Anxiety Disorders / Stress is bad; why do we promote stress?

Journal of the American Osteopathic Assoc., March 2004 vol.104 S2-S5

http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2092999

Diagnosis and Management of Anxiety Disorders

Charles Shelton, Doctor of Osteopathy

Before posting the article, I think it’s important to at least try to explain the difference between an MD and a DO. There is info online, but it’s not very clear except to say that the two are genuine medical doctors, but osteopathy has a different “philosophy and practice” style than “allopathic” medical doctors.

Info from the article: This article was developed from a lecture presented by Dr Shelton at a symposium sponsored by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals at the 108th Annual AOA Convention and Scientific Seminar on October 15, 2003, in New Orleans, La. Dr Shelton is a national speaker on the visiting speakers bureau of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. He is also on the speakers bureaus of GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer Inc; Cephalon, Inc; and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Dr Shelton is also on the CNS advisory panels of Pfizer Inc and Elan Pharmaceuticals.

What is a DO? From The American Osteopathic Assoc.

“Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. Emphasizing a whole-person approach to treatment and care, DOs are trained to listen and partner with their patients to help them get healthy and stay well. (Comment; the average person might think that all doctors had some training in patient interaction, but as many of know from experience, apparently not!)

DOs receive special training in the musculoskeletal system, your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones. (Hence osteo-bone) By combining this knowledge with the latest advances in medical technology, they offer patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

Osteopathic physicians focus on prevention, tuning into how a patient’s lifestyle and environment can impact their wellbeing. DOs strive to help you be truly healthy in mind, body and spirit — not just free of symptoms. (See article for lists of pharmaceuticals “used for” each anxiety disorder)-

_____________

Abstract

Major anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women than in men. Although the tendency toward anxiety disorders appears familial, other factors such as environmental influences can play a role in the risk for anxiety. This clinical review focuses on the pathophysiologic basis for anxiety disorders. It provides brief overviews of panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. It also summarizes treatment options for patients with anxiety disorders. (Specific pharmaceuticals for each anxiety “type” may be informative IF you’ve been correctly diagnosed – a very big IF!)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR)1 defines the five major anxiety disorders as social anxiety disorder (SAD), panic disorder (PD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Panic attacks, which represent an extreme form of anxiety, can occur in association with most of these anxiety disorders, though they are not typically associated with GAD. Lifetime prevalence rates of the major anxiety disorders range between approximately 3% (OCD) and 12% (SAD) and are approximately two times greater among women than among men.2,3

Pathophysiology of Anxiety Disorders

In the same way that behavioral traits are passed from parent to child, anxiety disorders tend to run through family structures. Studies comparing the risk of psychiatric illness in identical twins (who share 100% of their DNA) have found that in general, if one identical twin has a psychiatric condition, the risk that the other twin will have the same condition is approximately 50%.4 It therefore appears that nongenetic factors, including environmental influences occurring throughout the lifespan, must also contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.2,3

The human body attempts to maintain homeostasis at all times. Anything in the environment that disturbs homeostasis is defined as a stressor. Homeostatic balance is then reestablished by physiologic adaptations that occur in response to the stress response. (Comment: The dangerous American social belief that “superior humans” actually “thrive on more and more stress” is highly dysfunctional! The current idiotic belief is that the practice of increasing the stress that the average person must “deal with” every day, somehow (mystical natural selection) “improves” performance is abusive and a perversion of “survival of the fittest.” It’s DEADLY and accounts for the increase in poor health outcomes for Americans.  But if it increases profits – it “must be good”!

The stress response in humans involves a cascade of hormonal events, including the release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), which, in turn, stimulates the release of corticotropin, leading to release of the stress hormones (glucocorticoids and epinephrine) from the adrenal cortex. The glucocorticoids typically exert negative feedback to the hypothalamus, thus decreasing the release of CRF.6

The stress response is hardwired into the brain of the typical mammal and is most often triggered when survival of the organism is threatened. The primate stress response, however, can be triggered not only by a physical challenge, but also by the mere anticipation of a homeostatic challenge. As a result, when humans chronically and erroneously believe that a homeostatic challenge is about to occur, they enter the realm of neurosis, anxiety, and paranoia. (Comment: This is not an “erroneous belief” – it is the purposeful and chronic state of the American social power structure to ensure that “homeostatic challenge” occurs 24/7. FEAR and conflict are promoted as the constant state of human reality by government and the media; by unstable employment and skewed presentations of threats from violence and crime via “news” programs and entertainment)

The amygdala is the primary modulator of the response to fear- or anxiety-inducing stimuli. It is central to registering the emotional significance of stressful stimuli and creating emotional memories.7 The amygdala receives input from neurons in the cortex. This information is mostly conscious and involves abstract associations. Being stuck in traffic, in a crowded shopping mall, or on an airplane may serve to trigger the anxiety response in a susceptible individual via this mechanism. (Comment: That’s almost every one; and “corporate policies” – ex. the airline industry – are pushing this stress to the MAX for passengers.)

The amygdala also receives sensory input that bypasses the cortex and thus tends to be subconscious. An example is that of a victim of sexual abuse who suddenly finds herself acutely anxious when interacting with a number of friendly people. It may take her a few moments to realize that characteristics of the individuals with whom she is interacting remind her of the person who abused her.

When activated, the amygdala stimulates regions of the midbrain and brain stem, causing autonomic hyperactivity, which can be correlated with the physical symptoms of anxiety. (You cannot “turn it off”) Thus, the stress response involves activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This axis is hyperactive in depression and in anxiety disorders.8,9

Corticotropin-releasing factor, a 41 amino acid peptide, is a neurotransmitter within the central nervous system (CNS) that acts as a key mediator of autonomic, behavioral, immune, and endocrine stress responses. The peptide appears to be anxiogenic, depressogenic, and proinflammatory and leads to increased pain perception.10 γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) inhibits CRF release.6

Glucocorticoids activate the locus caeruleus, which sends a powerfully activating projection back to the amygdala using the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The amygdala then sends out more CRF, which leads to more secretion of glucocorticoids, and a vicious circle of feedback between the mind (brain) and the body results.5 Repeated stimulation of the amygdala results in strengthened communication across its synapses with other regions of the brain (ie, long-term potentiation) (The damaging results of stress don’t go away, but are cumulative)

Prolonged exposure of the CNS to glucocorticoid hormones eventually depletes norepinephrine levels in the locus caeruleus. As norepinephrine is an important neurotransmitter involved in attention, vigilance, motivation, and activity, the onset of depression may subsequently occur. (Bad outcomes such as depression are PHYSICAL and not “hooky-spooky magic – psychology”)

Serotonin appears to be involved in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders as well. Agents that enhance serotonin neurotransmission may stimulate hippocampal 5-HT1A receptors, thus promoting neuroprotection and neurogenesis and exerting an anxiolytic effect.11

GABA, the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the CNS, is another neurotransmitter believed to be inherently involved in the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders. Levels of GABA appear to be decreased in the cortex of patients with PD, compared with those in control subjects.12 Benzodiazepines facilitate GABA neurotransmission and therefore can improve anxiety. (Comment: This is where the “rubber meets the road” – the assumption that medication can “resolve” anxiety – it may effectively (or not) “mask symptoms” BUT pharmaceuticals “for brain pain” de facto create more problems in the form of side effects and changes to the brain – that’s  how they work. They change the brain; children’s’ brains are still developing! It’s a crap shoot for the individual taking the drug; it’s wildly uncontrolled testing on humans. Drugs do not REMOVE the source of stress that is causing anxiety! They OVERRIDE the brain-body alarm system, not only for “erroneous threats” but for actual threats such as toxic environments, unhealthy conflict-driven work environments, destructive relationships and anything that is “too stressful” in the person’s environment. They provide “negative adaptation” that allows for the damage to the person to continue. That said; in the immediate crisis of debilitating anxiety, benzodiazipines may be the only relief!) 

The remainder of the articles deals with the specific DSM disorders and “drug”  treatment …

 

 

Advertisements

Anxiety Disorders cont., / Panic Attacks, Panic Disorder

This is a continuation of post – Diagnosis and Management of Anxiety Disorders, by Charles Shelton, Doctor of Osteopathy. Dr Shelton is a national speaker on the visiting speakers bureau of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. He is also on the speakers bureaus of GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer Inc; Cephalon, Inc; and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company. Dr Shelton is also on the CNS advisory panels of Pfizer Inc and Elan Pharmaceuticals.

I’m using this article for reference because Dr. Shelton is obviously thoroughly embedded in the “Big Pharma” industry. I’m not concerned here with the wildly predatory “business” model of pharmaceuticals, but with the “drugs” that are “recommended” for treatment. Drug manufacturers are more conservative about which medications should – should not be prescribed for specific conditions than are many prescribers! Instructions and warnings are included with medications, which are so “legally protective” that reading them is often skipped – by prescribers! They go by what the drug sales rep. tells them; it’s an incredibly careless system; a crap shoot that depends on the integrity of your prescriber.

I’m not giving “medical advice” but clarifying some pitfalls in the “game” of American healthcare, based on a lifetime of experience with the “mental” healthcare system.

WARNING: Your prescriber may be ignorant of drug “chemistry” – side effects, conflicts between different drugs when taken together, or may simply be “pill happy” – the “try this” scenario of passing out pharmaceutical samples and adding more, more, more drugs. Do not trust a “randomly-assigned” prescriber – always read the side effects and other warnings: ask THE PHARMACIST about the drug’s potential for harm and any other concerns.


Back to the article:

“In general, individuals with PD may see up to ten practitioners before a correct diagnosis is made, have continuous increases in health care utilization spanning 10 years before diagnosis, and have a 5 to 8 times greater likelihood of being high users of health care.”

Now that’s a great confidence-producing set of statistics! What arrogance to claim that this dismal record indicates “expert” knowledge on the part of the psychology-psychiatry-therapy healthcare system.

Panic Attacks

Figure 1. Agents used in pharmacotherapy for panic disorder.

As discussed, panic attacks, defined as discrete periods of sudden symptom onset usually peaking in 10 minutes, can occur with most anxiety disorders.

The DSM-IV-TR criteria for panic attack are as follows: palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate; sweating; trembling or shaking; sensations of shortness of breath or smothering; feeling of choking; chest pain or discomfort; nausea or abdominal distress; feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint; derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached); fear of losing control or going crazy; fear of dying; paresthesias; chills or hot flushes; one or more unexpected panic attacks. (?)

A “PA” is a single event; it may have one of many “causes” and occur only once or infrequently. To be a disorder, it must meet criteria below. One attack does not constitute a disorder. It is always a good idea to be checked out by a MEDICAL doctor first, to rule out a physical condition before consulting a “therapist” of unknown quality.

Panic disorder: at least 1 month of worry, including change in cognition or behavior;     presence or absence of agoraphobia; or attacks not accounted for by another mental disorder, or general medical condition. That’s pretty vague! It’s obvious HOW EASY it is for a “potential patient or client” to meet the requirements and to be diagnosed – a real profit bonus for “assembly line” type therapists and clinics!

Panic attacks must be differentiated from PD. Panic disorder as defined by the DSM-IV-TR includes: recurrent unexpected panic attacks; and at least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one or more of the following:

persistent concern about having additional attacks; worry about the implications of the attacks or their consequences (eg, losing control, having a heart attack, going crazy); or a significant change in behavior related to the attacks.

In general, individuals with PD may see up to ten practitioners before a correct diagnosis is made, have continuous increases in health care utilization spanning 10 years before diagnosis, and have a 5 to 8 times greater likelihood of being high users of health care.

Now that’s a great confidence-producing set of statistics! What arrogance to claim that this dismal record indicates “expert” knowledge on the part of the healthcare system.

_______________________________________________

What really is a “panic attack”? It’s the activation of the “fight, flight or freeze” response. 

Myriad papers and articles about panic attacks are fairly repetitive:

1. There is no “real danger” present in the environment (at the time of that attack) that would justify the “extreme or “over” reaction.

2. Therefore, the PA is an abnormal event. The trigger is a memory of a prior experience with similar conditions (crowds, etc) that has “taken over” the response by the fight, flight freeze system. “Phobia”.

3. The PA is “illegitimate” given the benign circumstances that “actually” exist at the time of the PA.

4. The FFF system will shut down and return to “normal” in 10 minutes, so don’t “panic”!

5. Underlying these assumptions is the “belief” that the FFF response is an “animal thing” – that is, designed for wild environments and encounters between predator and prey. It’s “archaic” in essence; not suited to “modern life” but resurrected if a person is in “real danger” – a physical attack, natural disaster, an accident. Otherwise, the modern “environment” is safe, benign, non-threatening. HAH!

6. The descriptions are subtly judgmental: WOMEN are more likely to experience PA and anxiety than men, therefore the “cause” must be the unstable female psyche! (Hormones) Her system is “broken” – abnormal or damaged, which is a traditional view of “being female”.

Well! What does this indicate? Conditions that were “present” during a traumatic experience (example: a child being locked in a closet as punishment for “bad behavior” in a social situation) are not “imaginary” – confronting similar conditions (a crowded  event in which “good behavior” is a social requirement) are not imaginary: this is a normal fight, flight or freeze function. If a prey animal “survives” a predation event by the automatic physiological response of “OMG! I’m gonna die – run like Hell” OF COURSE it will “remember” the situation; it learns by the experience. If it simply “forgot” the experience, it probably would not survive for long. This is unconscious  processing: it’s the same in humans. These deep survival mechanisms did not go away because in our “imagination” we are no longer “truly animals” but live in wonderful cities and suburbs safe from natural consequences.

Why women? Because females are prey animals: females are “trapped” as the objects of sexual predation, violence and psychological imprisonment in “belief systems” that classify females as “lesser beings.” Females must repress “survival” behavior in order to survive.

Any child who has been traumatized by a single “life-threatening” event, or subjected to chronic abuse, is a candidate for ANXIETY which is the anticipation of both the horrible event reoccurring and the physical response of fight, flight or freeze, which is a frightening physical response. “Life and Death”

Telling a person who has a “panic attack” that it’s not real, or serious, or that it’s all in the mind, or that it will “go away” in ten minutes, or that they are being “a baby” or that they are weak, or are a “social embarrassment” is cruel. Saying these things in effect devalues the original trauma as “unimportant or imaginary” – telling him or her that they ARE CRAZY. This is stimulus for more anxiety and painful behavior.

Underlying the very high rates of “pathology” in American culture is the principle belief in, and unshakeable use of, punishment for any and all “social disobedience”  – from serious crime to the crime of simply being “a child.” Brutality, whether or not it’s physical or psychological, is held to be an “American Virtue”.

Researchers can fiddle with “the brain” AFTER THE FACT that the developing child brain has been compromised by maltreatment during pregnancy, premature birth, horrific medical intervention, abusive parents, malnourishment or neglect, or the prevalent (although denied) guidepost of spare the rod, spoil the child –  but this is madness: the origin of “disorder” is the diehard belief that brutality “toughens people” “produces superior individuals” especially males, and that life is a competition for “promoting one’s DNA”. This perversion means that only predators “win” –

Whoopee! More hypotheses, more studies, more verbiage, more funding, more denial that human on human predation causes damage to individuals, societies and the degeneration of Homo sapiens as a viable species.

A paper that flogs the obvious: Hyperventilation accompanies and exacerbates panic attacks.

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2009 May 30;167(1):133-43. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2008.07.011. Epub 2008 Jul 25.

Panic disorder and control of breathing.

Abstract

Anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder (PD), are associated with respiratory abnormalities. PD consists of unexpected panic attacks (PA) with anxiety, fear and many autonomic and respiratory symptoms. There is a substantial body of literature demonstrating that stimulation of respiration is a common event in panic disorder patients during PA. A number of abnormalities in respiration, such as enhanced CO(2) sensitivity, have been detected in PD patients. As a result, some investigators advanced that there is a fundamental abnormality in the physiological mechanisms that control breathing in PD. Studies indicate that PD patients with dominant respiratory symptoms are particularly sensitive to respiratory tests compared with those who do not manifest dominant respiratory symptoms, possibly representing a distinct subtype. Accumulated evidence suggests that respiratory physiology remains normal in PD patients and that their tendency to hyperventilate and to react with panic to respiratory stimulants like CO(2) represents the triggering of a hypersensitive fear network. However, some recent evidences support the presence of subclinical abnormalities in respiration and other functions related to body homeostasis. The fear network, composed by the hippocampus, the medial prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and its brainstem projections, may be abnormally sensitive in PD patients. This theory might explain why both medication and psychosocial therapies are clearly effective. The evidence of abnormalities in several neurochemical systems might be just the expression of the complex interactions among brain circuits. Our aim was to review the relationship between respiration and panic disorder, addressing the respiratory subtype of panic disorder, the hyperventilation syndrome, the respiratory challenge tests, the current mechanistic concepts and the pharmacological implications.

 

 

Thyroid Hormones / Brain Development

Endocrine System > Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands

Thyroid Hormones: Pregnancy and Fetal Development

Thyroid hormones are critical for development of the fetal and neonatal brain, as well as for many other aspects of pregnancy and fetal growth. Hypothyroidism in either the mother or fetus frequently results in fetal disease; in humans, this includes a high incidence of mental retardation.

Maternal Thyroid Function During Pregnancy

Normal pregnancy entails substantial changes in thyroid function in all animals. These phenomena have been studied most extensively in humans, but probably are similar in all mammals. Major alterations in the thyroid system during pregnancy include:

  • Increased blood concentrations of T4-binding globulin: TBG is one of several proteins that transport thyroid hormones in blood, and has the highest affinity for T4 (thyroxine) of the group. Estrogens stimulate expression of TBG in liver, and the normal rise in estrogen during pregnancy induces roughly a doubling in serum TBG concentratrations.
  • Increased levels of TBG lead to lowered free T4 concentrations, which results in elevated TSH secretion by the pituitary and, consequently, enhanced production and secretion of thyroid hormones. The net effect of elevated TBG synthesis is to force a new equilibrium between free and bound thyroid hormones and thus a significant increase in total T4 and T3 levels. The increased demand for thyroid hormones is reached by about 20 weeks of gestation and persists until term.
  • Increased demand for iodine: This results from a significant pregnancy-associated increase in iodide clearance by the kidney (due to increased glomerular filtration rate), and siphoning of maternal iodide by the fetus. The World Health Organization recommends increasing iodine intake from the standard 100 to 150 ug/day to at least 200 ug/day during pregnancy.
  • Thyroid stimulation by chorionic gonadotropin: The placentae of humans and other primates secrete huge amounts of a hormone called chorionic gonadotropin (in the case of humans, human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG) which is very closely related to luteinizing hormone. TSH and hCG are similar enough that hCG can bind and transduce signalling from the TSH receptor on thyroid epithelial cells. Toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy in humans, when hCG levels are highest, a significant fraction of the thyroid-stimulating activity is from hCG. During this time, blood levels of TSH often are suppressed, as depicted in the figure to the right. The thyroid-stimulating activity of hCG actually causes some women to develop transient hyperthyroidism.

The net effect of pregnancy is an increased demand on the thyroid gland. In the normal individuals, this does not appear to represent much of a load to the thyroid gland, but in females with subclinical hypothyroidism, the extra demands of pregnancy can precipitate clinicial disease.

Thyroid Hormones and Fetal Brain Development

In 1888 the Clinical Society of London issued a report underlining the importance of normal thyroid function on development of the brain. Since that time, numerous studies with rats, sheep and humans have reinforced this concept, usually by study of the effects of fetal and/or maternal thyroid deficiency. Thyroid hormones appear to have their most profound effects on the terminal stages of brain differentiation, including synaptogenesis, growth of dendrites and axons, myelination and neuronal migration.

Thyroid hormones act by binding to nuclear receptors and modulating transcription of responsive genes. Thyroid hormone receptors are widely distributed in the fetal brain, and present prior to the time the fetus is able to synthesize thyroid hormones. It has proven surprisingly difficult to identify the molecular targets for thyroid hormone action in the developing brain, but some progress has been made. For example, the promoter of the myelin basic protein gene is directly responsive to thyroid hormones and contains the expected hormone response element. This fits with the observation that induced hypothyroidism in rats leads to diminished synthesis of mRNAs for several myelin-associated proteins.

It seems clear that there is a great deal more to learn about the molecular mechanisms by which thyroid hormones support normal development of the brain.

Thyroid Deficiency in the Fetus and Neonate

The fetus has two potential sources of thyroid hormones – it’s own thyroid and the thyroid of it’s mother. Human fetuses acquire the ability to synthesize thyroid hormones at roughly 12 weeks of gestation, and fetuses from other species at developmentally similar times. Current evidence from several species indicates that there is substantial transfer of maternal thyroid hormones across the placenta. Additionally, the placenta contains deiodinases that can convert T4 to T3.

There are three types or combinations of thyroid deficiency states known to impact fetal development:

Isolated maternal hypothyroidism: Overt maternal hypothyroidism typically is not a significant cause of fetal disease because it usually is associated with infertility. (How does this affect infertile women who become pregnant using donor embryo implantation?) When pregnancy does occur, there is increased risk of intrauterine fetal death and gestational hypertension. Subclincial hypothyroidism is increasingly being recognized as a cause of developmental disease – this is a rather scary situation. Several investigators have found that mild maternal hypothyroidism, diagnosed only retrospectively from banked serum, may adversely affect the fetus, leading in children to such effects as slightly lower performance on IQ tests and difficulties with schoolwork. The most common cause of subclinical hypothyroidism is autoimmune disease, and it is known that anti-thyroid antibodies cross the human placenta. Thus, the cause of this disorder may be a passive immune attack on the fetal thyroid gland.

Isolated fetal hypothyroidism: This condition is also known as sporadic congenital hypothyroidism. It is due to failure of the fetal thyroid gland to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone. Most children with this disorder are normal at birth, because maternal thyroid hormones are transported across the placenta during gestation. What is absolutely critical is to identify and treat this condition very shortly after birth. If treatment is not instituted quickly, the child will become permanently mentally and growth retarded – a disorder called cretinism. This problem has largely disappeared in the US and many other countries due to large scale screening programs to detect hypothyroid infants.

Iodine deficiency – Combined maternal and fetal hypothyroidism: Iodine deficiency is, by a large margin, the most common preventable cause of mental retardation in the world. Without adequate maternal iodine intake, both the fetus and mother are hypothyroid, and if supplemental iodine is not provided, the child may well develop cretinism, with mental retardation, deaf-mutism and spasticity.

The World Health Organization estimated in 1990 that 20 million people had some degree of brain damage due to iodine deficiency experienced in fetal life. Endemic iodine deficiency remains a substantial public health problem in many parts of the world, including many areas in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. In areas of severe deficiency, a large fraction of the adult population may show goiters. In such settings, overt cretinism may occur in 5 to 10 percent of offspring, and perhaps five times that many children will have mild mental retardation. This is a serious, tragic and, most importantly, a preventable problem.

The effects of mild maternal hypothyroidism on cognitive function of children has been evaluated in several studies, including some in which mothers will low levels of T4 or high levels of TSH were treated prophylactically with thyroid supplementation. The results of these studies are somewhat divergent, and the benefit of routinely testing pregnant women and treating those with suspected thyroid deficiency remains unsettled.

The fetus of an iodine-deficient mother can be successfully treated if iodine supplementation is given during the first or second trimester. Treatment during the third trimester or after birth will not prevent the mental defects.

Iodine deficiency can also be a sigificant problem in animal populations. The most common manifestation in sheep, cattle, pigs and horses is a high incidence of stillbirths and birth of small, weak offspring.

Hyperthyroidism in Pregnancy

Gestational hyperthyroidism is associated with increased risk of several adverse outcomes, including preeclampisa, premature labor, fetal or perinatal death and low birth weight. In humans, hyperthyroidism usually is the result of Grave’s disease, which involves development of autoantibodies against the TSH receptor that stimulate the thyroid gland.

From the Archives / Essay on Social Petri Dish

One “fun” result of getting a new computer (with a CD drawer, no less) is being able to go back through all those CD back ups that I should have thrown away years ago, but kept. This dates to ca. 2006…

 

Early One Morning in the Universe

Humanity may be stuck on a wheel of incarnation (repeating the same mistakes, generation after generation), but the individual need not be

What if the form and content of human belief come down to a design preference, with the majority of people preferring a hierarchical plan, based on the family: a design fated to bog down in jealousy and unfair treatment: a system based on parental rage – life in a social petri dish that breeds implacable tragedy from which the individual cannot escape, even in death?

At the other end of the spectrum of ideas, and so far, a neglected alternative, is something clean and random and spontaneous: a scheme based on experience, which does not require supernatural affirmation of our collective and primeval family delusions. The fact that the body will die, permanently and forever, opens the imagination to that which lies beyond human control, and frees the individual from bondage to the group, because it is my body, not theirs.

Society tells its children that a glow worm, or some larval stage of development, was inserted into each of their bodies at conception, or at birth, or baptism, or when the sex hormones turn on, depending on the cultural context they were born into and that this ghostly thing was activated by the supernatural, thus causing the child to be alive. In actual practice, we proceed through life guided by infinitely more ancient and practical instructions called DNA. The results are not perfect, certainly. In Homo sapiens, it is apparent that the code results in a brain of dubious reliability. It is painful to admit, but necessary.

The claim is that this supernatural thing will leave my body when it perishes; a thing which is held by the majority of people in my culture to be my true identity, but which is alien to me – unknowable, in fact. A temporary resident that has no particular form or substance, but which is locked in combat with an inherently evil physical body – a body that for as long as I may live, never really belongs to me. This is put forth as a stupendous delusion: I am expected to believe that my real self is on loan from a supernatural source, and my individual abilities and pursuits discarded as worthless except in reference to this source: my status is that of a puppet activated by magic.

Creation stories, devised by primeval tribes and salvaged or scavenged or embroidered by civilizations of size and material sophistication, fail the pure design test, which requires consonance with Nature. These schemes begin by naming and claiming pieces of existence, an approach to conceptualizing the environment that is understandable in primitive circumstances, hatched by the need for power in the childhood of humankind. The leap our ancestors made to magical connections between objects and ideas is significant in animal evolution, but faulty. Our ancestors had to be satisfied with what their brains could do constructively, which is to make analogies.

Many of these early connections are elegant, while other myths are positively stupefying, perhaps because the original symbolism is lost to us. Many stories that have come down to us betray the weaknesses in human memory, just as each copy of an image is farther removed from the original and loses its distinction. What we have is a cultural junk drawer jammed by absurdities, which have been patented by repetition and fanciful interpretation, which served our species in their time, but we now hoard these errors at terrific cost; cultural ideas have not kept pace with technology. Mythology has become an end in itself. Reality is lost.

Like the genetic code itself, human culture is both repetitive and additive. Genetic information is not thrown away; unnecessary bits are instead stashed in great unused collections of instructions, which is why most of our DNA matches that of both extinct and existing species; why the human fetus recapitulates evolution, why each of us is a portable portion of an ancient sea. Nature is conservative, and yet favors the workable mutation and the turning on and off of old switches.

By means of language and technology, human beings also gather vast amounts of information. Certain knowledge remains active in a culture, some lies dormant: certainly, not all information is of equal value. The results are a mixed affair. An advance in technology may be valued because it can be used in war, while its peaceful uses are ignored, or eventually borrowed and put to a different use.  An idea may be valued because it sanctions the rights of ruthless rulers. A war may be fought because it appears to be motivated by moral good, but which in reality merely exploit greed. There is no way to judge cultures as a whole any more than we can judge DNA, or the results of evolution.  And yet, we do, because we can, because we have a brain built to contrast and compare; ideas are a product of human thought, but most ideas are  not at all helpful to survival.

Our peril to ourselves and to the life of the planet lies in obsessing over and hoarding bits of cramped opinion that will never produce a picture of existence that is new in any way. The picture that mankind persists in using as its model of the universe was created by ignorant and fearful minds that were driven by the necessity of wresting control from a powerful environment, but we are mature and ought to have learned something from the history of our species. Our current picture is as jumbled as those clots of discarded DNA; useful, not useful.

We are perfectly capable of accepting the totality of the universe in an attitude of respectful silence, in recognition of what we do not know, and with a comprehensive view that doesn’t require a beginning and ending point in us. We are the sole creature to arise on earth (as far as we know) to have the ability to view the many threads of existence. Throughout life, each of us will perceive these mysteries in changed ways, even if we are not aware of it. That is, we learn.

For our species, the universe of mind is whatever we make of it. Despite this creative attribute, physical reality does exist, and we are ultimately powerless when faced with this truth. From deep within us great fear arises, causing us to cast our theories, dreams, imaginings, fears, and limitations onto a sublime unknown. We write our own story, one that explains how it was all meant to be, but these ‘meant-to-be’ stories are wishes designed to soothe our nerves and explain our cruelty. Why do we need to deflect ownership of our perpetual violence, cruelty, and destruction when this is actual behavior?

We respond to beauty as strongly as to food or sex. Beauty is inherent in physical reality: contrary to what one might assume, mathematicians and physicists understand this best, since mathematics is the language of physical reality. What could be more beautiful and concise than E=mc2? We are a product of physical reality, therefore beauty is built into us. Beauty is the motivation for civilized and sane behavior, for kindness and for learning. Why paint animals in the deep recesses of a cave, why labor for decades to erect temples, why undertake near-fatal journeys just to collect fantastic and beautiful materials from around the earth, if not to participate in a beauty that is also within us? What we desire from beauty is fusion with the universe.

What has happened to mankind that our cultures are so out of balance with the physical world? Beauty and light did not leave our world, but are abandoned by the mass of human beings for various dreary versions of existence, in which every living thing is worthless when compared to profit. These plodding schemes are crowded and disorganized and not beautiful at all because they do away with possibility. Tangled loops of anti-knowledge go around and around in the minds of those who are stuck on limits within the brain. But the universe does not stop evolving in order to satisfy their need for a finite answer, and yet the mass of humans dwell on the tired details of texts and rituals that ignore common experience. We think that the universe will become whatever we want it to be, but whatever it may be, it exists ‘as is’ and we merely constrain our knowledge with beliefs, preferences, and delusions.

I feel more free as a body that will die, than believing that something unnatural will leave my body, to proceed onward and upward into a supernatural domain. Most of it seems a design preference. There is something clean and spontaneous in a design that is not required to house itself in levels of existence freed only for a time from the great overseeing One. I fear I am a renegade soul out to proceed on my way alone.

 

 

 

 

The Odyssey, Irma and related thoughts

Still using library internet access…

Ordered new computer, but waiting for delivery – could be 10 more days. I’m beginning to FREAK OUT! WHY? Not because I have some “pathological” Asperger attachment to habit or objects – it’s the tool I need to communicate “what’s going on” in my “unconscious visual processing” in the primary language of “social reality” – words. 

I’m lucky to live in a time and place where this arrangement is possible: a reclusive existence in wild Wyoming, but with the ability to express my thoughts to a mysterious “global” world – unknown people from every part of the planet continue to “tune in” (maybe by accident?) It is “mind-boggling” from my point of view from the “Frontier” which lacks modern social development and material abundance.

I’m momentarily fed up with rereading JUNG: do psychologists actually “like” or approve of any human beings (even themselves?) It is quite revealing how with time and experience, one’s view of “standard ideas” is changed and reviewed.

I try to reread the Iliad and the Odyssey on alternate years, so have taken the opportunity to read the Odyssey – coincidentally, while half-listening to coverage of hurricane Irma… (many reactions and thoughts, which will have to wait) but having to do with how modern people see Nature, and how cultural values are shaped as a consequence; very “odd” feelings and ideas which in turn shape our behavior! 

My fascination with both books goes deep: the two are foundations for much of my “introverted” thinking about culture, history and admirable human codes of behavior and interaction that have fallen into forgetfulness: PLUS these are highly dense visual presentations that “speak to me” like few others. At times, the “visual” descriptions come so fast and furious, that I can’t keep up my brain processing speed to match, and I must linger over those descriptions, which “tell me” so much about the people of that time. And which, in a way, make me “homesick”.

AND – Once again (Irma event) I am utterly appalled by the ignorance (as in ignoring the entire subject) of Americans concerning the processes and reality of “geology” in its true scope – a study which reveals How the earth, oceans, atmosphere and “cosmic” location WORK!

American “education” is the “manmade”  disaster that cripples reasonable and effective behavior!

Hmmm. Someone has brought a screaming toddler, possibly named Irma, into the library… time to “evacuate”.

 

 

 

Asperger Endurance Test / Public Internet Access Day 12

My computer crisis has offered insight into my own reaction to “change” – something that is supposed to produce “trauma” (or at least a negative reaction) in Asperger’s.

The good news is that I’ve just ordered a replacement! I’m not going to say “case solved” until I’m in my own comfy computer room (refrigerator and coffee pot close by) as well as having access to the distractions that help me to think!

But, the extended decision of which technological device to buy (12 days) likely seems outrageous, given the “modern” need for every need to be met at once. The “delay” is the result of both my location (middle of nowhere) where there is ZERO help or even a place to purchase a “computer” except at Walmart in the next town. (Nightmare scenario – 40,000 choices in the deodorant aisle, but only two computers, both junked up for playing games.)

And  – my specific needs – in short, my reaction “looks” typically Asperger:

1. initial panic 2. Confrontation with the “absurd” gauntlet to be run – (no help; no ability to view in person what’s available “out there” and to interact with a knowledgeable human being) 3. The non-help offered by neurotypicals: “Get a smart phone. That’s all you need.” 4. The shock that this statement is true for neurotypicals, who don’t need a keyboard, word processing software, multiple types of connectors and adapters, etc or “real” photo-processing.

“Look! I can watch movies on my 3″ x 4″ phone screen.” Total blank when one asks, “Why on earth would I watch a movie on a screen that size? You can’t see a damn thing!” Hint – neurotypicals don’t actually “see” things due to their “inattentional blindness”. And then the reaction of utter bafflement when I reveal that I actually WRITE a blog and need a full keyboard and word processing capability.

Being Asperger does make “communication” more involved, because we actually wish to communicate about “real things” and often have something to say. Computers make that possible for me – considering my type of hyposocial brain, I could never accomplish any “reach out and talk to someone activity” without the Internet, nor accomplish the basic mechanics of writing without word processing. My handwriting is abominable; I think visually and non-linearly, and could not “translate” my thinking into words without the ease of copy-pasting text fragments into somewhat “conventional order” or without the speed of instant editing and rewriting.

It’s probably obvious that I went “old school” with my choice of “device” – I  hate talking on the phone to start with.

..

Asperger’s may be old-fashioned, but we know what we like and want and “hold out” for what suits us!

Conceptual Contamination / Paleoanthropology

I keep hammering away at “conceptual contamination” for a reason. Archaic Biblical notions are embedded in JudeoChristian cultures, never really go away, and wind up in the minds and works of scientists.

Most blatantly as the long-standing convention that every ‘researcher’ in the “human evolution community” gets to create one species in his/her own image. The assumption is rampant that the goal of 3.5 billion years of evolution was to produce Homo sapiens sapiens, specifically EuroAmerican white males, as the perfect representation of God on Earth.

I’m not alone in being peevish about this:

Gregor Mendel, Geneticist and Augustinian Monk

Gregor_Mendel

Anat Rec. 2002 Feb 15;269(1):50-66.

Morphology-based systematics (MBS) and problems with fossil hominoid and hominid systematics.

Author information

  • 1Division of Vertebrate Zoology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024, USA. est@amnh.org

Abstract

The generalized/primitive nature of the hominoid dentition and often fragmentary nature of fossils, coupled with enthusiastic optimism for making revolutionary finds, has wreaked havoc with recognition of early human ancestors and reconstruction of fossil hominoid phylogeny. As such, the history of paleoanthropology is one of repeated misidentification of fossil ancestors and of occasional fraud. Although this history has led many workers to lose confidence in morphology based systematics (MBS), past and present misidentifications are actually due to a disregard of systematic methodology. Systematics depends on the continuity of life and gains its objectivity largely from the order alpha taxonomy imposes on morphologic discontinuities in closely related taxa (i.e., species and genera). Transformation of characters fixed in species into character complexes, as manifested in taxa nested at different levels of relationship, form the foundation for higher-level taxonomy and for phylogeny. Because in most cases, hominoid fossils are unable to provide the data needed to resolve alpha taxonomy, classification and phylogeny of fossil taxa must be guided by analogies to living taxa. Hominid and hominoid fossil taxonomy and phylogeny, however, has been based largely on pre-evolutionary notions and on misinterpretations of the polarity of assumed diagnostic characters. More often than not, fossils lack resolution for the taxonomic level or rank they are assigned to and taxa are erected without appropriate analogies to living forms. As such, phylogenies based on these classifications are unlikely to be correct. More in-depth anatomical studies that are in accordance with systematic methodology are likely to hold the key to correctly classifying fossils and unraveling hominoid and hominid phylogeny.

PMID: 11891624 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] Full article available online

Negotiating the Neurotypical Hierarchy / Police Traffic Stops

This guy may be acting on his legal rights, but coming out “punching” is dumb! However, the idiotic accusations and “cause for questioning” given by the police (surveillance of police station, photography of state property with an iPhone) adds up to “intent to commit a future terrorist act” is astounding and worth witnessing!

My intent in starting this post was to point out that too many Americans are unaware of just how meticulously traffic stops are planned, rehearsed and well-laid mine fields for “doing the wrong thing” and that how one behaves is CRITICAL to avoid getting oneself into deep shit!

Asperger individuals do have problems with authority as a consequence of our “inborn” values of equality, fairness, justice and privacy boundaries, but when a person with a badge and a gun stops your vehicle, JUST FOLLOW THE RULES.

Which brings us to: WHAT ARE THE RULES? This is where the rubber meets the road for all Americans who don’t understand that police stops of any type are the most common and dangerous intersections between levels of hierarchy on the social pyramid. Police officers do have legal options that “override” the average individual’s “concept” of being protected by his or her supposed legal “rights”.

________________________________________________________________________________________

Mass incarceration in America, explained in 22 maps and charts: http://www.vox.com/2015/7/13/8913297/mass-incarceration-maps-charts

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Police stops are the power of the social hierarchy in action at the most basic level – your status on the social pyramid vs. “The Law” as it is practiced on the street by officers who may be your neighbor or friend; who may be great parents, community leaders or all-around “good people” but may also be “closet predators” and “staunch defenders of the status quo” (the status quo in your community may be racism or other prejudice) They may be “limit testers” of legal definitions and boundaries hiding under the protection of a uniform.

Law enforcement officers are the primary enforcers for the hierarchy; empowered by “society” to regulate activity within the community. How individual officers behave varies greatly, depending on the community, which may range in attitude from tough on crime to much more personal, case by case, interpretation of “civilian” behavior. How officers behave depends on their personality, experiences on the job, family history and the “culture” established within their department.

What is the message that can be derived from this typically “unfair” “arbitrary” and “subjective” neurotypical social regulator? No matter what you think your “rights” are; no matter how you THINK you ought to be treated; no matter what your instincts or emotional reactions tell you,  KEEP YOUR GODDAM MOUTH SHUT – this is good advice not only for Aspergers, but for individuals who believe that “playing the victim” or responding to questions with lies, or rambling excuses, or even threats, is a good idea. Such behavior merely signals “weak prey” and triggers aggressive behavior in predators. Resistance is not only futile, but displaying weakness is dumb, and so is aggression. In the “fight, flight or freeze” response common to animals, this is the time to “chill”.

Remember that your are dealing with individuals whom society has placed well above you in the hierarchy, and that society arms them with deadly force to use at their discretion, and with little-to-no-risk of consequences. Their focus, like that of any predator, is the behavior of its prey.  And don’t forget: you are de facto prey unless you are higher on the pyramid of “sanctioned behavior” than law enforcement.

Of course, the “privileged behavior status” awarded to police officers has a legitimate function of protecting the “law-abiding” citizen from the predation of criminals; someone has to intervene in the aggressive, violent and destructive actions of the few, which seriously impair community safety and personal freedom to live in relative peace. This dangerous, highly stressful “job” would be beyond what most of us could endure; we ought to be grateful that certain personalities “fit” the job requirements, but at the same time, we must be alert to individual tendencies in officers who “cross the line” into unwarranted and persistent predation on minorities, the mentally ill, the poor, and the “different or outsider” – easy targets for abuse.

The practical question is, What can be done while “waiting for something to be done?” which is the typical neurotypical state of distraction from the actual problem, confounded by magical thinking, that some generalized “force, entity or government agency” has the job of finding solutions, and the persistent inability to separate emotional entrenchment from “the greater picture”: All this confusion leads to paralysis. Political, social, economic, right-left ideological arguments and all things “hierarchical” take precedence over the rational approach of “community safety” and the practical functions of dealing with ACTUAL HUMAN BEHAVIOR instead of  statistics, psychological theories, emotional and agenda-based beliefs, denial, and political manipulation; protection of staus quo unequal treatment, stupid policies and outright lies on the part of everyone involved in “solving” the problem of criminal behavior.

Americans retain a “utopian” religious belief established long ago (the Puritans again) that human behavior is by definition “evil” and a sin against God; behavior which must be “corrected” permanently in every individual person, in order to achieve a “perfect” society. In the meantime, punishment (after the fact, and not preventive) is the only answer to “bad behavior”. This idea is “nuts”! Our overflowing prison system is the consequence of this idiotic, but dominant, religious insanity.

you-cannot-reshape-human-nature-without-mutilating-human-beings-quote-1

A PERFECT SOCIETY IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN, and yet, Americans persist in believing that any and all difficulties can be permanently removed from reality by “talking” – the magic power of words! Perfection is Nature’s realm; human behavior has evolved to be “what it is” – a lot like that of chimpanzees; a messy mix of social goals and narcissistic agendas; “eternal squabbling” will not change behavior in humans which has been shaped by millions of years of testing and selection to meet the “terms” of specific environments.

As always, the only “point of control” available to the individual is our own behavior. So don’t be stupid. (Aspergers, you know what I mean!)

Don’t give the police “cause” to stop you; don’t drive around without your vehicle registration or valid drivers license, or cruise town in a borrowed-stolen car. Don’t litter your vehicle with drug paraphernalia, drugs in illegal amounts, stolen guns, loaded guns, open alcohol containers, wads of cash, and stolen property. If you do make a living by illegal means, and are a convicted felon, pay attention to rules regarding prohibited items, weapons and activities as terms of parole. Don’t scream, wail, shriek, collapse, kick, punch or insult the police, or act as if you are “under the influence” of a prohibited substance, unless of course, you are. But don’t then claim that you are “innocent”.

It’s an all-too-common predicament: if you are a person who lacks the most basic common sense, or practical guidance, (you would think that American educators would include in the curriculum, factual information such as “what are the rules of engagement with police” and what “rights” are involved) and your choices have led to a lifestyle of petty crime, or significant crime, you are probably not going to change your dumb behavior, but instead will excuse your behavior by blaming “the system”. It’s not hard to do – there is enough dysfunctional, unfair, unjust and arbitrary policy and practice in everyday American life to legitimize almost any complaint, but abdicating responsibility for one’s contribution to the mess is not realistic, and “giving the system what it wants” (bad behavior as defined by the top of the hierarchy) merely gives the powerful sociopaths who make the rules, the “righteous obligation” to ruin your life.

 

 

Extraverted – Introverted Thinking / Ask C.G. Jung

Hmmm.. back to the library after 3 days with no access to the Internet; interesting experience. Anyway – had to go old school – actual books, pen and paper. Very productive, if frustrating. I’ve been meaning to get back to a question on my mind: What did Jung actually mean by extraverted and introverted thinking?

My suspicion was that most of us are using these terms wrongly, and confusing related terms such as intuition, instinct, “gut feeling” “sense of” “hunch” – a quick inspection of The Portable Jung, Viking Press, 1972 (one of those reference books I keep close), confirmed that indeed, my “memory” of these ideas and others was somewhat confused.  Also, I had not reviewed the subject in light of what I now know about Asperger’s – and found that Jung’s ideas have new importance.

Remember: the following is extraversion and introversion applied to THINKING ONLY, not to the personality as a whole.

I will begin with one quote: (page 197, should you have a copy) regarding extraverted thinking:

“…but when the thinking depends primarily not on objective data but on some second- hand idea, the very poverty of this thinking is compensated by an all the more impressive accumulation of facts (or data) congregating round a narrow and sterile point of view, with the result that many valuable and meaningful aspects are completely lost sight of. Many of the allegedly scientific outpourings of our own day owe their existence to this wrong orientation.”

Pretty prescient warning for someone writing nearly a century ago, and including his own profession!

Jung is not condemning extraverted thinking here – far from it, but is warning against it’s mistaken or perverted use in areas that are properly the domain of introverted thinking.

A definition: The general attitude of extraverted thinking is oriented by the object and objective data.

A definition: Introverted thinking is neither directed at objective facts nor general ideas. He asks – “Is this even thinking?” This has significant application to the “Asperger” brain problem – Jung seems to have been peripherally aware of “visual thinking” in dream imagery and symbols in art and alchemy, and yet unable to “see” visual thinking as a distinct brain process, and its importance.

His admission is that both types of thinking are vital to each other, and that the failure of “our age” is that modern western culture “only acknowledges extraverted thinking” – the failure is to recognize that introverted thinking (basically, reflection on personal subjective experience) cannot be “removed” from human thought – nor should it be, because only this co-operative analysis can yield actionable meaning.

He rightly identifies the “problem” of modern “social – psychological” science as a not-really-scientific endeavor, because it does not deal with fact, but with traditional, common, banal ideas – as its “outside sources” – (Biblical Myth, Puritanical social order, etc) and inevitably, simply supports the status quo: it is “purely imitative”, an “afterthought”; repeating “sterile” ideas that cannot go beyond was was obvious to begin with. A “materialistic mentality stuck on the object” that produces a “mass of undigested material” that requires “some simple, general idea that gives coherence to a disordered whole.”

Is this not exactly, in post after post, what my repeated criticism of today’s “helping, caring, fixing” industry has been? YES!

Much more to come…..

Human self-domestication / Martin Brüne

Open Access

On human self-domestication, psychiatry, and eugenics

Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 20072:21

DOI: 10.1186/1747-5341-2-21

© Brüne; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2007

Abstract

The hypothesis that anatomically modern Homo sapiens could have undergone changes akin to those observed in domesticated animals has been contemplated in the biological sciences for at least 150 years. The idea had already plagued philosophers such as Rousseau, who considered the civilisation of man as going against human nature, and eventually “sparked over” to the medical sciences in the late 19th and early 20th century. At that time, human “self-domestication” appealed to psychiatry, because it served as a causal explanation for the alleged degeneration of the “erbgut” (genetic material) of entire populations and the presumed increase of mental disorders. (This is a misconception on the part of psychiatry and medicine, and in itself does not prove-disprove self-domestication- me)

Consequently, Social Darwinists emphasised preventing procreation by people of “lower genetic value” and positively selecting favourable traits in others. Both tendencies culminated in euthanasia and breeding programs (“Lebensborn”) during the Nazi regime in Germany. Whether or not domestication actually plays a role in some anatomical changes since the late Pleistocene period is, from a biological standpoint, contentious, and the currently resurrected debate depends, in part, on the definitional criteria applied.

However, the example of human self-domestication may illustrate that scientific ideas, especially when dealing with human biology, are prone to misuse, particularly if “is” is confused with “ought”, i.e., if moral principles are deduced from biological facts. Although such naturalistic fallacies appear to be banned, modern genetics may, at least in theory, pose similar ethical problems to medicine, including psychiatry. In times during which studies into the genetics of psychiatric disorders are scientifically more valued than studies into environmental causation of disorders (which is currently the case), the prospects of genetic therapy may be tempting to alter the human genome in patients, probably at costs that no-one can foresee.

In the case of “self-domestication”, it is proposed that human characteristics resembling domesticated traits in animals should be labelled “domestication-like”, or better, objectively described as genuine adaptations to sedentism. (Agreed – me)

Introduction

The term “domestication” refers to a goal-directed process through which humans have changed physical features of plants and animals by replacing natural through artificial selection to adapt these species to specific human needs. In animals, domestication-associated changes also include behavioural characteristics, which, above all, have led to a reduction of aggression and an increase of “tameness” [1]. At least since Darwin’s pioneering work on domestication [2], biologists have controversially debated whether several aspects of domestication-induced traits in animals could similarly be present in humans, and this issue has recently been reconsidered [1, 3]. Even earlier, however, philosophers have been plagued with the question of man’s place in nature. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1755), for instance, had argued that “civilised” living conditions would have negative consequences, subsumed under the term “degeneration” [4]. Conversely, in the 1940s, the German philosopher Arnold Gehlen proposed a self-domestication theory of Homo sapiens, according to which domestication would, on one hand, induce biological maladaptedness through abandoning natural selection, but, on the other hand, open new prospects for cultural development [5]. Similarly, recent humanism has highlighted the positive aspects of a presumed human domestication such as to prevent “brutalisation” of human societies (comment in [6]).

Whereas philosophers have extensively discussed putative effects of human self-domestication in terms of moral values, by the turn of the 20th century psychiatrists became interested in the hypothesis of human self-domestication, because it seemingly provided a causal explanation for what was perceived as signs of degeneration of the human genepool (“erbgut”) (Again, a concept promoted by practitioners of psychiatry and medicine, and not a scientific effort into the proof-disproof of self-domestication. ) [7].

In 1857, the French psychiatrist Benedicte Morel sought to introduce objective measures in support of the concept of “degeneration”, suggesting that subtle physical abnormalities would indicate the deterioration of mental health and also account for delinquent behaviour, because such deviations would be most prevalent in mentally ill and criminals [8]. Indeed, by the turn of the 20th century, with increasing biologising of psychiatry, leading professionals were concerned about the seemingly rising number of hospitalised patients and searched for biological explanations, leaving aside social factors [9]. Hence, the hypothesis of the domestication of man was welcome, and, in light of the then prevailing cultural pessimism and upcoming eugenic idealism put forth by August Forel and Alfred Ploetz [10], readily adopted as rationalisation of a host of unresolved questions in psychiatry and related social issues. It is perhaps not exaggerated to state that this one-sided biological view of mental disorders and handicaps also contributed to what followed in Germany under the Nazi regime.

Albeit modern human biology may be largely free of moral allegations, there seems to be a need for discussing the possible impact of biological findings and hypotheses on contemporary conceptualisations of mental health and treatment options of psychiatric disorders. This premise is based on the fact that biological ideas have always been at risk of socio-political misuse, (and I contend that this is exactly what is happening in ASD and Asperger research and diagnosis) and on the concern that the advent of new genetic techniques may be tempting to “improve” human genetic material and eliminate unwanted traits, part of which could erroneously be attributed to human self-domestication.

In this article, I shall (1) deal with the biological evidence for human self-domestication and the historical development of the idea, including its entanglement with political opportunism during the Nazi epoch in Germany; (2) outline how and why the self-domestication hypothesis was adopted by leading (German) psychiatrists, and possibly contributed to positive and negative selection programs during the Third Reich in Germany; (3) finally argue that the debate between philosophy, biology, and other medical sciences including psychiatry necessitates a common language for further interdisciplinary exchange of ideas, as well as awareness of the dangers of naturalistic fallacies. (Halleluiah! It’s about time!)

More next post…..