More rubber body parts

A few weeks ago I wrote about experiments being conducted at Vanderbilt University. The original article appeared in Discover Magazine. In this well-known experiment dating back to a Princeton University party game, a rubber hand is introduced and stroked in time with one of the volunteer’s hands while the other hand is hidden under a table. The findings of the Vanderbilt study confirmed its premise that people with psychotic episodes have a weaker sense of self and therefore experienced the illusion more strongly than people of a similar age and background who didn’t have schizophrenia.

Try this, Descartes!

This month’s Nature Magazine has an article on neurologist Henrik Ehrsson’s research. While what is going on in the laboratory makes for most interesting reading, there is enormous danger with these kinds of experiments done in the name of scientific progress because of the dark science of mind and body control of another human being. Read the article below. See what you think.

It is not every day that you are separated from your body and then stabbed in the chest with a kitchen knife.

But such experiences are routine in the lab of Henrik Ehrsson, a neuroscientist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, who uses illusions to probe, stretch and displace people’s sense of self. Today, using little more than a video camera, goggles and two sticks, he has convinced me that I am floating a few metres behind my own body. As I see a knife plunging towards my virtual chest, I flinch. Two electrodes on my fingers record the sweat that automatically erupts on my skin, and a nearby laptop plots my spiking fear on a graph.

Out-of-body experiences are just part of Ehrsson’s repertoire. He has convinced people that they have swapped bodies with another person1, gained a third arm2, shrunk to the size of a doll or grown to giant proportions3. The storeroom in his lab is stuffed with mannequins of various sizes, disembodied dolls’ heads, fake hands, cameras, knives and hammers. It looks like a serial killer’s basement. “The other neuroscientists think we’re a little crazy,” Ehrsson admits.

But Ehrsson’s unorthodox apparatus amount to more than cheap trickery. They are part of his quest to understand how people come to experience a sense of self, located within their own bodies. The feeling of body ownership is so ingrained that few people ever think about it — and those scientists and philosophers who do have assumed that it was unassailable.

“Descartes said that if there’s something you can be certain of in this world, it’s that your hand is your hand,” says Ehrsson. Yet Ehrsson’s illusions have shown that such certainties, built on a lifetime of experience, can be disrupted with just ten seconds of visual and tactile deception. This surprising malleability suggests that the brain continuously constructs its feeling of body ownership using information from the senses — a finding that has earned Ehrsson publications in Science and other top journals, along with the attention of other neuroscientists.

“A lot of people thought the sense of self was hard-wired, but it’s not at all. It can be changed very quickly, and that’s very intriguing,” says Miguel Nicolelis, a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Ehrsson’s work also intrigues neuroscientists and philosophers because it turns a slippery, metaphysical construct — the self — into something that scientists can dissect. “We can say if we wobble the signals this way, our conscious experience wobbles in this way,” says David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who studies perception at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. “That’s a lever we didn’t have before.”

“There are things like selfhood that people think cannot be touched by the hard sciences,” says Thomas Metzinger, director of the Theoretical Philosophy Group at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany. “They are now demonstrably tractable. That’s what I think is valuable about Henrik’s contribution.”

Read the rest of the article here.

I should not have panicked (but I did)

Or, I could have known sooner, but nobody told me that a schizophrenia diagnosis should not be considered a life sentence.

When Chris was given the diagnosis of doom in Dec. 2003, there was not such a robust on-line community of hardy folk who did not go along with the received wisdom that schizophrenia was a brain disease. Or, if there was such a thriving community, I didn’t know about it.

My main point of reference were the doctors whose business it was to believe in the diagnosis. They were a uniformly pessimistic lot. If they actually thought that Chris had a future that didn’t involve psychiatric medication, unemployment and sheltered living for the rest of his life, they didn’t think to share this information with our family.

My second point of reference were the people who suddenly came out of the woodwork to tell me that their sibling was “schizophrenic,” like when you get cancer and suddenly everybody you talk to has had the same cancer. You had no idea these conditions were so prevalent. My acquaintances were all baby boomers, roughly my age, so their sibling was now roughly the same age as us. The conversation usually went something like this:

Me (hopeful): Oh, so your brother has schizophrenia? Will he be flying over here for your third wedding?

They (frightened look, lowered voice):  “Oh, no, he doesn’t travel very well. He’s been living in a group home near my parents for a number of years now. But (trying to be reassuring), I hear that the medications are so much better these days, I’m sure it will make all the difference for Chris.”

My third point of reference was the chat group I joined within the first couple of years of the diagnosis of doom. I began to notice how drugged up its members were. They accepted their diagnosis and they seemed to accept five, six or seven drugs to get through the day as a matter of course.  Many of them were my age and had been this way for years.

Was I right to panic given the dreadful scenario that was being painted by both doctors and acquaintances? I think so. Unfortunately, my panicking caused me to push Chris into activities for which he wasn’t ready. My panicking caused Chris to panic, naturally. This retarded his growth. If someone had reassured me that there was every expectation that Chris would resume a normal life if he was left alone for a few years to figure things out for himself, with no pressure brought to bear on him to do things he wasn’t ready to do, then I could have relaxed and learned be more philosophical and patient.

Today it’s a different story. Thanks to the Internet and the mounting evidence that puts the diagnosis under scrutiny as never before, there is a shared community of people who know there is a better way. There is becoming a shared understanding of what schizophrenia and how to treat it (needed time out for regrowth).

The stupid diagnosis to begin with, and the fixation of the medical community on using drugs as primary treatment, meant the the good news, which was there all along, was kept from many people who could have benefited from it.

To dream the impossible dream

 Dr. Clancy McKenzie sent  his observations about reprogramming dreams to the ISEPP discussion group of which I am a member. Dr. McKenzie has given me permission to reprint his patients’ story, which appears below.

My son, Chris, isn’t the only person in our family who has learned to direct his dreams. Programming dreams is something I’ve been doing in recent yearsto help me take control of my life, to realize that I had greater power to influence positive outcomes than I ever thought possible.  Chris’s crisis left me sleepless and fearful for several years. I would wake up every night from a bad dream and the first person who popped into my mind was Chris, and I immediately felt overwhelming sadness and fear. Today, I don’t worry about Chris during the day or when I wake up at night. I do occasionally have anxious dreams. If my dream is a typical anxiety dream about a math exam, I might think to myself, Well, I know I was about to fail that final math exam because I hadn’t opened the book all year, but here’s what I’m going to do about it to make sure I pass. When I go back to sleep, I’m going to pick up where I left off with that dream. I’m going to hire a tutor and I will pass that exam. (Whether my instructions to myself are realistic about passing the exam at such a late date doesn’t matter. Dreams make all things possible.)

Notice in the story below the way Dr. McKenzie gives general instructions to his patients about the content of the dream. Minds and bodies know what to do with the information given to them.


Six months ago a young family was disrupted when the mother suddenly died in a car crash. Left behind are her young husband, a 7½ year old daughter, and a 4 year old son. They were devastated.

I immediately saw them and gave them “programmed” dreams. I instructed the father to have a dream about his wife, decide the dream would not be upsetting, and decide the dream itself would resolve all upset feelings.

I told the 7½ year old that she would have a dream about Mommy that night, the dream would not be upsetting, and in the dream Mommy would take away all her upset feelings.

With the 4-year-old I just said “You can visit Mommy any night you want, during sleep. Tonight she is gong to visit you and take away all your upset feelings.”

The next time I visited with them, the father tried to comfort them by saying “Mommy is sitting right here with us now.” The four-year-old piped up “she’s not sitting, she’s playing.” The following visit the father told me that his son led him to the laundry room that morning, pointed to the washer and said “mommy said you have to take the clothes out of there and put them in over there” (pointing to the dryer). He was stunned. He did the laundry two days earlier and forgot to put it in the dryer.

During the visits the children are very happy, not showing any signs of sadness. The next visit when the man took his son to the restroom, I asked the daughter what her mommy tells her during sleep. She was beaming with joy as she proudly answered: “She tells me I am going to be a very good mommy some day.” When I tried to question her further, she clammed up as though she wasn’t sure she was supposed to reveal what her mommy had said to her.

Months passed. The children remained very happy, playing together and never fussing or fighting. One day the man came in alone and we just began to visit. He spoke about how well the children were doing, and I mentioned a finding I had just made and was very excited about. I realized two studies I had done were sequential, with no other similar studies in between – which meant they were cumulative. The first data was one over two to the 12th power and the second was one over two to the 15th power. They revealed the same thing, but now it was one over two to the 27th power, or one chance in 134,217,728 by chance alone.

This was exciting, but it was as it should be, because one cannot have delayed PTSD without original trauma–even if it is delayed PTSD from infancy (schizophrenia, depression, etc). I told him I was going to send letters to the Senate and to Congress.

Two nights later the little girl brought the portable phone into his bedroom, saying “Mommy wants to tell you something.” He told her to lie down in the bed, which she did, and then she began to speak “Tell Dr. Clancy to send those letters right out; it’s very important.” (Her mother addressed me as Dr. Clancy, but the little girl always addressed me as Dr. McKenzie.) The father wrote 1½ pages of notes, part of which were her speaking and part of which were her mother speaking through her. It ended with her mother saying “tell your brother I will see him tomorrow night.” She had no recollection of any of this the next day.

The real shocker came at Thanksgiving. There were twelve family members sitting around the table. None knew of the relationship the children had with their mother, and everyone was taking turns telling what they were most thankful for. When the 7½ year- old girl spoke, she gave a one word answer: “Mommy.” Her brother was next in line and he said: “Mommy.”

No one could speak several minutes. The father’s eyes filled with tears, and he could not speak. He was grateful that he was not the next in line to speak. When the children were not around, he told the other adults that the children dream about their mother.

For 42 years I have had all my patients program dreams, and have not known any to get a wrong answer. There have been more than 400 who programmed a dream about a lost loved one. Usually it is like a visit – geared to help the person overcome grief. There are two articles about miracles of programmed dreams on , listed under “WORKS” – for any who might be interested.


Two things you can do to keep the spotlight on change

1. Take the latest research findings and critiques of psychiatric drugs to your doctor

Gianna Kali at Beyond Meds has zeroed in on the Irish Examiner article I posted yesterday and sees a niche marketing developing for psychiatrists who will help their patients get off psych medications. Those psychiatrists who do will have a hard time keeping up with the demand. If you are one of these patients who feels that they would like to try functioning without psych meds, or at the very least reduce the number and dosage, there has never been a better time than now. Only a  few years ago, a lot of the information about the effect on the brain of psych meds was suppressed and it was easy for the psychiatrist to point to scientific “evidence” of the need for these medications. No longer need a patient go cap in hand to attempt to convince a psychiatrist that the drugs aren’t useful and are actually doing a lot of harm. Now, psychiatrists should be more than willing to listen.

Gianna Kali/Beyond Meds

The article ends with that final statement which I have bolded because the fact is there is a huge niche opening up for psychiatrists and other prescribing physicians who want to take the opportunity. People want and desperately need COMPETENT professional help in coming off of psychiatric drugs. We need prescribers to make the transition easier.

This is an invitation for prescribing doctors to think about stepping up to the plate and perhaps even undoing some of the harm they’ve maybe helped cause.

This is not to be taken lightly. Many people come off meds with relative ease. Some of us, though, become crippled with iatrogenic illness. You will need to educate yourselves. Once you start making it be known that you can help — those of us who’ve been seriously and gravely harmed will start appearing on your doorstep. Most doctors never see (or recognize) us because once they deny our reality those of us who understand what has happened to us don’t hang around to be further abused. The doctors then move forward believing we don’t exist and spread that dangerous misconception to other doctors. It creates a treacherous world for those of us who are very ill with nowhere safe to go.

Please, it’s time that doctors learn how to help us. Some of you have unintentionally helped create the iatrogenesis that is now limiting our lives so much more than any “mental illness” ever did. Please start helping us heal now. We need you.

Some of what I’ve learned about psychiatric drug withdrawal with links to additional resources here: Withdrawal 101.

2. Join the MindFreedom campaign

On Sat. May 5th, 2012, in the spirit of free thought and liberty, MindFreedom is taking itsnonviolent revolution to historic Philadelphia, PA, USA, and to thedoorstep of the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.

The APA is expected to give their blessing to the newest version of their devastating label bible (the DSM-5), and so MFI is going to ‘occupy the APA!’ This is part of a global peaceful campaign to Boycott Normality.

There will be a counter-celebration, Mad Pride Liberty March, and a Peaceful “Creative Maladjustment Protest.” Members and allies will also be holding events in solidarity in other states and countries. Toronto is already on board!

For more information, visit:

If you live in NYC, you may want to participate in an important public event, moderated by MFI President Celia Brown, in conjunction with the United Nations NGO Committee on Mental Health, on 8 December 2011, marking human rights day, more info here: 


Synthetic sanity: medicating inmates in order to execute them

Fit to be Killed: Manufacturing Synthetic Sanity on Death Row looks at the likely fate of the Arizona shooter, Jared Loughner.

Eventually the Supreme Court will probably rule on forcibly medicating inmates for the purpose of executing them. It is difficult to be optimistic about the verdict that would be handed down by the Roberts court; the outcome will probably depend upon Justice Kennedy. But whatever the verdict of the Supreme Court Justices, prison physicians can make the difference. All too many of them have long forsaken the fundamental oath of medicine, “Do No Harm.” Doctors must stand up against synthetic sanity in substantial numbers, and their professional societies must punish those who breach the doctor’s oath. Ultimately, however, there is only one definitive solution to practices like creating synthetic sanity: to abolish the benighted practice of capital punishment once and for all.

Read the full article here:

Today’s media grab bag

It’s long over-due and wonderful to see how the news media is picking up on the widespread drugging of children in foster care. I watched the Diane Sawyer clip, but, of course, it was way too simplistic in equating coming off drugs with suddenly becoming an honor student and playing the clarinet. If this is not just a Hallmark feel-good story, the real story is what else happened to this child in the interim?

Further  rummaging around on the Internet got me the answer.
Ke’onte, who was on up to four medications at a time during his years in six foster homes, said that therapy has helped him in a way that meds never did. “In therapy, you talk about the deepest thing and it hurts, but you can deal with it better the next time,” he said.Now, he said, he is first chair in clarinet in his school band, participates in cross-country and has three small roles in the school play.“I’m not only more focused in school… I’m not going to the office anymore for bad behavior and I’m happy.”

Hopefully subsequent coverage will show in greater detail what alternative interventions are helping these kids
The Sawyer clip also implied that merely being adopted into a family will do the world of good for a troubled child. We all know it doesn’t work like that. A child still has problems and the adoptive parents must deal with them with simultaneously dealing with their own inexperience as parents. Parenthood, adoptive, foster or otherwise, is about the most challenging work anybody can take on. Most of us have good intentions when we first start out on the parenting road, but reality intervenes.

Another public good that more media exposure about childhood drugging of foster children will do is to turn the spotlight on all the non-foster children who are taking the same cocktails of drugs. Children from two parent families, children from single parent homes, adopted children. The foster children exposure will soon start making a lot of people very uncomfortable about their chosen course of treatment. I’m getting so old that I can see what is already happening. The pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction. More crazy excessive things will happen with our newfound zeal to right all the wrongs of the past. And so it goes.

Now, over to Sanjay Gupta. I gotta say I wince when somebody who should know better, titles his news clip “Young schizophrenic shares hope” It’s so carnival side show. See the schizophrenic dance and perform tricks! Come on, Sanjay. You are perpetuating the use of schizophrenia as an adjective to describe a set of behaviors that almost nobody with that label shares with another person with the same label. Alright, maybe if we gave the label “manic depressives” back to schizophrenia’s look-alike sibling people with bipolar disorder would I be more accommodating of the word “schizophrenic.” “Young manic depressive shares hope”  Young bipolar shares hope? Since there is no medical test for schizophrenia, Dr. Gupta is reinforcing to the viewing audience that schizophrenia must be like diabetes, and we know that Robert Whitaker’s book has exposed that myth. Apart from diabetes and schizophrenia, what other “tics” are used to describe people in the medically approved lexicon? There are fewer and fewer* once manic depressives got a face lift. It’s like trying to find an English word that rhymes with “orange.”

*narcoleptic, epileptic

I was delighted to read this quote from the Irish Examiner

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Dr Browne, now a counselling psychotherapist, said there is so much evidence about the dangers of psychiatric drugs that it cannot be ignored. . . .

“We don’t have alternatives in place for people and drugs are damaging long-term. We need to treat people as humans and not patients who have a long term sickness. And we shouldn’t call what we do ‘treatment’.

There is no way I can say to a person ‘I will treat you and make you better’. I can only guide the person. They themselves have to do the work.”

Dr Browne said 60%-80% of his work is helping people to slowly get off drugs. “At the moment I can’t keep up with the numbers of people trying to come and see me.”