluttering their offices. It was as if the prescriber was trading my health and safety for a pizza and pen holder.

_________________________________________________________________

Website: FRONTIERS in Behavioral Neuroscience Front. Behav. Neurosci., 06 May 2014 | doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00162

Links between circadian rhythms and psychiatric disease

Ilia N. Karatsoreos*

  • Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA

Determining the cause of psychiatric disorders is a goal of modern neuroscience, and will hopefully lead to the discovery of treatments to either prevent or alleviate the suffering caused by these diseases. One roadblock to attaining this goal is the realization that neuropsychiatric diseases are rarely due to a single gene polymorphism, environmental exposure, or developmental insult. Rather, it is a complex interaction between these various influences that likely leads to the development of clinically relevant syndromes. Our lab is exploring the links between environmental exposures and neurobehavioral function by investigating how disruption of the circadian (daily) clock alters the structure and function of neural circuits, with the hypothesis that disrupting this crucial homeostatic system can directly contribute to altered vulnerability of the organism to other factors that interact to produce psychiatric illness. This review explores some historical and more recent findings that link disrupted circadian clocks to neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly depression, mania, and schizophrenia. We take a comparative approach by exploring the effects observed in human populations, as well as some experimental models used in the laboratory to unravel mechanistic and causal relationships between disruption of the circadian clock and behavioral abnormalities. This is a rich area of research that we predict will contribute greatly to our understanding of how genes, environment, and development interact to modulate an individual’s vulnerability to psychiatric disorders.

Introduction

A significant problem that modern neuroscience aims to solve is the distress caused by neuropsychiatric disorders. The fundamental challenge is that these disorders are far from the unitary constructs we sometimes imagine, and almost certainly not caused by a single event, gene mutation, or neurotransmitter abnormality. Instead, these disorders are multifaceted neurobehavioral dysfunctions that in many cases also include symptoms outside the central nervous system. As such, neuroscience needs to address these challenges in an integrated fashion, leveraging the advances made using genetic, molecular, and physiological approaches. Several research groups are tackling the puzzle of neuropsychiatric disorders by exploring the hypothesis that homeostatic perturbations are at the root of such disease states. Understanding the mechanisms that maintain homeostasis and respond to environmental challenges that threaten homeostasis is of crucial importance. One such system is the circadian (daily) timing system, and studying how circadian rhythms are perturbed in psychiatric disorders may provide insight into their contribution to neurobehavioral changes in some mental disease.

This review will describe the function of the circadian timing system, discuss how various neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia display disruptions in circadian timing, and present the hypothesis that in some cases these disorders may be triggered or exacerbated by a dysfunction in this crucial homeostatic system.

Circadian Rhythms: A Brief Review

One of the most salient environmental signals available to organisms is the rotation of the Earth about its axis. The reliable and predicable circadian (daily) changes in light and temperature (to mention only a few variables) have provided organisms – from single-celled organisms to humans – a framework on which to temporally organize physiology. This framework allows organisms to accomplish two major tasks. The first task is predicting regularly repeating changes in the environment. Anticipating such changes in the environment can aid even the simplest single-celled photosynthetic organism in the prediction of daylight hours to optimize energy collection by allowing different biochemical pathways to become active at appropriate times. This then allows potentially incompatible biochemical processes to exist in their own temporal compartments, ensuring they do not interfere with each other. Equally as important is the adaptation to unanticipated or less periodic changes in the environment. The circadian system allows for stimuli in the environment to “phase shift” the endogenous clock, pushing it forward or backward, in order to adapt to changes in the outside world. Unfortunately, modern industrialized society can regularly produce light at the wrong times of day (e.g., light at night from electronics) that then can activate phase shifting processes inappropriately. This problem is exacerbated when individuals are chronically living “out of time” with their circadian clocks, such as shift workers, airline pilots, and medical workers to name a few. Growing evidence suggests that chronic circadian disruption can result in significant mental and physical health problems. However, the mechanisms by which disrupted circadian clocks lead to these health problems remain unknown. To determine potential pathways by which disrupted clocks can contribute to neuropsychiatric disease, we need to explore the processes that underlie circadian timing at the molecular and cellular levels.

Almost all biological processes in organisms with lifespans longer than 24 h display circadian rhythms. In more complex animals, the most obvious of these is the regulation of the rest–activity cycle. In mammals, the master circadian clock regulating nearly all circadian rhythms in the organism is located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. This neural structure contains a self-sustaining oscillator that synchronizes local clocks throughout the brain and body (Moore-Ede et al., 1984; Butler et al., 2009). These “peripheral” clocks are thought to set local time in many body tissues, and are hypothesized to allow optimal functioning by temporally organizing biochemical and cellular processes throughout the organism. Animal studies have shown that shifting the SCN clock by light causes an almost instant resetting of oscillators there, but oscillators in the rest of the body take numerous cycles to fully resynchronize to the SCN and the external environment (Yamazaki et al., 2000), the root cause of the general malaise associated with jet lag. The mechanisms by which this resynchronization occurs remain unclear, although numerous candidates have been suggested (Cheng et al., 2002, 2006; Buhr et al., 2010).

How Does Circadian Disruption Affect Neurobehavioral Function?

Anecdotally, most of us are aware that disruptions in circadian timing through shift work, jet lag, or other processes can lead to neurobehavioral deficits. Such changes can manifest as alterations in mood, affect, or cognitive function. It should be noted that several of the most notorious industrial accidents in the past few decades, including the Bhopal disaster in India, the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska occurred during the night, with the individuals involved being shift workers of one sort or another. It is thought that several factors, including fatigue, interacted in each of these cases to cause or exacerbate the chain of events that lead to catastrophe (Colten and Altevogt, 2006). Thus, particularly in occupations with high cognitive loads, disrupted circadian clocks and sleep cycles could lead to significant degradation in cognitive function. An intriguing study in flight crews demonstrated that short recovery crews (those that are traveling mostly on transmeridian flights requiring repeated resynchronizations) showed decreased reaction times, increased error rates, and marked temporal lobe atrophy (Cho, 2001).

Animal models have also been applied to probe the connection between disrupted circadian clocks and neural and behavioral deficits. Gibson et al. (2010) used a repeated jet lag model in Syrian hamsters to explore the effects of chronic experimental “jet lag” on behavioral outcomes and neurogenesis in the hippocampus, since hippocampal neurogenesis is related to both cognitive and affective regulation, and may underlie depression (Samuels and Hen, 2011). They demonstrated that chronic jet lag by repeated phase shifting of the light–dark cycle results in learning and memory deficits accompanied by reductions in hippocampal neurogenesis. An important contribution of this study was the finding that deficits in hippocampal-dependent learning and memory persisted after cessation of the experimental jet lag (Gibson et al., 2010), suggesting that there may be long-lasting negative consequences of circadian disruption on brain function, even after the disrupting stimulus has been removed. In mice, Karatsoreos et al. (2011) demonstrated profound effects of circadian misalignment on the structure and function of prefrontal cortical neurons (Karatsoreos et al., 2011). Chronic (12 weeks) exposure to a shortened 20-h day (10 h light, 10 h dark) resulted in morphological changes in neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Specifically, following circadian disruption neurons in layer II/III of the prelimbic mPFC had significant shrinkage of the apical dendrite, without observed changes in the basal dendrites. These gross changes were accompanied by simplification of the apical dendritic tree (Karatsoreos et al., 2011). Although the neural effects of the circadian disruption were stark, the behavioral effects were equally clear. Using a modified Morris Water Maze task that is sensitive to damage in the mPFC, circadian disrupted mice showed marked decreases in cognitive flexibility. In addition to the cognitive impairments, circadian disrupted mice demonstrated an “impulsive”-like phenotype, evidenced by entering a novel environment more quickly than controls. These findings were some of the first to experimentally link chronic circadian disruption to a reduction in the complexity of neurons that are important for attention, cognitive flexibility, and executive function. Although the mechanisms are still unknown, accumulating evidence supports a role for circadian disruption as a causative contributor to neurocognitive deficits.

Links between Circadian Disruption and Psychiatric Disorders: Unfortunate Side Effect or Contributing Factor?

One of the most common, and highly disruptive co-morbid problems in many psychiatric conditions, including depression, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia, is disruption in the sleep–wake cycle. However, there is ample debate if these effects are merely symptoms of these disorders, or in fact, if they may be contributing causes.

Depressive disorders are characterized by multiple physiological and psychological symptoms, and present with circadian disruption in both behavior and in physiology. The disruption of the circadian clock can manifest as changes in sleep–wake cycles (Van Cauter and Turek, 1986; Turek, 2007), but growing evidence also shows circadian disruption at the level of the molecular circadian clock (Mendlewicz, 2009). Recent findings show that intensity of major depressive symptoms in humans is correlated with the misalignment of circadian rhythms (Emens et al., 2009), in that more severe depressive states are associated with the circadian pacemaker being more delayed relative to the timing of sleep onset. Whether this is a causal change is still unclear, but shift workers often suffer from mood disturbances and an increased risk for depression (Scott et al., 1997; Asaoka et al., 2013). It is important to consider that links between circadian function and depression might occur at many levels (Wirz-Justice, 2009). An interesting example of this multi-level interaction is evident in the development and use of agomelatine, a melatonin agonist that also has serotonergic activity. This drug is actively being used for its antidepressant actions, with significant results (de Bodinat et al., 2010). It is thought that agomelatine can also act as a circadian “resynchronizer” in models of depression (Morley-Fletcher et al., 2011; Koresh et al., 2012; Mairesse et al., 2013). In human studies, it has been demonstrated that agomelatine can increase the relative amplitude of circadian rhythms in the rest–activity cycle, including effects on sleep, which was accompanied by parallel improvement in depressive symptoms (Kasper et al., 2010). When taken as a whole, these findings suggest that circadian disruption may contribute to depression, though unraveling the etiology from symptomology can be difficult. Given that changes in hippocampal neurogenesis are observed following chronic circadian disruption, and that cell birth and proliferation in the hippocampus is related to mood and antidepressant efficacy (Gibson et al., 2010), it is evident that circadian disruption may contribute to the development or exacerbation of depressive disorders. As yet, how these various pathways interact and synergize is unknown, though changes in multiple interacting physiological systems induced by chronic circadian dysfunction are likely to be a precipitating factor. Although it is clear that there is a strong relationship between circadian disruption and depression, these effects are likely bidirectional.

In addition to cognitive deficits and depression, circadian rhythm abnormalities have also been explored in mania. It is well established that during manic episodes, sleep patterns are significantly altered (Wehr et al., 1983; Plante and Winkelman, 2008; Robillard et al., 2013), and circadian patterns of several physiological functions are attenuated (Goetze and Tolle, 1987; Souetre et al., 1988; McClung, 2007). To probe potential causative links between disrupted circadian clocks and mania, animal models must be leveraged. Several lines of evidence demonstrate that treating hamsters with lithium chloride (a potent pharmacological agent used to treat manic depressive disorders) significantly lengthens the period of their circadian clock (Terao, 1992; LeSauter and Silver, 1993; Klemfuss and Kripke, 1995; Iwahana et al., 2007). Detailed molecular work has shown that lithium treatment can alter several intracellular signaling cascades, including glycogen synthase kinase-3beta, a link to the circadian molecular clockworks (Iwahana et al., 2004; Padiath et al., 2004; Iitaka et al., 2005; Ko et al., 2010; Lamont et al., 2010; Osland et al., 2011). These studies suggest that this pharmacological treatment can reduce the symptoms of mania while also having direct effects on the circadian clock at both the cell/molecular level and the behavioral level. More recent work has begun to explore how defects in several key clock genes affect behaviors in mouse (McClung, 2011, 2013). Mutations in the core clock gene Clock can lead to mania-like behaviors (Roybal et al., 2007), and site-specific knockdown of Clock in the VTA can induce similar manic-like behaviors (Mukherjee et al., 2010). Together, the human and non-human animal models provide strong evidence that circadian dysfunction is not only a component of some forms of mania, but that altering the function of the molecular circadian clock can mimic many of these effects.

While pathways linking disrupted circadian clocks to cognitive function, depression, and perhaps even mania are being more clearly elucidated, links between circadian abnormalities and schizophrenia are less clear, both at the epidemiological and mechanistic levels. One reason for this lack of clarity is that the cause of schizophrenia remains elusive, and is likely a result of a combination of genetic and experiential factors. However, there are lines of evidence that point to strong links between disrupted circadian clocks and schizophrenia (reviewed in Jamadar et al., 2013; Monti et al., 2013). Epidemiological studies show that fragmented circadian rhythms, as measured by changes in rest–activity cycles or in sleep regulation, are observed in schizophrenic patients (Wirz-Justice et al., 1997, 2001; Wulff et al., 2006, 2012; Pritchett et al., 2012). This includes both sleep onset and sleep maintenance insomnia. Correlations have also been observed between the phasing of the melatonin rhythm and sleep in schizophrenia, and are commonly observed in many schizophrenic patients (Mills et al., 1977; Rao et al., 1994; Wirz-Justice et al., 1997). It is interesting to note that in most cases, the sleep/circadian effects observed in schizophrenia are independent of either the course of the disease or the pharmacological status of the patient (Monti et al., 2013). Several animal models are now being applied to attempt to gain a mechanistic handle on the interaction between circadian timing and schizophrenia. The “blind-drunk” (Bdr) mouse line, which presents schizophrenic-like symptoms (Jeans et al., 2007), has been shown to have phase-advanced (i.e., earlier starting) rest–activity cycles while also showing a fragmentation of their circadian cycles (Oliver et al., 2012). The Bdr mouse carries a mutation in the gene for synaptosomal-associated protein (Snap)-25 that leads to disruption of exocytosis. This points to an association between altered synaptic activity and neurobehavioral function observed in schizophrenia-like models and circadian rhythms. However, this work should be interpreted cautiously, as the effects of this mutation on circadian rhythms may have little to do with the effects of the mutation on schizophrenia-like behavior. It is more likely that rather than directly causing schizophrenia, disruption of the circadian clock may somehow alter susceptibility in individuals at risk of developing schizophrenia. Work by Vacic et al. (2011) shows that in humans, a copy number variant in the gene encoding for the receptor for vasoactive intestinal polypeptide that is found in the SCN (i.e., Vipr2) can result in an increase risk of developing schizophrenia (Vacic et al., 2011). As such, there is compelling and somewhat provocative evidence that disruption of the circadian clock may not only be a symptom of schizophrenia, but perhaps a contributing cause.

Conclusion and Future Directions

The circadian timing system controls all physiological and behavioral rhythms, synchronizes them to the external environment, and ensures temporal isolation of incompatible physiological or behavioral processes (Kalsbeek et al., 2007; Karatsoreos and Silver, 2007; Butler et al., 2009). Thus, the circadian system sits at the center of a “web,” and can modulate the function of myriad physiological systems, both peripherally and centrally (Reppert and Weaver, 2002; Hastings et al., 2003). Since circadian rhythms are phylogenetically ancient, with many molecular components conserved between diverse species, from Drosophila to mouse to human (Bell-Pedersen et al., 2005), understanding how optimal functioning of this system contributes to fitness or vulnerability could have significant impact. That disrupted rhythms are observed in psychiatric conditions as diverse as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia (Mansour et al., 2005; Roybal et al., 2007; Mendlewicz, 2009; Cortesi et al., 2010; Sacco et al., 2010; Karatsoreos, 2012), makes it intriguing to hypothesize that they may play a role in their etiology. However, as this and many other reviews indicate, whether circadian disruption represents a symptom or an etiology is unclear, and the specific contributions of disrupted circadian rhythms to mental disease are poorly understood.

This review has presented several findings from both the human and non-human animal literature that support a role for disrupted circadian clocks in the etiology of mental disease. Since the causes of many of these neuropsychiatric disorders are multifaceted, it is unlikely that a single circadian mutation, or single instance of circadian disruption, would directly cause the development of a mental disorder. It is also important to note that while there is ample and growing evidence of a circadian contribution to many of the disorders discussed in this review, some of the evidence is indirect, and none of the evidence specifically obviates other causes for these neuropsychiatric diseases. It is our hope that this review provides an additional context to the already rich work on the genetic, developmental, and environmental etiologies of mental disorders. We hypothesize that disrupted circadian clocks may instead make individuals more susceptible to the development of neuropsychiatric disorders (Karatsoreos and McEwen, 2011, 2013). This effect may be in a manner similar to the stress-diathesis model, whereby environmental challenges have more severe outcomes due to underlying genetic or experiential differences (Morley, 1983). Thus, chronic circadian disruption through genetic abnormalities or environmental perturbation could make neural systems less able to cope with insults. This failure in resilience could lead to the onset of neuropsychiatric conditions in those individuals who are made more vulnerable because of other factors such as genetics, developmental experiences, or environmental exposures. While still conjecture, we feel that this is an exciting area for future research that will hopefully lead to great strides being made in understanding the complex causes of mental disorders.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

A note on my personal experience with circadian rhythm-related problems and bipolar disorder.

I was fortunate to be diagnosed in 1986 by a competent psychiatrist who had a “nuts & bolts” attitude toward medication. She prescribed lithium carbonate only; nothing else. She described its effects and side effects clearly, and explained that for the first three months or so my body would experience one or more adjustments as the dosage was increased to achieve therapeutic blood levels. This straightforward approach was excellent for an Asperger (although I wasn’t diagnosed at that time.) I had the facts and a timeline; yes there were side effects like tremors, rubbery legs, a bit of stomach irritation, but this did dissipate within a few months and were nothing in comparison with the total disruption and disaster in my life caused by bipolar disorder.

Within a few months lithium effectively transformed my ability to function, to travel, sleep normally, and endure reasonable stress. What was left to deal with was the toll taken by adapting over a lifetime to the chaotic and uncertain experiences of living with bipolar.

My point in relating this is that lithium carbonate has become “unpopular” in the arsenal of pharmacology. New concoctions of psychoactive drugs have made lithium “old-fashioned” and less profitable. A bipolar friend takes a $600.00 / month prescription, which he claims is of little help, but it’s paid for by insurance. In response, his psychiatrist just keeps adding more types of drugs. My lithium costs about $25.00 / month.

Lithium is one of a very few substances that can affect the circadian cycle in humans. (More about that later.) One reads often that a “replacement” for lithium is needed due to its terrible side effects, as if the new drugs being prescribed don’t have awful side affects. I think this is a red herring! I suspect that alongside the profit motive is plain old laziness on the part of prescribers who don’t want to take the time to work with patients to adjust lithium dosages. Over the nearly thirty years of taking lithium, I have had to fight with prescribers who rely on Big Pharm propaganda and simply would not accept that a “mental=stupid” patient could possibly know anything about how a medication works in her body. Several (I’ve moved around a lot) wanted to stop prescribing lithium in favor of “something new” even though lithium has worked successfully for so many years. I found these attempts to be  irresponsible and unethical – especially with the clutter of trinkets from Big Pharm cluttering their offices. It was as if the prescriber was trading my health and safety for a pizza and pen holder.

The poverty of the male imagination is astounding

imagescensored

Men have ruled the world for millennia, but have they done a good job? Hardly: the results have been disastrous for the majority of human beings, and the future of Homo sapiens and millions of other species is bleak. The invention of increasingly destructive weapons, and the stubborn reliance on inefficient and toxic technologies, combined with the escalation of violence to a state of permanent and migrating global warfare, is not progress. Would women have done any better? How can we know? A crucial turn in the path toward the present ecological destruction of our planet is the male (delusion) of the overthrow of nature and the inextricably-linked diminution of women. Women’s contributions to the intellectual health of the species have been blocked by brutal means. Reduced to her biological functions, and labeled as categorically evil by the pathologic mind of archaic agricultural god-kings,  the female half of the species was reduced to perpetual slavery (juvenalization), no better in fact or treatment than a domesticated animal.

The rejection of female intelligence is possibly the most colossal act of stupidity in all human history.

Please refrain from commenting on my lack of femininity, my stupidity and my supposed hatred of men: obscenities are not new, intelligent or effective.

War is a social activity.

Canine Combat PTSD / How Cruel Can Humans be?

Another fine example of the Neurotypical fantasy called “EMPATHY”

The Washington Post October 18

Full Article: Click on author. 

A combat dog who earned Bronze Stars in Iraq was killed in Wyoming.

(Cut for length) During two tours in Iraq, “Mike,” a bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois, spent his days alongside Special Forces soldiers, performing patrols, tracking insurgents and looking for improvised explosive devices.

“I raised him and trained him as a puppy, and the ability he has to sense some of the issues that I have with seizures, with my PTSD, my TBI [traumatic brain injury] and severe anxiety disorders, how he can calm me down just by him being in my presence,” Bessler (trainer-soldier) told the Billings Gazette in an article published on Saturday. “

Each tour was intensely demanding, and during the pair’s final months in Iraq, Mike stopped sniffing for bombs and became increasingly distracted and anxious on the job, according to the Army News Service. He was eventually diagnosed with canine post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that military veterinarians see in some dogs that were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Back home in Wyoming, with the help of a daily dose of Prozac, Mike (the dog) settled nicely into a new, peaceful rhythm with Bessler, who officially adopted the dog upon their return to the United States.

Mike wasn’t territorial, Bessler said, and would never attack a stranger. He noted that Mike didn’t wander onto the road, though he would sometimes run alongside people passing by. The dog, who had chewed on rocks to cope with his anxiety, had even worn down his teeth to “little nubs.”

________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s one thing to totally screw up humans who volunteer for war (soldiers are trained killers and ought to be aware of consequences) but why destroy the sanity of an innocent animal?

As for the actions of the man who shot the dog, having been attacked and bitten three times by dogs running loose, I have no doubt he was defending himself. The owner’s denial that the dog was dangerous (Really? The dog was on Prozac for PTSD – Prozac has been implicated in suicide and other side effects: does anyone know how it affects dogs?) compounded by letting the dog run loose while he was out of town, is beyond irresponsible. And, the combat dog was in a pack of other dogs; dogs behave very differently in packs.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract / Concrete thinking: Calculus

Examples from my college days preserve vividly the difference between those who think visually and those who are adept at abstract thinking. Although visual ‘talent’ as it was sometimes referred to by my professors, was a big bonus for studying geology, from geomorphology (landforms), to mineralogy (the crystal classification system) to structural geology (deconstructing relationships in space and time), in order to earn a degree, geology students were required to pass three semesters of Calculus, plus Calculus-based physics. I am not an abstract thinker; once mathematics leaves ‘Concrete World’ my visual mind simply goes blank – literally. (It didn’t help that two instructors were from India and China, and their English was unintelligible – if the U.S. really wants to promote science – math literacy, we should stop dumping undergrad courses onto low-paid foreign graduate students, who in this case were not shy about expressing their anger, and, on the part of one, hatred of Americans. It was an unhappy situation for everyone.)

No problemo! My visual brain could spin the wooden models that (no longer) are used to learn crystal forms, while other students were on the verge of emotional breakdown when tasked with this test. (Like compulsory figures were deleted from figure skating)

First panic, then strategy: I signed up for Calculus based physics before taking a Calculus course. I had to ‘see’ what Calculus looked like in the real world. It worked; I passed physics by sacrificing a few points on the mathematics while storing equations as whole images, and giving them names like, “the double violin with a thingy under the roof” and attached the image to a process for solving the equation. I had no idea what the equation described mathematically, but I could usually solve it. Calculus texts aid this approach since each chapter is organized by groups of similar equations.

I had no problem with math that describes geologic processes like stream flow, because I could easily see the realization in nature. So, physics itself was understandable as it applies to the familiar world of motion, energy and behavior of objects, but getting through Calculus as a foreign language was like decoding signals from a very advanced and very alien civilization. 

Graphs! A visual window into the abstract language of mathematics.

From Paul’s online math notes: http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu

“Now, let’s take a look at just how we could possibly get two tangents lines at a point. This was definitely not possible back in Calculus I where we first ran across tangent lines. A quick graph of the parametric curve will explain what is going on here. So, the parametric curve crosses itself!  That explains how there can be more than one tangent line.  There is one tangent line for each instance that the curve goes through the point.”

Graphs of equations do help, except that the image itself can be quite a distraction. In order to ‘do math’ I had to approach maths as foreign languages. The analogy is fitting: one can learn the forms and grammar of another language, but never become fluent, nor speak like a native.

NOTE: I often wonder; if I had known about being a visual Asperger, would I have been able to “figure out” a better way to approach mathematics in a slow and deliberate way that rested on intuition rather than mechanics?

Dangerous Social Models of Reality

Famous-Quotes-Friedrich-Nietzsche

Human beings suffer from incorrect assumptions about:

“REALITY”

“THE INNER VERSUS OUTER WORLD”

“WHO AM I?”

REALITY EXISTS: Reality is a universe built on patterns of matter and energy that behave in specific ways: our current best description is contained in the Laws of Physics, which are being pursued and extended by theoretical physicists, who explore truly mysterious phenomena.

Everyday reality, that familiar set of conditions that governs phenomena at the planetary and human scale, can be found in any physics (chemistry, biology, geology) textbook and we experience that reality every minute of every day despite being ignorant of how it works. Reality exists whether we acknowledge that it exists or not, and we are never outside or separate from the universe – we are its product. “Life” is a behavior matter and energy.

Humans cannot exist “outside” nature; we merely imagine that we can.

THE INNER VERSUS OUTER experience in humans: The function of the brain is to operate the body and to make sense of the environment. Our senses are limited to gathering information from  a narrow section of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our brain constructs a model of reality from whatever information it receives, regardless of accuracy. Our senses detect very little of “reality” so our ideas are often incorrect, skewed, imaginary, or fanciful, but most often, magical. Word language simplifies the environment by creating a generic version of reality, stripped down to information that is easier to handle and which we selectively pay attention to. As a species it is not terribly important to have sonar “sense” or visual acuity like a bird of prey, which can see a rodent from a mile away. When we do have need of extended senses (a broader range of the electromagnetic spectrum) we invent tools that artificially extend our senses such as sonar for submarines or night vision goggles.

The result of the brain using a simplified “word” model of the environment is the experience of an inner “me” and an outer “world.” We build up a word “me” during the developmental period of childhood, and often these words are very negative and harmful: I’m stupid, I’m fat, I’m a disappointment to my parents, people treat me like I’m inferior. It’s not difficult to see why many people grow up confusing these statements with who they are.

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Our poverty-stricken word model is far less complex that what is going on in the universe, whatever the universe is, or whether or not we will ever understand what it is. For social humans, the illusive official “I” is built by one’s family and culture and its highly restrictive notions about behavior. Often the message is that the natural animal experience of one’s own being is “bad” and that the only acceptable “way to be” is to conform to societal dictates. We see millions of people striving to be “who they are not” instead of being free to discover their potential.

The human advantage in creating advanced civilization, with all its artifacts, is the result of language and technology, but the model of reality that social humans use is so oversimplified, and lacks range and depth as to the link between action and consequences, that we produce catastrophic effects in the environment. No one can deny that we have turned vast areas of the earth into toxic dumps and wastelands in which life perishes. Species that have adapted to natural changes over millions of years cannot adapt fast enough to survive human lack of judgment.

The impoverished model of human reality.

The impoverished model of human reality. Notice that the rich resources of an entire planet are subsumed and depleted to enrich a handful of predatory humans.

Over the last 10-15,000 years of human history, the human experience has become dominated by  a pyramid of status, controlled by Top Humans who have sorted individuals into  a social pyramid with predators at the top and everyone else  – subjected to layers and degrees of “allowable” behavior and resources. This is now THE MODEL of the universe that the social humanbelieves is “real.” A degraded environment is the new reality. Humans didn’t begin this way; early humans may have had no “word” model at all. It is my contention that Asperger individuals perceive and process the environment using radically different processing of the information provided by our senses, and that the information is of a different range and type than modern social humans. Social humans are “freaked” out by Asperger individuals because they can’t fit us into the pyramid model, which for them is fixed and untouchable. We not only don’t exist, we ought not to exist. We’re scary because our existence challenges the exclusive domain of social illusion.

Aspergers are visual (concrete) thinkers.

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What Aspergers do by retreating to our comfort zone is a logical reaction to an environment (the social environment that dominates human existence), which literally makes us ill: overstimulation, chronic anxiety, fear, ill-treatment by social humans, toxic physical conditions, bullying, hostility, and abuse. It’s a perfectly normal and instinctive response for any animal to avoid harm, and that’s what we’re doing. Our world includes reality: facts, systems, patterns, connections that make Nature possible. Trying to function in a social environment means having our “world” attacked, denied, and labeled defective. We are consistently told that WE SHOULDN’T EXIST. We are broken and need fixed.

WHO AM I? will always be a question that must be answered by individuals. The freedom to answer that question is denied by most societies and forbidden from birth. We are told who we are and attempts to assert our curiosity and self-discovery earn harsh social rejection. Just ask an Asperger. Becoming an individual is a lifelong task; we begin discovery by becoming acquainted with our personal preferences and intuitions, and avoid social prescriptions to reject our basic needs and wants. Our choices as to how we develop those basics is “who we are.” We don’t arrive knowing ourselves, we become who we are.

From Allergies to Dependence on Cyber Technology

It’s easy to blame allergies on sagebrush pollen in late summer, but trying to get info on what else may be at work is like chasing a great mystery of the universe. One has to assume that the high number of people in town who are affected by respiratory distress can pin it to allergies, but the majority seem to have given up on any medical treatment or solution. Wyomingans are not inclined to waste money on “treatments” that don’t work. Docs are realistic: After a couple of visits for intense allergies, my provider said, “Here are your choices: 1. Steroid shots (not good for your body) 2. Allergy testing – expensive and not of much use unless it’s a specific food allergy, otherwise, you’re back to having allergies but not able to do any more than you are now. 3. Move somewhere else and hope you don’t develop allergies. 4. Live with it.”

“Live with it” is a perfectly good option. Human animals (and other species) have been living with a vast array of dangers and irritants, inconveniences and environmental challenges since cells organized into replicating machines. In fact, obstacles to survival drive evolution. Adaptations don’t eliminate adversity in one’s environment any more than an umbrella stops rain.

Modern humans are drunk on our ability to effect technical (not intellectual)change, but we’re extremely poor at understanding that the changes we make will require adaptation to the results that follow our schemes. This is not a new human dilemma: the destruction of the local environment has caused many groups of humans, large and small, to pack up and move on for thousands of years.

Reality-Check

Wow! Look at us – we have conquered Nature. At the same time we’ve disrupted the system that produces life – Uh-oh. We goofed! As an Asperger I have no objection to going “backward” in order to go “forward.” Neurotypicals reject the notion of “backward” immediately. The Neurotypical solution is to deny human culpability (while praising our intelligence) in changing climate, weather, land destruction, pollution, lack of fresh water and real nutrition. Better yet, deny that any change is occurring.

Global communication and control systems are warning us, after only a few decades, that we are naïve, childlike and hopelessly inept at perceiving anything that is contrary to our beliefs. (See inattentional blindness post) Scattered “glitches” (now that’s a deceptive word!) are reported (most are not) such as airline stoppages and cyber attacks that can’t be hidden. These incidents receive little attention outside those directly affected, when vital nationwide, and indeed global infrastructure, may be one “goof” or hack from collapse. Globalization is sold as “wonderful progress” when in fact it only (and temporarily) serves corporations.

My Asperger assessment is simple. Live with it. Life is a tragedy by definition. We’re never going to “fix” the universe because it isn’t broken. Homo sapiens has no more control over consequences of physical reality than a rabbit, a flounder, a pine tree or a polar bear. Adaptation is required always, at all times, and in all locations. That’s exciting.

Having an Asperger brain precludes passive dismissal of our specie’s rush to destruction. Geologic history shows a clear pattern of extinction and the opportunity for new life plans that follows. Some scraps of life survive and eventually populate new or changed environments. There’s no guarantee – patterns may be broken.  We can set aside the geologic “big picture” because it’s not in our scale of influence. It is entirely possible that we will “take ourselves out of the picture” before nature does.

What would I do? 

DECENTRALIZE like crazy.

(I’m aware that advice given to the highly-resistant-to-change, magical-thinking majority, is useless, because supernatural problem-solving skills begin and end with hoping for a miracle.)

 

Myths about Asperger Women

by Graphic 'genius' George Lois

THE NEW AMERICAN WOMAN by Graphic ‘genius’ George Lois

An Esquire magazine cover that dates to the 1960’s. Despite equal rights legislation, not much has changed, because hatred of women is embedded in the religious fabric of American culture. Self-hatred is learned by girls through socialization, and demonstrates the susceptibility of the neotenic “normal” brain to “brain-washing.”

Asperger females are accused of being unfeminine and unattractive. The male prejudice that a woman who is competent, intelligent, and ambitious is “masculinized” has been given credence by misogynistic psychologists. Asperger females are accused of having a “male brain,” which effectively ejects us, and all intelligent adult women, from the female half of humankind. We live in a no-woman’s land between gender stereotypes.

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